Tag Archives: augmented reality (AR)

Graphene-like materials for first smart contact lenses with AR (augmented reality) vision, health monitoring, & content surfing?

A March 6, 2024 XPANCEO news release on EurekAlert (also posted March 11, 2024 on the Graphene Council blog) and distributed by Mindset Consulting announced smart contact lenses devised with graphene-like materials,

XPANCEO, a deep tech company developing the first smart contact lenses with XR vision, health monitoring, and content surfing features, in collaboration with the Nobel laureate Konstantin S. Novoselov (National University of Singapore, University of Manchester) and professor Luis Martin-Moreno (Instituto de Nanociencia y Materiales de Aragon), has announced in Nature Communications a groundbreaking discovery of new properties of rhenium diselenide and rhenium disulfide, enabling novel mode of light-matter interaction with huge potential for integrated photonics, healthcare, and AR. Rhenium disulfide and rhenium diselenide are layered materials belonging to the family of graphene-like materials. Absorption and refraction in these materials have different principal directions, implying six degrees of freedom instead of a maximum of three in classical materials. As a result, rhenium disulfide and rhenium diselenide by themselves allow controlling the light propagation direction without any technological steps required for traditional materials like silicon and titanium dioxide.

The origin of such surprising light-matter interaction of ReS2 and ReSe2 with light is due to the specific symmetry breaking observed in these materials. Symmetry plays a huge role in nature, human life, and material science. For example, almost all living things are built symmetrically. Therefore, in ancient times symmetry was also called harmony, as it was associated with beauty. Physical laws are also closely related to symmetry, such as the laws of conservation of energy and momentum. Violation of symmetry leads to the appearance of new physical effects and radical changes in the properties of materials. In particular, the water-ice phase transition is a consequence of a decrease in the degree of symmetry. In the case of ReS2 and ReSe2, the crystal lattice has the lowest possible degree of symmetry, which leads to the rotation of optical axes – directions of symmetry of optical properties of the material, which was previously observed only for organic materials. As a result, these materials make possible to control the direction of light by changing the wavelength, which opens a unique way for light manipulation in next-generation devices and applications. 

“The discovery of unique properties in anisotropic materials is revolutionizing the fields of nanophotonics and optoelectronics, presenting exciting possibilities. These materials serve as a versatile platform for the advancement of optical devices, such as wavelength-switchable metamaterials, metasurfaces, and waveguides. Among the promising applications is the development of highly efficient biochemical sensors. These sensors have the potential to outperform existing analogs in terms of both sensitivity and cost efficiency. For example, they are anticipated to significantly reduce the expenses associated with hospital blood testing equipment, which is currently quite costly, potentially by several orders of magnitude. This will also allow the detection of dangerous diseases and viruses, such as cancer or COVID, at earlier stages,” says Dr. Valentyn S. Volkov, co-founder and scientific partner at XPANCEO, a scientist with an h-Index of 38 and over 8000 citations in leading international publications.

Beyond the healthcare industry, these novel properties of graphene-like materials can find applications in artificial intelligence and machine learning, facilitating the development of photonic circuits to create a fast and powerful computer suitable for machine learning tasks. A computer based on photonic circuits is a superior solution, transmitting more information per unit of time, and unlike electric currents, photons (light beams) flow across one another without interacting. Furthermore, the new material properties can be utilized in producing smart optics, such as contact lenses or glasses, specifically for advancing AR [augmented reality] features. Leveraging these properties will enhance image coloration and adapt images for individuals with impaired color perception, enabling them to see the full spectrum of colors.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Wandering principal optical axes in van der Waals triclinic materials by Georgy A. Ermolaev, Kirill V. Voronin, Adilet N. Toksumakov, Dmitriy V. Grudinin, Ilia M. Fradkin, Arslan Mazitov, Aleksandr S. Slavich, Mikhail K. Tatmyshevskiy, Dmitry I. Yakubovsky, Valentin R. Solovey, Roman V. Kirtaev, Sergey M. Novikov, Elena S. Zhukova, Ivan Kruglov, Andrey A. Vyshnevyy, Denis G. Baranov, Davit A. Ghazaryan, Aleksey V. Arsenin, Luis Martin-Moreno, Valentyn S. Volkov & Kostya S. Novoselov. Nature Communications volume 15, Article number: 1552 (2024) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-45266-3 Published: 06 March 2024

This paper is open access.

