Virtual Reality

I recently got a chance to experience virtual reality (VR) with a HTC VIVE head mounted display (HMD). I was so enraptured by the experience that I immediately began learning everything I could about the current VR state of tech, production & design workflows, best practices, and even academic papers & lectures. It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s really going to change everything.

There have been other times in my tech life that I felt like I did inside VR;

  • using HyperCard on a Macintosh SE/30,
  • clicking through blue hyperlinks on the first web pages in a Mosiac browser,
  • using the then-new layers features in Photoshop 3.0, and
  • using the first multitouch iPhone in 2007.

All of these experiences gave me a profound sense of “OMG This is going to be HUGE” feeling that pushed me deeper into my technology career. Virtual reality seems like it might be the next step. It’s hard to articulate exactly why I feel so sure about VR playing a big part in the next epoch of computing. The concept of  “Presence” is a big part of it though.

But it’s still early. Just as no one could have imagined current Amazon emerging from those first primitive blue-hyperlinked grey-background web pages, it’s difficult to articulate how mainstream VR will unfold. We are one to two magnitudes increase in performance-per-watt away from VR going from niche to billions of users. But as anyone who understands Moore’s Law knows, a 2016 VR-capable GPU running on <1W of power is probably much less than 10 years away. We are at a tipping point now for establishing the VR-foundation that the future will be build upon.

I don’t yet have my own HMD, or even a mobile capable smartphone, but I am teaching myself Blender. While the software is not exactly the most optimal option – although I’m looking to try the Maya student licence – I’ve already grown accustomed to navigating and directing my creative energy within a 3D work space, and that I think is the a good place to start.

Blender Cycles render of a 3D orange I modeled and dropped into a simulated water tank.

Open society is better

During the bloody settlement of America, Native warriors would sometimes kidnap agrarian Christian colonialists. Some would be adopted by a tribe’s family, meant to replace the members they lost in battle. But they were instantly made an equal of the tribe and put to work. Native society was appealing enough that many of the kidnapped resisted rescue and some even escaped the colonies to rejoin their adopted tribe. Maybe the effectiveness of early Native societies was at least partially due to the openness of it?

North American Native tribes being nomadic, if you didn’t like how your tribe was being managed you could pack up and join your cousin’s up river. This highly competitive environment would suck most of the profit out of managing the group. The fewer places I can move to, the more leverage my current location has over me. Maybe if we want to have a more equal & fair world, we should strive to be more open, and encourage the free flow of people, ideas, and capital as much as possible.

More on Native history bit above

Trying Meditation

I’ve spent the last little while practicing daily meditation using two iOS apps, Headspace and Calm, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results.

This is part of my effort to improve my ability to focus more readily and for longer periods of time, as well as my general impulse control, self-awareness, and sleep quality. I was somewhat sceptical at first that “simply” sitting quietly for 10-30 minutes a day could help in these areas. But I’ve come across too many anecdotes recently of the benefits of meditation in podcast discussions, articles, and conversations with practitioners to not give it a try. I’m so glad I did, and now wish I had started this daily practice years ago.

At first it didn’t seem to do much, but I understood going into it that one really needed to give it at least a couple weeks of daily practice to start seeing results. It didn’t take that long. By about the 4th day I was feeling different, definitely drifting off to sleep at night much more easily than before I started. I began to notice more quickly when my mind wandered away from what I was doing at any moment, and finding it easier and easier to gently direct my mind back to my intentions.

Another interesting observation is that at first, the 10 minutes sessions seemed like a long time, but now a couple weeks later they seem really short. I’ve begun to add additional daily 20 minute self-guided sessions using Noisli, my favourite background noise generator app. It feels like stimulus adaptation, similar to how one gets stronger physically. As you lift a heavy weight, the body adapts by getting stronger, making the weight seem lighter.

It’s still early, and I have a lot to learn about meditation, but I think this is going to be the start of a lifelong practice, and I’m excited about where it will take me.