VR Worlds better than Reality

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Dave Evans

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Jul 29, 1991, 3:05:48 PM7/29/91
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I read an interesting Sci Fi series of books, but I can't remember
who wrote them. The major conclusion of the trilogy was that
electronic lives were better than physical, because they could
be perfect. You could control your environment, entirely, including
your self image and capabilities.

Some of the main characters had died, and had their "essence"
pulled out and put into a machine. Once there, they could look like
they wanted to, live in the environment they wanted to: make it varied,
comfortable, challenging, interesting... like the Holodeck on Star Trek.

In the end of the third book, the big bad space aliens from the black
hole came out, and they were electronic too, because they CHOSE to be so.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I personally see alot of potential for
"alternative" lifestyles in VR. Besides communication, education, and
recreation, VR allows people to "step into other's shoes".

Some people think this is dangerous. Kind of like "couch potato's from
Hell" or something, and worry VR will make people into computer zombies,
never leaving their VR machine. But is that so bad?

How about some feedback...
- Dave

Lisa Leutheuser

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Jul 31, 1991, 8:59:37 AM7/31/91
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In article <1991Jul30.2...@milton.u.washington.edu> dev...@apple.com
(Dave Evans) writes:

> I read an interesting Sci Fi series of books, but I can't remember
>who wrote them. The major conclusion of the trilogy was that
>electronic lives were better than physical, because they could
>be perfect. You could control your environment, entirely, including
>your self image and capabilities.
>

> In the end of the third book, the big bad space aliens from the black
>hole came out, and they were electronic too, because they CHOSE to be so.
>

> How about some feedback...
> - Dave


I believe you're talking about Fredrick Polh's Hee-Chee "triology."
(I think there's a forth book as well)

My apologies if I spelled the author's last name wrong.


Lisa Leutheuser Internet: e...@ifs.umich.edu
University of Michigan ...into the Crystal Wind...

Bob Jacobson

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Jul 31, 1991, 2:50:59 PM7/31/91
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A thread reserved just for YOU (and the other 30,000 who attended).

Let's hear what you thought neat, significant, boring, or hype.
Personal opinions, as well as objective observations, are welcome.

Bob Jacobson
Moderator

Adam D Beeman

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Aug 2, 1991, 10:04:17 AM8/2/91
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> I read an interesting Sci Fi series of books, but I can't remember
>who wrote them. The major conclusion of the trilogy was that
>electronic lives were better than physical, because they could
>be perfect. You could control your environment, entirely, including
>your self image and capabilities.

[stuff deleted]

> Some people think this is dangerous. Kind of like "couch potato's from
>Hell" or something, and worry VR will make people into computer zombies,
>never leaving their VR machine. But is that so bad?
>
> How about some feedback...
> - Dave

Not zombies... wizards! It's happening to people already! I've found
myself realizing that I've been in a computer lab for 14 hours, or
playing mud all night!

So what's wrong with spending your time somewhere that doesn't
physically exist? I have a life! Really! It's just on a disk somewhere...

By the way, I'm rather curious if many VR people are LPmud people...
there are many similarities even though LPmud is text based.


/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/
|| Adam Beeman, undergraduate The bubbles fill the space ||
|| designer of alternate realities. o O ||
|| Another twisted philosophical type. o o o ||
|| bee...@cats.ucsc.edu o 0 ||
|| bee...@ucscb.ucsc.edu (408) 464-2375 O O ||
/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/
|| Disclaimer: The views represent views, nothing more. So what? ||
/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

Howard Rheingold

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Aug 3, 1991, 10:48:24 PM8/3/91
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beeman%cats.U...@ucscc.ucsc.edu (Adam D Beeman) writes:

>By the way, I'm rather curious if many VR people are LPmud people...
>there are many similarities even though LPmud is text based.

Can you tell us about LPmud in a way that is consistent with living in
a kind of VR world? And something about the scope of LPmud as a
subculture? Do you think this world will be enthralled with VR
frontends, or is the text format essential to the illusion?

Chris Shaw

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Aug 4, 1991, 9:36:29 AM8/4/91
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In article blah (Howard Rheingold) writes:

>Can you tell us about LPmud in a way that is consistent with living in
>a kind of VR world? And something about the scope of LPmud as a
>subculture? Do you think this world will be enthralled with VR
>frontends, or is the text format essential to the illusion?

LPmud (and other Multi User Dungeon programs) are very similar "culturally"
and structurally to Dungeons & Dragons. Some even steal the accounting and
combat resolution procedures from D&D, which is a mistake in my opinion,
since the constraint of having humans evaluate outcomes using dice is not
necessary when the computer can do it.

Nonetheless, the "virtual world" aspect is very similar to "Adventure" or
"Zork". You interact with a virtual world which is usually static, there
is a limited command set, and there is a directed graph structure to the
geography which is laid out in advance. Of course, the geography can be
changed or extended in most MUDs, but during a given session, it is fixed.

The main difference, of course, is the multi-user nature of the game. Users
team up to hunt for monsters and glory, which is measured in "experience
points". You can kill other players if you desire, although this is more
likely to get you into trouble than anything else. Some MUDs have town
guards which will hunt you down if you have attacked another player.

Culturally, most of the people you meet seem to be teenaged males. I
think this has as much to do with the enormous time investment required
to improve your level than anything else. Unfortunately, some MUDs are
not designed with the idea that your time investment is important, which
is a fatal botch in my opinion. One LPmud I have played is quite good in
this respect, since you can sell everything you've collected at the
store, and put the money in the bank. Any program which requires you
to plan quitting so that you lose minimum work is poorly designed,
in my opinion.

There is also a fairly strict hierarchy based on level. Higher level
players are usually charitable to lower level players, and lower level
players are expected to not be idiots. Some of this charity is due to
the lack of documentation, which results in new players continually
asking questions. Other charity is necessary because new players start
off with lousy equipment and no skills, and so must enroll in an
apprenticeship program to survive. This enrollment process consists
of standing around shouting that you need to join a team.

As far as the illusion is concerned, the text could easily be replaced by
pictures with no loss of comprehension. The basic problem is that it's
feast or famine. Either nothing is happening, or (in combat) so much is
happening you can't take it all in. This fits with real life, of course,
but in real life you don't have to worry about mistyping a command, or
having it scroll off the screen. This data organization problem can be
solved by a front end, and I think a visual front end would be very nice.
--
Chris Shaw University of Alberta
cds...@cs.UAlberta.ca CatchPhrase: Bogus as HELL !

Johan Anderson

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Aug 5, 1991, 12:34:12 AM8/5/91
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In article <1991Aug4.2...@milton.u.washington.edu> decwrl!well.sf.ca.us!
well!h...@uunet.uu.net (Howard Rheingold) writes:

> Can you tell us about LPmud in a way that is consistent with living in
> a kind of VR world? And something about the scope of LPmud as a
> subculture? Do you think this world will be enthralled with VR
> frontends, or is the text format essential to the illusion?

I'd like to pick up this thread, because I think it's important. There are
thousands of people around the internet living in and creating virtual
worlds, and they have been doing so for more than two years. The fact that
these worlds are still textinterfaced is mainly because that is all the
bandwidth of the internet can handle. Given a high bandwidth network and
readily accessible VR interfaces, the MUDs would evolve into true VR's.

I have a very deep interest in VR and virtual worlds, I'm currently
doing my exam project at the HITLab for Chalmers University of Technology,
and I'm also heavely involved in the development of the LPmud at the
original site, called Genesis, at Chalmers Computer Club in Sweden.

LPmud is not the only Multi User Dungeoun game on the internet, there is
a huge variety and three newsgroups: rec.games.mud, alt.mud, alt.mud.lp

The MUDs are games set in virtual worlds. They have two roots, the
textadventure games and the 'real time' talk systems. These two factors
has, in most MUDs, been joined by a third, namely the capability to, in
runtime, extend and build new parts of the game world.

There is a huge number of people for which only the 'gaming' and social
aspects of MUDs are important, these form what might be called a
'subculture'. For them the MUD worlds are much like roleplaying games
and many can spend almost entire days interacting inside them. If you
want to get a feel of what social life could be like in a virtual world
open to a huge number people, I highly recommend spending a day or two
in a MUD game. Be warned though that it is not enough to spend such a
short time as an hour or two, you must sacrifice at least 8-10 hours of
your time.

For me the MUD games are a platform for creating virtual worlds to be used
and tested by people from all over the internet. I choose to make my
creations in LPmud for two reason, its a very flexible platform and the
original design, by Lars Pensjoe, was made at my University.

What gives LPmud its strength is its extremely flexible world building
capabilities. Almost anything conceivable can be created, given adequate
programming skills.

Seeing the complexity of some of these worlds I'd very much like to stress
a point I'd tried to make earlier in this newsgroup. The true difficulties
in VR will not be the interfaces and such things as rendering. I am
convinced that we will in time be able to bring across any sensory
impression we have a model for to the user, this is a hardware problem :-)

We will however have very limited models and the underlying simulation
of even a simple virtual world will be extremely complex. My point here is
that the MUD community has been creating simulations and models for a long
time and the experience so gained is very valuable.

I have collected some information on MUDs in general and written a short
paper on the design and implementation of LPmud. I hope our dear moderator
can make these available through ftp if there is an interest.

Johan

p.s.
For the wizards of Genesis: This is Commander the Madwand,
doodling on news instead of correcting mudlib3 bugs.
d.s.

--
Johan Andersson | "You don`t have conversations with microprocessors
HITL, Seattle, USA | you tell them what to do, and then you helplessly
Email: | watch the disaster when they take you literally."
j...@cd.chalmers.se | Sah`ot in David Brins "Startide Rising"


[MODERATOR'S NOTE: If the MUD newsgroup has an archive, that would be the
appropriate first place to look for, and to leave, detailed information.
However, if it does not, then we can use the sci.virtual-worlds archives
to make available Johan's excellent notes on MUDs. -- Bob Jacobson]

Greg Granger

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Aug 5, 1991, 2:42:47 PM8/5/91
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Continuing the thread (pardon if I rehash anything, I haven't been
following this long).

I have played LP-MUDs and often thought how impressive these would be
as a VR game. I believe the long term future of VR is gaming, likely
it will start (has started) in the scientific visualization community
then slowly (at prices come down) move into the gaming market,
(basically I don't think business will pick up on it (with perhaps the
exception of VR-conferencing) ...?, it would be a nice alternative to
commuting, but ...) ... Oh well, back on track, mudding on a VR system
would be a blast, but would require tremendous resources, very likely a
lot of local power with a minimum of communications overhead ('minimum'
measured in tera-bits/sec :-), very distributed. This would demand a
high degree of hardware/software/network compatibility (unlike what is
available today). Further, I believe there would be several physical
and psychological factors (in any VR game/simulation), such as lack of
exercise, forgetting to eat (really!), addiction, psychosis, etc...
Certainly makes the future look interesting ;-) ... Of course it could
also be a boon to health, if systems could/would be designed to involve
the whole body and there was enough physical (tactile, visual, sound)
feedback to remind people "it's only a game" (people seem to forget this
in the text version <grin>). Imagine, all the long time MUD players
would end up looking like Arnie, instead of Barnie <grin>.

