The Idir

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Photo taken in the middle of a road in a large city showing traffic and tall buildings
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Illustration of a young woman stood next to a huge fantasy battle avatar. The avatar has armour with skull kneepads and is holding a giant warhammer.


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Set in the year 2030, the Idir explores what the world could be a decade into the future. From advanced materials, through medicine, to bioaugmentation and infrastructure, we stand on the precipice of a great age of science and invention.

Idir is an Irish word meaning the "inbetween." It refers to the worlds that could exist between the wholly analogue and virtual - familiar, but dissimilar.

This piece of design fiction considers the rise of enhanced realities - layers of manifest data that sit on top of the analogue world around us. Viewed through emerging lens technology and connected by IoT infrastructure, the Idir assumes that cities are unlikely to change fundamentally in the space of a decade but could instead become canvases upon which we paint our own realities.

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People still have phones. Or what they refer to as phones. Powerful pocket-size, flexible screens that are often worn as bracelets or integrate into their clothing in peculiar ways.

They function as centralised consoles that exist principally to control API access to people’s cloud-based data. You can’t communicate directly with people through your phone anymore. There’s no microphone or camera. The word just stuck.

Our phones help us to administer our systems, devices and augments that we wear all the time to help us interact with the world around us.

These devices include:

Contact Lens icon

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality contact lenses that allow us to see information associated with people and things, and interact with it in multiple ways. The soft gel of the lens has a tiny gold strip that allows it to conduct trace amounts of electricity.

We can do everything - from making biometrically authenticated investments, to changing our eye colour in a literal blink of an eye. We can see information related to people and objects, buy things, analyse environments, and engage with the world around us in new ways.

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Audio Implants

Audio implants that augment our hearing, let us listen to music or podcasts, and syphon out unwanted noise. They help us isolate noise data we want to consume, filter out what we don’t, instant-translate foreign languages, and create white noise or ambient filler when we need to shift mood quickly.

Orthopedic Insert icon

Smart Orthopedics

Smart orthopedics in our shoes measure joint impact and shift slightly to redistribute the weight in an effort to stave off arthritis and other orthopedic issues.

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Dental Implants

Dental implants and olfactory implants are used to track data on diet- and pollution-related health impacts, as well as sensory stimulation for augmented experiences.

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Tiny Microchips

Tiny microchips and sensors under the skin in our hands allow us to interact with connected devices and virtual objects.

Millennials and Gen X-ers refer to us as “the Borg” - part human, part interoperable computer. Many of these implants draw electricity directly from the human body to function. All of the data generated by them and any infrastructure that we interact with is stored in our personal cloud. Our phone allows us to manage the way that data is accessed and used.

The worlds that we see through our AR lenses are dramatically different from what people see when they are “peeled,” the term typically used to describe someone with no augments. There’s a world that exists between the natural world and the wholly virtual immersive environments created for virtual reality.

We call this the Idir.

When we look around, we can see activity, objects and interactions totally invisible to the natural world.

Avatars for virtual assistants float beside their owners.

People’s clothes and appearance change due to digital overlays.

Emojis fly between people who don’t even acknowledge each other, a subtle new form of language and interaction between people that could lead to something more significant.

Buildings light up with virtual billboards.

Incredible, impossible creatures and crafts soar through the air.

Monsters and miracles hang perched on top of buildings.

Special offers appear in our field of vision, tailored specifically to us. We can access them just by focusing on them.

In many cases, we can see what seem to be small symbols, like ruins, adorning people’s clothes, or as virtual tattoos. These symbols represent virtual profiles, denoting the communities people belong to, their significance within them, and their roles.

There are millions of different symbols. All Borgs have a library script accessed by their console that helps them to identify who and what they’re looking at. The basic libraries are free, but the advanced libraries with user data and analysis are paid subscription services.

Virtually everyone pays for some additional data in the Idir. It is combined with our own data, meta data, shared social data, citizen data, and public data to create totally unique environments. As a consequence, no two views of the Idir are the same. My world is mine alone. You may see it and share it, but to you it is different.

Some of the symbols denote jobs and status. I can easily find brokers for virtual goods, sell some of my data, or identify prominent esports players. I can also easily see the peelers wandering through the city, ignorant of the magic that surrounds them.