Hype, hype, hype: Vancouver’s Frontier Collective represents local tech community at SxWS (South by Southwest®) 2024 + an aside

I wonder if Vancouver’s Mayor Ken Sim will be joining the folks at the giant culture/tech event known as South by Southwest® (SxSW) later in 2024. Our peripatetic mayor seems to enjoy traveling to sports events (FIFA 2023 in Qatar), to Los Angeles to convince producers of a hit television series, “The Last of Us,” that they film the second season in Vancouver, and, to Austin, Texas for SxSW 2023. Note: FIFA is Fédération internationale de football association or ‘International Association Football Federation’.

It’s not entirely clear why Mayor Sim’s presence was necessary at any of these events. In October 2023, he finished his first year in office; a business owner and accountant, Sim is best known for his home care business, “Nurse Next Door” and his bagel business, “Rosemary Rocksalt,” meaning he wouldn’t seem to have much relevant experience with sports and film events.

I gather Mayor Sim’s presence was part of the 2023 hype (for those who don’t know, it’s from ‘hyperbole’) where SxSW was concerned, from the Vancouver Day at SxSW 2023 event page,

Vancouver Day

Past(03/12/2023) 12:00PM – 6:00PM

FREE W/ RSVP | ALL AGES

Swan Dive

The momentum and vibrancy of Vancouver’s innovation industry can’t be stopped!

The full day event will see the Canadian city’s premier technology innovators, creative tech industries, and musical artists show why Vancouver is consistently voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

We will have talks/panels with the biggest names in VR/AR/Metaverse, AI, Web3, premier technology innovators, top startups, investors and global thought-leaders. We will keep Canada House buzzing throughout the day with activations/demos from top companies from Vancouver and based on our unique culture of wellness and adventure will keep guests entertained, and giveaways will take place across the afternoon.

The Canadian city is showing why Vancouver has become the second largest AR/VR/Metaverse ecosystem globally (with the highest concentration of 3D talent than anywhere in the world), a leader in Web3 with companies like Dapper Labs leading the way and becoming a hotbed in technology like artificial intelligence.

The Frontier Collective’s Vancouver’s Takeover of SXSW is a signature event that will enhance Vancouver as the Innovation and Creative Tech leader on the world stage.It is an opportunity for the global community to encounter cutting-edge ideas, network with other professionals who share a similar appetite for a forward focused experience and define their next steps.

Some of our special guests include City of Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine], Innovation Commissioner of the Government of BC- Gerri Sinclair, Amy Peck of Endeavor XR, Tony Parisi of Lamina1 and many more.

In the evening, guests can expect a special VIP event with first-class musical acts, installations, wellness activations and drinks, and the chance to mingle with investors, top brands, and top business leaders from around the world.

To round out the event, a hand-picked roster of Vancouver musicians will keep guests dancing late into the night.

This is from Mayor Sim’s Twitter (now X) feed, Note: The photographs have not been included,

Mayor Ken Sim@KenSimCity Another successful day at #SXSW2023 showcasing Vancouver and British Columbia while connecting with creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs from around the world! #vanpoli#SXSW

Last edited from Austin, TX·13.3K Views

Did he really need to be there?

2024 hype at SxSW and Vancouver’s Frontier Collective

New year and same hype but no Mayor Sim? From a January 22, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive, Note: A link has been removed,

Frontier Collective, a coalition of Vancouver business leaders, culture entrepreneurs, and community builders, is returning to the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference next month to showcase the city’s tech innovation on the global stage.

The first organization to formally represent and promote the region’s fastest-growing tech industries, Frontier Collective is hosting the Vancouver Takeover: Frontiers of Innovation from March 8 to 12 [2024].

According to Dan Burgar, CEO and co-founder of Frontier Collective, the showcase is not just about presenting new advancements but is also an invitation to the world to be part of a boundary-transcending journey.

“This year’s Vancouver Takeover is more than an event; it’s a beacon for the brightest minds and a celebration of the limitless possibilities that emerge when we dare to innovate together.”

Speakers lined up for the SXSW Vancouver Takeover in Austin, Texas, include executives from Google, Warner Bros, Amazon, JP Morgan, Amazon, LG, NTT, Newlab, and the Wall Street Journal.

