Science Fiction becomes our (Mixed) Reality

I was looking through a couple of talks on mixed and augmented reality, and I came across one from the 2015 SVVR conference by David Holz (CTO, Magic Leap). You can watch the entire talk here. But the Sci-Fi nerd in me wants to repost just my favorite parts below.

“Right now, when people say ‘digital,’ they mean it doesn’t look real. It doesn’t act real. It’s not a real thing. It’s this whole other separate thing that is not part of my normal experience. Over time, as all of these things come together, that really changes fundamentally. The digital medium becomes a physical material of the everyday world. Kids might say, some things are made of atoms and waves, and some things are made of bits and bytes. How we perceive the world changes at a philosophical level.”

“Our kids are going to get really weird. When I say I see something, I’m very biased to the things in the real world. Now all of a sudden, sights don’t have to be sights, sound doesn’t have to be sounds. All of these things can be remapped and interchanged. Reality in the future will mean something different than it does to us now, and the human experience is going to vastly expand. Kids won’t just play with soccer balls, they’ll play with atoms, galaxies, and quantum particles.”

So why did I post this almost Descartian view of reality?

Augmented Reality has been around in Sci-Fi literature since 1893 with the first mention of La Stilla in Jules Verne’s The Carpathian Castle. The Italian prima donna is thought to be alive, but is later shown to be a projected still image accompanying a high-quality phonograph recording.

1893 - First appearance of Augmented Reality in Literature

1893 – La Stilla in The Carpathian Castle (the first appearance of Augmented Reality in Literature)

But how can we discuss science fiction depicting the futuristic technologies, the result of new scientific discoveries, or different social systems and the consequences of this change without discussing Asimov.

My favorite reference to Augmented Reality in Asimovian literature has to be during a Seldon Crisis in the original Foundation Trilogy (1942). A Seldon Crisis, named after Hari Seldon, is a fictional socio-historical series of events culminating in a seemingly catastrophic social and political situation that, to be surmounted, would eventually leave only one possible, inevitable, course of action. At the climax of each Crisis, Seldon would appear to the citizens of the city in a pre-recorded hologram, reassuring the citizens of Terminus that they remained on track with the Seldon Plan.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and we start to see more and more traces of Augmented Reality turning into Mixed Reality with Stargate Atlantis (2004), Doctor Who (2007), Black Mirror (2011) and more.

AR Holographic projection of Hari Seldon in the Terminus Time Vault in Asimov's Foundation Series.

AR Holographic projection of Hari Seldon in the Terminus Time Vault in Asimov’s Foundation Series.

With mixed reality we have the potential for Sci-Fi to come into our daily life with the real world suddenly augmented with virtual objects and characters, walking around and interacting with the us as much as we can interact with them. Initially it was only the live world and live experiences that would involve all our senses (visual, audio, haptic, olfactory and more). With the advent of mixed reality, and the ability of current procedural content generation algorithms (insert shameless plug to my own research) to use their breadth of experience in VR to tailoring the virtual elements in mixed reality, this balance changes. In the future, VR may pale in comparison to Mixed Reality.

Isaac Asimov summarised the importance of science fiction in 1978, and his statement is (not so) surprisingly very relevant to our Mixed Reality discussion. He stated:

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be… Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not. Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence…has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.

Magic Leap & Star Wars

There’s a new partnership in town. That of Magic Leap and Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB! And the first thing the duo released was this gorgeous video featuring two absolutely iconic characters from Star Wars!

I know Magic Leap has been a little tight lipped about the details of their product (a light weight mixed reality headset), and the 1000 odd users that have tested it have definitely complied with their NDAs, but once you watch this video, you can’t help but hope that this is real. I know I definitely drooled mentally when R2-D2 projected a mixed reality experience onto a real table from within another mixed reality experience!

If the interview is to be believed, the device shall be out “hopefully soon-ish” and this Fall we may see the first of the headsets hit the market! I for one am absolutely looking forward to it 🙂

Using Learning by Recording Cases to solve Raven’s Progressive Matrices

I’ve been very lax in my blog of late. A lot of really cool stuff has happened since the last post, I got into Georgia Tech’s MS CS program. Took some really awesome classes, and then got driven batshit crazy with the homework, assignments and projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love every minute of it, but it’s tiring nonetheless.

I thought I’d share one of my better assignments from my Knowledge-Based AI (KBAI) class with my readers. We’ve been trying to answer Raven’s Progressive Matrices using various KBAI techniques. This post will try to solve the test using the Learning by Recording Cases method.
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Calling all Whovians of India… 50th Anniversary Meet

Dear Whovians in India,

As you probably know by now, India will not be screening the 50th Anniversary show in theatres or on any channel here. Our sincerest apologies for the delay in getting back to you; we’ve been (and are still) trying continuously to persuade BBC reps and various broadcast partners to screen it here in India. Unfortunately, all we’ve received are flat out ‘no’s or polite British non-committal responses. Torrents zindabad! it is, then.

However, on the bright side, we collected almost 500 sign ups for the 50th in India, and many of you have emailed and asked me to organize a unofficial Whovian meet up in the cities. For this we will need your help.

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Stuck in Boot Loop on the Mac ?

Recently 2-3 friends have had this problem with their Macs. Maybe its a 3rd Party extension, or or add-on causing it, or maybe a hardware fault. Unfortunately, most of the time in India, if you take your Mac to your local Apple Third Party Reseller or Apple Authorized Service Provider, they will tell you that the only way to resolve this is to wipe your hard disk and by doing so you will lose all your data. But there are other ways….

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