Rich staggered out of the Spatial Cinematics Q2 earnings call. He always
felt half-dead at the end of these things. He couldn’t help but wonder
if he was really needed there, but it was a fact of life in a public
company, and Mark appreciated having some technical firepower in the
room. He took a deep breath and stepped forward into the company’s
central atrium. Years earlier, when Mark was designing the place, Rich
had pointed it out that it might be a bit distracting if the middle of
their headquarters was the world’s most immersive augmented reality
amusement park. Rich had been right, but only to an extent, and of
course, Mark was the CEO. As introverted as Rich was, he had to admit it
was pretty cool to see people travel to his office from all over the
world just to try the newest tech.
These days, the office was one of the few places around town where you
could be sure that everyone was seeing the same version of reality. Out
on the street, everyone saw whatever virtual content, or “virch”, that
they wanted to through their specs (lightweight eyeglasses that
projected visual content into the retina). People used specs for
everything these days, including navigation, gaming, communication,
productivity, etc.. If you could think of it, chances are someone made a
fortune building it during the wearables boom. Unlike the city streets,
though, the office was locked down. As soon as you stepped through those
doors, all outside signals got cut off. Your specs switched over
automatically to the data and localization infrastructure inside the
building, and the only virch you saw was the virch the company provided.
The experience running right now in the lobby had been met with rave
reviews and rightfully so considering Rich oversaw the project
personally. The basic premise for the thirty or so participants was to
reclaim stolen treasures from a giant virtual dragon. The dragon,
rendered some two hundred feet long, sat perched atop a mountain of
gold. As was customary for Spatial’s high end experiences, physical
reality played a significant role. The pile of gold, for example, was
made of real stuff - ceramic blocks fabricated especially for this
purpose. But when you had your specs on, it rendered the ceramic in
brilliant, realistic gold. The effect of this was such that you could
actually climb the pile. You could also pick up a piece of gold and
Spatial’s state of the art tracking system would maintain the illusion
as you held it in your hands, giving the appearance of virch but the
weight and feeling of the real thing. Climbing the pile, however, took a
bit of courage. At the center of the virtual dragon was a complex
arrangement of physical animatronics. This included a round,
cannon-shaped device some ten feet in length that was capable of
blasting wide reaching swaths of scorching hot air. The air cannon, of
course, ran in perfect sync with the balls of magnificent, virtual flame
that the dragon breathed from its nostrils. The air was so strong that
it could knock you over, sending you tumbling back down the pile. That’s
probably why you had to sign a stack of disclosures an inch thick before
you even started. Fortunately for Rich, when it came to developing
technology, he was the boss. So whenever they pushed a new content
release for the atrium, Rich made sure to sneak some code in there that
let him opt out. He didn’t have to see any of it. The dragon was wicked
cool, but seeing it twice a day? No thanks. He walked out the front door
and was greeted by a wave of Texas heat.
The scene in front of the downtown headquarters was vibrant but not
overwhelming. When the campus was being constructed, Mark had used his
political clout to restrict the surrounding streets to pedestrians only.
When the weather was hot, people tended to complain about the lack of
parking. But the truth was, all they had to do was walk to the end of
the block and catch a pod from the depot. From there it was just a
couple hundred yards to the super-express which could take you as far as
Round Rock in 10 minutes. Rich had a few minutes before he needed to
head home, so he dipped into one of Austin’s famous techno-pubs for a
cold beer. Wearables had come a hell of a long way since Rich started in
this business two decades earlier, but even still the best virch
required the right environment. You could have the best optics and
sensor package known to man, but battery technology and data throughput
lagged behind. So Rich came to the techno-pub where wireless power and
terabyte speed data packets flowed as freely as craft beer. In fact, he
came here so often that he had a table reserved just for him.
Unfortunately, some girl was sitting at that table, so he looked around
impatiently to inform the manager. He stood and waited, then shot
another glance at the table when something unexpected happened: the girl
waved. Rich approached the table.
“Hi Rich, I’m Nel”, she said. The girl, who couldn’t have been much
older than 20, extended her hand. Rich stared quizzically.
“How do you know my name?”
The girl laughed. “You are famous for someone like me!”
“Someone like you?”, Rich inquired.
She replied quickly, “A startup founder!”.
Rich sighed: another pitch. “I’m not interested, kid”.
To his amusement, the girl sat down anyways. She tossed a leather bag
onto the table and rummaged through it, producing a charcoal-gray paper
airplane. She picked up the plane delicately and tossed it into the air.
