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  • Silly Big Bang
    suns just like ours So then our galaxy must be the center of the universe but oops we find that there are countless other galaxies out there Each time we set a center we are forced to to rethink Quite frankly the idea that there could be any center in time or space seems to me totally absurd I really don t understand people s difficulty with infinity The Big Bang people have learned to be incredibly slippery and many will protest that there is no central point in the universe that it all came from that all this is the center because it all came from the same event But this is just playing with words You can ask them how big the universe supposed is to be now and they ll come up with a number about 12 billion light years across Then you can ask them how big it was 6 billion years ago and they ll come up with a smaller number You can ask them how big it was 11 billion years ago and they ll give you an even smaller number You can ask them how big the universe was when it was a billionth of a second old and they ll give you a very small number Yet they hate being pinned down to saying that the universe has a center O K So getting back to the redshift how else can we explain it Well space is not empty there is lots of gas and dust and gravitational and magnetic fields out there I find it difficult to believe that light would travel millions or billions of years through all that without losing some energy Light waves unlike sound waves can t dissipate energy by losing intensity so they would have to fall in frequency We would see this as surprise surprise a redshift There is another possible cause of light losing energy over those immense distances Low frequency electromagnetic waves spread out as they travel The higher the frequency the less this spread is and the tighter the beam Might not the waves that are individual visible light photons spread very slightly over the cosmic distances they travel And as they spread they lose energy As pointed out earlier a quantum of light can t lose energy in intensity so the only way for it to dissipate energy is to drop in frequency Redshift I am not saying that all redshift is due to energy loss from these sources and none is due to doppler But I do think that jumping to a conclusion that creates the entire universe in an instant from some unknowable magic is a bit hard to swallow To believe that redshift results solely from velocities would appear to lead us to either the Big Bang or Steady State While I find the Steady State more appealing and it has been by no means disproved contrary to what the prevailing dogma would have you believe it too

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/sillyBigBang.html (2016-04-25)
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  • VR Fiction
    from anywhere inside the virtual world including different actors viewpoints There are also several invisible directors cameras that the viewer can optionally use too The story could be viewed many times because if different viewpoints were chosen each time it would reward the viewer with a richer more nuanced understanding of the plot But machinima can be far far more than any of those examples Of the many possible traits machinima may display two are especially useful interactivity has been shown to hold people s attention for long periods instead of the few minutes most web pages do and multi threaded storylines encourage viewers to revisit the virtual world many times Production advantages A virtual world need not obey the laws of physics In VR you can do things and build structures impossible in the real world with no physical limits on size An efficiently designed virtual world can be a surprisingly tiny file An infinite world without a story can easily fit on a floppy disk Many hours perhaps days of VR fiction could be stored on a CD Showing machinima is as simple as putting a web page up on the net For those without net access worlds can be distributed on CD Machinima that allows multiple users to meet and interact is a little more complex but still far easier than distributing film or broadcasting TV Machinima has dramatically low production costs whereas film and TV are terribly expensive Machinima uses sets costumes and locations constructed from pure data instead of wood metal glass and cloth Data is not only cheaper to create in the first place it costs almost nothing to securely store vast amounts for an indefinite duration and if designed well in the first place it is not difficult to modify any number of times Of course it also has the advantage that when you modify those sets or costumes you still get to keep the originals because data costs nothing to duplicate A thousand uniforms cost as much to make as just one Lighting consists of simple instructions not vast arrays of fragile costly energy hungry lamps Cameras are invisible weightless and never break down they are simply recorded viewpoints They don t need cranes for aerial shots or tracks laid for dollying sequences or steadycam to smoothly follow action over uneven terrain The people working on a machinima story need not be transported to the same physical place they can collaborate from anywhere on the planet through the internet The story is delivered as a small immortal data file rather than bulky expensive easily damaged film stock Unlike current computer rendered films Shrek Toy Story Finding Nemo which require slow offline processing of images on expensive supercomputers over many months machinima is recorded in real time on an ordinary desktop computer If displayed inside VR then different people collaborating on a machinima project need only share tiny data files that can be easily sent over slow dialup lines Contrast this with the awful problems studios are haveing with current computer rendered films needing expensive very high speed data connections to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data per day Worldwide distribution and advertising can cost nothing if handled properly Actors or animators or both can be used to make the characters move Animators set up sequences of actions on the 3D models This is similar to but much simpler than what 3D animators do for films that use computer rendering Actors make more realistic movements than animators but cost less for machinima than for film or TV because they don t need to be glamorous they just need to be good actors They can do their own stunts without any danger to themselves Actors don t need to be laboriously made up and can instantly have any body form imaginable from a tiny glowing winged fairy Tinkerbell to a giant many legged monster A versatile actor can play several parts similar to how radio actors or voice talent in some cartoons have been known to How to make money from it Unfortunately money is a fact of life and is required in