Author: David Raynor

VR glossary

We are going to be hearing about VR more and more, and with new technology comes new vocabulary. There’s a lot to learn, so let’s get started!

Presence: The feeling that what you are seeing is real, and you are in that reality. It’s a feeling of “being there”.

Field of view: The height and width of your vision. Basically how much you can see around you.

Near Field: Objects close to you are said to be in the Near Field. Because of the way vision works, the closer the object, the more three dimensional it appears.

Far Field: Objects far enough away that they don’t need to be as visibly detailed as objects close to the subject.

Mid Field: Objects that are close enough that they need to be detailed, but far enough away that stereo vision has minimal effect. These objects don’t have to be as detailed as objects in the near field, but more then far field objects.

HMD (Head Mounted Display): This is the part that you put on your head. It contains two separate screens, one for each eye, with each having a lease in front of it that provides magnification and focus.

Latency: This is the amount of time it takes for information to travel out and back. In VR, high latency can cause a delay between head movement and what is displayed on the screen, which can cause nausea in many people.

Resolution: How many pixels make up the image. Usually described by width and height, such as 1920×1080, which means the screen has 1,920 pixels going across its width, and 1,080 going up and down.

Pixel Density: This is a ratio of how many pixels a screen has in a square inch. Usually abbreviated as PPI, for Pixels Per Inch. Two screens can have the same resolution, but drastically different pixel densities. For instance, a 21” computer monitor and a 50” TV can both have a resolution of 1920×1080, but the pixels on the 25” screen are packed much closer together, and are frequently smaller. This results in a clearer image because the blocks of color are closer together. 

Refresh Rate: How frequently the image is replaced on the screen. In VR, a high refresh rate is very important because the image has to be updated frequently, otherwise the human brain becomes uncomfortable and becomes disoriented or nauseous. 

Screen Door Effect: When the images on the screen are magnified like they are in VR, somethings it is possible to see the individual pixels. This gives the effect of looking though a screen door, where there are small out of focus lines in your vision. The higher resolution the screens are, the less noticeable this effect is.

Frame Rate: Frame Rate is the number of times a brand new image is displayed on the screen per second (also known as Frames per Second, or FPS). This is reason this is important for VR is because a low frame rate will cause nausea, due to the delay between what the brain expect to see as the head moves, and what the eyes are seeing. A high frame rate also means smoother movement. For VR to not cause nausea and headaches, the sweet spot seems to be 90-120 FPS. Because the image is being split up, with alternating images for each eye, that means each eye is going to see 45-60 FPS. Any lower and we run into problems.

Room Scale: Room scale refers to a VR experience where you can walk around. Some headsets work better for this then others right now, although updates are coming fast. Right now the HTC Vive is the goto room scale experience to have. Games like Budget Cuts allow you to move around a building, taking out robot security guards in a quest to steal your termination papers. It’s more immersive, but can cause discomfort in some people. 

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Seeing is believing

As I wrote about in my last post, VR is going to change all kinds of things. The visuals have reached the point where our brain actually thinks what we are seeing is real. That is a great thing for all kinds of applications. I want to talk about one thing that isn’t great about it. 

Last post, I talked about being immersed in a crowd, feeling the emotion and the energy. There is danger in that, the immersion may be so persuasive and emotional that it becomes the reality. But it’s only one side of the story. What if the other perspective doesn’t have VR? Their story may be less emotional and thrilling, but it’s still a story that needs to be heard. We have to be careful to not take the exciting and thrilling as truth. Truth is often the middle ground between two fantasies. Remember that while what we can see is important, it is not the whole picture. We need to seek out other sources of information beyond the thrilling immediacy of our eyes. VR is a great tool, let’s be careful not to rely on it to much, or wield it carelessly. 

10 things that Virtual Reality will change forever

10: Musical concerts

Everyone knows that live performances are the best way to experience music. With VR, we can be in the crowd, on the stage, the music and the people all around us. Like this Paul McCartney performance of Live and Let die on Jaunt VR. Want a less public show? An artist can record an unplugged session, just them and an empty room. They are playing just for you. How much would you pay for that?

9: Tourism

I have been to Rome and Paris and the Great Barrier Reef and the surface of Mars. On my phone, in my living room. It’s rudimentary, but even that is impressive and will only get more immersive as time goes on. Here is a video about a company called Visualise producing a VR tour for South Africa.

8: Home buying

Want to walk through a house before you buy it? No problem! Strap on a headset and take a tour! Sotheby’s is already using the Samsung Gear VR to show tours of homes in LA, New York, and the Hamptons. Find out that the previous interior decorator was an idiot from the comfort of your own home. 

