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Inventing the Future (oculus.com)
62 points by astigsen 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments

So much corporate communication is, in the end, just recruiting advertisements.

These big companies Like Facebook and Amazon need to create gigantic free universities that are incredibly appealing to attend, giving the corporation the chance to cream off the most promising new employees.

I am over thirty, so I am permitted to be cynical ;). While I completely agree that AR and VR are the future and have many recreational and non-recreational applications, Facebook's goal for VR is to further read user preferences (I guess that they've wished to have eye tracking on Facebook for ages) and to inject advertising in more subtle manners.

So, the question is: do you really want to work for Facebook (et al.) and get the technology patent-locked to be used for reading of, influencing of, and advertising to people? Or do you want to change the world for the common good?

It is worrying that so much talent gets 'lost' [1] to spying/advertising companies because universities and non-profits cannot match or come close to the (personal) benefits of working at such companies.

[1] I am not denying that the big tech companies have provided a lot of progress.

> Or do you want to change the world for the common good?


It seems to me that "lost" effort is a very normal state of things. Even if we picked a worthy cause and worked cleverly and tirelessly for it, the our successors could easily come in and trash our work.

It also seems to me that the real "change the world" technologies don't solve problems but change our day-to-day lives: the printing press, cars, PCs, radio, television, consumer-focused logistics (Wal-Mart, Amazon delivery), vaccines, sanitation, running water, electricity, etc. Not all of these things are good. Not all are bad. But when Silicon Valley people say "change the world", they don't usually mean "work for (the next) Ford" or "work for (the next) AT&T".

These technologies do solve problems in a big way:

- printing press solved the problem of mass distribution of written knowledge and propaganda (By the way, invented by Chinese not Gutenberg but got lost in political turmoil), also paper money

- cars solved a problem of slow transport and having to care for fussy animals

- radio solved the problem of long range communication

- vaccines solved the problem of certain recurring plagues

- likewise sanitation

- running water solved a problem of having to walk long distances especially to irrigate crops (aqueducts, Babylonian invention)

- electricity solved a problem of cheap transport of energy (as opposed to coal for steam boilers)

Consumer focused logistics is much older than both Wal-Mart and Amazon. And does not really solve a problem in as much as is an optimization over older delivery methods.

I'm not crazy about Facebook as a company either, but is it fair to assume that they'll keep the same business model forever?

It's a less error-prone approach than speculating on how they might improve in the future and using that to judge their present actions.

> These big companies Like Facebook and Amazon need to create gigantic free universities that are incredibly appealing to attend, giving the corporation the chance to cream off the most promising new employees.

That sounds very dystopic to me; I prefer universities to be publicly owned, managed, and funded (and completely free to join), and for them not to concentrate on following "what employers want" in their cursus.

I am a bit tired seeing universities change their program all the time (at least in CS) to follow the latest fad or latest trendy platform / solution / language. University shouldn't form people to get a job; they should provide general knowledge, encourage open mindedness and critical thinking, and provide a strong theoretical background for their students in their specific knowledge domain.

Let the students learn their job during their first employment; but in university, give them enough deep understanding of theory so that they'll be able to adapt to whatever tools / solutions will appear in the future (and also concentrate on making them able to learn and adapt by themselves in general).

How has he never heard "I want to invent the future", I thought that was pretty much a staple. I've heard that in business consulting interviews for years.

Imagine that your glasses replace all your electronic devices – phones, TVs, computers, e-book readers, game consoles, the whole lot – with virtual versions, in the process making them inexpensive and instantly upgradeable.

AR can replace these objects visually. But phones have touchscreens, game consoles have controllers, even TVs have remotes -- how do you interact with anything in this AR future?

Sign language and gestures perhaps?

We're still quite some ways from making this reliable.

Here is a pithy clickbait title: "How the AR will turn us all into Italians"

Abrash's Zen of Graphics Programming was my first programming book I really loved.. still thanks, but no thanks.

> Well, Google has some new, ridiculous thing, they're marketing glasses which have a small computer on them. So you can be on the internet 24 hours a day, just what you want. It's a way of destroying people,


Call him an old fool for not liking your toy, but I think he has his priorities straight, which not a lot of people can say for themselves.

