The Swedish broadband provider Ume.net is trying to make a point with its new experiment, "Living With Lag," which is that a slow Internet connection creates a bad experience that you'd never accept in real life. But what if a little lag in real life turned out to be a good thing?
Ume.net's marketing gimmick drew attention partly because it uses Oculus Rift, the virtual reality technology that Facebook recently acquired for $2 billion. By combining it with a low-cost Raspberry Pi computer and noise-canceling headphones, Internet lag was brought into the realm of real life when four volunteers were videotaped doing things like playing ping-pong and attend an aerobics class while experiencing a slight perception delay (either .33 of a second, or 3 seconds). The results were predictably hilarious, with the volunteers flailing about, chasing after ping-pong balls, and generally making fools of themselves.
This fun little experiment certainly gets the point across. So does the Decelerator Helmet, an experimental piece of headgear that slows down reality for the wearer just like Ume.net's lag goggles do. But Lorenz Potthast, the artist who created the Decelerator Helmet back in 2012, set out to make the opposite point. He describes the Decelerator as a response to “the increasingly hectic, overstimulated and restless environment” of modern life.
This idea certainly resonated with the judges of our Innovation by Design Awards, where it won the concepts category last year. It's interesting to see two experiments doing the same thing, but for very different reasons. While we'll take our Internet as fast as we can get it, we also pine for life at a slower pace. Can we have both?