V-Rtifacts

Tag Archive: Hype

The Great Bubble

2013 has brought much excitement to the VR world, especially the perception of great breakthroughs in Head Mounted Display products. Can we take a deep breath, then hold up a distant mirror to the cautionary history of VR from 1993-1998. Back then there also was a fever pitch of excitement as companies pitched great breakthroughs, attracted outsize investments from private and public markets, and yet, the best of them crashed and burned, taking their investors, customers, and vendors down with them.

I invite you to review this chronological collection of VR news reports beginning with the fire sale of VPL’s much vaunted patent portfolio. The reports follow the rise and fall of three VR industry giants: Virtuality, IO Systems, and Superscape. I present these as examples, but they’re not alone. Very few VR firms escaped the 90’s. Sadly the VR bubble burst long before the late 90’s tech bubble burst. It wasn’t the economy – stupid!

Does history repeat itself?

View PDF

The Cart Before The Horse, Once Again – Project Glass

Google has been tearing through the bandwidth over at the Patent Office in defense of Project Glass, April’s much touted announcement of Google’s entry into the world of augmented reality and head mounted displays. One especially clever patent covers their bases on the use of glasses nose-bridge as a power switch.

Trouble is: where’s the beef? ReadWriteWeb nicely summarizes just why Google stressed that their promo video was just a “concept”, not anything we should expect in the foreseeable future. A few well aimed snippets from their article:

What a disappointment! Google’s prototype heads-up display glasses do not have the Terminator-style graphics shown in the concept video. They just show a simple readout above the user’s line of sight for now. That’s no fun.

After the video came out, Google execs immediately started showing up at conferences and on talk shows wearing Google glasses. But they were vague about the actual capabilities of these prototypes. When Sebastian Thrun dared to demo the camera while live on the Charlie Rose show, the result was pretty harrowing.

Concept videos cross the line when the company can’t deliver the goods. That’s why it’s risky to make them. As writer John Gruber is fond of pointing out, that’s why Apple stopped making such videos. Apple learned its lesson. Now it ships the devices of the future before it ever shows them off, leaving its competitors looking like they’re trying too hard.

Anyway, read the article and decide for yourself…

You may also enjoy this “concept” video:

 

 

 

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!

 

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

A Day In The Life

Scenes from a typical day in the virtual world of tomorrow:

You wake up and attend to your daily bathroom rituals, which unfortunately will never be replaced by any virtual reality process… Thus, after your real world morning ceremonies are completed, it’s time to get immersed in your virtual world…. By the time you put on all your gear and make all the proper calibrations, nearly an hour has passed and you’re still not even logged in… It’s like getting ready for a joust, only you don’t have servants and footmen to help you get dressed.

Harvey Newquist in the Premier Issue of the Virtual Reality Special Report, 1994

With apologies to Matt at PaleoFuture (’cause I spotted this article first, but it’s really apropo of his blog), Newquist takes a hard poke at the realities of (im)practical Virtual Realities. In addition to the clumsiness factor, he somehow drags in Hillary Clinton and the Center for Disease Control:

Getting dressed up, sharing greasy headsets – it all sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? … As everyone from Hillary Clinton to the Center for Disease Control begins to worry about what kind of communicable diseases you can get… people are going to get a little bit more finicky about what they strap onto their bodies…

Newquist concludes:

We want VR to grow up to be warm and friendly like Ward Cleaver. What we might get if we don’t give more thought to the VR interface is Ted Bundy.

And all this time I’ve been striving for Al Bundy!

Read the whole article: A Day In The Life for yourself!

 

 

State of the Art…Sadly

Over at Meant to be Seen 3D, in answer to a forum post looking for the perfect HMD, board vet, cybereality took the time to respond in depth…

Money quote:

Well, sadly to say it, you will probably be waiting for a long time. There is nothing I know of on the market that fulfills the Virtual Reality fantasy of the 1990’s, and in many ways the stuff they had back then was even more advanced then most of the stuff on the consumer market today. Even if you look at medical/military $20k HMDs, they still don’t even have full HD resolutions or the kind of FOV you would expect in the year 2010 (almost 2011 now). I mean, there have been some interesting research projects in academia, but nothing that could actually play a retail video game out-the-box. At this point I am think about building a DIY HMD myself, and some other members on the forum have already started projects. It just seems that the market is not ready for a consumer level VR device (meaning a headset and any accompanying peripherals). In recent years it seems that Augmented Reality (AR) is gaining popularity and is probably where the industry is headed. So I think a see-through AR-based HMD may have a place in the market in the near future. But the traditional idea of a encompassing display helmet and data-gloves seems to be fading (as much as I’d like it to be real). Hopefully there will continue to be progress in this field.

Read the full post for more…