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Microsoft Plans VR Simulation of Everything? 217

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ok-readers-why-is-this-one-evil dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Microsoft recently updated ESP, a virtual reality modeling platform that until now has primarily been used to model aircraft and flight simulations. Microsoft has plans to expand it to other industries such as real estate and urban planning, but one of the most interesting possibilities could be what one observer refers to as a 'simulation of everything,' based on Virtual Earth and perhaps even user-generated content. Indeed, Microsoft's research chief has been promoting the idea of commerce applications and other tools built on top of what he calls the 'Spatial Web', a blend of 3D, video, and location-aware technologies. He gave an example of a shopkeeper creating 3D models of his store's interior and goods with Photosynth and then uploading the results into a large 3D model of local shopping district. Customers could 'visit' the area, browse products, and order them for real-world delivery."
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Microsoft Plans VR Simulation of Everything?

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  • by fiordhraoi (1097731) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:48AM (#26059955)
    Is it really easier or more desirable to "virtually browse" store shelves than to browse a web page? It seems to me to be a clunky, uninspired way to interact in a digital environment.
    • by lxs (131946) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:06AM (#26060237)
      Did you really think that Microsoft Bob [youtube.com] could be killed that easily?
    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:07AM (#26060261) Homepage Journal
      It is, but lets be honest. The point of these "virtual world" interfaces is so that an unfamiliar person can use skills they already know to use the computer. When a 65 year old lady tries to use a computer for the first time, it can be strange and overwhelming. If she was able to see and interact with the system in a paradigm that she is already knows how to deal with, the anxiety and reluctance will come way down.
      • by BornAgainSlakr (1007419) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @12:14PM (#26061365)

        Not at all. Metaphors only go so far and then you start running into the limitations of the hardware used to interface with the visuals.

        For instance, making a virtual store sounds good and might seem familiar to your hypothetical 65 year-old. However, this person did not grow up using a keyboard and mouse to walk through stores. So, the metaphor breaks down very quickly when you have to start implementing controls for navigation through this world. Ultimately, the experience will be more inefficient and frustrating than if the person just went to a real store.

        Further, you are only modeling one aspect of the experience: walking through the store. You are not using a "walk out front door, get in car, put key in ignition, drive to store" metaphor to model how to get to that virtual store.

        If this hypothetical person is able to start his/her computer, start a web browser, and navigate to the virtual store page, then it is very likely that he/she is also able to understand how to use a web page like Amazon to find products to buy. Therefore, the effort to model the virtual world is moot unless all you want is eye candy that makes the whole experience incredibly inefficient.

        • Further, you are only modeling one aspect of the experience: walking through the store. You are not using a "walk out front door, get in car, put key in ignition, drive to store" metaphor to model how to get to that virtual store.

          Hey, that actually sounds like fun.

          Animal Crossing slashed with a GTA-esque driving sim, and you drive to destinations as in that Simpsons donut-CD game (virtual springfield??). Bundle it with a steering wheel... Or the Wii Wheel and a WiiMote! Too bad Nintendo might not like you doing that, but assuming the Wii is decentralised by design it should be easy to develop for the Wii instead.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lysergic.acid (845423)

          absolutely. i think this is another idea sorta like Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. basically, it's a gimmick that was likely thought up by marketing execs during a board meeting rather than a useful technology born of real innovation by engineers or developers.

          you can usually tell when this is the case because the product/service will be designed primarily around serving the commercial interests of the businesses selling/offering it rather than the consumers who are supposed to purchase/use it. so with BD/HD-DVD you h

        • When this thing crashes and burns, perhaps it will provide some insight into the nature of the relationship between lies, damn lies and statistics.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jmyers (208878)

        Computers are not reality and people to not relate to them that way. New users will relate a computer to a book where you have a table of contents and an index more that they will relate to some VR interface that tries to look like a real store.

