Space travel is going virtual


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?


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]

Virtual reality as a therapeutic technique


Virtual reality can help people conquer their phobias

Take a walk down any street and out of every 10 people you pass, one will probably be afflicted by social phobia at some point in their life. Phobias may vary drastically in terms of their prevalence and severity, but they are rather more common than we realise. There are two known mechanisms that allow phobias to develop. The first is simply personal experience – so people who have been bitten by a dog, for example, learn to associate dogs with fear and danger. The second is the global media. Before the advent of the internet and rolling 24-hour news coverage, the only information about a tragedy would come from print newspapers, evening television news reports and hearsay. ….[READ]

Virtual office for training


What a Fake Office Says About Real Ones

If you like to take a break from work by messing around on Facebook, you now have a strange option: slacking off on your real job by joining a fake office. At Fast Company, Justine Sharrock reports on “business live action role play,” or BLARPing, specifically as practiced in the Facebook group Generic Office Roleplay. She explains: “Over 2,500 members from around the world fill its virtual pages with posts that mimic office-wide emails. There are passive aggressive notes about food stolen out of the fridge, mandates about office dress and office supplies, and tips for improving synergy. Think TV’s ‘The Office’ meets David Rees’s clip Art cartoons, ‘My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable’ meets live action role play (LARP), all happening on Facebook.” ….[READ]

How and when is law applicable online?


When Uber and Airbnb Meet the Real World

on-demand apps that connect people who need something (a driver, a house cleaner, a grocery shopper) with people who want to do the job. On Thursday, the New York State attorney general said most Airbnb listings in the city violated zoning and other laws. Officials in California and Pennsylvania recently warned car services like Uber and Lyft that they might be unlawful. And workers’ rights advocates have questioned whether the people who provide these services should receive benefits, spurred by recent reports that some Homejoy house cleaners are homeless. Why have these companies run into so many problems? Part of the reason is that they think of themselves as online companies — yet they mostly operate in the offline world. ….[READ]

Are video gamers ready to be less sexist?


Gamergate: A Scandal Erupts in the Video-Game Community

At this year’s Game Developers Choice Awards, the closest the video-game industry has to an Oscars ceremony, Anita Sarkeesian received the Ambassador Award, a prize that honors individuals who help the industry “advance to a better place” through advocacy or action. Sarkeesian, a Canadian-American feminist and media critic, won the award for creating a series of videos titled Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, which discuss and challenge sexism and misogyny in gaming. “My … project was born out of a desire to … take gaming seriously,” she said in her acceptance speech, adding that game developers can “portray women as capable, complex, and inspirational.” Earlier, the award ceremony’s organizers had received an anonymous e-mail that stated, “A bomb will be detonated at the Game Developers Choice award ceremony tonight unless Anita Sarkeesian’s Ambassador Award is revoked. We estimate the bomb will kill at least a dozen people and injure dozens more. It would be in your best interest to accept our simple request. This is not a joke. You have been warned.” ….[READ]

Gaming without platforms


Forget Windows, forget OS X, forget Linux: Humble Bundle is going truly multiplatform

The Humble Bundles offer a variety of interesting games at low prices, with the idea that selling in volume will make up for the lower per-game price. So far they’ve been correct, with the bundles raising large amounts of money for both the developers involved in the bundle and a rotating selection of charities. Players are also offered a bonus if they pay over the average price, and that bonus usually includes more games or soundtracks. The latest bundle offers something different, however. The games have been ported to a platform-agnostic Humble wrapper that will allow you to play each of the games inside your browser, no matter if you’re using a Linux, Mac or Windows-based system. This is a new frontier for Humble, and they’re excited about what it means for the future. ….[READ]