Fearless Revolution, was founded by Alex Bogusky and co-founded by Rob Schuham

Notes From The Uncanny Valley, (At) Boulder’s DiMe

At the Digital Media Symposium at the St. Julien Hotel ballroom in Boulder, the room’s vibe is outdoorsy brainaic, personified in the casual styling of so many lean men (and fewer women), sporting pedigrees from Harvard, Kellogg, Stanford, Netscape, the US Air Force, and (future) household names you maybe haven’t heard yet. The speakers at the DiMe, their bios printed in a deliberately low-budget program, offer “insider perspectives” to virtual /entrepreneurial life. Orbotix’s CEO Paul Berberian makes mention right away of the “million developer hack,” meaning come one, come all, to the zone of “really hard shit,” aka the zone of innovation. Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, PIXAR’s co-founder, offers that “the great digital media convergence,” oft-predicted but once fuzzy-distant, has occurred. If you can write code and dream up reality blends, help is wanted in media movements accelerating at warp speed. “Reality,” has apparent new meaning too, as a version of “mixed” reality in gaming is one that HP may have predicted back in 2006, but is still a decade-plus away to build-out. Where we already interact with new worlds is on the ubiquitous screen, notes 123guitartuner’s Ben Long. That is, on our laptops, tablets and smartphones. Synesthesia is in our fingers,  as as we tap and drag sight and sound on Androids or Iphones already. The DiMe, is official part of the Boulder International Film Festival (which ran Feb. 16-19). BIFF, is an annual Boulder paean to new movies and the movie biz, and the Colorado Office of Film and TV, the Boulder CVB and BIFF, team up to put on this afternoon in which each talking head has 20 minutes onstage, to frontload developments in robotics, gaming, animation, entertainment, advertising, etc. Don Hahn, producer of the Lion King, moderates; he’ll cop, later on in the day, to how he’s at least partly responsible for pixelated sexism, in the form of Jessica Rabbit. Boulder might actually be, Palo Alto’s cultural twin. The food’s really good; William H. Macy and Martin Sheen are in town – and you feel an urge to pull everybody aside and ask where they got their boots.

Buzz Lightyear, Meet Moore

“Well, it happened. The great digital media convergence. All media types are one single media type called bits.”

This is Alvy Ray Smith talking, and the great digital media convergence is the outcome, he says, of Moore’s law which deals with transistor density. Or, In English: “Anything good about computers gets better by an order of magnitude every five years.” We humans can only see one order of magnitude (or one factor of 10) ahead of ourselves. (Interezzzting.) Knock me over when Smith – whose resume at Pixar includes him also as the guy who hired John Lassiter – clicks to a shot of the Organ Mountains in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I know that rickrack pink range. Smith grew up there. He consumed “A Brief History of Digital Light,” Dr. Alan Turing in 1948; A-bombs’ white glare going off to Smith’s left; Werner Von Braun’s rockets to the right. It’s a sickle shape chart he uses to demonstrate this Moore’s law business: “We’re approaching the 10billionx right now,” Smith says. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz7G6309YZc

Mixed-Reality Gaming: Hack Their Balls

Cat, with Sphero, or Sphero, with cat

Paul Berberian’s got an entrepreneur’s long tail, if you read the bio. He is an Air Force Academy distinguished alum and he likes helicopters and joysticks. A lot. Gosphero.com, is home page of Sphero, a robotic ball, which Wired and CNET first encountered at CES 2011. You control Sphero the robotic ball with your smartphone, aka your supercomputer. Yes, sure, the ball’s had its picture taken with cats who do not, this is not reality, have opposable thumbs. (Not yet.) The deal in mixed-reality gaming, says Berberian, is that where innovation happens is also where it becomes very difficult to break through. What’s in games already? Simply: Barbie the doll at the reality continuum’s far left, grounded in the same gravity we nonplastic mortals live in. The other side, Angry Birds and Farmville. But en route to making robotic balls learn to play pool with your cat, what the robot has in common with your tipsy college friend, is it doesn’t know where the floor is. The “marker” that is where it has to find a real object in physical space, is hard for a robot. Super hard. Even so, notes Berberian, the future is already visible on the retail floor at a Best Buy or Target. They want to sell you something new: Not only apps, but accessories for your apps. Your smartphone controls them. As to that “million developer hack” needed to get to blended reality faster, Berberian offers before playing with balls in the aisle, “As of last night somebody hacked a Mac version (of Sphero)… “we’re ecstatic.. we want our balls to be hacked.” $129 retail. Here’s what Wired said.

