12 December 2016

Mindcontrolled Virtual Reality

This awesome VR project combines the forces of three sophisticated gadgets to take mind-controlled virtual reality to the next level. Use your mind to move around with the Emotiv EPOC brain-interface, look around with the Oculus Rift 3D headset, and move your hands to interact with virtual objects holding the Razer
Hydra gaming controller.

According to project creator Chris Zaharia, this kind of complex simulation could become equally useful in education, medicine, tourism or in the gaming industry. Zaharia has been following the virtual reality space as a hobby, he has built a virtual reality simulation in Skyrim, and he is also the founder of a startup called Zookal.

Zaharia says that the VR space is starting to show a lot of potential, and various technologies could be used together to enhance education and to demonstrate what cognitive control is able to achieve in a virtual environment.

Zaharia has created a few simulations to try out the integration, including some basic educational demos like city building, surgery, chemistry and also a first person shooter where the hand tracking feature operates a pistol, whilst the player can move around either with the brain-controlled EPOC or using the Hydra’s joystick.

The chemistry demo shows what reactions occurs when you mix different chemicals together, but probably the most impressive demo is the architecture one where you can grab and move buildings in a miniature city, then shrink yourself and experience the city as if you were actually there.

You also have the regular Google Search, although presentation of the results by Cards, makes it somehow messy and laconic, says AndroidPolice.

Certainly you can also dictate an e-mail and send it with a vocal command to Gmail. By the same token it is easy to send the images you took with the 5 Mpx Glass to Google Galleries (Picasa?). You can also do short bursts of 720p.

Another  app being developed will help you speed up check ins at British airports, another will act as a guide to the Sixtine Chapel, the Egyptian Museum of Turin, and other Italian museums, by using facial recognition on the mummies, or the paintings! It is difficult to tell however what is already there, and what is just planned. Will it also be able to translate presentations and street signs? Or even pick up a conversation in Japanese and translate it?

Meanwhile Photography  got me interested in a crowdfunding device that will soon hit the market: the Bublcam:

This camera is the size of a baseball, and has 4 lenses that cover 360°. It was designed in order to allow  iimage swipng  across a smartphone. Proprietary software allows to stitch the 4 images in a circular image, which covers all of your surroundings.

If that was linked up to am Oculus device, imagine the immersive effect! Perhaps we are at the verge of  blending natural vision and machine one, in high definition.

To have a further idea yet look at these 360° pictures of the Mundial and its stadiums in Brazil, by photog. Henri Stuart. You can swipe to your heart's content.

So are we finally overcoming the limitations of the frame? Frames were invented in Europe just before the Renaissance to allow merchants to have their portraits made,  bought and carried away. But long before that painters were paid by bishops and abbots to make  frescoes of the Saints  covering whole walls of Churches with visualizations of the Bible: far more immersive. With 360° cameras we are back to the beginning.

What will happen to Photography, as we knew it,  will it stand a chance? It's rather traditional cameras that are in danger, I am reminded about Marcel Duchamp's words about the camera some day becoming as outdated as Painting.

Note that according to a specialised site, Optical Vision Site there are 39 companies  flexing their muscles in the new Wearable Viewer market and that sales have doubled every year:

Meanwhile imagine to hold a Bubl ball in your hands high above your head, documenting your surroundings for your wearable glass, and uploading them by WiFi to the Cloud.  In California a journalism course has been already lauched based on Google Glass.

It would certainly change holiday photography, and a lot more: it would be an experience akin to Life-Logging. You could blend your images of monuments and temples with those of other users.

Sometimes I am scared by such an intrusive future coming soon, and yet I welcome the Glasses as a more interesting viewing device than a smartphone. Imagine the prices were similar. If I had the choice, I would go for the Glass, since it can take and make calls too anyway. And you, what would YOU prefer?

Much of this bounty however will depend on available app in the Android ecosystem, and the development of more powerful  batteries. So far Google has kept strict control on third party applications, but these are early times.

The Battery allegedly lasts 1-2 hours. Needs more juice, to become your permanent wearable computer. So far it just shuts down like an ordinary phone. But it wakes up if you nod 30° upwards!

Google Apps are updating at a monthly rate, so chances are that you won't recognize your Glass after a few months. it's a kind of Transformer thing.

Photokina is now looming: we'll see what comes up then. Or perhaps Photokina being more a more traditional camera show. the new consumer devices will emerge beginning of next year at CES in Las Vegas?

Will traditional cameras stand the attack, or is it the beginning of the End? Smartphones are already nibbling at a 20%  yearly rate at camera sales each year worldwide, according to a preliminary Photokina's report. Glass might be the kiss of death, unless Olympus develops itself a wearable device specific for cameras.

There are however some no-nos about wearable glass. You don't wear it near restrooms, lest they take you for a voyeur. But if you want the full criticism, have a look at the 35 arguments against it:

Some arguments are quite wacky, and luddite.  Other concerns are quite real, basically about privacy and the use that Google might do about your personal data, that you must input in the device in order to make it work.  For instance there's a difference between using anonymously Gmail, and inputting your real name in Google+. Google would like to feed the Contacts side with real names, if only for the sake of brevity.

However petty criminals  could use the device to blackmail unaware celebrities, although paparazzi did that  already there with their plain cameras. But with Glass, how can people tell if you are shooting them or not? Also don't forget that you have Google Search at your fingertips in the Glass. You can actually be guided to a person or a shop!

So there are also etiquette concerns of all kinds - smart restaurants refusing use, and safety issues. Although freeing both hands you can't superimpose virtual reality to what you are driving through, without risking an accident, because of the different planes of visualization and attention. Is it why Googles is introducing automated driving? The application is there, but  it is not yet legal. Both the US and the UK have prohibited driving  while wearing the glass.

 Glass  will make the wearer feel like an omnipotent  'photographer' with the Third Eye,  always at the ready for a shot, by a vocal command, or even a discrete tap on the touchpad of the frame. But will he/she be aphotographer or just a camera wearer?

I am particularly interested in user experience. How often do you use it?Please feel free to use the e-mail module here affixed. Other users of this site could also comment if they find the new devices desirable or not.

More importantly, do you think that this mode of visualization, this mingling of the artificial and the real, will be the end of cameras, if not of Photography?

The Daily Telegraph just announced the opening of an Amazon shop in Britain dedicated to wearable technology, and it published the latest market forecasts:

"Wearable technology has already emerged as one of the top tech trends of the year. Deloitte predicts than 10 million wearable devices will ship globally in 2014, from sophisticated gadgets to smart textiles and skin patches.

In a recent survey of 6,000 individuals by consulting company Accenture, 46 per cent expressed interest in buying smartwatches, while 42 per cent said they'd be interested in purchasing internet-connected eyeglasses, such as Google Glass.

The global market for wearable technology was reportedly worth $2.7 billion (£1.6bn) in revenue in 2012 and is expected to reach $8.3 billion (£4.9bn) in 2018."

Finally you could control Glass and shoot pictures, even by mind control, i.e. concentration, by associating Glass  to an EEG reader through an app, called MindRDR.

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