7: Journalism

With VR we can experience the war zone and see the destruction. The New York Times and USA Today have apps for Android and iPhone now. We can be in the middle of the protests or the rally. Emotions and mood are hard to convey in pictures and words, but put me in the middle of it and I understand the energy. 

6: Empathy

It’s hard to understand what it’s like to be verbally or physically assaulted unless it has happened to you. VR is so immersive that we feel the anger and aggression directed at a victim, and we can start to understand the pain and fear that victim suffers. A company called Immersive Journalism is trying do just that. Chris Milk has an excellent TED talk about his quest to create the ultimate empathy machine. Hopefully this technology will help us become more understanding and tolerant. 

5: Relaxation

We live in a noisy world, and more and more of us are living in urban cities. Apps like Guided Meditation put you in a calm, relaxing environment, and escape the cement and steel and bright lights for a little while. Give me one of these and a hammock and I’ll be a happy guy!

4: Long distance communication

If you have ever video chatted with a friend or family member via Skype or FaceTime, then you know that is much better then a simple phone call. Now magnify that by a factor of 10, and you’re just about there. VR will bring us closer together. For business it will mean that a global company can communicate more efficiently and reduce travel costs. This will save huge amounts of time and money and increase productivity across the board. 

3: Gaming

Gaming has always pushed the boundaries of technology.  The first widespread use of VR will be among gamers, and they will be the beta testers for everyone else. Even once VR is widespread, gaming will continue to push the technology forward with new experiences and interfaces. Check out what Void VR is doing for instance.

2: Entertainment

Virtual reality entertainment will explode as creators will no longer be limited to displaying a flat image. Suddenly the viewer is inside the story, able to look at whatever they want, whenever they want. This will present difficult challenges, and many movies will be better presented with a field of view that is wider then it is now, but will still be limited. 3D space is difficult to manage, and won’t be ideal for many applications. Where it will really shine, however, is world building. If you can imagine it, you can create it in 3D space, and people can walk through it. Sports events will be presented in VR, like this years Daytona 500, which will be streamed in real time by a company called NextVR. How would you like to watch your favorite team or sporting event right from the sideline, or any number of other places?

1: Education

Access to information and infrastructure are some of the great limiters on a persons life. With VR, those barriers can be significantly lowered. With VR, you can learn to weld steel anywhere, without touching a torch or using up raw materials. Get in a bunch of practice, take a test using real life materials to prove your skill, and you’re in! Learn to drive a truck without even stepping inside one, take a couple physical tests to prove your skills, and viola! Now you’re a truck driver! StriVR Labs already have systems in use like this already  in the NFL and other sports. Imagine firefighters training in an extremely hot environment, outfitted with dummy equipment and VR headsets. Thanks to an immersive VR world, the firefighters get to practice without catching anything, or anyone, on fire!

Tasks that require extensive practice and repetition are excellent candidates for VR training. Practice scenarios can be built and reused without wasting resources. People in rural areas and developing counties can practice and learn and improve their lives anywhere there is a computer.

Virtual Reality may be not be real, but it is limitless. And it’s going to make a huge difference in our world.

I want to know what you think about VR. What do you think the risks are? What are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments below, and let’s talk about it!

Systeming the game

China is building a game that gives you points for acting like a good little communist. Behave, and you get faster internet, better loan terms, and other perks. Misbehave, and get ready for the slow lane of life. Associate with good patriots, and get bonus points. Non-conforming friends will drag down your score, so be careful who you associate with. It’s like a credit score for your life. It’s evil, pervasive societal control dressed up as a game. Here’s a video that talks about it: https://t.co/CPZOPkyHcG

America is about 70% there.  We already map relationships, monitor communications and activities. It’s just lacking a friendly interface and a point system. 

I don’t believe that the ultimate goal of our surveillance system is to implement a program like China’s, I just want to point out that the tools are the same. Remember that we are the government, we are the gatekeepers, and we have to be vigilant. 

10 things they don’t tell you about having a smartphone.

Here are some things that people don’t tell you.

