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Comment Re:Limitations of VR (Score 2) 125

I did and I am following the project from the start.

It is an interesting idea and innovative approach to how to produce 3D images. I wouldn't actually call it AR, it is more a general mixed reality setup, because it doesn't really attempt to overlay registered virtual image over the real world - it displays computer generated imagery over a specially prepared surface (the retroreflective foil).

I think it will be interesting novelty item for the entertainment, but probably not all that big there. It depends a lot on what kind of content will be available. Also CastAR needs the multiplayer games to really shine - similar to what made Wii popular. The games were basic, but it was fun playing with friends in the same space. That is both a boon and a bane - how many gamers actually have someone to play together with next to them all the time?

Where there is a much bigger potential for that technology is the professional market - it is one of the very few technologies that is capable of displaying proper multi-user stereo in the same shared space. E.g. CAVEs that are able to do so can typically handle 2 simultaneous users max and cost millions. CastAR can handle 4 simultaneous users in the same space at least and costs a few orders of magnitude less ... This is huge for collaborative applications, such as planning, design review, training, etc. I think that is where it will be flying off the shelves because there simply isn't a system with comparable capability for a similar price on the market.

Comment Re:Limitations of VR (Score 2) 125

I am working as both researcher and developer in this field for almost two decades.

There certainly isn't a "lack of a killer app" there. However, there is one big difference - I am talking about professional market. Simulators & marketing are one thing (even though those rarely focus on HMDs but rather on projected displays - HMD is cumbersome).

Then you have training applications - machine operators, surgery training, maintenance training, safety procedures, dangerous materials handling, you name it. Of course, military training too, even though that is a complete different market.

Another category I have been involved with are various medical therapy applications - psychology and psychiatry - e.g. various phobias, even additiction therapies, PTSD is successfully being treated using VR, pain distraction applications (e.g. for severely burned people, dentists or some cancer sufferers).

And those are just the domains I have been somehow involved with or seen around me. Retail/consumer market is a different story and there I see VR mostly as niche within the larger gaming/entertainment market. Things like 360 videos and watching TV using HMDs will likely fail as that is pretty much pointless and the novelty of it fades very quickly.

Concerning AR - I am not that sure. For one, AR is very overrated. The AR applications are perhaps numerous in movies and Hollywood (everyone wants a Terminator-like HUD, right?!), but not in reality. Stupid stuff like superheroes jumping out of cereal boxes were interesting perhaps 5 years ago. There are also numerous problems that would have to be overcome first and not all of them are technical ones.

* There is AR and "AR". Google Glass was not AR but a personal HUD - if there is no registration between the image overlay and the real world, *it is not AR*. Glass was incapable of that.

* Contrast - optical see-through displays have inherently poor contrast and daylight visibility, digital see-through (using cameras) tend to suffer from lag, motion blur and poor dynamic range (big issue outdoors in sunlight, for ex.)

* Fragility - most AR displays are very fragile pieces of glass and electronics, not robust to day to day abuse. Can be solved, but at the expense of aesthetics and price.

* There is *no* robust tracking soluton for AR that would work both indoors and outdoors, have sufficient accuracy for registering overlays over objects beyond simplistic labels (think satnav instructions) and would not require enormous computational power. Projects like Tango are getting close, but still no cigar. This is actually *THE* problem we are fighting almost every week at work when clients ask for an AR application - nobody wants markers, but pretty much nothing else works with sufficient accuracy and low overhead.

* Battery life - AR needs to be mobile to be really useful which means batteries. Something iike Tango running full tilt tracking and displaying of the 3D scene would likely run out of battery within an hour or two. Or shut off due to overheating because of the heavy computation going on (see the GearVR problems with that - and GearVR is not doing any tracking at all).

And now the non-technical issues which could be the largest problem, in fact:
* Most people don't want to look like Borgs from StarTrek wearing headsets. Not an issue in the pro market, but enormous problem for consumer market. Google has learned that firsthand with their Glass.

* We are far from headsets being socially acceptable. Both the cameras and the lack of eye contact/apperance of being distracted are an issue. Perhaps this will change as these devices become pervasive (talking on a phone in public used to be a social no-no too), but until then it will be a major hurdle for adoption.

Comment Re:GPL vs BSD-etc. (Score 4, Interesting) 117

No we can't. Circuit schematics is generally not copyrightable, because it only documents the workings of something else - a physical circuit. It is not considered a work in itself.

Even if it was, then the only thing that copyright license would do is to protect the schematics - not someone reproducing the actual circuit. For that you would have to patent it - which may not be possible (circuit is well known, for ex.) or not practical (patenting costing more than the widget itself). Not to mention that patents are not likely to stop an Asian fly-by-night cloner.

Comment Several problems here (Score 4, Insightful) 117

First - it is not really an open source project if it doesn't want to publish the design files/documentation. There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep that secret, but then, please, don't use the "open source" moniker.

