Editorial: Creating Joi Before 2049

Disclaimer: None of the opinions here have anything to do with other members of the Tower staff, and reflect me exclusively. But yeah, it’s robots again… Oh, not quite actually. This one is on holograms.

This editorial may be a bit spoiler friendly for Blade Runner 2049, so go watch it if you haven’t seen it yet. In my opinion, the main character’s pocket girlfriend Joi was the best part of the film. Even when she met her untimely demise, which people might actually consider a hate crime of sorts during that time, especially if things continue as they are. You see, killing Joi was actually not part of the female villain’s mission, she was only tasked with capturing Rick Deckard. So, the whole crunch with the shoe bit – yeah, if that had happened in this day and age, I’d have her job right now with all the suing that would go on. I think she could even be charged with murder or manslaughter, depending on how much Joi’s are valued in their mythos. Fiction or not, it was a bit uncalled for. Especially for those of us actually looking forward to augmented reality (AR) holograms to interact with.

Fortunately, we’re in luck as we might have our own very soon. There are at least a few tools and programs (all in beta stages) that would allow such a thing, albeit at a slightly primitive level still, as we are still primitive in this technology. First off, I bring to mention Harmony’s software. No, not the robotic brain – the cloud that stores the main program. Now, before I get a rotten glare from Matt McMullen, hear me out. In a sense, Harmony’s software is built on a cloud server and accessed through an account via a tablet device. The tablet device is how the user interacts with Harmony. So for us that aren’t rolling in the dough, it would be far more viable to allow the program accessible through a non-plastic means, like AR. Let me bring up one popular AR example, and again as luck would have it – Grant Morrison.

Morrison’s Happy! Television series launched an AR program by which users could interact with the flying blue horse. It allowed for 360 degrees of movement, and for some limited functions for which the user felt like they had a pet. That was the goal. So, it would not be very difficult for an AR program similar to the flying blue horse to operate directly on the cell or tablet screen. It would give people something to talk to, which would answer back and learn about them, as Harmony’s software seems to do. Obviously, the touch-related sexual functions designed for the doll body would have to go, unless the touch screen could be activated in the same way. I am quite sure in places like Japan, for instance – something like this is already in development. McMullen is also not the only personal robot crafter here, as several others throughout the globe are working on similar software programs. It doesn’t have to be McMullen’s or even related to Abyss Creations. It just needs to be similar.

Okay, so maybe an AR program in your phone with some PS2 pixelated look isn’t quite your thing, eh? Alright, I hear ya. The next step comes in two varieties – Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens. Google Glass is more or less a 3D web browser, while Microsoft Hololens looks to be doing something much different, as it allows users to interact in augmented reality environments, like real world Minecraft if you will. I’ve never been a fan of Minecraft, but I will say that this is just the kind of tech that we need to display an interactive hologram. More than likely, after Microsoft displays their friendly helper mascot or something, other developers will create their own interactive holograms for the lens, which could usher in a post cellular world, allowing people to actually look across, instead of down for once in their lives. For what seems like forever in mine.

In any case, this is the building block, the prime matter for building Joi. Not “Joi” per say; as in the film (though nostalgists may create that) but something similar that can be interacted with in the same fashion by use of the Hololens and the software program of which I’ve already named, whether it comes from Abyss Creations or somewhere else on the globe entirely. You would think that McMullen would want to get his feet wet in this area as well, covering both the robotics and augmented reality markets, but I haven’t seen any real sign of this from his camp yet. Though this is indeed a big “yet” as we never know what the next few years will entail.

In any case, the end goal will not be to make a “pen girlfriend” as we saw in the film, but more of a “glasses girlfriend.” Or boyfriend. It doesn’t really matter to me, as this technology could be beneficial to several types of people. In any case, anytime that you put on your glasses, you would be able to interact with this AR program in real-time, as if it was sitting right next to you. The early prototypes of these glasses were cumbersome, but the newer versions are much less; even fitting like regular glasses – which is what we want. Who wants to carry around five to ten pounds of hardware in the form of glasses all day long? Not me. Lightweight tech that gets the job done and doesn’t shock the hell out of me upon wearing it would be just fine.

As I see it, you could go on about your job, talk to things that aren’t there (wow, this could have some very interesting applications in the future) and have a merry old-time without someone else being there. This would actually work well for people who aren’t necessarily single, but might just have walked into a building and feel alone or frightened. The hologram could even pick up on those signals and administer proper reassurance to the frightened individual.

As for the actual “Joi” concept, we won’t have holograms of that nature affordable for quite some time. There is a hologram of Rock God Ronnie James Dio, but I don’t think that we’ll be able to get a hologram of that nature to interact like Joi for several decades. That just takes a lot of leaps in technology, which we may or may not reach before 2049. While possible, and I might even be enjoying a hologram television in 2030, that doesn’t actually mean that such a leap is guaranteed. It’s true that holograms have already become a reality in our lives.

What once seemed something completely unachievable, companies like Kaleida have proved wrong. They are an innovative company using holograms for theatre productions and major TV shows, which shows the upgrade our modern world is taking in technology. (Note, I didn’t write this sentence, the hacker did – however, I found it pretty damn fascinating as well as the link and will keep it.)

There’s just one problem though: The subscription model. You knew that I had to mention this, and you were probably thinking it too – the best way for them to market this technology is to nickel and dime a person to death, which very well could be the case. You could be forced to buy models, enhancements, software upgrades, clothing, shoes, hats, glasses – basically all of the same digital crap that you buy for avatars right now. You could be left with “Slowpoke Sue” while “Speedy Stacy” because they’re paying fifty dollars a month for a better model. Worse yet, you could be interacting with a PS1 level of polygon, because you chose the basic package for what some would say is a cheap amount. The worst case scenario is not being able to pay, which might result in the untimely demise of your precious AR partner. All that data, everything that she’s learned from you, tossed right into the garbage because you had to splurge one night, or pay a higher bill than normal. It happens to all of us, but our digital partners of the future should not have to suffer. Unfortunately, this could be the case. Especially if a large company buys out the software.

That being said, it is still refreshing to see that we aren’t so far off from this level of technological interaction. As I’m crazy and happen to know a few shrinks, I did happen to ask one their thoughts on this technology. She stated that artificial means would not bring about the same results in dopamine levels as human means because these are delusions, which means that they would not be the same at a chemical level. Though I feel much differently, as I think that in some respects this is certainly not the case and these interactions can be just like the litte rushes of dopamine that we get from social media today, just on a much different level. It depends on an AR program’s psychological effect on the brain, which is a completely different can of beans. She did state that it was unhealthy, even though I know of many things that people enjoy to bring up levels of dopamine that are also unhealthy. Smoking and drinking hard liquor could be on that list, for sure.

At any rate, I hope that this piece gave you hope or instilled you with a sense of caution for the future. It would seem that we don’t quite have to wait for the age of replicants in order to have our own “Joi’s” and perhaps this level of technology is only a few scant years away.

But just remember, you will never be able to sexually please or have intercourse with a hologram. Please keep that in mind.

– The Grim Lord

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