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posted by martyb on Saturday December 26 2015, @01:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the 3D-porn dept.

The door to mass-market virtual reality is about to burst open. Engineers have solved most of the hardware challenges, driven down the price to just a few hundred dollars, done extensive testing, and gotten software tools into the hands of creative developers. Store shelves will soon be teeming with head-mounted displays and hand controllers that can paint dazzling virtual worlds. And then the first wave of VR immigrants will colonize them.

You might think the first adopters will be gamers, but you'd be wrong. The killer app for virtual reality will more likely be something to enhance ordinary social experiences—conversations with your loved ones, a business meeting, a college class—but carried out with a far richer connection than you could establish by texting or talking or Skyping.

Jeremy Bailenson, founder of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and his coauthors predicted in these pages in 2011 that such "social VR" was on the horizon. "Current social networking and other online sites," they wrote, "are just precursors of what we'll see when social networking encompasses immersive virtual-reality technology. When people interact with others for substantial periods of time, much as they do now on Facebook but with fully tracked and rendered avatars, entirely new forms of social interaction will emerge." With the variety of head-mounted displays—including the Oculus Rift, Sony's PlayStation VR, and the HTC Vive—going on sale later this year, that future is now here.

Prediction: hacking avatars to get through long meetings will become a "thing."


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by jasassin on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:27AM

    by jasassin (3566) <jasassin@gmail.com> on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:27AM (#281068) Journal

    Standing in the middle of an orgy looking around.

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    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by cmn32480 on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:39AM

      by cmn32480 (443) Subscriber Badge <cmn32480NO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:39AM (#281070) Journal

      Porn drove VHS, DVD, and the massive expansion of the internet. Why should this tech be any different?

      --
      "It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear" - Norm Peterson
      • (Score: 4, Funny) by Tork on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:18AM

        by Tork (3914) on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:18AM (#281082)
        Not being able to hear someone entering the room...
        --
        Slashdolt Logic: "19 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:47AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:47AM (#281075)

    > [...] fully tracked and rendered avatars [...]

    This is key and I'm not sure how much focus this aspect is getting yet.
    The key difference between traditional online social venues and VR is the immersive dynamics of in-person expressiveness.
    Without the avatar conveying facial expressions and body mannerisms then there's no point to pretending to be hanging out as if in person.
    Unfortunately, it would seem VR goggles get a bit in the way of cameras and optical facial tracking.
    On the other hand, they offer a perfect place to add some myographic+eeg sensors that might be able to pick up sufficient data?

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Zinho on Saturday December 26 2015, @04:16AM

      by Zinho (759) on Saturday December 26 2015, @04:16AM (#281100)

      +0 agree :)

      I just got around to reading Snow Crash, and I'm amazed at how much it still seems fresh and predictive after all this time (published in 1992)! Stephenson makes a big deal about the difference in experience between a good social avatar and a bad one, pointing out that "flat" avatars (incapable of rendering the person's expressions) are jarring and break the immersion of the experience.

      This article seems to be saying that all Second Life needs in order to be the Next Big Thing (TM) is a VR headset. I don't see it happening, and your point is one of the big reasons why. A forest of flat faces & flying phalluses doesn't grow flowers because you've got an Oculus Rift fused to your face.

      --
      "Space Exploration is not endless circles in low earth orbit." -Buzz Aldrin
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Francis on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:52AM

    by Francis (5544) on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:52AM (#281076)

    Seriously, this is bad, social media has done enough harm to social interactions as it is. Now we're talking about completely removing any and all need to pay attention or generally care about the people we're interacting with all so media companies can spy on our every move and remove any vestige of privacy we might have had.

