Archive for September, 2020

Political signage

Sunday, September 27th, 2020

One of the salient features of the run-up to a major American election is the proliferation of political signage. Pretty much everywhere you go, somebody is relentlessly advertising for their favorite candidate.

Which is why I found it refreshing today to see a political advertisement of a different sort. It was clearly a reference to our upcoming presidential race, but one could infer that fact only from context.

Here is what the sign said:

Fully Functioning


Immersion and interactive narrative

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

In my experience, interactive narrative mostly has not worked. The results tend to fall uncomfortably into an uncanny valley between game and story.

The problem seems to center on the question of agency. Players of games have agency — they can affect the outcome. In contrast, readers and audiences of linear narratives have no agency.

As soon as you give your audience any agency, things quickly become far more gamelike and less like being told a story.

But I am wondering whether that will continue to hold true in an immersive medium such as virtual reality. Or will VR offer a way out of this?

Will a completely immersive world allow for audience choices while enabling the audience to feel that they are being told a compelling narrative rather than playing a game?

I think we will know the answer when somebody creates a truly successful example of an interactive immersive narrative in VR. I am looking forward to that!


Friday, September 25th, 2020

Why are my Fridays so busy?
Today has me all in a tizzy
I’ve been stressed to the max
But now I’ll chillax
And drink something soothing and fizzy

Old fashioned pixels

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Today an old friend of mine, a computer graphics pioneer, showed me a project he has been working on, to help make this pandemic easier to take. Every day, for the last 31 days, he has made a pencil drawing of an object he can place on his desk.

One day he draws a stapler, the next a pair of scissors, or maybe a bottle of perfume, or a small animal figurine. Each is highly realistic, and each is beautiful.

I admire this push against the relentless digitalization of expression. Just picking up a pencil and sketching on paper seems like a wonderful path to escaping the tyranny of the computer.

And he seemed so happy to show me his drawings. The whole time he was beaming like a little kid.

Come to think of it, maybe I will put down this computer and make some drawings. :-)

Video pass-through

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

There are essentially two ways we might end up doing augmented reality with a future pair of AR glasses: Optical see-through and video pass-through. The first works a bit like Google Glass: Computer graphics are superimposed on the literal reality around you.

The second is a lot like today’s AR smartphone apps, and is sort of like watching the world around you on television: Two little video cameras capture what your left and right eye would normally see, computer graphics are superimposed, and when you look around, you end up seeing the resulting altered reality.

Optical see-through has the advantage that you literally see reality, just with virtual stuff superimposed on it. This is how Microsoft Hololens and Magic Leap do it.

Video pass-through has the advantage that you can transform the reality around you into literally anything at all, like the way smartphone AR apps can transform reality — except you will be able to do it just by looking with your eyes, rather than needing to peer into a little handheld screen.

I think that in the long run, the future will belong to video pass-through, because it is inherently far more powerful. In the short run it will suffer from lower resolution and other artifacts. But eventually, as technology advances, those artifacts will go away.

And that coming revolution just got a boost: Sometime next year, the forthcoming Oculus 2 VR headset will allow you to add video pass-through to the experiences you create. That will mark the real beginning of the revolution.

Court fight

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

With R.B.G gone we have seen
That the fight for the court has grown mean
But after elections,
There will be more selections
Till the size of the bench is nineteen

The haiku of absurdity

Monday, September 21st, 2020

our next president
should select our next justice
so said mcconnell

Productivity unplugged

Sunday, September 20th, 2020

Going non-stop is very counterproductive. I am far more productive when I remember to take a break between tasks.

But I think it goes beyond that. In some ways I am most productive during those breaks. Those are the moments when I have time to think, and to figure out what I should really be doing and why.

Just today I can upon the below quote, which well describes this phenomenon. Words to live by:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lemott

That movie

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

You may be wondering, what was that movie I was talking about the other day?

It was Twelve Monkeys.


Socially distanced fitness

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Just this week both Apple and Facebook announced new initiatives for supporting health, exercise and wellness. In both cases, their offerings are consistent with a wired, non-collocated world.

In other words, two of the world’s largest consumer tech companies are throwing their considerable weight behind helping people to stay healthy in a way that allows for social distancing.

Are we seeing a sea change in the fitness industry? Yoga studios are going out of business, due to the harsh realities of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Pelaton and similar remote-exercise offerings have gotten a large boost for the same reason.

Now the largest players of all are stepping into the arena, aiming to create entire consumer ecosystems out of socially distanced fitness. When I see something that seismic, it makes me wonder — even after this terrible pandemic is over — whether things will ever truly go back to the way they were.