Virtual Reality: The Too Many Cooks Edition

on Tuesday, Mar. 3rd

If this isn’t the year that virtual reality hardware makes it into the consumer market it won’t be for a lack of options. In fact if there’s anything that’s becoming obvious in the days before the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is that there just might be too many cooks in the virtual kitchen.

First let’s take a quick look at all the players in the space:


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Siegel's NOME meditation machine.

Hacking Consciousness: Silicon Valley’s Next Frontier

on Monday, Mar. 2nd

Is there something that lies beyond the quantified self movement? This MIT trained, former NASA robotics engineer says yes.

Admit it: you’ve used at least one of those self-improvement apps thinking that it would make you a better person. Heck, you might be using one right now: keeping track of steps, calories, sleep, even the number of times you checked your phone yesterday.

You might even be borderline obsessed with what this tells you as your phone and its wearable companions translate your life into trackable data. This is the core of the quantified self movement, and it has become a big business in the past half decade.

“The whole quantified self movement is a path towards self-awareness, it’s just right now a path towards conceptual self-awareness.”

That’s the New Age sounding take of Mikey Siegel, an engineer who is part of the “consciousness hacking” movement in Silicon Valley. Siegel—who has worked for NASA and holds a degree from MIT—and his cohort want to use technology to do more than just turn our activities into data. His work is all about turning what’s going on in our minds and bodies into something that can be can experienced externally, in some cases even as a collective experience.


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Joshua Peter's Twitch stream, moments before he was swatted. (YouTube via Ars Technica)

Is There Any Way To Put The Trolls Back In The Bottle?

on Friday, Feb. 6th

Earlier this week I started to finally feel a tiny spark of hope that the reign of troll terror on these here Internets would be over in the not-too-distant. Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, straight up admitted that the social media service had a serious problem with harassment and that it was costing them in terms of public perception and users. Ahead of an earnings call, no less.

Costolo took personal responsibility for the situation, and while a plan for how to shut down troll was’t unveiled he made it clear that the cost of being a serial abuser should be higher than the cost of being the abused. We’ll reserve judgement on the approach to balancing the scales until for when it is revealed.

That good vibe pretty much evaporated today after reading the latest swatting story over at Ars Technica. It’s a little tale about a Twitch streamer with a modest following having the SWAT team sent to his house.


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lost hand

VR Cinema Making All Kinds Of Waves At Sundance

on Tuesday, Jan. 27th

At every Sundance Film Festival publicists and the press jockey to declare that year’s “It Girl.” This year the “It” is an “it”: virtual reality has come home to Sundance and is eating up headlines usually reserved for quirky comedies and groundbreaking docs.

To be fair: this year’s film crop sounds pretty good as well. It feels like this was a bad year to not make the pilgrimage to Utah. Especially if one wanted to see VR cinema history get made.

The big headline grabber was yesterday’s announcement by Oculus VR’s of their own Story Studio, which will produce five VR films this year. The pioneering company showed off its first efforts and some of the reviews are fairly ecstatic.

Just as exciting for those of us with an indie mindset is what Seed & Spark and WeMo unleashed today: a diversity-minded grant program that aims to bring filmmakers into the VR cinema field while it is still in its infancy.


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Image: Microsoft

Your Face Is The Future of Computing

on Wednesday, Jan. 21st

One thing has become very clear in the last year, and it was drawn into even sharper focus today: the future of computing is going to take place right on our faces.

Whether it is in the form of virtual reality (e.g. Oculus Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus) or augmented reality (e.g. Google’s Glass) the vision of the future that has tech companies stumbling over themselves to capture the public’s imagination relies on the idea that we’ll all be wearing stuff on our faces.

The latest entrant into the Face Race: Microsoft, which showed off their Windows Holographic platform featuring the Windows HoloLens headset at its big Windows 10 event today.

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CES 2015: When The VR Hype Machine Started To Squeak

on Friday, Jan. 9th

Here’s the problem with hype machines: the longer you keep them running, the harder it is to keep them running.

Such is the case with virtual reality, which had another big year as the Coming Attraction at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Right next to all the smart home technology that electronics manufacturers hope we will lose out minds over.