“The Frontier Collective is excited to showcase a new era of technological innovation at SXSW 2024, building on the success of last year’s Takeover,” added Natasha Jaswal, VP of operations and events of Frontier Collective, in a statement. “Beyond creating a captivating event; its intentional and curated programming provides a great opportunity for local companies to gain exposure on an international stage, positioning Vancouver as a global powerhouse in frontier tech innovation.

Here’s the registration page if you want to attend the Frontiers of Innovation Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024,

Join us for a curated experience of music, art, frontier technologies and provocative panel discussions. We are organizing three major events, designed to ignite conversation and turn ideas into action.

We’re excited to bring together leaders from Vancouver and around the world to generate creative thinking at the biggest tech festival.

Let’s create the future together!

You have a choice of two parties and a day long event. Enjoy!

Who is the Frontier Collective?

The group announced itself in 2022, from a February 17, 2022 article in techcouver, Note: Links have been removed,

The Frontier Collective is the first organization to formally represent and advance the interests of the region’s fastest-growing industries, including Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality], AI [artificial intelligence], climate tech, and creative industries such as eSports [electronic sports], NFTs [non-fungible tokens], VFX [visual effects], and animation.

Did you know the Vancouver area currently boasts the world’s second largest virtual and augmented reality sector and hosts the globe’s biggest cluster of top VFX, video games and animation studios, as well as the highest concentration of 3D talent?

Did you know NFT technology was created in Vancouver and the city remains a top destination for blockchain and Web3 development?

Frontier Collective’s coalition of young entrepreneurs and business leaders wants to raise awareness of Vancouver’s greatness by promoting the region’s innovative tech industry on the world stage, growing investment and infrastructure for early-stage companies, and attracting diverse talent to Vancouver.

“These technologies move at an exponential pace. With the right investment and support, Vancouver has an immense opportunity to lead the world in frontier tech, ushering in a new wave of transformation, economic prosperity and high-paying jobs. Without backing from governments and leaders, these companies may look elsewhere for more welcoming environments.” said Dan Burgar, Co-founder and Head of the Frontier Collective. Burgar heads the local chapter of the VR/AR Association.

Their plan includes the creation of a 100,000-square-foot innovation hub in Vancouver to help incubate startups in Web3, VR/AR, and AI, and to establish the region as a centre for metaverse technology.

Frontier Collective’s team includes industry leaders at the Vancouver Economic Commission [emphasis mine; Under Mayor Sim and his majority City Council, the commission has been dissolved; see September 21, 2023 Vancouver Sun article “Vancouver scraps economic commission” by Tiffany Crawford], Collision Conference, Canadian incubator Launch, Invest Vancouver, and the BDC Deep Tech Fund.  These leaders continue to develop and support frontier technology in their own organizations and as part of the Collective.

Interestingly, a February 7, 2023 article by the editors of BC Business magazine seems to presage the Vancouver Economic Commission’s demise. Note: Links have been removed,

Last year, tech coalition Frontier Collective announced plans to position Vancouver as Canada’s tech capital by 2030. Specializing in subjects like Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR, AI and animation, it seems to be following through on its ambition, as the group is about to place Vancouver in front of a global audience at SXSW 2023, a major conference and festival celebrating tech, innovation and entertainment.  

Taking place in Austin, Texas from March 10-14 [2023], Vancouver Takeover is going to feature speakers, stories and activations, as well as opportunities for companies to connect with industry leaders and investors. Supported by local businesses like YVR Airport, Destination Vancouver, Low Tide Properties and others, Frontier is also working with partners from Trade and Invest BC, Telefilm and the Canadian Consulate. Attendees will spot familiar faces onstage, including the likes of Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey, Vancouver mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine] and B.C. Innovation Commissioner Gerri Sinclair. 

That’s right, no mention of the Vancouver Economic Commission.

As for the Frontier Collective Team (accessed January 29, 2024), the list of ‘industry leaders’ (18 people with a gender breakdown that appears to be 10 male and 8 female) and staff members (a Senior VP who appears to be male and the other seven staff members who appear to be female) can be found here. (Should there be a more correct way to do the gender breakdown, please let me know in the Comments.)

i find the group’s name a bit odd, ‘frontier’ is something I associate with the US. Americans talk about frontiers, Canadians not so much.

If you are interested in attending the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event on March 10, 2024, just click here.