> smart, motivated people who want to change the world

People who do things like invent penicillin don't talk about "changing the world" or "inventing the future" all the time. Orwell enhanced our perspective on a lot of things but I think he simply wanted to get it out of his system. Kafka? Wanted his stuff burned. Konrad Zuse? Was painfully aware of the pacts with the devil, something the "greats" of today just take as axiomatic. I could go on. Yes, there were also a lot of great people totally full of themselves, and they still were great. But generally, changing the world for the better happens in hindsight. Rosa Parks didn't want to end segregation -- not that she didn't want it to end, my point is she was just sick of being pushed around. That's where most meaningful change happens, humble and concerned with the thing and not with the change, and then some needy assholes swoop in and take credit.

These engineers may be exceptional in their fields, but this and all it rubs shoulders with, in the bigger scheme and considering really great people, both big and small, is highly driven mediocrity, constantly touting its own horn. Entertainment and ads, ads and entertainment. Everything's so awesome and paradigm shifting, as new avenues to fill more landfills with old product are created. People have specific questions, concerns, needs, desires. Those keep getting ignored or twisted for profit, while more gimmicks and tools of surveillance and control are pushed and rationalized. These days, everybody is aligned with marketing.

I'm slightly sorry for being negative but only for those normal people who are excited about this stuff. I don't want to pee on your parade. Everybody has their hobbies, but when people talk about the future and the world and the human condition and whatnot they're in the territory of greats, and in this case it's like bringing a footgun to a nuclear war.

At any rate, this isn't some guy starting out in his garage, he'll live and prosper either way. To be honest, what triggered me mostly is how I cherished that book, just because it was the first cool one I had. Now it doesn't feel cool anymore. Otherwise I still have the above thoughts with plenty of stories or comments, but I just roll my eyes. But this is a master of his field laying it on so very thickly.

Did he hire the candidate?

No, one of the 8 interviewers thought one of her whiteboard questions was “correct but not clean enough” and another thought her design interview was “too disorganized”.

Plot twist: There never was a candidate.

I've read this twice and can't quite understand....why is this Oculus blog post primarily about how great AR is and the challenges of it? I can see the paragraphs about their research but is AR on Oculus' product roadmap?

> why is this Oculus blog post primarily about how great AR is and the challenges of it?

It's an ad: "I wrote this because it was the most effective way I could think of to reach out to those exceptional people and get them to consider whether Oculus Research might be the most exciting, fulfilling, interesting place for them to spend the next however many years."

Ah good spot, thanks.

Might be good for them to spell out their product plans in that case. From an outsider's perspective, places like Microsoft would seem far better suited for AR researchers, given that they've been researching it for at least 15 years and have a product ready to go.

It being an ad has nothing to do with whether they're working on AR or not.

They have tons of money, they know that AR will be an important battleground, and AR is related to VR.

They would be incredibly foolish NOT to at least try to get into AR.

I dispute that AR either is, or will be important.

Beyond Pokémon Go of course, which was something of a rarity.

I just can't think of compelling use cases, and no one has ever showed one to me that has impressed.

Mine craft on your coffee table? I think it's a silly curiosity. I want to get OUT of my lounge room when gaming, not be stuck in it ... MOVE YOUR DIRTY COFFEE CUPS OFF THE TABLE I WANT TO PLAY MINECRAFT ON IT... no one will ever say.

Just because you say AR is not important, doesn't make it unimportant.

Also your arguments are based on your limited experience. No one has actually experienced the full extent of AR to qualify to be able to say it's not going to be important. This includes even those who are actively working on AR.

Most interesting technologies came out of nowhere, so by definition it is natural that you think it's not gonna work, and that's fine. But again, that doesn't make AR unimportant.

Whether you want it or not, it IS coming, and people will experiment with building different products (not just the lame apps you're imagining). If at least one of them sticks, then that's a good start.

But even if we don't go there, it's so obvious that once the technology gets to the point where the UX is so seamless, it will change the way we live our lives. Of course that's not gonna happen with toys like ARKit on iPhone, but when it becomes hands-free (through glasses or likes) it will make a big difference.

