An Internet of Places, Not Pages: How 3D Could Completely Change the Web

For Tasha McCauley, the journey to a three-dimensional internet of places begins in Ancient Egypt.

While computing power continues to increase exponentially, she says. the thinking power of the brain hasn’t increased since the emergence of anatomically-modern humans around 200,000 years ago.

“There’s no Moore’s law for the human brain,” says McCauley, the business director at GeoSim Systems, which makes 3D models of cities, who was speaking at the C2 Montréal business conference.

Instead, humans have used technology to increase their thinking power, she says.

In ancient Egypt, papyrus, a predecessor to paper, was invented. These were the first pages. They were used to keep records that allowed for massive construction projects, like the pyramids.

There, hieroglyphics, a form of writing based on representations of the physical world, slowly turned into the alphabet.

That “shift from iconic representation to symbolic representation,” she says, “opened up a universe of possibilities to describe what we’re thinking.”

The invention of the printing press, around 3,000 years later, had a similar effect, McCauley says, though it took around 200 years for people to fully realize its potential.

Now, the internet is on the cusp of a similar realization, says McCauley, who co-founded Fellow Robots, a startup that develops robots for retail applications, and taught at Singularity University, a think tank based at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, before joining GeoSim Systems.

That realization will be in 3D.

We mostly use our computers to emulate existing technologies, McCauley says, the whole web is based on the metaphor of pages. But it doesn’t have to be.

“it seems inevitable to me that our physical spaces,” she says. “Will be quantified and represented digitally.”

McCauley uses flood maps as an example.

A two-dimensional flood map might give people an idea of where flood waters would rise to but a 3D map – particularly one that is navigable and interactive can not only show that information but also create an emotional reaction.
Using sensors mounted on aircraft and cars, GeoSim Systems, has made a model of Vancouver (among other cities) that is accurate to within five centimetres and can be used as a flood map.

“When I see this my nervous system gets activated, I have a conceptual understanding of what’s going on,” McCauley says. “It makes me want to take action, I’m having a real, visceral response.”

Information from internet-of-things devices can also be incorporated in real-time, she says.

“This kind of 3D world where you can interact with real data in real-time is the future of the world-wide web,” McCauley dsud.

Creating a 3D web isn’t just matter of putting some three-dimensional images on to a 2D web page, it’s going to lead to a total rethinking of the internet, according to McCauley.

“When I think about 3D web, it’s not a web a pages it’s a web of places,” she says.

“Today digital technology is easier to use than ever, but as long as it remains flat, in two dimensions, there’s a limit to how user-friendly it can be,” she says.

That will change with a 3D web.

“There will be an unprecedented explosion of people who naturally and intuitively take advantage of the radical new capabilities that this has to offer,” McCauley says.