Tag Archives: Event

Encounter with Jaron Lanier

I had to deal with a difficult dilemma a couple of weeks ago: either being present to my friend Samad’s burial (he has been stabbed to death for his smartphone!) or meeting Jaron Lanier,  one of the fathers of Virtual Reality (he actually coined the term “Virtual Reality”).  Samad was all about giving the opportunity to young people to have access to new technologies. I am sure he would have approved my choice of going to Jaron Lanier’s inspirational talk. Although my heart was with Samad.
The talk was organised by Mel Salter, another VR pioneer, at UCL. My colleagues from the VR field at Goldsmiths were all there as well as many other scientists using VR in their research. The main incentive to organise the talk was to promote Jaron Lanier’s new book “Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality”.
Jaron went on with the talk following his book structure to present his thoughts about the potential of VR with a thesis, an antithesis and a synthesis. As Marco Gillies has written a thorough post on this, I will only give you a brief description.
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Jaron Lanier with the VPL
From his childhood to an idealist young man, Jaron had always thought that natural language felt like a “beta version of communication”. What he saw in VR was an infinite game setup for a “post-Symbolic Communication”. He founded one of the first VR company called VPL in 1980s and made one of the first VR system consisting of a head-mounted display and datagloves.
Growing up, Jaron discovered behaviourism, a branch of psychology studying the potential to modify people behaviour by using devices.  Norbert Wiener, the inventor of cybernetics, was imagining a dystopian future where people’s behavior were programmed by using an interconnected device. Jaron Lanier saw how VR was also the ultimate behaviorist machine. (What Facebook has become today!)
One the one hand, VR is the most natural medium ever created, (all the arts can be done in VR) on the other hand, it has the means of controlling our behaviours.
He suggests that the way to approach this problem is to trust how the young generation adapts to new technologies and will not fall for it. (allusion to the virtual pit experiment)
Random comments:
  • The idea of considering AI more from a human-centered point of view
  • On the difference between education and mind control.
    – education needs practical awareness of what we learn
    – education is an infinite game so that you can adapt what you learn to your own goal, not someone else’s.
  • Human tails: ownership and control of extended humanoid avatars

    Human tails: ownership and control of extended humanoid avatars
  • VR and AR will actually make us more aware of reality, looking at it from a new perspective.
  • Rapid adaptation to non-human body in VR is realy cool. check the human tail experiment
 What an inspiring talk by such an influencer of the Metaverse!

PhD Upgrade Success!


Celebration time, progress has been made, on 3rd October 2017, I   passed my upgrade.  It took me a while to get there. It took me actually more than 540 hours of mostly writing to be awarded a MPhil (Master of philosophy). I can now work towards obtaining a PhD (Doctor of philosophy).

Follows an extract of this upgrade report to browse a better picture of what I am working on. This is the introduction.

We live in exciting times where technologies developed for the last 50 years are converging. Mobile computers, with the smartphone being the catalyst of those technologies, are spreading into the market faster than any other technology before, reaching almost saturation in western countries. Today, most high end smartphones offers the possibility of basic level of immersion in Virtual Reality. This brings a completely different medium of communication and interaction with our digital environment. We are on the verge of breaking through the frame, the screen, the window… By coming back to a more natural interaction with the digital realm, we have the opportunity to rediscover one of the great humans strength: spatial awarness.

Virtual Reality has been used as a laboratory test environment across many different fields for the last five decades. Cognitive processes such as visuospatial perception, memory, spatial awareness, navigation, are just a few areas of investigation that have been placed under the lens of different types of Virtual Reality systems by the scientific community. Each of those systems comes with various specifications in regards to hardware and software used. Those in return are influencing the quality of computer graphics and human computer interaction implemented which plays a huge role on the level of presence experienced by participants. Besides those variables, Virtual Reality is indeed a very convenient tool in research as most of those variables can potentially be controlled and modified in comparison to “real” world settings where things are more complicated to customise, at least way more expensive.

