Monday, August 26, 2013

Landscape Simulation

One of the things I have found most appealing about riding a bike for exercise is the wide ranging but intimate view of the beautiful landscape that is my part of the world. Walking would give the closest view but biking covers more ground and still at a pace that can take in the details. Sometimes I feel like a dog with its head out the car window, soaking up the flow of sensations.

This panoramic photograph is from Ridge Road just a mile or so from the intersection and cluster of homes that is Warriors Mark. It is a visual aid. It does a better job of conveying this scene than I could describe but it is still not the experience. Far from it, in fact.

On this ride I was thinking about an advertisement I had seen for an exercise cycle that simulates actual geographic terrain. The Tour de France training cycle offers a screen view of the race (or any other route for that matter) and varies the resistance and incline or decline of the bike according to topography and your progress along the route. To quote their add, "Get the experience of riding outside without leaving the comfort of your own home." Yeah, right. I scoff at the crude facsimile.

I think this might be a useful training tool. It would certainly be more interesting than just peddling away staring at a wall. Of course it is ludicrous to claim it is just like the Tour de France. But what if it was? What if the sensory input was so complete, so totally immersive that you could not tell the difference? You could no longer tell when the simulation ends and reality begins. I think this day is coming. They are working on it that's for sure. Gaming environments, movie special effects, robotics, artificial intelligence and the coming together of biology/physiology and computer science bring it closer every day.

Some time ago I imagined that I might very well live to see the day when I wouldn't know if the clerk at the counter was a fellow human or a machine. People will fall in love with these machines, a machine that is programmed to respond to your every mood and wish with what you want or think you need. Why would you want to hash it out with someone as demanding and fickle as yourself?

Let's face it, we're control freaks. 24/7 we try to create endless pleasure with no pain. What will happen when we can simulate this? I'm pretty sure something will be missing.

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