  1.  You can’t overcharge a smartphone
  2. Smartphone battery life isn’t the same as your old phone. You will probably need to charge it every night.
  3. You don’t need to drain your battery all the way occasionally.
  4. Pressing the power button and turning off the screen doesn’t turn off the phone. It puts it into a low power standbye mode. The phone stays on, still able to receive calls and messages, and some apps are able to still able to access data. To completely turn off the phone, hold down the power button for several seconds, and it will ask you if you want to turn it off.
  5. If your phone is making weird noises all the time, it’s probably a email notification. You can turn that off completely, or I recommend setting a Do-Not-Disturb time. This will allow you to set a schedule where your phone won’t make noise. Look in the settings for phone numbers to make an exception for so that the phone will ring if they call you during that time.
  6. Be careful of your data usage. Make sure you’re on Wi-Fi before you download anything. Turn data off for apps that you don’t want to be accessing the internet when you are out and about. Good article http://www.cnet.com/how-to/11-ways-to-trick-android-into-using-less-data/
  7. Siri and Google Now. Use it, learn it, love it. Siri guide: http://www.apple.com/ios/siri/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-features-com. Google Now: http://lifehacker.com/top-10-awesome-features-of-google-now-1577427243
  8. Make sure you read the permissions that an app is asking for. If it’s asking for permission to access things that it really doesn’t need access to, maybe find a different app.
  9. You now have access to the accumulation of human knowledge. Use your phone to connect with people and learn new things. Find your curiosity again, ask things
  10. Explore, ask questions, don’t be afraid. Look in your phones app store and check out what’s available. Have fun!

We can’t all know everything

Look, I get it. Computers and the internet are scary. I mean, I work with them all day every day, and they confound me on a regular basis! Here’s the thing though, don’t let that stop you from exploring. They aren’t going anywhere, and there are lots of people who are happy to answer your questions. Like me, for example! Send me your questions, your worries and your fears. I’ll talk about them, answer them all. Remember, a faint heart…doesn’t…win stuff…I guess. I don’t actually know how it goes. Maybe one of you kind readers can answer that question for me? Let’s make this a two way street. Let’s go!

Let’s talk friends

I love Facebook, but no one has written a manual for how to use it. I think that’s good and bad. It allows for creativity, but it’s also intimidating, and leaves people feeling overwhelmed. Since Facebook is the most popular website on the planet, let’s talk about how to use it.

It’s hard to handle the sheer volume of information on the screen, let alone try and keep up with it. Over the next few days, I want you to really look at your news feed. If you see something interesting, like it or comment on it. Facebook places higher priority on content from people that you interact with regularly. If you don’t interact with it, Facebook doesn’t know that it interests you, and it may get shuffled to the bottom or not get displayed at all. Also, try removing people and companies and groups that don’t really affect your life. (see my guide to leaving groups HERE).

One of the hardest things about Facebook is saying “No” to a friend request. The barrier to entry for adding friends is so low, it’s almost insulting for someone to refuse a friend request. We aren’t conditioned to say No when someone asks to be our friend. Facebook is different though. They aren’t asking to be our friend, they are asking to display information to us with content and timing of their choosing. They will be part of a constant stream of information that we have to wade through. They aren’t just friends, they are contributors. If you don’t have the room in your brain to handle more input, it’s ok to say so. We have to manage the flow somehow. So don’t add that childhood friends older sister that you barely talked to back then, and haven’t seen in 20 years. It’s ok. We have to be the masters of our environment.

Facebook is an amazing tool for communication and collaboration. It’s also a vast sea of information and rapid-fire status updates. How do you organize your digital life?

Information is important

I am beginning to appreciate just how much access to information means to our lives. I have been researching many different careers in the last several years, and the amazing amount of information available has allowed me to eliminate multiple careers paths from consideration. As someone with ADHD, choosing a career that challenges me and keeps me interested is extremely important. If something doesn’t interest me, my brain just won’t work. Without the internet, I very easily could have down a path that would not have interested me. This would have led to low performance, unhappiness, wasted time, and damage to my career.

The internet provides us the opportunity to improve ourselves. Let’s take advantage of the amazing amount of information available to us and learn and grow and make better decisions. We cannot decide what time we are given upon this earth, all we can do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us. Let’s make the most of it, let’s be intentional with what we do, and let’s use the information available to us to make the best decisions we can. We owe it to the past generations of people who strived for knowledge and were denied.

How to declutter your Facebook News Feed

One of the complaints I hear about Facebook is that there is just too much information. It’s hard to find the stuff that you actually want to see. Here is a quick guide to help improve the signal-to-noise ratio by removing Pages from your News Feed.

Pages are specifically for brands or groups, they are not pages for individuals. It’s pretty easy to follow more of these then you realize, and it can clog up your News Feed with advertising that you didn’t know you asked for. Here is how to unfollow those Pages.

  1. Click on the down arrow at the top right of the screen
  2. Select “News Feed Preferences”
  3. Go to pages
  4. Select Alphabetical Order (The number of stories refers to how many of their posts you have interacted with in the last week)
  5. Unfollow the pages that you don’t interact with, and ones that you just don’t want to see their content anymore. I know I was following lots more pages than I realized.

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I hope this helps you enjoy Facebook a bit more. Let me know how it goes, and feel free to share any strategies you use to make social media more productive. If you have any questions about Facebook, or technology in general, that you would like me to answer, let me know in the comments or send me an email at AskTheDave.com.

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