I walk briskly through a large square, bordered by restaurants and clothes stores. The restaurants sparkle subtly, letting me know that they have generated specific lunch offers for me based on my dietary preferences. The buildings seem to pulse as I look at them. I am hungry but in a rush, so I dismiss them with a flick of my hand, and they immediately deanimate.

Illustrated sign advertising a new burger Illustrated sign advertising 50% off a soda drink

I skip across the street, making note of the cars and the people on either side of me. Each one is enunciated with subtle hues to denote status or state of being. The connected devices, public surveillance infrastructure and public IoT grid are all interacting, working in concert to construct a virtual symphony of informational nuance.

Thermal cameras identify heavy polluters and sick people. The thermals interact with facial recognition technology to identify the individuals in question and send them instructions to isolate themselves.

Failure to do so will result in fines, Idir restrictions, hospital access limitations, and insurance deductibles. This data is constantly assessed to identify and manage outbreaks so as not to overload the health system, and allow it to adjust and deploy resources efficiently.

If you’ve paid for the public health service data subscription, you can see your individual public health status, including your level of infectiousness, close contacts who are ill, and individual vulnerability scores.

Many of the laws that prevented this type of data sharing were diminished, repealed or replaced in an effort to improve public safety after a pandemic. Many people still find it discomforting. Rumours abound that insurance companies use the data to refuse coverage or increase prices to older communities. But it has undoubtedly reduced the likelihood of economic shutdowns due to pandemics.

The hues that surround people provide useful contextual information. Green means normal. Black means threat. Red denotes distress. The absence of any hue means peeler. It is now easy to identify dangerous situations well before they happen. Criminals or anyone exhibiting anger or emotional instability are immediately identified by facial recognition and sentiment analysis, and become highlighted in my field of vision so that I can easily avoid them.

The information that I am seeing and hearing is collected and processed as data and redistributed to the public grid to feed the AI. The small fees that I get for doing so subsidise the cost of my own data subscriptions.

I arrive at a large glass building. It looks unremarkably conventional, a large office building with a glass exterior and a public atrium. It bleeds into its surrounding, inconspicuous and aesthetically ambivalent to an average person. But to a Borg it’s utopia. It comes alive.

Interactive screens display frenetic action, glamorous avatars, integrated advertising and manic crowds cheering. We call this the Arcade. There’s at least one in every major city. It’s where the big esports teams are based and a stadium where you can come to watch or perform in live competition.

The audio syncs as I enter the Atrium. All of a sudden, the ambience shifts totally. The walls start to move, the floor falls away so that I am standing on a rocky outcrop over open space. The sounds I’m hearing adjust to whatever I’m looking at, generating immersive audio-visual experiences.

I shift my view away from the cavern below and towards the terrifying-looking creature armed to the teeth with exotic weapons and armour, standing solemnly behind a smiling 20-year-old with wavy dark brown hair. This is Zotto, a Lithuanian gamer, and her avatar, Ryuk, easily two of the most famous figures in the Idir. They are world-wide celebrities with manga deals, endorsements and hordes of fans. I feel a little starstruck.

Illustration of a young woman stood next to a huge battle avatar wearing skull armour and holding a giant warhammer

Esports has evolved enormously in the last decade. While video game-based esports are still hugely successful, new sports have also emerged within the Idir. Most notable amongst them are the Av, or Avatar, battles in an environment called Cogadh. The game pits two avatars against each other within a virtual stadium called the Crucible. Millions of viewers from all over the world watch as humans, cyborgs, elves, wizards and monsters try to destroy each other, controlled by a human operator.

Enormous amounts of money are gambled on these matches. The top players are superstars who are often mobbed by fans when seen in public with their avatars alongside them.

Players spend years constructing and developing their avatars in accordance with the Idir’s battle rules. Battle Avatars are born from eggs. You can only buy an egg with Oir, the currency of the Idir. There are a limited number of eggs spawned at any one time. They are created when two existing Battle Avatars cede some of their XP to create the new egg, which is then sold onto the market.

The creation of the egg is enormously costly for the two parent avatars and will significantly impair their standings within the game, so it is only done when the financial return justifies it or when an Av is coming to the end of its life of 1,000 battles.

