The Future of Cosplay
We briefly looked at the origins of cosplay over on our 'We Cosplay' blog. Now we look at where cosplay might go in the future.
Although there have always been cosplayers who pay meticulous attention to detail when creating their costumes, modern thermoplastic materials have enabled many more people to create absolutely stunning, movie quality costumes that only a very select few would even have dared to attempt a few years ago. The popularity of materials such as Worbla have encouraged the development of similar and improved materials and there is an increasing choice available to the cosplayer. This is a trend that will continue.
If you then add in 3D printing to the mix, which is becoming both cheaper, more widely available and better quality in terms of both the complexity and finish of printed objects and cosplayers can more easily create both costumes and props that just wouldn't have been achievable for the average cosplayer in the past.
Laser cutting of cloth is already widely used in industry, it won't be long before this is also a technology available to those at home - this will be expensive at first, but become cheaper and more widely available over time.
With the improvement of camera technology and games consoles increasingly using highly sophisticated 3d scanning tech it won't be long before a person will be able to create a highly accurate scan of their dimensions and then use an 'app' to select a character, and then an automatic cloth cutter will cut the required cloth ready for assembly (even this will eventually be automated) and a 3d Printer will print both panels to be assembled into a costume and elements to be assembled into props.
Initially only a very select few will have access to this tech, but eventually we almost all will.
This is likely to increase the participation in and popularity of cosplay, though it will clearly have an impact on cosplay masquerades/contests with the emphasis increasingly moving from accuracy of costume to characterisation and portrayal of the character.
There will always be some who feel that only 'hand made' cosplays are 'valid' just as in the early days of digital photography there were those who felt that only those photographers who used a film camera were 'real' photographers.
There is though a potentially disruptive technology that will be available within a few years. Both Samsung and Google are developing contact lenses incorporating high resolution displays, cameras and other sensors. With the ongoing increase in processing power available to smart devices, this will rapidly lead to true Augmented Reality where movie quality visuals are perfectly mixed with and overlaid on the 'real' world.
This leads to the possibility of 'virtual cosplay' - rather than wearing a physical costume, you would have a digital 'tag' on your smart device (or smart clothing) which broadcasts what character you are. Anyone wearing these contact lenses would then not see the 'real you' but instead see and be able to interact with a perfect, real time motion-captured movie quality 'real' version of the character you are 'broadcasting' - Again there will be those who feel this is 'cheating' and that half of the fun of cosplay is making your costume, but change has a habit of happening regardless of how people feel, and not only that but rapidly becoming accepted and used by everyone (again the digital vs film debate can be used as an example, the number of people still commercially using film over digital is vanishingly small)
What is really interesting about this 'true AR' is that it is something that has been predicted by Ray Kurzweil, a futurologist whose predictions have a habit of coming true. Kurzweil originally predicted contact lens vision driven AR by 2020-2025 with a direct brain interface eventually replacing lenses by 2040 (so not just AR but true fully immersive VR) - Incidentally Kurzweil now works for Google.
But don't worry, though the take up of disruptive technology is getting quicker and quicker (smart phones, facebook etc.) we still have a few years left of 'traditional' cosplay, and even with all this magical tech in the future, I expect that there will be 'traditional' competitions for a while longer still.