 Earth Empathy

Earthvisionz Water-hackathon in Bangalore

Earthvisionz Water-hackathon in Bangalore

Carla Johnson, founder and CEO of “The world has become extremely exposed,” goes without saying, and needs saying. We’re being surveilled, we’re doing the surveilling. (In the media today: FreshAir’sshow on companies spying on us. ) To use the geological example of Haiti that was the teachable moment for Johnson’s daughter, the earthquake that hit Port au Prince could be visualized, and scaled, in Johnson’s living room, not as a flat-island topography, but as a mountainous fault zone. Says Johnson,  “the next day we flew down there.”  It took me 20 seconds or more to realize that she didn’t mean, like Sean Penn; rather, virtually.

Winning the Conversation

I no sooner get home from Boulder than I’m watching the News/Hour and what is the word I hear roll off Rick Santorum’s lips but “doubt”? A frisson goes through me, remembering, suddenly, viscerally, Rob Schuham’s presentation last Friday afternoon. Schuham is a Boulder guy who co-founded, with Alex Bogusky, a company calledSchuham after poking light fun at Harris Morris’s bespoke suit, and you don’t see so many French cuffs in Boulder, got right to business: The business of “winning the conversation” with facts about the climate reality of global warming, against those who have known – at least since the tobacco lobby invented deception relations – that it’s not essential to disprove the science, but to cast doubt is enough. Hence Rick Santorum’s voice Monday night karaoke-ing for the doubt brigade. Per Schuham, Climate Reality’s project was to “Take Down a Machine of Mistruths,” to bring energy, data and insights to climate reality. The plan and the deed involved deploying a 3000-strong human leadership corps to do “reality patrol.” Dominating Twitter and other social media channels @climatereality to fan the flames. Partnering with multimedia platforms like the aforementioned 350 dot org. 24-hours of “climate reality” TV global live-streamed from 24 time zones. In the 25th hour they took the event’s blood pressure. 8.65 million views and 6mm uniques had tuned in, for an average 58 minutes (Engagement, engagement, engagement, the new metric on the web and social media!)

The New Mix In Content Delivery

Ah, you’re tired. Think how I feel. This is a long post. Among other notable things said, were these: “It’s not the cloud, it’s the crowd.” A fact that deals in just how many jillions of people the world over are clamoring for varietals of the stuff this crowd talked over. Interesting if implicit: The shape of memories changes, among crowds. Here’s where some of this (to me) gets a little frightening, but one could argue it was similar as soon as Kodak sold steadycams. Andres Espineira, co-founder and CEO of Pixorial , admits that one person’s junk is another’s treasure; indeed, Pixorial, a video content sharing system, deals in that notion that analog memories can be converted to digital worlds too – and shared.
Then there is the excellent Graphicly, run by CEO Micah Baldwin, home to digital comics and a streaming channel for that brand of fictionalized entertainment out into the world. Ben Long’s 123guitartuner.com deals in the music  of “adaptive” blends. We all have a lot of choices but wanting more, more, more choices, is a hallmark of these the DiMe times, Long tells us. As to the live experience, the $8 hot dog, the question inevitably does come up, although so far not in my experience of watching MLB at home. Harris Morris, president of Harris Broadcast Communications, deals in “best screen” for live arena experiences. And in “best suit.” As to what is the uncanny valley, if you’ve read this far, you deserve to know. Here, on Wikipedia. It comes from a Japanese scientist who basically says that the closer robots get to looking human, the more we move over from the ecstasy of the sublime to the terror of the uncanny. Something Mike Kelley knew all about – and his robots were only stuffed animals.

“There is a relationship between the uncanny and the familiar…” he said.

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