Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

In my last post, I said that avatars were all the rage, and they are—and most likely will only become more so within the next five years. Why then? That’s when Philip Rosedale believes we’ll see intricately detailed virtual worlds that begin to rival reality. If you don’t know Rosedale, you know his work: back in 2000, he created the first massively multiuser 3D virtual experience. It was more alternate reality than game, and with perhaps a nod to his desire to build a world that would become an essential component of daily existence, Rosedale called his creation Second Life.

For many people, Second Life became just that. Users (residents, in the SL lexicon) could log in, explore the world, build virtual places of their own, shop, find support groups, run businesses, have relationships… in short, everything people do in “real” life. The experience is engaging—so much so that some actually find it as involving as their first lives, if not more so. However, no one would mistake Second Life for reality: visually it resembles animated film—the fidelity is good, but it has nothing on the real world. To become truly immersive, the virtual component must be thoroughly unquestionable—enough to fool our brains into believing that we’re in the grip of the real.

That’s where we’re headed—rushing headlong towards, in fact—and Rosedale is at the fore in getting us there. At the recent Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, CA, he dropped a few hints as to what his new company, High Fidelity, is cooking up. At its heart, it could be a 3D world that’s virtually indistinguishable from reality, offering a vastly increased speed of interaction, employing body tracking sensors for more life-like avatars, and applying the computing power of tens of millions of devices in the hands of end-users the world over. Within five years, he believes that any mobile device will be able to access and interact with photo-realistic virtual worlds in real time, with no discernable lag.

We’re already seeing the first signs of this. Last summer, I spoke with Kim Libreri at ILM (this was before the Disney purchase) regarding the stunning but now-doomed Star Wars 1313:

We’ve got to a point where many of the techniques that we would have taken as our bread-and-butter at ILM a decade ago are now absolutely achievable in real-time. In fact, you know, a render at ILM—or any visual effects company—can take ten hours per single frame. This is running at thirty-three milliseconds—that’s like a million times faster than what we would have on a normal movie.  But the graphics technology is so advanced now that the raw horsepower is there to do some incredible things.”

Star Wars 1313And this is today. Within five years, he told me, they’ll achieve absolute, indistinguishable-from-reality photo-realism. Regarding the ability of mobile devices to connect to the type of virtual world Rosedale envisions, he’s a little more conservative. In this case, the bottleneck isn’t computing power but the speed of Internet connectivity, which depends on more factors. Still, Libreri sees that being cleared within 10 years. And that’s it—we’ll have removed the last barrier to delivering hyper-realistic, fully immersive virtual worlds to any device, anywhere. From that point on, the possibilities will be limitless, bounded only by the extent of our imagination.

The implications of this, though, are another matter entirely—and one I’ll take up in my next post. Until then, I’ll leave you with a taste of the possible: Star Wars 1313 videos here

… and here.

You can read more about Philip Rosedale’s Augmented World Expo talk here.

And you can learn more about the Augmented World Expo here.

A new technology developed at Disney Research, Pittsburgh (DRP) is poised to usher in a brave new world of gaming. Called Surround Haptics, it allows game players (and film viewers, for that matter) to feel a wide range of sensations—from gentle caresses to bone-jarring collisions. Initially demonstrated during the Emerging Technology Exhibition at SIGGRAPH 2011, it was used to enhance a driving simulator, allowing drivers to feel road imperfections, skidding, braking, acceleration, collisions, jumping and landing, even objects striking the car. It’s all thanks to a gaming chair equipped with inexpensive vibrating actuators that transform digital information into physical sensation. Said Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at DRP,

Although we have only implemented Surround Haptics with a gaming chair to date, the technology can be easily embedded into clothing, gloves, sports equipment and mobile computing devices. This technology has the capability of enhancing the perception of flying or falling, of shrinking or growing, of feeling bugs creeping on your skin. The possibilities are endless.”

Endless, indeed. The ability to feel within a game environment would radically alter the game experience—especially when you consider the implications for accessible games.

Of course, this sensory enhancement has other implications as well. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this could apply to adult-themed games—which brings a critical issue to light: when is a game no longer a game? Right now, virtual sex is limited to (for the most part) a visual and auditory experience, and the line between the game world and reality is pretty clear—though there are issues of betrayal and trust even with that. But what happens when you incorporate touch into the game, when you can actually “feel” your game partner? And what happens if you combine this with a virtual world like Second Life, where your game partner could easily be a real person at the other end of a network connection? If you’re single, it may not be that big a deal, but what about people who have partners in real life? Though there’s no direct contact between game partners, would such immersive virtual sex be considered cheating? Or, more simply, would the betrayal be any less real?

If the history of technological progress has taught us anything, it’s that once we develop the ability to do something, it’s impossible to prevent. Sooner or later, haptic systems will make the inevitable leap to the bedroom. It will be up to us—individually and as a society—to adapt to this new reality.

And there are darker ways this could go, but I’d rather not get into that.

To read the original article, click here.

For more on Surround Haptics, click here.

And for an overview of haptic technology, click here.