        A huge benefit of shopping one line is the ability to search and find exactly what you want. Store owners hate this, they want you to browse through tons of crap and impulsively buy stuff you see.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by interploy (1387145)
        One can only hope it's old ladies shopping. When I read "simulations of everything" and "user-generated content" I immediately thought of the time I first discovered "Furry Island" in Second Life. The horror...
      • Is it? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Moraelin (679338)

        Yes, but does it actually work that way? All attempts so far to make a computer have the aspect of real world, only ended up introducing more limitations and no advantages. And didn't really ease up anyone's anxiety either.

        All the way back to MS Bob, which was already mentioned.

        All the metaphors and interfaces that actually worked are actually the abstract ones. E.g., the mouse. It's the most useful and easily comprehended way to use a computer (I even got my 80 year old grandma using one pretty quickly), b

    • by Onaga (1369777) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:08AM (#26060269)

      Maybe. For people with arachnophobia, researchers were able to help them by having them virtually approach a large spider and eventually "touch" it. link [umich.edu]

      Another example I can think of is shopping for curtains or rugs. It would be nice to be able to jump into a virtual room with whatever curtains you are thinking of to see how it would look.

    • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:19AM (#26060449) Homepage Journal

      Well, yeah. A lot of early attempts to make user interfaces better were based on modeling a literal desktop with things like file cabinets underneath and rolodexes and phones on top. They had limited short term success. In the long term the one that was successful was a "desktop" on which you put "windows" (stretchy ones at that) through which you viewed infinitely expandable sheets of paper. So go figure. You want computers to make things that are hard to do in the real world easy, and usually this means changing the rules.

      However, one BIG application of VR that has only really begun to get developed is enhancing users' interactions with the real world. GPS units are a good example of this. You take them out into the world to see where you are. The ability to call up a Google street view on an Android phone is more than a curiosity. It tells you other things, like what street number you are at; it makes it possible to see around the corner without actually going around the corner.

      I think form factor has been the limiting factor in this obvious application of VR. For example, really good heads up projection glasses would make it possible to superimpose information and models on real world objects. You could outline the parts of a copy machine and animate the process of clearing a paper jam at "C".

    • by popeye44 (929152)

      While I agree that it might not be so in a Store for say groceries.

      When I was shopping a house being able to virtually see many models ruled quite a few out and saved us time visiting new neighborhoods only to be disappointed.

      I also think it's probably going to be good for certain types of shopping. Certainly Street view "google" and Bird's eye "from ms" has made it easier for me to learn my new neighborhoods and to locate businesses that are in those industrial type areas.

      I believe it's all a matter of dep

    • We went through all this with VRML in the late 90s. It was a joke then, and it's a joke now, even if the current technology won't look so utterly hideous (remember how VRML looked like state-of-the-art 3D from around 1991?).

      Nevertheless, like many of Microsoft's ideas which sometimes seem pointless, it's worth pursuing because you never know what it might inspire, or what bizarre idea might take root and become the next Killer App. If anyone knew what would be the New Big Thing, they'd already be building

      • by hedwards (940851)

        That's a solid point, realty is one area, but also education would benefit a lot from it. One loses a lot in the translation from 3d to 2d. Imagine being able to show a class roughly what the differences between a tropical, sub tropical and temperate rainforests are by looking around a bit.

        But for most purposes the ability to spin a 3d object around to see what it looks like from the point of view that's interesting to the end user is both easier and more useful.

    • I totally agree. It's almost as if people forget that some of the efficiency attained by using computers is attained via abstraction. It's the same problem with "3D" desktop/web UIs. The desktop level of abstraction is exactly right for the kind of work most of us do with computers. Now, if there were a type of work that could be made more efficient via a 3D UI, then go for it, but that seems to be a very small percentage of work being done with a computer.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      It would be useful for looking at products once you find them on the web page, but yes, pushing your virtual trolley round one of these to pick up your shopping is taking things too far.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:49AM (#26059965)
    Between Google's Street View [wikipedia.org] and their failed Lively [wikipedia.org], it would seem like MS is once again following the old "imitate, don't innovate" philosophy here. And even Google abandoned Lively when they realized that (like VRML and its many other predecessors) it wasn't of much use in practical application.
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)
      I won't search for a citation, but MS definition of "invent" is to create something new, while "innovate" is to use something in a new way. As an example, IE was innovation because it used web browsers in a new way (to crush opposing web browser companies and lock users and developers alike to the windows platform).
  • Wow! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:49AM (#26059971)
    Think of all the por... uhh, possibilities!
  • What if we are not real, but running in a meta-Microsoft simulation?
    • by mbone (558574)

