HomeTech NewsAsynchronous reality: Go back in time to relive moments virtually

Asynchronous reality: Go back in time to relive moments virtually

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Working remotely entails the challenge of making these activities compatible with the reality of home. This demands, on occasions, paying attention to things unrelated to the main activity being carried out.

To avoid missing important moments, a team of researchers has developed a system that can record and then play back events in a 3D room, which can be built on top of virtual or augmented reality environments.

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“Rewind reality” to experience it again

A team of researchers from ETH Zurich presented a proposal that could revolutionize the dynamics associated with remote work, by effectively introducing the possibility of asynchronously participating in certain instances.

The system proposed by the scientists would allow in the future not only the possibility of disconnecting from online meetings, but also leaving the bustle of the office with a click whenever another important task needs to be attended to. Similarly, it is possible to silence the distractions that arise around, but record them for later review on a delayed basis, using realistic-looking 3D recordings, which are almost indistinguishable from reality.

This is an ambitious project, but concretely the ETH Zurich team has already made considerable progress in this regard. Christian Holz, Assistant Professor of Intelligent Interactive Systems, and Postdoc Andreas Rene Fender, equipped an office with depth cameras, capable of capturing objects and people in three dimensions. In addition, a computer system continuously records everything that happens in space and detects how events are causally connected. The researchers recently presented their concept and corresponding system through a video demonstration.

Conceived as a system for the “offices of the future”, in this case users need to wear a virtual reality helmet and headset. By default, the headset represents the physical office space around the user and the virtual screens and objects, inserting them into the physical environment. Whenever the user wants to abstract from what is happening around him, he can activate “Focus Mode”, which hides everything that is not happening in his immediate workspace. Afterwards, the option will be available to replay all “hidden” events and relive them as if they were happening “here and now” from the user’s point of view.

From the outset, this proposal could be assimilated with an answering machine. However, Holz makes it clear how that with which it is presented differs: “When someone leaves a message on an answering machine, they actively formulate a short message, thinking about what they want to say. But in asynchronous reality, the person he calls doesn’t have to actively communicate, he can just do and say things as if the other person were present. Later, when they are ready, the ‘receiver’ can play back the events in the same space and interact directly with the objects to experience for themselves what has been recorded. That makes the recording feel very real.”. So the two people involved experience the same events in the same space, just at different times.

In other words, illustrating the above with an example, if a physical event occurs during a virtual meeting, such as receiving a face-to-face notice that was initially ignored because it was using the “Focus Mode”, it can be relived as it happened, simply “turning back time”.

Holz also makes it clear how the system differs from traditional video recording. Within asynchronous reality, the user can selectively control the replay of events that they missed. In the middle of a virtual or augmented reality environment, as the case may be, it is possible to pick out any object connected to a past event as glowing shapes. As soon as the user approaches one of these objects, the system plays the corresponding logged event.

This system guarantees the reproduction of all relevant previous events. Fender says that the computer system’s ability to recognize and pinpoint these causalities is one of the major innovations of this work. After exiting focus mode, users can zoom in on a particular object of interest. Then, instead of the object just showing up, you can review the chain of events related to that object and how it got there, “therefore, the reality of the user always remains consistent, and causalities are not violated”, Fender clarifies.

The possibilities of using this system can be extended beyond work environments. In research teams, for example, this resource would allow repeating executed processes to analyze and track errors.

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