Recently in Commentary Category
Finally got hold of the High Frontier supplement for the GURPS Transhuman Space RPG. This is still one of the best "realistic" imaginings of a near-future solar system - probably circa 2150 or even 2200 given current rates. It's certainly on a par with Paul McAuley's Quiet War series.
One thing that also struck me about recent SF I've read:
- Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonland is all about future India
- Quiet War is about a dominant Brazil in space
- Transhuman Space is all about a dominant China in space.
In other words it looks like the BRICs countries will inherit and dominate our SF future.
With the iPad to hand there really is no excuse for not updating this blog more often! (scratch that - using the Movable Type screens on an iPad are a real pain)
Back in September I put together a list of 5 big projects to occupy my spare time (such as it is) alongside growing Daden. They were:
- Creating environment spaces on OpenSim - with no more limits on number of sims then nice spacious builds in an SL like space are possible
- Working more on Halo's AI - I'm disappointed that 2 years after the Machine Intelligence competition I've spent hardly any time pushing Halo forward. Particular areas of interest are increasing her situatedness in SL, making more use of semantic triples, and working on the next generation chat engine
- Widening the scope of my wargaming, and in particular finishing off my MechWar and Napoleonic rules
- Doing something with my Future History ideas - wiki, novel, book?
- Growing a second "pocket money" income stream - possibly around selling PDF copies of rules or my old Traveller writings
So 3 months later where am I?
- OpenSim - go off to a good start with porting the Tranquility Base sim we did in SL to OpenSim, and started work on a Mars base. Then an afternoon out to Packwood House had me start on a model of that C17 building and its grounds. That then got overtaken by events but I did work out how to get island/continent outlines into OpenSim, and am currently looking at terrain data import. Hopefully progress Packwood House, Mars and the terrain import over the next few months.
- Halo's AI - Read a load about adjacency pairs and spruced up some of Halo's open smalltalk stubs. Working slowly through some semantic triples databases and just started a triples editor to make the whole triples thing easier. Still not as much time on this as I'd like.
- Wargaming - into the closing stretch of the ECW army, photo's coming, and then can concentrate on rules set. Also found the Napoleon200 project - and will hopefully get my first game in March, and the Wargame Developments Group and their annual Conference of Wargamers which I'll hopefully get to.
- Future History ideas - bottom of the pile, no progress
- Second Stream - real progress. Had been playing around with some ideas to solve an on-going problem I have related to one of the above when I not only found a workable solution, but also a real business opportunity. Teamed up with my mate Nick (the last joint venture we had was a short-wave fanzine in school!) and we're now working to develop the project - codenamed C60 for now (and nothing to do with home-taping).
I'll try and post on developments on each of these as they happen.
Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch has an interesting blog post comparing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, based primarily on a Google Trends plot of both search terms in Google.
- Augmented Reality has now over taken Virtual Reality, and
- "You can take your virtual reality and get lost on Second Life. I'll take augmented reality any day. It's just more real."
As Mark Kingdon's New Year post says though virtual worlds such as Second Life are likely to become even more real (Second Life HD - SLHD Mark calls it), and anyway:
- The current killer apps for virtual worlds and augmented reality are different - the VW strength is in training and learning, collaboration and whole building and data visualisation, AR is currently in navigation and interpretation
- Increasingly the two will blur - we will have more AR with VW, and be able to our VW on as a AR overlay on real-life (see Halting State by Charles Stross)
So in most respects while the "tension" between AR and VW is interesting to me it is ultimately pointless as the future involves both.
But then I looked at Erick's graph again. He plotted virtual reality against AR - which apart from being a poetic balance is actually the wrong thing. All my (and most other people's talk) is about virtual worlds. VR is very much the 70s/80s term - no wonder its declining on his graph - and the VW "bubble" was in 2006 well after his graph shows VR declining.
So I did my own Google Trends - plotting AR against not only VR but also "virtual worlds" - having checked of course that my AR/VR graph was the same as his. The result:
That looks a truer picture. VW steading growing with something of a step change around 2006 and then growing steady til it was overhualed bythe AR hype of mid 2009, but then actually taking AR back over (just) at the end of 2009!.
As ever lies, damn lies and statistics!
As I said earlier this isn't to say that VW is better than AR or more important - they are both going to be important and vital to the future - all we need to know is which to use for which application, and how to get them to work together.