Greg


What kind of processing power/net bandwidth would be required for a VR
game in 3D space with stereo sound for say 50 players on-line?

Remy Evard

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Aug 5, 1991, 9:12:51 PM8/5/91
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Howard Rheingold asks:

> Can you tell us about LPmud in a way that is consistent with living in
> a kind of VR world? And something about the scope of LPmud as a
> subculture? Do you think this world will be enthralled with VR
> frontends, or is the text format essential to the illusion?

A bit of background on this answer - I just finished reading your book
"Virtual Reality" a few days ago (assuming there is only one "Howard
Rheingold" at the WELL...). It's a very interesting book. Thanks for
writing it. (No more critique... :) During some of the time that
I read it, I was at Siggraph, and had the unique (for me) experience
of meeting the people that I had been reading about...

I know you mentioned MUDs in your book so I assume the question was to get
some reaction, and perhaps some personal views. Many people on the net
will be able to answer better than I, but I thought I'd point out that
"teledildonics" is a basic concept in most MUDs, one that was probably
thought of within minutes after creating the very first one. Many MUDs
or variants of them allow two or more players to have sex. The funny
thing about the sex thing is that although the MUD session may be say that
a macho viking is going at it with a blonde, vivacious wench from Valhalla,
99% of the time, it's actually two male, teenaged computeroids glued to their
monitors...

In this sense, MUDs will only work when VR allows you to define your
own appearance. This will probably be a normal feature with VR interfaces.

Yes, it's a definite subculture. It's the intersection of many other
subcultures, mainly gamers and bulletin board freaks. Programmers get
into it too, but typically only for the world-building possibilities.
These people usually do it for a while, and either get bored, and move on
to more interesting things, or write newer, better MUDs. Of course,
I'm generalizing, and will probably get flamed by the non-general cases.

One other point - and I'm sure it's flammable too - as Johan said, to
really get something out of a MUD, you have to spend at least 8 to 10
hours in it. All of the good MUDders that I know spend much much
more than that. There's no doubt in my mind that people will end up
being *at least* as dedicated to virtual worlds, potentially spending
most of their time hooked up. Hell, I know people who spend most of
their waking time reading and posting news... The point is that people
will get addicted to VR, but people get hooked on things anyway. At
least VR is interactive and potentially thought provoking, unlike,
say, television...

MUDs will be much more interesting when VR becomes publicly available,
but as Johan pointed out, VR world builders could learn a lot from MUDders.

-r'm

Re'my Evard
Overworked Grad Student, CS Dept, U of Oregon re...@cs.uoregon.edu
Support Staff , MCS Division, Argonne National Labs ev...@mcs.anl.gov
<------------ Disturbing Environmental Thought of the Day ------------->
At the present rate of deforestation, the last tree in the United
States will be cut down in 50 years.

Joe Judge

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Aug 5, 1991, 2:10:55 PM8/5/91
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Ah ... mudders in this group ... I was wondering if I was the
only one!

Adam - yes, there are mudders in this group .. anyone else here too?
Wher edo you MUD?

Howard - LPmud is just one of a set of popular MUD programs.

Different MUD's have different flavors (characteristics?) ...
so one MUD is good for player adventuring (lots of areas with lots
of descriptions and wandering monsters, etc) where another is more
social (lots of environmental commands ('smile', 'smirk', etc...))
- to the point where there is something called TinySex in the
TinyMUD MUD "reality".

There have been major discussions about privacy in these muds when
this TinySex has been captured in a file and posted on the net, etc.

People meet, form friendships, make enemies, fall in love, etc
through these MUDs - for real and for "not-real". People meet and
form allies/friends that they adventure with (to solve quests) or
to tackle those nasty monsters or solve various puzzling stopping
points in the VR. Sort of like the Gibson "decking" experience.
Also, it's sort of like what Dodger was doing with that one AI
in the ShadowRun series. Of course, this is all textual.

Some let the newbie (new player) build and extend the virtual
reality immediately where others require more experience in the
mudder before they can extend it.

I don't quite understand what you are looking for in your questions.
Maybe you would like to telnet into a MUD and wander around some?
I can send you a couple of addresses you can telnet into.


- Joseph Judge postm...@att.com
j...@cblpf.att.com

>____ h...@well.sf.ca.us (Howard Rheingold) says:
>
>beeman%cats.U...@ucscc.ucsc.edu (Adam D Beeman) writes:
>
>>By the way, I'm rather curious if many VR people are LPmud people...
>>there are many similarities even though LPmud is text based.
>

Felix Sebastian Ortony

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Aug 6, 1991, 9:41:39 PM8/6/91
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The following is a long article, you're warned.

ev...@plover.mcs.anl.gov (Remy Evard) writes:

>Howard Rheingold asks:

>> Can you tell us about LPmud in a way that is consistent with living in
>> a kind of VR world? And something about the scope of LPmud as a
>> subculture? Do you think this world will be enthralled with VR
>> frontends, or is the text format essential to the illusion?

First of all, I respectfully submit that you should try MUDs yourself.
As an example, 'telnet 139.178.1.13 6250' and log in to 'guest',
password 'guest.'

LPMud is not the be-all and end-all of MUD servers. It's a server with
internals to emulate games like the popular 'Dungeons and Dragons' game,
and while it does that reasonably well, it's a bit clunky. There are
other servers dedicated to a more 'realistic' environment. In the end,
of course, the 'realism' is only defined by the skill of the authors who
write the descriptions and build the world onto the server. You might
check out rec.games.mud (if you can wade through the chaff); a good starting
point into that file (or into MUDding in general, actually) is the series
of Frequently Asked Question posts that 'Moira' and I ('Rhodesia') have
written -- they're available via e-mail or in the newsgroup, if you're lucky.

>In this sense, MUDs will only work when VR allows you to define your
>own appearance. This will probably be a normal feature with VR interfaces.

I think MUDs work now. Many MUDs have poorly written worlds, but as anyone
who's gotten absorbed in a good horror story can tell you, good, vivid writing
can be every inch as good (if not better) than the like amount of television.
In fact, that brings up a point I'm a little worried about -- is Virtual
Reality to Textual Adventure what Television is to Books? As a writer, I'm
a strong advocate of the power of imagination.

>Yes, it's a definite subculture. It's the intersection of many other
>subcultures, mainly gamers and bulletin board freaks. Programmers get
>into it too, but typically only for the world-building possibilities.
>These people usually do it for a while, and either get bored, and move on
>to more interesting things, or write newer, better MUDs. Of course,
>I'm generalizing, and will probably get flamed by the non-general cases.

Snicker. Well, I won't flame you, but you're not wholly accurate. The
subculture isn't really 'mainly' anything; people who are computer literate
form the large category on the most prevalent MUDstyle (TinyMUD), but they're
pretty evenly spread out from college students looking for a good time
to graduate students looking to escape their theses to professionals chatting
about esoterica with each other. And everyone gets into it for their
own reasons -- chief among those being that it's fun.

>One other point - and I'm sure it's flammable too - as Johan said, to
>really get something out of a MUD, you have to spend at least 8 to 10
>hours in it. All of the good MUDders that I know spend much much
>more than that. There's no doubt in my mind that people will end up
>being *at least* as dedicated to virtual worlds, potentially spending
>most of their time hooked up. Hell, I know people who spend most of
>their waking time reading and posting news... The point is that people
>will get addicted to VR, but people get hooked on things anyway. At
>least VR is interactive and potentially thought provoking, unlike,
>say, television...

Mmm, but therein lies the crux of the matter. I'm a supporter of VR, but
I'm not sure MUDding is the dimwitted cousin it appears to be on the
surface. That is to say, I can create an object called a 'flowerpot' that
has the description 'This flowerpot has seen the weathering of ages. Chipped
and worn, it stands in mute testimonial to the persistence of the gardeners
who, even as this island sunk beneath their feet, kept their trade alive."
If someone picks it up, a message to everyone in the area can be issued along
the lines of "John picks up the flowerpot. A clod of earth falls at his
feet." The picker-upper can see a personalized message about the clod almost
hitting his big toe. If he types 'break the flowerpot', it can shatter into
a thousand pieces and reveal, hidden in the dusky earth, a dirty gold key.

I can create the above object in about 40 seconds on a MUD, and I contend
that it's every bit as amazing and intriguing as a computer representation --
perhaps more so, since each individual has their own ideas about it, their
own viewpoints on the matter, their own imaginings about what it'd be like
to run their fingers along the edge of the timeworn gardenpiece. There's
no way to convey the sense of age and brittleness of a piece of ceramic
with a computer -- and to those who say "but there will be!", I must say
I have my doubts. I'm sure computers will not be able to emulate every
adjective I can think of -- not ever.

With VR-as-it's-cracked-up-to-be, the creation and imagination aspects are
gone. Just as television cannot be created by the average user, VR cannot
be internally made, worked and reworked by its users. Books, like
MUDs, can be written by anyone very simply. Also, MUDs allow anyone who
feels like it to manufacture their own segment of existence.

>MUDs will be much more interesting when VR becomes publicly available,
>but as Johan pointed out, VR world builders could learn a lot from MUDders.

I don't think television-making-capabilities/VR-making-capabilities will
ever enter the public domain as well as books and MUDs can or have. Text
and language possess the special power of inciting the reader's imagination.
Saying "There's a gorilla behind you" is much easier although perhaps less
effective than going through all the trouble of simulating a gorilla with
a computer. It's also about $100,000 less expensive.

Speaking for myself only (as the MUD community is far too defiant and
tribal to actually have spokespeople), I'll be awed when VR comes out,
but television hasn't stopped me reading or writing books. I'll keep
using MUDs for my virtual worlds.

Questions, replies, or requests for the MUD FAQ set via e-mail are welcome.

>Re'my Evard
>Overworked Grad Student, CS Dept, U of Oregon re...@cs.uoregon.edu
>Support Staff , MCS Division, Argonne National Labs ev...@mcs.anl.gov

--
for...@cs.uiuc.edu

Joshua Bell

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Aug 6, 1991, 12:41:54 PM8/6/91
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In article <1991Aug5.1...@milton.u.washington.edu> usd...@vtserf.cc.vt.e
du (Greg Granger) writes:

>Continuing the thread (pardon if I rehash anything, I haven't been
>following this long).

