All day and night today, Rick Smolan and a mass of photojournalists all around the world were doing this 24 Hours in Cyberspace netcast thing. Earlier in the day, Clinton signed the way too dubious TeleCom Bill. Figured the time was right to do a little documentation of my own; catch the gone world in action. And maybe, if the action was any good, I'd make a web page for Howard's Zeit the Geist thing. One just like this. So here we go. Another night in Downtown Cybertown.
We drop off Mark at 7:20 and jam full across town to get to the Exploratorium for this meeting of the VeRGe/ Virtual Reality Group. The evening is being hyperbolically promoed as "Jackin' In: The Wetware Interface" Still, they've got some good presenters lined up, and I thought maybe we could gnaw away on an insight or two. Get there at 7:40 and the crowd is packed outside trying to get in.
| The crowd is clever-looking,
friendly, and geek-powered way deep into the third-dimension. They probably
don't get out enough but hey, they're GIFTED! |
Linda Jacobsen, she does the monstrous mistress of ceremonies thing, fast and loose, in close adherence to pARTy/SCIENCE precept number one:
Next, Mark Pesce talked us through a video of a VR installation by a Canadian artist named Char Davis. This must have been one smokin' experience. The user straps on a body vest that monitors their breath. The view in the head-mount is navigated by your breath, as if you were scuba diving. You breath in and go up, you exhale to go down, you lean forward to go forward, you pull back to move back. Soft otherworldly vistas open up and transform into each other. Twelve different dimensions centered around a world tree. Think about it. Breath-based input controls. VR Yoga. Watch out, puppynoses.
After a short break, the virtual architects from Planet 9 showed the Virtual SOMA project as well as a new model of the proposed new baseball stadium. They promised cool features soon, supportable by VRML 2.0.
9:08:52 Superscape does slick work. They're smart, they're together, they run fat stuff fast on Pentium 90's. Inside the world, light switches dim lights, click on a slide projector for a mini-presentations, while wall clocks keep real-time.
The evening wrapped with a presentation by Midwest artist, Rita Addison, whose first VR piece DETOUR: Brain Deconstruction Ahead sprang from her experiences with a head injury following a car crash.She didn't show that piece, but she did show a video of a piece called Synesthesia, where two users in an immersive VR theater (the CAVE) are monitored for breath and pulse. Projected on the walls is a web grid. The breath signal raises or lowers the web, while the pulse signals sends ripples through the grid.
Rita also talked about her next piece called Red Rock.. It will be based on her experience as a ten year old girl on a runaway horse across a New Mexico mesa through a thunderstorm. As rain drops bounced off the parched clay, and a dark cloud pulled across the sky, a lightning bolt spooked her horse. Having no saddle, she clutched at the mane while lightning flashed around her turning tumbleweeds silver.
Rita provided an uplifting close to the swoopy cyber-eve. Turning the "Jackin' in" theme around, it was clear that this crowd was enthusiastically behind anything that got humans out in front of the technology rather than slavishly following behind it. If you don't quite see the difference there, look again. Ultimately, it must be the user experience that leads the way. How do we stay that course? Who can say. Dialogue, trust, and an open mind, perhaps? At least that was the optimistic hope in the air, as Dianna and I headed for the car to get across town to another party, already in progress.