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    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Virtual Reality is a big pool

    As some of my (very few) readers might know, I'm doing research on the Philosophy of virtual reality. In crawling the Web for others who are trying to define the term, I came across a Chinese posting which looked interesting. I do not know any Chinese, so I tried Google's translate function. As expected, the result was rather incomrehensible, but it was still an interesting read in a postmodern way:

    "The main text of the definition of virtual reality, the first of a number of examples of virtual reality system and the right people previously definition of the concept of virtual reality, a pair of virtual reality that the original meaning of a word in Translation easily lead to misunderstanding. Then the author of virtual reality to the definition of three attributes: the simulation, interactive and imaginary. and that virtual reality system is the real world and the inherent nature of the things the simulation and emulation; Virtual reality system is a result of people moving, depicts a virtual reality system and human relations; Virtual Reality System operators can provide a reasonable room for imagination to operate staff can live virtual environment for effective operation. for more puzzling imagination of a footnote. Finally, virtual reality is a big pool, it is entirely possible as a subject."

    Perhaps most interesting, the finishing statement that VR is a big pool, and that it is entirely possible as a subject. In linguistic terms, I guess the latter could mean that we are legitimate in saying that "Virtual reality is...". More radical, and not a position I'm willing to adopt, is the statement "virtual reality system is the real world" and it is, in fact, the inherent nature of thing that is a simulation. I guess this underlines the puzzling imagination of a footnote (sic).

    PS! The illustration is for illustrative purposes only. I just found it using Google's image search, and for some very odd reason it is signed with my real life initials O_o

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    Mediadefender and -- Blatant entrapment

    I'm not going to say much about this, since it has already been covered in great detail elsewhere. However, in case you haven't come across it yet, I'd like to bring to your attention a somewhat shocking insight into the workings of anti-piracy companies. The company in question is Mediadefender, a company which offers services designed to prevent and stop people who engage in alleged copyright infringements. Recently, 700mb of mediadefender's emails have been retrieved and posted online (see 'elsewhere' link above). Among the many disconcerting strategies revealed in the email, the most shocking one is that they launched a Youtube-like Website called, which was designed to lure hackers into uploading illegal content and then take action accordingly. One of the most clear-cut examples of entrapment I have ever seen. I am not one who unconditionally support large-scale piracy, but the use of entrapment is a serious violation of fundamental rule of law.

    Sunday, September 2, 2007

    I crashed into my building today... with an F-16

    I think that one of the reasons why many newspapers love reporting from virtual environments etc. is that it allows them to come up with fantastic headlines. Disappointment often follows, though. So, allow me to offer my apologies for not really having crashed an F-16 into my building... only virtually. I hope I can make it up, however, by pointing out a fantastic easter egg in Google's newest version of Google Earth. Google Earth, as you probably know, is an excellent program that allows you to see the entire world (and even parts of the universe) in astonishing detail. The easter egg I'm talking about can be seen by opening google earth and pressing ctrl-alt-a. This starts up a flight simulator (!). Yes, you can actually take off, from a selection of airports, and fly around the actual earth. I cannot really describe how good it is, but as soon as you get used to the flight controls (which takes some time) you can experience what it feels like to fly 10 feet above the ground in Los Angeles, dive into the grand canyon... you name it. To my big suprise, one of the airports offered is the small airport of my old home town Trondheim. Imagine my joy when lifting off, just to look down on my house (which lies just next to the airport). Taking off from Hamburg, I also managed to fly my F-16 to the University of Twente Campus (where I'm currently living) and, although having lost complete control over the plane, managed to kamikaze myself into my building. In other (more complicated) words, I was sitting at home, flying a virtual airplane that crashed into the virtual building I was sitting in. If you click on the picture above, you can see my building to the right (where there's a transparent pin) seconds before impact... I highly recommend you to find your own building and smash into it. Some pointers for doing so:
    • You have to press ctrl-alt-a to toggle the flight simulator the first time. This didn't work for me the first time, but try searching for and zooming into San Francisco Airport first. This did the trick for me.
    • The slow plane is much easier to handle than the F-16. Unless you have to travel a long time in order to reach your destination, stick to the slow one.
    • If you're lost, you can toggle back to the earth view (exit simulator) by pressing ctrl-alt-a. There you can orient yourself, and when toggling back to the flight simulator simply choose the option to continue where you left off.
    • City names, landmarks etc. do not show up in the simulator, but pins do. Thus, if you want to head for a specific destination simple place a pin there. However, the pin doesn't appear until you're relativele close, so if your destination is far away you have to travel blindly in roughly the right direction before being able to navigate towards the pin. This can be done by looking at the compass in top of the screen and/or by toggling as explained above.
    Happy flying!

    UPDATE (April 4, 2008): I am pretty sure the keyboard combination was ctrl-alt-a back then, but this does not work anymore. Try ctrl-a instead.