#SUsummit Amsterdam showcases the augmentation of everything

Virtual worlds are often weird environments. The innovators in that industry have a broad view on our future. Conferences and community conventions offer fascinating insights and discussions. I remember how futurist and technologist Ray Kurzweil gave a (virtual) presentation during the Second Life Community Convention 2009 in San Francisco. Afterwards I rushed to the Green Apple bookstore to buy his book The Singularity is Near (2005). Wikipedia explains:

Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies like computers, genetics, nanotechnology,robotics and artificial intelligence. He says this will lead to a technological singularity in the year 2045, a point where progress is so rapid it outstrips humans’ ability to comprehend it. Irreversibly transformed, people will augment their minds and bodies with genetic alterations, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil predicts machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Afterwards, Kurzweil says, intelligence will radiate outward from the planet until it saturates the universe.

Fast forward to December 2012, when Kurzweil was hired by Google “to bring natural language understanding to Google”. He was involved in various education and learning projects, one of the most interesting is the Singularity University (SU) which he co-founded with Peter Diamandis (2008).

The headquarters of the SU are at Moffett Federal Airfield (NASA Research Park), California, but in Europe we can attend two-day Summit conferences. Last year I attended the Singularity University conference in Budapest, Hungary and I (together with other participants) built a mind map about the state of the future at that time, topics of that mind map include ambient intelligence (sensors, ubiquitous computing, networks), robots, energy, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, synthetic biology, health and medical services, organizational change. In short, it’s about how the augmentation of the human intellect materializes itself and disrupts about everything.

This year my newspaper colleague Peter De Groote went to the Amsterdam Summit. He reported in De Tijd that the fully self-driving car will be available in ten years time, that robots are still toddlers but are growing up fast (and they can read your emotions), that artificial intelligence evolves from disappointing to disruptive, that we no longer should limit ourselves to wearables but that implantables are next in line to augment us:
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Virtual Worlds

So… nothing about virtual reality and virtual worlds in this disruption overview? Yes there was. First let’s take a step back: in September Jason Dorrier posted on SingularityHub about Virtual Reality – will it become the next great media platform? He showed this inspiring video:

The idea is that technologies such as Oculus Rift and the new generation of virtual worlds (think High Fidelity) will make it possible to visit the worlds in the other person’s head. We make our dreams accessible, quite literally. Which brings us to brain-to-brain communication and yes, this is a Singularity topic. One example being discussed: University of Washington researchers can transmit the signals from one person’s brain over the Internet and use these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a split second of sending that signal.

Rob Nail talked during the conference about exciting applications like allowing a surgeon to operate from 10,000 km distance, to a pilot assisting a non-pilot to land an aircraft. Or how we network and augment our brains very literally…

Discover Isovista, a place for 3D art and education

This video illustrates two things: first the interesting stuff the Isovista people are doing and second how difficult it is to translate the Oculus-experience into a 2D-video.

What is obvious is how one can immerse oneself into a virtual art exhibition and use clever tricks to navigate around (follow a green path) or to show various art works one after another (walk through ‘boxes’ to trigger the appearance of new art).

The environment is also rather original as they experiment with for instance floorless spaces rather than trying to imitate physical world buildings.

Isovista.org is a group of 3D-design people who build and show art accessible using an Oculus Rift but you can also visit the gallery in your browser (powered by Jibe and using the game creation system Unity 3D) and eventually meet other people there.

Bringing together Jibe and Oculus in one project seems interesting. For now you walk or drift alone in the Oculus-experience while the Jibe-environment of this project feels like a primitive version of Second Life or OpenSim – but sophisticated enough to meet others and to text chat and speak. So wouldn’t it be nice to have collaborative and social futures inside an Oculus Rift environment?

After Facebook acquired Oculus Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that this technology would enable students and teachers all over the world to share a classroom. These days one can use the Oculus in collaborative spaces such as Second Life, but the interface is not yet adapted for an easy and natural user experience – we’ll have to wait for the new Second Life to get that, I guess.

The site has a very interesting page about literature and theory.

These are Isovista’s goals:
– Provide opportunities to show virtual work and help students, recent graduates and young professionals develop their design skills in virtual media.
– Create new innovative 3D virtual works in Data Visualization, Interaction Design, Education, Music and Social Interfaces through a blending of HCI/Usability and Digital Fine Art.
– Record the rich history of virtual design, connecting the broad academic disciplines that have explored the domain of 3D virtual space and design.
– Connect educators, professionals, and students to support innovation, create opportunities, share examples, and break the new conceptual ground.

Isovista wants to become a 501(c)(3) charity and create a library and marketplace for 3D work and educational content. “Becoming a self-sustaining non-profit that supports independent innovators, students, and the community as a whole is our overarching goal.”