Conclusion

The convergence of nano-, bio-, info- technology and spatial cognition research will

• broaden our ability to think outside the box

• ensure that NBI technologies are compatible with ways that humans think and reason

• facilitate new product development

• help remove barriers to the natural integration of disabled and disadvantaged groups into the community, thus improving their quality of life

• provide new environments for learning

• enhance cognitive functioning by improving perceptual and cognitive capabilities

• help create less abstract and more "naturally human" computer interface architecture

• once we have learned how and where spatial information is stored in the brain (place cell analysis), this may prompt new ideas about how we think and reason

For example, eventually, the most powerful computer interface will rely on an architecture that combines geospatial metaphors with spatialization principles and multimodal input and output devices that provide access to text, maps, images, tables, and gestures.

But there is the inevitable downside, such as the thorny ethical and legal issues of defining and maintaining appropriate levels of individual privacy and security of public or business information. But developments in NBIC are the future of humankind, and these and other unrealized problems, must — in the way of humankind — be faced and solved.

Finally, if VE can be developed in an effective way, humans will have many of the capabilities of the Star Trek holodeck. They will stroll through the Amazon jungles, trek to the North or South Pole, explore an active volcano, avalanche, or hurricane, redesign cities or parts of them, change transport systems to maximize the benefits of intelligent highways, visit drought areas, explore areas of poverty or crime, all within the safety of VE. The contribution of such systems to education, research, and decision making in the policy arena could be immense. As long as we can solve the cognition and technical problems of building and using VE, these goals may be achievable.

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