[stuff deleted, big time]


>
>What kind of processing power/net bandwidth would be required for a VR
>game in 3D space with stereo sound for say 50 players on-line?

Doesn't GEnie's Air Warrior sort of do this by cheating? (Never played, so
this is speculation) You down-load a flight simulator-type program, that acts
as a terminal in the background, and sends your position to the central
computer, and receives a list of everyones position, heading, damage, etc.
Linewars, a kind of Elite klone, is a two-player version of this with modems.
Spectrum Holobyte's new Falcon 3.0, and their next releases of A-10 Tankkiller
and Tank work on the "Electronic Battlefield" concept, similar to how GEnie's
AW works. It _should_ work on a office-type LAN.

You can get 3-D, high frame rates, and 3-D stereo sound with 50 players
fairly easily, IF you move the graphics/sound processing away from the central
computer. You probably need only about 1k-byte per .1 second bandwidth, but
its got to be fairly reliable. Processing power: I'd say at least an Amiga
2000 or a 386sx clone w/ VGA for a standard screen, probably double that
for a true VR (goggles/gloves)

TTFN/TTYL... Joshua B-)
[these opinions for sale, cheap!]
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| "This _should_ be manual override." - Lt.Cmdr. Data |
| |
| JoB...@uncamult.bitnet Bitnet Academic Computing Services |
| jsb...@acs.ucalgary.ca Internet University of Calgary, Canada |
| |
| "That was NOT manual override." - Lt.Cmdr. Data |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

AC Capehart

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Aug 7, 1991, 4:52:44 PM8/7/91
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In article <1991Aug7.0...@milton.u.washington.edu>,
ev...@plover.mcs.anl.gov (Remy Evard) writes:

RE> Howard Rheingold asks:
RE>
RE>HR>Can you tell us about LPmud in a way that is consistent with living in
RE>HR>a kind of VR world? And something about the scope of LPmud as a
RE>HR>subculture? Do you think this world will be enthralled with VR
RE>HR>frontends, or is the text format essential to the illusion?
RE>
RE>A bit of background on this answer - I just finished reading your book
RE>"Virtual Reality" a few days ago (assuming there is only one "Howard
RE>Rheingold" at the WELL...). It's a very interesting book. Thanks for
RE>writing it. (No more critique... :) During some of the time that
RE>I read it, I was at Siggraph, and had the unique (for me) experience
RE>of meeting the people that I had been reading about...

Oh neat. A book. I'll have to pick it up. Sounds interesting. Currently
as a poor undergrad working on a project with little official support, I can
only dream about things like Siggraph, but in the meanwhile, I can still
read books :)

RE>I know you mentioned MUDs in your book so I assume the question was to get
RE>some reaction, and perhaps some personal views. Many people on the net
RE>will be able to answer better than I, but I thought I'd point out that
RE>"teledildonics" is a basic concept in most MUDs, one that was probably
RE>thought of within minutes after creating the very first one. Many MUDs
RE>or variants of them allow two or more players to have sex. The funny
RE>thing about the sex thing is that although the MUD session may be say that
RE>a macho viking is going at it with a blonde, vivacious wench from Valhalla,
RE>99% of the time, it's actually two male, teenaged computeroids glued to
RE>their monitors...

Whoa here. Um. I _think_ this is an overgeneralization. It is true that
most characters "glamorize" themselves. Some (real) examples:

Angel is a 5'5" bundle of lean muscle^!"
Angela is a beautiful, well-built, blond woman.
Arno is a wonderful man with a BEAUTIFUL wife, Victoria.
Arwulf is a wretched warrior of bitter memories. He is covered with scars
from innumerable tavern brawls and bears them proudly.
(and I only grepped in the As :)
of couse, frequently characters prefer to be animals as well:

Albedo is a blindingly handsome cat with brilliant white fur and a long
tail. He grins a lot.

Though, they are seldom ugly animals. There are exceptions though. People
tend to be very attractive, nondescript (they use the describe feature for a
message of some sort), or very ugly. Seldom does one look entirely "normal"

WRT "teledildonics", that varies greatly according to the mud. It was quite
frequent in "TinyMud" to the extent that a "Tiny Purity Test" popped up
somewhere. In many LPs, regular players don't have the capability (other
than " say I'm a hot stud doing it with a beautiful babe " that was present
in TinyMuds. In Tiny's (and some LPs and others) there is an emote or
colon command. The user types a colon and then what they wish to be doing.
for example:
: does the dishes.

Everybody in the same "room" would see:
<Charactername> does the dishes.

But this sort of thing is used for battling other players in a test of wits,
creativity as well as teledildonics.

RE>In this sense, MUDs will only work when VR allows you to define your
RE>own appearance. This will probably be a normal feature with VR interfaces.
RE>
I think that being able to define your own appearance may be an important
facet, but I don't think an essential one. I think a generac appearance
would work, but just not be as accepted as being self defined.

RE>Yes, it's a definite subculture. It's the intersection of many other
RE>subcultures, mainly gamers and bulletin board freaks. Programmers get
RE>into it too, but typically only for the world-building possibilities.
RE>These people usually do it for a while, and either get bored, and move on
RE>to more interesting things, or write newer, better MUDs. Of course,
RE>I'm generalizing, and will probably get flamed by the non-general cases.
If you insist! (smile)--------^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

How you define our subculture, I'm not sure. Gamers, yes. BBS freaks? I'd
say to a significantly lesser extent. Programmers only for world building?
Again, I'm not sure of the validity of this generalization (o.k., I don't
like generalizations much anyway). I am a bit of a programmer, but was
taken to AberMud in a serious way even though once you finished the
"adventuring", there was no world building to be done. I think a lot more
of the addiction comes from the advancement process. Well, I'll only play
until I get to the next level. Well, I got there and now I can use
"fireball", so I'll advance so much faster... etc.

RE>One other point - and I'm sure it's flammable too - as Johan said, to
RE>really get something out of a MUD, you have to spend at least 8 to 10
RE>hours in it. All of the good MUDders that I know spend much much
RE>more than that. There's no doubt in my mind that people will end up
RE>being *at least* as dedicated to virtual worlds, potentially spending
RE>most of their time hooked up. Hell, I know people who spend most of
RE>their waking time reading and posting news... The point is that people
RE>will get addicted to VR, but people get hooked on things anyway. At
RE>least VR is interactive and potentially thought provoking, unlike,
RE>say, television...

No flames on this one. I have been running a MUD (lpswat) since late
January, 1991. In that amount of time, our oldest character has become over
31 days old. That is almost 750 hours just logged into this particular game.


RE>MUDs will be much more interesting when VR becomes publicly available,
RE>but as Johan pointed out, VR world builders could learn a lot from MUDders.
RE>

So, if you are interested, telnet to:
pompeii.cs.swarthmore.edu 2020

feel free to explore using the "guest" character. Also, ask for "Thymeless"
(that's me) and I'll show you around.

RE> -r'm
RE>
RE>Re'my Evard
RE>Overworked Grad Student, CS Dept, U of Oregon re...@cs.uoregon.edu
RE>Support Staff , MCS Division, Argonne National Labs ev...@mcs.anl.gov
RE><------------ Disturbing Environmental Thought of the Day ------------->
RE> At the present rate of deforestation, the last tree in the United
RE> States will be cut down in 50 years.

Scary thought.-----^^^^^^^^^^^^

For reference (and since I have to leave now), I thought I would give you a
list of commands that are available for use by one's self or as an action to
another person. Called "atmosphere" or "feelings". They reside in an
invisable object called the "soul" of every player. Each mud has a standard
set which is easily modified by those that operate/run it. Ours is:

ack applaud bleed blush bounce
bow burp cackle caress cheer
chuckle clap comfort cough cry
cuddle curtsey dance drool fart
faint flip fondle french frown
gasp giggle glare grin groan
grope growl grumble hiccup hug
kick kiss knee laugh lick
love moan nasty nibble nod
pat peer pick poke ponder
pout puke purr ruffle scream
shake shiver shrug shudder sigh
sing slap smirk smile snap
sneeze snicker sniff snore snuggle
spit squeeze stare strut sulk
swear thank think tickle twiddle
wave whistle wink yawn

(fyi, "nasty" was added by a renagade wiz and has been removed. It
simulated (very quick) sex between two players. (all based on the
initiation of only one of them)).

More from me as the thread continues. :)

--AC Capehart
(Thymeless@lpswat)

real -------- A C Capehart ----------- snail
cape...@cs.swarthmore.edu 500 College Ave.
st0559 (Applelink) _ Swarthmore PA 19081
|_| <- "box"

--

Greg Granger

unread,
Aug 7, 1991, 1:07:33 PM8/7/91
to

In article <1991Aug06....@acs.ucalgary.ca> jsb...@acs.ucalgary.ca
(Joshua Bell) writes:

>You can get 3-D, high frame rates, and 3-D stereo sound with 50 players
>fairly easily, IF you move the graphics/sound processing away from the central
>computer. You probably need only about 1k-byte per .1 second bandwidth, but
>its got to be fairly reliable. Processing power: I'd say at least an Amiga
>2000 or a 386sx clone w/ VGA for a standard screen, probably double that
>for a true VR (goggles/gloves)

Well thinking in terms of a 'full' 3D stereo sound VR Mud I expect the
bandwidth would be a bit higher. CD quality sound (so my banish howls
would really scare someone) would require a 88K/s (16 bit sample) and
would have to be bidirectional (176K/s), but I'll assume some
compression and general kleverness, so lets call it 100K/s. You are
certainly right about the graphics it would have to be handled at the
local level (may 1000 sq meter volume (10x10x10), but for the most part
this information could be highly compressed (like fractal equations
(IFS?) could be sent and calculated on the fly to fill the volume
(anyone got a good guess as to the power needed for something like
that?). The game would likely have to have some kind of 'build-in'
delay to compensate for players 1/2 a planet away (is that enough
distance to cause a noticeable delay?) and it would allow 'room' between
players of different levels (higher level players could move faster than
lower ones). Of course moving through transparent honey might be
annoying enough to drive low levels away ???? You would also need to be
able to animate several objects at once smoothly ... ?

So anyone want to hazard a guess at the more 'full-blown' system above ?
Note I haven't even considered input devices, but I rather like the idea
of a sensor suit and a suspended movement harness (really give the
physical body a work too). I want 'vR' (if you catch my drift). One
more question ... anyone want to play mystic and guess when we will be
able to affordably build such systems?