order to survive in today s unbalanced society Here is a quick overview of the ways that such a system could raise money I have spent many years working on internet related projects and trying to understand what kind of economic model can fit that unique environment I have come to the conclusion that trying to make a living by selling information based products as commodities based on restricted access or scarcity is doomed to failure Duplication is easy costs little or nothing and people have a natural desire to share with friends Success will be tied to harnessing these aspects instead of wasting time money and manpower fighting against them Machinima would ideally be made available on the net for free and viewers encouraged to copy it and pass it on to friends This brings great benefits in nearly eliminating the costs of distribution delivering to a world wide audience cheaply and efficiently The audience become the distributors and pleasure is their payment Donation I think that this is by far the most promising way to earn money via machinima It requires one to lose the greed based all users must pay philosophy and adopt a statistical approach of understanding that if enough people like something then a large enough proportion will pay This technique has been used very successfully with sites like http livejournal com It also has the ethical advantage of providing things freely to those who can t afford to pay Free users are not a loss to such a system though as they become very effective promoters of the shows There are other more conventional avenues for income too Advertisers Sponsors who want their products advertised in the stories will pay for product exposure just as they currently do in TV series and movies to have their song played in the background or to have one

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/VR-fiction2.html (2016-04-25)
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  • Consciousness and Immortality
    any other general purpose digital computer Many ordinary phenomena can be simulated by a digital computer but it is not necessarily clear that a Turing Machine can simulate the brain For instance the brain s activity might depend upon analog effects that are highly sensitive to very small initial conditions that is chaotic I can t prove it yet but I m persuaded that the brain is digital because of the way it goes to great lengths to pull stable results out of biologically noisy systems I am not saying that it is easy or that it will happen really soon but it will definitely happen Computing power is increasing in capability so rapidly that conservative projections put a 1000 computer in your hand in just 20 years that has the capacity of a human mind Just another 30 or so years after that a 1000 computer will be equivalent to the processing power of all the human brains on the planet And that is a conservative projection There is much to indicate it could happen well before that Now having the capability to simulate a human mind is clearly not the same thing as actually simulating a human mind The latter depends upon another technology scanning At present we can non destructively scan the brains of very small animals insects and such like resolving down to the level of individual nerve cells There are formidable technological hurdles to overcome before we can scan human brains to anything like that level of detail Worse we need to be able to scan at a level of detail much higher we need to be able to resolve individual receptor sites on synapses This technology may be some time in coming Some say that use of nano machines to travel inside the brain via its blood vessels and map it from within has a much greater chance of success in the near future Nanotechnology is coming of age very rapidly I have an open mind on this I am sure that a way will be found though and that it will be found inside the next few decades If my brain is simulated with perfect accuracy then the simulation will perform the set of actions that is by any sensible definition my consciousness If my original biological body is alive at the same time as the simulation is started then momentarily there will be 2 identical versions of me After that point they will of course begin to diverge in experience I have no desire to die I have too much curiosity and want to do too much If I lived several hundred years I would achieve only a fraction of what I want to do and learn But my biological body comes with an expiry date The only way I can get around that is to copy my brain s physical substrate as faithfully as possible to some effectively immortal format and have my consciousness continue there Computers power requirements are decreasing

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/consciousness-immortality.html (2016-04-25)
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  • VRML problems
    rather than children Making them grouping nodes would be more consistent with how other VRML nodes work like Transform Billboard Anchor Collision Switch and LOD and result in a more consistent and economical language See near the end of this list for more on sensors repetition appearance Appearance material Material color Color color and others This is wasteful and time consuming for the author and contributes to bloat of files arbitrary division of nodes and ambiguous confusing names The Shape node contains geometry what is a shape but geometry and appearance such a vague name as to be almost meaningless Appearance is divided into 2 main parts material another bizarrely ambiguous name and texture slightly more precise name but why this is divided off from material is anyone s guess The most absurd thing about this is that when an author thinks about modeling parts of the world they start with the geometry and other aspects are generally thought of as attributes of that I appreciate that keeping some qualities color glow transparency gloss etc separate from others geometry and texture mapping is useful for VRML s awfully broken DEF but it neither went far enough nor made enough sense to bother with imposing such confused and arbitrary categories on the poor authors Either DEF should have been fixed in which case all attributes could be under the one shape node or else each attribute could have its own node which would be silly overkill but would effectively place all the attributes under the one shape node again unnecessary typing of data If you want to send data from one part of the scene to another you find far too often that the strict data typing means you need to add a Script node bring in the data to convert it using Javascript which is essentially typeless and then send it back out to the scene again usually through one of those awful ROUTEs The argument for strict data typing is generally made for speed enhancement but all this slow conversion that is needed in any but the most