A New Uncanny Valley?


As VR and MR enter into the mainstream consciousness, people are starting to get familiar (or at least using) with terms that have been common in the 3D, VR, and animation fields for many years. In one way this is great to see. Language is the key to communication, and once we have a shared set of terms we can share and build on ideas faster and easier. In our world of saturated buzz phrase media though, there can be a disconnect when tech journalists start using a term in a different way than what has been the norm. I’m not opposed to evolution of language, but it’s also important to use consistent terms with established ideas.

The source that inspired me today is an interesting use of the term “uncanny valley”. I’m not going to call this out or reference the usage at this time because I don’t want to add to this new myth. I’ll send the author my comment and let them do as they will.

But to clarify, the uncanny valley isn’t a new idea that has just been created for virtual reality. The uncanny valley concept and term have been around for a long time, and applies to graphics, robotics, sound design, and many other disciplines. Wikipedia has a clear definition here, which is in line with the way the 3D, animation, and graphics industry I have worked in for the last 20 years has used it. Basically:

When features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers.

I am in no way a grammar purist, and I also have a tendency to make up and mash up new words to suit my needs or whims. I also applaud the use of words and language to bring a creative approach to concepts allowing for a fresh or extended perspective to further conversation. But once a term has a definition, stating that it means something totally different is a disservice to the community of participants and spectators.

I’m sure it is very difficult to keep up with the plethora of terms that are emerging from new technology these days, but I do believe that tech writers should learn and understand the language, and help new audiences learn as well.

PS. If I have used any terms above incorrectly, please comment and hammer me for it. I will probably respond that I did it for ironic impact and emphasis, but I still would appreciate the opportunity to learn.

Uncanny Valley from Wikipedia.

Virtual Reality & Mixed Reality: We just don’t know

There has been a lot of excitement and hype about virtual reality and mixed reality in the news full of predictions, estimates, and expectations for what the future will bring. Much of it is based on actual reality, and there’s a good bit that is based on one of many possible realities. For people in the industry, this is pretty normal. We know what we can do, see what we hope to do, and dream about what could be possible. Seeing the incredible range of possibilities is part of the fun and even more of the excitement.

Where it gets complex is that everything that the industry says, believes, and dreams about is getting published in the media. Spectators less familiar with the deeper aspects of virtual and mixed reality get to see only one part of the magic that is happening right now. They see the speculation, predictions, and the hype designed to get investors enthusiastic about putting their money into the amazing technology that is emerging. This is not only expected but necessary. The technological hurdles still ahead will take ingenuity and investment to overcome, and investors need to know that there is an eventual return waiting for them. And to be sure, there is. Virtual reality and mixed reality are going to be exceedingly important in the future. I have no doubt about it, and neither should anyone else. How important? What will be the “killer app” that pushes it up the hill of development and over the cliff of “oh shit we need that”? We don’t know yet.

As researchers and engineers were developing the protocols for the internet in the 50’s and 60’s, they dreamed of what this new entity could provide. In the early 90’s when American society was getting their first taste of what an accessible internet could be, we all talked about the amazing things we could suddenly do. Download an audio file overnight! Amazing! The reality of those early days was less glossy, less interesting, and certainly more difficult that what we have now. And while some of the dreams of those early researchers and pioneers were spot on, many of the ways we use our connected devices today was never even considered.

That’s where we are now with virtual reality and even more so, mixed reality. The people who are already living with it every day are dreaming of what could be possible, but we don’t know yet how this will impact our world. And that’s a good thing. We need to watch and even help this industry evolve from it’s clumsy infancy to it’s awkward adolescence and teen years. Remember those giant brick cell phones people used to carry? It was necessary, but we didn’t stay there. VR is in the same place. Hopefully the excitement of looking to the future of VR and MR won’t poison the progress that is being made every day. There will be disappointments and missteps. There will be confusion and competition. But one day, we’ll see that the journey was worth it. And we’ll be amazed at how far we’ve come.

Bugfrog Hops Podcast – VR, AR, and MR to the Future – E. 57

Due to sudden publishing issues, Bugfrog Hops podcast is currently available in transcript only. I apologize for the inconvenience, and will get this resolved as quickly as possible.

Welcome back to Episode 57 of the Bugfrog Hops podcast where I cover things like technology, music and the industry, and whatever else I feel like talking about.

Thanks for joining me today, and I apologize for any issues you may have had streaming this episode. I’m having a slight dispute with our publishing partner so things might be a little bumpy as we work out the details. But don’t worry, I’ll get it all worked out and be up to full speed in no time.

