What might virtual worlds mean for the way we see?
Jed Boye | | 2 min read | Discussion
Over the past few years, there has been much talk about the next iteration of the internet – Web 3.0 – and its use of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology to facilitate real-world human communication. Of particular note are the plans to develop metaverses – virtual worlds using this technology, mainly for social connection. And the primary technology that will transport users to these new worlds? Well, it seems likely to be virtual reality (VR) right now, with major players in the field announcing aims to develop systems light and comfortable enough to be worn for long periods. Though a future in which everybody “lives” through screens resting mere centimeters from their eyes may seem somewhat dystopian – and a recipe for increases in screen-related eye conditions – the developers of these programs have been faced with an interesting question: How do you replicate the way our eyes respond to the world around us virtually? Moreover, how do you do this without needing the data from large groups of subjects wearing VR headsets for hours on end, something that would raise user privacy concerns? The answer is, of course, virtual eyes!
A team of computer engineers at Duke University has created virtual eyes that are able to mimic the complexities of human eye movement (1). By looking through cognitive science literature, the team was able to explore how humans see the world and process visual information, and then created a model to emulate their findings. For tech companies, this synthetic eye data is invaluable, offering the potential of software that is tailored to our eyes, where resolution is reduced in our peripheral vision to save computational power and content is customized for increased engagement responses. But for onlookers, especially those in the eyecare field, such advances may be worrying. Though understanding more about the way our eyes behave is useful – are our eyes being used against us?
The metaverse may play out like the internet; the technology is new and exciting, with lots of potential – and, if there is enough adoption and sufficient infrastructure, it could become an integral part of our lives. But, while we are still on the precipice, perhaps we should start asking ourselves if this is the future we actually want.
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- G Lan, et al., EyeSyn: Psychology-inspired Eye Movement Synthesis for Gaze-based Activity Recognition, (2022). Available at: https://bit.ly/3pU1P45.