simple wrls throws out the window any possible speed advantage I think the real reason is that it makes it easier for the programmer to design the viewer The trouble is that the viewer is created once All the wrls created after that are hamstrung by that shortcut Strict data typing becomes particularly obnoxious when having to deal with things like color or position or angular info It would make life easy if they standard arrays but they aren t they are special datatypes that require special functions to create and often to manipulate them If you want to send PlaneSensor slider button s X value to an object s transparency you are forced to add a Script node for the simple extraction and conversion of an array element wasteful processing There are many situations where VRML wastes time and effort processing items that it doesn t need Touch and other sensors process mouse movement when often the only thing ever used is mouse clicks ProximitySensors are an example of terrible waste Not only do they constantly process your position and heading whether required or not there is a lopsidedness to the node itself that makes it wasteful to calculate your position with respect to a set of markers VRML requires each marker to have its own ProximitySensor and you check to see if you have entered any of them Much simpler would be to have a single ProximitySensor centered on yourself and special trigger objects that set a flag if they re in the area An advantage of that is that it could easily be extended to be the basis of a 3rd person collision detection system LOD LOD is a great idea but because computers get faster and more capable of displaying more complex graphics what is appropriate use of LOD for one machine may be entirely unsuitable for another There should be some wiggle room where the user is able to affect the LOD to extend or shorten by percentage all LODs in the current wrl In this way LOD should not be strictly tied to distance but ought to be a more abstract value Also LOD should be able to be specified as frames per second so that if the machine slows below the target fps then the defined LODs are activated They would need to be prioritised so that a tradeoff is made between fps and proximity to detailed objects Again slow machines would need to be able to alter the rules if they are willing to put up with slow framerate in order to see maximum detail On the other hand other people prefer high framerates over detail The user should be able to affect the LOD decisions the viewer makes It is important that this be catered for in the language instead of saying Oh that is a browser issue that has nothing to do with defining the language The two are inextricably linked How the user LOD is defined is required in the language itself Viewpoint The camera in VRML is an implied object which is never really stated explicitly You can bind to a certain Viewpoint but Viewpoints simply reposition the current camera they are not the camera itself Once at a Vewpoint the camera can roam and whilst ostensibly bound to that Viewpoint the Viewpoint in fact has little effect on the camera except as a placeholder for working out the next Viewpoint in a list that can be jumped to The camera needs to be explicitly named and directly manipulated An example of a problem that can occur with using Viewpoints as the only way to affect the camera is if a Viewpoint is jumped to then the user s position is updated under program control by altering a Transform which is around that Viewpoint If the user has reason to later jump to that Viewpoint again it is no longer at its expected original position it has moved In VRML there is a natural confusion that arises because the only way to manipulate the camera is via Viewpoints But Viewpoints should really be like bookmarks that can be written into the original file or saved updated deleted under program control They should not be confused with the camera itself Another problem with current VRML Viewpoints is that unbinding a Viewpoint will jump the view to the next Viewpoint even if the user was nowhere near the previous Viewpoint In other words even when a view is wandering far from a programmed Viewpoint the VRML view is still intimately associated with those Viewpoints There is no way to program for a freely wandering camera it has to be hacked using Viewpoints predefined objects VRML did a great thing by including some predefined objects Sphere Box Cylinder Cone but doesn t take them far enough It doesn t allow negative radii height or size It doesn t allow zero values for those either Negative dimensions would allow the predefined objects interiors to be seen It is only a partial solution though as it doesn t allow for both inside and outside to be seen without having to create the object twice once with positive dimension once with negative dimension Another limitation of current predefined objects is that there is only one way to apply a texture to them when there should be many ways For instance you can t apply a texture to just one face of a box or apply the same texture the same way to all faces without reversal or wrap a single large texture over the faces But I discuss this problem more at length below under the heading texture mappings Lack of CSG Constructive Solid Geometry CSG would have been an extremely useful feature to have in VRML at little cost to viewer complexity It would allow the building up of complex objects using boolean functions UNION DIFFERENCE INTERSECTION MERGE and NOT UNION uses an OR operation It is almost like what VRML currently does but a texture applied to a single UNION object is different to two overlapping objects with textures applied to each DIFFERENCE uses an XOR operation It subtracts the parts that overlap leaving only those that don t INTERSECTION uses an AND operation It shows only those parts that overlap MERGE is like UNION but with the surfaces in the intersection removed useful for transparent objects NOT lets one object be subtracted from another texture names There should be one texture Different variations like pixel image and movie and procedural reflection bump and other future texture forms should be given by attributes Having to remember several different kinds of texture name is silly when they all do basically the same thing and it makes future extensions to the language more difficult than they need be texture mappings VRML currently gives you the option to automatically map a texture onto a surface so that you can avoid having to painstakingly match points on an object to points in the texture But it doesn t go far enough The automated wrap is useful but gives only one out of several possible ways to wrap a texture onto an object Some ways of mapping a texture onto an object are planar spherical cylindrical toroidal It would also be nice to be able to map a texture onto all faces identically so that for instance a