MATTHEW SHEA­HAN

WE CAN ALL AGREE ON HOW USE­FUL IT WOULD BE TO TELEPORT AN EX­PERT ON TO THE BOAT FROM TIME TO TIME. BUT MIGHT HOLOPORTATION BE NEARLY AS GOOD?

Yachting World - - Comment -

From in­struc­tions on how to set the timer on your cen­tral heat­ing to re­plac­ing a light bulb on your car, there was a time when keep­ing the man­u­als for ev­ery­thing in the home was es­sen­tial. But to­day there seems lit­tle point in keep­ing printed book­lets for any­thing. If you need to know how to fit a new heater el­e­ment to a tum­ble dryer you sim­ply go onto Youtube and find a tu­to­rial. Al­ter­na­tively, you might con­tact a friend on one of the many video-con­fer­enc­ing ser­vices, such as Skype or Face­time, for a quick real-time chat on cam­era to show ex­actly where and why you are stuck.

Mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tions have changed our lives way be­yond our orig­i­nal ex­pec­ta­tions when the mo­bile phone and the in­ter­net first ar­rived. But as it turns out, the clues to the fu­ture were all there.

Back in the 1960s the sci­ence fic­tion series Star Trek had this cov­ered with flip fronted, hand­held com­mu­ni­ca­tors that, at the time, were con­sid­ered to be de­vices of pure fan­tasy. To­day they look dated with only three lights, one but­ton and no video or text ca­pa­bil­ity.

Of course the re­ally big deal was tele­por­ta­tion: stand­ing un­der a glit­ter shower and di­alling in where you wanted to go. At the touch of a but­ton the char­ac­ters were able to cover vast dis­tances in sec­onds. We are still a long way off be­ing able to do that. Yet the tech­nol­ogy that al­lows us to be in two places at once may not be as far-fetched as you think.

Virtual Re­al­ity (VR) has al­ready given us the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence places that don’t ex­ist in the real world around us, sim­ply by slip­ping on a spe­cial head­set. More so­phis­ti­cated sys­tems can pro­vide an even closer ap­prox­i­ma­tion of re­al­ity, es­pe­cially when linked with a sim­u­la­tor. This can be a valu­able tool for train­ing: mo­tor rac­ing has had it for years and now Amer­ica’s Cup teams such as Land Rover BAR and Or­a­cle Team USA both have VR set-ups that al­low crews to prac­tice ashore.

But a new sys­tem called holoportation could take the virtual world onto an­other level. It is a devel­op­ment of VR and al­lows high-qual­ity 3D mod­els of peo­ple to be re­con­structed, com­pressed and trans­mit­ted any­where in the world in real time. And when com­bined with so­phis­ti­cated dis­play sys­tems such as Hololens, users can hear, see and re­act with re­mote par­tic­i­pants as if they were re­ally there with you in the same place.

The sys­tem, which has been de­vel­oped by Mi­crosoft, works by mak­ing a so­phis­ti­cated real-time scan of the per­son to be trans­mit­ted, which is then recre­ated at the viewer’s lo­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, in­ter­ac­tions can be stored and played back like a video record­ing. In ad­di­tion, the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the trans­ported per­son doesn’t even have to be full size, which means it will be pos­si­ble to have your friend, col­league or fam­ily mem­ber walk­ing around on your desk like some­thing out of Alice in Won­der­land.

It doesn’t take much to see the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits to per­sonal and busi­ness life, but imag­ine how use­ful this could be aboard our boats. When linked to your virtual boat, virtual coaches, ex­perts and re­pair spe­cial­ists could step aboard to show and talk you through all kinds of is­sues. And when they fin­ish, be­come bor­ing, or want feed­ing you could sim­ply switch them off. What’s not to like about that?

But there’s per­haps an even scarier thought for us jour­nal­ists. In the real world there are al­ready those in the me­dia who are look­ing at us­ing the tech­nol­ogy to take read­ers and view­ers to the very places they are re­port­ing on, us­ing a sim­i­lar kind of virtual re­al­ity. They call it im­mer­sive jour­nal­ism.

So if you’re jeal­ous of the boats that Toby Hodges gets to test, or fancy join­ing me for a ride on an AC45, holoportation in the fu­ture may make this pos­si­ble. The wor­ry­ing thought is that if and when it does be­come a re­al­ity, it may not be just equip­ment man­u­als that dis­ap­pear from your book­shelf.

You can see an online demon­stra­tion of holoportation at http://bit.ly/1qi­huuz

“VIRTUAL COACHES, EX­PERTS AND SPE­CIAL­ISTS COULD STEP ABOARD TO SHOW AND TALK YOU THROUGH YOUR IS­SUES”

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