    People are already abusing technology so that they don't have to develop their memories or do any actual critical thinking. That's bad enough, but taking this is a huge problem in the making.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Tork on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:21AM

      by Tork (3914) on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:21AM (#281083)
      Social media has harmed social interaction? I must have missed that memo while I was spending Christmas Morning with a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years but kept up with over social media. I wonder how much I've missed by never memorizing their phone number.
      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "19 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Francis on Saturday December 26 2015, @08:51AM

        by Francis (5544) on Saturday December 26 2015, @08:51AM (#281140)

        Yes, it's bad. If you don't use social media, you're a pariah. A handful of times each year I'll hear from someone without first sending an email or calling. And that's if I'm lucky. As often as not I don't even get a response. I've been out of highschool for 16 years and we haven't had a reunion.

        It wasn't like that before social media bred a generation of people with no manners and no motivation to put in some effort into maintaining friendships.

        It's really sad how people have replaced actual human contact with the incredibly superficial friends lists of people too lazy and socially awkward to interact with people in public.

        They can go fuck themselves, I'm better off without them, but let's not pretend like this has been a good thing for most people. The only people that benefited are the people working for social media and people that had no social skills to begin with.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Geotti on Saturday December 26 2015, @12:04PM

          by Geotti (1146) on Saturday December 26 2015, @12:04PM (#281157) Journal

          A handful of times each year I'll hear from someone without first sending an email or calling. And that's if I'm lucky.

          [...]

          They can go fuck themselves, I'm better off without them [...]

          Hmm...

          • (Score: 1) by Francis on Saturday December 26 2015, @07:59PM

            by Francis (5544) on Saturday December 26 2015, @07:59PM (#281261)

            I'm better off without people that are so lazy they can't be bothered to keep up with me without having to be nagged about it constantly or have a huge monument to my ego available at all hours of the day and night to eliminate the need to actually talk with me.

            I sort of understand in the past where you had to actually dial the phone number or worse go out and buy supplies to write a letter. I can sort of understand it, but how much energy does it take to send an email or go into your contacts and make a phone call?

            • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Monday December 28 2015, @09:22AM

              by Geotti (1146) on Monday December 28 2015, @09:22AM (#281634) Journal

              how much energy does it take to send an email or go into your contacts and make a phone call?

              Maybe they just don't know your birthday and don't know when to call you?

              No, j/k.. I don't use social networks either, but I do get crazy looks when I ask for a phone and email these days. And there's –of course– a distinction to be made with regard to people you know and that might be "helpful" in the future, and friends and close acquaintances. For this first group I could see the benefit of a 'professional' social network account.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by TheRaven on Saturday December 26 2015, @08:59AM

        by TheRaven (270) on Saturday December 26 2015, @08:59AM (#281141) Journal

        I agree with both of you. Social media, as a concept, is not a bad thing unless taken to extremes (since the invention of the letter, some people have retreated from the real world and substituted telecommunication, but they're generally outliers). The problem with the current implementation of social media is the huge amount of power delegated to a small number of groups. Facebook, for example, is literally the only way that some people communicate with each other. A single, for-profit, company that exists solely to harvest profiles to use for advertising is their only way of communicating. They allow this company to read all of their messages, to collect their political opinions, their purchasing patterns, the articles that they read online, and so on.

        Facebook has enough information about enough individuals that they can accurately identify most of the swing voters in a given constituency and the issues that are important to them, and the ability to put targeted ads in front of them. That gives them everything that they need to control elections (or, as they currently do, to sell this information to the highest bidder) - what happens when every swing voter in a state sees adverts saying that candidate X cares deeply about {issue that this person cares about}? It doesn't matter whether Facebook is actually evil, people are giving them so much power that even mildly careless use of it can have a huge impact.

        --
        sudo mod me up
    • (Score: 2) by Anal Pumpernickel on Saturday December 26 2015, @05:58PM

      by Anal Pumpernickel (776) on Saturday December 26 2015, @05:58PM (#281234)

      Social media is garbage and people should not use it. Why support massive surveillance engines that abuse the users in every way possible? It's foolish.

      With that said, not everyone is all that interested in social reaction. Extreme introverts, for example. Reality is boring and ugly and I could use less of it, which is why any social "app" will be meaningless. What a completely boring use of a technology that has potential.