Greg

PS: Can you imagine the programming tools? <grin>

stephen smoliar

unread,
Aug 9, 1991, 8:24:53 PM8/9/91
to

In article <1991Aug7.2...@milton.u.washington.edu>


for...@herodotus.cs.uiuc.edu (Felix Sebastian Ortony) writes:

>I think MUDs work now. Many MUDs have poorly written worlds, but as anyone
>who's gotten absorbed in a good horror story can tell you, good, vivid writing
>can be every inch as good (if not better) than the like amount of television.
>In fact, that brings up a point I'm a little worried about -- is Virtual
>Reality to Textual Adventure what Television is to Books? As a writer, I'm
>a strong advocate of the power of imagination.

This leads me to another thread which I think is worth pursuing, which is the
potential value of Virtual Reality in different aspects of education. One of
the more interesting moments of the CPSR panel discussion (as I saw it on the
tape provided by CPSR) involved the "testimony" of a psychologist who had been
a staunch advocate of experiential learning but confessed to being thoroughly
put off by Bill Bricken's "visions" of Virtual Reality.

One of the problems with this discussion is trying to figure out where Virtual
Reality fits in, if at all. Flight simulators already provide experiential
learning for a very important training task. Do they deserve to now be
incorporated in the Virtual Reality camp; or are they not "real" enough?
One of the panel topics involved the potential application of Virtual Reality
for surgery training on the grounds that "virtual cadavers" are more
"cost-effective" than real ones. (I'm sure they would be.) My question
is how close to reality do you have to get for effective training? Do you
want to simulate smell? (The would-be surgeon has to get used to it sooner
or later.) How about the fact that the interior of the body is generally
slimy and resistant to manipulation of any sort? Making the cut you want
to make is not as easy as doing cut-and-paste with pieces of paper on a drawing
board.

I realize that I may be reducing the matter to absurdity, but there is still an
important lesson here. If we want to talk about using Virtual Reality for
educational purposes, we need to hear from more educators and fewer Virtual
Reality "visionaries." The CPSR panel was sort of a bad omen if the only
member of the audience with a serious commitment to education who bothered
to speak up did so on a negative position.

A few weeks ago I posted another article about this panel discussion, citing
Rob Kling's admirable cautionary remarks. My topic then was about the
flourishing of misconceptions about artificial intelligence and the danger
of Virtual Reality going the same way. In artificial intelligence the problem
lay in part with highly vocal visionaries who preferred to speak in broad
generalities rather than looking at relatively narrow slices of life and
asking what contribution could be made there. I would rather hear a concrete
proposal from one educator of a critical need which might be met by Virtual
Reality than from a chorus of visionaries, most of whom cannot express
themselves anywhere near as well as a good science fiction writer.

Let me now return to Felix's initial praise of the imagination. Perhaps I am
becoming too much of a conservative pessimist, but I continue to believe that
there is no substitute for books. One of the most important things you can
bring with you from a good education is the discovery that books are NOT A
PASSIVE EXPERIENCE. Sitting and reading a book is only a part of what that
book is good for. A book only comes to life when you RETURN to it with the
intention of CONSULTING it for some goal or another (even if the goal is to
revive a pleasant memory associate with a poem you once read). Some of this
consultation is driven by what we may call "imaginative reading." That is,
a book is not simply a repository of facts but a trigger for our own thoughts.
Consulting the book may be more a matter of seeking out that trigger again than
one of recalling the current population of Tibet. (Isn't that right, Agent
Cooper?)

Given this perspective on what books are and how we use them, I believe it is
valid to ask what sorts of new technologies can fill such massive and flexible
shoes. We certainly do not yet have such ready powers of consultation in the
world of multimedia. (Anyone who ever took a music appreciation class probably
remembers the teacher scratching the needle on the surface of the record while
trying to find just the right passage to play for the class.) Hypermedia
promises us all the links to get what we need; but "authoring," the technique
of making sure all those links are available, remains a black art and there are
still too many stacks out there which are essentially linear with only a few
spurs (no more sophisticated than footnotes in a book). Do we really expect
Virtual Reality to be an improvement on books which works this time? If so,
then what will it be about Virtual Reality which will give us a better handle
on consultation than we have had thus far with the equally promising
technologies of multimedia and hypermedia?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stephen W. Smoliar; Institute of Systems Science
National University of Singapore; Heng Mui Keng Terrace
Kent Ridge, SINGAPORE 0511
smoliar%iss.n...@nuscc.nus.sg

Felix Sebastian Ortony

unread,
Aug 10, 1991, 2:01:10 AM8/10/91
to

ssmo...@iss.nus.sg (stephen smoliar) writes:

>Let me now return to Felix's initial praise of the imagination. Perhaps I am
>becoming too much of a conservative pessimist, but I continue to believe that
>there is no substitute for books. One of the most important things you can
>bring with you from a good education is the discovery that books are NOT A
>PASSIVE EXPERIENCE. Sitting and reading a book is only a part of what that
>book is good for. A book only comes to life when you RETURN to it with the
>intention of CONSULTING it for some goal or another (even if the goal is to
>revive a pleasant memory associate with a poem you once read). Some of this
>consultation is driven by what we may call "imaginative reading." That is,
>a book is not simply a repository of facts but a trigger for our own thoughts.
>Consulting the book may be more a matter of seeking out that trigger again
>than one of recalling the current population of Tibet. (Isn't that right,
>Agent Cooper?)

I agree almost completely with Stephen. Books -- and I don't mean just
paper, I'm subsuming /etc/bible or whathaveyou into the word -- possess
a power given to them by their intrinsic use of language: only through
the use of such a vague tool as language can imagination be incited. I
think this bodes badly for anyone who's trying to replace books with
virtual reality, just as any attempt, general or specific, to replace
language with pictures might fail.

>Given this perspective on what books are and how we use them, I believe it is
>valid to ask what sorts of new technologies can fill such massive and flexible
>shoes. We certainly do not yet have such ready powers of consultation in the
>world of multimedia. (Anyone who ever took a music appreciation class probably
>remembers the teacher scratching the needle on the surface of the record while
>trying to find just the right passage to play for the class.) Hypermedia
>promises us all the links to get what we need; but "authoring," the technique
>of making sure all those links are available, remains a black art and there are
>still too many stacks out there which are essentially linear with only a few
>spurs (no more sophisticated than footnotes in a book). Do we really expect
>Virtual Reality to be an improvement on books which works this time? If so,
>then what will it be about Virtual Reality which will give us a better handle
>on consultation than we have had thus far with the equally promising
>technologies of multimedia and hypermedia?

The very important point to be made here is that in creating virtual reality,
we should not succumb to excessive excitement. Hypermedia, in my opinion,
has been made so much more of a religion than a science that when the giant
promises of its early proponents fail to come true, it will be viewed as
something of a failure. The field of educational computing has known for
some time that computers alone cannot teach men, that technology is no
substitute for inspiration and dedication. I hope that virtual reality
is not going to go the way of the 8-track tape -- a technological idea
vaunted too heavily without a clear niche.

Lest I sound too pessimistic, I think virtual reality has the potential to
instigate a global revolution. If I had any sort of money, I'd be investing
in virtual reality companies until my broker begged me to stop. Though VR
can't and won't replace books and text as educational mainstays, it does
make possible amazing advances in visualization, exploration and
experimentation. Even with NASA struggling and the space station program
written off, I have a dream that may be more than just fantasy of walking
on Mars in my lifetime.

for...@cs.uiuc.edu

Edwards Thomas G S1A x8297

unread,
Aug 12, 1991, 5:29:46 PM8/12/91
to

In article <1991Aug7.0...@milton.u.washington.edu> ev...@plover.mcs.anl.


gov (Remy Evard) writes:
>One other point - and I'm sure it's flammable too - as Johan said, to
>really get something out of a MUD, you have to spend at least 8 to 10
>hours in it.

I have never gotten a chance to spend that much time on a MUD, and I must
concurr that I have never gotten too much out of it. But my friends
who spend 6 hours a day on it enjoy it immensely. Maybe I'll try a long
session tonight...

>MUDs will be much more interesting when VR becomes publicly available,
>but as Johan pointed out, VR world builders could learn a lot from MUDders.

The MUDs which I am familiar with, while having canned room descriptions,
are much more of a Chat line than a VR. You might "emote" that you are
putting someone in handcuffs, but unless the other person has got the
same idea you have, that won't keep them from continuing to move their
arms around freely...(teledildonics...what a perfect description!).
Alot of the VR feeling of MUDs is done by mental computation, not
computer computation. The VR exists much more in your head than in the
computer. But MUD does show that if you can get the computer to have as
neat a VR as you can in your head, that such things will be exceedingly
popular. But I guess you can say the exact same thing about Fanatsy
Role Playing Games. Just that the net has a way of brining together
like minded people...

-Tom

Craig Hubley

unread,
Aug 13, 1991, 6:09:08 PM8/13/91
to

In article <1991Aug11....@milton.u.washington.edu> for...@herodotus.cs.
uiuc.edu (Felix Sebastian Ortony) writes:

>
>ssmo...@iss.nus.sg (stephen smoliar) writes:
>
>>Let me now return to Felix's initial praise of the imagination. Perhaps I am
>>becoming too much of a conservative pessimist, but I continue to believe that
>>there is no substitute for books. One of the most important things you can
>>bring with you from a good education is the discovery that books are NOT A
>>PASSIVE EXPERIENCE. Sitting and reading a book is only a part of what that
>>book is good for. A book only comes to life when you RETURN to it with the
>>intention of CONSULTING it for some goal or another (even if the goal is to
>>revive a pleasant memory associate with a poem you once read). Some of this
>>consultation is driven by what we may call "imaginative reading." That is,
>>a book is not simply a repository of facts but a trigger for our own thoughts.

Some useful terminology, from McLuhan: a "hot" medium causes increased mental
activity in the viewer/participant, while a "cool" medium does the opposite.
The "couch potato syndrome" is pretty well documented in the literature,
and there are of course arguments that even very violent TV does not really
much stimulate the viewer...

I disagree that a book "only comes to life" when you return to it. In
essence reading the book itself is returning to sensations that you remember
since you need to recall these to visualize what is happening in the book
and thereby understand its action, characters, etc...

Text is very "hot" precisely because it fills in so few gaps in the mind
and forces it to work so hard. Radio is hotter than TV...

Now, VR can go two ways. If we work real hard on audiovisual clarity and
not so hard on interactivity, we end up cool. If we work hard on
interactivity and ditch AV clarity for a while, we end up hot. It has
often been observed on systems like Minitel, etc., that people are most
stimulated and participatory when they are invisible and anonymous and
100% "hot" to other's imaginations... This also tends to explain other
phenomenon like email flaming, etc...

I suggest that polygons/second is a damn poor measurement of VR. The best
VR I have seen was a MUD running on a Commodore 64 (the glorious Habitat).

