Is it alright to say the Emperor has no clothes?
I seem to receive quite a lot of flack when I make it a point to state the obvious. Being a trend forecaster isn’t exactly the most rewarding job, since most of the time what you say is either wildly misinterpreted or causes people who have the most to lose from you being correct to turn their ire and scorn on you.
A lot of the time it’s just a thankless position to be in.
I’m not necessarily in a position where the point of being a synthetic environment S.M.E. is about recognition or praise, but instead it’s about trying to push an industry forward and break the stigma of failure that keeps repeating. That being said, you can only lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Even worse, a lot of times you’ll find that they’ll just rear up and kick you in the chest for trying.
So, too, we find a similar situation with a lot of things that I openly discuss. Whether it be about Second Life, HighFidelity, or other more mundane things like why avatars shouldn’t all be unrealistic proportions and heights.
In the case of Second Life, the Linden White-Wash campaign baffles me. It is fully in their right to insist on rose colored glasses and surrounding themselves with people who will gladly be in agreement with whatever they have to say, and of course it is in their right to surround themselves with only the people who will readily praise them.
But is that really beneficial in the end?
No, this is hardly the case.
When you read the articles online about Second Life, the negative aspects are what you read most often. Proponents of Second Life call that lazy journalism or that if they’d all just give it another chance they’d see how great it is. But the truth is somewhere in between what Linden Lab insists is reality and what the rest of the world outside of that rose tinted bubble says.
Keeping in mind that Linden Lab did throw pretty much everyone under the bus at one point or another leading up to today. Whether we’re talking about educational sims, opensim, third party developers, and even many companies that had a Second Life presence, Linden Lab leeched the hell out of all of them and then threw them all under the bus. Make no mistake, that’s what they seem to be doing best.
From a social media and marketing viewpoint, Linden Lab is doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing if they wanted to truly make things right and rebuild their credibility. Gary Vaynerchuk aid it best in 2011 (and ongoing) when he was talking with the brands he was representing, I believe Pepsi being one of them. There was a conversation about them having done something that was clearly despicable and it had turned into a social media backlash. When they asked Gary what they should do, he imply asked “Were you actually wrong?”
They replied “Yeah, but …”
There is no “Yeah but…” – “Were you actually wrong?”
See, the point Gary was making is that if you try to establish a PR bubble and whitewash the situation, you will actually do more damage to your reputation than good, because a majority of people will see through your bullshit and ignore your prepackaged reality to state things as they are, and not how you’d like them to be.
What is the benefit if you convince a few hundred people to constantly praise you if the rest who aren’t so prone to drinking the kool-aid are talking to the other 6 billion people on Earth? Even when it comes down to the JIRA, there is some serious white-washing going on and trying to bury the things that don’t coincide with their reality away from public eyes where it could make them look bad.
A perfect example of this is the difference between Mesh Deformer and Materials. Mesh Deformer was funded by the community, worked on and arguably completed long ago. Linden Lab locked down the JIRA in order to bury the things they didn’t want known publicly or to stifle that very type of community involvement – hence the whole Shared Experience and red-tape bullshit and hoop you have to jump through now just to get anything approved and done if you are dealing with Second Life. Before it was an organic evolution that left the best to be adopted in the whole, but Linden Lab was losing that game because they simply didn’t want to play nice. Their own viewer is not exactly one that people (given a choice) actually use, and so you saw how Linden Lab actively (and maliciously) started screwing everyone over.
Changes to the licensing that forced TPVs to play by Linden Lab’s rules and if they didn’t like it they could go scratch on the OpenSim grids. Implementing some sort of control channel that people who want to implement anything for a TPV viewer dealing with Second Life have to get some sort of approval from Linden Lab and (what amounts to) kissing their ass sufficiently.
Which brings us back to the difference between materials and mesh deformer.