box had a label displayed on each side so that the back wasn t reversed And a square cylinder map would also be very useful for many objects A box mapping like currently used for the standard VRML Background node would be exceedingly useful too PROTO These clumsy nodes are really VRML s only way of expanding and so should have been the frontier for furious and rapid development of the language showing future directions it was to progress Unfortunately this never happened because they are terribly difficult to use The overly verbose header format followed by the rest of the PROTO makes writing more unwieldy than it needs to be Passing data in and out of a PROTO can be a headache in another way too If you have data in a PROTO which is inside another PROTO which itself might be in another PROTO your only way to get the data out is to bubble it up through successive layers of PROTOs there is no way to get that data directly There is no global data If you want to do any but the simplest building upon existing VRML then you need the ability to efficiently build upon past developments PROTOs make this almost impossible It is no wonder so little use was made of this the only way of expanding the language Events Events going into nodes and being sent from them are implied instead of explicit in all nodes except the Script node This is the reason ROUTEs are needed but has a few other really bad side effects One of the worst is that PROTOs that need to send data in or out through eventIn eventOut must do so via an internal script Node not correct IS can be used in PROTOs and if that event involves moving a lot of data for example continuous position and rotation updates then this is extremely wasteful of CPU resources Another bad result of implied events in Nodes is that it makes it far more difficult to follow data around a scene than it needs to be This is not a great problem in simple worlds but it is a real obstacle to creating and maintaining complex worlds Much better would have been to make events explicit For eventOut the event name then TO keyword followed by a destination similar to how ROUTEs currently specify a destination would solve a lot of the above problems Likewise eventIn could use a keyword FROM followed by a source The world author would decide which half of the event to make explicit Interpolators These are really clumsy though I can t blame the language designers because it is a very hard concept to grasp and implement The problems with interpolators The names PositionInterpolator OrientationInterpolator ColorInterpolator CoordinateInterpolator NormalInterpolator ScalarInterpolator are descriptive of what they do but are ridiculously wordy and duplicate what is basically one interpolator function handling many different datatypes They could have been named using more readily understood terms like move turn recolor reshape changeNormals changeNumber or call them all one thing changer with different capabilities based upon keyword set TimeSensor is necessary for the use of all interpolators so timer functions should have been included in the Node The attribute names key and keyValue convey nothing at all to distinguish them from each other Much better would have been if they d been named more descriptively like timing and path or angles or such I come from an animated cartoon background so I can grok the keyframes concept with only a moderate level of difficulty but others without such experience have a terrible time wrestling what could have been a simple concept if the film analogy had been abandoned in favor of a more natural one Restricting the key and keyValues to require the same number of items makes anything but very simple movements almost impossible to figure out If timing and position angle color or whatever were separated it would be possible to easily specify a natural ease in and ease out with just a start position and an end position It would also be possible to make a complex path with different length legs run at constant speed something that is very difficult to do in its current flawed state It is difficult to get a simple ball to bounce in VRML Imagine how hard it is to move avatars files end up with massive opaque lists of numbers that can t be re used or built upon Very few movements in nature use flat speed most movements are timed as a curve they start slowly gather speed then slow to a stop Often it is sufficient to specify an ease in rate the top speed and the ease out rate Some mechanical movements operate at a constant speed throughout mostly cyclical ones like a rotating planet Like timing paths in nature rarely follow straight lines Curves are far more common Unfortunately curved paths are extremely complex to create in VRML There should be a simple way to specify common and arbitrary curves in an anim node Common curves are circle and ellipse parabola sine exponential Arbitrary curves can be defined by bezier like control points and even better control surfaces of attraction and repulsion Currently only absolute positions angles etc may be used for keyValues in interpolators This is not flexible It is extremely difficult to move an object to a certain spot from an arbitrary starting position moving an object to another spot no matter where that spot is is likewise extremely difficult especially so if the spot is moving arbitrarily rotating an object to point in the direction it is moving is ridiculously hard pointing an object to look at a moving object is also very hard pointing an arbitrarily moving object to face a stationary spot is much too hard Complex scripts that are not flexible or very adaptable are needed for what should be simple tasks How to fix interpolators have a single generalised interpolator instead of many call the single generalised node anim or animate or changer or some similarly clear name incorporate a timer into the node give more useful names to key and keyValue attributes like timing and path separate timing and path attributes so they can differ in numbers of values allow preset timings like ease in ease out parabola curve as well as flat speed allow preset path curves and bezier like control points and surfaces of attraction and repulsion allow multipliers for timing and path so that the same action may be repeated at different rates and positions like a ball bouncing less and less high start and end points for anim position for a movement angle for rotation etc need to be able to be given independently in absolute or relative form It would also be good to be able to use a special named position angle color etc and substitute that in calculations so that when that named value changes so does the value in the anim node That is actually a little outside the discussion of interpolators and relates to a general failing of definitions in VRML Lack of exposedField in Script node This is a well known annoyance It has apparently been