Blog Archives

Mobile Media Technologies at the Intersection of the Virtual and the Real

The blending of the physical and the virtual is increasing due to mobile computing technologies.  Is our cybernetic future at hand?

Christopher Olson uses digital tattoos to discuss the blending of realities, and the construction of reality in his latest article: Mobile Media Technologies at the Intersection of the Virtual and the Real.

Steve Benford and Inhabited TV: The beginnings of VWTV Part 2

Pooky Amsterdam’s interview with a VWTV pioneer concludes with this second part.  And it raises the question: how likely is the virtual and the real to converge to produce television?  How likely are regular television consumers going to be persuaded to become television producers?

Steve Benford and Inhabited TV: The beginnings of VWTV Part 2.

Inhabited TV setup

Steve Benford and Inhabited TV: The beginnings of VWTV

Pooky Amsterdam reports on a conversation she had with someone who might just be one of the pioneers of virtual world television.  Steve Benford was part of a research project in the United Kingdom who worked on merging virtual reality, virtual worlds, and television at the turn of the century.  Their work on “inhabited TV” would later be mirrored by the work of machinimists and VWTV producers.  Steve Benford and Inhabited TV: The beginnings of VWTV.

OOTW VR

The Multiplicity of Virtual Worlds

Our definitions and metaphors: Discussion of how researchers and designers as users make sense of virtual world technologies

This short essay reflects a project that occurred before, during and after an international workshop hosted by the Virtual Worlds Research Project.  The goal was to complete a dialogue to help us understand the multiplicity of terms and definitions virtual worlds researchers created and appropriated to describe their work.  This essay could use additional work to become a state-of-the-art review of the field of virtual worlds research — thus, anyone is welcome to add their terms and definitions to this conversation.

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2013 and the Future of Gaming

My last two posts for Clearance Bin Review as Dr. Geek have been considerations for the future of gaming given some technologies that are scheduled to be released this year.  These technologies all share a common aspect: they appear to be challenging the traditional console gaming market, whether by hardware, interface, or game distribution.

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In my article on the upcoming console system Ouya, I discuss how the open source philosophy of certain circles (and even the very foundation) of the web is now influencing a new concept in video game design; it will be interesting to see how much of a dent the Ouya, at $99, is able to make in the marketplace dominated by big names in consoles and game development.  In my other article, in which I review the implications for gaming that came out of the recent Consumer Electronics Show, I consider how these new technologies — from NVidia’s new handheld system to Oculus Rift’s virtual reality headset to Valve’s attempt to create hardware for their Steam system — reflect this attempt to revolutionize what has become a stagnant console gaming industry.  There is so much potential for, if not revolution, then at least evolution this year in the arena of gaming that I do hope at least some of these technologies make it to the consumers, as it is up to them to decide what path we should take.

Haunted Houses as Physicalized Virtual Reality?

It’s October.  Sure, here in Chicagoland it’s been 80 degrees for the past couple days, but the leaves are falling, and the calendar can’t be lying.  It’s October, which means every young person’s fancy turns to the ghouls and ghosts that go bump in the night.  For the very young ones, this time means donning costumes and trick-n-treating to acquire a supply of candies to last a week.  For the older young ones, this means costume parties and haunted houses.

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Not necessarily “real” haunted houses: you know, the type that Ghost Hunters and other “reality shows” investigate.  In times of economic crisis, perhaps people turn more towards the paranormal as a comfort that something else exists out there to explain the good and the bad in their lives.  Or they just like to be scared in a way that doesn’t involve thinking about how they are going to pay their bills month to month.  Whatever the reason, there are a lot of paranormal shows out there, and a lot of people around the country making money providing tours of places that purport to be haunted.

This, of course, goes on year long, but it becomes heightened during the Halloween season.  Thus, during this month, otherwise friendly places become haunted zoos and haunted cornfields and haunted conservatories.  But, more importantly, “artificial” haunted houses spring up in urban and rural areas.  Largely done by acting students and young people, these “jump and scream” style horror houses are good for 30-60 minutes of immersed horror.  Within the walls, or the rows of corn, costumed people and staged horrors are meant to recreate the fear one typically only experiences by watching a horror film or reading a horror book or playing a horror game.

In other words, you willingly (even if you “protest”) enter these spaces because they are virtual places: they are the physicalized representations of otherwise fictional content.  These spaces are created with the sounds, smells, sights, even taste and touch sensations, that would normally only exist in horror media.  By stepping into the space, you are immersing yourself in a representation of the otherwise mediated experience.

In other words, these haunted houses are analogous to virtual reality constructs.  They slip that line between what is real and what is virtual by infiltrating our mind through our senses.  They are physical representations of what virtual reality has attempted to produce by transporting us into the digital.  With haunted houses, the digital is transported out to us in the physical.

And haunted houses are now doing their transportation by further eroding that line between the real and the virtual.  Digital technologies, such as animatronics and video, are bringing into the real of these haunted houses the unreal, of actions not produced by physical objects or people actually present in that space.

Additionally, haunted houses are now in true virtual reality technologies: virtual worlds, such as Second Life.  These virtual constructs are representations of physical constructs that are representations of virtual constructs.  But do they offer the same type of experience that a real haunted house does?  In real haunted houses, the fear comes from the immersion of the physical body in a physical space representing horror.  There is no such immersion in a virtual haunted house.  However, in both, there can be a psychological immersion if the tricks of the haunted house are convincing enough.  Such as the fear from a horror media can be great enough if the media is well produced.

All this being said, I think come next fall, I’ll have a whole new research project to get off the ground.  Anyone interested in touring haunted houses with me?

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