The Drax Files Radio Hour 19: sending you back to the future

radio-hourEpisode 19 of the The Drax Files Radio Hour is largely devoted to the recent transhumanist-focused Back to the Future of the Metaverse.

As well as being available on the show’s website and on Stitcher, the show is also on YouTube, and it is to that recording (embedded at the end of this article) any timestamps given in the text refer.

The show starts with a brief discussion on ways to help journos better present Second Life, with Jo having uploaded images of her 1920s Berlin Project to Wikimedia and as a part of a Wikipedia page on the project.

Leo Sun, writing for Motley Fool, picked-up on one of Jo images, together with one from the Lab, which was used in an article reflecting upon on the Facebook / Oculus VR vision of a billion-user “MMO”, thus suggesting putting out information and (particularly) good quality images that are readily available for re-use, copyright-wise, may be a way of raising SL’s visibility.

Drax also promotes the forthcoming metaverse panel which will take place at the first Silicon Valley VR (SVVR) Conference and Expo, and which he will be moderating. The panel will feature Ebbe Altberg (Linden Lab), Philip Rosedale (High Fidelity), Stefano Corazza (Mixamo), Tony Parisi (Vizi), and will take place on Tuesday May 20th, who will be considering topics such as:

  • One global metaverse or many?
  • Identity and privacy
  • Virtual World Governance: democracies, the greek god model, or benevolent dictators
  • Intellectual property and legal jurisdictions
  • Avatar portability and standards
Creating the VR metaverse panel
(l to r): Ebbe Altberg, Philip Rosedale, Stefano Corazza and Tony Parisi. Ready to answer questions on “Creating the VR Metaverse”

If you have a question you’d like to put to one, some or all of the panel, please leave it in the comments section at the end of this announcement.

The main thrust of the show however, is a look at the aforementioned Back to the Future of the Metaverse event, which took place on Thursday, May 15th, albeit it not without technical issues. An event organised by the Skefi’a online science/fiction magazine, led by Giulio Prisco (SL: giulioprisco), it was billed as a discussion of “the VR renaissance outlined in Back to the future in the Metaverse”, an essay by Mr. Prisco, published by Skefi’a on April 22nd.

On hand at the event were a number of speakers. Unfortunately, issues with SL meant things did not go as planned, and activities had to be hastily decamped to Google Hangouts, where only a subset of the participants were able to be involved in activities. Two of these were Philip Rosedale of SL and High Fidelity fame and Stephen Larson,  CEO of MetaCell and a co-founder and the project coordinator for the OpenWorm open science project, both of whom feature in this podcast.

A full video of the event is available on YouTube, with Philip Rosedale initially speaking between the 0:07:00 mark and the 0:09:50 mark, prior to the move to Google Hangouts, with his presentation resuming at the 0:21:55 mark following the move. The Radio show’s coverage of his presentation starts at the 8:20 mark in the podcast, and begins at the point where things have been picked-up in Google Hangouts.

For those who have been following High Fidelity and recent blog posts Mr. Rosedale has made, together with his presentations at events like the SVVR meet-up in March, and his VWBPE keynote, there is little of additional note in what he has to say in the roughly 12 minutes in which he speaks or in the Q&A session which follows. As well as re-treading some of the work High Fidelity are doing, and their approach to a distributed computing approach to virtual environments, he again re-states his belief in technology  – and the removal of the keyboard and mouse – as being the single key required to unlock the doors to the mass adoption of virtual environments.

How High Fidelity will work - click for full size (courtesy of High Fidelity)
How High Fidelity will work – click for full size (courtesy of High Fidelity)

I was unconvinced by this latter argument when Mr. Rosedale raised it at the VWBPE conference, and I remain unconvinced now, my view still pretty much the one I expressed in reporting his VWBPE appearance:

The latter [technology] can certainly enhance our experiences once we’re in a virtual world, no doubt about that. There is also no denying that with something like SL, more needs to be done to reduce that initial learning curve for someone entering the environment.

However, like it or not, springboarding VWs into mainstream adoption isn’t purely a technical issue, there is a social element as well. There needs to be compelling reasons to encourage people to turn to VWs instead of other possible options … As such, for many, the technology will not be the value proposition that will encourage them to be more involved in VWs. There needs to be something more.

Botgirl Questi actually put this view far more succinctly, also as a result of hearing Mr. Rosedale’s comments at VWBPE:

Mainstream use of virtual worlds requires compelling mainstream use cases that clearly trump other options. Better technology doesn’t matter to people who don’t know why they’d want to use a virtual world at all. That’s the challenge that no one has successfully addressed.

I thus find myself in a position of thinking that while emerging technologies will undoubtedly make various things more “fun” and “exciting”, and will lead to them being grabbed and employed by early adopters around the world (as already has been the case with the Oculus Rift), unless and until the challenge of why is successfully addressed, then things may remain somewhat more stymied in terms of global mass adoption, technology notwithstanding.

Stephen Larsen’s presentation commences at the 0:51:53 mark in the Back to the Future of the Metaverse video, with the podcast picking it up at the 35:55 mark. He focuses on the work to build the world’s first digital organism, the OpenWorm, and his presentation includes both slides and video, which can be viewed on-line, and are probably best seen in a follow-along mode.

There’s not a lot to say on the latter. The presentation should be followed, and answers the majority of questions as to why the project is being undertaken, and where it has been leading, including the development of Geppetto, a web-based multi-algorithm, multi-scale simulation platform engineered to support the simulation of complex biological systems and their surrounding environment, and the OpenWorm kickstarter.

All told, a very different segment of The Drax Files Radio Hour, some of which may seem rather far removed form the subject of virtual worlds and immersive virtual environments, but which nevertheless makes interesting listening. The overall approach to the show is pretty much down to the issues encountered during the Back to the Future of the Metaverse, which appear to have resulted in the planned recordings of presentations and the chance for direct discussions with the participants being somewhat lost. As it is, it appears some will now be interviewed for future TDRH podcasts.