So let’s get to it! As always I like to respond to a few of the comments and questions you have added to the comment stream. Again, I’m very sorry I haven’t been able to answer all your questions and comments in the last few weeks, but my communications intern Terry is healing up fine and hopefully will have full use of at least one arms again very soon. Good heath to you, Terry! Way to be a fighter!

So let’s get started here.
  • Michael E from Enid, OK asked a great question in response to last episode’s discusson of personal liberty. Michael its physically possible, but may be frowned upon in pubic social circles. Proceed with caution, and take your cues from those around you in the moment.
  • I got a letter of regret from last episode’s guest Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. Remember he was not able to join us unexpectedly. Apparently there was a challenging mascot incident that he needed to attend to. Sluggerrr we are all pulling for ya. These misunderstandings happen in the Big Leagues. You’ll get through it.
  • And finally to Joshua from Chicago who used the Bugfrog Hotwire – Apply antibiotic ointment, and please, next time contact urgent care before calling me. Good luck.

Be sure to keep sending me your questions, comments, and criticisms through whatever channel works for you. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and now Peach. Certainly looking forward to seeing all your Peaches, so keep em coming.

Don’t forget about the Bugfrog Hotwire on the site, just click the button and leave me a voice message. I’m not afraid to put a new spin on doing things the same as before. Your voices screaming in the night are what keeps me going.

Before I go any further I want to give a warm Bugfrog Hop welcome to our new sponsor Walmart. Great to have you on board and I’m looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with you. Walmart – where every penny you save forfeits a piece of your soul.

Ok, now we are ready for the real meat of the show, so make sure you have aren’t operating any heavy machinery or handling a weapon while drinking with me today. Today we are talking about another subject I find interesting, and if you one of the subscribed masses, hopefully pretty dang interesting to you as well. Let’s get started shall we?

Virtual Reality. Have you been paying attention to what is going on with VR these days? If you haven’t been following it or noticed anything about it lately, you must have some pretty strict filters on your news feeds – Virtual Reality is in the news feeds multiple times a day for me. From different systems like the Oculus Rift and more importantly the Oculus and the Oculus platform, to the HTC Vive. Yes Vive VIVE, be sure to pronounce that right the VIVE. The Vibe is different and I think the winner in that race was Hitachi, but don’t hold me to that. But there are a variety of tools and platforms that let everyone get a Virtual Reality experience in one way or another. The Samsung Gear works together with a Samsung phone, which is very smart. I have a session in progress for that one coming. Of course Google has their hand in the mix as well starting with the very low cost Google Cardboard, and rumors starting to surface of a new device in development. Stepping a but further into the matrix are the newest Augmented Reality AR offerings like the much anticipated Hololens from Microsoft and the still very magical  unicorn of the field, Magic Leap.

What is interesting about all this VR, AR, and the more approachable Mixed Reality or MR right now is that finally the technology is at the point where regular humans not working in some exclusive research or training facility can actually see this in action. We’ve been seeing this for years in movies and games. Massive three dimensional computer generated worlds that you walk through like the real world, selecting files, getting information beamed to your display, shooting anything that dares to move in your field of vision, very cool stuff that took a lot of people and effort to bring to life.

There have been high tech training and simulation systems for many industries going back decades. 3D surround flight simulators, immersive military and emergence response training environments, even laparoscopic surgery simulators with active haptic response components that let a user feel the pressure when practicing tying off a bleeding artery. Immersive environments have been around for a while, but usually reserved for a select few due to cost and effort required.

Now this technology is available at what will soon be a desktop price. We can buy this without a the budget of a small country. Tools for consumption and creation of 3D immersive experiences right at home. Oculus, Unreal, Unity, Steam, and all the others all waiting for new artists to step into the ring. Were you alive for the desktop publishing revolution? Everyone suddenly could create whatever they needed to share their ideas. It was amazing! A new world… and yes a lot of that world looked like crap with terrible layouts, fonts, and images, but still new and amazing. Information to the masses like never before. How about film editing? Now any filmmaker can start shooting, editing, and sharing in HD what ever idea comes into their head. On their freaking phone! Of course there’s more crap too, some people tell stories like a 5 year old explaining why the cat is blue and in the dryer. But there has been a huge leap in seeing first hand the stories of real people. Creating and sharing has never been more accessible. There is still a technological divide and not everyone has the same access, but that is evolving as well.