      Then when they call it the Blue Screen of Death, they aren't kidding.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Coraon (1080675)
      awww, test subject T4417-C, you were doing so well you bought into the simulation so well...ok guys time to terminate this test subject.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:58AM (#26060095)

    I guess I'm not the target market, but this seems stupid beyond belief.

    Some shopkeeper is going to use photosynth instead of simply setting up a catalog for online commerce?

    People are having so much trouble shopping they have to have the real world modeled?

    Things are laid out in isles and shelfs because that is a good way to use space in the physical world, not because people need to shop that way.
       

    • You mean it's a solution in search of a problem.

      • by fprintf (82740) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:23AM (#26060529) Journal

        How many novel ideas that finally took hold were initially bandied about as "unnecessary" and a "solution in search of a problem". As with any forward thinking company, you create ideas, test market them, further develop the ones that seem to gain interest, do it some more, and if you are lucky 1 in 5 will be successful. Fortunately for Microsoft, they seem to have deeper pockets than most and can take this ideation further along, beyond the simple 'let's try it out with a few of my friends' that casual business development takes, so we end up with articles (and responses) like this suggesting the uselessness of an idea.

        If I think about all the ideas that I have dismissed as "not possible", I'd be Bill Gates or Sergey Brin kind of money. Unfortunately I am not so persistent to pursue my ideas, nor creative to find just the right kind of way to implement the ideas, and I'd think most people aren't.

        Anyway, it might be an idea whose time has come. Or perhaps someone else will come along with a minor tweak that makes it take off when the idea comes up yet again in a few years. I can't blame Microsoft, Google or any other company pursuing VR for trying though. It is how they are going to make money in the future I'd bet... though I won't bet because I know I won't pick the right one and don't have enough money to spread across all the different potential VR solutions. :-)

        • Most of the ideas that have been dismissed as useless .... are useless and came to nothing

          A very few were dismissed by some people ... and not by others .. and also failed

          Fewer still actually succeeded and some people at least thought it was worthwhile even in the early stages

          Currently Augmented reality (rather than full VR) looks promising and is what Google, Apple and others are invesigating.....

        • You are right that many successful ideas seem stupid at first. On the other hand, the vast majority of stupid-sounding ideas are, in fact, stupid and ultimately unsuccessful.

          I think we all support the notion of researching new ideas, and trying out different approaches. If Microsoft wants to spend R&D dollars on these ideas, that's great. The annoying part is when companies issue hyperbole-filled press releases about how these ideas will "revolutionize the world" and so forth. In those cases, it is tota

    • Look at this http://www.retail-week.com/Fashion/2008/11/mallplacecom_virtual_mall_launches_with_affiliate_offer.html [retail-week.com] sub-dot-com-boom concept. The first comment below it is mine, by the way. Terrible, terrible idea and I'd put money on it being dead by Q3 next year.*

      * Hopefully this isn't a "less space than a Nomad" comment

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Wrong, in most cases the models will be made by the manufacturers, just like today hardware manufacturers are generally the source of objects for use with autocad.

      But with that being said, this would cause serious headaches for eBay and people that produce one of a kind objects unless somebody invents a 3d scanner to go with.

