Monday, July 29, 2019

The Future of eXtended Reality and the Metarverse

I wanted to mention a little bit about my opinion on the current state of XR. As I see it, eXtended Reality is reaching critical mass. I know a lot of people have been saying this. But when someone like me can see where things are heading, you can place bets that this is a sure thing. Because I never speculate this far ahead without being seriously wrong in the end.

Consider the gaming industry as it stands currently. While companies are still offering single player titles, The majority of titles are MMOs. Zombies and war titles abound. And when you get tired of shooting and bombing the undead, you can always run them over with stolen vehicles. But when even that becomes tedious, you can now go to your favorite in-game casino and kick back and win some moola to buy more stuff to run more people over. Cool, huh?

Switching gears, no pun intended, now I ask you to consider the loosely termed "social" world games, such as Sansar, VRChat, and the like. You can kick back after a long day in the default world, and visit with your friends from around the globe and do anything from shopping to intimate cuddling. I don't need to explain much here.

Tying most of these experiences together is a VR headset for immersion. Anyone in the default world that bleeds pixels will own one (or more) by now. But a vast majority, myself included, are still waiting for prices to drop. Which is why companies like High Fidelity have had to change direction to stay afloat.

Augmented Reality has its own unique position as well, and which is one that will explode once Apple releases an AR head mounted device. Anyone that would know on that is Robert Scoble. He is part of a group of tech watchers that live and breathe AR. And if Mr. Scoble says that Apple will release an HMD, it's simply a question of when. I personally get frustrated that the entire industry is in a holding pattern to see what Apple does.

Another thing that has been taking place is the parallel development of blockchain tech. There are dozens and dozens of indie developers that have latched onto the potential of cutting the ties to the industry giants, and taking the metaverse to the next level. Cryptocurrencies are a wildcard right now, giving default world governments ulcers as they all try to figure out how the hell to milk them for taxes. That's all I'll say on that.

And one more item to complete this exercise, is Artificial Intelligence. The Amazon Echo and the Google Assistant are neck and neck in voice interfaces. Microsoft, like High Fidelity, have seen the battle, and have taken Cortana in another direction around it, and are putting her in business boardrooms.  The "Holy Grail" will be AGI, if you will indulge me. It's so close now, there aren't many big thinkers that dismiss it out of hand. I'm going to gingerly sidestep "sentience". That's for the theologians to determine.

I think you can see where I'm going here. We're living in an eXtended Reality universe already. It's been seeping into our lives for years. One bit of innocent tech at a time. When Neal Stephenson wrote about The Street, he wasn't too far off from whats in existence today. There's just a heck of a lot more teleporters. People hate walking.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mars Rover, "Opportunity", 2004 January 25 - 2019 Februrary 13. R.I.P.

It's only fitting that I post about the Opportunity rover. I had honored the Spirit rover back when she had passed several years previously. There's not much to say here. Many others will be more descriptive in their obits of the robot. Perhaps some day in the future, both Spirit and Opportunity will be singled out and honored in a VR or AR presentation. As will all the other machines that were successfully landed.

To me, the names of the rovers perhaps embodied what it meant to represent the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA was the premiere agency that the world followed along with in many missions. Perhaps some day, the world will, again. But for now, let's raise our glasses and toast to the community that was behind Opportunity. Well done, team! Your offspring earned her retirement.

Rest in peace, Opportunity. Your sister, Spirit, is waiting for you on the other side. :-)

Friday, February 1, 2019

Getting Back Up To Speed

Trying to get back into a rhythm is difficult, as many of you can attest. Once a person lets themselves slide, it can be an uphill struggle. I've already let a couple of weeks go by without blogging. But I need to post something, so here's what progress I've made.

I've gone back to my weekly tasks. It's a list that I've kept on my desktop in sticky notes forever. I'm glad I did. Its a visual reminder of the goals I need to keep to. Here it is

Tuesday -
        •web page
Wednesday -
Thursday -
        •Westlake Transportation Systems
Friday -
Saturday -
Sunday -
Monday -

I might wind us swapping the blog posts to Saturday, and shifting everything up a day. It might give me some content to post about this way. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Daily Life

It's winter and the snow is falling. It's not bad today. Last week we got dumped on. So anyway, I'm on a seldpm used desktop. I needed to wipe my laptop from a suspected rootkit. it's bgeen running slower and louder for weeks, and I've finally had enough. Windows has made it almost too easy to do this. I spent almost an hour trying to get into the BIOS using key combos of either f2 or f10 to no avail. Then in desperation, I turned to the web. That waasnt much help. So then I get into setting on the laptop, and there staring me in the face was the "recovery" feature. *sigh*

The blog will take me a bit to come up to speed as I get refocused. Also, *sigh*.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Testing... Is This Thing Still On?