It whizzed into a tight spiral. Then, something odd happened: it didn’t
come down. Instead, it just kept circling above the table in front of
them. “What the heck”, Rich muttered, sitting down across from the young
founder. Nel snatched the plane out of the air and handed it across the
table to Rich. Rich accepted the object and studied it. The first thing
he did was lay the plane flat on his palm, attempting to judge its
weight. The result startled him: It seemed to weigh nothing at all. He
raised his hand a couple inches then stopped, but the impossibly thin
plane continued upwards as if weightless. “What....is this?” he asked.
The girl replied: “This is a sheet of near-zero-weight carbon nano-tube
scaffolding molded into the shape of a paper airplane.”
Rich paused briefly then responded. “Holy crap. People have been trying
to make durable nano-tubes for a half century.”
Nel smiled. “I know.”
Rich cocked his head and shifted his gaze, studying the girl. To say he
was impressed was an understatement. He wanted to invest already. “So
how much do you need?”
“Money? None. We closed an 18 million dollar seed round last week.”
This startled Rich. “Then why are you here?”
“I want to hear the story of Spatial Cinematics. I want to learn how
your company started.”
Rich checked his watch. “Sure. What the hell.”
Many years earlier - 5 years before the founding of Spatial Cinematics
Mark stood crookedly in his high school cafeteria, neck protruding, chin
clamped against his chest. He focused his whole being on the iPhone in
his hand. Scroll. Tap. Swipe. Double tap. Blink. Tap. Tap. The rest of
his body stayed frozen.
“Earth to Mark!”
Mark jerked upwards, unfurling himself. He looked at Jen and took a
moment to shift his focus towards reality.
“You know you look like a chicken when you stare at that thing?”, she
Mark smiled weakly and shook his head as Jen walked by. She was right,
of course. It reminded him of an idea he had seen on Reddit just the
night before. He pulled it up on his phone: the comment by
/u/BrighterWorld1 read: “When man uses a tool, man becomes part of a
man-tool system. In some sense, the tool’s effect on man is equal to
man's effect on the tool. So it follows that the more powerful a tool is
(and thus the more we can “affect” it) the more we are affected by it."
It dawned on Mark, for the first time, just how much this small handheld
device was affecting him. He imagined his thoughts, for a brief moment,
to be like a vine, and the technology he used was its scaffolding. The
design patterns of his smartphone applications, he realized, were in
many ways dictating the structure of his thoughts, feelings, and even
posture. And evidently, something might be seriously wrong with this
scaffolding, because Jen just told him he looked like a chicken.
Over the next few years, this thought burrowed deeper and deeper into
Mark’s mind, until eventually he thought about it every day. In his
senior year of high school, he tried virtual reality for the first time.
At that point it all began to make sense: there was serious room for
improvement in the way we use technology, and new platforms (augmented
and virtual reality devices) were an opportunity to reshuffle the deck.
Slowly but surely he began to meet other people who shared his ideals -
people with the type of grit and skillset that would allow them to
actually do something about it. Eventually, Spatial Cinematics was born.
When that happened, the founders gathered in Rich’s living room to talk
about the mission of the company. Mark took to his feet and began to
give a speech...
Imagine for a moment you are walking the planes of central Africa some
250,000 years ago. You observe, slyly from a distance, a primitive human
named Doh. Having observed Doh for several days, you’ve managed to
figure out that some of his normal gathering spots for food and crops
are sparse this year. His children seem hungry, but Doh has an idea:
maybe there are grubs in the Baobab tree. He walks to the tree and
begins to work it with his hands, attempting to pry and twist the bark
away from its trunk. He wrangles a branch loose, but it’s too strong to
break any further. That’s when Doh is struck by inspiration; he grabs
the nearest heavy rock and begins to strike downwards on the log. He has
learned to use a tool! Boom. Boom. Boom. He drives the rock against the
wood. After ten strikes, the wood splits open and indeed there are grubs
inside. He calls over his children, and they feast.
Not surprisingly, this is just the first time of many that Doh wields
his favorite stone tool in search of lunch. One day, you are watching
him. His technique has improved, shifting to more of a carving motion
than a striking one. A tree that would have taken him an hour now takes
him just a few minutes. Doh, having cleared out the entire area, sits
down to enjoy his spoils. He looks around and sees evidence of his work,
which makes him feel very, very good. He has made himself master of his
As time goes on, Doh grows more attached to the rock. In fact, he so
seldom put its down that it seems mostly to be a part of him. So much
digging in the wood has made his hand battered and calloused and
constantly covered in dirt, making it hard to discern where the rock
ends and his hand begins. When you look closely, you notice that
particular muscles in his hand, which are useful for rock-wielding, have
grown stronger and changed shape. The rock has transformed his hand. It
is clear that to the extent Doh uses the rock, the rock has an effect on
Doh as well. This makes sense, considering Doh did not originally evolve
to wield a rock this way. To do so, he must conform himself to the tool,
and sacrifice something of his original nature in the process.
