Inventing the Future

Vinge Vision

Our David Smith has long had a vivid vision of ubiquitous computing that has complemented that of author Vernor Vinge. Here’s another step towards making that real.

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Inventing the Future

Where We've Been

The Teleplace release is a mature application for getting work done in realtime collaboration with others. This makes a good occasion to look at some direct progenitors. The first two are the 1994 Interactive Collaboration Environment prototype by David Smith. The third is a 2007 Julian Lombardi demo of Croquet.

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Inventing the Future

The Colony

Our company CTO, David Smith, has been the principle architect of Croquet since the beginning. Long before that, he wrote the first commercial 3D game for a personal computer. Here’s some video (made with an actual video camera on old Mac) of how The Colony looked in 1987.

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Inventing the Future

Operations Center +1

David Smith made this video a year ago, showing how you could have:

  • virtual world objects automatically populated by real world objects;
  • scripted behavior for those interactive objects that:

    • gives realtime display of real world data associated with those objects;
    • allows you to control the associated real world objects (like Swayze in “Ghost”);

  • all while functioning in a standard virtual world in which the participants can communicate with voice/video/text/gesture and spontaneously share apps, etc.

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Inventing the Future

Maturity

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Inventing the Future

Cred on “The Street”

Yesterday Lockheed announced that it had bought Croquet simulations learning company 3D Solve. (3D Solve’s founding CTO is David Smith, who is Chief System Architect for the Croquet Consortium, and CTO of Qwaq. Consortium point-man Julian Lombardi is an advisor.) Being Lockheed, the news was carried by financial folks like CNN and Merrill Lynch, but I’m most excited by the release carried by Gamasutra and Serious Games Source, which is all about Croquet.

This comes on the heels this week of Cisco blogs about Qwaq.

I’m old enough to know that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. But it certainly ain’t bad news, and it gives a lot of credibility to the Croquet platform. I hope that Croquet folks around the world are able to make good use of this news in setting up their own projects.


This week I had posted links to some cool new Croquet project movies, but I missed this somewhat cold one from 3D Solve.

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Inventing the Future

I Can't Quit You Brie, So I'm Gonna Put You Down For a While

(Sorry, Willie Dixon.)

I haven’t been working on our Brie user-interface framework for a while now. We took it to a certain early level in Jasmine Croquet, in which we pretty solidly worked out user interface conventions, internal infrastructure, and the basic direct-manipulation philosophy.

Although not terribly novel (we stole liberally from David Smith, David Unger/Randall Smith, David Place/Pat O’Keefe, and, running out of Davids, Stallman/Sussman), Brie was still fairly advanced and abstract research, and we had more immediate work to do: Dormouse and the Croquet SDK release, and several projects using them. Brie had been sustained with financial support from NICT which has come to a pause. A great friend and entire world’s best salesman and demo-jock for Croquet went to Duke. So nothing got done on Brie following C5 ’06.

Brie has not yet been integrated with the current Croquet SDK. It still needs a lot of work in both the graphics and the API between private and replicated Croquet. It might be most efficient to let some dust settle here: Josh is working on new Croquet graphics, Andreas is working on 2D interfaces, and David Smith is working on the task/interactor model.

But the main thing is that I’m starting another project that I’m very excited about (more about this later), so I know that I won’t have time to work on Brie for a while. Fortunately, I do think that, say, phase III or so of the new project will be a driver for pulling Brie out of the closet again.

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Inventing the Future

What the Dormouse Said

Everyone’s been waiting patiently for Hedgehog. There’s no way to know when the next step of David Reed’s Tea Time will be available. As David Smith and Andreas Raab began working on Simplified Tea Time for Hedgehog, there was no way to know when that process would produce results.

The Croquet group at the University of Wisconsin is not in the Computer Science department. We’re not driven by the theoretical concepts of Croquet for its own sake. We are in the Academic Technology department of the Division of Information Technology, and our interest is in building educational applications in Croquet. Adding stuff to the Croquet core is fun, but what we really need is to build learning environments with faculty. Last summer, we had the opportunity to just that, and we took it, even though we knew that the existing Jasmine proof-of-concept version of Croquet would not meet our needs. What to do?

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Inventing the Future

Collateral

It’s been heads-down hard work around here ever since OOPSLA in October. Haven’t even filed my expense report yet. (Coding is more fun.) So I’m pretty late in posting that…

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Inventing the Future

Inventing the Future: connectivity and freedom

My dear friend John, whose generosity and interests drive this site, has said something in comment to this entry, which I just have to call him on:

“The more everything ties together the more we are open for invasion. But the Paris Hiltons of the world seem to embrace the great borgification, the assimilation into the overmind, in which notions such as autonomy and privacy are not so much quaint as incomprehensible.”

Whoa, there buddy! You’re going to have to explain why tying stuff together makes it more open to invasion. Ever try to invade a strawberry thicket? There’s good design and bad design (with respect to various desirable or undesirable effects), but I see no reason that a good interconnected design is any more pervious then a bunch of isolated stuff. In fact, in my admittedly limited understanding of military and tech. security history, the concepts of “defense in depth” and “divide and conquer” suggest to me that interconnected stuff (if done right) may be inherently safer.

Besides, I’m touchy-feely enough that I just plain like the idea of interconnectedness (done right) being not only safer, but freer and more open and enabling, not more oppressive. Croquet architect David Smith just attended the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in Madrid. They have produced a document that begins to articulate how I happen to feel. It is called The Infrastructure of Democracy.

I had a conversation with someone at the University here about architecting Croquet – or a class of Croquet applications – so that the infrastructure can be centrally controlled. By the University, by a consortium of universities or what have you. “This is wrong,” I thought. If you design it so that the whole thing – the very infrastructure — can be controlled by you, then it will be controlled, but not by you. Either Croquet will be a success or it won’t, and if it is a success, then the Elephant in the Hallway, Microsoft, will come along and control their version. Or some government, or terrorists, or whatever bad guys haunt your anxiety closet.

I’ve recently learned from some folks in the tech security community that security is weakened when you rely on prohibiting that which you cannot prevent. Systems fail, so design your system to fail gracefully. Connectivity is abused, so design your systems to respond to it. Openness and interconnectivity are powerful tools for dealing with the attacks we cannot prevent.

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