Category Archives: bd42f4de-00b1-4471-a049-e2915b01f7fa

HoloLens Fashionista

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While Google Glass certainly had its problems as an augmented reality device – among other things not really being an augmented reality device as GA Tech professor Blair MacIntyre pointed out – it did demonstrate two remarkable things. First, that people are willing to shell out $1500 for new technology. In the debates over the next year concerning the correct price point for VR and AR head mounted displays, this number will play a large role. Second, it demonstrated the importance of a sense of style when designing technology. Google glass, for many reasons, was a brilliant fashion accessory.

If a lesson can be drawn from these two data points, it might be that new — even Project Glass-level iffy — technology can charge a lot if it manages to be fashionable as well as functional.

When you look at the actual HoloLens device, you may, like me, be thinking “I don’t know if I’d wear that out in public.” In that regard, I’d like to nudge your intuitions a bit.

Obviously there is time to do some tweaking with the HL design. I recently found some nostalgic pictures online that made me start to think that with modifications, I could rock this look.

It all revolves around one of the first animes imported to the United States in the 70s called Battle of the Planets. It sounded like this:

Battle of the Planets! G-Force! Princess! Tiny! Keyop! Mark! Jason! And watching over them from Center Neptune, their computerized coordinator, 7-Zark-7! Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies beyond space. G-Force! Fearless young orphans, protecting Earth’s entire galaxy. Always five, acting as one. Dedicated! Inseparable! Invincible!

 

And it looked AMAZING. I think this look could work for HoloLens. I think I could pull it off. The capes and tights, of course, are purely optional.

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Screens, Sensors and Engines

Valve’s recent announcement about their new Vive headset for virtual reality as well as Epic’s announcement that the Unreal Engine is now free made me realize that it is time to once again catalog the current set of future technologies vying for our attention. Just as pre-NUI computer users need the keyboard and mouse, the post-NUI user needs sensors and just as the pre-NUI user required a monitor to see what she was doing, the post-NUI user needs a headset. Here is the list for 2015 from which, you will notice, Google Glass is now absent:

 

Virtual Reality Augmented Reality Sensors Development Platforms
       
Oculus Rift Microsoft HoloLens Microsoft Kinect 2 Unity 3D
Samsung Gear VR Magic Leap Leap Motion Unreal Engine
Google Cardboard castAR Myo WPF
Valve HTC Vive Epson Moverio Intel RealSense Cinder
Sony Project Morpheus   Orbbec openFrameworks
OSVR Razer   Eye Tribe Tracker  
Zeiss VR One      
       

Who Killed Joffrey?

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Who poisoned Joffrey Baratheon at the Purple Wedding in the latest episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones?

Tyrion gets blamed for it – which in the logic of television makes him the only person we can absolutely rule out.  The question, then, is who else has a motive for killing Joffrey?

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It could have been Varys, who has loyalties to the previous two regimes and who, in addition, seems sometimes like a fairly decent person – unlike Joffrey.

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Oberyn Martell is another possibility.  He holds a long standing hatred for the House Lannister going back to the murder of his sister Elia, wife of Rhaegar Targaryen, by Gregore Clagane on Tywin’s orders.

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Bronn and Pod, friends of Tyrion, might have done it to help out their BFF.  Joffrey, after all, tried to have Tyrion murdered at the Battle of the Blackwater.  The problem here is that Tyrion was implicated in the end, which would seem to rule out any of his friends being involved.

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Shae offered to take on all of the other Lannisters for Tyrion and would certainly have the nerve to do something like this.  Despite being spurned by Tyrion, however, it still seems unlikely that she would want to create a situation that would get him into further trouble, no matter how angry she is.

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Maester Pycelle is clearly a person who encourages others to underestimate him.  He has no love for Tyrion, who threw him in the dungeons of the Red Keep while acting as the Hand.  He also knows a lot about poisons and was the person who gave out poison to Queen Cersei during the Battle of the Blackwater.

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And of course there’s Melisandre who used the blood of kings – and some leeches — to perform a ceremony she promised Stannis Baratheon would eliminate his enemies: Rob Stark, Joffrey Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy (Balon, father of Theon/Reek, is the only one currently still alive on the show).

