Inventing the Future

Because You Can

Ever since Shelly’s “Frankenstein”, the distinguishing characteristic of science fiction (as opposed to fantasy and other literature) has been the postulation that beings can change the circumstances of the world in which they live. We can alter the human condition, for better or worse. An idea of the last few decades has been that we can create an alternative reality for ourselves that is better than the one we inhabit in the flesh. For example, the movie “Avatar” has the characters access an improved natural world through a virtualized experience.

This terrific short blog applies this idea wonderfully to learning and collaboration. “The real power of a virtual immersive environment is the ability to transport the learner or collaborators into an environment that is ideally suited for the learning or collaborating that needs to take place and this usually requires an altering of the spaces.”

In principle, we can abstractly virtualize such an experience with 2D photographs, or even 1D text, but that doesn’t tend to cross the threshold of immersion that is necessary for deep learning and deep collaboration. As this commenter on the above puts it, “In most 2-D meeting tools, the data is the center of focus, not the human. Think about a Web meeting. The leader is simply showing participants slides. But the participants are not interacting with the information, nor one another.” Simply reading about nature or viewing it from a helicopter was not enough for the characters in Avatar, they had to “be” there and interact with it.

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Inventing the Future

What's in a name?: Application Collaboration

<%image(20090711-application-collaboration.png|433|347|Application Collaboration)%>
It has been hard to express the character of this new way of working through collaborative 3D virtual worlds. I’ve made lots of explorations of the many ideas, but two of the biggies have been that:

  1. Applications are shared by many people simultaneously. This does not mean just that one application program license can be used on many computers, or that copies of an application’s document can be passed around, although these are true. I think the unique thing is that the live combination of application/document can be used by many people simultaneously, as though looking over each other’s shoulder.
  2. Each person can use many applications simultaneously. This does not mean just that a user can switch between application windows on their own desktop, but rather that they can easily be arranged and used in a persistent context that is shared in real-time between users.

We call this “application collaboration” to distinguish it from other forms of collaboration that do not have this dual nature. I’m still wrestling with the term.

I think the above picture of today’s Forums gets at this very nicely. Below is a picture of Croquet from more than two years ago. It’s interesting to me that they are functionally equivalent, and yet today’s picture makes the point of application collaboration so much clearer in both picture and practice. (I showed the two pictures to my wife. She said it was my strength and my weakness that I could see that both were illustrating the same concept.)
<%image(20060507-multi.jpg|433|275|Croquet Application Collaboration)%>

Posted in Inventing the Future, meta-medium | Also tagged , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

2.0 Sees the Light of Day

Sorry for going dark for a bit. I’ve been working on our 2.0 version. You gotta love it when you work way hard and it’s way fun. But:

  1. I’ve had no time to write.
  2. I couldn’t write about what I was working on (until now).

I’ve got lots to babble about now and will do so soon, after a bit of rest. In the mean time some other folks’ take: Reuters (press release), Culture of Collaboration (blogger’s tight overview), Virtual World News (nice summary representation).

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Inventing the Future

What I did with Tea Time

Guy Steele is a sweet guy who doesn’t give folks a hard time. But I have heard him several times lament that many computer science conferences are filled with variations on the same paper, which he lampoons as, “How I cataloged my CD collection with Lisp.” (I think he started saying this back when they were called record collections. I haven’t seen him in years and I suppose the routine now refers to MP3s.)

I’ve just been wrestling with a problem, and I’m so charmed with the Tea Time solution that I’m willing to sound like a college student that just learned how to do something mundane with his new profound toy. Call me a hack.

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Inventing the Future

Long Strange Trip

The UK’s Tech Radar has a preview of a nice piece that will appear in PC Plus. It overviews Intel’s Miramar work on 3D and collaboration.

Meanwhile, there’s a nice discussion of much more of the history of Miramar on this blog.

I think the two make a nice example of the difference between blogging and first sources on the one hand, and journalism on the other.

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Inventing the Future

Testing 1, 2, 3. Check. Check. …. Waiter?!

I’ve been working with some test harnesses for our Croquet worlds. It’s been a real pain working outside of Croquet: getting things to happen across multiple platforms. Moving data around. It’s all so much easier in a virtual space that automatically replicates everything.

Anyway, we finally got it working enough that there are several machines in Qwaq’s Palo Alto office that are all running around as robots in a virtual world, doing various user activities to see what breaks. Being (still!) in Wisconsin, I have to peek on these machines via remote. I’m currently using Virtual Network Computing (VNC), but there’s also Windows Remote Desktop (RDP). These programs basically scrape the screen at some level, and send the pictures to me. So when these robots are buzzing around in-world, I get a screen repaint, and then another, and then another. And that’s just one machine. If I want to monitor what they’re all doing, I have to use have a VNC window open for each, scraping and repainting away. Yuck. If only there were a better way….

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Inventing the Future

Spontaneous Usage

bloggingfrominworld

One success metric that I’ve been shooting for is that I want a user to do something in Croquet that was not specifically intended by the authors of the space or software. It’s very cool to create something that is ideally suited for a particular usage, but it’s really something to create a meta-tool whose usage exceeds the sum of its designed parts.

This fellow Laurence apparently created his blog entry from within the Collaborative.

I had expected and hoped the first such spontaneous use to be something based on collaboration, or on usability or scalability. This was not. It was done because it was fun to do. That’s pretty cool, actually. Shows what I know…

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Inventing the Future

Network Model Security

Last week I described the network model we’re building for Croquet, and was asked about some security issues. I think the main security weaknesses to what I have described come from the ability to misrepresent oneself as the Introducer or as a machine responsible for a World, or to deny others access to a World or the Introducer by sending a bunch of messages to it that demand its attention. Part of the answer in both cases is to distribute the roles of Introducer and of Worlds among many machines

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Inventing the Future

Inventing the Future: Jasmine release

Croquet is still being designed. Personally, I’d like to see something useable this summer, but that remains to be seen.

There is a “developer’s version” available now, called Jasmine, but there’s some confusion as to what Jasmine is in relation to the real thing. I’m going to try to straighten that out here.

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