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The 20/20 Newsletter

It’s been a little quiet here on the blog, and I realized that I should probably let the interwebs in on what’s going on behind the scenes…

Some point late last year I realized that I built my first interactive virtual worlds on a Pentium 300 running Windows 95 with a Voodoo2 graphics card back in 1998. That’s 20 years ago! So I decided to celebrate by sending out a newsletter each month in 2018. Part looking back at how far we have (or haven’t) come and part peering into where we’re headed, I’m sending it out via email. You can get in on the action by subscribing over on the right hand side of the blog.

January kicked off with a video featuring 90s HMDs and some wacky haptic input devices. February’s Black & White edition explored photography pioneer Joel Sternfeld’s quote: “Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world”, including:

  • Silent film spoof with instructions on “How to Build a Virtual World”… made back in the 90s
  • Black & White art from the Museum of Modern Art’s “Thinking Machines: Art & Design in the Computer Age” exhibit
  • Epic “Bot & Dolly” projection mapping project

And a few thoughts on the correlation between B&W photography and Immersive

I heard that some of you were disappointed I wasn’t actually in the Godzilla video last month. So I dug around to find a video from my VR making days in the 90s to find the most cringe-worthy, humiliating evidence possible. One video in particular is a true gem: “How to Build a Virtual World”, made some time in 1998. Likely at the expense of any kind of professional reputation I might have gained, I have included a link to it below.

Watching the black and white spoof got me thinking about how photography was a black and white medium for almost a hundred years. Early technological advancements in the medium didn’t attempt to add color to achieve realism, but to improve the production process: making the technology more affordable, stable, and portable. Even after color processing was finally achieved, it would be decades before color photography was accepted as a fine art medium.

Immersive technology is very much in its black and white phase. Like early photography, VR abstracts reality by the pure fact that it can not yet accurately replicate the real world. It can barely function. We’re in a precious moment in time where the limitations of immersive technology hold an intrinsic artistic advantage. The real world does not exist here yet. This is the realm of the hypothetical, the philosophical, and the abstract. And when the color phase comes – when physics engines are flawless, volumetric graphics are perfect imitations of reality, and quantum computers are processing data at inconceivable speeds – we may find that these early, abstracted “strange worlds” hold deeper truths than any perfectly simulated reality.

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