Reality, Virtually Hackathon

So stoked….I am going up to MIT Media Lab‘s all day workshop this Saturday, to learn about programming in Augmented and Virtual Reality as part of their Reality, Virtually Hackathon…while I freely admit that a portion of the nitty gritty programming will undoubtedly be over my head, I’m going to get a crash course and overview of the essential process, by all the companies who are the big players in the space.

I’m well chuffed, as they say in the UK.

Companies presenting include Unity, the programming language used to create both Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality; Microsoft – who is involved because of the Hololens; Google’s Tango, which is technology that helps devices understand where they are spatially, and in the world , and others.

Here’s the full agenda. Don’t fall asleep 😉

Posted in Augmented reality, Gaming, Uncategorized, Virtual reality, Virtual world technology | Leave a comment

Reality Virtually

Augmented Reality is projected to be a $120 billion market by 2020 in the US alone; I’m looking at starting a company there next. Fascinating technology with a ton of potential applications, far beyond mere gaming. It’s advantage is that it overlays digital onto the real world, vs having to be completely immersed in one as Virtual Reality is, so it can be used throughout the day and in many natural environments – you don’t have to choose when to use it.

Harvard Business Review has a short article just published about the Mainstreaming of AR…it has been around since 1968, but 2016 is when it’s starting to take off because of hardware.

AR is less sexy than virtual reality, but has more potential for growth IMO because 1) you don’t need a lot of hardware/gear for it 2) you don’t need to have a dedicated space for it 3) people aren’t getting sick from using it (although I have no doubts that will be remedied) and 4) you don’t need to immerse yourself in it completely, shutting out the world. Although I do seem to recall people said much the same about television when it launched (it will “never take off” since people have to sit and watch it, not doing anything else).

So much for predictions and futurists.

I’m going up to Boston to take part in MIT Media Labe’s Reality Virtually hackathon this weekend (as a visitor, not participant) – we’ll see what that’s like; hoping to meet people, network, and get a real sense for what’s happening out there.


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Swimming with the fishes

Using the HTC Vive: note, this is not me.

Using the HTC Vive: note, this is not me.

Went exploring an underwater shipwreck with an HTC Vive tonight, complete with schools of fish, sun rays through the water, jellyfish and a huge whale swimming up to me. Was a full room VR demo – I had an 8×8 space to walk around in. What fun! It felt amazingly real from the get go – and boy did the “real” room seem drab after being submerged in a hyper colored world.

The sunlight piercing the water above me was perfectly rendered through virtual waves – it really was just like being about 50 feet underwater, standing on the deck of a sunken ship.

I had fun trying to “poke” the jellyfish that was swimming a little too close to my head for comfort (you *know* it’s virtual…but it’s hard to remember) and it backed off from my hand every time. I’m sure that’s how the developers are dealing with the fact that although I can see it, and walk through it, there’s no real physics going on: I can’t feel any interaction. Although, as per one of my previous posts…there are a multitude of companies working creating physical weight surface interaction in VR.

When VR does get to the point where you are able to reproduce physical interaction, I’m not sure why you’d want to leave to be honest. The world is prettier, brighter, programmable – much better than reality. It feels remarkably similar to what I felt like after watching avatar back in 2011, only better.

No pics of me flailing about in public with the headset on. Probably for the best.

Would love to try this game. I’m not much of a gamer but I think I could be convinced with Virtual Reality. It looks eminently hyper realistic, and if even close to the experience I had with the fishes – a joy to get lost in.

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I’ve been quoted in The Observer!

Twice actually 😉

There was a {lively} Facebook discussion in the Global Tech Women group, in response to this casting call for a new cable TV show about women entrepreneurs looking for angel investors.

The discussion really took off, over the age cap in the requirements:

“Are you a female tech entrepreneur looking for venture capital? We’re an established NYC TV production company looking for dynamic women 21-40 for a new series we’re developing for a major cable channel. If you’re working on an app or another tech project and looking for an angel investor, we want to meet you!”

The gist of the Facebook discussion was that women already have such an uphill battle in the tech/VC world, why does the show want to only feature young women? Particularly when every other business “reality” show features men and women who are all over 40? – Viewing demographics seems a too facile answer.

At any rate, Sage Lazzaro was listening and wrote an article about it; here’s the link.

And here’s my accompanying graphic, to illustrate the Facebook discussion.

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Not quite feeling it

One of the major challenges facing virtual reality is that when you’re visually immersed in another world, your internal body mechanisms are screaming “Danger Will Robinson!” since they know you’re not *actually* moving/flying/speeding/whatever. There are plenty of companies working on simulating all that, to trick your brain into coming along with your eyes; but it it’s early days for VR, it’s even earlier days for that.

Take for example, the situation where you’re exploring Mars. As one does (or will be!). How are you “moving” through the terrain, without your legs actually moving? – and if you do decide to walk, how big is your living room?

If you’re driving. how will it feel if there’s no acceleration?

Things like that drive your brain batty. And create nausea / cyber sickness in about 2/3 of people using VR.

Another problem is that you can’t actually interact with anything in VR {yet}. So, can’t crash into walls, fall, pick something up….shakes someone’s hands…it’s like being a ghost!

So you can see all this cool stuff around you but actually interacting with it all is still a challenge. One that many companies are working on solving.

Some solutions these days include relying on game pads or sticks to interact with virtual objects. While practical and, in some cases, effective, it’s not ideal. In addition to not taking into account fine hand and finger motion…and it also doesn’t match what your hand is actually doing in the virtual environment. So yet another point of discontinuity between your hands and brain (more opportunity to get sick).

There are VR gloves, of course, which – while they do come a bit closer to how real hands and fingers work – leave out natural feedback (resistance) that is necessary when “picking up” objects in the virtual world. In order to grasp and pick up a virtual object it has to feel as if you’re holding an actual one.

One company who’s working on the “being able to touch” something in VR is Dexta Robotics, a Chinese company that has developed gloves that not only track the location and movement of fingers for input, but the gloves also apply “force” to simulate actual objects. Importantly, the resistance changes depending on the virtual material you’re interacting with; bouncy like a rubber ball, hard if it’s wood.

Genius. And paving the way for truly immersive interaction. No launch details available yet though *sigh*.

Still, I have to wonder: with all the suiting up you’re going to have to do, to properly experience immersive VR experience though – headset, exo-skeleton gloves, pressure suits, rotary treadmills – how easy will it be to actually fully engage?

Going to put some thought towards what future VR interaction will look like. Because all this gear just isn’t practical.

And it’s still not even multiplayer!

Posted in Entertainment, Virtual reality, Virtual world technology | Leave a comment