However, despite the ground breaking works and progress made in those fields, most of those virtual environments contains loads of inconsistencies by design. Those design inconsistencies make it difficult to replicate studies from one lab to another, or even from one study to the next. Comparisons between those studies are difficult due to too many confounding variables. In particular, variables concerning the description of the spatial environment are usually barely described at all. This research will focus on isolating those spatial qualities and evaluating how they affect humans cognitive performances in VR.

Next post will present the architectural side of this project and how it will be implemented.

Let me know if you have any comment on the writing, the comprehension, and/or the content.

Virtual Reality Arcade

Mentioned in an earlier post was the trendy  VR location-based experience or, to bring back a better word, VR Arcade. Don’t you miss those arcade video-games locations where we were meeting our friends or making new ones, and playing hard to get our name at the top of the scoreboard? Must be the reading of “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline that gives me this nostalgia of the 80s.  I would love to see that concept brought back to life to experience VR, AR and all the mixed reality coming along.

Image result for arcade game 80s
Arcade from the 80s

Why is that the way forward? VR systems are still too expensive for the consumers to buy.  Furthermore, people don’t have enough room at home to really enjoy the full body natural interaction VR systems afford.  Plus, some VR games need specific gears and props that add to the cost. Socially,  experiencing VR  is an enjoyable event: either just by watching someone playing or by joining a team on a quest.  All these issues are being remedied by having a dedicated  VR space to hire.

French cinema company Mk2 proposes an unbeatable access to curated VR content in their dedicate space in Paris.  (mk2VR) They even have a flying simulator to support your body in flying mode.

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mk2VR Paris

The Void is building four locations worldwide as entertainment park for mixed reality experience.

China sees VR also as a huge entertainment destination.  They are making their own head-mounted displays to use in their new VR location-based experience known as SoReal Park.

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SoReal Park in China

On a smaller scale, London has a couple of VR Arcade destinations so far.  The dnaVR proudly announces to be the first London based VR experience. Early this year, we also heard about an OtherworldVRA, though, not sure what happened with this one. I know there is a game bar somewhere in Dalston that runs a couple of VR HMD as well. VRchampions, based in Harrow is not too far with their army of HTC vive VR experiences.

Vive is actually making developers or entrepreneurs lives as easy as can be by encouraging and supporting the community with the Viveport platform for developers on the one hand and the Viveport Arcade on the other.

Now that I am resident at the new Islington Youth Center Soapbox, in Old Street and have a dedicate VR cave,  starting a Virtual Reality Arcade sounds very attractive? What a way to create a double layer of new memories by going to a physical place before exploring virtual environments with your friends?

VR Demo for Techday at Dragon Hall

 The team from the Dragon Hall Trust set up a #techday event in June to give the opportunity to young people that wouldn’t usually have the chance, to try out new technologies such as robotics, 3D printing, VR and AR. Being in charge of the VR side of the event, I presented a prototype of my research,  as well as the Irrational Exuberance Introduction using the HTC Vive VR system. By proposing those two very different VR experiences,  visitors had the choice between being a builder or an explorer.
Their response was fantastic. Their enthusiasm, positive and sceptic reactions have fueled me to pursue my research with VR and architecture with renewed energy.
Techday at Dragons Hall Trust
I would like to take this opportunity to share the post event respond from the team that gives a pretty good idea of the success of the event:
“I would like to say a huge thank you for coming to display, demonstrate and inspire the young people who attended Tech day. Your VR display was incredible, everyone came off it were amazed and enjoyed themselves. I still have flash backs from when one of the kids let go of the hand sensor. However, the great thing about your headset is that it can engage not only young people but adults and they can all have the same experience and enjoyments from it.
That for us is one of the great things about tech day. It is a place where young people are able to see first hand the developments in STEM and how technology can be used.
We reached 232 attendees, with young people and adults witnessing technology they haven’t previously seen. Anyone who we have spoken to has given us great feedback.”
The last thing I would like to add to this post is that I will be ready for the next event with a more advanced VR experience to try out.