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The truth is, however, that far too many people have motives for wanting Joffrey dead.  In CSI Westeros fashion, it may be time to check the forensics and find out who had opportunity as well as motive.  In order to poison Joffrey, the poison would have to get into his golden drinking cup somehow.   The poison couldn’t have been in the carafe of wine since no one else became ill.   So who had access to the cup?

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Additionally, how do you smuggle the poison into a royal wedding?  There must be people checking for such things.  Where would you hide it?

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To get the poison to the wedding and then into the cup, we’re going to work backwards.  As Joffrey is gasping his last, this weird fellow shows up next to Sansa “Stark” Lannister and tells her to come with him if she wants to live.  Who is he?

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Dontos Hollard first showed up at the start of season two in an episode called The North Remembers.  He is a drunk knight whom Joffrey is about to have killed when Sansa uses a ruse to save Dontos’ life.  Joffrey then has him made into the court fool.  (By the way, note the Captain America theme of Dontos’ armor.  There are references to comic book characters throughout Game of Thrones as George R. R. Martin is a big fan of the genre.)

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In the first episode of season four, he shows up in the Godswood where Sansa is spending some quiet time.  He says he wants to thank her for saving his life by giving her an old family heirloom.

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Sansa promises to always wear the necklace.  She in fact wears it to the royal wedding.  Unbeknown to Sansa, this is how the poison is smuggled into the wedding.

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Now lets follow the golden wine cup which, in this scenario, is our smoking gun.  After making an infelicitous joke, Tyrion has wine poured on his head from it and is told that he should come be the king’s cupbearer.  He is, so far, the only person other than Joffrey who has had access to the cup.

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Not willing to let it go, Joffrey then ratchets up the tension by telling Tyrion to kneel.  Tyrion isn’t about to do that.

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Fortunately Margaery Tyrell, Joffrey’s bride, distracts everyone by yelling “Pie!”

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Joffrey drinks up a last sip of pre-poisoned wine.

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Joffrey hands the cup to Margaery.

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Margaery turns around and places it …

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next …

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to the Tyrells – her father and her grandmother, the Queen of Thorns.

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At this point, we know that Margaery can’t poison the wine because she is standing right behind Joffrey as he cuts the slightly undercooked pigeon pie.

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Having chomped down on some of the pie, Joffrey complains that it is dry and once again goes back to his game of having Tyrion play at being his wine bearer.

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Tyrion picks up the now poisoned cup …

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with the Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna, looking very interested …

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while Tyrion looks very put out …

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and hands it off …

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to the king …

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and things don’t work out well for Joffrey.

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So now that we know when the poison is put in the cup, how did it get there?  You’ll notice in this picture that Sansa, as promised, is wearing the necklace that Dontos gave her.

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Lady Olenna comes by to express her condolences to Sansa.

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If you watch her hands, she plays with Sansa’s hair and then her necklace.  The Queen of Thornes then seems to palm something in her right hand and bring it to the thick folds of her skirt.

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She distracts Sansa from what’s really going on with some simple patter:  “I haven’t had the opportunity to tell you how sorry I was to hear about your brother.  War is war but … killing a man at a wedding — horrid — what sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.”

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Now if you look closely at Sansa’s necklace, you may notice that something is missing.

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Enhance …

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Enhance …

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Enhance …

And just in case you still aren’t completely clear about who killed Joffrey, it was this lady:

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It is also noteworthy that this episode, written by George R. R. Martin himself, marks a turning point in the relationship between the books and the television series.  This is the first time that something only hinted at in the books and still a matter of debate among fans is spelled out explicitly, albeit subtly, in the HBO series.  From now on, readers of the books can no longer be certain of knowing more than tv viewers from week to week.

remix, thanks and glass beads

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On the 6th of August, the Atlanta community put on a conference called ReMIX South based loosely on the aspirations of the MIX conference held each year in Las Vegas to highlight new technology, web design and other stuff.

Here are some quick statistics – we had roughly 438 attendees at ReMIX this year.  We also had 23 speakers and lots of sponsors onsite.

ReMIX garnered an estimated 2000 tweets – estimated because our archive programs capped out at 1500.  ReMIX apparently managed to trend nationally on August 6th on Twitter.

We tried our best to make the conference primarily about the attendees, the speakers and the sponsors.

