Drax Files Radio Show #11: The Road to VR

Drax Files Radio Show #11: The Road to VR. This audio is interesting in that 40+/- minutes are an interview with Ben Lang, who is doing the Road To VR blog, link the article near 20 minute index marker. I found it insightful and Ben

As always this synopsis is what I heard. Before reacting to anything written here, take the time to listen to the original audio of the show.

Time marks are approximate, but they should get you into the audio before the subject’s starting point.

Virtualizer

Virtualizer

Jo Yardley has her Oculus Rift. Yay! We should get some interesting reports from her. I suspect there will be some stuff that is NDA by the Linden Oculus Rift project, but hopefully she’ll still be able to tell us some of what the Lab is doing.

Another LEAP Motion was given away this week. This is a fun give-away that Drax Files is doing. I like the LEAP controller. I have one. I don’t often use it. MIT Technology Review has an article about what is happening with LEAP Motion Controllers and the company building them: Leap Motion’s Struggles Reveal Problems with 3-D Interfaces. The core of the article is:

“Things involving human-computer interfaces often move extremely slowly. It may take a while before the Leap reaches its full potential,” says Robert Jacob, a computer science professor at Tufts University who studies user interfaces and new modes of interaction.

Developers say they like the app-creation tools that Leap Motion provides, and that it’s not particularly hard to build apps for the platform. What complicates things is the need to think about building apps in three dimensions, and to invent motion controls that users will understand how to use.

This can be especially confusing because there is no standard set of Leap Motion gestures, so actions like selecting or grabbing an on-screen item can vary from app to app.

“It’s something really difficult to grasp—how to teach someone to use something completely new and use it well,” says Adam Gastineau, a 17-year-old high-school senior and app developer from Dayton, Ohio, who built a $1 gesture-control app for the Mac called Swish.

I plan to keep my LEAP and see how it works with the Oculus Rift. The LEAP peeps are improving the software. Users often describe the controller as spastic and I have to agree. However, that is, I believe, a solvable problem and the LEAP people believe they have reduced that problem in current development models.

I am hopping that by the time the Rift arrives the LEAP tech will have sufficiently advanced to provide a good controller interface for the SL Viewer. Otherwise, the Space Controller may be the UI device of choice for Rift users.

As the LEAP/SL Viewer is now I don’t see that it helps with immersion. I spend more time adapting my movements to help the LEAP signal SL about what to do. Literally the mouse is easier to learn. That has to change.

03:30 – Another Oculus Rift developer’s version (2) is out. Jo is speculating the Rift retail version will come out by Christmas this year. Sony’s Morpheus, a Rift competitor, is more than a year away.

The Oculus Rift SDK 2 is taking pre-orders for US$350. See: GDC: Oculus Debuts Rift Development Kit 2. They expect to ship in July 2014. This version includes a higher resolution OLED display, low-persistence motion tracking, latency reducing software, and includes infrared camera. The external infrared camera tracks the headset position in 3D space. Now a player can lean and tilt and have a response inside the game world. Motion blur is also ‘mostly’ gone, which greatly reduces nausea problems. This version connects via USB.

07:20 – Bikini advertisements. Jo’s thinking is SL is much more than just bikini babes, which seems to be the major feature of the current Linden ad campaign for SL. Drax and I agree that the campaign should be broader.

Jo makes some really good points about what the ads could be. It isn’t like the ads have mutually exclusive content; sexy or non-sexy ads. Jo’s preference is to see more inclusive ads. So, may be we will see sexy bikini babes and hunks along with furies, robots, and minion like cartoon characters. Or may be that is too kinky… no, you get what I mean.

Whatever you think about the ads, share your creative thoughts with Jo and Drax. If one is going to complain about something, shouldn’t they be prepared to offer something better?

11:40 – I don’t know how to describe this… Intellectual Property Rights for the galaxy… whatever, this strange twist in copyright issues involving NASA comes back to touch on the Linden TOS for SL and other Internet services.