fixed in X3D Lack of absolute position angle query There needs to be a function to return the absolute position and angle of any object This would be useful for animations when one or both of start and stop values are unknown Confusing field and event names Some fields and events can be confusing The ordinary English meaning of enabled is similar to isActive and I ve seen at least one person confuse the fields Some nodes use on instead of enabled and that seems more logical but such state altering fields should be named consistently A better name for isActive in the TimeSensor would be running to distinguish it from the conceptually quite different isActive in most of the other sensors like in the TouchSensor where it means a user has clicked on associated geometry The TouchSensor s isActive would be better named click or touch or mousebutton I know it is meant to work with devices other than mice but they are what is used in more than 99 of cases Sensors TimeSensor is not really a sensor at all but a clock Its use is quite convoluted The enabled switch doesn t actually start the timer as you would expect but allows you to see outputs which

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/VRMLproblems.html (2016-04-25)
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  • VR Language Wishlist
    or in integer values 0 to 255 Colors don t need more than 256 values per RGB component our eyes can t see more than that anyway Representing them by values 0 to 255 simplifies their representation on hardware so that a single byte per component is used If a number greater than 255 is given it should be internally ANDed with 255 so that 256 0 Textures or maps should have a better naming convention Making each begin with map groups them together in a reference which makes it easier to learn and look up the available options mapImage for pictures gif png jpg etc mapped onto a surface mapMovie for animated textures mpg gif anim mng or png anim rm etc mapPixel for explicitly defined bits like PixelTexture mapForm procedural textures use formulas for wood stone cloud fractal etc mapExtern takes input from external programs html viewers flash postscript etc mapLight precalculates static light shadow and radiosity mapBump uses other maps to perturb surface normals Bump map mapBump is special because it contains other maps It looks a little like but is very different from mapHeight The bumps only appear to exist because of the way they change the light and shade of a surface but the surface is actually smooth and unperturbed mapHeight creates a landscape like object from the intensity of each pixel in an image Multiple maps can be applied to the one surface and are simply added together There may be a case for allowing other functions than simple adding e g OR AND XOR NOT subtract multiply etc to enable negative lights embossing masking and other possibilities but I have not looked into this properly yet Lights should use a simpler naming convention too with a single name Light and their type naturally defined by their attributes It would make learning much easier Light direction is a directional light as if positioned at infinity Light position is point light Light position direction is a spotlight which defaults to cone angle of 90 An optional angle may be specified Each light can have many more attributes of course but the 3 main types of light are chosen by the position and direction attibutes If neither is given then it defaults to directional light shining down the y axis The default direction for DirectionalLight in VRML currently is down the Z axis which is fine for building small standalone models but is silly for worlds Sensors should use a simplified naming system too Each should begin with Sense so they group together naturally in any reference on the subject Cylinder Plane and Sphere sensors are really variants of a node that senses dragging actions Instead of sensors affecting sibling geometry as VRML currently does it would be more consistent if affected nodes are enclosed in the Sense node s curly braces SenseDrag type geometry where geometry is Cylinder Plane or Sphere SenseProximity SenseTouch SenseVisibility VRML s TimeSensor is terrible a real monster to use It should really be called Timer and be more intuitive to use It is not really a sensor like the others The worst parts of the current TimeSensor are the startTime and stopTime attributes and the cycleTime eventOut They almost always require another node to be useful While there may be some obscure use for the time in seconds since the 1st of January 1970 in almost all cases it would be much more sensible to start the timer at 0 and count upwards from that like a stopwatch If the actual time is needed as seconds since 1 Jan 1970 or in any other format then it could be got from the system clock via a javascript call However if kept startTime should default to seconds since 1 Jan 1970 for backward compatibility and have a variety of other selectable formats including human readable time A few new attributes start alarm and alarmLength let Timer work like a stopwatch When start is sent a TRUE signal it begins counting up from 0 When the Timer reaches the alarm value it sends a TRUE event the alarm exposed field is set to TRUE for alarmLength amount of time then Timer sends a FALSE and alarm reverts to FALSE till the next alarm trigger There can be as many alarm values as wished There should also be an end attribute which is the same as the cycleInterval attribute but with a shorter name that makes more sense if the Timer is not set to loop Interpolators desperately need simplifying See near the bottom of this document for the piece about animation Direction should be able to be given in any format that the world builder chooses vec x y z as the implied end of a line drawn from 0 0 0 to the x y z position vec x1 y1 z1 x2 y2 z2 as the line between the two given points rotation about x y z of the line 0 0 0 0 1 0 the up vector Rotation likewise may have more than one way of being written and should be able to be explicitly defined as radians or degrees regardless of the global setting You should have the choice of absolute or relative rotation and need not give all 3 axes just one axis or two may suffice Position can be given as absolute or relative and as coordinates or direction and distance Example Box corner 20 24 5 5 5 5 translate 2 0 0 translate x y z dist The range of primitives should be extended not reduced Also smooth primitives that aren t built of facets are needed Smooth objects should not replace faceted objects but should supplement them If a complex world is built and is expected to be run on slow machines then the designer will want to use faceted objects but a simple world being run on fast machines opens the choice of smooth objects Sphere smooth Cone smooth Cylinder smooth Blob

