Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Future stuff

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

We all accumulate stuff. Books lamps, dishware, that weird lamp your aunt got you for your thirteenth birthday.

Stuff grows around us, in our closets, on our desk, within our bookshelves. Over time it grows, seemingly without rhyme or reason.

When the world starts to shift to technologically enabled mixed reality, some of that stuff will go digital. The toy puzzle on your desk might be a four dimensional hypercube, seemingly part of the physical world, but actually only a sequence of bits stored in the Cloud.

We will still accumulate stuff in our house or apartment, but the stuff will be different, perhaps odder and more mutable. We will continue to resist tossing it out, for sentimental reasons.

But there will be one dramatic change: When we pack up our things to move from one house to another, future stuff will be a heck of a lot easier to take with us.

Creative marketing

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Today I ventured out to a coffee shop that had a very impressive looking array of desserts. So I bought some and took them home.

Alas, none of them were at all tasty. It was a major disappointment.

But it got me thinking. If I were the head of marketing for this establishment, how would I handle this? Is there something positive I could say, which would also be true?

I’ve put some thought into this, and now I think I have it. Here is what I think would be a great slogan for this place:

“Try our desserts. They look even better than they taste!”

Future bots

Monday, January 25th, 2021

Given the current state of technology, it makes sense that consumer-level A.I. bots are audio-only. You are likely most familiar with Siri and Alexa, but there are plenty of others out there.

At some point, when everybody will be putting on their mixed reality glasses to mingle with the crowd, such bots will acquire a visual component. Those bots may be private — visible only by you — or they may be shared, either with just your friends or with everyone.

Will people accept such a thing? Or will visual bots be quickly rejected, going the way of Microsoft’s Clippy?

One reason to ponder this question is that visual perception and audio perception are processed in the brain very differently. Our ears can take in many independent stimuli at once without conflict, but we can really only focus on one thing at a time with our visual field.

It’s possible that even with the most advanced technology, consumer-level infobots will always remain an audio thing, like in the movie Her. But hopefully a little less scary.

Odd parallels

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Yesterday I talked about the odd parallel between the seven days of the week and the seven notes of the diatonic musical scale. I wonder how many other such odd parallels there are in our cultural consciousness.

One that comes to mind is around the cards in a deck of playing cards and the weeks in a year. I especially like the way each of the four suits maps into the four seasons of the year.

Other parallels seem a little more iffy. For example, we could map, one-to-one, the difference in temperature, on the Fahrenheit scale, between freezing and boiling water and the angle between the Earth’s South Pole and North Pole. Both are 180 degrees, intriguingly enough.

Can you think of any others?

Week notes

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Since I was a child, I have always associated the seven notes of the diatonic musical scale with the seven days of the week. In particular, A through G are Saturday through Friday.

So when classes were scheduled in school on various days of the week, I would think of them as musical chords. A class scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday was a C major chord: C,E,G.

Similarly, a class scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday was like the the first two notes of a D minor chord: D,F.

I suppose, if I were to plan my academic schedule around this notion, I would plan my week accordingly. I would take courses in my Major either on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, on Thursday, Saturday and Monday, or on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday.

I would take courses in my Minor either on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. I would reserve Mondays for learning the fundamentals.

And I would definitely take lots of notes. :-)

Conflict management

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

I am working on a software project with multiple people. We are all in different locations, so we meet over Zoom and manage our shared software via Github.

The software is scattered over many files, and some of those files change more often than others. A few of them change a lot.

Every time two people make a change to any one of these files, there is a potential for conflict. The computer doesn’t know whether your change and mine might cause a conflict — it just knows that we both trying to change the same file.

And so it complains, and doesn’t let us do that. Instead, the computer expects us to manually resolve our conflict, or what it perceives to be our conflict.

So we develop practices of splitting our programs up into many little separate files. That minimizes the chances that you and I will want to make software changes in the same file at the same time.

In the coming years, as our world becomes ever more virtual, and when we all start to embrace mixed and augmented reality on the job, I wonder whether this principle will start to apply more to workflow out here in the physical world.

If we want the computer to help us, will we need to start breaking down our tasks into little pieces, so the computer can figure out how to support multiple people working together?

Reality buttons

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

I am creating some demos in virtual reality in a Web browser for a research project we are doing at our lab at NYU. Since I’m switching back and forth between different demos, I added some buttons to the browser page.

Before entering VR, you can click on a button to select which demos you want to turn on. This lets me, for example, share the demo with co-workers and just tell them “click on this button to see demo X”.

It occurs to me that this is relevant for the near future, when at some point we will all be able to wear those mixed reality glasses. When that happens, the physical reality around us will be able to support sharing all sorts of fantastical experiences that we can now only share within VR.

But if all those fantastical things were running at the same time it would be overwhelming. So maybe we will start to add buttons to our future reality.

When you click on a reality button, it will turn on or off a particular feature of shared reality for you and your friends. You will click on different buttons depending on what you are doing together — working, shopping, dining, or just hanging out.

After a while, we will most likely no longer even think of this as clicking on reality buttons. We will just call it reality.

Troll-less

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

The Troll is no longer under the bridge.

It’s amazing how little news coverage the Troll gets without Twitter, isn’t it?

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

Inauguration

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

After some anticipation
My heart is filled with much elation
Tomorrow’s the inauguration
And I’m so happy for our nation

Democracy in action

Monday, January 18th, 2021

It’s fascinating to see that the inauguration and the impeachment trial are pretty much simultaneous events. This is democracy in action!

Although it is maddening that so many people in the U.S. had to die unnecessarily of COVID-19 before we could get a Federal administration that demonstrates simple competency. So many months and lives wasted.

I feel hopeful about the promise of the future, and infinitely sad about the tragedy of the recent past.