  • I can see the benefit of recreating your store in a virtual setting so people can browse you items in a more real way, but if you can only afford a small store in RL, would you limit yourself in the same way virtually? You have the potential to make yourself look much bigger, or offer more than you can hold in your brick and mortar location.
  • by kvezach (1199717) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:01AM (#26060143)
    In order to be a simulation of everything, it has to contain a simulation of itself, too; and then it has to contain a simulation of a simulation of itself... infinite descent! Only Microsoft would think they could manage that in finite space :-)
    • Yeahhhh, thats a side effect of the virtualization kool-aide.

      Tasty stuff, but the potentials always seem bigger than projected.

      Even their manual and training for this subject feel light and fluffy compared to other offerings by them.

  • by GMonkeyLouie (1372035) <gmonkeylouieNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:02AM (#26060169)

    Everyone else seems to be pretty skeptical of the usefulness of "Virtual World" technology, but I think it could revolutionize consulting.

    I could show people competing alternatives for recommendations on how to restructure their physical operations, like "in scenario one we have your checkout lanes over here, just past the cheeses... contrast that with scenario two, where we have them flanked by bakery counters...".

    Also, has anyone considered how excellent this could be for porn?

    • Using this technology to layout a store isn't a bad idea especially if the modeling was used for simulating of how people shop. However, it's being sold as being an alternate to the physical store where web visitors shop like they would in the real store. That is a crappy idea cause people who visit an online store don't want to have the same hassle as they would in the real store. They want a different experience.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Also, has anyone considered how excellent this could be for porn?

      What, on slashdot? Surely not.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Such a program already exists [autodesk.co.uk].

  • They might actually sell a secure OS in VR

  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:06AM (#26060219)

    He gave an example of a shopkeeper creating 3D models of his store's interior and goods with Photosynth and then uploading the results into a large 3D model of local shopping district. Customers could 'visit' the area, browse products, and order them for real-world delivery."

    With all due respect, this sounds very 1996. Why on Earth would anyone want to shop that way ?

    • I would shop that way in New York. I very much dislike being in a city where it's so far from place to place, so very very dirty, and unsafe.

      Hell, going to New York in VR might be the most pleasurable trip I've ever taken there. I wouldn't get mugged like last time, frozen bloody solid like the time before, or lost on the metro system like the time before that.

    • by Locklin (1074657)
      Maybe there will even be virtual crowds, virtual lines at the checkout, and maybe even virtual parking issues! This sounds like yet another "innovative" way of taking something real, and moving it to a digital space as similar as possible (problems and all). Kind of like PDF "papers" and those soft-phones which have dialling pad on them.
      • by mbone (558574)

        And, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood botnets, virtual pickpockets !

    • Ordering a book or video card works well with 2D representations, or even just a text description. But that doesn't mean that 3D isn't useful for other things.

      As a woodworker, it would be very nice to see an accurate 3D representation of a board I was buying over the net or to be able to actually 'walk around' larger tools to get a sense of their layout. Or to see, in 3D, the pattern created by a router bit. Etc... Etc...

  • by Isvara (898928) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:06AM (#26060231)

    I thought we learned in the 90s that virtual representations of physicals things, be they stores, libraries -- whatever, are simply not the most useful way to access information. I don't want to go wandering around virtual stores to find the things I want to buy. What I want is something that lets me specify the thing I want, and tells me the cheapest place to buy it -- Google Products already does that quite well.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      I thought we learned in the 90s that virtual representations of physicals things, be they stores, libraries -- whatever, are simply not the most useful way to access information. I don't want to go wandering around virtual stores to find the things I want to buy. What I want is something that lets me specify the thing I want, and tells me the cheapest place to buy it -- Google Products already does that quite well.

      You're forgetting that a lot of people like shopping and there's no reason why you couldn't

      • by mbone (558574)

        Virtual browsing ? Sure. And, I am willing to grant that visual GUIs for doing this could be dramatically improved. But...

        Browsing a virtual store mimicking a physical store ? I am sure it would be a useful shoplifters training tool, but I am not sure who else would want it.

