Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Project 10 to the 100th

Google has an ideas submission contest called Project 10 to the 100th which calls for ideas that can help mankind. There are no prizes for it. However since idea generation is one of my strengths and I love contests, the following is my idea (which I thought of today. O how deadlines does wonders to our thinking!):

Title: Teleportation... or as close as we can get to it.

A live high resolution display feed of another city is projected live 24 hours a day into 360 viewing room or pods in another city and vice versa. This allows people regardless of economic background to visit another city without flying or travelling there. By allowing a window into another world, different cultures can interact with one another; viewing and talking with people in an actual live environment. For example, a pod placed in Picadilly Circus, London could exchange feeds with Times Square, New York. These pods are open to the public to walk in, stroll, soak in the atmosphere or talk to whoever is on the other side.

With three more more pods, the projected environments could be switched to other locations: Tokyo, Rio, Moscow, Afghanistan, Iraq. Imagine, New Yorkers walking into the pod and be transported to the middle of Red Square and talk to Russians on Monday, and the next day be transported to Baghdad, Iraq. Or pods in Tel Aviv and Riyadh allowing Israelis to talk with Arabs and vice versa. Or inhabitants of Johannesburg to travel to Tianenmen Square, Beijing. These pods could also be used to transport the people to sporting events like the Olympics or New Year's countdown in Times Square.

Technology wise, high tech 360 immersive environment technology is already available or can be cheapened and scaled down to using HD cameras and LCD Panels. The idea is also scalable only needing two cities to agree to pilot the idea and adding more in later. In terms of commercial viability, the pods can be sponsored by telecoms companies or through advertising, or even be booked by companies wishing to use as tele-conference facilities.

Many people over the world are restricted in travelling due to economic or political constraints. Cultural and ideological barriers, gaps and conflicts abound, Arab-Israeli, East and West, 1st World and 3rd World, etc. A lot of these conflicts are due to misunderstandings or skewed perceptions of people of one culture with another; perhaps due to media restrictions, censorship, or just plain ignorance. By having these virtual pods, people from different cultures and diverse geographic locations can view for themselves other countries firsthand. A person can see what Gaza Strip or Times Square looks like. Are the residents really terrorists or children of Satan as demonised? It also allows people to have a nice virtual holiday break. Imagine walking down from your office in San Francisco and having lunch in Paris!

Mankind would benefit through closing the gap of understanding between people of different cultures. The people who would benefit would be people of all sorts of walks and cultures in the cities where the pods are placed. It would especially help the poor who are restricted in their opportunities to travel or pay for telecommunication devices and services.

First steps would be to identify two pilot cities to agree to this experiment, and locations for the pods and to find the right technology that could be used to create this live feed of environments. There is already technology available to create an immersive 360 degree environment but it may be too expensive or specialized and it can be dumbed down to just HD cameras and LCD panels. A steady telecommunications link using high-speed data links would enable the pods to function. The initial set up does not need pods, even walls on the side of a building will be good enough. To prevent noise pollution, hypersonic speakers will allow users to hear the sounds without disturbing other people around.

If the pilot is successful, almost every major city (and even minor city) could have these pods or virtual environments scattered all over the city. It would be considered a cool thing for a city to have these pods, residents clamoring for them as a badge of interconnectedness, just as having a museum is a sign of cultural richness. And just as Wikipedia has created a free encyclopaedia, these pods would be used as a free communications tool for people to talk and interact with others.

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