So here’s the point I want to make: VR, AR, MR are arriving and are going to be amazing. MR especially is going to change the way we view, interact, and contribute to the world we live in. Right now we are at the beginning, so don’t freak out. There is lots to be figured out still. Just because we can’t go to Walmart and buy a full body haptic response suit and HMD unit for $49.99 with a 10% off coupon doesn’t mean its all crap. We are just looking at the beginning of this experience, and it’s going to be everything we hoped for eventually. For now, it’s a little bulky and goofy, but we’ll get there. The thing is as an industry, people in tech are at least in part dreamers, always thinking “Where can this go? What can this do eventually?” All the amazing and exciting things that COULD be are what keeps us moving forward creating the things that are happening right now. It’s a journey, and the destination keeps getting more interesting and further away the more we learn.

That’s what makes this so exciting for me. This journey has just begun, and we don’t really know where it will go. Discoveries, adventures, victories and epic failures await. We know only a fraction of what this journey will show us, and we have no idea who we will be on the other side. Is there anything cooler?

I’m going to stop there before I get too giddy. If you have any comments or questions, let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing from ya. Maybe we can even get you on the show next time.

One last thing, I’ve just been notified that we lost Walmart as a sponsor. Damn, I though that one was really going to work out. The good news is we have a new sponsor starting next week, so let’s give a big welcome to our new benefactor, the NRA.


Daniel Radcliffe and the Nightsweats – Love this BAND!

Can’t stop listening to this band. Saw them at the Illegal Pete’s 20th anniversary last week, Jimmy Fallon before that, around town for years.

That is one talented cat, surrounded by bunch of other talented cats! It’s a new Hogwarts house of talented cats. House of SweatinPuff.

Check em out! Jump or tweet!


Oculus Rift – Pollen Preview

I wrote a quick post at The Rift Arcade about the game Pollen from Minefield Games. Check it out here. This one is built with Unity, so it’s even closer to my heart.

I love what will be possible with VR and AR tech in the coming years, and have been playing with different projects for a while.

George and the Cherry Tree

Are you familiar with the story of George Washington and the cherry tree? It is heralded as a triumph of honesty and integrity, and supposedly pointed to his destiny as our country’s first president.

What you don’t know is the rest of the story. The real story of what happened. It’s still a story of honesty and integrity, but there is more. It’s a story that I’d bet most homeowners would be very familiar with. Here’s what happened.

George: Yes, I cannot tell a lie. I did cut down that cherry tree, fortruth.

Dad: I’m proud of you, George. Ye told the truth, even when it was notith easy. I’m still going to beat thee ass with my belt, but thy will still have thy honor. Red, sore, and bruised honor, but honor ye will have.

G: Shit. *runs and yells back* But Dad, I didn’t mean to cut down thy tree! *smack* Ow!

D: Get thee over here, ye cockchafer.

G: Seriously! *smack* Ow! Ye Limey dick!  Benny, I mean Mr. Arnold came over the other day and asked to borrow our hatchet to cut some of his trees. I couldn’t find it at the time, but when I was out doing chores in the woodshed – *smack* OW! Ye ball! – I found the hatchet. I took it over to his *smack* OW! Ye fackwad! house this morning to see if he still needed it.

D: Now ye lying is getting thick as porridge, quim. Get back here! *smack*

G: Ow! Piss! He wasn’t there so I came back home. As I walked back I noticed one of the branches of the tree was broken, so I trimmed it off to keep the tree healthy. *smack* Shit, ow! Whigg! Then the tree was all off balance so I trimmed a tree from the other side. *whiff* Missed me! *smack* Ow!

D: HA! Your fate is preordained. Accept it now or ye will feel my wrath two-fold.

G: Once I trimmed off that side, the other side seemed to big. OW! Soon I realized I trimmed the whole damn thing to a stump. *smack* OW! For real! I was just trying to make it look good and stay healthy! *smack* Ow! Ye tarnal! Screwth this.

D: Ye can’th run, boy! Ye residence is known to me!

G: Eateth my big one, ye nutlick! I’m outeth. Ye and thy British bull shit can suck my Yankee doodle. One day I’ll clear all thy shits outa here!

And that’s the way it happened. Google it.

To Austin and Back

It’s been a busy week around the homestead. Or beyond the homestead really. Down to the south 40 in the grand ole city of Austin, Texas for a week long company retreat. Why, you may ask? With a company full of consultants scattered all around the country, getting everyone together for a few days a year is a great way to actually get to know the rest of the team. It’s incredibly helpful and allows a lot of interaction we wouldn’t normally get.