Report from the VR World Congress 2017

Bristol was hosting this three days congress. What a good excuse to explore the West Coast of England. Loved it! How to report from such an big event pact of keynotes, talks, debates and demos about Virtual and Augmented Reality, interactive storytelling and immersive art, architecture visualisation and video game development, to name just a few of the field involved ? I will start with  the general trends, then some key points from the talks, to finish with what really got me hooked.

This event was a solid push from AMD. As far as I can remember, AMD had always an edge to better process 3D on his most known rival Intel. Well, it looks like they are still in the fight, but now to process VR wirelessly with their Nitero tech. And this is important because, being in a virtual environment is pretty cool, however, without any cable in our way, it will be much better.  Hololens has taken that mobility party from the start. They made quite a demo there, bringing forward the Mixed Reality concept. That being said, I am still not convinced with this small field of view and the basic interaction where you pinch things around.

Mk2 in Paris
SoReal in china

In the meantime, the big hype is around VR location-based experiences. Mk2 in Paris looks very neat, curating only high quality content and SoReal, a VR theme Park in China sounds epic. On a hardware note, I am curious to see what kind of headset the Chinese will bring on the market with their DeePoon!

Another main trend is the good old haptic feedback. They are working hard to bring the third sense into the game. We are not sure what shape it will take:  gloves, waves, arms, sensors,…but it was explore in every corner of the congress.

Most important is the effort given to produce high quality content. At this stage, only great content will bring VR to the mass.

Follows bullets points of my tweets and comments of the different talks I followed:

On Wednesday:

  • Vive and the Evolving Ecosystem of VR” with Graham Breen from HTC.
    HTC Vive – Haptic

    What’s next for Vive and his ecosystem evolution? Not much on the hardware side, a part of those haptic gloves shown there. They are focus on helping and promoting content creators with their Viveport platform and the ViveX accelerator.

  • Streaming VR/AR Content over the Web”  with Jamieson Brettle from Google. That’s where it get really exciting! AR/VR through the browser. He was telling about pretty good compression performances for cloud point 3D with Draco. For sound volumetric or spatial audio, they are using Opus with ambisonic compression.
  • “Ghost in the Shell VR – A deep Dive” with Sol Rogers from Rewind.
    He delivered a great talk about how he and his team made Ghost in the Shell. He gave no numbers and ask very nicely not to take a photo!

    That’s all I got from Ghost in the Shell
  • “The Importance of touch: Mid-air haptic feedback for VR & AR” with Tom Carter from Ultrahaptics.
    How cool is that, conducting emotions through mid air haptic feedback? Because, at the end, it is the sense of touch that makes things real.
  • Perception = Reality: Exploiting Perceptual Illusions for Design of Compelling AR & VR Interfaces” with Hrvoje Benko from Microsoft Research. Don’t try to be perfect. Use tricks and perception illusion.

Using perception illusion to extend the experience; Passive haptic; Perspective Projection Mapping;  The rubber hand effect revisited as Haptic Retargetting; Body warping and world warping are very promising technic that make you  believe you interacting with objects and that gives you this haptic feedback.

  • “Virtual Futures Track: The Ethics of VR Risks and Recommendations” with Michael Madar from University of Mainz
    • Why should we care?  Our environment influence our behaviour.
    • VR brings the illusions of place, embodiment and agency.
    • Beneficial vs manipulative in VR, tricky balance to make.
    • Are we going to create a rating system for VR experience?
    • “Users should be made aware that there is evidence that experience in VR can have a lasting influence on behaviour after leaving the virtual environment.”
    • Users should also be made aware that we do not yet know the effects of long-term immersion.”

On Thursday, I went to only one talk from the lovely blue hair Mary Kassin from Google who explained her day-to-day process. She prototypes a lot. Trial, user feedback and iteration make the most of her time. She also mentioned the Tango ready phone to play with AR.

Alright, this is all very exciting, full of ideas, however, what made the biggest impression on me was the couple of VR visualisation agencies showing off their architectural Immersive and Interactive walk-through made with Unreal engine.  With this very realistic real-time rendering, we are getting closer to eliminate the long hours of rendering time for still images for a full immersive experience in the early stage of the process.  That is happening right now!