The term “mirrorworld” when used in relation to digital media was first coined by David Gelernter in 1991, and whilst many of us don’t know what it is, we have all glimpsed into it at one point or another. The Mirrorworld is basically a digital representation of the real world – a 1:1 scale map. And every time you have used Google Street View, you have glimpsed a limited portion of it. In that case, you only see flat images, stitched together, but the onset of VR is unstoppable. Soon enough, every single place in the real world will have been documented digitally.
Think about it, how many places have already been scanned with Pokémon GO? How much of the real world has been mapped by Google? By fusing all these pieces of data together, we will be able to create a digital landscape, the scale of which has never been seen before. And because it is digital, we will be able to interact with it. Because in effect, we are interacting with the digital clone of the real world. This, incidentally, is what differentiates the Mirrorworld from a virtual world. A virtual world is a completely artificial construct. It has no grounding in reality. Whereas the mirror world is based exclusively on the real world, which is what makes it so useful.
Initial, what we will be able to do will be limited. We will be able to see pop ups giving us helpful annotations and pieces of information that may be useful. Then we will be to visit places in the mirrorworld we’ve never been to before in the real. How, because someone has been there. Because someone has caught a Pokémon there, or scanned it with a piece of wearable tech. We will be able to jump from place to place, like Nightcrawler from the X-Men, all from our living room, just as we might jump from website to website. And in terms of video games, the possibilities are unbelievable. Imagine being able to create a tangible 3-D map for your free-roaming video game, which spans the entire world. Where the main character can interact with a map vaster than anything previously conceived.
When the mirrorworld become a fully-fledged technological reality, these are just a few, limited idea about what it will be capable of. And the companies that thrive in this new world will be some of the most successful in history. What will hinder development, however, is what holds back AR today, price and usability. Until headsets become cheaper, they’ll be rarely used. And if they are rarely used, cloning the entire world into a digital map is going to be a slow process. The same problem arises when we think about the practicalities of current AR technology. Even if the mirrorworld was fully completed, to interact with it, we would have to use the current crop of bulky, unwieldy headsets. This might be acceptable in a home environment, but eventually we would hope that we can access it on the move, a la Pokémon GO. For this to ever be a reality, the technology would have to advance to a point where we can access the mirrorworld from something more comfortable and practical, like a pair of normal glasses.
Another thing to bear in mind is the potential psychological effects of the mirrorworld. We are already aware of how our lives are affected by other digital landscapes i.e the internet. For something as vast and immersive as the mirrorworld, its almost completely unpredictable as to how it will affect us. And security is going to be an issue, especially with a digital interface which literally everyone can interact with. But these potential difficulties should dissuade us from developing what could be the next great tech platform.
This isn’t to say that headsets will be replaced, but technology like this does open the door to VR technologies that can include seeing and talking to other people.