goldkin: i has book (Default)
[personal profile] goldkin
Earlier, I tweeted this at an old acquaintance of mine from Second Life, qDot:

@qDot VR in a nutshell: all this extra bandwidth by adding a dimension, and we still haven't figured out how to make it useful beyond porn.

@qDot The translation of the literal to the spacial is still a work in progress. That design problem is still surprisingly underexplored.



Let's unpack what's going on here. qDot and I are both big VR enthusiasts, for entirely different reasons. He's a hardware sort of guy, whereas I spend almost all of my time in software. What I'm saying here is that the spatial design that makes virtual reality actually work is missing from many designs, and that this design space seems, largely, underexplored.

This seems strange to me. The human mind is very good at spatial perception and spatial memory. So much so, that a common strategy of memorizing long strings of digits is to construct a memory palace that spatially organizes specific sets of digits into mnemonic objects or concepts.

It seems equally strange, then, that our common devices continue to use such a flat design. Even as I sit here typing this, I'm using a display model that's nothing more than an extension of the Xerox PARC GUI. Screen rendering is flat and fixed-axis, with the horizontal and vertical corresponding to the boundaries of my monitor. The third axis, depth, is entirely flat, constrained to compositing windows on top of one another in priority order. Depth of field is removed almost entirely.

It's a nice, clean, accessible design that misses out on much of what the brain has to offer in terms of processing power. So, what I really said to qDot above was:

"I think we (as a species) can do this VR thing much better, if we focus on the right spatial design problems."


How, then, does one make existing technologies make sense spatially? The games industry certainly solved it for themselves: look at the jump, for example, between
Super Metroid and Metroid Prime.

This is less of a doing and more of an undoing, however. In those older 2D platformers, we were trained to the 2D abstraction. All the newer 3D games needed was to undo the flatland perspective, while retaining (and in many cases, forward-porting) all of the concepts, art, and lessons learned along the way.

I believe that this is so with the state of computing UI, as well. All we need to do is undo the flatland abstraction, while porting what we've learned along the way. I openly have no idea what form that will take, but I believe, from simple analogy and many, many experiments, that it's entirely practical.


It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that I'm extremely excited about Google Glass, and to a lesser extent, the Oculus Rift. The primary source of my excitement is in how they change the UI model: from a flatland perspective into an overlay of reality.

This imparts in me a sort of visceral zen that I experienced, to a lesser degree, in Second Life. Even with its clumsy interface, terrible lag, and laundry list of other problems, Second Life provided for me one of the most compelling environments that I could tinker within. The sole reason: it offered me a 3D world that I could constantly alter, allowing me to bring my full mental resources to bear.

I haven't experienced quite this same feeling since then, beyond rare real life operations, working in a CAD tool like Blender, or playing the occasional 3D videogame. I miss it. But, I feel the return of this model is rapidly approaching, and it fills me with joy that others might get to finally experience this.

It seems trite of me, but I believe this small change in UI may profoundly impact how we see the world and see ourselves. That is, provided developers spend the time learning how to express their user interfaces, designs, and concepts in spatially-oriented, idiomatic ways.

Which is why I'm a software sort of dragon. I like abstraction. I enjoy playing around in the virtual ether and sharing my creations. And I just think (nay, hope) that this will let me express myself in ways that I feel are more like me.

Date: 2013-05-03 11:39 am (UTC)
tayruu: (happy)
From: [personal profile] tayruu
The ability to better express or texture the world or yourself is something I can agree on wanting to see in VR technology.

In regards to video games; the likes of the Kinect does the augmented-reality sort of dealie ... poorly. The 3DS has an example of doing it much better with its pre-packaged "AR Games" and Bravely Default. The visual novel and anime Robotics;Notes show technology I'm sure we're already capable of: geo-tagging to augment the camera-view within a tablet-device.

Now yes you're talking about virtual reality, but I'm sure the above are good enough stepping stones. While converting augmented tablets into eyewear may result in the aforementioned flat, distorted appearance, it's perhaps a start. Then later we can create sensory-deprivation pods to be the next game consoles.

Thinking on GUI and software though, I wonder what kind of interface a proper augmented-reality operating system would have? I am guilty of envisioning it in one story of mine as just a load of floating flat screens, but with the addition of depth and 3D shape, floating desktop windows doesn't seem such a reasonable concept.

Date: 2013-05-07 02:25 am (UTC)
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
From: [personal profile] jewelfox
Google Glass has serious privacy implications, which I hadn't considered before having them pointed out. I think there may be ways to get around that, but I'm not convinced Google cares yet.

I personally enjoyed PlayStation Home a great deal more than Second Life for virtual-world-style immersion, just because the UI is about a tenth as complicated and ten times more enjoyable. It's also designed around the assumption that you'll play games in it. I realize it's harder for indie developers to break into, though, and has no Free Software implementation.

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