    • by kabocox (199019)

      I thought we learned in the 90s that virtual representations of physicals things, be they stores, libraries -- whatever, are simply not the most useful way to access information. I don't want to go wandering around virtual stores to find the things I want to buy. What I want is something that lets me specify the thing I want, and tells me the cheapest place to buy it -- Google Products already does that quite well.

      For what most of us buy on the web or are willing to wait to have shipped to us, that's mostly

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:12AM (#26060345)

    I seriously can't wait to play GTA:8 - my neighborhood. Without getting in trouble this time.

  • Yes, (Score:5, Funny)

    by sveard (1076275) * on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:15AM (#26060395) Homepage

    But does it simulate linux?

    (these posts almost write themselves, so easy!)

  • ...I wonder... where would they get the power for this enormous project? Hrmmm?

  • 1980s mistakes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:20AM (#26060471) Homepage Journal

    Welcome to the 21st century. Right now, we are doing an "80s revival". No, that doesn't mean the clothes or music, for this one, we are reviving 1980s faults, errors and misconceptions.

    Today: The misguided idea that 3D, VR or other "close to reality" interfaces are by default good interfaces. Let's ignore the past 20 years of research! Be happy! There is no uncanny valley. We don't have other options that might offer better interfaces than a simulation of reality does. No, let's assume that rocket cars, 50s music and VR are what we want.

    Seriously, this is so stupid, it hurts. When I'm online I don't want to "browse". That was 20 years ago. Even "searching" is on its way out. I don't want a cheap 3D copy of your shop, I want something adapted to the medium I'm using. I want search, overviews and recommendations. I want to narrow down my view and sort according to arbitrary criteria of my own, not browse through the collection in whatever order you put it up in your shop.

    It appears TFA misses completly why people do online shopping at all. Newsflash: It is very rarely because you don't want to walk or drive to the shop. In fact, I've been in a physical shop multiple times and went online there in order to research and sometimes even buy the article I was holding in my hands online. More information, price comparisons, and many more things.

    • Seriously, this is so stupid, it hurts. When I'm online I don't want to "browse". That was 20 years ago. Even "searching" is on its way out. I don't want a cheap 3D copy of your shop, I want something adapted to the medium I'm using. I want search, overviews and recommendations. I want to narrow down my view and sort according to arbitrary criteria of my own, not browse through the collection in whatever order you put it up in your shop.

      I would suppose that depends on your comfort level with web technology.

      • by itsdapead (734413)

        There have been a few times when I would have liked to see the back of electronics for wiring considerations.

        Or, less gimmicky but infinitely more useful, what I usually do is go to the manufacturer's website from where you can often download the complete user's manual, and not only find out what's round the back but helpful details like "Ethernet port (models R931/B and R931/S only)" without crossing your fingers and hoping that BuyMore.com have put the right picture with the right product.

        Not only is that better than VR, its better than standing in a meatspace shop fumbling around the back of a monitor to try a

      • by Tom (822)

        Oh, totally. Having a 3D model to turn and zoom as I like would be much better for online shopping than a picture or two.

        But that's a totally different animal. And I'd still want my 3D preview embedded in an interface that was designed for this specific medium. Like, say, an online-shop.

    • by PJ1216 (1063738) *
      Online shopping has yet to really come up with a decent equivalent of "window browsing." Sometimes you just want to look at everything. You don't want to pick a category. You don't want to see everything related to the item you just looked at. You just want to window shop. Hell, window shopping is a past time for some people. There are entire streets filled with stores that are almost tourist attractions where the only thing you do is just walk around and look at shit. Sometimes people don't know what they
  • gah. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:25AM (#26060559)
    gaah. this is the sort of drivel that managers beat over and looks good in slideshows.

    this smacks of first life... http://www.getafirstlife.com/ [getafirstlife.com]

    at the end of the day I can see the appeal of virtual models of real events, for example
    1. police officers using stereoscopic cameras to build a very, very detailed model of the crime scene that can be explored later on or shown to a jury
    2. virtual walk through of museums, natural wonders or education exhibits

    but shopping and other mundane aspects of life? the obvious comment is that it will waste power, take longer and never be as satisfying as the real thing.

    that said, if you can build me a holodeck then I am pretty sure I will never leave it, nothing could be as important as the simulated Monica Belluci and her simulated identical sisters.
  • Once they get to a Virtual Reality sex simulator, they might have a viable product.....
  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:43AM (#26060819)

    Yes, all the snide comments about VR being so '90s, been there done that didn't work, and rehashing of all the gung-ho fanboy rhetoric aside, there IS something new to this.

