V-Rtifacts

When Virtual Reality Was Always Virtual

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Beware the funny hair… its a tech cult giveaway

Matt Novak, in Smithsonian’s Paleofuture blog, draws some interesting contrasts between Jaron Lanier’s 1991 Omni Magazine interview and his current book: “You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto.

1990s virtual reality as seen in The Carousel of Progress (photo by Matt Novak)

While the Omni article portrays Lanier as

“…a man of vision, enthusiasm, and purpose, if a bit of an eccentric: “The Pied Piper of a growing technological cult, Lanier has many of the trappings of a young rock star: the nocturnal activity, attention-getting hair, incessant demands on his time.”

You Are Not A Gadget has the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction – techno-reactionary. As one reviewer puts it:

“Jaron Lanier is really, really bothered by a laundry list of standard arch-conservative nemeses (Marxism! today’s kids! filesharing! the breakdown of the social contract! foreigners stealing our jobs!) as well as a basket of useful-yet-imperfect modern technologies (Wikipedia! Blogs! MIDI! Linux!) He is aware of a sinister cabal of cybernetic totalists who are hard at work on a machine to xerox his brain and force him to use Facebook to meet girls.

He regularly starts a section with the assertion of a Great Digital Evil (the record industry is dying! bloggers don’t spell check!), then insinuates a link to his vague overarching thesis… his desire to save the world from the Great Digital Evil he has not quite described. Apparently people need to be more like squids – while remaining uniquely special humans, of course. Also, financial contracts should be written in LISP. And pop songs should live in coffee mugs so they can’t be downloaded. I kid you not.”

Head over to Matt’s take on the whole affair!

 

Platypus Headsets?

The Science Channel interviews Jaron Lanier who shows off some wide field of view headsets from the late 80’s. Jaron feels like a platypus when wearing one of these JumboTrons. The narrator’s conclusion (and Jaron’s as well): The state of the art in VR hasn’t progressed too much further.

 
(A tip of the hat to Aphradonis over at mtbs3d.com for finding this little gem!)

 

Seeing the Eye in a New Light

There’s been an enormous resurgence of DIY HMDs in the VR hacker community recently, some quite impressive. Understanding how the eye works is the key to these inventions. I found a really instructive 70 year old nugget which gives HMD designers the real lowdown. All the way from 1941 to you….

If you find this video a little advanced (it really isn’t), check out part 1 of the same series:

Eyeborg – Seeing farther…

Rob Spence, had his eye replaced with a video camera after a shotgun accident. He then set out to make this incredible documentary about visual and limb prostheses. The concept of direct imaging to the brain and the incorporation of augmented reality has been much flailed over the past 30 years. Spence introduces us to several people who’ve actually had it done. He also engages the viewer in the ethical considerations; whether people will eventually choose to have their eyes and limbs removed and replaced with cyborg parts. Could certainly change the odds in your office NFL betting pool!

3-Dimensions… For the First Time… 3-D FEELIES!!

MAD Magazine, June 1954:

DDD (3D) COMICS DEPT: By now you are familiar with 3-D Comic Books! You Know that some 3-D books enclose One set of 3-D glasses… You know some 3-D Books enclose Two sets of 3-D glasses! We are proud to announce that we of Mad are enclosing No sets of 3-D glasses for this, our first Mad story in… 3-DIMENSIONS!

Mad 3D

(click on Super-Mickey to view original article)

 

The Joydick

At the risk of overstepping any and all boundaries of propriety, here are complete do-it-yourself build instructions for an “incredible” haptic feedback interface for your Atari console. With a bit of soldering and epoxy, you can add force feedback into any Atari console game, everyone’s a winner, come one, come all. First check out the demo video, then follow these step by step build instructions. Don’t forget anything from the parts list, especially the tissues.

Is It VR Yet?

Harvey Newquist tires of waiting for the New York Post headline to scream: “Wife Dumps Husband For Cybersex Lover” or “Computer Casanova Seduces Virtual Valerie.”

Money quote:

Does the average person get to see or use any of this stuff? Can you go any place just experience the joys of VR? Is Ronald Reagan in full control of his senses? The answer to all these questions is an emphatic “no.” … Try asking your next-door neighbor about VR. Ask him or her about their most recent VR experience.

Has anything changed in the 15 years since this 1996 article was published in the Virtual Reality Special Report?

PDF Here