A University of Illinois physicist has built a process that explores the link between the real and virtual worlds by linking a mechanical pendulum to its virtual twin. It will be the first real/virtual physics experiment, and might help clarify the influence that virtual communities exert on the real world, and the other way round. As an example, the experiment may help us know how the economies of games including Second Life could affect real economies.
In accordance with UI physics professor Alfred Hubler, his latest experiment is an example of a “mixed reality” state where there is no clear boundary between the real system and also the virtual system: “The line blurs between what’s real and what isn’t.”
At the APS March Meeting, Hubler reported on the recent experiment that he believes supports the existence of mixed reality company. He used a typical mechanical pendulum in addition to an online pendulum developed to adhere to the well known equations of motion. He along with his colleagues sent data concerning the real pendulum to the virtual one, while sending details about the virtual pendulum into a motor that influenced the motion from the real pendulum. They learned that if the two pendulums were of different lengths, they remained in the “dual reality state” in which their motion was uncorrelated, and consequently not synchronized.
They also found that once the pendulum lengths were similar, they reached a significant transition point and became correlated. “They suddenly noticed the other person, synchronized their motions, and danced together indefinitely,” said Hubler. He compared it into a phase transition: the critical temperature/pressure point wherein matter moves from one state (gas) to another (liquid). In this case, the “phase transition” takes place when the boundary between reality and virtual reality disappears.
This is actually the “mixed reality” state, in which a real pendulum and a virtual pendulum move together as one. The trick is real-time feedback. Scientists have coupled mechanical pendulums with springs to make correlated motion, but without having the staggering computational speed now achievable, coupling pendulums by using a virtual system simply hadn’t been possible. “Computers are actually fast enough we can detect the position of the real pendulum, compute the dynamics of your virtual pendulum, and compute appropriate feedback to the real pendulum, all instantly,” said Hubler.
As flight simulations, immersive VR, and web-based virtual games and worlds become increasingly accurate inside their depictions of real life, Hubler believes such “mixed reality” states will become more usual. He thinks his lab-induced mixed reality states could be utilized to better understand real complex systems with a lot of parameters, by coupling a real system into a virtual one until their constant interactions result in a mixed reality state-for example, modeling neurons by coupling a genuine neuron with a virtual one.
Instantaneous interaction is actually a critical requirement even though Hubler has shown that we can manage this in the lab with real and virtual pendulums, expanding that with an entire virtual world will require even faster computers, along with more effective probes and actuators and also other supporting device technologies. Generations to come of Second Life along with other online games could become very exciting indeed, and almost indistinguishable from “reality.”