Aside: swagger at Vancouver City Hall, economic prosperity, & more?

What follows is not germane to the VR/AR community, SxSW of any year, or the Frontier Collective but it may help to understand why the City of Vancouver’s current mayor is going to events where he would seem to have no useful role to play.

Matt O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article for Vancouver Magazine offers an eyeopening review of Mayor Ken Sim’s first year in office.

Ken Sim swept to power a year ago promising to reduce waste, make our streets safer and bring Vancouver’s “swagger” back. But can his open-book style win over the critics?

I’m sitting on a couch in the mayor’s third-floor offices, and Ken Sim is walking over to his turntable to put on another record. “How about the Police? I love this album.”

With the opening strains of  “Every Breath You Take” crackling to life, Sim is explaining his approach to conflict resolution, and how he takes inspiration from the classic management tome Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

Odd choice for a song to set the tone for an interview. Here’s more about the song and its origins according to the song’s Wikipedia entry,

To escape the public eye, Sting retreated to the Caribbean. He started writing the song at Ian Fleming’s writing desk on the Goldeneye estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica.[14] The lyrics are the words of a possessive lover who is watching “every breath you take; every move you make”. Sting recalled:

“I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realise at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”[15][emphasis mine]

The interview gets odder, from O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article,

Suddenly, the office door swings open and Sim’s chief of staff, Trevor Ford, pokes his head in (for the third time in the past 10 minutes). “We have to go. Now.”

“Okay, okay,” says Sim, turning back to address me. “Do you mind if I change while we’re talking?” And so the door closes again—and, without further ado, the Mayor of Vancouver drops trou [emphasis mine] and goes in search of a pair of shorts, continuing with a story about how some of his west-side friends are vocally against the massive Jericho Lands development promising to reshape their 4th and Alma neighbourhood.

“And I’m like, ‘Let me be very clear: I 100-percent support it, this is why—and we’ll have to agree to disagree,’” he says, trading his baby-blue polo for a fitted charcoal grey T-shirt. Meanwhile, as Sim does his wardrobe change, I’m doing everything I can to keep my eyes on my keyboard—and hoping the mayor finds his missing shorts.

It’s fair to assume that previous mayors weren’t in the habit of getting naked in front of journalists. At least, I can’t quite picture Kennedy Stewart doing so, or Larry or Gordon Campbell either. 

But it also fits a pattern that’s developing with Ken Sim as a leader entirely comfortable in his own skin. He’s in a hurry to accomplish big things—no matter who’s watching and what they might say (or write). And he eagerly embraces the idea of bringing Vancouver’s “swagger” back—outlined in his inaugural State of the City address, and underlined when he shotgunned a beer at July’s [2023] Khatsahlano Street Party.

O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article goes on to mention some of the more practical initiatives undertaken by Mayor Sim and his supermajority of ABC (Sim’s party, A Better City) city councillors in their efforts to deal with some of the city’s longstanding and intractable problems,

For a reminder of Sim’s key priorities, you need only look at the whiteboard in the mayor’s office. At the top, there’s a row labelled “Daily Focus (Top 4)”—which are, in order, 3-3-3-1 (ABC’s housing program); Chinatown; Business Advocacy; and Mental Health/Safety.

On some files, like Chinatown, there have been clear advances: council unanimously approved the Uplifting Chinatown Action Plan in January, which devotes more resources to cleaning and sanitation services, graffiti removal, beautification and other community supports. The plan also includes a new flat rate of $2 per hour for parking meters throughout Chinatown (to encourage more people to visit and shop in the area) and a new satellite City Hall office, to improve representation. And on mental health and public safety, the ABC council moved quickly in November to take action on its promise to fund 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health professionals [emphasis mine]—though the actual hiring will take time.

O’Grady likely wrote his article a few months before its October 2023 publication date (a standard practice for magazine articles), which may explain why he didn’t mention this, from an October 10, 2023 article by Michelle Gamage and Jen St. Denis for The Tyee,

100 Cops, Not Even 10 Nurses

One year after Mayor Ken Sim and the ABC party swept into power on a promise to hire 100 cops and 100 mental health nurses to address fears about crime and safety in Vancouver, only part of that campaign pledge has been fulfilled.

At a police board meeting in September, Chief Adam Palmer announced that 100 new police officers have now joined the Vancouver Police Department.