Now consider for a moment how, then, do much we conform to our own
modern tools; so much more modern, sophisticated, dynamic, and effective
than Doh’s rock? What of our own nature is sacrificed? For the five
billion of us who spend time every day hunched over tiny screens
engaging a low resolution version of the world with our thumbs, I think
the answer is: quite a bit. Quite a bit is lost.
Spatial computing, in this sense, is an opportunity. It’s a chance for
us to establish a relationship with our tools (namely our computers)
that happens in our world and on our terms; a relationship that’s more
natural, intuitive, and sustainable than what we have today. Mind,
matter, and machine can resonate in perfect alignment.
The room was hot and stuffy by this point, but no one cared. They were
preoccupied with Mark’s words, which had resonated deeply. They sat for
a few moments, ruminating, and then one-by-one they got up and left. The
next time they saw each other, they were running a business together.
Austin, Tx - 2038
“Sweet,” Nell remarked. How about the first time you holoported? Can you
tell me about that?” Nell asked.
Rich chuckled a bit at the girl’s pointedness. He checked his watch
again. “Sure, but then I have to go”.
The Holoportation Lab - Late 2020’s, San Diego, California
Kara had been in the elevator for at least half a minute now, which
seemed like a long way to travel through solid rock. Though when she got
off the elevator expecting a dim maze of hallways, she was instead
surprised to see sunlight. She eventually came to realize that although
the elevator had been traveling downward, it had eventually intercepted
a recess in the cliffside, which gave them exposure to the Pacific
coastline. She raised her eyebrows quietly. “Who puts a top secret
search lab in the middle of a cliff?” she wondered. But the question was
rhetorical considering she knew Mark and what he was capable of. Par for
Bri, a long and sharply structured woman of about 30, strode up to Kara
and extended her hand. “Kara! You ready to have some fun?”. Without
waiting for a response, Bri began to travel forward across the broad
atrium. Kara followed. They reached the back wall, which stretched for
two hundred feet and was lined continuously with one, long industrial-
At the near end of the workbench was about a dozen pair of high end
specs. Bri handed a pair to her guest before putting on her own. Kara
noticed right away that these were more advanced specs than she had used
before. In fact, they were constructed of only lenses and frames but no
arms. The part which normally ran along the side of your head and rested
on your ears was totally missing. By watching Bri, Kara learned that
there were small extensions of thin metal coming out of the sides of the
lenses, and because they were coated in a light reusable adhesive, you
could simply press the specs to your face and they would stay there,
sticking to your cheek. Whoah. When Kara put hers on, the rims faded
mostly out of view and she could barely feel the weight of their
transparent lenses. Bri’s fingers tapped and twirled as they worked in
unison with her gaze to navigate the devices main interface. Then, a
white ball of fuzzy light some 6 inches in diameter appeared a few feet
to Kara’s right. It spent a few seconds growing in size and then
dissolved and was replaced by a tall, dark haired man, standing
life-size on the stained concrete in front of them. Kara quitely lost
her shit for a minute, because she had seen some pretty good
holoportation demos but this looked and felt like the real thing.
“Kara, meet Ben! Ben is at his home in Arizona, a few hundred miles
“It’s nice to meet you, Ben.” Kara was obviously impressed. She
continued, “So Ben, you must have some pretty intense 3D video capture
gear in your house, huh?”.
Ben responded: “Not exactly.”
Bri smiled. “That’s the new tech. All the sensors are in the specs
themselves. Whenever you put them on, they continuously scan your face,
body, and environment, all of which can be broadcast in real-time.”
Kara followed with a question. “Scan my environment? What do you mean?”
“Well, the specs are always scanning the room, building a high
resolution visual model. With all those sensors, plus some clever
software which traces reflections and bouncing light, we can recreate a
digital model of most of the room. The rest of the details are filled in
artificially with a neural network.”
Kara was starting to think she was going to spend a lot of her time that
day feeling impressed. She asked another question. “So does that mean
Ben sees himself in our environment instead of his own?”
“Yup. True holoportation.” Ben responded.
