One of the major innovations in electronics is Augmented Reality (AR). AR programs work by taking real world information such as through a camera and inserts virtual images and objects in real-time. AR technology is currently used by modern devices such as smart phones like the iPhone and portable games systems like the Nintendo 3DS and has many uses for utility and entertainment.
A sci-fi anime series from Japan named Dennou Coil was aired in 2007 and lasted 26 episodes. The setting was a society in the near future where a commonly used technology was computer glasses that allowed their wearers to interact with the Internet and other virtual systems.
Many programs and other software have forms and behaviors. Some examples these virtual items include tools, devices, and digital creatures such as virtual pets and “illegals” which are leftover data and code from earlier versions of the system.
The glasses the characters of the series not only work as displays to see the virtual objects but also include speakers and work as miniature computer to communicate with virtual infrastructure.
Though the technology of these glasses does seem advanced, I expect them to still be plausible. Most of the components of them already exist and only require miniaturization before they could be combined into a practical device.
Computers are becoming smaller constantly, and I expect the devices themselves don’t need to be very powerful. Cloud technology generally works with smaller, “dumb” devices that mostly run their more sophisticated processes through a centralized system much like the virtual infrastructure in Dennou Coil. If they can’t have computer small enough to put in a set of glasses or goggles, they could still be connected to something like a smart phone on the user.
The lenses are another issue that are plausible. Liquid crystal displays (LCD) are very common and more importantly already mostly transparent. Just sandwich a pair smaller, high-detail screens between pieces of glass and plastic and connect them to the computer system. Images would then be displayed right in front of the eyes with enough difference to create an illusion of 3D. A similar technology is already used in heads-up displays (HUD) which are used in fighter jets and in development for infantry.
The possibility of people practically living in a virtual world doesn’t appear to be too far off. It just takes a bit of time and development for all the pieces of technology we already use in our daily lives to become smaller and merge together.
I would also like to say that though Dennou Coil is a great series, it is only available in Japan. The only DVDs of it that are out are only compatible with DVD region 2 players. If it weren’t for regional lockout, I’d be able to play it here in America, except it would just be in Japanese which I can actually deal with. In the mean time, I’ll just watch it on unofficial fansubs.