But just 9.5 full-time equivalent positions have been filled to support the mental health [emphasis mine] side of the promise.

In fact, Vancouver Coastal Health says it’s no longer aiming [emphasis mine] to hire 100 nurses. Instead, it’s aiming for 58 staff and specialists [emphasis mine], including social workers, community liaison workers and peers, as well as other disciplines alongside nurses to deliver care.

At the police board meeting on Sept. 21 [2023], Palmer said the VPD has had no trouble recruiting new police officers and has now hired 70 new recruits who are first-time officers, as well as at least 24 experienced officers from other police services.

In contrast, it’s been a struggle for VCH to recruit nurses specializing in mental health.

BC Nurses’ Union president Adriane Gear said she remembers wondering where Sim was planning on finding 100 nurses [emphasis mine] when he first made the campaign pledge. In B.C. there are around 5,000 full-time nursing vacancies, she said. Specialized nurses are an even more “finite resource,” she added.

I haven’t seen any information as to why the number was reduced from 100 mental health positions to 58. I’m also curious as to how Mayor Ken Sim whose business is called ‘Nurse Next Door’ doesn’t seem to know there’s a shortage of nurses in the province and elsewhere.

Last year, the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Quartz published a January 28, 2022 article by Aurora Almendral about the worldwide nursing shortage and the effects of COVID pandemic,

The report’s [from the International Council of Nurses (ICN)] survey of nurse associations around the world painted a grim picture of strained workforce. In Spain, nurses reported a chronic lack of PPE, and 30% caught covid. In Canada, 52% of nurses reported inadequate staffing, and 47% met the diagnostic cut-off for potential PTSD [emphasis mine].

Burnout plagued nurses around the world: 40% in Uganda, 60% in Belgium, and 63% in the US. In Oman, 38% nurses said they were depressed, and 73% had trouble sleeping. Fifty-seven percent of UK nurses planned to leave their jobs in 2021, up from 36% in 2020. Thirty-eight percent of nurses in Lebanon did not want to be nurses anymore, but stayed in their jobs because their families needed the money.

In Australia, 17% of nurses had sought mental health support. In China, 6.5% of nurses reported suicidal thoughts.

Moving on from Mayor Sim’s odd display of ignorance (or was it cynical calculation from a candidate determined to win over a more centrist voting population?), O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article ends on this note,

When Sim runs for reelection in 2026, as he promises to do, he’ll have a great backdrop for his campaign—the city having just hosted several games for the FIFA World Cup, which is expected to bring in $1 billion and 900,000 visitors over five years.

The renewed swagger of Sim’s city will be on full display for the world to see. So too—if left unresolved—will some of Vancouver’s most glaring and intractable social problems.

I was born in Vancouver and don’t recall the city as having swagger, at any time. As for the economic prosperity that’s always promised with big events like the FIFA world cup, I’d like to see how much the 2010 Olympic Games held in Vancouver cost taxpayers and whether or not there were long lasting economic benefits. From a July 9, 2022 posting on Bob Mackin’s thebreaker.news,

The all-in cost to build and operate the Vancouver 2010 Games was as much as $8 billion, but the B.C. Auditor General never conducted a final report. The organizing committee, VANOC, was not covered by the freedom of information law and its records were transferred to the Vancouver Archives after the Games with restrictions not to open the board minutes and financial ledgers before fall 2025.

Mayor Sim will have two more big opportunities to show off his swagger in 2025 . (1) The Invictus Games come to Vancouver and Whistler in February 2025 and will likely bring Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle to the area (see the April 22, 2022 Associated Press article by Gemma Karstens-Smith on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website) and (2) The 2025 Junos (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys) from March 26 – 30, 2025 with the awards show being held on March 30, 2025 (see the January 25, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive website).

While he waits, Sim may have a ‘swagger’ opportunity later this month (February 2024) when Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle) visit the Vancouver and Whistler for a “a three-day Invictus Games’ One Year to Go event in Vancouver and Whistler,” see Daniel Chai’s February 2, 2024 article for more details.

Don’t forget, should you be in Austin, Texas for the 2024 SxSW, the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event is on March 10, 2024, just click here to register. Who knows? You might get to meet Vancouver’s, Mayor Ken Sim. Or, if you can’t make it to Austin, Texas, O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article offer an unusual political profile.