Bri took a step back, and Kara was amazed by what she saw next. When she
looked at Ben, she saw the most peculiar site. At first, she noticed a
spot on the floor which seemed to change, warp, and blur before changing
texture.The circle of grew until it was almost reaching Kara’s feet, at
which point she recognized the material as hardwood flooring. When Kara
looked up, she noticed that other bits and pieces had begun to appear
behind Ben as well: part of a couch, the bottom of a table. And then,
within a second or two, the gaps filled in like some kind of weird,
thick liquid, and then shockingly Kara was standing in a completely
“Welcome to my home!”, Ben remarked. Kara noticed that Bri was standing
beside her. The whole experience was incredible, and she decided to take
off her specs to think more about it. She peeled them from her cheeks
and took a deep breath, wearing a wide smile. She was standing back in
the lab now. Bri had followed her back to physical reality.
“Should we try out the next demo?”
Austin, Tx, 2038
At this point, Nel was completely entranced. The left side of her butt
had fallen asleep, and her chin was perched in her palms, which were in
turn propped up by her elbows. Rich had fallen quiet as he continued to
ruminate on the company’s journey. Finally, Nel sensed that he was
finished. A smile formed on her face.
“Thank you. Thank you...so much” she offered.
Rich nodded ever so slightly and stood up. He looked at the girl. “Good
luck, Nel.” Then he walked out of the techno pub to meet his daughter,
who had not been waiting long outside. “Ready to head home?” he asked
her. She had spent the whole day walking around the city and was tired
so she gave him a silent thumbs up and they headed down the block
towards the super express.
Rich and his daughter sliced through the forest floor in their car at
around 100 miles per hour. Even though the road only had about an inch
to give on either side, they might as well have been on rails. At least,
that’s how safe they felt with the new pilot computers. It wasn’t lost
on Rich that he had played a hand in that, too. Turns out, engineering
some specs to understand the world boiled down to essentially the same
engineering challenge as getting an autonomous car to transport a few
people down the road: both required sensing objects in the environment
and figuring out what to make of them.
When good specs went mainstream, Rich was thrilled by the lifestyle
change. These days, with specs so good, you could pretty much holoport
anywhere you needed to go. Physically, he had his family, his friends,
some good natural food, and some land. Everything else, he got through
his specs. When he did need to travel, he could hop in an autonomous
car, hang out in the metaverse for 30 minutes, and be anywhere as far as
After a few minutes, the trees cleared, revealing a bluff covered in
brown rock and sand colored grasses. It was too steep to see over the
edge from that angle, but Rich could picture in his mind the river
below, which he had seen so many times. At the ridge of a modest hill,
and still near the river, they came quietly to a stop in front of their
temple of a home. All throughout the front yard they grew fruits in
great abundance. They got out of the car, and Rich considered picking a
strawberry. The car, needing power from the solar array at the other end
of the property, left without a sound.
The core structure of the house was a large central area, capped by a
dome roof. Around the central room were 5 doorways leading to 5 smaller
areas branching off like petals. The dwelling’s rock walls were thick
and solid and seemed likely to stand for a thousand years or more.
Rich had a routine. Every day he meditated with the help of his specs.
He walked straight through his front door and perched himself on a couch
cushion in the main entryway. He straightened his posture and took a
deep breath at which point the lights in the room visibly lowered. He
loosened his shoulders and focused on the rising and falling of his
chest. After a few breaths, Rich began to see a small pile of dirt on
the floor in front of him. Emerging from that pile was a young sapling.
As Rich drew in each breath, the sapling glowed and grew in size. When
he exhaled, it shrank. Each time it grew, it would get just a little bit
bigger than the time before. Rich relaxed deeply and sank into rhythm
with the growing plant. As he became calmer and calmer, the plant began
to flower, unveiling a ring of purple pedals. The pedals were wavelike
as they expanded and retracted then expanded again. Once Rich felt
centered and calm from the mental exercise, he joined his wife in the
other room where they prepared dinner.
Rich sat adjacent his wife and daughter, all three of them enjoying the
window view. Noodles doused in red sauce steamed in front of them,
untouched. Slowly a shape appeared near the daughter and then
solidified. She turned to look at it.
“Hi there, Vai”. Her face was warm and inviting. She looked at her son,
Rich. “The others aren’t far behind me.”
Sure enough, not a minute had passed before the rest of the long stone
table began to fill in with realistic digital avatars of their closest
friends and family. They ate their food and basked in each other’s
presence. This was something like the life Rich had always imagined, and
so he allowed himself to enjoy it.