Posts Tagged ‘Virtual Reality

Warming up for Picnic ’07

with 2 comments

Picnic ’07, Amsterdam’s annual event organized by the Cross Media Week Foundation focusing on creativity in cross media content and technology, is only a month away and the list of speakers is nearly finished. Between the 25th and 29th of September, Amsterdam’s Westergastfabriek will once again host the event after the succes of last year’s edition. But with such a diverse and wide-ranging programme, where will you go? In order to get into the mood and warm up for the event, it is worthwhile to highlight some of the fascinating speakers and take a more in-depth look at what they are all about.

Reuben Steiger (Former Linden Labs Evangelist and founder/CEO Millions of Us)
scion2ndlifeAt Picnic ’06 Philip Rosedale of Linden Labs / Second Life presented his take on ‘the empowerment offered by Second Life of the average citizen to not only create but monetize their own content and design’. This year former Linden Labs Evangelist Reuben Steiger will take the stage at Picnic’s Virtual Worlds, which is all about virtual worlds becoming central to the future of marketing, technology, entertainment and brand-building. After his work at Linden Labs, Steiger founded and became CEO of Millions of Us, a company dedicated to helping businesses understand and harness the power of virtual worlds. An example is the Toyota Scion car in Second Life.

Being an evangelist and clearly someone who believes in the power of virtual worlds, Steiger fights of recent criticism of Second Life as a branding tool at by saying that ‘some of the criticism is partially warranted, but a lot of it is poorly contextualized and opportunistic, in the sense that pundits love to tear down technologies that have ridden a wave of hype. IT analyst firm Gartner calls this the hype cycle – new technologies spark a wave of initial excitement, expectations inflate, the technology is found to be imperfect in some ways, and there is a backlash – but in the long term, a good technology will overcome the hype cycle and enjoy long-term adoption.’ Are virtual worlds all that Steiger says they are, or just a big bubble? Are you a skeptic or an enthusiast? Not sure? You can find out at Virtual Worlds. In the video below Steiger answers questions on his personal interest in Second Life and if virtual worlds are a response to alienation in real-life.

When? 27th September 14.00 – 17.00
Where? WesterUnie
What? Virtual Worlds at Picnic ’07

Cory Doctorow (SF novelist, blogger, technology activist)
doctorow overclocked Cory Doctorow, co-editor of popular weblog BoingBoing and contributor to the likes of New York Times and Wired, explores the benefits and consequences of online systems in his latest (fictional) book Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present (free download). This provocative collection of six previously released stories shows Doctorow extrapolating todays user experiences towards a futuristic vision and creating fascinating stories in doing so. An extensive review can be found at The Uberreview. For his writings, Doctorow has already been compaired to ‘Cyberspace’ godfather William Gibson by Entertainment Weekly. In the Authors@Google series Cory Doctorow himself presents and discusses the book, if any questions remain be sure to go see Doctorow at Fab, or the personal fabrication revolution.

When? 28th September
Where? WesterLiefde
What? FAB, or the personal fabrication revolution

Pablos/Paul Holman (Futurist, IT security expert, notorious hacker)
From an interview with Pablos “Paul” Holman at DLD ’07, shown in video below, comes the following provocative quote on creativity in companies: ‘Especially large companies tend to be poor at doing new things. They have lots of resources, lots of people and a lot of infrastructure . But all that gets in the way of when you’re trying to be creative. […] Ideally for me, I’d be able to wake up in the morning and dream up something I’ve been dreaming about. Then go build it by lunchtime, launch it in the afternoon and see if people like it. And then maybe fix some bugs by dinner.’

hackerbotpablosContrary to Doctorow, Holman does not read science fiction because he doesn’t want to be accused of plagiarism. His views however are, as the Picnic website also mentions, unique. With his design studio Komposite he ‘consults on bizarre invention and design projects that assimilate new technologies’. To give you an idea: Among his projects is the Hackerbot, a WiFi seeking robot that can find you when you’re using a wireless network – and drive up to show you your password on its screen. According to the Hackerbot website, the robot is really quite friendly and tries not to show your passwords to anyone else. Interested? Be sure to check out Holman at Picnic ’07, also if you’re interested in salsa dancing!

