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Virtual Becomes Reality

It’s like something out of the 1985 classic “Back to the Future” — a walk-in virtual-reality pod that can transport you back through time, propel you into the future or open the door to an alternate reality: a real-life time machine.

Except in this case, it doesn’t require that you drive a DeLorean full of plutonium at 88 miles per hour. It’s called the Immersive Cocoon, and it’s being developed by NAU, an international design collective. Boasting 360-degree screens and motion sensors that respond to movements of the face, arms and legs, the Immersive Cocoon, when complete, undoubtedly will represent the next generation of computing.

According to a CNN.com article, the virtual-reality dome could have many possible uses, from the educational — students taking 3-D jaunts through history — to the recreational — video-gamers reveling in more lifelike play.

“As the wrap-around display glows with activity,” the official Web site states, “the guest escapes to far-off temples, initiates an office video conference or challenges friends in an online gaming forum.” The design even inspired the futuristic movie “Minority Report,” according to the site.

The site goes on to state that a limited number of Cocoons will be leased to corporations for internal communications and remote working solutions, but that “many will find their way into airports and public spaces.”

Check out some wild images of how the inside of the Cocoon will look here.

Internet Inside Your Head

It seems that virtual reality is the name of the game these days. Neurotechnology research firm Cyberkinetics is working to decode neural impulses and translate them into action with its BrainGate Neural Interface System, currently in clinical trials.

The system aims to provide people with severe motor impairment — due to major spinal injuries or diseases that damage the nervous system — with the ability to communicate with a computer simply through their thoughts. The system operates via a sensor that is implanted into the motor cortex of the brain and allows people without the ability to speak or move to control a computer.

Imagine if you had instant access to the information superhighway just by thinking about it. Say you wanted to find out when “The Dark Knight” is playing at your local theater. Close your eyes for a second and pull up Fandango.com to find movie times. Lost on the road and need directions to the nearest gas station? MapQuest is available at the blink of an eye.

Or if you’re on the job and are trying to work through a particularly thorny network problem, you could tap into the entire shared knowledge base of the Internet community just by thinking about it.

While it’s a long way from a large-scale commercial application, the new technologies make the future envisioned by science fiction writers all the more feasible.

Map It Out

Have you ever raced out of work only to arrive at your bus or train stop just as your mode of transportation is pulling away? It’s right up there with “sitting in traffic” as the ultimate frustration of big-city living.

But now, with Google Maps, you can time your departure perfectly. All you do is go to “Get Directions” and type in your departure and destination, as you would for driving directions. If public transportation is available for your route, you’ll have the option to click on a button that, like magic, shows you when your bus or train will be pulling up to your stop. The detailed map also outlines each leg of your trip and gives you a street view, just in case you’re unfamiliar with where you’re going.

Now there will be no more screaming, hollering, pounding on bus or train windows or general tantrums in the middle of the street. And every time you use this feature it’s likely you’re saving yourself not only the embarrassment, but also a hefty taxi fare.

Now, if the Google folks could only figure out how to beam us home…


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