      But all of it will be meaningless if it's not 100% Free Software. Just like people shouldn't use "social media", people should not use software that does not respect their freedoms.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by martyb on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:54AM

    by martyb (76) on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:54AM (#281077) Journal

    I realize this is not a social application, but I would like to see VR used as a software development and debugging environment.

    I hearken back from the day of physical TTYs with yellow roll paper. I've seen the progression to dumb, monochrome 80x25 monitors. Then the introduction of color displays. Later, larger and higher resolution displays. Then multiple monitors.

    A typical desk is on the order of 3'x6' (1m x 2m) and one could cover that with very high resolution (paper) output. Why can we not have a display having apparently equivalent size and resolution?

    Granted, it would be an approximation, but this is what I envision: Imagine donning your goggles, and being able to bring up as many different 'monitors' as you need or want. Make them larger or smaller. Expand or shrink the font. Lay them out in whatever physical arrangement you like. Stack them vertically, horizontally, and front-to-back, too. Overlapping or separated.

    Obviously, technology is not at the point to implement this, yet. Still, I can't help but think that a system could track where a user's focus is aimed and provide fully readable resolution there, and put up approximations for those that are outside that focus. And, instead of moving myself around all those virtual monitors, I could 'grab' them and move them wherever I wanted to get as much information as possible in my field of view.

    Besides, who wouldn't want a good excuse^Wbusiness justification for the purchase of a VR headset? =)

    --
    Wit is intellect, dancing.
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by blackhawk on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:25AM

      by blackhawk (5275) on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:25AM (#281085)

      You can do part of this already using Windows software that pushes the desktop onto the VR device instead. The implementation is usually just one curved window floating in front of you, but there's no reason that a "VR Enabled" app couldn't throw it's windows up wherever it liked. IDE's already allow you to move around the windows and snap them together, so adding extra code to do this in 3D in a virtual environment is not exactly rocket science.

      You could even get a device to detect hand movements, so you could go all Minority Report on those floating windows, or use gestures in interesting new ways.

      The actual problem lies in the quality of the VR displays and your field of view. I'm going to have to make a couple of estimates here, but the math is out there if someone wants to calculate it for real...

      In my home triple monitor setup I have 3 x 1920x1080p 24inch displays for a virtual screen size that covers about 60 degrees over roughly a 1.2 metre arc. The monitors are about 42cms from my face, which is a pretty comfortable and usable setup for me. I don't have to turn too much to concentrate on any of the three monitors, and can see both wing monitors out my peripheral vision while staring at my main monitor. My virtual screen size is roughly 6k x 1k.

      I believe the DK2 has a FoV that covers an arc of 100 degrees, so it's already a lot wider view than my monitors, possibly 40 degrees wider. To get the same sort of resolution as I currently have in pixels / degree I would need a VR device with a display capable of about 10k x 8k (ish), and it would need to render that for both eyes (so double that screen size). Given the loss of pixels around each eye (view is barrel distorted into something the inside optics can then distort again back into the eye), and the fact you need to display a large amount of the same view area to each (with no overlap) I would guess that the actual screen would need to be more like 22k x 8k in size. That's clearly way beyond our current screen / video card technology.

      Now, you can argue that you can just use 4k screens and they would look awesome, cause they do when you watch your 4K TV, right? But that's only because you watch that 4K screen from way back, and so all 4k worth of pixels is going into both eyes (losing stereo in the process) and taking up only maybe 20 degrees of your vision.

      I think an apt analogy is that currently, in the VR world, the screens we have now provide about the same fidelity of pixel density as we used to get back in the days of CGA / VGA graphics. You can see each individual pixel quite clearly, the three colour dots that make it up, and a "screen door effect" of the square empty space around each display line / pixel. Play a classic CGA based game on a modern monitor and you will get an exaggerated view of this effect. A VGA game would be about right on a 24 inch monitor, in terms of the crumminess of pixel density.

      That is improving, and it's still pretty great for gaming / interactive media apps, but it's nowhere near good enough for long sessions at the keyboard debugging an app or writing code.