Not to say that Materials aren’t nice (they are), but Mesh deformer is actually a solution to a widespread problem that has been paid for, worked on, and is (as far as anyone can really tell) ready to be implemented. But after maybe a year sitting in limbo with Linden Lab dragging their feet, treated like the black sheep bastard child they wish would just die and go away, it remains in the JIRA and unimplemented. In stark contrast, a new feature that doesn’t really fix anything gets expedited openly.
This is how the game is played now… either kiss their ass and do as they say, or you can’t participate. I don’t like how this works because it is wholly disingenuous and a corporate douchebag maneuver on their end any way you look at it.
So is it any wonder that trust is broken and the rest of the world has little good to say about Second Life?
Aside from the occasional PR fluff piece in order to (try to) make Linden Lab look good while sweeping the rest into the closet out of sight… one cannot readily blame the media for their negative perception of Second Life as the “They’re still around?” mentality. The only good press they seem to be getting in the real world (outside the rose tinted world) is the involvement with Oculus Rift which amounts to Linden Lab attempting to leech off of something else that is enjoying a bunch of hype in order to look cool again by comparison.
More or less that’s pretty much like hanging out with Macaulay Culkin right after he made Home Alone but before anyone realized he was hanging out at Neverland Ranch. It’s only hot until the hype bubble bursts and then nobody is really going to want to touch it with a twenty foot pole.
If there is any example of this asinine delusional thinking of PR, one only has to watch the Rod Humble “interview” with the Drax Files. I put interview in heavy quotes because from what I know, the questions were pre-submitted for Linden Lab to decide what they will and will not answer, and there was no room for anything that would deviate from what they were dictating would be the conversation. It was, for all intents and purposes, just a 5 minute promotional video dictated by Linden Lab ahead of time.
Now, if you want to talk about shoddy “journalism” – that’s what it looks like.
While I do enjoy what Drax is doing with his show, the Rod Humble interview wasn’t worth the time to be watched. It wasn’t a big deal, to be honest. Just PR fluff and a perpetual public relations bullshit piece that answered nothing other than how great they were and how everything is peachy. I’m kind of disappointed that Drax played along with that charade because the charade does more of a disservice than had he refused to interview Rod Humble unless he was open to questions that people *actually* wanted answers to.
That’s really what need to happen if you want this Fairy Tale to have a happy ending. You can fuel that charade all you want, but it doesn’t cover the real issues at hand nor does any of that actually get solved. So while the Second Life people who get attention from Linden Lab think they’re special… they aren’t. In the real world, where people aren’t catering to Linden Lab for favoritism, they tell it like it is because they are after the truth of the matter, not favoritism.
There is, of course, lazy journalism where they just copy the press release and call it a day – but you have to realize that they really don’t give a shit about Second Life anymore and any time they are put on to write about it, what they really want to write is
“Has-been company Linden Lab, (maker of Second Life), who threw nearly everyone under the bus or left them out to dry with a mountain of hype they couldn’t live up to, wants us all to pretend that never happened and write something flattering about them again.”
In the real world, Rod Humble doesn’t get to influence what is written about Linden Lab or Second Life. At least not to the totalitarian extent as they do with the bloggers and TPVs internally for that rose colored bubble they live in.
Which brings us back to the other point of what good is controlling maybe a thousand people going to do you if billion of people on Earth think otherwise?
Ergo, the Emperor has no clothes.
Then we talk about HighFidelity, which is inevitable at this point. It’s actually a good thing I wasn’t at the Burn2 event where he was being interviewed because I would have (without hesitation) tore HighFidelity apart, and the line he was selling.
Does that make me a bad person? Not in the least. That doesn’t even make Philip a bad person, because I can separate the business hype bullshit from the person. It is no worse than somebody pointing out (again) that the Emperor has no clothes. It doesn’t matter how many people want to scorn me for it, or threaten to stop following me on social media, or how they’ll never read this blog again.
The Emperor still has no clothes. And here’s the picture to prove it.
It’s not an opinion, it is fact.
