Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Home Skins

Virtual virtual reality, in the comfort of your own home.
  [vote for,

First; a quick word of warning. This idea starts off reasonably sane and perhaps even do-able, but from there it starts to go downhill and soon slides into WIBNI hell. Please feel free to stop reading at any point (even here, if you’re particularly faint-hearted) before it dissolves into a morass of speculation and wishful thinking.

Redecorating your house is a tricky business. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and (especially if you don’t live alone) always full of compromises and potential recriminations. Because it’s such a big thing, we don’t tend do to it very often, at least not if we can help it. And yet, as Fung Shui practitioners keep telling us, your home is the most intimate space you have, and as such it does have an influence (albeit a subtle one) over your moods and your state of mind. And no, before you ask, I don’t have a black belt in Feng Shui, in fact I don’t believe in most of it, but I do think that the place you spend most time in and call your own colours you just as you colour it.

So – first of all: remove all moveable items from your abode. If you’re moving into a new place, so much the better as it’ll be pretty much empty anyway; if not: well, tough. Nothing good comes without a bit of effort. That done, take detailed measurements of each room. Don’t skimp on the detail, because, as you’ll see later on, being a half-inch or so out here or there could translate into a lifetime of barked-shin misery. Then feed all that data into your friendly household computer, and build an accurate 3d digital representation of your entire living space.

Now you throw caution to the wind and paint everything a disgusting shade of livid green. You’ll probably get it quite cheaply, as it’s a colour no-one else would ever want to use. With what remains of your decorating budget (which should be quite a lot, since you’ve bought your paint for next to nothing) you buy a few sets of VR goggles. Enough for you, whoever else lives in your house, and maybe a few more just in case friends drop by unexpectedly.

There are sensors in the walls that detect where the goggles are, and gyroscopic sensors in the goggles which give their precise orientation as well: hence the house knows exactly what you are looking at and from what angle. Because they know where you are and the angle of your point of view, they can communicate with the central computer and ensure that the greenscreen walls you are looking at are filled in with the colour scheme/perspective-corrected wallpaper of your choice.

Everything else, you see as normal: it’s only where the goggles “see” the green screen that they interpolate the CG wallpaper over the image. So you can still hang posters on your virtual walls, and see your furniture and other useful things. (note to self – lighting will also have to be incorporated. Light profiles in the virtual model?).

The advantages? Most people decorate their house to reflect their personality – fair enough, but sometimes you just don’t feel yourself. With this you can change your surroundings to suit your mood at the touch of a button. Can’t afford another make-over for your abode? Just go to the DIY shop, purloin one of those wallpaper sample books, scan the pages into your computer, and you need never sleep in the same room twice. Also, there’s no reason why your wallpaper needs to be static – I’ve always liked the idea of sixties-style psychedelic wallpaper that rustles almost imperceptibly as you walk past, with patterns that seem to wink and nudge each other and stifle suppressed giggles as you pass by. But maybe that’s just me. There’s no reason why the house’s computer can’t be programmed to show views of the African savannah (complete with free-standing doors and funny-looking floating windows which look out onto your cut-price actual reality). Unlike the video wall ideas that have been posted here before, the cumbersome VR goggles allow for true perspective – at no time do you have the impression of looking at a flat wall, until you actually walk into the cold, hard reality of it.

And, no more decorative compromises. You and your partner want different things? Now you can have both your ideas at once.

The disadvantages? Well, you have to wear goggles all the time. And if the central computer crashes, you’re stuck in a house that seems almost purposefully designed to give you blinding headaches. Your previously empathic abode has now turned against you, and makes you think that you might now have to buy some sensible paint. But nevermind. I’m well aware of the practical shortcomings of this idea.

Now, here’s where things start to get a bit silly. You could make rubbish cardboard furniture with little microchips in them that tells the house computer their dimensions and where they are placed in the room. With the goggles on, you see virtual antique furniture over the visual image of a tatty bit of plywood – it’s like choosing different skins for your media player. Your bookcase is actually made of old cereal packets and good intentions – view it through your VR goggles and it’s suddenly an eighteenth-century wood-sculpted marquetry masterpiece. Seems superb until you actually touch it.

And here’s where it gets really silly. Pure sci-fi stuff. VR goggles with some kind of sonar on them, so they can sense what’s in front of you as you’re pointing your eyes at it. Some kind of impossibly complicated AI system decides what you’re looking at, and projects the appropriate image appropriately. Big thing that doesn’t move as you walk round it? It’s probably a building – according to your preferences that day you may see it as an ancient Greek-style Parthenon, or a crumbling Mayan temple, or a shiny steel-and-chrome building of the future. You see something relatively small that moves past you pretty quickly? It’s not a car – now it’s a land-yacht, or a personal hovercraft, or an obliging fast-running dinosaur giving passengers a piggy-back, depending on what reality-skin you’re using.

I left out my idea of using this system to replace/enhance the appearance of your wife and/or kids. I thought that might have been in bad taste.

lostdog, May 10 2003

Chromakey Glasses http://www.halfbake...Chromakey_20Glasses
[beauxeault, Oct 05 2004]


       ++Good. A story could be written based on these premises.
thumbwax, May 10 2003

       You can get a computer to superimpose graphics based upon any color as the colorkey. You might pick a nice shade of blue instead, to prevent the blinding headaches if your central computer crashes.
Cedar Park, May 10 2003

       Good point, Cedar; but if you do choose a more common, nicer colour, there's more of a chance that you might unexpectedly find book covers/items of furniture/your favourite pair of trousers unexpectedly turning into disorientating out-of-perspective wallpaper when you don your goggles.
lostdog, May 11 2003

       Computerized houses always wind up raping your wife. Haven't you ever seen "The Demon Seed?"   

       Having said that, croissant!
snarfyguy, May 12 2003

       Partially halfbaked (link), but only partially.
beauxeault, May 12 2003

       Heard a thing on the radio today about putting chips into household pets - just for tracking and ID purposes, but it would take on a whole new meaning in conjunction with this idea. A crap dog could always be seen as a slightly huffy baby dragon...
dustmonkey, May 13 2003

       //A crap dog//... aren't all dogs full of it?
Cedar Park, May 15 2003

       <Overstatement of the obvious> That was long. <Overstatement of the obvious> For some reason, this reminds me of the parlour room in Fahrenheit 451. Very interesting idea though.
goober, May 15 2003


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