The Drax Files Radio Hour: augmented reality, harassment as humour, HTTP

radio-hourThe third broadcast from the attic studios of The Drax Files Radio Hour is now available, and includes another heady mix of news, views and interviews.

We have a look at coming out of the virtual closet, another poke at the issue of net neutrality, more rifting on the Rift, and a look into the Lab’s HTTP work with a chat with Monty Linden. Most notably of all, there’s news on Loki Eliot’s video, The Lost Virtual World, which he kindly allowed me to sneak peek last week, and  – buckle-in and hold tight – an interview with Esteban Winsmore.

Coming out the Virtual Closet

We’re all sensitive about the issue of privacy and identity – as any reference of Facebook tends to demonstrate – but how do we handle telling friends and family about virtual worlds? Do we tell others? How can we overcome any preconceptions about the platform and help people understand that we’re not lacking a life, but are augmenting our life, often very creatively? How do we explain SL to those who have never heard of it? How easy is it to be open with friends?

These questions are touched upon very broadly in the opening piece in the show, with Jo explaining that her use of SL through the 1920s Berlin Project makes it very easy to talk about the platform and  – while she doesn’t use this term – evangelise it to her friends, encouraging them to get involved. Eshi Otawara gives a more pragmatic response, her own discussions of SL with friends and colleagues being more driven by the questions they may ask.

This is really a quick scratch at the surface of this topic. The Drax Files Radio Hour blog is there for people to relate their own experiences, and the team can also be reached via Skype and in-world (see the blog for how) – so why not let them dig a little deeper by providing them with insight into your own experiences?

The Rift and Augmented Reality

The Oculus Rift once again gets spotlighted, this time with a video of some fascinating work by William Steptoe from the University College London. He’s been developing a set of stereo cameras for the headset to allow it to function as an augmented reality device. The video itself is just over 18 minutes long and delves into the technical aspects of the rig (including a MoCap set-up) as well an providing a demonstration of it in action, which is quite amazing. William also has further information on his work on his blog.

This work is fascinating as it again indicates the degree of cross-over between the Oculus Rift and Technical Illusion’s castAR system. While the former started as a VR system as is now being looked at for AR uses, castAR, which I’ve covered in a couple of reports, started as an AR system (albeit somewhat more basic than seen with William’s set-up), has more recently had a VR capability added to it by its designers.

The kind of augmented potential seen in this video is closer to where my own interest in systems like Oculus Rift and castAR lies, the entire concept of AR opening-up a whole range of opportunities and capabilities which perhaps exceed those of purely VR systems.

The castAR glasses are being designed to offer both AR and VR capabilities (image coutesy of Technical Illusions)
The castAR glasses are being designed to offer both AR and VR capabilities (image courtesy of Technical Illusions)

castAR is still in the earliest stages of development, and currently uses a reflective surface for project and feedback, but the potential for using a MoCap system (cost allowing!) is pretty clear.

The show also touches on the potential of EEG headsets such as the Emotiv,  all of which gets the imagination boggling as to where this all may lead. In the meantime, given the (understandable) coverage afforded the Rift in the show, it would be nice to see some thought given towards castAR.

Later in the show there is mention of an article in the Guardian newspaper on the potential of VR. There is a small risk here of engaging a new hype cycle where the media and VR is concerned (of which, more in a moment), but I have to say that taken together the Guardian article and William Steptoe’s work given me the excuse to splash Bruce Branit’s World Builder into another review!

Continue reading “The Drax Files Radio Hour: augmented reality, harassment as humour, HTTP”

Loki’s The Lost Virtual World

Lokli Eliot pinged me earlier in January about a video he was putting together called The Lost Virtual World, which is an examination of Second Life, VR, the media’s falling in-and-out of love with both, and something of a historical look at Second Life’s (and Linden’s Lab’s) development. The formal announcement of the video’s realse came via Loki’s blog and episode 3 of The Drax Files Radio Hour.

Carefully complied from a range of videos and interviews, Loki’s piece, at 37 minutes in length is a goldmine of information, skillfully crafted to present a very clear message, encompassed, to a degree, in the opening titles.

From Alice in Wonderland, by way of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas,  the video flows gracefully into interviews featuring noted faces behind the development of SL, and touching upon some of the highs and low of the platform, the controversies which have courted it (witness Philip Rosedale’s public declaration on the subject of land “ownership” in Second Life – wonder if the company still rues the day he uttered those words?). At the same time it casts a wider net over the past, present and future of VR as whole and offers succinct précis of the media’s love affair with both.

The beauty of this piece is that while there is a carefully structured narrative throughout, it is also presented largely free from any bias an audio track might otherwise supply; even the on-screen text restricts itself to factual comments, rather than attempting to steer the viewer’s thoughts. This allows each clip to speak for itself while also building on the central theme. This in turn deepens aspects of the video’s impact, particularly in the clips featuring events and faces from SL’s past. Recalling those events from SL’s history and seeing faces now long departed from this virtual realm evokes very personal memories, which further help the video resonate more personally than might otherwise be the case.

And because of this, I’m going to stop here and not analyse things further, as I don’t want my own thoughts intruding into yours as you watch the film. Instead I’ll say only this: get yourself a drink, settle comfortably in your chair, and enjoy.

(And a very nice use of elements of the TRON soundtracks as well!)