I suggest that any budding VR designer go out and buy a crumbling old copy
of McLuhan's "Understanding Media" and then spend a lot of time in "passive"
environments like traditional museums and art galleries, counting up the
ways that people interact with (and in) them, and how this affects their
status relationships, kinetic dance, definition of personal space, etc...
for more on THAT, try Keith Johnstone's "Impro".


--
Craig Hubley "...get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert."
Craig Hubley & Associates------------------------------------Henry Ford Sr.
cr...@gpu.utcs.Utoronto.CA UUNET!utai!utgpu!craig cr...@utorgpu.BITNET
cr...@gpu.utcs.toronto.EDU {allegra,bnr-vpa,decvax}!utcsri!utgpu!craig
28 First Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4M 1W8 Canada Voice: (416) 466-4097

Jim W Lai

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Aug 13, 1991, 3:40:37 PM8/13/91
to

In article <1991Aug13.0...@milton.u.washington.edu> tedw...@aplcomm.JHU

APL.EDU (Edwards Thomas G S1A x8297) writes:
>Alot of the VR feeling of MUDs is done by mental computation, not
>computer computation. The VR exists much more in your head than in the
>computer. But MUD does show that if you can get the computer to have as
>neat a VR as you can in your head, that such things will be exceedingly
>popular.

I guess you could say that muds implement virtual VRs, since they obviously
don't qualify as "full-fledged" VRs.

Part of the reason for the chat-like nature of the nethack-like nature of
many muds is because the requirements are simpler to satisfy. Creating a
detailed world with complex interaction rules takes more effort, though some
people are no doubt trying to remedy this lack.

Eliot Handelman

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Aug 15, 1991, 2:47:25 AM8/15/91
to

In article <1991Aug14....@milton.u.washington.edu> cr...@utcs.utoronto.c
a (Craig Hubley) writes:
;
;Some useful terminology, from McLuhan: a "hot" medium causes increased mental


;activity in the viewer/participant, while a "cool" medium does the opposite.

A nit pick: "understanding" is hot, but perception is "cool," the former
is a sort of social schism as McCluhan saw it because of the privacy
of consciousness (schizophrenia, he said, was a necessary by-product
of print) whereas the latter demands "involvement," "participation."
However visual perception is "hot" in that it enforces distance and
ensures subject-object distinctions: whereas the auditory and tactile
is "cool" in that these distinction are allayed. This led McCluhan to the
paradoxical observation that TV, which he designated a cool medium,
was intrinsically auditory and tactile. His argument had mainly to
do with the low resolution of TV in the late 50's/early 60's: the
completion of the televised image demands perceptual involvement. At
the outer limits of media, when perceptual particpation becomes totalized,
no medium will be able to distinguish itself from its content (hence
his famous aphorism). However McCluhan wanted to engage that assumption
retrospectively, and asserted that the EFFECTS of print on the mind
of man were their essential content, rather than any message that could
be conveyed BY print. The medium becoming the message means retrieving
the "ear which had been traded for an eye," or to put it terms
expressed by one of McCluhan's defenders, John Cage, "letting things
be themselves." This means being able to hear and see things as they
are, prior to "hot" category constructions.

To the topic at hand, whether VR can supplant language, via McCluhan.
M. saw everything as media, including light bulbs: he certainly saw
the computer as a medium. Through it, he said, man has, for the first
time ever, been able to reproduce his own thought processes -- of course
that's a long shot given the status of the AI program, but let's
assume that it will eventually succeed -- and therefore man would soon
be in a position to simulate his own consciousness, which has been
private up to now. The ultimate medium, therefore, is that which
succeeds at TRANSMITTING consciousness -- roughly, "making consciousness
corporately accessible" he says at the beginning of "Understanding
Media." This will involve a reversal of intellectual evolution through
print and handwriting to language until a condition of tribalism --
a collectively accessible "spirit," via technological simulation,
obtains. So yes, the point of VR is to supplant language.

It first becomes necessary to identify the medium itself as its
content in order to take this step: that's why some people already
have begun to question the idea of the "interface." Interface
to what? The icon will disappear. Representations will disappear.
There will be no symbols. "Information" will be directly encoded
as perceptual structure. That's what it is to be auditory and
tactile. A loud sound won't STAND for "a loud sound" -- it will
BE a loud sound because experienced in that way. Ditto other
constructions of perceptual function.

Bruce Cohen

unread,
Aug 15, 1991, 2:52:21 PM8/15/91
to

In article <1991Aug14....@milton.u.washington.edu>

cr...@utcs.utoronto.ca (Craig Hubley) writes:
> ...
> I disagree that a book "only comes to life" when you return to it. In
> essence reading the book itself is returning to sensations that you remember
> since you need to recall these to visualize what is happening in the book
> and thereby understand its action, characters, etc...
>
> Text is very "hot" precisely because it fills in so few gaps in the mind
> and forces it to work so hard. Radio is hotter than TV...
>
> Now, VR can go two ways. If we work real hard on audiovisual clarity and
> not so hard on interactivity, we end up cool. If we work hard on
> interactivity and ditch AV clarity for a while, we end up hot.
> ...

I think interactivity is a separate issue, although I would agree that
interactivity tends to make a medium more "hot". But VR has an
inherently different style of interactivity from that of a book. A
reader interacts with a book in a somewhat solipsistic fashion: she
incrementally builds a model of the book in her head as she reads, based
on her reading so far, her own experiences, and models she's built of books
she's read previously. As she reads, she carries on a dialog with that
model, refining the model when it fails to match the book (or not; often
a reader's dissatisfaction with a book is the result of dissonance
between it and the model in which the book suffers). The model is the
creation of the reader; the author of the book doesn't get a chance to
review it and suggest changes. This isn't necessarily bad; it's just a
constraint of the textual medium that a writer has to recognize.

VR, on the other hand, at least offers the possibility of a more
interactive style of internal model building. Interactivity is there,
unlike the more passive, "cooler", media like television, because the VR
user is forced to build up a model of the world he finds himself in,
just in order to continue to interact with the world. In addition, the
user's actions can modify the world, and the way the world reacts to
these actions can further inform the user's model of it. The author of
the VR world can plan its reactions so that it actively conducts a
dialog with the user's model (or at least what the VR system can deduce
about it); much more actively than a book can.

> ...


> I suggest that any budding VR designer go out and buy a crumbling old copy
> of McLuhan's "Understanding Media" and then spend a lot of time in "passive"
> environments like traditional museums and art galleries, counting up the
> ways that people interact with (and in) them, and how this affects their
> status relationships, kinetic dance, definition of personal space, etc...
> for more on THAT, try Keith Johnstone's "Impro".

Glad you put quotes around "passive" there. It's humbling for an artist
to see just how active a person can be when viewing any work, and how
much can be gotten from a work that the artist never knew about or
intended. On the other hand, the more degrees of freedom are available
in the viewing, the more can be gotten. Position and view orientation
are nowhere near as variable in viewing a painting as a sculpture;
listening or reading excerpts works with music or writing but isn't as
useful with static visual media. VR can offer additional dimensions to
both the author and the audience.
--
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Speaker-to-managers, aka
Bruce Cohen, Computer Research Lab email: bru...@crl.labs.tek.com
Tektronix Laboratories, Tektronix, Inc. phone: (503)627-5241
M/S 50-662, P.O. Box 500, Beaverton, OR 97077

Felix Sebastian Ortony

unread,
Aug 15, 1991, 5:26:49 PM8/15/91
to

bru...@phoebus.labs.tek.com (Bruce Cohen) writes:
>I think interactivity is a separate issue, although I would agree that
>interactivity tends to make a medium more "hot". But VR has an
>inherently different style of interactivity from that of a book. A
>reader interacts with a book in a somewhat solipsistic fashion: she
>incrementally builds a model of the book in her head as she reads, based
>on her reading so far, her own experiences, and models she's built of books
>she's read previously. As she reads, she carries on a dialog with that
>model, refining the model when it fails to match the book (or not; often
>a reader's dissatisfaction with a book is the result of dissonance
>between it and the model in which the book suffers). The model is the
>creation of the reader; the author of the book doesn't get a chance to
>review it and suggest changes. This isn't necessarily bad; it's just a
>constraint of the textual medium that a writer has to recognize.

This is a very interesting point. However, in discussions of virtual
reality, I don't see the meta-involvement of the VR author with the
user coming into play. Indeed, once a VR has been 'done', I imagine
that it's very difficult to alter its facets; how do you add an arm
to a virtual robot without spending hours at the terminal typing in
new data? How do you specify that the floor creaks here and there
without defining data objects, putting them at specified coordinates,
and all that? I don't think VR is any more author-user interactive
than books. In fact, I think it's less so. When I write short fiction,
I take it to my workshop. The others read it, comment on it, perhaps
even scribble on the copies and give them back to me. Don't make the
mistake of believing books are immutable, or that language results in
solid forms.

>VR, on the other hand, at least offers the possibility of a more
>interactive style of internal model building. Interactivity is there,
>unlike the more passive, "cooler", media like television, because the VR
>user is forced to build up a model of the world he finds himself in,
>just in order to continue to interact with the world. In addition, the
>user's actions can modify the world, and the way the world reacts to
>these actions can further inform the user's model of it. The author of
>the VR world can plan its reactions so that it actively conducts a
>dialog with the user's model (or at least what the VR system can deduce
>about it); much more actively than a book can.

I don't agree. It's flashier to *do* "You open the door and see clouds.
Looking down, you see the face of the building disappear into infinity;
you reel..." than to say it, but both are active challenges to possibly
preconceived ideas. Along similar lines, the works of Philip K. Dick
or James Joyce are frequently as internally-modifiable as anything I
can name. Is this all a dream? What does he mean by this? Who's the
victim, who's the master? Maybe I'm missing the point, could you provide
examples?

>Glad you put quotes around "passive" there. It's humbling for an artist
>to see just how active a person can be when viewing any work, and how
>much can be gotten from a work that the artist never knew about or
>intended. On the other hand, the more degrees of freedom are available
>in the viewing, the more can be gotten. Position and view orientation
>are nowhere near as variable in viewing a painting as a sculpture;
>listening or reading excerpts works with music or writing but isn't as
>useful with static visual media. VR can offer additional dimensions to
>both the author and the audience.

Well said. I still maintain that the imagination engendered by literature
exceeds the imagination engendered by VR, however, mostly because of the
far-larger range of degrees of freedom available in language and belief
about meaning. "The cat was huge" will always have more user-suppliable
potential and 'heat', in my opinion, than a picture of a big kitty.

