Notes From The Uncanny Valley, (At) Boulder’s DiMe
At the Digital Media Symposium at the St. Julien Hotel ballroom in Boulder, the room’s vibe is outdoorsy brainaic, personified in the casual styling of so many lean men (and fewer women), sporting pedigrees from Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford, Netscape, the US Air Force, and (future) household names you maybe haven’t heard yet. The speakers at the DiMe, their bios printed in a deliberately low-budget program, offer “insider perspectives” to virtual /entrepreneurial life. Orbotix’s CEO Paul Berberian makes mention right away of the “million developer hack,” meaning come one, come all, to the zone of “really hard shit,” aka the zone of innovation. Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, PIXAR’s co-founder, offers that “the great digital media convergence,” oft-predicted but once fuzzy-distant, has occurred. If you can write code and dream up reality blends, help is wanted in media movements accelerating at warp speed. “Reality,” has apparent new meaning too, as a version of “mixed” reality in gaming is one that HP may have predicted back in 2006, but is still a decade-plus away to build-out. Where we already interact with new worlds is on the ubiquitous screen, notes 123guitartuner’s Ben Long. That is, on our laptops, tablets and smartphones. Synesthesia is in our fingers, as as we tap and drag sight and sound on Androids or Iphones already. The DiMe, is official part of the Boulder International Film Festival (which ran Feb. 16-19). BIFF, is an annual Boulder paean to new movies and the movie biz, and the Colorado Office of Film and TV, the Boulder CVB and BIFF, team up to put on this afternoon in which each talking head has 20 minutes onstage, to frontload developments in robotics, gaming, animation, entertainment, advertising, etc. Don Hahn, producer of the Lion King, moderates; he’ll cop, later on in the day, to how he’s at least partly responsible for pixelated sexism, in the form of Jessica Rabbit. Boulder might actually be, Palo Alto’s cultural twin. The food’s really good; William H. Macy and Martin Sheen are in town – and you feel an urge to pull everybody aside and ask where they got their boots.
Buzz Lightyear, Meet Moore
“Well, it happened. The great digital media convergence. All media types are one single media type called bits.”
This is Alvy Ray Smith talking, and the great digital media convergence is the outcome, he says, of Moore’s law which deals with transistor density. Or, In English: “Anything good about computers gets better by an order of magnitude every five years.” We humans can only see one order of magnitude (or one factor of 10) ahead of ourselves. (Interezzzting.) Knock me over when Smith – whose resume at Pixar includes him also as the guy who hired John Lassiter – clicks to a shot of the Organ Mountains in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I know that rickrack pink range. Smith grew up there. He consumed “A Brief History of Digital Light,” Dr. Alan Turing in 1948; A-bombs’ white glare going off to Smith’s left; Werner Von Braun’s rockets to the right. It’s a sickle shape chart he uses to demonstrate this Moore’s law business: “We’re approaching the 10billionx right now,” Smith says.
Mixed-Reality Gaming: Hack Their Balls
Paul Berberian’s got an entrepreneur’s long tail, if you read the bio. He is an Air Force Academy distinguished alum and he likes helicopters and joysticks. A lot. Gosphero.com, is home page of Sphero, a robotic ball, which Wired and CNET first encountered at CES 2011. You control Sphero the robotic ball with your smartphone, aka your supercomputer. Yes, sure, the ball’s had its picture taken with cats who do not, this is not reality, have opposable thumbs. (Not yet.) The deal in mixed-reality gaming, says Berberian, is that where innovation happens is also where it becomes very difficult to break through. What’s in games already? Simply: Barbie the doll at the reality continuum’s far left, grounded in the same gravity we nonplastic mortals live in. The other side, Angry Birds and Farmville. But en route to making robotic balls learn to play pool with your cat, what the robot has in common with your tipsy college friend, is it doesn’t know where the floor is. The “marker” that is where it has to find a real object in physical space, is hard for a robot. Super hard. Even so, notes Berberian, the future is already visible on the retail floor at a Best Buy or Target. They want to sell you something new: Not only apps, but accessories for your apps. Your smartphone controls them. As to that “million developer hack” needed to get to blended reality faster, Berberian offers before playing with balls in the aisle, “As of last night somebody hacked a Mac version (of Sphero)… “we’re ecstatic.. we want our balls to be hacked.” $129 retail. Here’s what Wired said.
Carla Johnson, founder and CEO of Earthvisionz, wears long hair, leggings and yes, excellent boots. Unlike many (most, 90%+, as she observes later on, regarding the developer community in general) of the male-delivered presentations today, her company’s story starts off – her telling of it starts off – in the personal, as she comes home from work one evening and finds her smart high school daughter and her smart kid’s friends in the living room wondering, where’s Haiti and why did it just have that gynormous earthquake? Earthvisionz, picks up “where Google Earth left off.” Using some of the Google Earth software, namely the Sketch Up API “to build cities,” then they write a huge amount of code into something called “the world engine platform.” Go there and you’ll find “verticals” (this is a jargony sphere, face it) where a city’s assets from health-care to recycling to dog parks can be aggregated, or are being aggregated, and can be personalized to you in this crowd-sourced future that is now. “The world has become extremely exposed,” goes without saying, and needs saying. We’re being surveilled, we’re doing the surveilling. (In the media today: FreshAir’sshow on companies spying on us. ) To use the geological example of Haiti that was the teachable moment for Johnson’s daughter, the earthquake that hit Port au Prince could be visualized, and scaled, in Johnson’s living room, not as a flat-island topography, but as a mountainous fault zone. Says Johnson, ”the next day we flew down there.” It took me 20 seconds or more to realize that she didn’t mean, like Sean Penn; rather, virtually.
Winning the Conversation
The New Mix In Content Delivery
“There is a relationship between the uncanny and the familiar…” he said.