Future coding in VR

I’ve been doing a lot of computer programming for VR recently. Yet my software tools are still grounded in traditional screen-based methods.

I am starting to wonder whether the look and feel of computer programming itself will end up evolving, as we start to work more and more in VR. This question will make sense to anyone who remembers the era of punched cards.

Back then you needed to write an entire program, prepare a set of cards with one instruction per line, and submit your deck to compile and run. If you made an error, you had a chance to correct it the next day and try again.

Of course all of that changed after people could program interactively. Errors are now caught immediately, and the ability to rapidly iterate on your program design is simply taken for granted.

Might we see a similar sort of fundamental power-up once we replace screen-based software tools with completely immersive software tools? Will there be a new kind of power-up in productivity that we can as yet only vaguely imagine?

I guess this is a case for Alan Kay’s dictum: The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

2 Responses to “Future coding in VR”

  1. Alan Kay says:

    Hi Ken

    One of the biggest and simplest things that VR can/should bring is large viewing angle 2.5D to allow much more of a system to be shown as a combination of a chart and some code — perhaps pseudocode for intent.

    This has not been done much yet because most VR headset folks have not had hi res wide angle as their priority (being more interested in high frame rate and lower res etc).

    In talks, I often show Bret Victor’s 5′ x 8′ chart about “seeing spaces” and point out that it can’t be read legibly on a laptop screen (a laptop can only show a tiny part of the chart legibly at a time).

    The nice thing about wide angle VR is that it can match up to human “foveal focus” and “peripheral awareness” so that something like his chart — or another favorite chart of mine that shows “metabolism” at the molecular bio level — can be handled quite well with decent head position sensing and damping.

    Exploiting 2.5D in VR should be a natural for graphics people to work on, but they’ve been too lured by 3D …

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