Michio Kaku is a futurist, popularizer of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics and a joint appointment at City College of New York and the Graduate Center of C.U.N.Y. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
Kaku launched his Big Think blog, "Dr. Kaku's Universe," in March 2010.
Michio Kaku: We all love the movie, The Matrix and the holodeck. And the question is, when will we be able to enter a room and create this imaginary scenario that’s so realistic that it seems as if we are really there? It turns out that we scientists are making progress in that direction even as we speak.
First of all, in the future, the internet will be in your contact lens. You will blink and you will go online. You will see individuals and their biography will appear and subtitles will appear if they speak in Chinese. So you will always know who you’re talking to and what they are saying even if they speak in a different language..
Now think about this: if you have internet contact lenses, then you can imagine and conjure up different kinds of bizarre universes. Just like in “The Matrix,” you can be thrust into an alien environment. You could have shoot outs with aliens. You can have all sorts of wondrous things take place inside your contact lens. But then the trick is what happens if you move? What happens if you touch things? Well, the military has constructed something called "omni-directional treadmills." It’s a treadmill in any direction.
Now I had a chance to take a film crew from the Science Channel down to Ft Benning, Georgia, where we filmed me inside the omni-directional treadmill. I was surrounded by 360 degree screens showing the image of Baghdad. I had a backpack and then as I walked, I could walk in any direction and always wind up in the same place. But as I moved, everything around me moved. The streets of Baghdad changed every time I ran in any direction.
The last thing that’s missing is a sense of touch. That’s where haptic technology comes in. Haptic technology is the ability to create the feel of a virtual reality. Now how does that work? Let’s say you have a platform with thousands of vertical pins such that when you put your hand on this platform, the pins then conform to the fingers because each pin is governed by a computer. Therefore, if you put your hand on this set of pins, you can duplicate any texture that you want.
So in some sense if you’re surrounded by these haptic devices, you’ll be able to touch objects and think that you’re actually touching skin or touching wood or touching metal. And then you have the internet contact lens and then you’re surrounded by 360 degree screens with an omni-directional treadmill, you’re getting awfully close to “The Matrix.”
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd