Our human interface with reality

Richard EpworthThroughout my adult life I have always been obsessed by the technological and interpersonal limits of communication. At the University of Manchester I chose to build a free-space optical communication link for my final year project. Subsequently I was fortunate to enjoy nearly four decades as a key member of the unique team of British scientists who turned the dream of optical fibre communication into a reality. I began by providing electronics for Charles Kao (who was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for pioneering fibre communications), but soon became involved in the wider range of technologies required.

While inventing ways of squeezing ever higher information rates down tiny optical fibres, I became fascinated by the contrastingly tiny information rate of human communication – a limitation that I now call our Bottleneck. The implications seemed so incredible that I stepped aside to research just how our senses perceive the world around us using eye tracking technology. What I learned was so shocking that felt compelled to write about it and now “Bottleneck” is the result.

I am keen to share ideas and to build bridges, both between the isolated silos of scientific expertise, and between scientists and the interested public. With this second aim I helped establish a local Cafe Scientifique which provides regular talks and discussions on science-related topics. I have published many papers and articles, been granted more than 100 patents, and am a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

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Myself, 25 years before Google Glass