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Matt Crosslin

Creating Touchable Holograms through 3-D Printing

1 min read

Anyone that watches SciFi knows that the big downfall to holograms is that you can't touch them. You just pass right through them, ruining the illusion. However, in real life there are several projects working on creating touchable holograms. The problem with these projects are - of course - the cost and availability of tools. But the general idea is that you use focused sound waves to create resistance at various points in mid-air to mimic the feel of virtual objects. New work is going into creating cheaper ways to do this, including printing tools that help shape sound waves in 3-D printers. Of course, this only works for static objects, but its still a new idea that will get more sophisticated over time. The video above really doesn't make much sense outside of the article, but it is pretty interesting at the end where they make drops of water levitate in mid-air.

Matt Crosslin

Turning Virtual Reality Into Simulator Rides

2 min read

One of the biggest problems with Virtual Reality that I keep coming back to (other than cost and ethical concerns) is the lack of interaction in most VR simulations. There are many ways around this, but many of them still involve tracking hands or movements. If you want to go sit on a virtual horse, you can't. Until now it seems. FutureTown has created a device that converts into a motor bike, a mechanical horse, and a standing ski/surfing simulation board (see the promo video above). Connect this device to your favorite VR headset, and its like you are almost there! Well, not really, but it probably does bring us closer to Holodecks. But it also highlights the problems with the whole idea: how expensive is it going to get to create a new set-up for every way you could use this? Cars, boats, biking, etc all have different contexts for motion. Will this be useful for education anytime soon? Not really. But I did get to play in something like this in a mall - basically, an eggshell that worked like a space ship while I fought off an alien invasion. It was pretty cool, bur practical? We will have to see.

Matt Crosslin

Artificial Intelligence Meets Instant Messaging in Google Allo

2 min read

One thing you have to give Google - they are always willing to try new things. Of course, I can't remember what the last new Google "thing" was that I read a few months ago, so that could be good or bad. But today Google announced Google Allo, a new messaging app. Its basically another version of testing or iMessage or (insert an messaging predecessor here). So nothing to get excited about there. However, they are combining it with a new Google Assistant to add some artificial intelligence to the mix. Basically, you don't have to leave the app to look up directions (or whatever the task may be) - you can tell the AI to look it up and it will display in the app. It will also give you some suggested responses based on the messages you get. Basically it lets the AI do the Googling for you (the video above covers the more cutesy aspects, but the linked article includes more interesting ideas and details on things like Incognito mode). Interesting ideas, but do I have to get all my friends on Allo to use it? That seems to be the downfall of so many new Google ideas. Its hard to get people in new apps that don't go viral like Pokemon Go.

Matt Crosslin

Will the Future of Augmented Reality be AR Contact Lens Connected to Your iPhone?

1 min read

The headline pretty much says it all: "Apple to meet with augmented reality contact lens firm EPGL, discuss possible iOS support." Articles like this are a sign that innovations are going mainstream. Or at least attempting - many still don't make it there. The biggest problem with augmented reality is that you have to hold a phone in front of you to experience it, turning your body into a wandering, distracted safety hazard (see Pokemon Go). or you have to buy an expensive pair of AR glasses like Google Glass (or not anymore - oppps). But would AR contact lens be more or less distracting? Probably depends on the design of the user interface. Or maybe they are just a temporary step towards having computers implanted in our heads? See the first few minutes of the H+ video above for what that would be like, and then the rest of the video see how scary it could become.

Matt Crosslin

Turning a Bus Into a Virtual Reality Ride

1 min read

Even though some ideas aren't very practical for everyday usage, they are still pretty cool nonetheless. One such project is the one where a team from Framework turned an actual school bus into a virtual Mars ride. It's a pretty intense project. They have computer screens that switch from clear to opaque, so that the windows of the bus can be windows as well as computer screens. Then the mapped the surface of Mars to the city streets. Then they made the simulation react to bumps and turns. Sounds really expensive, but the idea is a good one. Watch the video above to see the whole thing - the look on the kids faces are priceless.