Hi, everyone. Sorry about blowing off most of 2018. My mind wasn't into much of anything. Including blogging. Hey, it happens.

Granted, this entry isn't much to speak of, but its a new start to a new year. Let's see if I can get some momentum going, shall we?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Conquering the Uncanny Valley

We live in a unique time in history. We sit at the edge of a grand, golden valley where we will naturally interact with technology in the manner that the grand masters of Science Fiction could only tantalize us with. Avatars appear to us in stunning three dimensional glory. Fantastic 360 degree scenery engulfs us in breathtaking beauty. Scenarios play out as though they were common occurrences. And pixelation is  practically obliterated in thanks to fractal mathematics.

There is an ongoing debate about how good/how terrible the state of VR is. I won't ask where you stand in this debate. I've been on both sides of the argument, much to my chagrin. But what I want to mention in this post, isn't how that debate is going. Rather, I want to just lift the hood a bit and look at the magic that runs it.

There is a kind of a happy little technological war going on behind the curtain. Open source code JavaScript weaves in and out of C++ titans like javelins thrown at battle tested tanks. The spears jam the gears of the tank treads forcing it to head in a particular direction that was never anticipated. The ground troops dance gleefully at the direction and follow along merrily, as the tank driver shrugs and simply goes along for the ride and follows orders automatically.

We have wearables that render their hearts out at full max. Motion trackers strain at movements that were never considered when specs were set down. Hand controllers race to keep up with flailing arm movements that were not anticipated for the app that's loaded. And all the while more hardware keeps getting thrown into the fray in a cacophony of full body immersion.

I watch a lot of YouTube videos of people using VR gear in places like High Fidelity, and VR Chat. In these videos, you never have less than a dozen individuals interacting with each other in real time. All of them wearing a kludged combination of tech that fits their budgets. Now stop and think. Off the top of my head, I know of Occulus, Vive, and Sony. Microsoft's entry into the fray with partners like HP, Acer, and Samsung.  And god only knows the side markets for haptics. Oh, did I mention that the video content creators are also streaming all this chaos live?

And damn if it's not all working. Maybe not perfectly. After all, we are on the edge of that valley. Not actually in it. Yet. Can you imagine when we actually descend into that valley? It's going to be like entering the Promised Land. I'm tagging along like a camp follower behind the ground troops!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Virtual Reality, Blockchain, and the Brave New Future

I've been rather starry-eyed for the last few months. I've been swept up in the potential of blockchain, and how it will change our way of life on the internet. I've daydreamed about how all our digital purchases in world will eventually be neatly pigeonholed for use in numerous games and social worlds. And the possibility of being able to cross over those items to worlds that never had such items previously. Heady stuff, to say the least!

The looming potential for all this hyperbole is a proposed Ethereum token ERC-1155. The standard was introduced by I won't go into the fine details of it, but it basically lets you make a digital purchase of several items under one transaction, rather than several items with several transactions. You should do some further research if you're unfamiliar with the concept.

So being the virtual world enthusiast I am, I let my mind wander to the ownership of digital land again.  Wouldn't it be cool to actually own that decentralized sim, rather than the ugly physical reality of leasing it from the parent company controlling the servers? So Then I started looking into blockchain controlled VR. The prominent one in my sights is I needed to get Mana tokens in order to buy the plots. Sadly, I fell thru the cracks on that, because I couldn't afford the token price.

But today, I got a big awakening. I read this article on the Bloomberg site. The price of the token was miniscule compared to the valuation of the digital plots quoted in the article! Then it hit me: humanity is porting the haves and have-nots into the internet. This Genesis City in Decentraland has already been carved up by the default world investors with default world money. These guys bought hundreds, even thousands of tokens, and have the equivalent in blockchain land holdings. I quote the article here: "Today, resellers can reliably get as much as $30,000 for a Genesis City plot." I encourage you to read the article in its entirety.

Those of us in Second Life that have whined about tier cost being high should count our blessings. While we have been at the mercy of Linden Lab and their pricing structure, they have at least allowed common folks like us to run simple businesses and a few of us to make a living. Affordably. Blockchain simply gives the ability to the wealthy to enter virtual worlds to earn hundreds of thousands of fiat currency that they would never have bothered to do before because there was no previous value for them to do so!

Have I soured on the concepts of blockchain? Not really. It still holds potential for everyone willing to invest. And the important word here is invest. But the mom and pop stores on Second Life are about to find themselves with the possibility of a Walmart for a neighbor across the digital street selling digital trinkets that the Asian coders will crank out for a few Enjin Coins. Because that's going to be the only place you can buy them at for a fair price.