Q&A with Jay Iorio


Specializing in the emerging technologies of virtual worlds and three-dimensional interfaces, Jay Iorio is a technology strategist for the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA). He is a co-chair of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems Mixed Reality Committee. He managed IEEE Island in Second Life and has done extensive building and environment creation in Second Life and OpenSimulator. Jay’s primary interest is synthetic realities—virtual worlds, virtual reality, augmented reality, and the merging of these and related technologies into new forms. In addition, he has written on gamification, the built environment as a major element of the future computing landscape, and the convergence of art and technology.

Can you talk about mixed-reality applications today and what you see for the future?

Jay Iorio: Mixed reality is the enhancement of the physical world with digital content. It’s a way for computer systems to manipulate what our senses perceive by using overlays and other digital objects placed in a physical environment. The apps today generally involve using a mobile device such as a phone or a tablet computer—you install an app and use your camera to see things superimposed. I believe that as it evolves, mixed reality will become as integrated into our way of looking at the world as what eyeglasses are today.

We already see mixed-reality applications rapidly changing. Looking ahead, I predict we will eliminate the use of a mobile device and introduce something we wear all the time. A few companies are already working on hardware like this, and there are a few others that are close to releasing visors. With these devises, you can view the entire world with digital content superimposed. For example, when you receive an e-mail, you might see a flash of light on a building and the subject line appears on the street as you are walking.

When mixed reality becomes mainstream, it will likely eliminate computers. There will be no need for laptops, mobile devices or desktop machines. Ultimately, the computer becomes a part of your body, along with the digital illusions that it creates. Artificial-intelligence systems will be like a personal assistant, continuously curating information, learning your behaviors and developing an uncanny sense of what you want before you want it.

When do you think that mixed reality will become a reality in our everyday life?

Jay Iorio: Within a generation, perhaps within five or 10 years. I think it depends on factors that we can’t predict. However, we’re seeing equipment evolve month by month, and it’s getting faster, higher quality, less cumbersome and a lot cheaper. It may seem like science fiction, but I think it will happen soon. By the middle of the next decade, I believe we will see mixed-reality equipment being used for things we can’t even imagine today.

Mixed reality is going to change a lot of things radically, especially when considered in combination with associated technologies, because one technology doesn’t evolve by itself. When you look at the whole collection of related technology—AI, mixed reality, Internet of Things—we have a technological revolution that’s happening. If we use our imagination and look at various human endeavors, it’s almost impossible to find one that isn’t potentially augmentable.

Talk about some of the ways you see mixed reality being used in various industries.

Jay Iorio: Healthcare is one area where we could see a huge impact. Currently, when you go to the doctor, she’s really only getting a snapshot of your health. She may take your blood pressure or draw some blood, but she’s really only seeing part of your overall health status. Artificial intelligence (AI) could help to monitor your condition constantly. An AI agent could observe your numbers, perhaps blood pressure, and notify your physician if something changes. Or you might be trying to eat healthy, and, when you look at restaurants on the street when wearing a device, the lights may be dim on the donut shop but bright at the salad bar down the street. The device could help to motivate healthy habits.

The military also will benefit greatly from mixed-reality technologies. Virtual reality is already used very successfully for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders. I envision it being used to prepare soldiers for combat. It could help them to know physical details of a combat zone prior to going in and help in rescuing the wounded.

Of course, education also will be hugely impacted. Teachers could say, “today we’re going to the Louvre, and we’re going to talk about Renaissance art.” Or, “we’re going to go to Florence.” Or, “We’re going to go to the Museum of Modern Art.” Nobody actually physically goes anywhere, but it’s as real as though you were there. Paintings will come alive; buildings will come alive. Things that we consider inert will become living things because they all have a narrative. They all exist in time, and they have a history to share.

Can you talk about what IEEE is doing within mixed reality and why it is beneficial for companies and governments to engage with IEEE?

Jay Iorio: IEEE has programs dealing with everything from basic technical standards to formal ethical discussions. What sets IEEE apart is that these discussions are not strictly technical issues or social issues—we’re seeing the entire spectrum of implications. I’m not aware of any other organization approaching it that way.

As a thought leader, IEEE is driving the development and deployment of mixed reality on a global level. This is important because internet technologies are very hard to restrict to geographical boundaries. Governments are going to look at these technologies in very different ways. Some will see them as liberators, and some will see them as potentially disruptive to their authority. We want these technologies to be used for the benefit of humanity—all of humanity—yet we know that it is impossible to separate technology from social elements.

The ideas of privacy and identity are central issues at the core of many of these technologies. We spend a lot of time talking about such issues and how they differ culture to culture. I think the implications of technology on society are partly our responsibility—at least to talk through and to get the conversation going and to make people think through them. IEEE does that really well.

For more information on these emerging technology areas, please watch “Mixed Reality—The Future of Our World,” see The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems’ “Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems” and get involved with IEEE Future Directions and the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA). Also, please visit the IEEE SA at Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2018, 30 May and 1 June 2018 at the Santa Clara (California) Convention Center.

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