Virtual PA

A link through to a brief report on a NZ project to create a virtual personal assistant for controlling your environment. See Meet Nicole, the virtual PA – Stuff.co.nz.

More detailed information at: Massey University – School of Engineering and Advanced Technology – Unravelling the mystery of mechatronics and YouTube – Massey University Engineering Smart House.

Related link: Greenflame · Guess who’s coming to (virtual) dinner?

Virtual Archaeology

A recent article on the Reuters web site Ancient Rome comes back to life in virtual model reports on the University of Virginia’s RomeReborn1.0 project, which attempts to recreate a virtual reality model of the entirety of Rome circa 320AD. (That’d be good to splice into a computer simulation game)

Reminded me of the ARCHEOGUIDE project that was promoted before the 2004 Athens Olympics. This was an augmented reality project that allowed people physically exploring the site of ancient Olympia to have virtual constructs of the “unruined” structures superimposed upon the landscape to give impressions of their size and relationship to other structures. More in the paper Cultivate Interactive Issue 9: Augmented Reality Touring of Archaeological Sites with the ARCHEOGUIDE System.

Also there is an exploration of the ruins of the bronze age palace at Knosós on the island of Crete available at British School at Athens: Knosós. (Uses Quicktime VR)

Three different approaches – virtual reality, augmented reality and web-based media.

Are virtual worlds inhibiting real social progress?

Simon Smith (who runs the BetterHumans.com web site) pauses to think about the effects of living in “eschatological” hope – in this case, waiting for some sort of techno-rapture. See Simon : Are virtual worlds inhibiting real social progress?.

But I would argue that, thanks to their sheer immersiveness, virtual worlds are qualitatively different from previous escapes, and getting more sophisticated all the time. My concern is what happens to the world while we’re waiting to upload into our digital utopias. The more realistic and appealing our virtual worlds, the more I fear people will avoid dealing with real problems. It’s certainly possible that virtual worlds will have a positive societal influence, with people trying to replicate some of their virtual experiences in real life. But I think it’s far more likely that people will increasingly seek to escape a world with poverty, sickness, social strife and other ills for one where such suffering is not only eliminated, but simply not represented because those who suffer can’t afford the cost of entry.

Related link – Greenflame: By their eschatology you shall know them.

Robot and Animal Ethics

A couple of links relating to ethical considerations of emerging technologies.

No sex please, robot, just clean the floor – Sunday Times – Times Online notes the call by some for ethical guidelines to be developed with respect to robot/AI research. Ethical guidelines for both developers and users.

BetterHumans.com : An uplifting evening with James Hughes. Simon Smith ponders whether you should make your pet (or other animals) more intelligent if you had the power to do so. Again some interesting reflections here (though Deep Blue Sea did come to mind seeing as dogs and cats are carnivores).

Anyone for Tennis?

This is funky. Playing virtual tennis in real space with your cell phone. I love augmented reality technologies (see Greenflame: Augmented Reality, Children’s Books and Ritual), and the video clips at the HITL (NZ) web site have some interesting demos. (Just wish they were in Quicktime or MPEG formats – never know how WMV is going to perform on the old iBook)

See: Wired News: Next Game Controller: Your Phone and Human Interface Technology New Zealand (Videos).