When science fiction happens

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William Gibson interview: time travel, virtual reality, and his new book

Science fiction author William Gibson’s work, from cyberpunk classic Neuromancer to his more recent, less overtly futuristic novels, is usually more concerned with smart cultural analysis than plotting the mechanics of new technology. Gibson has given us a lens to see everything from high fashion to virtual reality, coining the term “cyberspace” to refer to what would soon become a ubiquitous computer network in the real world (“And they won’t let me forget it,” he quipped after being introduced with that factoid in the TV show Wild Palms.) But time travel is one of the most mechanical genres around — not necessarily in scientific rationale, but in the rigorous attempt to fit together pieces of the past, present, and future without leaving loose ends or, at worst, unresolved paradoxes. ….[READ]

Oculus Rift goes to school

This is the Beginning of VR Education, and It Will Only Get Better

At a school in the Czech Republic on October 20th, a groundbreaking experiment took place. Instead of pens and paper, students sat down with specially adapted VR headsets (Oculus Rift DK2s) that dropped them into a fascinating, immersive, educational experience that allowed them to interact naturally using natural hand gestures. This is the World of Comenius. As a kid, I didn’t much care for school. I loved to learn things, but as a shy child I never liked to ask for help from the teacher which meant that if the single textbook I had to learn from didn’t make sense to me, my options for grasping the subject at hand was limited. ….[READ]

Are humans mutating?

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With Mindware Upgrades and Cognitive Prosthetics, Humans Are Already Technological Animals

In recent years, the surprising idea that we’ll one day merge with our technology has warily made its way into the mainstream. Often it’s couched in a combination of snark and fear. Why in the world would we want to do that? It’s so inhuman. That the idea is distasteful isn’t shocking. The imagination rapidly conjures images of Star Trek’s Borg, a nightmarish future when humans and machines melt into a monstrosity of flesh and wires, forever and irrevocably leaving “nature” behind. But let’s not fool ourselves with such dark fantasies. Humans are already technological animals; tight integration with our inventions is in our nature; and further increasing that integration won’t take place in some distant future—it’s happening now. ….[READ]

Criminal investigation meets virtual reality

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Virtual ten-year-old girl leads to pedophile conviction in Australia

A global sting operation involving a virtual ten-year-old girl named Sweetie has led to the conviction of a registered sex offender in Australia, marking what is believed to be the first conviction since the avatar was created last year by a Dutch rights group. Scott Robert Hansen, 37, pleaded guilty to three counts in a Brisbane court this week, admitting to possessing images of child sexual abuse and sending lewd pictures of himself to Sweetie. Workers from the charity Terre des Hommes went undercover in chatrooms for ten weeks last year, posing as Philippine girls and using Sweetie to lure potential predators via webcam. The group says it never actively approached predators, waiting instead for them to contact Sweetie, and that its researchers stopped all conversations once a user offered the young girl money to perform sexual acts. ….[READ]

The affordable way to virtual reality

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Forget Oculus Rift

Virtual reality is making a comeback. At least, the hype about virtual reality is making a comeback. Its resurgence has been fueled by Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, which landed Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey on the cover of Wired. In the past year, companies such as Sony and Samsung have announced plans to develop virtual-reality gadgets of their own. For all the hoopla, however, not one of those devices has a definite timetable for release. And when they do arrive, each is likely to cost more than $200.All of which is to say that the virtual-reality revolution may yet be a ways off—again. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of it right now. In fact, there’s a virtual-reality viewer already on the market that’s fun and easy to use—and you can get a version of it for just $25. It’s called the DodoCase VR, and it’s about the most fun you can have with a smartphone, a Popsicle stick, and a cardboard box ….[READ]

Space travel is going virtual

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Nasa looks to virtual reality ‘holodecks’ – powered by Oculus Rift to keep astronauts sane in space

Without some miraculous breakthrough in propulsion technology the future of space travel is going to be a lot like a family holiday driving to France. People are going to have to endure long journeys in cramped conditions with people they slowly come to despise. Well, okay, so astronauts aren’t likely to start asking ‘are we there yet?’ or get sick on the ferry, but the problem of keeping an even psychological keel during space flights (it’s seven months to Mars for example) is very real. One solution is to put astronauts in stasis, but the technology simply isn’t advanced enough yet. Somewhat incredibly, scientists are instead looking to virtual reality as a more plausible solution, with the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift VR goggles at the centre of current research. ….[READ]

Is there a virtual identity?

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Online Relationships Are Real

A little more than a decade ago, a former professor of mine here in Paris was supposed to meet Jean Baudrillard at a party. The notoriously elusive French philosopher rose to fame in the early 1980s with his theory of the “simulacrum,” which says that neither reality nor history really exists anymore because consumer society and media have taken away true freedom and choice and replaced them with mere illusions. His theory was the inspirat­­ion for The Matrix films. When Baudrillard did not show up at the party, the host rang his assistant, and it was determined that at the last moment he had decided to stay at home that night. Apparently, he had found a channel that was showing reruns of Wheel of Fortune. ….[READ]