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/VRL_Wishlist.html (2016-04-25)
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  • Peer to Peer Filesharing
    artists peer to peer file transfer can potentially reduce their costs though most are so scared by the big companies that they would be reluctant to take that plunge However the most commonly understood part of the financial argument though for some reason it is rarely heard is that if people can get copies for free then they won t buy the full product but a number of things prove that this just isn t so the record industry kicked up a fuss about audio cassettes worried that they would detract from their record sales because people could now copy their favorite records from their friends Sure people shared their music around but it ended up boosting record sales because people came to like music they wouldn t have otherwise heard the movie industry were upset about video recorders because people could have movies without buying them and conceivably give lend copies to their friends Of course it had absolutely no impact on their industry in fact it probably helped them because people were able to become more involved in film by watching things they would not otherwise have seen e g taping while asleep or at work and this may well have translated into more cinema goers Certainly it generated a massive income stream through video rentals photostat copiers struck fear into the hearts of the publishing industry and all manner of restrictions on copying were put in place But of course it never turned out to be a problem People have always preferred the original books if they could get them mp3s are currently scaring the willies out of record manufacturers but it is the same old thing It gets a bit boring after a while don t these guys ever learn Let s take me as an example leaving aside the fact that a number of the sound files I have are out of date recordings that record manufacturers insist are uneconomical for them to produce anyway I like to collect all the works of contemporary artists that I come to enjoy I may get some mp3s of their work but after I develop a liking for an artist I go out and buy all thir works CDs are much more than bare music they have liner notes lyrics pictures and the songs are arranged on the album in an order that is often carefully chosen Mp3s can never threaten this Sure there will be the occasional person who builds up big collections of mp3s and never buys a CD but they are the exception and they probably would not have bought any CDs in the first place no loss here But most people like to feel that they have sent some money back to the artist and enjoy the knowledge that they have the genuine product in their hands the practical arguments The practical argument comes out of a lack of a model for channelling money back to artists This initially looks to be a real

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/p2pFileSharing.html (2016-04-25)
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  • VR-Uses
    be able visualise and understand things which are impossible to see either because they are too small or are invisible fields VR can help by letting people see and touch them Interaction through touch has been accomplished using force feedback VR devices Designing new products e g cars in VR makes the same kind of sense that writing using a wordprocessor does making changes is straightforward and you can view the final result no matter how big it is before committing to producing the finished solid product Seeing the past VR is also used to visualise things that no longer exist like archeological ruins or the layout of a modern city a hundred years ago There have lately been some films that bring 3d models into use in exploring what the dinosaurs looked like and how they acted And I am sure VR could be of use in visualising more recent puzzles of the past for forensic science too Commerce Shops don t have to worry about customers damaging or soiling goods or stealing them Rentals in VR are way lower than they ever could be in real space Customers can examine the objects they wish to buy without leaving home and may interact with the shop assistant in a way they are unlikely to in forms on a web page Shopping in the real world is often something of a social experience as many people prefer to go shopping with a friend VR makes this possible too Funerals It may be possible to visit your loved one after they have died if they have had their likeness and personality saved to a 3d image It would not suit everybody of course but some part of a person s knowledge and personality living on after death would be attractive to some Workplace Using VR you may no longer need to work in a local company The office you work in may be inhabited by people from anywhere on the planet When VR really hits its stride you may be able to work with or for somebody regardless of where you live If you live in an area where there is no employment then no problem in VR everywhere is close I work for myself from home over the internet right now I don t have to get dressed for work in the morning if I don t want to and I don t need to travel to and from work This saves me a lot of money and time Soon I hope to be able to do much of my business in VR Of course nothing will ever replace real face to face contact with people but when I do meet people face to face I prefer it to be for pleasure rather than being thrust into the company of people when I m tired or under pressure Party Throwing a masquerade party in VR would be unlike any normal party You wouldn t be limited to donning a costume you could come as an elephant a mouse Wonder Woman with the ability to fly an alien a machine a cloud a jar of yoghurt or anything you might design And no one can hurt you in VR I will be talking more about the social aspects of VR tomorrow at 1pm here Exhibitions held in VR have distinct advantages over those in the real world There is no physical limitation on the size of a VR world If you want to display a building you have designed it is as easy as if you wanted to show a small gallery of pictures The rental of space is likely to be measured in fractions of dollars per hour instead of thousands Visitors are not only those who were able to be in town that day they can come instantly from all over the world Sculptures in VR don t even have to obey the law of gravity or any other natural laws if you so desire They can move through each other and even grow and reproduce like living things Conferences in VR can enable people to do things which are impossible in reality For example in the real world if someone is demonstrating something then only a couple of people could see that thing from the demonstrator s angle by looking over their shoulder In VR it can be arranged that a crowd standing around the object all see the object from the same angle as the person demonstrating