What Went Wrong (and Right) With Ello, The No-Real-Names-Needed "Facebook Killer"

Ello Social Network No Ads

Remember Ello, the no-real-names-needed social network that lots of people in 2014 described as a Facebook killer? To judge by its traffic, probably not. Now Backchannel has the inside story of its rise and fall and rise again, and as it turns out, it inadvertently started with Sister Roma, the drag queen activist who led the charge against Facebook's real name policy:

Sister Roma had started a movement. As activists rallied around her, a question emerged: If Facebook was going to demand legal names from its LGBT users, how could those users remain loyal to the social network? That’s when Ello laid out the welcome mat.

Thing is, Ello was never intended to be a Facebook killer, and as Facebook rapidly worked with Roma to carve out a policy that allowed pseudonyms (including for avatars), Ello lost a key growth driver. But all is not lost:

Continue reading "What Went Wrong (and Right) With Ello, The No-Real-Names-Needed "Facebook Killer"" »

Facebook 360 Photos Make Virtual World Photos Come Alive in Your Smartphone

360 SL Images

This is lots of fun -- click this link from your smartphone, and assuming you have the Facebook app pre-installed, it should take you to a 360 panoramic pic shot in Second Life by Erythro Asimov. The cool part is when you rotate your phone around you, so does the image -- making a virtual world screenshot seem even more like a window into another reality.

How's this work?

Continue reading "Facebook 360 Photos Make Virtual World Photos Come Alive in Your Smartphone" »

How Microsoft System for Recording 3D Holographic Video for HoloLens is Jaw-Dropping

Well this is whoa-worthy:

As you can see in the video, Microsoft creates the high-quality videos for the HoloLens that can be compressed to bandwidth which is suitable for consumer applications. It’s pretty amazing to see how the company creates these videos which can be viewed as holograms. Their technology figures out how to present virtual objects so they fit in with the real world. Imagine a person’s hologram is projected in front of you, you could walk around the imaginary people just as if they were real, your viewpoint changing seamlessly as if they were actually there.

For that matter, imagine reality and the virtual blending so seamlessly we start to confuse the two, too!

Continue reading "How Microsoft System for Recording 3D Holographic Video for HoloLens is Jaw-Dropping" »

StartUp: New Show About Launch of Virtual Currency Better Than Bitcoin

StartUp, a new online series from Crackle is a crime-flavored twist on the Internet start-up show, in that it's set not in Silicon Valley but Miami (meaning less geeks in hoodies, more sex and sunlight), and it centers on the creation of GenCoin, a new virtual currency that's supposedly better than Bitcoin. Here's the sexy founder making the sexy pitch:

Pretty amazing, when you think about it, that a relatively big budget series with some well-known actors is about virtual currency. (Martin Freeman from the UK version of The Office and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a star.) Anyway, she gets to differentiate GenCoin from Bitcoin around 1:10:

"Bitcoin... good idea. Its code is open source, a true democratization of money... which makes it susceptible to third party interference, and ultimately corruption. "

Which is all very true. (Witness Bitcoin getting gamed by miners in China and the Great Firewall.) Then again, all money is democratized and susceptible to interference and corruption. So if I was writing the script, I'd write a more effective Bitcoin diss, like:

Continue reading "StartUp: New Show About Launch of Virtual Currency Better Than Bitcoin" »

New Interactive Dynamic Video Turns Real Objects Into Virtually Manipulable Ones

Interactive Dynamic Video, as the name of this in-development tech from an MIT PhD student suggests, analyzes the vibrations of a real world object recorded on video and then converts it into a digitally manipulable 3D object:

Continue reading "New Interactive Dynamic Video Turns Real Objects Into Virtually Manipulable Ones" »

What Virtual Worlds Should Learn from Twitter's Failed Free Speech-for-Anonymous A-Holes Policy

Twitter pseudonyms

Buzzfeed has a really great feature story aptly titled "'A Honeypot For Assholes': Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment", which inadvertently illustrates Raph Koster's adage that all new Internet platforms replicate problems managers of MUDs and MMOs have dealt with for some three decades -- namely trolls and other bad actors:

If you want to fully understand Twitter’s abuse problem, a good place to start is at Google, years before the first tweet was ever sent. While working at Blogger, the wildly popular Google-owned publishing tool, Twitter founders Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Jason Goldman — all of whom went on to found or work at Twitter — were faced with what now feels like a familiar predicament. [I.E. harassment and abusive speech] Working with Alexander Macgillivray, a die-hard free speech advocate who was then a Google attorney, Blogger made a core principle of the universal right to publish, despite outside criticism. “We don’t get involved in adjudicating whether something is libel or slander,” Goldman told Forbes in 2005. The passage that followed reads like it could be written about Twitter today: “In squabbles between anonymous bloggers and victims Google sides with the attackers, refusing to turn over any information unless a judge orders it to open up. ‘We’ll do it if we believe we are required to by law,’ [Goldman] says.”