Aaron Pulkka

unread,
Aug 15, 1991, 8:22:49 PM8/15/91
to


In article <1991Aug15.2...@milton.u.washington.edu> fortony@herodotus.
cs.uiuc.edu (Felix Sebastian Ortony) writes:

> [...] In discussions of virtual


>reality, I don't see the meta-involvement of the VR author with the
>user coming into play. Indeed, once a VR has been 'done', I imagine
>that it's very difficult to alter its facets; how do you add an arm
>to a virtual robot without spending hours at the terminal typing in

>new data? [...]

A virtual world should never be 'done'. A good virtual world
should constantly be changing in response to its participant's actions (like
the 'real' world) [unless the designer chooses it to be static].
Any difficulty in adding an arm to your virtual robot could only come
from an inadequate definition of your generic virtual robot. If you define
it to have an arbitrary number of attachements (of somewhat aribitrary types),
adding an additional arm should take little effort and should be something
that can occur on-the-fly. Almost all facets of a virtual world can be
altered; if it's difficult to alter some, that was a design decision.

Besides, if the virtual environment is multi-participatory the
designer may be in the world interacting with the with the other participants
(try that with a book) [granted, it isn't meta-involvement].

> [...] I don't think VR is any more author-user interactive


>than books. In fact, I think it's less so. When I write short fiction,
>I take it to my workshop. The others read it, comment on it, perhaps

>even scribble on the copies and give them back to me. [...]

When people design virtual worlds, they will (do) take them
to 'workshops' of sorts, and get feedback from other designers. But consider
being able to gain feedback from all your readers, instead of a select few,
while they are reading your work.

I doubt anyone is trying to replace books with VR. Books certainly
have their own special qualities, but interactivity is a quality in VR that
many other forms of media (books included) are lacking.


--

+--------------\
| Aaron Pulkka > aar...@narrator.PEN.TEK.COM
+--------------/

Bruce Cohen

unread,
Aug 16, 1991, 2:28:19 PM8/16/91
to

In article <1991Aug15.2...@milton.u.washington.edu>
for...@herodotus.cs.uiuc.edu (Felix Sebastian Ortony) writes in
response to my own mumblings:

> This is a very interesting point. However, in discussions of virtual


> reality, I don't see the meta-involvement of the VR author with the
> user coming into play. Indeed, once a VR has been 'done', I imagine
> that it's very difficult to alter its facets; how do you add an arm
> to a virtual robot without spending hours at the terminal typing in

> new data? How do you specify that the floor creaks here and there
> without defining data objects, putting them at specified coordinates,

> and all that? I don't think VR is any more author-user interactive


> than books. In fact, I think it's less so. When I write short fiction,
> I take it to my workshop. The others read it, comment on it, perhaps

> even scribble on the copies and give them back to me. Don't make the
> mistake of believing books are immutable, or that language results in
> solid forms.

I didn't make myself clear about the meta-involvment of the author. I
did not mean that the author gets to go back and modify the work based
on feedback from the readers, though this is clearly possible with both
VR and books. There are some artists who spend their careers creating
and showing "works in progress" (1/2 :-).

The kind of reaction I meant was the ability of the VR world to examine
the actions of the user, modify its state, and determine its reactions
based on those actions and that state. Granted that the extent of the
world's ability to do that is determined by the author's anticipation of
the range of potential user actions; there is still scope for
*conditional* response to a user action rather than a fixed response.
In this context I see VR as related to hypertext in structure (and
perhaps in some respects of its esthetic theory) as opposed to the more
linear form of text common in books.

Maybe adventure and role-playing games are a good example of what I mean. In
these games the movement of the player through the game follows one path
in a graph containing many possible paths through the game. The order
of actions is as important as the choice of them, since the model a
player has formed of the world of the game at any given point will be
determined in part by the experiences along the path. In addition, the
player's actions modify the state of the world, determining the set of
actions possibly at later points (in both time and space) of the game.

Another example is the "choose your own adventure" books. I don't like
them, because the ones I've seen engage the reader *less* than most
books; because they are all plot and surface. I think this is more the
fault of the execution than the medium itself; after all the same
criticism can be made of most best-sellers when compared to "serious"
writing. But the idea of different possible interactions between the
reader and the book is there.

>>VR, on the other hand, at least offers the possibility of a more
>>interactive style of internal model building. Interactivity is there,
>>unlike the more passive, "cooler", media like television, because the VR
>>user is forced to build up a model of the world he finds himself in,
>>just in order to continue to interact with the world. In addition, the
>>user's actions can modify the world, and the way the world reacts to
>>these actions can further inform the user's model of it. The author of
>>the VR world can plan its reactions so that it actively conducts a
>>dialog with the user's model (or at least what the VR system can deduce
>>about it); much more actively than a book can.
>
> I don't agree. It's flashier to *do* "You open the door and see clouds.
> Looking down, you see the face of the building disappear into infinity;
> you reel..." than to say it, but both are active challenges to possibly
> preconceived ideas. Along similar lines, the works of Philip K. Dick
> or James Joyce are frequently as internally-modifiable as anything I
> can name. Is this all a dream? What does he mean by this? Who's the
> victim, who's the master? Maybe I'm missing the point, could you provide
> examples?

OK, an example may make this clearer. A simple case:

Scene: You are in a 10 by 10 by 10 foot gray stone-walled room.
There is a door in the wall in front of you, and another behind.

one possible action: open the door in front of you.
new scene: you see a busy street in your home town.
your likely mental model: you are in a simulation of the real
world

another possible action: open the door behind you.
new scene: you see an idyllic, pastoral country landscape, in
cartoon colors. Mythic creatures gambol in the fields.
your likely mental model: you are in a simulation of the
Beethoven sequence in Disney's "Fantasia".

Clearly the questions you ask yourself next and the actions you take
will be different in those two cases. And your model will be very
different in the case where you explore beyond one door, then return to
the room and exit the other door, than if you see only what lies beyond
one of the doors.

> I still maintain that the imagination engendered by literature
> exceeds the imagination engendered by VR, however, mostly because of the
> far-larger range of degrees of freedom available in language and belief
> about meaning. "The cat was huge" will always have more user-suppliable
> potential and 'heat', in my opinion, than a picture of a big kitty.

I don't disagree with you. What I think we should keep in mind is that
there is an additional dimension to entering a VR world which makes
declaring VR "hot" or "cool" more complicated than in the
non-interactive media such as films or TV.

Jim W Lai

unread,
Aug 15, 1991, 11:54:32 PM8/15/91
to

In article <1991Aug15.1...@milton.u.washington.edu> eliot@phoenix.
princeton.edu (Eliot Handelman) writes:

>To the topic at hand, whether VR can supplant language, via McCluhan.
>M. saw everything as media, including light bulbs: he certainly saw
>the computer as a medium. Through it, he said, man has, for the first
>time ever, been able to reproduce his own thought processes -- of course
>that's a long shot given the status of the AI program, but let's
>assume that it will eventually succeed -- and therefore man would soon
>be in a position to simulate his own consciousness, which has been
>private up to now. The ultimate medium, therefore, is that which
>succeeds at TRANSMITTING consciousness -- roughly, "making consciousness
>corporately accessible" he says at the beginning of "Understanding
>Media." This will involve a reversal of intellectual evolution through
>print and handwriting to language until a condition of tribalism --
>a collectively accessible "spirit," via technological simulation,
>obtains. So yes, the point of VR is to supplant language.

>It first becomes necessary to identify the medium itself as its
>content in order to take this step: that's why some people already
>have begun to question the idea of the "interface." Interface
>to what? The icon will disappear. Representations will disappear.
>There will be no symbols. "Information" will be directly encoded
>as perceptual structure. That's what it is to be auditory and
>tactile. A loud sound won't STAND for "a loud sound" -- it will
>BE a loud sound because experienced in that way. Ditto other
>constructions of perceptual function.

So how are abstract concepts transmitted in this proposed medium? Even no
interface is an interface, the transparent interface. Our environment is
the penultimate media, and our senses provide our interface. How does one
perceive a matrix multiplication? Ultimately, all symbols we use are
encodings of perceptual structures, since we have nothing else but our
senses to perceive what is around us. (And speaking of symbols, what
of Jung? I conjecture that a tribal view of the world will eventually
impose its own symbolism. Consider how the term "Nintendo" has been used
recently.)

Personally, I think McLuhan underestimated the effect the symbology of
mathematics has had as a medium, as a language. It is a tool for world
encapsulation and manipulation. As long as such tools have utility, we
will find a means of using them. This is why people who learn Chinese
or Japanese as a native language (with the thousands of ideograms) are not
unduly hampered in learning geometry, unlike what McLuhan conjectured.
Mathematics provides a language distinct from the spoken, closer to the
abstract, severed from touch.

Young Rob Jellinghaus

unread,
Aug 15, 1991, 11:30:30 PM8/15/91
to


In article <1991Aug15.2...@milton.u.washington.edu> fortony@herodotus.
cs.uiuc.edu (Felix Sebastian Ortony) writes:

>This is a very interesting point. However, in discussions of virtual
>reality, I don't see the meta-involvement of the VR author with the
>user coming into play. Indeed, once a VR has been 'done', I imagine
>that it's very difficult to alter its facets; how do you add an arm
>to a virtual robot without spending hours at the terminal typing in
>new data? How do you specify that the floor creaks here and there
>without defining data objects, putting them at specified coordinates,
>and all that? I don't think VR is any more author-user interactive
>than books. In fact, I think it's less so. When I write short fiction,
>I take it to my workshop. The others read it, comment on it, perhaps
>even scribble on the copies and give them back to me. Don't make the
>mistake of believing books are immutable, or that language results in
>solid forms.

I see your point about books being mutable, but I have to say I can't
see where they are mutable to the same degree or in the same way as a
virtual reality. A book is a linear experience; reading it is a process.
You go where the author takes you.

The evolution of interactive fiction and hypertext is the story of
literature being moved into the interactive realm, where the reader can
affect the story by her actions. The reader and the author move closer
together, both working to create the story. Granted, the reader of a
conventional book is also creating the story in his mind, but the author
is out of the loop; the author can only put down one static world which
the reader then fills in. Interactive fiction opens the possibility of
the author's presentation being partially determined by the reader's
reaction. Open hypertexts, which can be added to, modified, and ex-
tended by the author _and_ the reader, make the collaboration fully two-
ended; the author can change what parts of the story the reader encoun-
ters, and the reader can become an author. These are the mutable
texts you describe.