Right out of the gate, HighFidelity is stating a contradiction in plain sight on the website for what they plan to achieve. They believe voxel technology is the future (which is true), then explain that what they are doing will allow a high fidelity detailed virtual environment visible into the horizon using sparse voxel octree methods.
This is where we back the train up a moment because sparse voxel octree won’t do that – at least not to my knowledge nor most game industry knowledge. Why do you think there was such a huge fallout when Euclideon announced unlimited detail in software mode in 32 FPS on a laptop?
The underlying restriction is that sparse voxel octree is excellent when it comes to single objects, which is why it is awesome in medical imaging and widely used. But the underlying issue is when you start adding more and more unique objects to the scene, which is essentially what you are going to do when building a virtual world (duh)… then the memory and computation requirement starts skyrocketing.
There is one of two trade-offs you can have at that point:
1. Either you can reduce the fidelity of the rendered environment
2. Apply brute force computation (Super Computer)
Prior to Euclideon and the Unlimited Detail engine, point cloud data had to be pre-rendered for presentation up to a half hour or a few hours in advance, and when it came to real-time visualization it was severely limited or outright broken if you dealt with too much data.
Euclideon, despite the world screaming they are a hoax, went ahead and just made that a reality – a company named Aerometrex (a geospatial visualization company in Austrailia) partnered with Euclideon to use GeoVerse. Sitting around crying about how you or I cannot get our hands on a demo is petty and childish at best. The reason isn’t because the technology doesn’t exist (like a lot of people want to insist) but because you’re simply not worth their time to bother with.
Apparently a little less impossible than everyone thought
At the same time, when originally proven wrong that Euclideon didn’t have the engine to begin with and that what they were claiming was impossible, it makes little sense to then change your tune and say “Well, see? They released GeoVerse, but they’ll never release a game engine! It’s impossible!”
I’ve even seen a lot of talk about how GeoVerse was the goal all along and that Euclideon never was going to release a game engine from the start. Which I say to those people: Bullshit.
I know this is wrong, and that Euclideon is working on the game engine still, because I actually asked Bruce Dell and I’ve seen some of the preliminary work with that game engine.
Here was his reply as of April 16, 2013 in case you were wondering:
The answer to this question is that Euclideon is not just working with Geospatial industry.
We have been working really hard and we are making both a games engine that is heavily based on laser scanning, as well as a full game.
Regarding static visualization, we have always had the fall back position of Euclideon backgrounds with polygon characters, but we still choose not to use that fallback position and both our engine and game will be using unlimited detail based animated characters.
We feel that on the one hand we really are over due to release something for the games industry, on the other hand i think that when people see what it is we have been doing here they will feel its rather a big leap forward over what exists and I hope every one will feel it really was worth the wait.
It’s pretty obvious at this point that HighFidelity doesn’t have access to Euclideon’s Unlimited Detail engine because of how they are structuring things on their end. Back to the two tenants that give it away as listed above:
Either you lower the fidelity to compensate, or you brute force the computation with a super computer.
If he had something like Euclideon, then HighFidelity would require neither trade-off in order to reach photorealism to the horizon. This puts HighFidelity squarely into the realm of sparse voxel octree or an optimized variation at best.
Which brings us to why HighFidelity needs to use the Seti@Home distributed computing approach and why Philip thinks you should run your spare computer and bandwidth to process the world for him. With sparse voxel octree doing what he states it will be used for, he has no other choice but to throw a super computer at it.
Clearly he cannot afford a super computer, so the bright idea is to spin it in a way that seems like all of you will be altruistic and be his servers for him. It’s a pretty sweet deal when you think about it – no overhead of running servers, everyone else foots the bill and CPU load of a photorealistic voxel persistent universe.
The problem with this (aside from the absolute asinine assumptions) is that if there aren’t enough people to process everything, it is still going to severely degrade in appearance to compensate, or it is going to choke even a high end computer trying to keep up.