When? TBA
Where? TBA
What? Pablos Holman

Stefan Sagmeister (Graphic designer and typographer)
sagmeisterYou might have seen Stefan Sagmeister‘s design in your local record shop on the covers of Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Talking Heads recordings. The Picnic website mentions that just as film, art, music and literature have the power to move people, Stefan Sagmeister’s innovative work shows that graphic design, too, can cut to the emotional core. An in-depth interview with Sagmeister can found at The image is courtesy of Grafik-freunde Stuttgart.

In 2004 Sagmeister spoke in Monterey, California about how design can make us happy and more specifically design that made him happy on a personal level. Telling stories ranging from billboards and museum exhibitions to pictorial language, Sagmeister is able to show how design can touch a nerve. Design never felt more personal while listening to Sagmeister’s presentation and his words seem far removed from corporate thought. Anyone intested in the emotional side of creativity, and creative industries in general, should see Sagmeister at Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far at Picnic ’07.

When? 27th September 16.50 – 17.20
Where? Zuivering West
What? Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far – Stefan Sagmeister

Various Meetings and (Un)Common Ground
Like last year, Picnic also hosts various meetings such as Virtueel Platform’s (Un)common Ground II: An expert meeting that brings together all the top thinkers in the industry. This year the sub-title is Scale and Intimacy. At the meeting experts will take a close look at the complex issues arising when practices and models of collaboration move across different scales. Like Stefan Sagmeister in his presentation, questions such as ‘how to maintain the emotional connection that people make to the ideas that are promoted or the services or products that it delivered’, are asked. Although the meeting is ‘invitation only’, be sure to check out Virtueel Platform’s publication (Un)common ground. Creative encounters across sectors and disciplines for more information.

For information on all Picnic ’07 events (25th – 29th of September) go to the Picnic network website. Oh… and did I mention Andrew Keen (see my previous post) will also be there?


Cross Media Week Amsterdam: The future as seen in movies

leave a comment »

This week Amsterdam is all about Cross Media, a mating ritual between all different forms of media: New and old, new and even newer. I (and the Masters of Media) visited the student lectures on Wednesday where five speakers presented their views on the topic. The speakers were:

  • John Underkoffler, Chief Scientist, Treadle & Loam and Co-Founder, G-Speak (United States)
  • Mary Hodder, CEO, Dabble (United States)
  • Gabriele Gresta, Executive Vice Chairman, Digital Magics Group (Italy)
  • Joaquín Alvarado and Sylvia Paull


If you want to read a whole report on the lectures, check out Anne Helmond’s post on the conference. Personally I was most intrigued by John Underkoffler and his views on the convergence of film and (new media) science. He coined a very simple, but very relevant question about the mouse. Everything in computer science has developed, but why are we still stuck with  just the mouse and keyboard? Because it confirmed some thoughts I had floating through my mind a while back, when I was thinking about the science used in movies.

Minority Report and Gestural Interfaces
G-speak is a gestural interface system which Underkoffler is working on, but the original idea was also used in the movie Minority Report where Underkoffler was science and technology advisor. In looking for ways to present a believable future, the idea was brought up to put a gestural interface system in the movie. This system was developed and the actors could also practice with a working G-speak system, so they could mimmick the hand gestures in the movie itself. So you could say it’s kind of a movie and science loop.

The examples that were shown on the Picnic were quite impressive and showed a working system quite similar to the scenes you see in Minority Report where Tom Cruise is working on a crime scene with the help from a very interesting gestural interface. You can watch a short example of that movie sequence below:

I couldn’t find the example of the G-Speak interface which Underkoffler showed, but there is similar research being done by other companies. They work a bit differently, but the gestural idea looks quite the same. This might look quite tiring, waving your hands up an down and all around, Underkoffler mentioned that they could easily test it for 8 hours straight. These are two examples of still developing and very interesting interfaces:

Jeff Han of New York University

EON Touchlight

Lloyd Wright’s Kaufmann house: Halflife vs Reallife

with 3 comments

Recently I’ve come across a video posted by the guys at Digital Urban, which is a must-check-out blog. It let’s us take a look in the Kaufmann house by Frank Lloyd Wright using the Halflife 2 engine. I don’t want to talk too much about this, just take a look. The first one is the real one, the second one made with the Halflife 2 engine.