VR takes the same phenomenon and extends it to all sensory modalities.
Instead of depicting a scene with words, it can be created in full
illusionary splendor, modeling the way humans interact with the real
world. I don't believe it will supersede writing, for the same
reasons that movies and TV haven't supplanted books; movies, TV, and
books are all alike in that they are created by an author and left
unchanged thereafter. Current virtual realities are only one small
step forwards; the world is made, there are certain things you can do,
and that's that. Your workshop is an example of how the written word
can become interactive, and connect author and reader through a world
they collaborate in creating. A mature virtual reality network, with
tools that anyone can use to become a "spacemaker" (in Randy Walser's
terminology), with open worlds that people can combine and
interconnect in strange and surprising ways... such a network would
combine the visceral real-time power of movies, the interactive and
collaborative structure of your workshop, and the unlimited inter-
connectivity of hypertext to create a truly magical place-that-isn't-
a-place.

To me, the closest thing to this kind of mature virtual reality that
I've ever encountered is fantasy role-playing games. In these games,
several people essentially collaborate in telling a story. The action
is almost entirely in the imagination, but the events are happening in
real time, and no one knows how the story will turn out. It's every
bit the sort of literary experience you seem to be describing. VR will
take these games and turn them into full 3-D stereo hallucinatory
experiences.

>Well said. I still maintain that the imagination engendered by literature


>exceeds the imagination engendered by VR, however, mostly because of the
>far-larger range of degrees of freedom available in language and belief
>about meaning. "The cat was huge" will always have more user-suppliable
>potential and 'heat', in my opinion, than a picture of a big kitty.

This is true; my picture of Sauron's castle from Tolkein's _Lord of
the Rings_ could not be duplicated on any 100-frames-sec pair of
goggles. But then again, when I become able to put those goggles on,
erect the castle around myself with a few sweeps of my arms, and start
creating orcs to defend myself against the armies on the horizon... it
will definitely rival the experience of reading the book!

And for those who groan at the return to "games", I point out that
these are not so much games as a new form of art, a new dramatic
medium. Are movies "games"? Is writing a book "just a game"? Is the
story of your life a "game"? Not to deingrate people who are focused
on "applications", but they are only part of the story... many things
can be written, many things filmed, and many things will be created in
cyberspace.

--
Rob Jellinghaus | "Next time you see a lie being spread or
Autodesk, Inc. | a bad decision being made out of sheer
rob...@Autodesk.COM | ignorance, pause, and think of hypertext."
{decwrl,uunet}!autodesk!robertj | -- K. Eric Drexler, _Engines of Creation_

Stephen Tice

unread,
Aug 16, 1991, 1:54:33 AM8/16/91
to

In article <1991Aug15.2...@milton.u.washington.edu>,
for...@herodotus.cs.uiuc.edu (Felix Sebastian Ortony) writes...

>I still maintain that the imagination engendered by literature
>exceeds the imagination engendered by VR, however, mostly because of the
>far-larger range of degrees of freedom available in language and belief
>about meaning.

>From _Scientific American_, July 1991, pp. 33-34,
"A Subtle Mind Contemplates Science," by Marguerite Holloway:

[The Dalai Lama] also visited Cornell University,
stopping by the computer laboratory of Donald P.
Greenberg, where a Tibetan monk is working on a
software program to render a mandala, a religious
symbol, in three dimensions.
. . . . . .
Hobson, whose own work centers on dreaming, was
interested in the Tibetan view of dreaming as a
second, lucid level of consciousness that some
monks claim they can manipulate.

[ref: J. Allan Hobson,
a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School.]

Religious expression in VR, poetry in VR, =engineering= in VR --
the only limitation seems to be self imposed.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __

Stephen T. [] Resist mind inflation,
(b64...@utarlg.uta.edu) [] a penny for your thoughts!

[MODERATOR'S NOTE: I think it would be useful to have some discussion
here by those who have made issues such as these their principal philo-
sophical activity, not to mention their careers. If anyone can persuade
Brenda Laurel, Sandy Stone, Mike Naimark, and others to join in, it
would be useful to the newsgroup. Thanks. -- Bob Jacobson]

Felix Sebastian Ortony

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Aug 16, 1991, 3:45:46 PM8/16/91
to

aar...@tekig2.pen.tek.com (Aaron Pulkka) writes:

> A virtual world should never be 'done'. A good virtual world
>should constantly be changing in response to its participant's actions (like
>the 'real' world) [unless the designer chooses it to be static].
>Any difficulty in adding an arm to your virtual robot could only come
>from an inadequate definition of your generic virtual robot. If you define
>it to have an arbitrary number of attachements (of somewhat aribitrary types),
>adding an additional arm should take little effort and should be something
>that can occur on-the-fly. Almost all facets of a virtual world can be
>altered; if it's difficult to alter some, that was a design decision.

I admit to temporary imaginative failure. Clearly, there are sentences and
ideas I can come up with in the English language which cannot be expected or
easily duplicated in VR, such as 'this shard of cold, sharp pottery cuts
your hand. Your blood tastes like the sea you've lived near all your life."
Adding an arm to a robot, perhaps. You can't predict everything, however,
without being omniscient, and that's what I'm really trying to get at.
English, or languages in general, are much more natural tools for symbol
manipulation and communication because that's entirely what they're built
for. Comparing visual information to linguistic information is like comparing
a bus to a pen; both have their purposes, but the bus will never be able to
write a love poem.

> Besides, if the virtual environment is multi-participatory the
>designer may be in the world interacting with the with the other participants
>(try that with a book) [granted, it isn't meta-involvement].

I try that with books all the time, actually, though our use of 'books' is
probably not very strict. My friends and I often write story segments
involving the same character, attempting to leave him in the worst possible
situation at the end of our segment so the next person will have a devil of
a time writing him out of it. This may not be a fair comparison, since it
involves the writing process as well as the reading process, but then
comparing VR to the reading process solely is also a bit unjust.

> When people design virtual worlds, they will (do) take them
>to 'workshops' of sorts, and get feedback from other designers. But consider
>being able to gain feedback from all your readers, instead of a select few,
>while they are reading your work.

I'm not sure the feedback would be any different between VR and a writing
workshop. Just as people may feel unqualified to respond to a certain
passage, they might refrain from doing anything to a certain spatial segment.

> I doubt anyone is trying to replace books with VR. Books certainly
>have their own special qualities, but interactivity is a quality in VR that
>many other forms of media (books included) are lacking.

Someone previously mentioned that VR was, in someone's opinion, destined to
be a replacement for language. That struck me like a bolt of lightning, and
I'm still wondering about the logic behind the statement. Does language
need replacing, and is the general opinion of VR researchers that they're
creating something which can do that?


for...@cs.uiuc.edu
(welcoming e-mail on the topic for possible collation)


[MODERATOR'S NOTE: Esther Dyson addressed this issue on a panel at last
year's SIGGRAPH, proceedings of which have just been published by the ACM.
She also put down some thoughts on the notion of the "literal" and the
"virtual" in a subsequent edition of Release 1.0. -- Bob Jacobson]

lance.norskog

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Aug 16, 1991, 11:56:50 PM8/16/91
to

autodesk!rob...@uunet.uu.net (Young Rob Jellinghaus) writes:

>And for those who groan at the return to "games", I point out that
>these are not so much games as a new form of art, a new dramatic
>medium. Are movies "games"? Is writing a book "just a game"? Is the
>story of your life a "game"? Not to deingrate people who are focused
>on "applications", but they are only part of the story... many things
>can be written, many things filmed, and many things will be created in
>cyberspace.

For those groan at the return to "games", I would wager that
99% of the practical craft of software engineering was invented
in the middle of the night by someone trying to make a really
great game.

Someone told me that Ethernet was debugged with MazeWare at Xerox PARC.
Nothing else stressed the in-house network as well.

Product designers like to make childrens' toys to sharpen their skills.

As Henry Ford said about FoMoCo's commitment to auto sports,
"Racing improves the breed."

Lance Norskog

Eliot Handelman

unread,
Aug 19, 1991, 1:24:21 AM8/19/91
to

In article <1991Aug16.0...@watcgl.waterloo.edu> jwt...@watcgl.waterloo.e
du (Jim W Lai) writes:

;In article <1991Aug15.1...@milton.u.washington.edu> eliot@phoenix.
;princeton.edu (Eliot Handelman) writes:
;
;> The ultimate medium, therefore, is that which

;>succeeds at TRANSMITTING consciousness -- roughly, "making consciousness
;>corporately accessible" he says at the beginning of "Understanding
;>Media." This will involve a reversal of intellectual evolution through
;>print and handwriting to language until a condition of tribalism --
;>a collectively accessible "spirit," via technological simulation,
;>obtains. So yes, the point of VR is to supplant language.

;
;So how are abstract concepts transmitted in this proposed medium?

Supplanting language doesn't mean reproducing it under some other guise.
Language being supplanted -- and I'm not proposing that it evitably
will be done away with, or that VR or whatever VR becomes is necessarily
going to be the scene of the crime -- means only that the dominant
mode of transaction and communication will be non-verbal. Perhaps language
is devolving at this very minute, as one might guess by watching
Schwarzenegger movies. In any case the question is not how VR will absorb
verbal consciousness so much as the kind of alterations it will bring about,
what new balance of the senses it will promote, the ways in
which intelligence will grapple with this new balance, and the sorts
of knowledge and experience that it will enable. And no doubt the
sort of science too, especially cognitive science which needs just
now a long vacation from language lest philosophers of mind take it
over entirely.

I don't know how abstract concepts are "transmitted" in ANY medium,
incidentally. Do you transmit relational concepts like "bigger than"
to a child? A child learns it somehow, as far as I can tell, through
the nature of its brain, not because I've told it so.

;Even no


;interface is an interface, the transparent interface. Our environment is
;the penultimate media, and our senses provide our interface.

I don't understand what you're trying to say. In what sense is our
environment a medium at all, and why only the penultimate medium?
What does it mediate? When I daydream, what's the interface to my
daydreaming? What's the interface to me in my brain?

;Ultimately, all symbols we use are


;encodings of perceptual structures, since we have nothing else but our
;senses to perceive what is around us.

Rudolf Steiner I remember argued that there are 104 senses (one
of which is the sense of language, for instance). You have your
mind to work out the world around you, and it's not a passive
recipient of sensory data.

Erik Fortune

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Aug 19, 1991, 4:26:41 AM8/19/91
to

In article <1991Aug17.1...@milton.u.washington.edu>, la...@motcsd.csd.
mot.com (lance.norskog) writes:

>For those groan at the return to "games", I would wager that
>99% of the practical craft of software engineering was invented
>in the middle of the night by someone trying to make a really
>great game.
>
>Someone told me that Ethernet was debugged with MazeWare at Xerox PARC.
>Nothing else stressed the in-house network as well.

I was doing X server development in the early days of X11. Our
best test case by far was xtrek.