Emphasis mine, because WTF. Notably, this policy was resisted vociferously by Sheryl Sandberg, who went on to become COO of the real name-based Facebook.

The lessons for next generation virtual worlds are clear, but not very reassuring:

Continue reading "What Virtual Worlds Should Learn from Twitter's Failed Free Speech-for-Anonymous A-Holes Policy" »

See the Future of Avatars in One Jaw Dropping Reel

Seriously:

2016 AICP Sponsor Reel - Dir Cut from Method Studios on Vimeo.

You might swear these are people underneath elaborate costumes, but they're actually data of motion captured people beneath layers and layers of further code:

Continue reading "See the Future of Avatars in One Jaw Dropping Reel" »

If People Are Too Embarrassed to Speak to Siri in Public, Why Would They Wear Augmented Reality Glasses Outside?

Siri embarassed to talk to you iOS AI

In the latest example of my "culture trumps technology" rule of thumb, here's the latest striking datapoint:

According to a recent study by Creative Strategies, some 98 percent of iPhone users have used Siri, the virtual assistant baked into every iPhone since the 4s. However, just 3 percent of us are using the feature in public or in front of others.

“With public usage as low as 3% for iPhone users, it seems users are still uncomfortable talking to their devices,” the research firm said in a statement. “Even more fascinating is this happens in the U.S. where consumers are accustomed to talking loudly on phones in public.”

In other words: People are embarrassed to be heard speaking to an AI. This despite the fact that Siri is widely available to a large percentage of the market (i.e. anyone with access to an iPhone), the technology has been available for almost five years, and it comes from Apple, the undisputed master of creating popular, consumer friendly computing devices.

Like I said, this is just the latest example of culture trumping technology, another recent, obvious, apropos example being the death of Google Glass. Speaking of which, I hope everyone in the augmented reality industry is discussing this right now:

Continue reading "If People Are Too Embarrassed to Speak to Siri in Public, Why Would They Wear Augmented Reality Glasses Outside?" »

John Carmack & Palmer Luckey Gnomically Respond to My Wired Article on John Carmack & Palmer Luckey

In my Wired article last week, after I quoted Palmer Luckey saying that he'd "absolutely" plug into Robert Nozick's experience machine, and that “Once you’ve perfected VR, you can imagine a world where you don’t need to perfect anything else”, Palmer posted this quote on my Facebook wall:

I had to dig a bit for the reference, and turns out it's from Sword Art Online, a manga/anime series. So there's that.

I quoted John Carmack, Luckey's CTO at Oculus, as saying, "[S]ome fraction of the desirable experiences of the wealthy can be synthesized and replicated [in VR] for a much broader range of people", and “If people are having a virtually happy life, they are having a happy life. Period.” His response on that:

Continue reading "John Carmack & Palmer Luckey Gnomically Respond to My Wired Article on John Carmack & Palmer Luckey" »

Bitcoin as the Future of Money for the World's Poor - Interesting Idea With Some Obvious Flaws

Bitcoin is the Sewer Rat of Currencies

Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing fame has a really interesting interview with computer scientist and Bitcoin advocate Andreas Antonopoulos, who makes a use case for the virtual currency I haven't quite seen before: As a means of bringing the billions of impoverished people without access to the mainstream financial system into the global economy. Sample:

If you look at the statistics, financial inclusion is getting worse. That doesn’t make any sense unless you consider that, in the meantime, the traditional currencies and digital finance systems have been getting more and more prone to surveillance and tied to identity where everything is tracked. They’re closing in on themselves in order to maintain this ironclad control over who sends money to who, all in the name of terrorist prevention and anti-money laundering, which is bullshit because HSBC could money-launder billions...

You cannot create global finance and economic inclusion on the back of a carefully controlled show-us-your-papers identity-based system where everything is tracked. What you create is a global surveillance dystopia. Our entire financial system is heading into this thing where everything is surveilled. Bitcoin is heading in exact opposite direction. No identity by default, from weak pseudonymity to a stronger and stronger anonymity as time goes by. As a result, it doesn’t do borders. It doesn’t care about borders. It doesn’t do Know Your Customer. It doesn’t do Anti-Money Laundering. It doesn’t do those things because those things are bourgeois concepts of the privileged financial elite. Those bourgeois concepts have a four-billion-people-in-poverty price tag.

Bitcoin, of course, is also a bourgeois concept par excellence, a libertarian conceit largely supported by the wealthy (and mostly white) tech elite. That somewhat unfair snark aside, Antonopoulos is very right that the unbanked majority of the world need a scalable financial solution.

Does that mean Bitcoin is the answer? Three facts spring to mind which make me think otherwise:

Continue reading "Bitcoin as the Future of Money for the World's Poor - Interesting Idea With Some Obvious Flaws" »