The eye of Sauron

Today I was over at a friend’s house, and he showed me the cool drone model airplane he’s been building. Then he demo’d the FPV (first person view) goggles he uses with it.

The idea is that you wear the FPV goggles while flying the plane, upon which is mounted a video camera. As your drone flies through the air, you see everything from the plane’s point of view.

To demo the FPV, my friend had me wear the goggles, while he held the camera and wandered around the various rooms of the house. Just standing in one place, I had the eerie feeling that I was roaming through his house. It was fascinating, but it also felt a little surreptitious, as though somehow I was snooping around where I shouldn’t be.

Not being familiar with his house, I didn’t realize until the very last moment that my friend had circled back and reentered the room from another door, until the moment I saw the back of my own head, and realized he was directly behind me. Suddenly I was seeing myself as a character in a third person shooter!

In that moment I realized that advancing technology — wirelessly networked cameras everywhere, in Smart Phones, in Google Glass and its progeny, in flying drones, and who knows where else — are going to end up interacting with the coming generations of wearable displays in unprecedented ways.

At some point, we will all be able to untether our visual points of view from our physical bodies. We will be able to fly overhead, or jump into each others’ viewpoint at will. We will become a communally roving eye of Sauron.

To me this prospect seems very eerie. But I am sure that generations to come will find it all perfectly natural.

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