-- Erik

Jim W Lai

unread,
Aug 21, 1991, 11:48:30 AM8/21/91
to

In article <1991Aug21....@milton.u.washington.edu> eliot@phoenix.
princeton.edu (Eliot Handelman) writes:

>In any case the question is not how VR will absorb
>verbal consciousness so much as the kind of alterations it will bring about,
>what new balance of the senses it will promote, the ways in
>which intelligence will grapple with this new balance, and the sorts
>of knowledge and experience that it will enable.

One (mis?)application I can see is providing drug-experiences sans drugs.
Virtual nirvana, chemical free. I suppose the answer to this question is
culturally dependent. VR would certainly allow for a new "notation" for
the representation of music. I put forth that speech is a subset of song,
and that the written word is merely a (deliberately) poor reflection (lossy
compression) of this, as is current musical notation.

>I don't know how abstract concepts are "transmitted" in ANY medium,
>incidentally. Do you transmit relational concepts like "bigger than"
>to a child? A child learns it somehow, as far as I can tell, through
>the nature of its brain, not because I've told it so.

The base concepts are learned, not taught, indeed. However, illustrating
a mathematical derivation is showing a person (or being) how to arrive at
a conclusion given certain shared assumptions. This would be an illustration
of an emergent property of mathematical proof. It is not clear to me how a
language-less medium would have a well-defined basis from which to generalize
such abstract concepts.

>;Even no
>;interface is an interface, the transparent interface. Our environment is
>;the penultimate media, and our senses provide our interface.
>
>I don't understand what you're trying to say. In what sense is our
>environment a medium at all, and why only the penultimate medium?
>What does it mediate? When I daydream, what's the interface to my
>daydreaming? What's the interface to me in my brain?

The environment is a medium which can communicate information. It itself is
information rich, especially the living environment. It is only penultimate
in the sense that all other media we have require it, whether it be
electromagnetic waves or acoustic.

As for the latter two questions, even neuropsychologists would have a
difficult time giving much of an answer. The last question assumes that
you are separate from your brain. Feedback within a system perhaps?

Eliot Handelman

unread,
Aug 25, 1991, 4:28:06 PM8/25/91
to

In article <1991Aug21.1...@watcgl.waterloo.edu> jwtlai@watcgl.
waterloo.edu (Jim W Lai) writes:

;In article <1991Aug21....@milton.u.washington.edu> eliot@phoenix.
;princeton.edu (Eliot Handelman) writes:
;
;>In any case the question is not how VR will absorb


;>verbal consciousness so much as the kind of alterations it will bring about,
;>what new balance of the senses it will promote, the ways in
;>which intelligence will grapple with this new balance, and the sorts
;>of knowledge and experience that it will enable.

;
;One (mis?)application I can see is providing drug-experiences sans drugs.
;Virtual nirvana, chemical free.

What's out of place here is the word "application," with or without
"misses." Once again, McLuhan (I don't have any sources with me, but
McLuhan is so inexact anyhow): a new technology doesn't apply to the
conditions of or enabled by a previous technology because it alters those
conditions. Sarnoff, for instance (this is a McLuhan example), thought that
TV could be used in a strictly educational capacity: except that TV land
(a wonderful place to be, as Nick at Nite says) brings about certain changes
in the perceptual balance that virtually rule out any possibility of
disinterested learning.

The more something operates directly on all of your perceptual subsystems,
the less room there is for "disinterest," for creating a private reflective
space coextensive with and untouched by that occupied by perception.
TV makes far greater perceptual demands than does reading (of course by
constantly varying fonts and layout, in a newspaper for instance, you ensure
a higher degree of perceptual engagement), so that part of you not sensorily
involved is available for consultation, so to speak. If you're standing in
a subway station and the A train rattles in it's "so loud that you can't
think" -- a certain space of selfhood has been appropriated by your
perceptual involvement with the racket. That's the nature of high definition
media.

VR is promising total sensory involvement by offering high-definition
input to all the senses, so it stands to reason that reflective selfhood,
when the definition becomes high enough, will all but disappear.

You can think about this by reflecting on the different sorts of criticisms
that are practiced for different sorts of musics. Definition is lowest
in classical music, which therefore enjoys the "technically" most precise
but "emotionally" most moderate criticisms. At random, Taruskin writes
in today's NYT: "at one point Bach marks 'un poco allegro,' denoting
a slight acceleration. It is a rare indication and a valuable one ..."
... the value of course has to do with fidelity to (even uncovering of)
interpretative intentions, of a pure abstract Bach situated back some
250 years and more. Definition is low because no sensory experience
of Bach is unique or "true," each is simply a truncated perspective on
an experientially unavailable moment. Jon Pareles, on the other hand, writes,
also in today's paper, about the Lollapazoola Festival: "audiences gravitate to
rage, and most of them don't care who or what the rage is aimed at."
About subtle accelerations or the like in "Nine Inch Nails" I learned nothing:
it seems meaningless and inappropriate to discuss this music in that way,
precisely because sensory and therefore emotional definition is very
hight -- you're THERE. You're not considering what might also equally
have served to accomodate the unpresent structure pointing back to
a universal unsensory music that's known uniquely by its notation, because
no part of you is available for that reflective flight to critical
abstraction, or available only at the high price of ugly detachment.

Note, by the way, that throughout the entire article, in keeping with
his observation about the charge of this music, Pareles abstains from
addressing content. You could go further and say that total sensory
involvement -- this of course includes emotional involvement -- is
by nature "contentless." That is, VR cannot possibly be "about" anything
at all other than what it directly IS. That's why the "interface" notion
is simply wrong.

I wanted to say a few things about hallucinogenics and VR at this point,
but I may as well bridge between this and your next suggestion:

;VR would certainly allow for a new "notation" for
;the representation of music.

I'm glad you put the scare quotes around "notation." Maybe you forget that
music also changes in accordance with newer technologies, and that
notation has almost completely died, and there a much stronger argument
can be made than that for the "death" of print. Strangely, computer and
electronmic music sought notation during their first 30 years or so,
partly because in "serious music" circles -- in music academia, for
instance -- non-notated music is still regarded as suspect, mainly for
the reasons delineated above. Doctoral theses in music at some universities
will not be approved if they discuss non-notated music, so
that eliminates virtually all pop/rock/other music from "serious"
discussion. Until very recently pop music required a notation to
be copyrighted -- something like a lead sheet. Why isn't a recording
a "notation"?

Interesting discussion here, but maybe others want to pick it up as I've
prattled on long enough. I'll have to take up your other points some other
time.

Bruce Cohen

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Aug 26, 1991, 1:52:10 PM8/26/91
to

In article <1991Aug26.0...@milton.u.washington.edu> eliot@phoenix.


princeton.edu (Eliot Handelman) writes:

> VR is promising total sensory involvement by offering high-definition
> input to all the senses, so it stands to reason that reflective selfhood,
> when the definition becomes high enough, will all but disappear.

While I think you've got some good points here in comparing media, I
don't entirely agree with this statement. My disagreement stems, I
think, from my belief that there is more than one dimension of
comparison here between media; "hot" and "cool" (or whatever other terms
you use to qualify the axis of comparison) aren't a sufficient set of
adjectives. One's ability to reflect on internal state or on abstract
intellectual questions in the face of sensory stimulus is not dependent
on the origin of the stimulus: whether it is "real" or "virtual", but on
the intensity of the stimulus and its ability to override concentration.
In your example, it doesn't matter whether the A train is "really" there
or is a figment of a high-fidelity computer display. Conversely, it's
possible to ignore a high level of sensory stimulus after a period of
exposure to it, assuming it remains somewhat constant in its affect.

Consider a grassy hillside on a bright, warm spring day. I think I can
attain a reflective inner state in such surroundings; in fact I've done
so many times. Does it matter if the surroundings are "real" or
computer-generated?

Now, you could say that I'm talking about background rather than figure
here; that when something is directly presented to the viewer,
explicitly in order to engage the senses, that reflection will go out
the window. I don't think this is necessarily true; if it were, how
could anyone think out the consequences of actions in the middle of the
action itself? It's clear that it's harder to do so than when sitting
in a monastic cell; it's not clear that the difficulty increases in some
direct way with the fidelity of the sensory impressions of the moment.

--

Jim W Lai

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Aug 26, 1991, 3:58:56 PM8/26/91
to

In article <1991Aug26.0...@milton.u.washington.edu> eliot@phoenix.
princeton.edu (Eliot Handelman) writes:

>The more something operates directly on all of your perceptual subsystems,
>the less room there is for "disinterest," for creating a private reflective
>space coextensive with and untouched by that occupied by perception.
>TV makes far greater perceptual demands than does reading (of course by
>constantly varying fonts and layout, in a newspaper for instance, you ensure
>a higher degree of perceptual engagement), so that part of you not sensorily
>involved is available for consultation, so to speak. If you're standing in
>a subway station and the A train rattles in it's "so loud that you can't
>think" -- a certain space of selfhood has been appropriated by your
>perceptual involvement with the racket. That's the nature of high definition
>media.
>

>VR is promising total sensory involvement by offering high-definition
>input to all the senses, so it stands to reason that reflective selfhood,
>when the definition becomes high enough, will all but disappear.

I suppose my comments only illustrate how natural it is to attempt to grasp
a new medium in terms of old paradigms, to find out what fits. Correct me if
I am mistaken, but it seems that we have at hand the potential for Zen training
via computer.

>About subtle accelerations or the like in "Nine Inch Nails" I learned nothing:
>it seems meaningless and inappropriate to discuss this music in that way,
>precisely because sensory and therefore emotional definition is very
>hight -- you're THERE. You're not considering what might also equally
>have served to accomodate the unpresent structure pointing back to
>a universal unsensory music that's known uniquely by its notation, because
>no part of you is available for that reflective flight to critical
>abstraction, or available only at the high price of ugly detachment.

This reveals a lack of a descriptive "language" to communicate such emotional
experiences. It will be interesting to see the effect of widespread VR on the
more conventional media, and if such a "language" is created to fill the gap.

I can see philosophers are going to have a lot to work with in the epistemology
of VR.

>;VR would certainly allow for a new "notation" for
>;the representation of music.
>
>I'm glad you put the scare quotes around "notation." Maybe you forget that
>music also changes in accordance with newer technologies, and that
>notation has almost completely died, and there a much stronger argument
>can be made than that for the "death" of print.

For me, a "notation" would be anything which would allow me to manipulate
the sound via some abstraction, such as volume, pitch, waveform, or
what-have-you. Whatever works. I want something that can encode the
nuances that are simply missing in conventional print representations of
music. I want something I can manipulate with ease. This boils down to
sight, sound, and touch, I would think.

In retrospect, I don't want an "interface" per se, I want an interaction.

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