      The consumer release version has a mildly larger screen, and in short order we will hopefully see 4k screens, but it's going to be a long long time before we see anything that gives the sort of resolution and clarity you have come to expect from a basic 1920 x 1080 screen.

      You can work with a reduced FoV, but then you get the "diver's helmet" effect, where you seem to be looking at the world through a diving mask.

      I'd say it's coming though, in time. Not sure I'd want to sit in the hot Australian climate using a head mounted display for too long. I might need to get some air-conditioning before that happens - sorry environment! :D

    • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Saturday December 26 2015, @09:01AM

      by TheRaven (270) on Saturday December 26 2015, @09:01AM (#281143) Journal

      Imagine donning your goggles, and being able to bring up as many different 'monitors' as you need or want.

      Sounds awful. For a little while, I used a pair of 30" monitors. It was very easy to lose windows on them and have to hunt around to find them. I want a monitor just big enough to completely fill my field of view without turning my head and keyboard shortcuts for quickly jumping between windows. For development work, a load of different tabs for the different files / debugger instances and shortcuts for switching between them that don't require moving more than my fingers a little bit are far more productive (and less conducive to neck strain) than having to move my head around.

      --
      sudo mod me up
      • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Saturday December 26 2015, @12:21PM

        by Geotti (1146) on Saturday December 26 2015, @12:21PM (#281160) Journal

        having to move my head around

        You wouldn't have to move your head around (but you could).
        Just imagine that you could arrange an infinite virtual office in the way that you want. You could have copies (references) of all the documents (and windows/views/logs/inputs/controls) you need in a specific context without them ever loosing sync if you make a note on one and then move to a different area of your environment containing the same document.
        You would also not have to look for anything, as you'd have a CTRL+F for your environment.

        You could get a (n original) Kinect and run some of the demo apps from the OpenNI suite and get your mind blown by what was already possible a few years ago, or just look at some of the leap motion and other NUI (natural user interface) gadget videos to break free of your keyboard/mouse constraint (and I definitely don't mean waving your hands around ).

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Gravis on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:06AM

    by Gravis (4596) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:06AM (#281080)

    VR will remain overpriced, highly proprietary and will be relegated to gaming platforms until we get more advanced/libre software for 3d capture/creation. it should happen about the same time as "the year of the linux desktop". :P

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:32AM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:32AM (#281088) Journal

      *Virtual year of the virtual linux desktop

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    • (Score: 2) by Tork on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:59AM

      by Tork (3914) on Saturday December 26 2015, @03:59AM (#281097)
      What does 'libre software for 3d capture/creation' have to do with it?
      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "19 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Saturday December 26 2015, @08:33AM

        by Gravis (4596) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 26 2015, @08:33AM (#281138)

        libre software is how you get small companies and indie developers with more radical ideas involved that aren't strictly profit oriented.

    • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Saturday December 26 2015, @07:47AM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Saturday December 26 2015, @07:47AM (#281134)

      ... it should happen about the same time as "the year of the linux desktop". :P "

       
      So next year then. :D

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 4, Funny) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Saturday December 26 2015, @04:15AM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Saturday December 26 2015, @04:15AM (#281099) Homepage Journal

    Just one word:

    "Teledildonics."

    Enough said.

    --
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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26 2015, @04:39AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26 2015, @04:39AM (#281107)

      ASMRVR (gone sexual)

    • (Score: 2) by Hyperturtle on Saturday December 26 2015, @09:53PM

      by Hyperturtle (2824) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 26 2015, @09:53PM (#281287)

      But, this is VR. This isn't a tele-communicable dildonifier. You can see the virtual representation of a floating dildos, which of course is not as good as the real thing, even if the result is impressive.

      http://www.somethingawful.com/second-life-safari/room-101-vs/1/ [somethingawful.com]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26 2015, @06:08PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26 2015, @06:08PM (#281237)

    "The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forster

    http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html [illinois.edu]