The old saying goes that software will eat the world. In fact, the digital has eaten up humanity. We are so consumed today in our digital life that almost every trending story relates to the digital space – NFTs, Defi, cryptocurrency, social networks, cloud games, SaaS, metaverse, OTT streaming – all related to them and zeros , on which our lives have become so dependent.
It’s not that digital is bad or digital is good – digital is what we make of it. Digital can be used for any purpose we humans have set out to use it for. Like most things humans create, it is a tool, how it works, and the role it plays in our society and for humanity is determined by the end user. Digital lifestyle has been so contributing to our lives, it improves how we enjoy life, prolongs how long we live, allows us to connect in more ways than ever before with people around the world. In short, digital life makes life better.
But everything being digital also has its drawbacks. It has created a new generation of people, one who has lost his sense of what it means to live in the real world. This new generation is the digital zombie generation, where digital consumes and dominates every aspect – almost every waking moment in some cases – in a person’s life. TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Fortnite, Runescape, World of Warcraft, Destiny, Madden, Skype, Zoom, Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus; many people never stop staring into the abyss of the digital space, and when they do, it usually waits in their pockets for them to jump back. It is so striking that this week Facebook canceled their Insta project, which was targeted at our youth, after significant reports emerged about how much they know about how harmful Instagram is to our young people, especially young girls.
As the father of 3 children from 9 to 13, I have recognized many of these trends and have recently realized that what the world needs is not another solo solution or platform that disconnects us from the real world we live in – one where we can use all our 5 senses at once. What the world rather needs is a co-reality solution and platform that allows us to come together to engage and collaborate. The co-reality experience is one where people can play together, work together, build together, play together in both the physical and digital realm at the same time.
Co-reality is an extension of what Dan Ostrower wrote about in 2014 in his article titled The war for our digital future: Virtual Reality vs Integral Reality. Dan defines Integral Reality as follows:
Integral Reality intertwines the digital wonders of physical realities. With digital components embedded and invisible in objects, Integral Reality will not separate us from the real world, but instead promises to create emotionally engaging experiences with it.
Integral reality falls on the broad spectrum of Mixed Reality. Where Virtual Reality experiences like those created by Oculus or seen in movies like Ready Player One fall at one end of the mixed reality spectrum, Integral Reality is located at the opposite end, with Augmented Reality falling in the middle. The interfaces today for Integral Reality are all tangible user interfaces, whereas Virtual Reality is primarily controller-based and Augmented Reality is generally gesture-oriented. This concept of Integral Reality is not something completely beginner, there are a number of experiences and solutions that have been built in space so far.
As CEO of TapTop (aka Blok Party), our company was fortunate to have been backed by the leading Venture Capital firm that invested in the new Integral Reality experience-Alsop-Louie. At TapTop, we built the world’s first commercially available table console that fused the physical with the digital and created an experience where families and friends could gather around the table to play games and interact with physical and digital objects together. Our interfaces activated most of our senses: we used a large-format LED screen with great first-party art and graphics for games; we were one of two non-Amazon devices with Alexa SmartScreen built-in for voice-based games (Facebook Portal is the other), we used great sounds to bring the games to life. The premise of TapTop was that we digitized the most popular board games for today’s mid- and hard-core board players, including Catan, Ticket to Ride, Machi Koro, Space Base, Pandemic, Spirit Island, Codenames and many more. In addition to purely digital games that could be played in a co-reality, we sent over 5,000 units of physical toys, playing cards and dice that, upon contact with the TapTop screen, could be detected via RFID interaction with our patented RFID screen sensing technology. Unfortunately, the global supply chain misery and semiconductor shortages have hampered our efforts and halted our plans.
We were not the only Integral Reality company in the Alsop-Louie portfolio, and in fact Stewart Alsop once said of Gilman Louie that “He’s starting to see the whole world in 3D, where everything can be interconnected online and offline.” This bridge between the physical and digital realms is being created by their portfolio companies, such as Niantic, who created the hit phenomenon Pokemon Go, Hover, which allows contractors to use a smartphone to create an accurate 3D model of a home3D residential building and mixed dimensions that brought digital avatars and game characters to the physical realm using some of the most advanced 3D print and in-game capture software, allowing full in-game scenes to be collected physically, Drop Kitchen human-computer interaction for kitchen appliances and Shape Labs, which is developing a scale where users scan, track, measure and compare their body shape in photorealistic 3D.
Other companies already operate in space and have also received billions of dollars from the biggest names on Sand Hill Road. Self-driving cars like Waymo, robotic kitchens like Chef Robotics, human-computer interfaces like Nueralink, experience museums and entertainment centers like Two Bit Circus and humanoid robots like Sophia the Robot from Hanson Robotics. Investors, whether they realize it or not, enable the future of an integrated reality and more importantly the co-reality product, platforms and solutions that I think the world needs so critically right now.
The co-reality future that I imagine is one that brings people back together, elbow-to-elbow, face to face, to bond, build lasting memories and share amazing physical-digital experiences. The fact is that today’s society is more connected than anywhere else in human history, but we are more interrupted and divided than ever before; so much so that we lose our humanity. I believe in co-reality, multi-user, in-person experiences can and will save our society and humanity.