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:
Philip Rosedale & High Fidelity Working with Neuroscientist & 3D Brain Map to Improve Avatar-to-Avatar Interactions
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:
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:
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:
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:
March Zuckerberg just announced this at Facebook's F8 conference:
Announcing 'Anonymous Login,’ Mark Zuckerberg said: "We don't ever want anyone to be surprised with how they are sharing on Facebook.” #f8— Mashable (@mashable) April 30, 2014
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:
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
I love this hands-on Slate review of an entry-level 3D printer, because it's written not by a 3D printing enthusiast (which is usually the case), but a moderately tech-savvy consumer. Because here's what he found out:
[T]he moment I attempted to print my first object, I realized that this device isn’t really designed for the average, moderately tech-savvy consumer. It’s made for people who possess either A) infinite patience, B) a preternatural attention to detail, or, preferably, C) a post-graduate degree in mechanical engineering.
Failing that, you end up with plastic gobblygook like that pictured here. So from a basic consumer standpoint, it seems like we're many years from 3D printing being a WYSIWYG process, which still leaves open the question of why most people would need a 3D printer for most needs in their lives most of the time.
UPDATE, 12:30PM: Some important background from an earlier Slate article:
Yahoo! just acqui-hired the developers of Cloud Party, the web-based virtual world NWN has blogged about a lot, given its backing by Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka, and its general coolness as an immersive, easy-to-use, user-generated world with its own econony. Marisa Mayer and her crew at Yahoo! apparently agrees with this assement, because not only did they buy the company and hire the staff, but when I asked Cloud Party CEO Sam Thompson for a comment, a Yahoo! spokesperson replied for him, sending along this boilerplate reply:
Yahoo has acquired Cloud Party, a company that has created a virtual 3D experience, directly in users’ browser. With Cloud Party, users can build and create a world, customize an avatar, and share easily on the web without any downloads or plug-ins. The Cloud Party team is extremely committed to user experience and to the creativity that their product released in people. We’re excited to merge their unique perspective and experience with a team that is just as passionate about gaming.
Reading between the lines, I think this means it's very likely Yahoo! is getting into the user-generated virtual world business. Here's what I mean:
Marc Andreessen Thinks Bitcoin is Gaining Adoption Even Without User Growth - We Once Said That of Second Life Too
I just got into an interesting Twitter conversation with Marc Andreessen, who wrote a New York Times essay on why Bitcoin is so important to the future of the Internet, because I disagreed on one point he made there:
Critics of Bitcoin point to limited usage by ordinary consumers and merchants, but that same criticism was leveled against PCs and the Internet at the same stage. Every day, more and more consumers and merchants are buying, using and selling Bitcoin, all around the world. The overall numbers are still small, but they are growing quickly.
But this is provably wrong, as I pointed out to Andreessen on Twitter: This chart of Bitcoin transactions is not only not growing, it's currently smaller than it was last year. Andreessen's reply to my point (captured above):
"I have broader definition of adoption, including new merchants, new developers, new entrepreneurs, etc."
And he is right that Bitcoin is starting to gain more and more of those things. But as I replied (and explained in detail here), this argument was also made by many Second Life boosters during SL's hype wave, when critics began pointing out SL's low user numbers. Because while Second Life usage was relatively small in contrast to the "It's the next generation of the Internet" rhetoric driving the hype, Second Life at that time also had new merchants, new developers, new entrepreneurs, etc.
Here's just a few headlines from that period (roughly 2006-2009):