Second - yes, the issue with clones is real - just look at Saleae (they produce USB logic analyzer). Their original hardware was widely cloned, because it was basically just a repurposed devboard for a common chip loaded with custom firmware that they made freely downloadable.

That said, the Saleae case also shows how not publishing the design files is ineffective - Saleae didn't publish anything, but all it took for the device to be cloned was someone buying a genuine one and reverse engineering it. It is not that difficult to do if someone really wants to do it.

So in the end who gets punished by the files not being available? Certainly not the cloners but more likely your own legitimate customers who will have more tricky time integrating the device into their own projects or repairing it.

Concerning support of the 3rdparty clones - nobody should be obligated to support unofficial hardware. Just don't be an ass about it, pulling another FTDI (company that tried to sabotage/brick the clones).

Comment Re:Anti-Hillary is not Pro-Trump (Score 1) 867

So what are you proposing?

Voting Trump in protest? That will definitely help your cause if he wins and ruins the country in the process. But you have made your point about Clinton, yay!

Voting for a 3rd party/independent candidate? With the current election system in place, you can as well give your vote to Trump in such case. It is about equal to throwing your ballot in the trash - your vote won't count.

Not voting at all? That's the same as above - your voice will not count.

I am European, so this thing touches me only tangentially at best, but I see this "logic" here as well - "Party X/candidate Y is corrupt and incompetent, let's vote for a fringe/nutcase/extremist party Z in protest! That will show them! They cannot be worse than them anyway!"

The only result is the extremists gaining power in parliaments and once there, proceeding to show that they are even less competent and even more corrupt than their predecessors, because it is easy to run on a platform of "being against something". However, governing means that you have to actually bring *implementable* solutions to the table, not only soundbites for TV. That is where these parties universally fall flat on their faces.

Just look at what happened most recently in UK with the brexit vote or what is going on with Le Pen in France where her party controls some of the city councils. They are preoccupied with such important stuff like banning halal food from school canteens or banning veiled women from beaches, but not really addressing crime, dealing with unemployment or drug dealers. And then there is a new scandal about Front National deputy doing this or that almost every other day (usually involving graft, racism or worse).

So that is what you get for your protest votes.

Comment Re:"Signature Edition" ironically pushes me to Mac (Score 2) 491

Actually Lenovo offers also machines without OS, including laptops, so this locked down BS is not the only option there. They are obviously doing that to lower the sticker price (machine with Windows is about $100 extra), but it is possible to get one of these.

I am not sure wheher they are offering them in every market, but e.g. in Slovakia they are available

A year ago I have got an E31 laptop with the new Skylake CPU and no problems with Linux or pre-installed malware whatsoever on it.

Comment The real burning question ... (Score 1) 122

"The real burning question is: if a single Software Libre Engineer can teach themselves PCB design and bring modular computing to people on the budget available from a single company, why are there not already a huge number of companies doing modular upgradeable hardware?"

Well, because it is economical BS. 99.9% of the market doesn't give a damn about modularity (cf. scaling back of the project Ara from Google) or whether or not the device designer had to sign an NDA to get documentation for a chip or not or whether there is only libre software in it. All that only makes the hardware more complex, more difficult to produce and in the end more expensive.

The fact that they have to crowdfunding campaign (which isn't exactly going gangbusters) is the evidence.

The openness, the libre software, the modularity are things which matter to geeks but are not a sustainable business model alone. These people need to get out of their ivory tower sometime.

Comment Since when is hand-building a PC for games ... (Score 1) 729

... something required?

If you don't have the manual skill and technical knowledge, there are pre-built machines. If you want a "just works" experience, buy a console. But whining that something is "hard" only because it actually requires some homework and skill which you don't have is not going to help.

Heck, most people are incapable of changing oil in their cars, some can't replace even a flat tire or a broken lightbulb. And nobody seems to whine that driving is difficult because of it.

This story just screams self-entitlement. "Me wanna!" - and if I can't handle it, it is everyone else's fault, because I am too cheap to actually pay someone competent to do the job for me.

Seriously mind boggling.

Comment Priorities (Score 1) 146

It is really good to see that the Tories, having fixed that pesky EU brexit problem, have moved on to the next important issue already.

It just shows what they are really after - now, with the EU regulations possibly out of the window, they can get rid of stupid commie crap like worker protections, human rights or privacy protections. Let's do everything to make the rich even richer and screw everyone else.

Comment Haven't we been there before already? (Score 1) 342

Ah, another savior of the programming world telling us we are all doing it wrong and only their clicky graphic language is the right way to teach programming.

There is Alice, there is Scratch, Logo, Baltazar, Karel ... and countless more of these simple education-oriented toy languages. And they work and they did work - for teaching kids the very basics. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem is that:
a) kids quickly "grow out" of them - they want to do some real stuff like write "real" games, hack in Minecraft, make robots "do stuff", etc.

b) the step from a toy visual, "clicky" language to an abstract, text-based one is *STEEP*, even if the student understands the algorithmic logic of how the program needs to be put together already (and they are often still pretty shaky on that front at that point!). The abstract thinking needed to understand the syntax and the link between the syntax and the semantics of the code needs to be learned first.

