A University of Illinois physicist has produced a process that explores the connection involving the real and virtual worlds by linking a mechanical pendulum to the virtual twin. It is the first real/virtual physics experiment, and may help clarify the influence that virtual communities exert on real life, and the other way around. As an example, the experiment could help us know the way the economies of games like Second Life could affect real economies.
Based on UI physics professor Alfred Hubler, his latest experiment is an example of a “mixed reality” state where there is no clear boundary in between the real system as well as the virtual system: “The line blurs between what’s real and what isn’t.”
At the APS March Meeting, Hubler reported over a recent experiment which he believes supports the presence of mixed reality company. He used a regular mechanical pendulum in addition to a virtual pendulum developed to keep to the well known equations of motion. He along with his colleagues sent data in regards to the real pendulum to the virtual one, while sending details about the virtual pendulum to a motor that influenced the motion in the real pendulum. They found out that when the two pendulums were of several lengths, they remained inside a “dual reality state” by which their motion was uncorrelated, and therefore not synchronized.
Additionally they found that when the pendulum lengths were similar, they reached a significant transition point and have become correlated. “They suddenly noticed each other, 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 one (liquid). In this case, the “phase transition” happens when the boundary between reality and virtual reality disappears.
This is the “mixed reality” state, where a real pendulum along with a virtual pendulum move together as you. The trick is real-time feedback. Scientists have coupled mechanical pendulums with springs to produce correlated motion, but minus the staggering computational speed now achievable, coupling pendulums using a virtual system simply hadn’t been possible. “Computers have become fast enough we can detect the positioning of the real pendulum, compute the dynamics from the virtual pendulum, and compute appropriate feedback for the real pendulum, all in real time,” said Hubler.
As flight simulations, immersive VR, and web-based virtual games and worlds become increasingly accurate inside their depictions of the real world, Hubler believes such “mixed reality” states may become more prevalent. He thinks his lab-induced mixed reality states could be employed to better understand real complex systems with a lot of parameters, by coupling an actual system into a virtual one until their constant interactions result in a mixed reality state-for example, modeling neurons by coupling a real neuron with a virtual one.
Instantaneous interaction is really a critical requirement even though Hubler indicates we can manage this from the lab with real and virtual pendulums, expanding that for an entire virtual world requires even faster computers, along with much better probes and actuators and other supporting device technologies. Future generations of Second Life and also other online games could become very exciting indeed, and almost indistinguishable from “reality.”