it totally impossible in the real world Also people are not restricted to just floor space they can quite happily float in the air Avatars 98 Conference Note that Avatars2000 is on the 14th 15th see http www ccon org VRML99 Conference Film and stage storyboards set design Film and stage directors can use VR to storyboard their productions in an easily manipulated and interactive way Sets built in VR would allow crew set constructors and camera to walk through the action together without even having to be in the same country Scenes can be recorded to be played back on a laptop anytime later either replacing or extending the storyboard Distance education VR would allow schools to add immediacy to distance education At present a very few lucky people are able to use video conferencing occasionally but this requires special expensive equipment VR will work on any reasonably fast computer over a normal phone line using an ordinary modem There are a few people currently exploring the possibilities for teaching through the use of VR Steve Guynup has come up with some wonderful ideas for using VR for delivering talks He changes the avatar into an illustration of the talk so that the speaker becomes a picture or a 3d model of the subect under discussion Each member of the audience can use the model independantly so that interaction is not limited to the few extroverts in the audience Steve Guynup s demonstration of a lecture on comets where he turned his avatar into various illustrations of concepts related to the subject of the talk Here he has turned himself into a model of the Solar System that the audience can manipulate so that they can see how the tail of the comet is blown by the solar wind and so always points away from the sun Each viewer appears to them to have total control of the model This means that interaction is not limited to the extroverts in the audience Medical Some doctors are already beginning to use simple VR to view things like 3D CAT scans of patients VR might be particularly useful in consultations if patient and doctor s are separated by great distance There has been some use of VR in helping people overcome phobias particularly acrophobia fear of heights It would be useful for other phobias like arachniphobia and agoraphobia The idea of course is to desensitise a person to the object of their irrational fear through gradually increasing their exposure to it in a safe environment Special events Rehearsing various aspects of special public events is made easier using VR Security VIPs televising and filming crowd handling can all be safely rehearsed without requiring the real venue Architects and engineers have been using VR for some time now to allow them to walk potential customers through as yet unbuilt structures This gives customers more control over the design of what they are buying The designers benefit by having more satisfied customers Game players this is actually the application most people initially think of They can have worlds which would combine the visual immediacy of arcade games with the intellectual and social challenge of MUDs and MOOs Unfortunately until more women get involved in the design and sale of these they may just be more of the same old killing games Advertising on the internet in the form of banner ads can be made much more interesting while making them download faster Many people consider advertisements on the net to be an annoyance ignoring the fact that very often it is these ads which pay for the pages or search engines that we use An animated gif banner ad can quite easily be 10k bytes in size That will just be a simple two or three frame picture Linda Hahner and her company Out Of The Blue have pioneered the use of banner ads which are little virtual worlds playing a short movie lasting minutes Most surprising is that their file size is no larger than a 2 or 3 frame animated gif 9k 20 second VRML banner ad by Out Of The Blue http www outoftheblue com You will need a VRML plugin in your web browser to see this 9k 3 frame animated gif 3d art Of course the new art forms of World Building and avatar sculpting just now appearing will grow and proud artists will display their latest creations for all to explore As with all new fields this work will be certain to open up unexpected vistas of human endeavour and to support them many new industries are bound to spring up Finally the big 3 future applications of VR Communication Not long ago everybody thought the next generation of telephone would be the videophone Much more useful in my opinion is VR You have just got out of the shower to answer the phone You stand there naked and dripping wet talking into the microphone glad it does not transmit pictures It sends a description of your gestures and expressions so that the computer at the other end is able to reflect your actions in a 3D image of your choice The other person sees you as you would have them see you You can have any shape whether you are wheelchair bound or able bodied regardless of your appearance and whatever your skin colour If I had just got out of the shower or stumbled out of bed I would not be switching on the video part of a videophone However I would have no such problem with a VR phone because the person on the other end sees what I am comfortable with them seeing There is another aspect of communicating through VR that is not generally considered If we have direct brain connection then we will need to have our own personal computer understand how our own brain is laid out because each person s brain is like a fingerprint each is different If my computer recognises how my brain understands some concept and your computer can do the same then they can talk to each other and mediate allowing us to pass the entire concept from one person to the other No need for lengthy painfully detailed explanations hoping the other person gets it No careful outlining of the ramifications The other person receives the whole concept with all the parts entire in an instant Telepathy which has been yearned for over thousands of years finally becomes a real possibility This would never obsolete words of course as symbols for manipulating concepts they are unsurpassed but used alongside language such mediated telepathy would be invaluable VR Fiction Theatre in VR Virtual theatre opens up a wealth of possibilities Leaving aside the actors and their capability to easily take on any form desired let us consider the audience for a minute They are no longer sitting in rows of seats They may wander about through the action They need not have bodies at all though out of respect to the actors they might become little points of light so that the actors may still be able to play to their audience And the sets They can be whole worlds Some stories may become more open ended where the audience is able to take part in the action How would one write such a story