Wetmachine Blog: Brie

Inventing the Future: component architecture

Voting and the Emergent Value of Presence

There’s a lot of interest in voting technology for the expected record numbers of voters in the US presidential election, and voting widgets have become an expected accessory in social Web sites. But the simplest voting technology is no explicit technology. Is there a place for that in virtual worlds?

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N-D: the DNA of user interfaces

There’s a lot of work being done on so-called 3D desktops. I think it’s worth getting some finer-grained terminology. There’s 1-, 2-, and 3-D, and the fractional 2.25-D and 2.5-D. And there’s the non-spatial dimensions T-D, G-D, A-D, C-D and O-D.

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Brie Demos

I gave a demo of Brie at the OOPSLA Croquet workshop in October, and Julian gave one a couple weeks ago at C5. Alas, no video, but the Brie papers are here and here.

This terrific video of the Alternate Reality Kit was made at Xerox PARC in 1987. So, of course, it’s not actually Brie, but it does give a lot of the feel of what we’re going for. There are a few UI differences and the ARK is only 2D, but the main thing is that Brie is synchronously collaborative, and therefore eminently shareable.

Another related thing (without a cool video) was PARC’s Thing Lab.

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Scalable Information Management by Information Interfaces and Peer Editing

Last week I was asked about information management in Croquet. Editing and editorial are tough problems in any global information system. I don’t have a magic bullet, but I do think we have two general approaches.

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Touchability

I’ve been trying to capture “what it is” about software that has a sense of fun, is toylike, and which allows users to feel they are directly manipulating “real” objects that they more-or-less understand. I want to shorten the link with pen pointers instead of mice. That’s a lot of words. There’s something more basic.

Touchability. I think human beings are uniquely wired to fondle stuff, and to want to do so. My dog sniffs and tastes. Ants use their antennae. We comprehend and alter the world with our hands. I play with my so-touchable wine glass, but not with the utilitarian water glass next to it. No child can resist touching a musical instrument left out, particularly strings and pianos because they don’t need lips. I always reach for my leather coat before my ski jacket. Bad Flash sites are visually stimulating, but good ones make me want to touch it all over to be rewarded with workings and sounds.

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Low res or no res?

I sometimes get asked about Croquet for computing devices with lower graphics capability, such as today’s phone/PDA/iPods. I think the train of thought is that there’s so much in Croquet that could be valuable independently of the immersive 3D environment, so shouldn’t that part be available on lesser machines?

I feel it is only worthwhile to initially build Croquet – all of Croquet and only one Croquet – on machines with the best commonly available graphics capability and also on those with no visual capability whatsoever!

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Back to the Future

In working on Brie, I had been vaguely aware that the ‘Self’ language was similarly based on copying prototypes rather than instantiating classes. So I kind of went ‘yeah, whatever’ when Rick McGeer and others told me to check up on this ’80’s Xerox PARC project.

Wow. I hadn’t realized that Self was so close in both the domain and the solution spaces. If there’s interest I’ll try to produce a comparison later, but for now, check out the Self site and, in particular, this paper.

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Transparent Computing

In What Is It About Immersive 3D?, I claim that being immersed in among the application components allows and encourages us to mix and match among bits and pieces of different applications. That is, we’re getting rid of the idea of having separate “applications” on a computer.

I forgot to mention the other aspect of immersive 3d: that we want to get rid of the computer. Well, actually, that we want to make using each application object feel like a real world object, not a computer thingie. The direct manipulation feel makes it easier to work with stuff, and the lack of indirect abstractions and symbols makes it easier to understand.

A few examples below the fold.

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What Is It About Immersive 3D?

When something new comes along, we tend to describe what it is. If it’s something important, it takes a while to figure out why it’s important – what it is that is really different. The description of what something is tends to be somewhat dry and technical and it misses the point. For example, a telegraph is an encoder and a decoder in an electric circuit. But couriers and semaphores involve coders and decoders, and other stuff has had electric circuits. What was important about the telegraph was that it provided instantaneous long-distance communication. This is also what was important about its successors like the telephone and radio, even though the descriptions of what each is are quite different than that of the telegraph. It’s not as simple as describing what a new invention does for people. Quite often we don’t know how it will be used.

Since I first heard about Croquet, I’ve been trying to figure out what is really important about the immersive 3D that everyone first notices about it. I think I now have an idea. It turns out that the “immersive” part is key.

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components have a name — Brie

I don’t know why software projects need meaningless codename, but they do. Maybe that’s how this ethereal stuff becomes “real.”

I can’t say that all our U.Wisconsin projects for Croquet will be named after cheese, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Not sure why Wisconsin means cheese, yet we start with a French cheese. But Brie is cool. My wife lived there for a while. The have big parties when the new cheeses come out, but you can also buy this old wrinkled stuff that you can’t get here, which my wife calls “fromage morte.”

So, what is Brie?

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