Global Input

Written by Marcus Guimaraes on June 8, 2018

My recent work has been focused on extending our lab’s unified XR input system to more platforms. This library makes it far easier for developers of XR experiences to deploy to different devices without having to rewrite code for each one.  Right now it’s just a convenient library for developers to have, but I anticipate interoperability libraries like this will quickly become crucial. Here at FRL, we are focused on prototyping a near future where mixed reality devices are as commonplace as smartphones; this future will be social and collocated, as the wearable technology that drives it will finally be untethered from the screen. If our lab’s vision becomes true, XR will not become like our current Balkanized internet, where a global network devolves into self-selected networks of similar people–it will be a platform for social experiences that include people from all walks of life.

It’s incredibly unlikely that the market for XR will come to be dominated by any one device. Instead, it’s likely to develop closer to the current smartphone landscape, where many manufacturers create products from different design insights with different software stacks. Each of these devices will afford their own kind of utility, which will present hurdles that must be overcome if XR is to become a platform on which truly universal experiences will thrive. Different devices easily become the fault lines that divide people by class or culture; XR, which has the ability to reshape your perception of reality, can be especially insidious in this regard if it further divorces us from a truth shared between all groups.

This is where we’ll need to find approaches like this input system, which will break down the barriers between users of different devices. Barring the adoption of a universal standard library for XR development being accepted by all hardware manufacturers (which, as we’ve seen with recent news regarding OpenGL, can be a tenuous agreement), it will be up to individual developers to cast as wide a net as possible with the experiences they create. Universal input systems, combined with other development tools with an ethos of universality, will help them cast that net across society’s traditional dividing lines. Our future reality is one that must be developed carefully if it is to grow into its full potential as a force for societal good; ensuring that our inclusive vision can weather the waves of hardware change is critical.

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