Final Call For Papers for IEEE MetroXRAINE 2023 Special Session on “eXtended Reality as a gateway to the Metaverse: Practices, Theories, Technologies and Applications” extended to April 7, 2023

I received an April 5, 2023 announcement for the 2023 IEEE International Conference on Metrology for eXtended Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Neural Engineering (IEEE MetroXRAINE 2023) via email. Understandably given that it’s an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference, they’re looking for submissions focused on developing the technology,

Last days to submit your contribution to our Special Session on “eXtended Reality as a gateway to the Metaverse: Practices, Theories, Technologies and Applications” – IEEE International Conference on Metrology for eXtended Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Neural Engineering (IEEE MetroXRAINE 2023) – October 25-27, 2023 – Milan – https://metroxraine.org/special-session-17.

I want to remind you that the deadline of April 7 [2023] [extended to April 14, 2023 as per April 11, 2023 notice received via email] is for the submission of a 1-2 page Abstract or a Graphical Abstract to show the idea you are proposing.
You will have time to finalise your work by the deadline of May 15 [2023].

Please see the CfP below for details and forward it to colleagues who might be interested in contributing to this special session.

I’m looking forward to meeting you, virtually or in your presence, at IEEE MetroXRAINE 2023.

Best regards,
Giuseppe Caggianese

Research Scientist
National Research Council (CNR) [Italy]
Institute for High-Performance Computing and Networking (ICAR)
Via Pietro Castellino 111, 80131, Naples, Italy

Here’s are specific for the Special Session’s Call for Papers (from the April 5, 2023 email announcement),

Call for Papers – Special Session on: “EXTENDED REALITY AS A GATEWAY TO THE METAVERSE: PRACTICES, THEORIES, TECHNOLOGIES AND APPLICATIONS” https://metroxraine.org/special-session-17

2023 IEEE International Conference on Metrology for eXtended Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Neural Engineering (IEEE MetroXRAINE 2023) https://metroxraine.org/

October 25-27, 2023 – Milan, Italy.

SPECIAL SESSION DESCRIPTION
————————-
The fast development of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) solutions over the last few years are transforming how people interact, work, and communicate. The eXtended Reality (XR) term encloses all those immersive technologies that can shift the boundaries between digital and physical worlds to realize the metaverse. According to tech companies and venture capitalists, the metaverse will be a super-platform that convenes sub-platforms: social media, online video games, and ease-of-life apps, all accessible through the same digital space and sharing the same digital economy. Inside the metaverse, virtual worlds will allow avatars to carry out all human endeavours, including creation, display, entertainment, social, and trading. Thus, the metaverse will evolve how users interact with brands, intellectual properties, health services, cultural heritage, and each other things on the Internet. A user could join friends to play a multiplayer game, watch a movie via a streaming service and then attend a university course precisely the same as in the real world.
The metaverse development will require new software architecture that will enable decentralized and collaborative virtual worlds. These self-organized virtual worlds will be permanent and will require maintenance operations. In addition, it will be necessary to design an efficient data management system and prevent privacy violations. Finally, the convergence of physical reality, virtually enhanced, and an always-on virtual space highlighted the need to rethink the actual paradigms for visualization, interaction, and sharing of digital information, moving toward more natural, intuitive, dynamically customizable, multimodal, and multi-user solutions.
This special session aims to focus on exploring how the realization of the metaverse can transform certain application domains such us: (i) healthcare, in which the metaverse solutions can, for instance, improve the communication between patients and physicians; (ii) cultural heritage, with potentially more effective solutions for tourism guidance, site maintenance, and heritage object conservation; and (iii) industry, where to enable data-driven decision making, smart maintenance, and overall asset optimisation.