Here's my reflections on The Big Debate event. Speaker-wise Charles Leadbetter and Toby Barnes were great, but David Harris must have thought he was speaking at an advertising event circa 2000. Far too long was spent on them talking though, and not enough on the rest of us having some structured discussion. The final "ideas" list could have been done in the first 10 minutes and had no hard actions.
But I don't want to spend this post griping, I want to contribute. So here is my "Top 4" actions (sorry couldn't get to 5!) that I'd like to see taken as part of an "invite the pirates" initiative, and which would certainly help the pirates like myself who are already here. The first three should be do'able quickly and cheaply, the other might take a bit longer but can at least be projectised..
1.Open up the local HEI student cafe areas to SMEs, making them co-working spaces where collaboration can naturally happen.
I'm lucky that I spend a lot of time visit regional and other HEIs. Most have nice cafes full of students working in ad-hoc groups, and wi-fi and power. The Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University even has lightweight igloos and tents that students can drop over the tables to make ad-hoc project spaces. Whilst my meetings usually involve staff rather than students there is a) a nice buzz about being around students and b) from screens and books and posters you pick up a bit about what is going on.
So why don't we "formalise" this. Why not let SMEs make use of these same spaces - so that we can build informal links with the students - growing their awareness of us and of real business, and our awareness of their individual and collective capability. And we might even agree to give the odd guest lecture for the privilege!
2.Ensure that every HEI has an RSS feed or web service giving a) key details of each member of their research/development staff and b) details of each paper/report produced by the HEI
One area that we really struggle with is finding out who in our local HEIs are expert in the areas we are interested in. Over 5 years we're getting there, but it takes a lot of effort and I'm sure is not 100% complete. The Index Voucher scheme has been useful quite apart from the cash in finding out who's who, but we need something better.
So why doesn't every HEI clearly advertise an RSS feed or web service where I can track by keyword any paper, project, report, activity or people in the areas that interest me. We're not talking about a portal, something they have to maintain separately or I have to go to separately, but a feed straight out of what one would hope would be existing systems, and straight into my existing RSS reader.
3. Every company should post an RSS feed of student project ideas
The flipside of 2. When I visit HEIs I'm often asked if I have ideas for student projects - but chances are that I have my ideas at a different time from when they want the projects. And the lecturers appear to be crying out for real commercial projects. So every SME should post ideas on their web site as they occur to them, make them available on an RSS feed, and let the HEIs aggregate and search then as needed. Again no portal, but a great mash-up of project ideas. The benefits should be obvious - students and lecturers get real ideas and commercial input, companies get interesting work done for free.
We could even extend the model to embrace freelancers and bounty projects (Pirates again), and maybe even peer-to-peer B2B collaboration.
This is one we can do for ourselves, and the Daden project feed will go live by the end of the week.
4.Create urban (and rural) based hubs
The recent debate out about the Digital District had a lot of people calling for the emphasis to be city-wide, not just Digbeth. And talking to people in the Birmingham Library Service there's a lot of talk about how neighbourhood libraries are integrated with the new Central Library. And with others there's been talk about how we can make better use of school premises - particularly as they get revamped for the the 21st Century under Building Schools for the Future. And Moseley now has Moseley Exchange, and I've always been a great fan of the old Telecottage concept - no longer as a tech hub but as a co-working hub. So whilst I see the merit for a focussed physical centre for our Digital efforts (and Digbeth is nicely on the #50 bus route), I can also see the benefit in finding a way to federate that District out through a series of hubs based on existing infrastructures into the urban villages and neighbourhoods of Birmingham, and into the market towns and rural villages of the West Midlands.
and a description of how it was done
Wordle from Guardian
Underwhelmed by the Digital Britain report, but still a pity I won't be able to make the regional launch at the ICC today. The Wordle above nicely summarises the issues:
- dominance of Government
- Radio far stronger than TV or Internet (talk about aiming low)
- Ditto spectrum
- No mention of web 2.0 brands, technologies or principles
Overall it looks more like an "old media" report than a "new media" report, failing to grasp the possibly seismic change in communications that high speed broadband and mobile broadband could bring, and the changes in consumption (and production) patterns already happening.
Perhaps a better approach would have been a 3 part one:
- tidying up the old guard (radio, spectrum, BBC, Channel 4)
- rapid build-out of a next-gen infrastructure
- exploiting that infrastructure
Neat site and looks like good content. Yet another challenge/opportunity for University 2.0?
Never seen this before, but it had the family in stitches.