NPR Report: Women Were Once Interested in Computer Science -- and They Can Be Again

"When Women Stopped Coding" is an NPR report I hope everyone reading this blog gives a listen to (it's about 15 minutes), because while it's not what we usually write about at New World Notes, it speaks directly to the lack of women in virtual reality, and the poor representation of women in gaming/online worlds, which we write about quite a lot. The report revolves around this chart:

Women in Tech

Based on growth rates in the 70 and 80s, women were on track to graduate with as many computer science degrees as men by around the year 2000. (And even before that, as the report notes, some of the very first programming companies were founded and led by women.) But then in 1984, growth suddenly started falling -- fast. Why? Short answer: Marketing, and then social expectations influenced by that marketing.

This question came up during a recent Oculus Rift conference:

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Does Euclideon's SOLIDSCAN Capture Reality, or Just Hype?

What you're looking above, supposedly, is this:

Euclideon SOLIDSCAN takes an ordinary laser scan and enriches its resolution by around 200 to 1000 times, The data compresses down, and runs in Euclideon's Unlimited Detail engine, using Unlimited detail's streaming system - loading scenes in less than a second.

Well that might be, but longtime readers may recall Euclideon is the same company which did this 2011 demo video, provoking extreme skepticism (to put it nicely) from Minecraft creator Markus Persson and 3D graphics pioneer John Carmack, who told me:

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Real Handwriting Can Now Be Virtual, Because Robots

Virtual Real Handwriting

How to tell when a robot has written you a letter is a new Medium post by my pal Clive Thompson, who calls real handwriting "the next Turing test". Here's why:

I first heard of these human-machine handwriting differences in a conversation last week with Brian Curliss and Daniel Jurek, the cofounders of the startup Maillift. If you need to send out 200 personalized letters to sales leads but haven’t got the time to handwrite them yourself — or if your handwriting is, like mine, grotesque — then Maillift will generate them for you, using teams of genuinely carbon-based people. (What sort of person enjoys handwriting letters for others? “Teachers,” Curliss replies. Apparently teachers have spectacular handwriting, take enormous pride in the craft, and want to make some extra coin in their evenings and weekends.)

Notably, this dovetails with a recent major movie about artificial intelligence:

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Chatbot Avatar "Eugene Goostman" Passes Turing Test

As you might have read over the weekend, the 65 year old Turing Test was just passed for the very first time -- but not as often reported, via a "supercomputer", but a chatbot avatar personality named "Eugene Goostman" -- more on him in this video from last year. I think it's fair to call Eugene an avatar since he's designed with a very specific personality (a smartass teen boy). You should typically be able to chat with Eugene at this link, but the site seems to be down due to traffic. I wonder if his chatbot technology can be introduced into virtual worlds. Blue Mars featured a chatbot which scored high on the Turing Test. Then there's chatbots like "Social Autopoiesis" in SL , which I once had a charming, foul-mouthed conversation with:

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Philip Rosedale & High Fidelity Working with Neuroscientist & 3D Brain Map to Improve Avatar-to-Avatar Interactions

High Fidelity neuroscience virtual world interaction

I mentioned how Philip Rosedale aims to achieve extremely low latency to improve avatar-to-avatar interactions in his new Oculus Rift-compatible High Fidelity virtual world; but it's not just a matter of shortening ping time -- he's also working with a neuroscientist and 3D brain scans to improve that experience too:

"Basically," Philip tells me, "you can see things like 'I feel a certain way toward you' in the scanner and we can look for that data and then test breaking it with various different transformations of person into avatar." Philip demonstrated this at South by Southwest last March with Dr. Adam Gazzaley of UCSF, but media coverage at the time didn't quite explain Philip's purpose, which is to improve the avatar-to-avatar sense of presence in High Fidelity:

"Adam and I have know each other for a while, and have been exploring ways to work together to use his expertise and lab to help us understand the experience of 'presence' between avatars/people." Here's how:

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20 Day Stranger: Like a Mobile, RL Version of "Journey", Briefly Connect With an Anonymous Stranger

20 Day Stranger from Playful Systems on Vimeo.

20 Day Stranger is an upcoming mobile app (you have sign-up for early access) which is kind of like a real life, smartphone version of the classic game Journey, in the sense that it briefly connects you with a random, anonymous stranger -- only here, instead of going on a virtual journey, you share aspects of your everyday life (as the video above suggests) with another person somewhere else in the world. In that sense, it also reminds me a bit of Second Life at its best -- because unlike outliers like SL and Journey, most of the Internet is now focused on connecting you only with the people you already know. The app was mentioned by renowned academic Ethan Zuckerman in an inspiring talk about his new book Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection, which I Tweeted about during an LA appearance last Friday:

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The Singularity is Far, Argues Top Futurist

Singularity Transcendance Movie

Here's Monday's "Now that you mention it, duh" reading: Ramez Naam, adviser for the Acceleration Studies Foundation and futurist with an impressive track record, lucidly argues that the "Singularity" is not something we should expect in our lifetime. One obvious reason: Why the hell do we even need a sentient AI in the first place? As he puts it:

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Selling Sheep on Instagram & Getting Rich with Virtually Gifted Karaoke: Read About the Emerging Global Web

This is just about the best presentation on the Internet today that I've read in weeks -- so this weekend, I hope you read it too:

Even if you're pretty sure you understand what's going on in the Internet now, I bet you'll be surprised by a lot of the data -- a lot of which may make your head 'asplode. For instance:

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Facebook to Allow Anonymous Login: Good News for Oculus?

March Zuckerberg just announced this at Facebook's F8 conference:

I didn't get all the details, but seems like one of the biggest beneficiaries to this will be the Oculus Rift, now owned by Facebook:

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Marketing Tips to Help Make Virtual Reality Go Mass Market

VR mass market tips

I just posted some communication/marketing strategy thoughts on theMIX agency blog for virtual reality companies seeking to go mass market -- not just Oculus Rift, as many more companies are in the running. Top tips:

  • Create a Communication Plan Around VR Sex—Before It Becomes a PR Crisis
  • Plan for Strong Outreach to Senior Citizens & Disabled People
  • Openly Address Criticisms of VR’s Limitations

Read the rest here.