    Photosynth.

    A major problem with VR was having to construct everything manually. You want a shelf full of products? start drawing lots of polygons by hand - and that's a lot of polygons. Yes, there were some tools to help, but it still came down to a largely handcrafted virtual world - most of which turned out pretty lame.

    Enter Photosynth.

    Now said shopkeeper can spend 10 minutes wandering thru his store with a video camera running, take a gazillion frames of lots of angles of view, and let Photosynth stitch it all together into a fully-formed, fully-illustrated 3D model. Behold: a detailed, realistic 3D walk-thru rendering of the entire store in about an hour, mostly generated automatically.

    And before anyone complains that it's slow, hard to use, etc. - it's little different from "first person shooters", which provide a familiar 3D interactive walkthru experience. Difference is, this one is the real world - without all that tedious hand-measuring hand-coding of agonizing detail of reality.

    'bout time someone did this. Made sense to me long before I saw Photosynth turn pictures into 3D models, M$ just did it before I got to it (funny how deep pockets helps that...).

    • You make a good point, compared to 90's efforts like @mart (an offshoot of Alpha World) which crashed and burned. However, I question whether Photosynth will scale to the massive extent needed. Just consider what you said: "take a gazillion frames from lots of angles of view". The shopkeeper will have to scan the store, the shelves, and maybe each individual item on each shelf to create a compelling experience. I don't think a 'google street view' equivalent of the inside of a store is going to cut it.
    • by Tom (822)

      Behold: a detailed, realistic 3D walk-thru rendering of the entire store

      Which is good for what, exactly?

      If you want interaction, you're back at coding it. And the "virtual shop" you just created does more to limit options, than to help them. Why the fuck should I care which aisle the product is in?

    • by jvkjvk (102057)

      Umm. Sure. So Photosynth is new.

      A major problem with VR was having to construct everything manually.

      This may be true, but is beside the point.

      I don't know many people who would rather "browse" around a virtual store than search for the products they want in a faster and more efficient manner, say by typing the item or category into a search box.

      And before anyone complains that it's slow, hard to use, etc. - it's little different from "first person shooters", which provide a familiar 3D interactive walkthru experience. Difference is, this one is the real world - without all that tedious hand-measuring hand-coding of agonizing detail of reality.

      Yes, well so what? I'm not entirely sure there *is* a target market for such "stores".

      Imagine Word, for example, where you "walked" your avatar down to the "Printer" and fed it your job to print. Oh, that is Innovative! You coul

    • by kabocox (199019)

      This tech will really take off when a store owner can train a min. wage worker to walk through their store in the morning in about 10-15 minutes and have an app auto update the model, the store inventory list, a list of everything known that was sold yesterday, and a list of everything missing in the the store that wasn't sold.

      For bonus points, it would scan through yesterdays security recordings for everyone passing in front of the "missing items" and auto report shop lifted items with a list of subjects t

  • At least their dev section. Management is a different story. But I just can't help but seeing "MS VR" and thinking 360 degrees of blue screen.
     

  • does not scale (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Speare (84249) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @11:50AM (#26060931) Homepage Journal

    After discussing the implementation of Virtual Reality systems with many, many non-programmers, I have come to the conclusion that the fastest way to truly grok the difference between a million and a billion is to watch a computer try to render something complicated. Because we've been living in a 2D world, and 2D graphics performance has been making steady gains over everyone's computer-using lifetime, just don't understand how problems can scale or fail to scale. Put another way, the advances in 2D have tracked with Moore's Law, but 3D is a completely different exponent. Until you really give a computer a problem that scales faster than 2D, many people just assume computers will handle any level of complexity. Watching a computer choke on something their own mind comprehends easily is the humbling moment.

