Reality—is it all that important? – Chips and ships and sailing wax

Posted: 05.24.12

Our esteemed co-founder, Kathleen Maher, has invented another (thought you already knew about it but didn’t) concept—Digital Reality.

Now we add that to virtual reality, augmented reality, and reality TV. Do we need more forms of reality? Well, actually you do. Digital reality shares a lot of similarities with augmented reality in that there is a 3D model, and a user, and an output, except in the case of digital reality the output is something tangible and maybe even useful—like an inverse cam for your 27-speed bike.

If Kathleen is right, and she often is, we are going to see a whole new value chain and a shifted supply chain. Parts will be made while you wait, instead of being shipped three or more days later. The cloud-based parts list will mushroom. Your local bike shop, or car repair, or plumber, or hardware store will simply go to a website, click on the part he or she wants, click on the print button, and whalooa—the needed frinitney pops out while you’re down at the local coffee shoppee checking your new Facebook friends.

But what if the part you need isn’t on the web somewhere or is too old? You give it to the guy/gal, and they toss it in what looks like a microwave, and whalooa—it’s digitized, and remodeled to compensate for the worn or broken parts. A press of the button, and you’re off to the coffee shop and daily dose of carbohydrates (you can’t just drink coffee, you gotta have a scone).


A lot of models come to mind. How about localized or district manufacturing? Brick & mortar places are dying because they can’t afford to carry the inventory and the cost of rent and overhead is killing them. But consumers like to shop and go into a store and see things. What if a few blocks away or maybe even a few miles away there was a place where could make in a few hours the exact size and color thingies you wanted? No economy of scale, you say? Maybe, but I’m thinking not so. Why are phone covers so popular? Because people want individuality—and are willing to pay for it.

This isn’t an either/or situation; we’ll still have the massive manufacturing plants in Asia, Leipzig, and Detroit. And we’ll have more choices—no more any color you want as long as it’s black.

How about custom computer cases—while you wait? Want a retro-looking case instead of the beige box?

How about a custom or restored steering wheel for your 1952 Chevy pickup?

And as the folks at Geomagic have shown us, it can be applied to teeth, artificial legs, and scale models of historic buildings.

So we can go to VR, immerse ourselves in a make-believe world, and evaluate a new design, fly a plane, or explore new planets, but we’ve left the real world to do it.

Or, we can stay in the real world and see things in it that aren’t real­ly there using augmented reality, but the experience is just as ethereal as VR—when we’re finished there’s nothing left but our memories.

And all we get from reality TV is an occasional OMG and probably a few extra pounds from eating while watching it.

Digital reality is the real deal. Make your own chess set using your kids, or friends, as chess pieces. Build a miniature Eiffel Tower and put an LED lamp on the top. You can make the things you imagine … real.