More information can be found here: https://metroxraine.org/special-session-17

TOPICS

The topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hardware/Software Architectures for metaverse
  • Decentralized and Collaborative Architectures for metaverse
  • Interoperability for metaverse
  • Tools to help creators to build the metaverse0
  • Operations and Maintenance in metaverse
  • Data security and privacy mechanisms for metaverse
  • Cryptocurrency, token, NFT Solutions for metaverse
  • Fraud-Detection in metaverse
  • Cyber Security for metaverse
  • Data Analytics to Identify Malicious Behaviors in metaverse
  • Blockchain/AI technologies in metaverse
  • Emerging Technologies and Applications for metaverse
  • New models to evaluate the impact of the metaverse
  • Interactive Data Exploration and Presentation in metaverse
  • Human-Computer Interaction for metaverse
  • Human factors issues related to metaverse
  • Proof-of-Concept in Metaverse: Experimental Prototyping and Testbeds

IMPORTANT DATES

Abstract Submission Deadline: April 7, 2023 (extended) NOTE: 1-2 pages abstract or a graphical abstract
Final Paper Submission Deadline: May 15, 2023 (extended)
Full Paper Acceptance Notification: June 15, 2023
Final Paper Submission Deadline: July 31, 2023

SUBMISSION AND DECISIONS
————————
Authors should prepare an Abstract (1 – 2 pages) that clearly indicates the originality of the contribution and the relevance of the work. The Abstract should include the title of the paper, names and affiliations of the authors, an abstract, keywords, an introduction describing the nature of the problem, a description of the contribution, the results achieved and their applicability.

As an alternative to the traditional abstract, it is possible to submit a Graphical Abstract. For further information, please see here: https://metroxraine.org/initial-author-instructions.

When the first review process has been completed, authors receive a notification of either acceptance or rejection of the submission. If the abstract has been accepted, the authors can prepare a full paper.
The format for the full paper is identical to the format for the abstract except for the number of pages: the full paper has a required minimum length of five (5) pages and a maximum of six (6) pages.
Full Papers will be reviewed by the Technical Program Committee. Authors of accepted full papers must submit the final paper version according to the deadline, register for the workshop, and attend to present their papers. The maximum length for final papers is 6 pages.
All contributions will be peer-reviewed and acceptance will be based on quality, originality and relevance. Accepted papers will be submitted for inclusion into IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

Submissions must be written in English and prepared according to the IEEE Conference Proceedings template. LaTeX and Word templates and an Overleaf sample project can be found at: https://metroxraine.org/initial-author-instructions.

The papers must be submitted in PDF format electronically via EDAS online submission and review system: https://edas.info/newPaper.php?c=30746.
To submit abstracts or draft papers to the special session, please follow the submission instructions for regular sessions, but remind to specify the special session to which the paper is directed.

The special session organizers and other external reviewers will review all submissions.

More information can be found here: https://metroxraine.org/initial-author-instructions

CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS
———————————–
All contributions will be peer-reviewed, and acceptance will be based on quality, originality, and relevance. Accepted papers will be submitted for inclusion into IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

Extended versions of presented papers are eligible for post-publication; more information will be provided soon.

ORGANIZERS
————-
Giuseppe Caggianese
National Research Council of Italy
giuseppe.caggianese@cnr.it

Ugo Erra
University of Basilicata
ugo.erra@unibas.it

Luigi Gallo
National Research Council of Italy
luigi.gallo@cnr.it

Good luck!

Augmented reality and the future of paper books

I’ve started to think that paper books will be on an ‘endangered species’ list in the not too distant future. Now, it seems researchers at the University of Surrey (UK) may have staved off that scenario according to an August 3, 2022 news item on ScienceDaily,

Augmented reality might allow printed books to make a comeback against the e-book trend, according to researchers from the University of Surrey.

An August 3, 2022 University of Surrey press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the idea and the research in more detail,

Surrey has introduced the third generation (3G) version of its Next Generation Paper (NGP) project, allowing the reader to consume information on the printed paper and screen side by side.  

Dr Radu Sporea, Senior lecturer at the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), comments: 

“The way we consume literature has changed over time with so many more options than just paper books. Multiple electronic solutions currently exist, including e-readers and smart devices, but no hybrid solution which is sustainable on a commercial scale.  

“Augmented books, or a-books, can be the future of many book genres, from travel and tourism to education. This technology exists to assist the reader in a deeper understanding of the written topic and get more through digital means without ruining the experience of reading a paper book.” 

Power efficiency and pre-printed conductive paper are some of the new features which allow Surrey’s augmented books to now be manufactured on a semi-industrial scale. With no wiring visible to the reader, Surrey’s augmented reality books allow users to trigger digital content with a simple gesture (such as a swipe of a finger or turn of a page), which will then be displayed on a nearby device.  