Matt Crosslin

Making Virtual Reality More "Interactive"

1 min read

One of the problems with virtual reality is that it is virtual - the things yopu see and interact with are not really there, so you can't reach out and touch them. Which generally makes most VR experiences pretty passive - even adding a joy stick makes VR more like a game than a simulation. Of course, many companies are working on ways to add touch to virtual objects. One recent company is Dexmo, which adds an exoskeleton to your hands to enable simulated touch. While the set-up looks clunky, the idea that it is recreating the shape and consistency of virtual objects could be very useful in medical, educational, and manufacturing realms, among others. Apparently, no price is given, and the manufacturer wants to wait until VR software begins programming touch into their games and simulations. But this is still one step closer to Star Trek Holodecks (or at least the immersion suits described in Ready Player One).

Matt Crosslin

Teaching and Learning with Annotation Tools like Hypothes.is

2 min read

Web annotation tools are not really that new, but have mostly been utilized for contextualized commenting or personal note taking. A more innovative use of these tools is for constructive criticism or group critique. Tools like hypothes.is can allow people to annotate publicly or privately in a closed group. For example, see this problematic article on the relationship between teachers and students, and how many have critiqued the article for a fascinating discussion (this particular critique example was started by Dr. Maha Bali). Instead of commenting on articles at the end, people can comment on specific parts, and then interact with others who also comment. Probably a much better system than typical discussion forum assignments - and also ultimately probably what many instructors want discussions to be like in the first place. The video above goes into more detail about the vision behind open annotation. In general, it is an idea that can subvert commenting and distribute the power of commenting. Of course, it could also empower abuse as well. But the ability to comment on specific sections of a web page rather than just the end, and then to start a discussion with anyone or a private group is intriguing.

Matt Crosslin

Virtual Reality + Augmented Reality = Merged Rerality

1 min read

Intel has been showing off Project Alloy, a self-contained headset that combines augmented reality with virtual reality. My first thought was "isn't anything that isn't virtual reality just augmented reality by default?" Well, the answer seems to be yes and no. It seems that alloy will use built in cameras to bring real life objects and people into the virtual world. The demonstration video above doesn't wow as much as offer promise (especially in the commercial at the end), but ultimately I could see these kinds of projects solving the isolating problems that virtual reality could cause. Also, it is interesting that they are designing a self-contained headset that does not rely on an external computer. Which is probably why there is such low quality in the demonstration video when real objects come into view. At least you can finally see your hands in VR. To me, this seems more like what Virtual Reality should be - a virtual simulation that can bring your real body and those around you into the simulation. Saying it is merged with augmented reality is a bit of a stretch for some, i am sure. But probably an important distinction to make.

Matt Crosslin

Re-designing the Data Ownership Structure of the Internet

1 min read

Brought to you by a team of developers led by the guy that invented the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee), Solid is a new project designed to "radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy." The basic idea is that the data in an application is "decoupled" from the data inside it, meaning that if your favorite service shuts down (like MySpace, Jaiku, etc), you can switch to another and not lose what you did on that service. You would control your data and what happens to it. Stephen Downes looks at some of the applications being built on Solid. Solid is probably quite a way away from going mainstream, so don't plan to use it this Fall in classes. However, for people that want to get serious about data ownership, this is a project to keep your eyes on.

Matt Crosslin

Improving 3D Printing with Sculptable Filament

2 min read

I have kind of lost count of how many 3-D printing revolutions there currently are out there. About 30 or so I would say. But if you ignore the over used hype of "revolution," there are often some interesting ideas out there. One of the problems with 3-D printing is that even higher cost devices struggle to replicate fine details. One company that is seeking to fix that is Adam Beane Industries. The video above has been out for a while, but there is currently a Kickstarter to take their Cx5 tool-set to the next level. The basic idea is that you print out a basic 3-D base (like the dinosaur head above), smooth out the imperfections and lines from printing, then add fine detail with a specialized set of sculpting tools and drops of melted filament. Obviously, this tool would appeal more to those that have the artistic chops to do something with it. I'd like to see this combined with the ability to change colors, and maybe even an airbrush. My guess is that someday 3-D printing will evolve enough that we will be able to print objects with this level of detail from the start. Or maybe these tools will be integrated into 3-D printers on robot arms. Who knows. But an interesting development, and also good to see that an idea from last year is still moving forward.