Real life consequences of virtual and augmented realities

with one comment

Recently I did a paper on virtual and augmented realities, especially the latter is in the spotlight of todays New Media studies. Lev Manovich remarked in his article The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada: The 1990s were about the virtual, and it is possible that this decade will be about the physical space filled with electronic information, or augmented space.

The interesting thing about the two is definitely the fact that the virtual seems to be something we can always step out of, while the augmented is something we can become so immersed in that it is hard to let go. Sure, in both cases there is an on and an off switch, but if we take a look at the GPS systems which are becoming very common in cars today we need to emphasize that if we trust the augmented too much it might take along our real life for the ride, leaving the digital in the driving seat. And we all have heard about the drivers, trusting their GPS, and blindly riding in a river, or to the top of a mountain. Those situations are destroying the option of just turning the GPS system off when you want to. To repair the damage to your real life, you have to do a lot more than just turn it off.

The virtual also had ways of immersing the person in such a way that it had consequences for real life, for example the recent ‘gaming deaths’ in World of Warcraft. In these cases the gamers didn’t take care of their real life bodies, prefering the welbeing of their game characters. But in the case of the virtual, real life and the virtual are clearly distinguishable from eachother. One gets neglected, the other gets all the attention of the mind.
For some of these gamers there were ingame memorials, beside the memorials in real life. This also emphasizes the clear line between the two. It is one or the other. Never both at the same time. At all times it is possible to disconnect from the virtual, the button is always there waiting to be pushed. The only thing stopping it from being pushed is you.

The augmented reality on the other hand is a case of both at the same time, as the demonstration video below shows.

In this example it is used for business purposes, showing the colors of a car or the shape of a new building. What is interesting is that what I see (I can’t speak for everyone) in front of me, blended in my own real life, is something I believe much quicker. Without asking questions. Of course, if the programming is done correctly and there are no flaws in the software, this is amazing. But what if there is an error? We have seen it before in GPS technology, which is/was sending people to the wrong place. Trusting the construction of a building on an augmented simulation would be very tricky business. If flaws in the ‘augmented production process’ are discovered when the building is already there, there is no simple on or off switch. The damage is done in real life. Of course I trust the skill of the architectures, but we need to be very clear on augmented reality: It is just a simulation, not a real thing we can trust, even if we see it with our own eyes. We have to keep asking questions when we see the augmented coming into our real life further and further. Question what you see, even more than you already questioned the things in real life. Seeing is not believing.

Actions in the virtual have consequences for the virtual. For example you create a game character and through your actions you gain experience and higher levels, neglecting your real life body has death as a consequence. Two different actions and two opposite consequences.
On the other hand we have the actions in the augmented, which have consequences in both the augmented reality and in real life/the physical. Using your GPS (the action) has the consequence that you go to a place in real life and arrive at the destination (consequence). Or not. Because you can’t always walk away, and the line is blurred. Making you trust or use something, because it seems to be there but really isn’t.

Why not compare this GPS augmentation to a circus act? The audience watches the show in awe, totally immersed and all their attention is focused on the fact that it is a show. They continue watching when something goes wrong i.e. a clown cathing fire, thinking that it is part of the show. But when the audience suddenly realizes that the burning clown isn’t part of the show when the ambulance comes along, they are already too late and the reaction will be something like: ‘Why didn’t we see it earlier?’ For a moment they thought that real life was a show, but the burning clown was all too real.
The same thing goes for GPS, you trust the show that is given to you on your system when you drive your car. But when you are misguided (either by software error, or just clumsy route information) it is already to late too go back. For a moment you sit in your car and don’t see that real life is actually show. A show made up for you by your GPS system. But the wrong route you took was all too real. And the reaction?

‘Why didn’t I see it earlier?’

All my MA research logs are part of a work in progress and can not be distributed, copied, displayed or performed.