Each egg has a specific genetic code based on its parentage. An egg born of two top Battle Avatars will sell for more than a champion racehorse. Those genetic characteristics are programmed to be dynamic so each win or loss will have an impact on the value of the egg the partner produces. An owner with a Battle Av that has a 97% win rate over 850 battles will have to choose whether to seed an egg, forgoing the greatest earning period of a champions career, or run the risk of taking losses and damaging the value of the egg that can be created.

Eggs born of unranked Avs can be bought for the equivalent of hundreds of euros but will likely not have the genetic advantages of the champion progeny known as prodigies.

There are 10 broad types of Battle Avatar, roughly equating to races based on certain characteristic strengths. Each avatar’s features can only be improved by accumulating through winning within the game, but each player can buy armour and weapons for Oir to give them a better chance.

Most of the weapons and equipment within Cogadh are created by third-party creators. Each piece has a value depending on the resources used to construct it. There are more than 10,000 different materials with distinct defined attributes that can be combined within Cogadh to create weapons and equipment, resulting in an almost endless number of variants.

The raw materials are sourced by proof-of-work mining of the Cogadh’s distributed ledger. Instead of a coin, the miner receives a non-fungible token (NFT) in the form of a random material. Some of these materials are extremely rare. They can be sold on any one of a number of secondary markets to designers who create weapons and equipment to sell on to players. In this way, a unique asset is created that has real-world value and virtual-world utility. Auctions for high-value assets will sell for millions and often attract international media interest.

There is a buzz in the Arcade today because Zotto is here for promotional work and an exhibition battle. As I look at the giant screen of her and Ryuk peering out across the concourse, the details of her promo appear.

A lot of people will be here to try and tempt her into pairing off with one of their avatars. They’ll offer her tens of millions to take control of such a successful genetic opportunity. Many of them will try to buy Ryuk from her outright for the promotions, endorsements and royalties the avatar will continue to generate long after retirement.

I switch off my digital assistant avatar and call up my own Battle Avatar, Dain, in an effort to get into the spirit of things. I get in early and take a seat close to Zotto’s platform. I sync my camera to my data feed and begin to livestream the event. I have a reasonable following, but my proximity to Zotto has increased my viewership 10 times over, and she hasn’t even arrived yet!

I begin to get alerts notifying me of opportunities to advertise various products on my livestream. I look up and right to see the notifications, quickly scanning through them using subtle finger movements that connect to my lenses. I select the brands I know or use. The advertisers get sequenced based on how much they’re paying and are placed in the broadcast as AR filters that viewers can automatically interact with to find out more or buy the product. I make more money every time someone interacts with an advert or buys it. My follower count is increasing. I should make over 500 euros from adverts alone today.

I get an urgent alert in my visual inbox. It’s a request from a major sports broadcaster to use my feed as part of their composite coverage of the event. I’ll have to drop all the advertisers, but the broadcaster is offering substantially more money if they use my feed, and the profile will be a huge boost for my own channel and for Dain. The increased profile will ensure more players want to fight him, increasing the viewership-based prize pool and the gambling revenues that I share as a participant.

The battle comes and goes. Zotto wins handily. She even turns at the end and waves right in my direction. It ensures that my feed is used exclusively for the latter part of her celebration, getting me vital seconds of broadcast revenue and exposure. It might even get syndicated on social.

I leave the Arcade feeling optimistic and buoyed by the day’s events. I’ve made 2,000 euros I never expected to get, and both mine and Dain’s channels have seen a host of new subscriptions. I have 328 offers to battle. That’s extra 1,000 euros for the apartment savings fund, 500 euros for my parents, 500 euros for new battle equipment, and possible 5,000 euros extra for the battle with Dain. It’s been a good day in the Idir.

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Check out our Strativerse project if you would like to find out more about the emerging technologies that will make the Idir possible in the next decade

Go to Strativerse

L'Atelier is a foresight company that identifies future market opportunities and challenges in digital and virtual domains through research, analysis, and exploratory fiction. We are part of BNP Paribas Group.


John Egan, CEO, L'Atelier BNP Paribas

Design & Development

Superhero Studios