Archive for May, 2006

Brain/Machine Interfaces for the Masses

A while back, I promised to venture boldly into the realm of Brain/Machine interfaces. It’s bold, because it’s a bit outside of my normal expertise. But that never stopped me before. And, as it happens, my wife is a neuroscientist. So this first post will be speculative on my part, drawing on things I’ve read from around the net. Look for a future post or comment to include her corrections and hopefully some deeper thoughts.
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Invisibility

Following a slew of breathy clueless press articles on the announcement this week of a breakthrough in cloaking technology, here’s one that actually manages to explain the details. Technology Review: Emerging Technologies and their Impact.

The key point is that light has to exit the cloaking object (which surrounds the thing you’re trying to hide) exactly on the same path as it enters, and with equal intensity and no phase shifting. That incredibly gimmicky Japanese video from a year or two ago simply projected a video image of the scene onto a coat that acted like a front projection screen. I could do the same thing walking in front of my home projector. To the extent it works, it only works from the point of view of the projector.

But this is different. If these materials deliver as promised, this could actually work. Now, it doesn’t enable a "cloak" as in a flexible surface that lets you hide in the women’s dressing room. The materials so far must be thick (probably heavy) and rigid and would be hard to carry around. But to hide a static object, or something on wheels, it might just do the trick. It seems to me that this stuff would also be incredibly useful in making 3D displays, being able to float virtual 3D images just about wherever we’d want.

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Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Online

I don’t often blog about Disney and VR together, mainly because I left Disney in 1997 and they’ve been virtually off the map for the last 10 years. Did they go to sleep because I left? Hardly. It’s the other way around. But I’m writing to note that this may be changing, finally, and hopefully for the best.
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Google’s Virtual World

Google recently bought the company that made SketchUp, an easy to use 3D modeling program, and has made it available free of charge. What’s good about this program is that it allows fairly swift realization of simple design ideas. That’s also its main limitation. And while I think it’s important to have free 3D modeling tools to foster a marketplace of 3D models, we should remember that this isn’t the first free (as in speech, or beer) 3D modeler on the scene, and that marketplace has existed for years. Can Google’s blessing change the face of 3D and virtual worlds?
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Display Technology

I got my professional start working in Virtual Reality in 1992 for a small start-up in Seattle, where we built big immersive displays from wood and plastic. Later, at Disney, I got to work with both custom head-mounted-displays and wall-sized projection displays (we built the world’s first hexagonal CAVE, a good 5000 pixels across). I’ve researched and endlessly pondered the issue of where display technology is heading. Let’s see if my answers are in line with yours.
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Google Trends

This is pretty cool. Google Trends allows you to type in a search term and see how often that search occurred and when (in the last 3 years at least). I immediately tried the following: Google Trends: impeach bush
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