Breaking the "mixed reality" barrier

Jaron Lanier popularized the term "virtual reality" and we're all familiar with, well, reality. But is there a mixed reality?

In a post yesterday, Jennifer Ouellette describes some experimentation reported at the American Physical Society meeting this week that points to a Matrix-like mixed reality state. Get this:

[University of Illinois professor Alfred Hubler used] a real system -- in this case, a standard mechanical pendulum -- coupled with a virtual system (a virtual pendulum) that was programmed to follow the well-known equations of motion. He and his colleagues sent data about the real pendulum to the virtual one, while sending information about the virtual pendulum to a motor that influenced the motion of the real pendulum. They found that when the two pendulums were of different lengths, they remained in a "dual reality state" in which their motion was uncorrelated, and thus not synchronized....

But then they discovered that when the pendulum lengths were similar, they reached a critical transition point and became correlated, or, in Hubler's words, 'They suddenly noticed each other, synchronized their motions, and danced together indefinitely.'

...Hubler thinks his lab-induced mixed reality states could be used to better understand real complex systems with a large number of parameters, by coupling a real system to a virtual one until their constant interactions result in a mixed reality state -- for instance, modeling neurons by coupling a real neuron with a virtual one.

Being a lapsed private pilot and fan of all-things-flying, my mind went to the transition state reported by 1940's era pilots who approached the sound barrier. There was intense buffeting, poor axis control and no certainty about what might happen next.

Sounds about right.

Alfred Hubler's web site is here.