Sunday Screenshot: Scott Bennett, aka Scobot

“A fully immersive VR environment inspired by Abstract Expressionism. A place to wander, or sit and meditate. Created in PaintLab with the HTC VIVE.” –Scott Bennett. Have a screenshot of something you’re working on in VR? Send me a jpeg and I’ll post it here. I’d like to make this an ongoing feature to showcase the visually dazzling work of VR artists, game designers, and … Continue reading Sunday Screenshot: Scott Bennett, aka Scobot

The Augnet: Where Pokemon Goes from Here

In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

 —Suarez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Exactitude of Science.” Translation by Andrew Hurley.

 

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Jorge Luis Borges

Augmented reality gives us something that only Argentinian literary giant Jorge Luis Borges dared dream of–a map as vast as the terrain it demarcates. Pokemon Go is the first landmark augmented reality experience, but definitely not the last. Right now I imagine there are developers working on AR treasure hunts, games, and enterprise applications that will become the Pokemon Go of their various categories. All of these will form a collective commons of AR content: the Augnet.

The Augnet will allow us to annotate the world we see around us. Forget looking up Yelp reviews on your phone. You’ll be able to see Yelp reviews hovering in front of the restaurants you pass on the street. If you thought Amazon showrooming was a big deal now, just wait until you’re able to walk into a brick and mortar store wearing your AR device and see the Amazon prices and Buy Now buttons for items superimposed on those items in the real world.

One big milestone for the Augnet will be when someone develops a user generated content platform. Continue reading “The Augnet: Where Pokemon Goes from Here”

CoMotion Labs in the Old Neighborhood

IMG_20160728_105529200_HDRI’m getting psyched for the opening of CoMotion Labs. I took the train to UW station today, walked across campus, traipsed up the Ave, hung a left on 45th and was soon gazing up at a building that almost looks like an architect’s computer illustration of a future building, rather than a building that actually exists in physical reality right now. This is appropriate, being that this facility is set to become one of the places where virtual reality is born. When I told my mother about CoMotion Labs, she said, “So it’s like a virtual reality maternity ward?” Exactly.

Speaking of young people who make a lot of noise, twenty-four years ago, during the Summer of Grunge, I lived two blocks from where CoMotion Labs now stands, in a crooked little house on the 45th Street off-ramp with four or five other dudes. We called this domicile the Punk Rock Pagoda. I worked as an ice cream man for Joe’s Ice Cream, read a lot of Neil Postman, listened to tons of Sonic Youth and Beastie Boys, and wore the same pair of plaid shorts for three months. Our parties were legendary. Summer of ’92, man. That shit was for real. It would’ve blown my mind to know that one day this neighborhood would be home to a cutting edge virtual reality startup incubator. I wouldn’t have known what most of those words even meant.

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Zuckerberg the Mystic

Here’s a must-read story on Facebook’s plans for VR in general and Oculus specifically. Key takeaway is that Zuckerberg, Luckey, and company envision a future for VR that even they can’t describe: Talking about the future, even Zuckerberg can get stumped and slide into the mystical. Some of the problems don’t even have names yet. VR, at true fidelity, entails creating another reality, the presence … Continue reading Zuckerberg the Mystic

Let’s Give Google Cardboard Some Love

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If a genie granted me the ability to earn royalties on one technology that’s been developed over the past 100 years, I don’t think I’d choose VR, the smart phone, or the microprocessor. I’d be tempted to choose the ballpoint pen.

If ballpoint pens suddenly, mysteriously disappeared from the world, I think we’d be shocked at how quickly our culture devolved into Lord of the Flies style anarchy. Important documents would have to be signed with pencils and drug company representatives and real estate agents would be deprived of one of their most effective marketing tools. I’m pretty sure there’d be riots, wars, and cannibalism. I shudder to imagine a world without Bic.

Ballpoint pens are so ubiquitous that stealing them is pretty much legal. At coffee shops that still use printed sales slips, ballpoints are augmented with feathers, fake flowers, or other doo-dads to ensure that patrons don’t accidentally walk away with them, but even if you did, you wouldn’t get in much trouble. A ballpoint pen is such an unremarkable feature of our lives that we often don’t even know how they show up in our houses. Take a moment to pay attention to the ballpoint pens in your home and try to identify where each one of them came from. Do you know the origin story of that pen from some Las Vegas hotel? What about the pen stamped with the name of an arthritis medication? How’d this ugly chewed-on blue pen even make it into your junk drawer? You have no idea.

Sophisticated technologies that cost thousands of dollars grab all the headlines, but there’s something to be said for technologies that are cheap, simple, and useable. Take the Google Cardboard, for instance.

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What I’m Learning About Compliments

I started a project last week called Monday Compliment. I’d grown weary of the rancor on social media, and thought that giving people compliments on Facebook might be a way to alleviate some of the negativity. I decided to focus my compliments on one day, Monday, traditionally the least looked-forward-to day of the week. I launched a site, Monday Compliment, with a stock photo and … Continue reading What I’m Learning About Compliments

Who Is Teaching Cinematic VR in Seattle?

I happened upon an article on 3D VR Central written way back in February titled “Who Will be the George Lucas of VR? Film Schools Just Started Teaching It.” The big takeaway here is that America’s two big film schools–NYU and USC–have already begun incorporating VR into their curriculum. Also, those who are teaching VR are themselves still in the process of learning about it. … Continue reading Who Is Teaching Cinematic VR in Seattle?

Be Kind and Rewind: a Eulogy for Lost Formats

The last company in the world that has still been manufacturing videocassette recorders, Japan’s Funai Corporation, is throwing in the towel. They’re saying it’s because it’s too hard to find parts.

When I read this news, I had another one of those little elegaic moments I’ve been having recently. The arrival of VCRs was a thrilling development in the history of the American rec room. It’s hard to express how mind blowing it was to realize you could actually tape shows. The family VCR let me record Saturday Night Live and watch the sketches several times over so that I could recite them verbatim with my other nerd friends. I discovered Lynch, Kurosawa, Greenaway, and numerous other directors thanks to that blocky piece of technology. The sluggish-then-frantic sound of a videocassette tape rewinding is forever recorded in my brain. And, oh, shame on you if you returned the tape to the video store without rewinding it.

When DVDs arrived, they made videocassettes look instantly awkward and pathetic. I’m kind of amazed that there is still a company that’s been making VCRs. But the videocassette is hardly the only video format that died with a whimper.

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Your state-of-the-art, four-sided home movie experience.

Continue reading “Be Kind and Rewind: a Eulogy for Lost Formats”