Tag Archives | Virtual Reality

Why Did Facebook Really Buy Oculus Rift?

oculusThe tech blogs are outdoing themselves to gush praise on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s megabillions bet on virtual reality company Oculus Rift sample the excitement below from Gizmodo); but do disinfonaut skeptics have other ideas as to what’s driving Zuckerberg’s interest in VR?

The news today that Facebook will buy Oculus—the makers of the best virtual reality experiencein existence—caused paroxysms of upsetment and surprise. That’s fair! But once the smoke clears, this could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the most promising technology we have.

If you’ve been tracking Oculus since its early days as a Kickstarter project, today’s acquisition is frustrating. Facebook is your trying-too-hard uncle; Oculus is the homecoming queen. Of course seeing them together would give you the creeps.

It shouldn’t. Oculus offered a beautiful dream, but you can only get so far on Kickstarter funds. Facebook offers the financial wherewithal to make the Oculus Rift a truly mass product, to realize its vision beyond just a gimmick-driven game engine.

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Virtual Reality: It’s Easy to Say That Nothing Would Ever Beat the Real World When We’ve Never Had a Decent Contender

A thought-provoking little video from the team at THUNK, a video podcast series devoted to science and philosophy.

I wasn’t that crazy about The Matrix, honestly, but I freely admit that I probably wasn’t who the Wachowski siblings had in mind when they made the movie: I was in my mid-twenties when it came out and was already familiar with the philosophical conundrums with which Neo and gang were wrestling. When I heard Morpheus say “Free your mind” it probably didn’t help that all I could think in response was “…and your ass will follow!” – Thanks, Funkadelic. I do think that the movie was a fantastic way to get a lot of kids to start questioning things, thought, and you look at it that way, The Matrix itself was a major Red Pill.

Regardless of my feelings about the film as a whole, I’ve often considered Cypher’s choice, myself: For all he or anyone else knows, the war being waged by Neo and friends is another illusion, and not a very enjoyable one at that.… Read the rest

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Video Games Change How You Dream, Increase Lucid Dreaming

video games Are video games dreaming practice? The Verge writes:

Gackenbach is a psychologist at Canada’s Grant MacEwan University and arguably the world’s preeminent expert on how video games can impact dreaming. “The major parallel is that, in both instances, you’re in an alternate reality, whether a biological construct or a technological one,” she says.

In her most recent paper, published in the latest issue of Dreaming, Gackenbach and her colleagues solidified a key earlier finding: that so-called “hardcore” gamers (characterized by regular playing sessions of more than 2 hours, several times a week, since before the third grade) were more likely than their peers to experience lucid dreams.

With subsequent studies she has also found that during lucid dreams, gamers had control only over themselves as a character. They were also able to toggle between first and third-person point-of-view.

She’s also noted in other studies that some heavy gamers seem to be non-plussed by dreams that would qualify as nightmares.

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NSA And CIA Infiltrated World Of Warcraft And Second Life To Spy On Gamers

gamesIs that elf watching you? ProPublica reports on fascinating classified documents unearthed from Edward Snowden’s trove revealing that NSA and CIA spies have placed numerous avatars in popular virtual realms:

Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.

Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.

The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players.

But for all their enthusiasm — so many CIA, FBI and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions — the intelligence agencies may have inflated the threat.

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Panting For Breath On A Virtual Shore

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Our brains are being reprogrammed — literally. And not for the better, but droolingly bad.

A “detriment to cognition, concentration, contemplation and psychological health,” causing “structural abnormalities in gray matter” to the tune of a “fifteen percent shrinkage in the area of the brain that controls speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information.”

That´s what research in neuroscience is showing about all of the pervasive technologies — video games, cell phones, televisions, etc — so many of us spend numerous hours hyper-connected to all day long.

And, “This shrinkage is cumulative: The more time online, the more grey matter shrivels.”

“New studies are showing that internet and social media use contribute to or instigate even bigger mental breakdowns: split-personality disorder, delusional and paranoid thought, suicidal thinking, even psychosis . . . psychosis, that is defined as, a loss of what is real.”

These technologies, which we have only really had so dramatically present in our lives for the last five years, are contributing greatly to the mental breakdown of millions of people.… Read the rest

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Possible Evidence That Our Universe Is A Computer Simulation

Are the various physical limits of our universe (e.g. the cutoff in the amount of energy a cosmic ray can have) evidence that our universe is the creation of technology with limited capabilities? Huffington Post explains:

A long-proposed thought experiment points out that any civilisation of sufficient intelligence would eventually create a simulation universe if such a thing were possible. Since there would therefore be many more simulations (within simulations, within simulations) than real universes, it is more likely than not that our world is artificial.

Now a team of researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany say they have evidence this may be true. They point out that simulations of the universe naturally put limits on physical laws. By just being a simulation, [a] computer would put limits on, for instance, the energy that particles can have within the program. These limits would be experienced by those living within the sim – and as it turns out, something which looks just like these limits do in fact exist.

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Microsoft’s Own Holodeck

Picure: US Patent Office (PD)

Via Ars Technica

A newly published patent from software giant Microsoft indicates that the company is looking at developing a new, immersive video game environment. The concept sounds similar to the holodeck of Star Trek fame. Here’s hoping that the “blue screen of death” won’t become literal anytime soon:

Microsoft’s patent for an “immersive display experience” was published by the US Patent Office last week after being filed back in early 2011. It describes a standard video game system with a connected “environmental display” capable of projecting a panoramic image that “appears to surround the user.”

Such a projector wouldn’t replace the central TV display used in current consoles, but it would provide a “peripheral image” that would “serve as an extension” of that primary display. The purpose, of course, is to extend the gaming environment outside of the TV screen, so a player could, for instance, “turn around and observe an enemy sneaking up from behind.”

Wrap yourself in a snuggly digital cocoon and keep reading here.… Read the rest

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Blending War And Virtual Reality: Harun Farocki’s “Immersion”

tumblr_m3b6l07pHf1qjjis9o1_500Metropolis Magazine on artist Harun Farocki's Immersion: a video exploration of the connection between virtual reality and the military:
Eighteen years after the first Gulf War, computer-generated game technology is not only employed on the battlefield, but also used for recruiting, training prior to combat zone deployment, and now psychological care for for troops suffering battlefield trauma upon their return. It is the beginning, the middle and the end of the violence of war. Filming for Immersion took place at Fort Louis, near Seattle, during a demonstration for therapists of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, which consists of subjecting traumatized soldiers to the conditions of war once again, in a virtual reality.
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Gaming Society

Games For ChangeJane McGonigal, in a recent article on Alternet, posits that gaming, and the camaraderie created by co-operative gaming has the potential to transform society:

Tech futurist and game designer Jane [McGonigal] on how computer games can help the fight against AIDS, heal disabilities, increase optimism, and make us better people.

There are 183 million active computer game players in the United States. The average young person will spend 10,000 hours gaming by the age of 21. More than 5 million “extreme” gamers in the U.S. play an average of 45 hours a week. Videogames took in about $15.5 billion last year.

Most of what you hear about this phenomenon is doom and gloom — people becoming addicted, isolated and socially inept. Some worry that gaming is pulling people away from productive work, fulfilling relationships and real life. But game designer Jane McGonigal says the reason for the mass exodus to virtual worlds is that videogames are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs.

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