Pink skies

My thoughts on four different things happened to blend these last days… (Well, it’s not uncommon for my thoughts to blend, but this one might be more interesting to others as well.)

The first of these four things was the landing of Perseverance on Mars and the general excitement about its planned exploration. The photos that the rover was able to send back almost immediately along with the cool streaming of its landing played a role in fueling my imagination (which might sound weird but just read on, okay?).

Then there was the reading that I did for my current job on the capabilities of the 5G protocol. Bottom line is, if everything goes according to plan then we haven’t seen anything yet in terms of data transfer in daily life.

Then there was that discussion where I learned that Facebook’s Oculus VR helmet is, apparently, great. And that there is going to be a promising update on it rather soon-ish.

And then, there’s martian VR. Or more precisely, there is the good timing of reading “Pale Blue Dot” these days. It is the mid-’90s and Carl Sagan makes the case for robotic rather than human exploration of the solar system with arguments like the following:

“Conjure up roving, smart robots, each of them a small scientific laboratory, landing in the safe but dull places and wandering to view close-up some of that profusion of Martian Wonders. Perhaps every day a robot would rove to its own horizon; each morning we would see close-up what had yesterday been only a distant eminence. The lengthening progress of a traverse route over the Martian landscape would appear on news programs and in schoolrooms. People would speculate on what will be found. Nightly newscasts from another planet, with their revelations of new terrains and new scientific findings would make everyone on Earth a party to the adventure.

Then there’s Martian virtual reality: The data sent back from Mars, stored in a modern computer, are fed into your helmet and gloves and boots. You are walking in an empty room on Earth, but to you you are on Mars: pink skies, fields of boulders, sand dunes stretching to the horizon where an immense volcano looms; you hear the sand crunching under your boots, you turn rocks over, dig a hole, sample the thin air, turn a corner, and come face to face with . . . whatever new discoveries we will make on Mars—all exact copies of what’s on Mars, and all experienced from the safety of a virtual reality salon in your hometown. This is not why we explore Mars, but clearly we will need robot explorers to return the real reality before it can be reconfigured into virtual reality.”

Blend this with Perseverance, the public’s recent support for more missions to Mars, 5G and new VR.

And, even if they are turning out redundant, one can only love the retro-futurist idea of local VR salons.

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