Projected success for holographic telepresence

Paul Raven @ 08-11-2010

The Guardian strikes back with a another sci-fi pop-culture reference in a new-tech article; this time the holographic projections from Star Wars: A New Hope get the nod as the “just like that” examplar of new research from the University of Arizona:

Until now, scientists have been able to create holograms that display static 3D images, but creating video has not been easy. Two years ago, Peyghambarian’s team demonstrated a device that was able to refresh a holographic image once every few minutes – it took around three minutes to produce a single-colour image, followed by a minute to erase that image before a new one could be written into its place.

In his latest project, Peyghambarian’s team reduced that image refresh time to two seconds. They also showed it was possible to use full colour and demonstrated parallax, whereby people looking at the image from different angles will see different views of the image, just as if they were looking at the original object.

Note, however, this is not a true 3D hologram:

Whereas the image of Princess Leia in Star Wars is projected in three-dimensional space, the new technology uses a 2D screen to create the illusion of 3D. At the heart of Peyghambarian’s system is his team’s invention of a new type of plastic known as a photorefractive polymer. The material, which is used to make the screen, allows the researchers to record and erase images quickly.

Naturally enough, the predicted market for this technology is telepresence for business meetings… which is the very same market that was meant to have made videophones ubiquitous by now. Given the amount of hardware and expense involved in this holographic telepresence set-up, I figure videotelephonics and/or metaverse meetings will get taken up much more quickly, if at all.

Still kinda cool, though.


Dumb futurism: telecommuter robot reaches staggering new heights of pointlessness

Paul Raven @ 19-05-2010

Anybots QB telepresence robotEvery time I see someone ask the (usually rhetorical) question “why don’t we have the world full of robots that science fiction promised us?“, I’m always tempted to reply with a swing of the clue-by-four: “because anyone with any sense can see that a human worker is always going to be cheaper and more useful“.

Cheap and useful are two watchwords for companies that employ telecommuters, too. So why in hell’s name would a company of that ilk decide to invest in something that looks like a vaguely anthropomorphic floor-polisher to “to be the eyes and ears of telecommuters, workers in branch offices, and others who collaborate with people in an office when they aren’t in the office”?

If you really need that worker in the office, pay them to come in; it’ll be cheaper than ol’ QB here, and you’ll get all the real benefits of having a meatperson in the room, rather than a suite of functions that, if you really needed them, could be adequately provided by a mid-powered laptop and some audio-visual gear mounted on one of the old trolleys from the postroom that never gets used any more because everyone sends stuff in by email. Any CEO who thinks that he needs to spend thousands of dollars on “enterprise-class telepresence equipment” should probably give his IT geek a payrise and start listening to him once in a while.

I don’t know what’s more disappointing; that there could be even so much as a potential market for this tackily kitsch little technofetish, or that so many supposedly tech-savvy journalistic outlets could have written such uncritical puffpieces about it.

[ I fully blame the curmudgeonly tone of this post on having encountered the word “webinar” twice within the space of one morning. Writing this was a better option than killing puppies and kittens. ]


Telepresence: virtually as good as being there

Brenda Cooper @ 23-09-2009

This topic – telepresence – started knocking around in my head when I walked into a business meeting almost a year ago in Kirkland, Washington. A wall-sized (literally, exactly, one wall floor to ceiling, side to side) picture showed a room the same shape as the one we stood in. People walked into the room and sat down.

They were in Silicon Valley. Continue reading “Telepresence: virtually as good as being there”


Subdermal analgesics – implanted painkillers

Paul Raven @ 19-05-2009

neural stimulator implantA pill for every ill? How very Twentieth Century! In the future, my friend, your chronic pains will be alleviated by tiny subdermal devices wired directly into your nerves, activated remotely beyond the body by radio signals from a master control device:

The device works similarly to spinal-cord stimulators for managing chronic pain. The idea is that the electrical jolts delivered by the device override the neural pain signals being transmitted to the spinal cord. However, the precise mechanism is not yet clear.

[…]

Like some cochlear implants and other medical devices, the implant is powered with radio-frequency transmission: radio waves transmitted by the external coil generate a magnetic field in the internal coil, which powers the electrodes. Adopting technologies from the rapidly advancing RFID world has allowed the researchers to further shrink the device.

Before rushing off to hassle your local medical practitioner for a set, however, bear in mind that this is still at the conceptual stage:

Researchers have developed a prototype device, which they are testing in rats. The device can effectively stimulate peripheral nerves in rats, although it’s not yet clear whether the electrical stimulation alleviates chronic pain. (Scientists assess chronic pain in rats by recording how much the animals eat; a rat in pain won’t eat as much.)

Assuming it works as expected, this could be a real life-changer for people suffering with chronic conditions. However, I don’t think it’s a wild leap of logic to assume that if nerve stimulation can be used to alleviate pain, it can probably be used to create it as well – maybe even with exactly the same set-up. It’s easy enough to hijack regular RFID tags, after all.

Thinking a little further, perhaps this technology would become part of the suite of telepresence devices. Rather than wear some sort of all-over suit, sensory stimulation from virtual worlds could be reproduced in the body by carefully timed and coded radio signals… which would make the perceptual line between reality and the metaverse that much thinner and fuzzier. [via grinding.be; image borrowed from Technology Review article under Fair Use terms, please contact for takedown if required]


Chessmen that debate every move

Edward Willett @ 16-02-2009

democratic chess When I first read about the “Democratic Chess Set” I thought it was going to be some kind of political satire aimed at the U.S. Democratic Party (“It’s just like regular chess, except you throw borrowed money at everything that moves while yelling ‘Stimulus! Stimulus!’. The first player to use up $1 trillion wins!”). But instead (Via Gizmodo):

Democratic Chess is a work in progress, the idea  derives from  Lewis Carroll´s “Through the looking glass”. The  book is based on a game of chess played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most main characters met in the story are represented by a chess piece, with Alice herself being a pawn.

Democratic Chess is Chess game where each figure is made of an IP-WLan-network camera each capable of looking around, listening and talking to the other figures as well as the 2 real person players. With this technology there are many different ways how to play the Game, the next move can be decided in a democratic way among the Figures or they are allowed to discuss with the players and each other the next moves, but at the End the 2 player make the moves.

It’s the brainchild of designer Marco Marcovici, who says the technology is already working and he hopes to have a prototype shortly…but there’s no detail beyond what’s quoted above.

Now, personally, being the committee-adverse type that I am, the thought of what’s essentially chess-by-committee appals me. Still, it’s an interesting concept, combining elements of social networking and telepresence with an ancient game.

What other board–or other–games could it be applied to?

(Image: ArtMarcovici.)

[tags]games,chess,telepresence,social networking[/tags]


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