Now whether we'll get there in the next decade or not nobody knows, but once we DO get there it's not going to be what you're imagining right now in 2017.

if all AR ever did was give me 3 virtual monitors on my desk it would be worth it. No more need to buy monitors. Can display them even at the coffee shop. that alone would be worth the price of admission IMO. same at home. no need for 60inch TV or multiple TVs per room when AR can just display a tv of any size in any room

but of course thats not the limit. AR includes input. whether it's some breakthrough camera tech that can track my fingers or a glove or rings bring able to manipulate objects in 3D with my hands is a 3x to 20x boost in production speed for 3d design including objects, architecture, movie and game assets, etc. That in itself is low hanging fruit and could open 3d design to so many more people than the months of blender/Maya/3dsmax training currently required.

assuming input works pen tablets are no longer needed. want to draw in 2d, project a piece of paper on the surface in front of you and a pen in your hand and you start drawing. any child growing up with such tech would probably never use paper.

that again is practically low hanging fruit.

there lots more ARish ideas. car navigation that paints on the road (though I guess I don't need that for self driving cars). look down a road see what's in every store

I'm sure there are tons of applications we haven't even thought of but any of the above would be enough for me

You mean having all the information you want proactively projected in you field of view, instead of having to take out your phone and search for it doesn't sound appealing to you?

I'm probably on the opposite side then. I worry that AR will be so appealing that people will willingly give away their last shred of privacy.

This use case is saying "it's a monitor, up close".

Yet another screen doesn't excite me.

It's a monitor, up close, that reacts in real-time to what's in front of you and augments it (hence the name) with additional information. Preferably in a wearable format, so that you can have both your hands free to do the work.

Firefighters getting up-to-date info and routes to emergency exits etc in large, burning buildings. A mechanic, medic, farmer... getting info on what's in front of them with suggested actions. People not focusing on their phone while on their bike...

Can't see how going from so-so handheld devices to something that is in your line of sight when needed and adapts to current context is a bad thing compared to what we have (not that I'm assuming the end products will necessarily be well made, but that goes for everything).

Luckily, there's more to this world than Pokémon.

I just can't think of compelling use cases, and no one has ever showed one to me that has impressed.

The likes of Upskill[1] and Realwear[2] have been selling AR to industrial customers for ages. They have clients like Boeing who use it to enable their engineers to access data in context in the field. It's not quite 'project a realistic 3D image in space' AR, but it's more AR in the 'Google Glass' sense. It's very much real, and there definitely are use cases that people will pay decent money for.

That doesn't mean it's going to be a huge industry and we'll all be wearing headsets in a few years, but it definitely means there is a use for it. And perhaps someone will invent a killer application that does mean everyone will want it. You never know. It happened with smart phones.

[1] https://upskill.io/ [2] https://realwear.com/products/hmt-1/

AR and HUD are two completely different things.

AR is way more technically challenging but the payoff IF you pull it off is not even comparable to HUDs like google glass and the examples you mentioned.

AR actually "augments" your reality, for example it makes you believe some "thing" that's not actually there IS at that spot.

HUD is just information display and it doesn't have to fix whatever it's displaying at a certain point.

Google map indicating which street to take directly (like an arrow on the road), showing relevant infos on items you're looking at in a shop (price, calories, halal/kosher/vegan...), showing the name and notes about people you're talking to, helpful infos on construction sites...

That's just a few examples, we'll get much more use cases when it begins to be used, but there is definitely a lot of potential.

Playing Minecraft (and regular gaming in general) is not a good use case, I'll give you that.

Calling Pokémon Go "AR" is probably the single most damaging thing tech press did to the field. It's about as much AR as Snapchat dog-ears stickers in preview when you're taking a photo.

This is how real AR prototypes look in practical applications:


IMO this is going to be huge, and I can't wait to have it in a HUD format instead of having to hold a phone or a tablet in front of you.

I feel like everything that can be done in VR(office environments, motion controlled games, art(tiltbrush is cool), communications) can be done just as well in AR, but with more realism(interacting with known environments) and less motion sickness.

In terms of AR only things, I feel like Ingress is the direction AR games will go, with phones as a window into another world, and I've had lots of fun with the measuring apps which came out with arkit(my favourite is called Cubit, if you have an iOS 11 device).

There's no point in building an immersive game in AR. The whole point of games is so that the players can escape reality for a brief moment and enjoy.