Now that the event is over, however, I would like to take a moment to thank the people who put the conference together in roughly six weeks.

The main organizers were Cliff Jacobson, Sean Gerety, Dennis Estanislao, Farhan Rabbi, and Wells Caughey.

In addition, we had great logistical help from Corey Schuman, Linda Gerety, Ted Jacobson and Glen Gordon as the event unfolded and in the post-event period.

Additional help was provided by Joel Johnson, Ginny Caughey, Jonathan Marbutt and Shawn Wildermuth during the phone garage and also by Erin Gerety, Sophia Ashley, Paul Ashley, and Sharesh Vadali who put the registration packets together the night before ReMIX.

I want to highlight some of the skills and labor the organizers put towards the event.  They all did more than I can possibly recall, but certain things stand out.

Cliff Jacobson took care of our finances, as well as all the negotiating with the hotel, logistical planning with the hotel and A/V.  It was a lot and we basically just piled more responsibilities on him as the event approached since he never seemed to say no.  In short, the event never would have happened without his organizational skills.  In the post-event period, Cliff has also taken on the editing of our video footage and – as far as we can tell – has only had 3 hours of sleep a night for several weeks.

Sean Gerety used his persuasive powers to bring together an amazing UX track, organize the speaker dinner, and smooth over the bumps.  Sean is one of the best connected people in the Microsoft UX community and we used his connections for all they were worth.

Dennis Estanislao designed and maintained our website, which was the anchor for the event and, until the day of the event itself, perhaps the only proof that ReMIX South was actually happening.  As many people have learned in the past, a good website is the backbone of a good conference and keeping it up to date and accurate is a fulltime job.

Farhan Rabbi was essential to making this a true cross-discipline and bi-partisan event.  Throwing a conference that is attractive to both microsoft as well as non-microsoft people, attractive to both CRUX and developers, is no easy task.  Putting the lie to Kipling’s statement that never the twain shall meet, Farhan made sure that ReMIX was both ecumenical and catholic while at the same time gathering all the local talent for the amazing HTML5 track.

Wells Caughey threw himself into doing whatever was needed to get us over the finish line.  In addition to pulling together the mobile track (admittedly the most difficult of the tracks to plan and find speakers for) he also managed our commons area.

Linda Gerety handled the registration for us, staying up late the night before to prepare and manning the tables the whole day.  Corey Schuman manned the registration tables, took photos of the event, and is helping to get the recordings we managed to capture of the talks up for streaming.  Both Linda and Corey did airport runs for us to pick up speakers. Also thanks to Zach Pousman for the after party at Eclipse di Luna and the celebration of the world wide web’s 20th anniversary.  Thanks also to Kristina McInerny who just started helping us out spontaneously as well as Dave Ward and Ben Von Handorf for building phone apps for reMIX.

The thanks they receive for all this work is pretty much just some glass beads and a pat on the back.  If you see them around and happen to have enjoyed the remix experience, please let them know.

Glass beads also play a peripheral role in the organization of ReMIX.  The Glass Bead Game is the title of Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse’s 1943 book about an intellectual game of the future based on montage and pastiche – basically putting dissimilar things side-by-side and seeing what connections players can make between them. 

This is what we attempted to do at ReMIX.  We combined top local and national speakers presenting on a variety of technologies from both the Microsoft and non-Microsoft worlds, covering UX, design and development.  It was curated, of course – we tried to be careful to put things together we thought would work well, but still … We put all these different communities together, crossed our fingers, and waited to see what would happen.

Our thanks go out to the attendees, the speakers and the sponsors for making our version of the Glass Bead Game a great success.

We’ll be updating the www.remixsouth.com website with links to slide decks, photos and video recordings over the next weeks.  Check in frequently to get the latest changes.

a footnote to the retreat of the mind

HelmsDeep

The latest Atlantic contains an article by Brian Christian on the annual Turing Test held in Brighton, England.  In order to pass the Turing Test (also known as the Loebner Prize) a computer program must be able to fool 30 percent of the people it interacts with that it is human.  In 2008, one program missed this goal by only one vote.