For this retreat, I scheduled a photo/video shoot with everyone to get new headshots as well as good interview footage of who we are and why we do the work we do for nonprofits. I was truly amazed (as I am most days) of the incredible people I get to work with. This crew has skills to work at any company, and they choose to apply them at a company dedicated to serving the needs of nonprofit organizations. Thanks for building up a company that people can believe in, Keith. It works.

I’ve also gotta give huge props to Marcin and Tara from ManMadeMedia for all their work on the shoot. If you ever need video work done, give them a call first. From beginning to end, they know their stuff and make it happen without a hitch. And Marcin will change the way he says his name every single time he says it if you are not careful. Great shoot, great footage, lots of editing to be done. Let’s do it.

After an exhausting week at the retreat, what do I do next? Come home, relax, get some sleep? Heck no. I got off the plane and grabbed a shuttle directly to Lost Lake Lounge to catch SF1 (and the amazing Candyman) and Julie Almeria for her birthday show. Love those crazy kids. So much talent all packed into those energetic bodies. Of course it was a class reunion with a ton of the friendlies from around town in attendance. Happy night.

So that was Friday night, Saturday night is time to rest up, right? Oh no. Saturday night is family concert night with Rob Drabkin’s birthday show at the Bluebird Theater. SHEL was there as well so it was another great show. Love seeing Rob’s dad join for the gigs. Aimee was photographing the show, so LilF and I got to hang around and enjoy the scene for a bit. The Bluebird has changed a ton from the porn theater it was when we first moved here! The whole Colfax strip has had a massive evolution. #winning

Now it’s time for sleep, right? Not quite. You see it was also the king of the local music DJ’s birthday, Alf! For his birthday he was spinning an all star gig with his 45 + 1 sets back at Lost Lake, so we walked back up for that. Again, more friendlies, more fun. For the unaware, Alf’s 45 + 1 gigs are great. He spins some great discs while a local artist riffs with it in their own special style. Saturday there were members of the Flobots, Epilogues, SF1, Eldren, and on and on and on. Great lineup all night. After that, members of the Sound and Color got together with Josh Lee for a set of something new. By this time, I was spent, so finally went back to the homestead for some resting before the Bronco game (fail).

Denver and the Front Range has a great music community. Bands and musicians from Colorado Springs up through the amazing scene in Fort Collins all cross pollinating and making great music for us. Large fun sandwiches for all. Really looking forward to the SpokesBuzz stage down at SXSW this year. Jam packed with Colorado bands, it’s going to be a damn amazing week.

Monday was MLK day, so LilF and I headed out on a beautiful day to Denver’s stellar march/parade – marade – to celebrate a man we should all know more about. As I looked at the over 30,000 people around me, it occurred to me that we are in a strange transition point. A good portion of the crowd were alive to witness Dr. King in person, many had even marched with him in years past. Others have only heard of his legacy through books and videos from our history classes. The spirit of his message was still alive in all of us, though, and while some of the younglings probably didn’t quite get it all, the vibe clearly touched everyone. We marched together down Colfax Ave, united and strong, talking about the challenges we still face so many years later. The fight isn’t over, but there is still hope within so many of us. The dream will be realized in time. Sometimes it feels a lot farther off than others, but we’ll get there.

First weekend

Starting off this year with a smooth warm up of variety. I was still recovering from illness through the New Years Day football, but was able to watch a great match between Tottenham and Chelsea. Great comeback from what started off to be another let down for the Spurs. There is hope yet.

For Friday, we took the whole family to the Bluebird theater to see Post Paradise, Calders Revolvers, Tommy Freed & The Sound, and Volitilles. One day, LilF will appreciate this, we hope. Or his friends in prison will like us.

For Saturday, after working on filming a super cool video project for LilF we decided to do something more regular, and went to see Annie in the theater, and I’ll be honest, I cried. When will I get to see a movie that doesn’t make me cry? Do they make those anymore? Sheesh.

Sunday was all about shoveling snow, running the dog, and helping LilF with the production of his video. Looking forward to seeing it all come together.
Back to work this week! Let’s go!

Back and Forward Again

Sure, sure. Every year I do this little ritual of looking back over the past year to reflect on what was good, bad, interesting, boring, useful, or somewhat less than useful. After that I look forward to pick out a few things to focus on for the coming year. It’s not the most exciting ritual, but it’s mentally necessary.

Looking Back – 2014

2014 was generally a good year. Let’s take a look.

