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What if …Reality+Digital Reality becomes … Reality – V

Alexa has found its way into our homes, there were as of January 2019 100 million devices embedding Alexa, that means tens of million homes have Alexa bringing in some sort of Digital Reality into the Home, changing the way the home is and feels. Hence changing its physical reality. Image credit: Amazon

Let’s move on and consider, in the consumer space, the existence of services like movies and music on demand. These are present in the cyberspace, in some clouds of a service provider, yet, once we subscribe, they are becoming part of our ambient, our home. Alexa may be a bridge to access this Digital Reality made of music and more. Interestingly, Alexa is doing more than playing the role of a browser/interface. It learns about our taste and habits. In doing so it is creating a digital reality adapted to our environment and mood.

My home, as I experience it, as well as you experience it when visiting me, is becoming a physical place finely tuned by a digital reality (music, images, lighting) that is coming from the cyberspace and orchestrated by some sort of software.

The Aladdin Genie can do magic, Alexa, to a certain extent can do magic as well, sometimes going even further than the Genie. Image credit: Disney

It is not just my home. When there are over 100 million devices embedding Alexa it means that a new way of living is emerging, one where you just voice your questions on weather, on what you would like to listen. In a way is like having an Aladdin lamp at home, supporting perhaps little less magic but at the same time it is becoming so entrenched in our everyday life to have an even bigger impact on our behaviour than that magical lamp.

On second thought, I am not that sure that Alexa delivers a second-tier magic if compared to Aladdin’s lamp. Think about it: the Genie asks Aladdin what was the wish to grant, and that seemed quite reasonable to us kids. How could the Genie know in advance what was on Aladdin’s mind?

Yet, sometimes Alexa seems too know what’s on our mind, what our tastes are, what we would like to listen to…

The concept of Digital Twin is along this lines. A digital twin is mirroring a physical reality but it is also a history of the evolution of that reality (its digital thread) and provides ways to software applications to use the Physical Reality mirrored in the cyberspace to transform it, creating a new Digital Reality that is no longer mirroring the original Physical Reality but has the power of affecting our perception of Reality by overlaying it on our perceived Reality.

The point I am making is that not only the boundaries between the physical and digital realities are getting fuzzier, the digital reality may transform the physical reality, or in other words a new reality is emerging, the one where physical and digital are coalescing.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.

2 comments

  1. Hello Roberto, thanks for the good article! Nevertheless I want to add that if I see my recommendations on Netflix, Spotify, etc., the quality of prediction is still lacking. This maybe because AI can identify patterns and make statistical conclusions, but still is not able to understand logical connections. For this, many services, including Spotify, still work with human playlists.

    • I agree Patrick. However, I bet that AI will make further progress and in particular it will be able to leverage on a variety of sensors (like embedded camera in the screens) that will provide many more data to analyse, resulting in much more accurate feedback. The possibile rise of personal digital twins will surely boost AI accuracy.