Above: Head-mounted displays of the future will help you understand the world around you.

Image Credit: CableLabs

VentureBeat: In the video, what do you think is the hardest thing to do, out of all the technologies you’re looking at?

McKinney: The VR, AR, mixed reality element, people have seen that. I think light field displays is one that hasn’t been talked about a lot yet. We’ll be able to build some exciting experiences with that. There’s a bit of IOT in there, which shows us the students in the garden using moisture probes in the earth, but that again has been pretty well shown.

VentureBeat: So we have the beginnings of all these things now, but the fidelity you’re showing here is pretty hard to do? AR glasses are here, but they’re still bulky and lower resolution.

McKinney: Right. Today you have avatars rather than literally seeing a person next to you. With light field displays, if you’re lucky enough to track down people who have working versions right now, they’re still pretty small. The resolution is not there yet.


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We’re taking a look at Moore’s law, right? What was the resolution for digital cameras when Kodak did the first digital photographs, and what is it today with a digital SLR? If you look at those progressions of innovation, that’s what we’ve mapped. If I have VR goggles today and I can continue to improve performance in the network and edge compute — we’ve been improving the experience, the fidelity, because of embedded intelligence connecting to a remote cloud. What kind of resolution and interactivity can I get from that? What timeline will take us there?

When will we see the VR goggles we’re showing in the film? Best guess right now, probably four years or five years. The light field will be further out. That’s more like five to eight years, to get to the experimentation level of what we show in the school. The light field room collaboration with the bicycles, where people are projected into it, that’s eight years or more, that kind of time frame.

All of those are things we’re either actively doing ourselves or we have innovation partners we’re working with. Nothing we show is just us sitting around and Buck Rogering. It’s projects we’re engaged in and what we’re seeing as how they will progress. When do we think these things will become real, so we can talk intelligently about them and convey a vision and hopefully inspire researchers and startups to think about them. If you have a 1-gig symmetrical or a 10-gig symmetrical or even faster networks, what could you do with that? What would you invent? What would you put on that network to create something that’s never been dreamed of?

I think back to 1988 when CableLabs first got started. What was my broadband experience? It was dial-up. We’re 30 years old. You go from dial-up with your modem making its little chirping noises to today, where if I get less than 200 megabits I’m complaining about it.

VentureBeat: You showed the high school chemistry lab. Is the idea that you can do that lab work virtually instead of physically, where there’s dangerous chemicals and so on?

McKinney: Not only that. For years, up until I left HP, I served on the board of the Tech Museum in San Jose. I represented HP on the board. One of the shocking things I learned on that board is how few public schools in Silicon Valley have a wet lab, a chemistry lab. You want high school students to be able to walk into a lab and do some basic iodine stains or other simple chemistry experiments, and an amazingly large number of schools either don’t have a wet lab or don’t have teachers to properly staff it.

One of the things we did at the museum was create wet labs there. Teachers would bring their students to the museum to do chemistry experiments. If that’s happening in Silicon Valley, what’s happening in the rest of the world? So, could you create a virtual science experiment environment that allows this? My wife and I have been working on the construction of a P1 through P6 school in Rwanda. We’ve finally gotten broadband to the school. If I could have a virtual chemistry lab for those students, to be able to learn and experiment? Because there’s no way I’ll sell the school on a wet lab with Bunsen burners and everything else. It’s too much to maintain and supervise. If you think about a virtual science lab, what does that do for education when you’re no longer confined by the physicality of a lab?

Above: Soil sensors will give us lots of data about the ground.

Image Credit: CableLabs

VentureBeat: How have things changed in the last year that reminded you about the video from the last year, about helping older people? That caught my interest, because I’ve been having to help my 84-year-old mom.

McKinney: Part of the inspiration for that film was my grandmother. She died two years ago at 96 in Cincinnati. My brother lives in San Francisco and my cousins live on the East Coast, so who’s taking care of grandma? My wife happens to be the nurse in the family, so she deals with medical issues for her aging parents.

It’s funny. Everyone who’s seen that film, I get more people emailing or calling to say, “Where do I go to order that? I need that house for my grandmother.” If you look at some of our members — take Cox. Cox has gone out and bought a company that helps manage in-home health care. It’s not just technology. It’s not Cox Communications. It’s part of Cox Enterprise. But they’re working with Cox Communications to allow for remote monitoring, to take what we have in the film and make it more of a reality.

Cox decided to do that by acquisition, but they already had a long relationship with the Cleveland Clinic to support Cleveland Clinic’s remote tele-health program. They allowed specialists at the clinic to be able to remotely engage with patients and other doctors to provide remote support so that patients who couldn’t get to Cleveland could still get the benefit of the best and brightest. Cox’s acquisition, to get more engaged with in-home health, that’s just one example of where we’re seeing that become a reality.

VentureBeat: For my mother, I’ve figured out that what I need is a transcribing video phone, something I can write messages on as well. She has hearing problems.

McKinney: My grandma had hearing trouble as well, and she never wanted to wear her hearing aid. It’d squeal with feedback when she tried talking on the phone. She just didn’t like it. I tell this story in my book. We bought her an HP digital picture frame, and all my kids and my cousins and their kids, they loaded up pictures on this frame to put in my grandma’s house. A year later I went down for a visit and there’s an image on the digital picture frame, but it’s not moving, not showing the next picture. I’m still at HP at the time, so I think, “Oh, crap, our digital picture frame broke down.”

When she walked into the kitchen, I snuck over and picked up the frame from the end table, and what she had done was unplugged the picture frame and taped a physical picture on top of the glass. She did that because, one, she was worried it could start a fire, and two, she didn’t want to pay the electric bill to run it. She grew up in the Depression, you know? So here we are in 2009 or 2010, 80 years later, and that’s still the mindset.

Above: The AI agent Dot is hyper-personalized for you.

Image Credit: CableLabs

VentureBeat: It’s amazing to look at the ways people can still defeat technology.

McKinney: [laughs] Yep, yep. Again, part of the objective for the films — I don’t know if you remember, but I did a series of six videos for Carly [Fiorina] at HP which were all around mobile services. We showed that AR game running around San Francisco, Roku. What’s interesting is that the team I worked with to do those videos was the same team I worked with when we did the Corning video “A Day in the Life of Glass,” and it’s the team I worked with on this. They’ve been together 18 years creating these vision videos.

If you look at Roku, it’s basically Pokémon. That video came out in 2006, long before any of the smartphone capabilities we have today. When did Pokémon Go come out — 2014, something like that? Eight years after Roku, that vision video. Or you go back to Apple’s Dynabook. The Dynabook vision video, that lag time as far as painting the future — when does that future become real?

The videos, for me, are a forum for me and CableLabs to have conversations with community leaders, with other technology companies, about what the future could be if we all committed to making life better, to using technology for good. Enabling people to have those experiences, those interactions. Better education, better learning, better health, better family interactions. I guess I always swing to the optimistic side.

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