19:00 – Drax and Jo are pointing out they are NOT pushing Linden talking points. Drax is an unashamed an SL fan-boy. Jo is an SL fan too, not as much so as Drax and she is often highly critical of LL and SL. I think they balance each other nicely. Something the Metareality shows lost.

19:50 – RoadToVR – Virtual World vs Virtual Reality. This is in interesting interview with Ben Lang from the RoadToVR blog and worth a listen. They get into AR (Augmented Reality) and mention some of the obstacles it has to overcome.

31:00 – They start to discuss the problems of Second Life and how it is perceived. I think this is an excellent part of the audio Second Life participants should check it out. I’m not going to transcribe it because the nuanced voice inflections add more than I’ll take the time to capture, if it is even possible to capture. Just listen to the 4-minute section.

35:45 – Here they get into the debate over the ‘First VR Talk Show Ever’ claim. This is an interesting discussion/debate. Ben has an eloquence and perception in explaining his thinking that I find rare. This 5-minute section will give people an insight into how we take words like reality and immersion to mean different things even when defining the words the same way.

Ben points out that in many cases what we are talking about is a gradient. For instance immersion is not either or. It is a matter of degree. While we are ‘immersed’ in Second Life, how much more so will we be when we use a Rift? Will we still think we knew what immersion was back in the pre-Rift days? I am pretty sure many will say they didn’t. That seems to be what Ben is expecting.

40:40 – The second part of the interview begins here. This is an interview taken when Ben came out to California for the GDC (Game Developer’s Conference).

Here Drax asks about VR with the treadmill like devices, VR hand sensors like gloves (Razor Hydra – Stem System), body impact systems – tactile transducers, haptics, natural interfaces, neural connections – control via thought, etc.

Accuracy is a current problem. Learning and training curves are current obstacles.

This section runs to 57:00.

Jo has a new Flickr group: Second Life is Looking Good. The point of this group is to provide a collection of images of Second Life that people can be pointed to when the complain about SL’s graphics. Also, I suspect she hopes it can be used by reporters to get newer images. The groups rules are”

Group Rules

If you agree to these rules, you can join the group

The goal of this group is to collect pictures that show SL to outsiders, not to other SL users, keep that in mind.
Also remember, this is not an 18+ group, so keep it decent.

And no edited pictures please, show people what SL can look like without Photoshop.

We want to show outsiders how good SL can look and perhaps also show that it is about more than just hanky panky and dressing up your avatar in pretty dresses.

This means images added would need to avoid Photoshop enhancement. But, the images would also need to be Creative-Commons-Attribution licensed to be generally usable by the media. Jo missed that point or I’m missing her point for the group. I joined as the 47th member. Join up and add some impressive images. Jo stresses the need to keep it clean and go for the exceptional.

Today there were 146 images. But some of them have licensing restrictions that would make them unusable by the media. I didn’t do a search to see how many were open CC-Attribution only or completely unrestricted. But, there are some gorgeous images.

They close by pointing us to a funny YouTube video. Look for the link: musikalische flugstunden… (musical flight hours) on Drax’s site. I suppose one needs to speak German to understand the humor in the video otherwise it is a ‘meh’ video.

Summary

This is another interesting show. For those of us interested in VR and the coming Oculus Rift there is lots of new information.

The TL;DR take away is VR is awesome with the new improvements in technology. The level of immersion is taking a huge step forward with the Oculus Rift and Rift like devices.

The state of the technology is very much in early development. Lots of work remains. While the visual component is well advanced and the first iteration waits on manufacturing to catch up the control interface is lagging far behind. We are only now starting to figure out what may work.

The next couple of years will be fascinating as VR is advanced. Neural and tactile feedback is being developed for use in many fields. At some point all of these technologies will converge in game development. We may well see VR advance to something like the tech shown in Battle Star Galactica’s prequel Capirca or Bruce Willis’ Surrogates or possibly the ‘Viewing’ portrayed in Asimov’s The Naked Sun. What fun…

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