Of course there will be niche games that let you interact with the real world, just like how Nintendo Wii discovered its niche, but most likely games will take place in VR.

Another reason AR doesn't make sense for a game: People don't want to walk around when they want to play games. VR lets you walk around without you actually walking around. All you need to do is twiddle your fingers around. Nobody wants to pour in work just to play games (With exception of the niche games like Nintendo Wii types as I mentioned above)

I partially disagree. Games will be created, because they can be, and there's some unique fun to be had in AR. Think e.g. of an FPS you can play with friends anywhere you happen to be right now, with real-word terrain but virtual weapons[0].

I agree though that they will not dominate VR - real-world constraints are mostly arbitrary restrictions that rarely add anything to the fun, so most games will happily do without them.


[0] - arguably, beyond AR, to make it happen we need advances in geometry sensing and mesh networking; the ridiculous trend of pushing everything through the cloud is not helping.

The real world isn't an interesting setting for a game.

The obvious killer app is putting AR name tags on everybody in a work/conference setting, so you don't have to worry about seeming rude to have forgotten the name of somebody from another department that you've interacted with maybe twice.

You can vote me down but a better way to disagree would be to explain some of the compelling use cases for AR.

And sorry but I don't think workplace safety training makes and entire industry and justification for the technology. One use case? Two? Any? Nothing.

Some of us that deal with vision problems on a daily basis can find AR to be a useful accessibility feature. I wish more effort would be invested in accesibility like zoom and captioning.

I don't see an overlap between VR and AR, in terms of use-case or technology.

I don't get why they'd start competing against Microsoft when they're already being dominated in their own VR niche.

It almost looks concerning.

Some of the upcoming AR headsets have an overlap, as they are basically VR headsets with cameras on the front. I'm personally not a big friend if that, though.

There is also a lot of overlap with how to design UX and controls, but that is mostly a problem for the app developers.

I agree with the sentiment of your statement though. There is a lot less overlap than most people seem to believe.

> I don't get why they'd start competing against Microsoft when they're already being dominated in their own VR niche.

That's an interesting interpretation which doesn't seem to be backed by reality.

That aside: It's a research team. They think AR will overtake VR some time in the future, so they research on it.

> That's an interesting interpretation which doesn't seem to be backed by reality.

Vive is massively outselling the Rift. Considering Oculus were first to market (in the sense that the dev kits were openly sold), and considering that they ostensibly have the backing of Facebook, that seems like a bad sign.

And given this, it's concerning (to me) that they're now seemingly shifting resources to AR.

And as I said before, AR and VR's uses don't overlap. So it isn't like they need to get a foothold in AR to stay relevant.

What does AR and VR usage not overlapping have to do with them not doing research? The technologies DO overlap, so they might as well try to catch two birds with one stone.

Oculus doesn't have to make money immediately since they're backed by Facebook, which is a huge leverage.

Also even if Vive IS outselling Rift right now, doesn't mean Rift is doomed at all. For now it's enough for them to be in the market and look for opportunities since NONE of the VR companies are turning out to be the next big thing, yet.

I'm sure there will come a point when VR will grow extremely fast, but VR itself as an industry is not growing too fast anyway.

In this climate it's best to hunker down and do research instead of trying to sell as many devices as possible, so I think they're doing the right thing.

Source that Vive is "massively outselling"?

It's not. Or at least not anymore. Market shares seem to be equalizing at least according to the latest Steam Hardware Survey: https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-closes-in-on-steam-majo...

Would it be easier to just completely replace our eyes and directly modulate the optic nerve? From engineering point of view - that actually seems more reasonable.

No, almost certainly not. We can't even interface with nerve cells directly, effectively to operate limbs. That's many orders of magnitude less information than the optical nerve. Peripheral nerve interfaces that can actually get good performance are quite a way off.

Plus, from what I remember there is a significant amount of preprocessing done before the optic nerve. But we don't really know what exactly it is.

Edit: There actually are several projects that look at artificial retinas, making use of most of the eyes nervous system and only replacing the outermost layer:

http://www.artificialretina.energy.gov/ http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/v16/n6/full/nmat4874.html

Well, we can't focus light at will either. But yes, probably an artificial retina of some sort will be a working solution.

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