  • I kept the same good job for the full year, making two years straight at the same company. As volatile as the job market has been, I’m happy with this.
  • I finished up teaching at FRCC. I’ve been teaching there for about 8 years I think – Game Design, 3D Animation, Photoshop, Capstone. I’ve had great students and learned a ton, but it’s time to get back to doing some things. Time is never our friend, is it. I’ll still be on the advisement board and help out when I can with mentoring my replacements, but I won’t be actively teaching for a while.
  • Reading more was important to me this year and I was able to read more for recreation than I have in the past. Not a ton, and a lot of sci-fi and cyber books. I left out the software manuals and blog series. They don’t really have interesting titles. I also left out the real paper and binding books that I’ve read and that don’t show up in my Kindle app. I tend to give them away and forget I’ve read them.
    • Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (In progress, good but slow.)
    • Relativity: Special and General Theory (In progress, good but denser)
    • Post Human Series Books 1-4
    • Enders Game
    • Speaker for the Dead
    • Xenocide
    • The Sirens of Titan
    • Dune
    • Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware…
    • Freedom
    • Mona Lisa Overdrive
    • How the Scots Invented the Modern World
    • Ready Player One
    • Sword of Fire and Sea
    • Rocket Surgery Made Easy
    • The War of the Worlds
    • The Time Machine
    • The Information: A History, Theory, Flood
    • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    • Sherlock Holmes: Complete Collection
    • Neuromancer
  • Not as many movies this year, even though LilF is getting older and interested in more movies. I’ve missed a ton that I’d love to see, but here are a few I’ve seen, some with LilF, some with the beautiful Aimee:
    • Guardians of the Galaxy
    • Big Hero Six
    • How to Train Your Dragon 2
    • Captain America: Winter Soldier
    • Xmen: Days of future past
    • Lego Movie
    • The Nut Job
    • Horns
    • Pompeii
    • Rio 2
    • Maleficent
    • Video Games: The Movie
    • BoxTrolls
  • We were able to go to ComiCon in Denver this year which was a blast!
  • Watching the World Cup this year was amazing.
  • I was able to travel some this year, but again, not nearly as much as I’d like. Aimee had a ton of trips this year, but me not as much.
    • Company retreat to Berekley, CA
    • Family weekend to Seattle, WA
    • Conference in DC
    • Los Angeles
    • Snow Mountain Ranch
    • Dreamforce in San Francisco, CA
  • Concerts – There have been a bunch of great shows and festivals this year including Tellerpalooza, UMS, Westword Music, Higher Ground, FoCoMX, Bohemian Nights, and Riot Fest. I haven’t kept track of all of them this year, tho. Check on Greeblehaus.com for photos of the ones that I’ve been to as well as the ones Aimee as been able to shoot.
  • What else, what else… There’s been a lot going on here at home and around our family, but it’s tough to keep it all in mind for the full year. Which brings us too…

Looking Ahead – 2015

I’m looking forward to 2015. It should be a good year. A lot of the craziness of the last few years with health and work has seemed to stabilize, so we are ready to mix things up again this year! There’s a razor’s edge between comfort and terror that is fun to glide.

Some random goals in no particular order:

  • Help LilF and Aimee find the direction and people they want to be. They are both in amazing times of change and growth. I’m here for them.
  • Figure out  how to cook more, both by making time and learning how to cook things. It really shouldn’t be that difficult. LilF wants to cook more too, so I can rely on him for encouragement too.
  • Take advantage of work flexibility. Travel more, see more, do more. Not expensive stuff, but just see and experience more. The world is out there, and cries out to be revealed.
  • Keep getting more and more input from more places. Reading, movies, music, lectures, events, podcasts. I always need more input.
  • Output – Create and build. Tired of having so many ideas that grow fungus. Fanplan, BandBeef, Pick the Weather, Live Streaming, Unity games, my music.
  • Support local music more this year. I didn’t get out to see nearly as many gigs as I wanted. We have a great scene in Denver that is well worth getting out for. I also want to do more to help the SpokesBuzz crew and other such entities. I don’t have to start from scratch for everything, do I? Most things, but not everything. :)
  • Be physical. Skateboard, bike, run, ski, wrestle, box, something, anything. I’m getting rounder by the second.
  • Drink good whiskey. Drink less, learn more. Denver Whiskey Club FTW.

And one of the most important things I need to do is make sure the people I care about know about it. Family, friends, bar buddies, concert crew, and more. All you wonderful people are the ones that I learn from and grow with. I look forward to another year with you all!

Guns ‘n Roses Pays Homage to Upton Sinclair

It is completely true that Guns ‘n Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” is an artistic homage to Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel “The Jungle”.