Cyberspace pending

Part of Clever machines all around us + Our bright shiny future

Another virtual reality simulation/prediction, in which various data and apps are projected into our visual field.

This video is 3.5 minutes:

There’s more: read the whole article

That simulation already looks dated, to my eyes. Many of the visual interface conventions are lifted straight out of windowed GUIs, without a lot of imagination. In some parts of the simulation, you see people holding up their phones or tablets as an overlay or viewport, to interpret and augment what we see with our own eyes.

Some of this is already showing up in mobile translation apps like Word Lens (available for iOS and Android).  Install the free Word Lens app on your phone, point your phone’s camera at a street sign written in a language you don’t read, and your phone will read, translate and render an image of the sign, exactly as though it had been written in a language you do read.

Such magic already in the world. However, holding up a phone or tablet to reveal the unseen will get old, right quick. We’ll want something like Google Glass to make this work well. We will speak and make gestures to control the machines that accompany us.

Ten years from now, the world (and perhaps I mean the rich world) is going to be a far more interactive place, in which we are surrounded by quasi-conscious digital servants. Take note: not all of them will be our servants, any more than they are today. Here’s a search to keep an eye on: augmented reality.


A note to visitors

Part of The present moment

I’ve recently learned how to display a list of posts drawn at random (you can see it there on the right, in the sidebar) using a handy Wordpress plugin.

It’s a nice enhancement to the mechanics of my blog, because it churns up old posts that even I had forgotten about, and seems to make the blog more accessible. However, it also surfaces links from this blog to other sites, that I haven’t been keeping an eye on, such that many links are now broken.

I’ve just installed an automated link checker in WordPress, that will find and report broken links for me; with its help I hope to do a better job of maintaining this site. For now, please bear with me as you may encounter any broken links.


The Veldt, a short story by Ray Bradbury

Part of Clever machines all around us + Our bright shiny future

Life imitates art.

I’ve just been watching a video on Youtube, of a 2007 Discovery Channel show about the bright shiny future of 2057. This is 40 minutes long. It has some clever (if a little ham-fisted) technological prognostications. (What I find most interesting: advertising is mentioned, but distinctly downplayed. That much seems disingenuous.)

I’m reminded of a short story by Ray Bradbury: “The Veldt,” first published in 1950. It’s about a family–George and Lydia Hadley, and their children Wendy and Peter–who live in a highly-automated state-of-the-art smart home of the future, “this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.” The most sophisticated of the house’s subsystems (what we might call a holodeck) manifests in the nursery. Under the control of the Hadleys’ children, the nursery begins to exhibit peculiar and dangerous emergent properties.

From my perspective today in 2014, Ray Bradbury’s fictional smart house seems much closer to hand, with antecedents in today’s as-yet-crude VR technologies. And surely, as Bradbury foretold in 1950: our technologies are changing us in sometimes disturbing ways.

I’ve found the story online, not sure how durable this link will be, but do read it if you get the opportunity. It’s a beautiful period piece of mid-century sci-fi, from one of the great masters:

I’ve just learned also that you can have the story read to you by Stephen Colbert:

Note, that’s a 3-part Youtube playlist, not sure if it will advance automatically but the video player controls should give you full access.



Canadian agribusiness, and new trade sanctions against Russia

Part of An interconnected world

I have not been following the current news story about the Ukraine and Russia. I mostly read the headlines. I was vaguely aware of a volley of trade sanctions, in the dispute between Russia and much of the West, but I thought of that as a fairly remote thing, nothing much to do with me.

Here’s a story from the CBC to remind me: everything is connected to everything else.

[Canadian] Pork, poultry industries
brace for impact of Russians sanctions


As the world burns

Part of Matters unravelling

To me this is a little creepy, a story of social contracts coming unhinged, in which wildfires are burning uncontrolled through American forests. It’s like we’re living in a John Brunner novel.

There’s not a lot of detail in that story, but I’ve been reading in various places that firefighting budgets were sorely strained in many western American states, in Australia, and here in British Columbia. It’s the heat, you see.


I think this is a thing to pay attention to: are forest fires really trending up, in number or extent or cost? Is that putting a strain on the capacity of the system? Who’s innovating, in the way they manage wildfires?

I’m not a forester, and these are complex issues. I’m glad I’m not in the path of the flames.

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