This is beside the point of all the asynchronous bandwidth you’ll be using and processing to “participate”. I think it’s pretty clear from the Skylight Viewer that Linden Lab tried (and failed at) that a large majority of users aren’t in a position to be chewing up that much bandwidth on a constant basis, and not as many people as he’s thinking actually have spare computers laying around just to process the world for HighFidelity.
But the underlying problem is simply that a lot of things were taken very very far out of context, and then applied to a business model with incomplete or willful ignorance of the subject at hand. The only reason he got away with it is because he’s Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life. It’s a case of reputation versus reality when it comes right down to it.
If there is any reason why that aggravates me, it’s because the entire industry is poised to pay (once again) for Philip’s snake-oil sale. If the industry already is in a world of hurt from the Second Life round, what do you think the damage will be if they all get thrown under the bus again with hype and false promises?
To add insult to injury, Google Ventures is one of their investors, as well as Linden Lab themselves (so you can take a wild guess what Linden Lab is thinking).
If you come from the research side of things, you look at a situation like this and think:
This guy… took many years of research and valid trend forecasts for technology, wildly misinterpreted it or willfully ignored the conclusions, and then told Google Ventures and Linden Lab that an entire industry worth of research from countless PhDs around the world are wrong, and successfully raised a few million dollars in capital out of the gate without so much as a prototype.
So is this just whining? Not at all – I’m pointing out the blatantly obvious problem with HighFidelity and how even the claim of a decentralized collaborative virtual world system not existing anywhere on Earth is a flat out fabrication.
I have the ~200MB worth of source code and research paper from INRIA that says otherwise, named Solipsis Decentralized Metaverse, sitting on my external hard drive.
Even better is the lecture I gave for Loyola Marymount University for Dr. Richard Gilbert and Dr. John Dionisio’s class where we specifically talked about a decentralized methodology to apply for a scalable Metaverse, and that turned into a topic as part of the published research paper in Association for Computing Machinery (which should be out in a few weeks).
Am I worried about it?
No, but that isn’t going to stop me from saying the Emperor still has no clothes.
Me, personally… I have nothing to worry about. I’m going to be highly amused and entertained watching this ship hit the iceberg.
When you need a super computer to run your new system… something is seriously wrong. I don’t care if Google Ventures and Linden Lab are throwing money at him, all the money in the world, and all the biggest names didn’t stop the Titanic from sinking, remember that. Don’t fault the guy for pointing out the damned iceberg.
I find it interesting that whenever I make (what seems to me like) blatantly obvious observations about the current and future of a technology, and more often than not it comes true, I still to this day get people throwing some sort of hissy fit about it. Like I somehow stopped being right about things all of these years… which for a majority of the time I’ve been surprisingly on the nose about it all. It isn’t new to me to have somebody acting like I have no credibility (or even blatantly laughing and stating I don’t) only to watch them get damned quiet when they are forced to backtrack that sentiment later on.
ActiveWorlds is a classic case of this. In 2007 I left a list of things that company needed to do if they wanted to regain their ability to compete. After all manner of shitstorm and people declaring I had no credibility anymore, the company banned me from their forums and made a joke out of it.
The funny thing is -
From 2007 onward to today, they started actually implementing everything I told them they had to. Recently, they got to the “make citizenships free, and work off of microtransactions” recommendation, along the way implementing PhysX, and making other changes that were listed in the forum post I left for them while I worked at VR5 Online as their CTO.
The last thing on their list is to rebuild the ActiveWorlds engine using something updated like UnrealEngine or Unity. A modern engine for modern times.
The same thing happened to BlueMars when in the beginning I told them they were destined to fail for following the same model as Worlds Inc in the 90s. They again were typical in telling me I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about and they knew better.
Again, the same situation for Atari as what happened with ActiveWorlds, where they were left with a clear plan of action to avoid ruin and didn’t implement it until they got desperate and after the fact they scorned and laughed.
