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!

Monty Linden and HTTP

Monty Linden: sdpearheading the HTTP work
Monty Linden: spearheading the HTTP work

I’ve reported quite extensively on Monty Linden’s ongoing HTTP work, unashamedly referring to him as one of the unsung heroes of Linden Lab for the extensive “under the bonnet” (or “between the walls”, as he likes to call it) work he’s been doing. While a complex-sounding topic, the overall aim of the work is really about improving the reliability and performance of viewer / server communications and allowing people on older router hardware to have a more stable SL experience, as well as overcoming some long-standing DNS issues. There’s even a degree of enabling the viewer to make more effective use of the cores within a computer’s CPU.

Monty’s work has recently been summarised in a blog post from the Lab, and I’m pleased that Drax took a hint from me to see if he could get a word with Monty for the show, because if you’re confused by all the things that have been going-on with this work and why it is so important to you, me and Second Life as a whole, Monty provides a very easy-to-follow explanation of things.

Loki’s Lost Virtual World

A compilation video looking into Second Life, virtual reality, virtual worlds and how VR as a whole has endured the highs and lows of a hype cycle once already, The Lost Virtual World is a fascinating piece which has been put together by Loki Eliot.

lost VW

Well researched and edited, this is a video which, as VR is potentially about to go through another hype cycle courtesy of the media  – as Loki says himself -, should really be put before the media and the idealists out there who may think they are the vanguard of a brave new VR world in order to demonstrate that the potential is already here, and all they need to do is harness it.

I’m not going to say m ore on it here, as I’ve covered the video in a blog post of its own.

Esteban Winsmore

A controversial character, loved for his videos, hated for his activities and perhaps a difficult person to judge or understand, as he is rarely out-of-character. Humour, rather like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; as such, his antics and actions are going to divide an audience. However, leaving the buffoonery and humour aside, I do find myself in agreement with Crap Mariner’s comments following the show’s blog post. As a Borat-style creation, there is a level of humour in his work – but – as Crap points out, from the perspective of his victims, there is a case to say that his actions can appear to be harassment masquerading as humour.

In a wider context, the interview does raise some interesting points on Second Life, privacy (and the illusion thereof in SL), social spaces, peer pressure and victimisation.

Thoughts

Three episodes in, and TDFRH gets a trifle controversial with the central interview with Esteban Winsmore. I draw no conclusions on either his antics or people’s reactions to him, at least not beyond the observations I’ve made above. Listen and judge for yourselves.

The rest of the show again demonstrates a healthy cross-section of news, although I do feel more work is perhaps needed in giving the broadcasts more of an internal balance. While having a feature piece within a segment is good, it can also perhaps lead to other elements coming across as either rushed or curtailed in order to ensure there is room for the feature piece.

This wasn’t so evident in the tribute to Osprey Therian, notably because while it made up a large part of the second broadcast, it comprised a number of different interviews, viewpoints and recollections, all of which added to the measure of the piece.  However, the interview with Esteban was far more focused (obviously), as such it did start to feel overly protracted and running the risk of leaving some feeling that a few more edits wouldn’t have gone amiss – and allowed deeper coverage of some of the other items as a result. However, as I’ve previously remarked, it is still early days for the show, and rough edges can be smoothed in time.

7 thoughts on “The Drax Files Radio Hour: augmented reality, harassment as humour, HTTP

  1. Inara as always thanks for the write-up. Just wanted to say: I do NOT condone harassment in any world. We presented soundbites from Esteban and the interview “in character” for the listener to get an overview and then make up his own mind. Esteban is a phenomenon, he has the highest rated YouTUbe content related to SL. Why is that? That needs discussing IMO. Also: in terms of formatting it is almost not doable to get more than one interview recorded and edited per week at the rate both Jo and I are working [day jobs] – we would need a core staff to do background research, prep soundbites and do post production. I am still doing Drax Files documentaries as well which are quite involved. In terms of scratching the surface: Eshi was so kind as to volunteer to break the ice – we depend on folks sharing THEIR voice, THEIR experience with us, otherwise we have dead air 🙂

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    1. I’m not suggesting you done condone harassment, just as I don’t believe the BBC condone drug abuse on the basis of interviewing a user.

      However, there are two sides to this story, and in reviewing the show, it would have been remiss of me not to point out the other side of the coin. Crap raised a omment as to how Esteban’s actions could be interpreted within the rules and regulations of the platform, and it is a very fair point – particularly where those at the wrong end of Esteban’s humour is concerned.

      As to my comments on the length of the interview, I do understand the limitations in time you have in putting together the shows. All I’m really saying is that something like TDFRH takes time to reach a level of equilibrium between covering an item for “too long” or not. Finding a measure within pieces which defines the beat and rhythm of the show (as you undoubtedly know far more than I) takes a number of broadcasts to achieve, with nips and tucks being make along the way, broadcast on broadcast. In that regard, the beat of the Esteban piece, taken as a generic interview & ignoring the subject matter, for me came over as a little two long and noticeably broke the rhythm of this show, which had otherwise been nicely paced in the balance between the more “rapid fire” and “newsy” items and the likes of the Rift coverage and Monty’s chat about HTTP. So from my perspective (and it is only my perspective!) being a little tighter on the length of time in future, similar interviews might help maintain that rhythm a little better.

      I did get that the out-of-the-closet bit was intentionally aimed at encouraging people to give their own experiences – hence why I pointed to the blog comments and Skype for people to give their feedback; don’t mistake underlining your approach with critiquing it! :).

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  2. And I have never even heard of Esteban Winsmore.

    Should I care?

    What’s that line? No man is an island unto himself, and then there’s all that stuff about asking not for whom the bell tolls.

    Nope, I still don’t care. Sorry. I maxed out on Dunbar’s number long since.

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  3. As someone who has a lot of discussions about consent… I feel that it is the biggest issue with this sort of “humour”. I don’t consent to having to defend myself against people who think that harassing me is fun.

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