Future seeing versus future hearing

October 22nd, 2020

I was chairing the Visions session of the ACM/UIST conference today, and one of the speakers talked about ubiquitous future mixed reality glasses. Somebody asked him a question about seeing versus hearing.

The question was whether the visual sense would dominate the experience. The answer from the speaker was an emphatic yes.

Now I am on a conference call with researchers at Bose that touches on how to create compelling spatial audio for future wearables. So here the focus is clearly on what everyone hears versus what everyone sees.

I must say that I’ve been having a far more compelling experience in the audio-only High Fidelity experience than the highly visual experiences of AltSpace and similar VR apps. Such apps all include spatial audio, but they don’t focus on it.

Maybe there is something to be said for simply hearing other people in a mixed reality teleconference without the distraction of also seeing their avatars. That might be a great question for a research study!

Beat pasta

October 21st, 2020

Yesterday somebody told me about a recipe for beet pasta. That’s pasta which is made from beets, which I think is a perfectly reasonable idea.

But I misunderstood. I thought they were saying “Beat pasta”. I suddenly had all sorts of visions in my head of Allen Ginsberg reciting poetry around a theme of starchy italian food.

Or Neal Cassidy on the road with Jack Kerouac deconstructing the American dream while sharing a plate of ziti, maybe with some nice sauce. You could build an entire theme restaurant around this stuff.

Of course what I had heard made no sense on an objective level, but in those few seconds I had somehow constructed an entire alternate reality in my head. So when discovered that we were actually talking about “beet pasta”, I was downright disappointed.

In my mind that alternate reality lingers, and part of me still wants to open a Beat pasta theme restaurant. The first dish on the menu would definitely be Spaghetti Ferlinghetti.

The gifting of physical objects

October 20th, 2020

There are some objects I have in my possession which I treasure. Not because they have some intrinsic monetary value, but because they were given to me by somebody important to me.

Such an object might be a gift from an old friend, or a favorite uncle. Perhaps it was from someone I have not seen in years, or who has sadly passed away.

In each case, the thing I hold in my hand represents the person, in an oddly powerful way. The object serves as a kind of proxy, a totem of the bond between us.

Our society has now entered a time when people are physically separated, not by choice but rather by sad circumstance. I wonder whether that will have an effect on the gifting of physical objects.

We may end up developing a greater craving for such objects, and a new renewed appreciation for their power. When we can no longer experience the physical comfort of the person they represent, such objects might end up having an even greater value.

Eventually, if this forced separation persists, our society might develop a new emotional economy around the exchange of symbolic physical objects. It would be but a pale echo of what was lost, yet an echo with the power to resonate in our hearts.

USB-C

October 19th, 2020

Not that long ago, USB-C connectors were an oddity. If you had a device that expected one, you needed to remember to bring a special adaptor, to connect with the rest of the digital world.

But today I noticed that all the digital devices I use every day are USB-C connected. That includes my Apple MacBook computer, my Google Pixel phone and my Facebook Oculus Quest 2.

Whenever lots of major competing corporations can agree on something, there is most likely a good reason. And as a consumer, I certainly find it convenient to standardize on one form factor — and also not to have to worry about which way to plug it in. :-)

I wonder what was going on behind the scenes to make that transition happen so quickly and pervasively.

tea in the morning

October 18th, 2020

technology makes
so many things change, except
tea in the morning

Virtual furniture store

October 17th, 2020

Today I went to a furniture store that was having a “going out of business” sale. Except it wasn’t exactly that.

Rather, the store is going entirely virtual. Consequently, the store owners want to sell off all of the inventory at their remaining bricks-and-mortar outlets.

There is a delicious irony about this development. We are literally talking about the physical objects that form the environment of our actual bodies.

There is nothing more solid and real than the chair we sit upon, or the table at which we eat. Yet we seem to be moving toward a society in which even these things are purchased on-line, as virtual items in our virtual shopping cart.

I wonder how far it will go.

Invisible friends

October 16th, 2020

In 1876
Telephones enter the mix
The invention portends
That invisible friends
Will drop by for a chat, just for kicks

Quest 2

October 15th, 2020

Today I tried out my new Oculus Quest 2. The only important difference I could see between the Quest and the Quest 2 is that the latter has higher resolution.

But that is an incredibly important upgrade. If you want to get serious work done in VR (and I definitely want to get serious work done in VR), then you need to be able to read text.

On the Quest, you could read text, but only if it was in a large font. In that sense, the experience was kind of like working on an old-fashioned low resolution computer monitor.

The Quest 2 has no such problems. Text is gorgeous, clear and easy to read. The change is extremely welcome and extremely satisfying.

Now I’m going to get some serious work done.

Beyond faces

October 14th, 2020

When people are not where you are
Zoom only gets you so far
You will only get faces
When you want to share spaces
The future belongs to VR

Portable rooms

October 13th, 2020

I have been working on building a VR space for a while. I have been doing it at home, so I have gotten used to walking around in the VR room while in my actual physical room.

Today for the first time I brought my VR headset somewhere with me to show the space to somebody else. You could say that it was the first time my virtual room has been outside my physical room.

There was something both disorienting and empowering about the experience. I suddenly realized, on an emotional level, that my VR space could be anywhere in the physical world.

I had known this intellectually, but it hadn’t really hit me on a gut level: A VR room is as portable as a Web page. It exists nowhere in the physical world, yet at the same time everywhere.

For the last quarter century or so we have been living in the age of portable documents. Now we are about to enter the age of portable rooms.