I said the same thing to Bruce at Avaya/webAlive during an IEEE meeting and he (predictably) told me I didn’t have any credibility. I had told him that Avaya/WebAlive was akin to the web VRML/X3D push in the 90s where everyone was saying (surprise!) VR is the Future of the Web! This is also why I don’t think Virtual Worlds Framework really has much of a future in that regard either, because we already have standards for 3D on the web but nobody uses them anymore.
If anyone was truly interested in 3D on the Web, they’d have made a WebGL version for X3D and VRML, extending it for modern graphics.
You don’t hear much from Bruce anymore about Avaya/WebAlive and for good reason. He realized I wasn’t bullshitting.
I have a long and extensive history in this industry for being able to call this stuff in advance, and very accurately. Yet, just as predictably, people are quick to tell me off or say I have no credibility when I make these predictions.
What people choose to believe and the truth have yet to be properly introduced.
This I why I have no love for Oculus Rift or even LeapMotion.
Oculus Rift is riding on a lot of hype, but at the end of the day it will revitalize the VR industry in the same way as every other virtual reality headset from the 1990s onward to today. How many of you own a VFX Headset?
The answer is close to zero.
Oculus Rift will enjoy the same success and adoption rate as the VFX 3D Headset. It’s not going to reignite the virtual reality industry or save it. It’ll enjoy some hype for awhile, and it’ll be just what it really is – A Fad.
I give the same designation to Leap Motion technology. The first thing that came to mind was the CueCat scanner back in the turn of the century. Nobody owns one today, and to wit – technology exists that makes Leap Motion obsolete before they even get out of the gate, using your exiting wi-fi router to give you gesture control all over the house. But even in a limited fashion, there isn’t going to be a wide adoption rate for Leap Motion because the same people who would use it for gesture based control would also opt for a touch screen tablet.
And I’ll even give it the benefit through the whole idea of 3D space… it is an inefficient way to work for hours on end, holding your hands and arm out like that versus at rest on a mouse or keyboard.
It just doesn’t have a long term use. If you’ve ever held your arms out for more than fifteen minutes, this would have been blatantly obvious already.
Choice of Reality
I get all kinds of flack for this stuff on a constant basis, but what irks me most is when people base their contention on things I actually didn’t say. It’s one thing to be pissed off for something I did say (even if you’re still wrong), but too many spend their time lately having an attitude for things they entirely invented that I said.
Even worse is when they have to prop that up with denying I said things that I actually did say!
Some people just have a warped sense of reality, and choose to believe things they make up in their head.
Not for nothing, but I’m not interested in arguing against your imagination. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even care if people follow me on Google+, Twitter, or Facbook. It’s a mild suggestion at best, and it’s there if you feel like it.
I’m writing this stuff as an honest assessment from my years of experience and from the vantage point of having an excellent track record for being correct. I’m not sugar coating things, or drinking kool-aid just to make people happy. I’m just stating things as they are regardless if people like it or not.
What am I doing about HighFidelity?
I’ve had this question asked one too many times lately, so I’ll answer below before I lay this insanity to rest:
I’m going to let that ship slam into the iceberg, and if I’m lucky most of you will be on board when it does. Maybe then somebody will get the point.
That isn’t to say they aren’t doing some interesting research, or that some of it will be applicable to future systems. It’s just to say that it doesn’t really matter if they’re serving lobster on the Titanic or not.
In the meantime, I guess the old saying applies:
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Contrary to popular belief (sorry Nebadon Izumi) I’m not just sitting around and “whining”. There’s this pesky thing called an NDA which says I am legally not allowed to disclose what I’m working on (and have been for the past year). That tends to happen when you’re involved with Lockheed Martin, et al.
But if you’ve been paying attention to anything in this blog since the beginning, you wouldn’t have to ask what I’m working on… now would you? At the very least, what was said here over the years precedes the NDAs I’m bound to.
Figure it out, Sherlock.
And if this blog disappears entirely, you know why.