    • by Animats (122034)

      Put another way, the advances in 2D have tracked with Moore's Law, but 3D is a completely different exponent.

      Nah. There's only so much detail you can see. Rendering a really big world is work-bounded by level of detail processing. It's nowhere near O(N^3). If you get to use fog or obstacles to hide distant areas, there's an constant upper bound on the work required, so it's O(1). That's how most older video games do it. Without fog, if you preprocess the model to have low-rez versions of objects fo

  • So THAT'S what those Microsoft ads with Gates and Jerry Seinfeld were about; A Show about Nothing in a Simulation of Everything...

    No wonder they made no sense...
  • Ok, so let's use ALL of this info together, wire it into a finite-element MATRIX (ignore that word) and simulate the entire ecosystem. See which changes effect what. End the debate, engineer any solution that actually could WORK.

    This concept was the basis "A Farewell To Kings", my manuscript for the Turner Tomorrow Award Contest in 1991. In an obligatory Rush allusion, the massive computer network (pre-www./pre-google) was called Synergistic Resource for Information Exchange -- SYRINX :-D And yes, I quote
  • I'm sorry, but Mr Ballmer can't see you now - he's on an intergalactic cruise in his office.

    Strange, I'd always thought that Microsoft were more Sirius Cybernetics Corporation to Apple/Google/Wikipedia's Megadodo Publications...

    I suppose the Vogons have taken over by now.

  • Wait, they are planning a simulation using "perhaps even user-generated content". Doesn't that sound a lot like a really expensive version of...reality?
  • ... VR could work but IMHO we don't really have the horsepower nor the user interfaces to do anything that good with it yet. Also lets consider it takes a few generations of children raised in a technological society before everyone becomes comfortable and literate in technology which is still quite a ways away.

  • This is stupid. I've played with Playstation Home, and it's ridiculously stupid. And that's essentially what the whole "Virtual Store" is.

    What I'd rather see is augmented reality, where I can stand on a street corner, and the buildings and shops have descriptions, ratings, comments from customers, and so on. I'd like to be able to look at an historic building and find out why it's historic. I'd like to have my GPS show directions overlaying the actual streets. I'd like to be able to find a decent damned Tha

  • He gave an example of a shopkeeper creating 3D models of his store's interior and goods with Photosynth and then uploading the results into a large 3D model of local shopping district. Customers could 'visit' the area, browse products, and order them for real-world delivery.

    And have their IPs banned for taking screen captures of prices?

    Stores like physical stores because they restrain the customer into seeing only their prices. If the stores are virtual, the customer could be browsing multiple stores and do price comparisons. Even the stores that price-match don't like to do it and will find any excuse not to.

  • Okay, first things first: we have *got* to come up with a better name than "Spatial Web". That's got to be the worst product name I've heard since "Pumpkin" for a calendar component...

    (Mark, is that you?)

  • I have actually worked for a company that tried to do this (different technology and budget of course :-) with the predictable results.

    It has a huge cool factor that make it seems like a great idea, but there are huge barriers against this becoming practical any time soon.

    First and foremost, there is the content creation issue. Any idiot can pour text into a page. Adding a digital photo of your product next to it is just as easy these days. Slurping a list of items from a DB and dumping it as a list on a "s

  • What people keep forgetting is the shoppers really don't want a _store_. They want a _product_ and which store they buy from is secondary.

    For example I wanted a Blu-ray disc. The worst user interface I could image would have be go to a few stores and visually hunt for what I wanted. Not I want to search for the product and have the search engine give me back a list of stores that offer it. Going from store to store is backwards.

    But this would be very nice way to look at a product. Manufactures could us

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