Let’s be clear: the potential for a virtual reality revolution remains an exciting prospect. There are still millions of people who have yet to experience the state of the art in VR tech. The state of the art itself is constantly evolving, with some major announcements this past week by Oculus VR—the company that got everyone talking about VR after more than a decade of slumber—that address the audio component of VR.

As any filmmaker or video game creator can tell you audio can make or break a experience that we primarily think of as visual.

Yet you can only stay excited about a nascent technology for so long, and signs of VR fatigue have begun to set in amongst the tech press.


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Now Funding: Kickstarter Drops Amazon, IndieCade Fave Goes Live

on Tuesday, Jan. 6th

Kickstarter is two for two in 2015 so far, at least in terms of getting my attention in the news cycle. Yesterday it was their yearly “By the Numbers” report that I took a closer look at. Today they announced on their blog that they are dropping Amazon Payments in favor of Stripe, another web payment solution.

A little more on that, and on an IndieCade favorite from October that is launching their KS campaign while at the Consumer Electronics Show, after the jump.


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Image via Kickstarter

Close Reading: Kickstarter’s ‘By The Numbers’ Illustrates A Weak Point

on Monday, Jan. 5th

Kickstarter—whose brand name is synonymous with crowdfunding— released an annual “By the Numbers” post today, covering 2014.

There’s some big numbers thrown up amidst the charts and graphs: over half a billion dollars ($529 million to be more specific) was pledged with 22,252 projects getting successfully funded last year.

What I instantly wanted to know was how did Kickstarter do in 2014 compared to it’s own reporting of 2013. Luckily those numbers are still with us, along with the 2012 numbers just for good measure.


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Detail from the cover of Snow Crash.'

Bright, Bold Future: Magic Leap Has Hired The Godfather of The Metaverse

on Tuesday, Dec. 16th

There’s a rapturous term thrown around by VR enthusiasts: “The Metaverse.” It is a term that comes from the seminal Neal Stephenson science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it described a kind of embodied virtual reality. Instead of clicking around on order forms, for instance, virtual shoppers would visit a virtual mall in avatar form. Those avatars were creative reflections of the user’s soul, not the crude matter we poor meatspace dwellers are cursed with.

Those who follow the VR boom have heard the term fall from the lips of Oculus founder/wunderkind Palmer Luckey a thousand thousand times. The dream at Oculus isn’t just of kick ass games and immersive cinema, the dream is to bring the Metaverse to live.

Now Oculus’ biggest rival for the shape of the digital future—the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida based Magic Leap—has wooed the Stephenson, he who coined “Metaverse,” into their camp to become “Chief Futurist.”


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Courtesy: Movidius

A Peek At The Future of Machine Vision With Movidius’ CEO Remi El-Ouazzane

on Monday, Dec. 15th

The lives we lead are already infused with technology, sometimes to the point where it seems inescapable. So it can seem strange to think that we might only be at the beginning of a technological age and not already within sight of the zenith.

Despite the fact that we call the devices in our pockets “smartphones” they are relatively blunt instruments. Designed to respond to our commands, usually inputed as text (although a shaky understanding of the spoken word is slowly dawning on them). They have “eyes” to see in the form of cameras, but what these devices can discern about the world around them is limited.

Which is about to change.


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Detail from the cover of Snow Crash.'

Bright, Bold Future: Magic Leap Has Hired The Godfather of The Metaverse

There’s a rapturous term thrown around by VR enthusiasts: “The Metaverse.” It is a term that comes from the seminal Neal Stephenson science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it described a kind of embodied virtual reality.



In the looming battle of AR and VR the prize is your mind.

Let’s talk about augmented reality versus virtual reality shall we?

Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

These Game Controllers Will (One Day) Read Your Mind

A version of this story airs on NPR/WBUR’s Here & Now.


Virtual Reality’s Future Hinges on Presence and Patience

There are two reoccurring themes in the reports out of this past weekend’s Oculus Connect developers conference in Hollywood.


The Dumbest Case Against Games Journalists You’ll Ever Hear

WARNING: Contains Opinions.