In the article, Christian quotes Douglas Hofstadter, the author of Godel, Escher, Bach, on the problem of ‘The Sentence.’   The Sentence is the perennial attempt to frame the all-important definition “The human being is the only animal that …”  We once thought this sentence could be completed with uses language, uses tools, does mathematics, or plays chess, only to be confounded each time by further discoveries about the natural and mechanical world.

‘Sometimes it seems,’ says Douglas Hofstadter […] ‘as though each new step towards AI, rather than producing something which everyone agrees is real intelligence, merely reveals what real intelligence is not.’  While at first this seems a consoling position – one that keeps our unique claim to thought intact – it does bear the uncomfortable appearance of a gradual retreat, like a medieval army withdrawing from the castle to the keep.  But the retreat can’t continue indefinitely.  Consider: if everything that we thought hinged on thinking turns out to not involve it, then … what is thinking?  It would seem to reduce to either an epiphenomenon – a kind of exhaust thrown off by the brain – or, worse, an illusion.  Where is the keep of our selfhood? [emphasis mine]

I have always been a fan of footnotes.  In complex academic works, it is usually the footnotes that contain the most fascinating insights.  They are, in a sense, the epiphenomena of the academic world. 

Stephen H. Voss has a fine translation of Descartes’s The Passions of the Soul, a work Descartes wrote for Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia years after separating the mind and the body in his Meditations on First Philosophy.  What comes out in this later work – and to which attention is drawn in Voss’s footnotes — is that the line between mind and body is not a geographical division like that between countries, but rather a kinesthetic separation between the inside and the outside.  In The Passions, Descartes even begins talking about the inner soul and the interior of the soul, further subdividing the line between self and world.

Concerning this, Voss writes in footnote 78:

Since the soul has no parts […], it is hard to see how to distinguish theoretically the interieur, let alone le plus interieur, of the soul from the rest of it.  As we intimated in note 27* in Part I, it is perhaps more reasonable to see such passages as signs of Descartes’s genuinely neo-Stoic attitude toward the world.  We have seen his focus successively narrow in this work: the body, the pineal gland, the soul, and now its ‘interior.’  A similar itinerary can be traced in the First Meditation: objects that are very small or far away, familiar nearby objects, the body and its senses, the soul and its reason.  And so can one more: examining ‘the great book of the world’ on military travels through several countries; Amsterdam, Leyden, and the isolated village of Egmond; and finally the palace in Stockholm.  What walled fastness can ever provide security? [emphasis mine]

I’ve always wondered if this kinesthetic problem of interiors and exteriors is related to the solution of using metalanguages to avoid problems of self-referentiality in logic.  In particular, I’m thinking of Douglas Hofstadter’s chapter in Godel, Escher, Bach describing Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Matematica,  called “Banishing Strange Loops”:

Russell and Whitehead did subscribe to this view [that self-reference is the root of all evil in logic], and accordingly, Principia Mathematica was a mammoth exercise in exorcising Strange Loops from logic, set theory, and number theory.  The idea of their system was basically this.  A set of the lowest ‘type’ could contain only ‘objects’ as members – not sets.  A set of the next type up could only contain objects, or sets of the lowest type.  In general, a set of a given type could only contain sets of lower type, or objects.  Every set would belong to a specific type.  Clearly, no set could contain itself because it would have to belong to a type higher than its own type […]  To all appearances, then, this theory of types, which we might also call the ‘theory of the abolition of Strange Loops’, successfully rids set theory of its paradoxes, but only at the cost of introducing an artificial-seeming hierarchy, and of disallowing the formation of certain kinds of sets…

This connection I am (less-than-tentatively) proposing, of course, only works if interior and exterior can be mapped to the notions of higher and lower level languages.  This is, however, how we typically think of the emergent self in evolutionary biology.  The highest part of the mind — the most selfish bit – is also the last to have developed in time, while the lizard brain, which the higher functions always seek to constrain, is also considered the part that is least ourselves – it is a mechanical, biological process, and when that lizard brain is in control, we are out of control.


*footnote 27: A pervasive Cartesian conviction is that what is far away can deceive, while what is close at hand can give security.  That is true not only of epistemic security (in addition to the present passage, see Meditations 1 and 3: AT VII, 18 and 37: CSM II, 12-13 and 27; and a. 1 above), but also of emotional security (see Discourse, Part 3: AT VI, 25-27: CSM I, 123-124; and aa 147-148 below).