Making that step is needed to be able to claim that we have taught the student to program, because 99.9% of real-word code is not created by mouse clicking. Unfortunately, these education-oriented tools do very little to make that step easier. Very often they actually do exactly the opposite, by hiding the commands and treating textual code as if it was an infectious disease to be confined to some isolated corner, being deemed "too complex", if they even allow the user to see it in the first place. That is a pedagogically counterproductive approach, IMO. A much better option is showing it side-by-side, so that the student can see and compare, building on what what they know already.

So selling this stuff as some sort of silver bullet solution is pretty much an indication that someone just has no idea of what it takes to actually teach programming.

Comment Re:This is why VR will fail. (Score 2) 47


a) AR is not the same thing as VR or a replacement for it. Those two technologies are pretty much orthogonal to each other, with different use cases. Saying "AR is better/will replace VR" is like saying an airplane will replace car. Both are means of transportation but serving different purposes and used at different times.

b) Hololens is unable to generate a fully immersive scene - has narrow field of view and a lot of problems with achievable contrast (as any see-through display) in brightly lit spaces. This is important for sense of presence. Making a fantasy game (for example) believable is going to be difficult if you have the real world visible in your scene, unless your objective is to make dragons roam your living room. Not a problem for VR.

c) Nobody knows how well (or whether at all) the tracking on Hololens performs - all that was presented were carefully orchestrated demos in controlled conditions and no specs are known. Again not something that is comparable.

d) Performance of the embedded ARM/Intel CPU/GPU combo on something like Hololens is far behind what a desktop CPU/GPU combo are capable of. Hololens is likely comparable to something like GearVR performance-wise and those require a lot of "dumbing down" of the content in order to achieve reasonable frame rates. Moreover Hololens has to also do the optical tracking of the surrounding scene which GearVR does not do - making the problem even worse.

e) Motion sickness is less a factor of how fast the tracking/rendering is but much more a function of content. You can have usable VR at 30fps with no motion sickness and a totally atrocious experience at 120fps if the content is poorly built.

Disclosure - working with VR since 1998 or so :)

Comment Re:Palmer Suckey (Score 1) 78

Well, hindsight is always 20/20. When Oculus started, focus on the sitting user with a controller sounded like a very sane first step. There were no good large area tracking solutions available for $100-$200 (the cheapest "pro" starts around $2000-3000 just for tracking). Remember STEM? That was supposed to be the solution.

The concept of "room scale" consumer VR didn't exist until after about 2 years after Oculus has been committed to their system already. I am sure they would have gone with it if there was a robust tracking solution available back then.

The lack of "room scale" is not a problem. The tracking actually works OK for reasonable room sizes (I have the Rift CV1).

The killer is the lack of tracked hand controllers (the non-interactive demos in the Oculus Dreamdeck where you can only passively watch but are unable to do anything are totally ridiculous) - why they didn't bundle at least the Razer Hydra with the headset when they saw Vive being released complete with controllers and their own are delayed until late this year is beyond me. Even a poor motion controller is better than a gamepad. I have used Hydra with my Rift to play with the SteamVR Lab demos and it worked fine for the most part.

The second killer is poor/non-existent content. Right now all you can get are some silly games that will bore you to death after few minutes - even Eve Valkyrie. Eve looks stunning, but ultimately it is just space deathmatch in a small arena with invisible walls and *A LOT* of prodding for you to pour in real money to buy stuff. That gets boring fast. Paying $60-80+ for a platformer only because it is "VR"? (aka you see it 3D and can look around but there is nothing more "VR" than that about it). That's just crap.

They seem to be heavily invested in 360 degree "VR" movies. However, they can't even get the short clips that are bundled with the Dreamdeck right - often poor resolution and short, limited content. Like, few minutes of watching waterfalls from the air, from National Geo ... It is totally non-interactive, the only thing you can do is to look around. The quality often sucks too because the clips are upscaled for the high resolution of the Rift. Watching a normal movie with the hot, fogging up, sweaty headset stuck to your face? They really think someone will want to actually do that? Yet it is offered ... I just don't see anyone who would actually want to watch this stuff beyond trying it out and to actually *pay* for it.

The Vive content, in comparison, is actually fun, even if you don't buy anything and just tinker with the bundled demos from the Lab. Heck, that stuff is fun even if you use it with the Rift and Hydra (which actually works, unlike Oculus' platform locking out Vive users).

Finally, what has actually the chance to sour people over their platform before it had even chance to take off are the recent boneheaded moves with the preorders, shipping, the DRM issue, etc.

The "lack of roomscale" is certainly not the issue with the Rift ...

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