What are the 3D equivalents for cuts pans and dissolves My talk on Sunday examines this subject more closely VR life Lastly the greatest application of VR the one which will let people grow up at last and possibly save the planet from us I see VR as the biggest step for humans since fire Most people have no idea of the incredible possibilities which currently lie just beyond our reach They see shopping potential and a new advertising and entertainment medium I am not belittling those they are the paths that will take us where we are going but VR reaches way way beyond those What I am about to say will sound really out there to some of you but whether you want to believe it or not it is happening anyway There are many people around the world who want this to happen It will happen It is a question of when not if Speed of computers that cost a 1000 graphed by year Adapted from the article The Coming Merging of Mind and Machine by Ray Kurzweil in the special issue of Scientific American in Fall 1999 titled Your Bionic Future In about the next 20 years if there are no major advances it is expected that cheap desktop computers will have processing power roughly equivalent to a human brain I believe that around then we will have computers capable of modeling a human brain If the technology for scanning brains has advanced to the point of being able to resolve down to the level of the synaptic vescicles in individual nerves then we will be able to use a real brain s structure as the source for modeling That means that we will be able to rebuild a person s mind inside a computer Would you like to live a couple of hundred years a couple of thousand a million or even more We will never do it in these bodies Unfortunately replacement biological bodies are not likely to be satisfactory for a long time and the prospect of mechanical bodies is even further off But there is a simpler and in some ways even more wondrous future open to us in VR If we are already inside the machine then interfacing us with VR is dead simple We could see hear touch smell taste the worlds We are currently physically restricted to a single fragile planet with viable space travel receding ever further into the future but in VR we will have an infinity of universes to explore Exploiting artificial life and chaos these worlds could be even more novel and unexpected than the real world around us The first to understand the implications of such an existence would be the old the ill and the disabled No longer having to battle to feed clothe or house themselves they can spend their time learning and improving and entertaining themselves If your mind is accessible to you you can fix things that don t work properly or augment things that don t work as well as you would like Most people are smart and creative if given a chance to let loose Imagine what the human race could do if all that potential was realised And freeing us from having to worry about where the next meal is coming from and how to pay for the roof over our heads would be an incredible breakthrough As people come to realise that life in VR can be brilliant more and more people will opt to live there At first they will have a foot in both worlds so to speak but biological people die and their minds will continue to live on in VR It won t take long for the people in VR to outnumber those in real life After a while people will wonder why they should bother struggling to make ends meet in the physical world when they can enter VR and live like gods At some point we will have the first people who decide that suicide of their physical bodies is a useful way to cut their losses It will not be popular at first but depending on the security of the computers used for storing people s minds I expect people will come to accept it and migrate en masse I expect that within a few generations VR would be sufficiently attractive that much of the world s population would move into it Projections put the production of a 1 000 computer equalling the processing power of all the human minds on the planet at less than 60 years away Ray Kurzweil see his book The Age of Spiritual Machines It won t take long for the Earth s population to drop precipitously Of course there will always be those who elect to remain outside in the real world but even they will be able to use VR in fact many of them will need to in order to communicate with loved ones and the major knowledge base of our civilization The problems of non invasively interfacing directly with the human brain will be solved soon so they will be able to experience virtual worlds just as strongly as those who live inside VR Most work would be done in VR truly an information economy Massive crops for food production would no longer be needed and the terrible human grip on the resources of our delicate planet would be released Earth would be allowed to flower again and we would be masters of our own destiny Greed becomes meaningless when you can have universes it is difficult to discriminate against people who can wear any kind of body they want and nobody can harm you in VR Poof There go three major causes of disaffection Combine these There will be more wealth to go around the people in the real world raising their standard of living they will be tended by intelligent machines The people in the real world who spend lots of time in VR use fewer resources than those who travel to and fro in physical jobs The

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/VR-uses.html (2016-04-25)
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  • The ElectroFringe Festival
    crew of cool informal people who call themselves Octapod This Is Not Art is almost entirely free People enthusiastically share ideas and techniques in hundreds of talks and workshops the way scientists artists and craftspeople used to once upon a time I hope it continues in that fashion That will ensure that it retains its alternative flavor and continues to attract agile young minds with fresh ideas I fully expect This Is Not Art to become one of the biggest and most important festivals in the world It is growing in size each year This year there were more than 300 people giving 200 talks and workshops and god knows how many music and VJ performances with thousands attending over the 6 days 2000 Over the 5 days 5th 9th October 2000 a most amazing festival was held in Newcastle NSW Australia It was actually 5 festivals in one ElectroFringe Independant Radio Conference National Independant Labels Conference National Student Media Conference National Young Writers Festival It was my good fortune to be invited to give some talks about Virtual Reality see below for the text of my talks That was an experience like nothing before in my life I have

    Original URL path: http://miriam-english.org/articles/ElectroFringe.html (2016-04-25)
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