George Bairaktaris, Postgraduate researcher at the University of Surrey and part of the Next Generation Paper project team, said: 

“The original research was carried out to enrich travel experiences by creating augmented travel guides. This upgraded 3G model allows for the possibility of using augmented books for different areas such as education. In addition, the new model disturbs the reader less by automatically recognising the open page and triggering the multimedia content.” 

“What started as an augmented book project, evolved further into scalable user interfaces. The techniques and knowledge from the project led us into exploring organic materials and printing techniques to fabricate scalable sensors for interfaces beyond the a-book”.

…  

Caption: Next Generation Paper book example Credit: Courtesy of Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Augmented Books: Hybrid Electronics Bring Paper to Life by Georgios Bairaktaris, Brice Le Borgne, Vikram Turkani, Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh, David M. Frohlich, Radu A. Sporea. IEEE Pervasive Computing (early access) PrePrints pp. 1-8, DOI: 10.1109/MPRV.2022.3181440 Published: July 12, 2022

This paper is behind a paywall.

Cambodian sci-fi movie exploring Buddhism and nanotechnology

The movie is ‘Karmalink’. From its Internet Movie Datavase (IMDb) entry,

In this Buddhist sci-fi mystery set in near-future Phnom Penh, a young Cambodian detective untangles a link between her friend’s past-life dreams of a lost gold artifact and a neuroscientist’s determination to attain digital enlightenment.

Craig C Lewis’ June 10, 2022 article on buddhistdoor.net offers both illumination and puzzlement,

Cambodian Sci-Fi Movie Karmalink Explores Enlightenment, Reincarnation, and Nanotechnology

The Cambodian science fiction move Karmalink, which won awards on its film festival debut last year for its intriguing mix of high-tech mystery and Buddhist philosophy, has released a new trailer ahead of its North American release next month.

“In near-future Phnom Penh, a teenage boy teams up with a street-smart girl from his neighborhood to untangle the mystery of his past-life dreams,” a synopsis on the website of executive producer Valerie Steinberg explains. “What begins as a hunt for a Buddhist treasure soon leads to greater discoveries that will either end in digital enlightenment or a total loss of identity.” (Valerie Steinberg)

Directed and co-written by Jake Wachtel, Karmalink’s story is set in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and sets out to explore the intersection of the Buddhist themes of karma, reincarnation, and enlightenment with the consciousness-altering implications of augmented reality and artificial intelligence, as well as the growing disparity between rich and poor.

The main plot follows a 13-year-old boy, Leng Heng (Leng Heng Prak), and his friend, Srey Leak (Srey Leak Chhith), who live in a crowded, dilapidated community on the outskirts of Phnom Penh of the near future.

Heng has been having a recurring dream about a golden Buddha statue owned by various people who he believes to be his past incarnations. Heng enlists the help of Leak to untangle the links between his dreams and the aspirations of a prominent neuroscientist to attain digital enlightenment via nanotechnology [emphasis mine] in order to find the truth and discover their own destiny.

Unfortunately, there are no more details as to how nanotechnology helps with attaining ‘digital enlightenment’. As to what digital enlightenment might be, that too is a mystery.

Matt Villei’s June 9 (?), 2022 article for collider.com provides more details about the movie and its trailer/preview,

The trailer is made up of the many rewards and snippets that the film received during its film festival run, which started in September 2021 at that year’s Venice’s International Film Critic’s Week. It was also announced a few days ago that it will be released theatrically in major US cities as well as Video On Demand in both the US and Canada on July 15, 2022. The film is spoken in Khmer with English subtitles and is a total of 102 minutes long. The film was created as a way to “interrogate processes of neo-colonialism, and highlighting the alienating effects of technological progress, Jake Wachtel’s Karmalink is a mind-bending tale of reincarnation, artificial consciousness, and the search for enlightenment.”

Sadly, the lead actor, Leng Heng Prak, has died since production of the film.

You may want to keep an eye out for Karmalink.

Electrotactile rendering device virtualizes the sense of touch

I stumbled across this November 15, 2022 news item on Nanowerk highlighting work on the sense of touch in the virual originally announced in October 2022,

A collaborative research team co-led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has developed a wearable tactile rendering system, which can mimic the sensation of touch with high spatial resolution and a rapid response rate. The team demonstrated its application potential in a braille display, adding the sense of touch in the metaverse for functions such as virtual reality shopping and gaming, and potentially facilitating the work of astronauts, deep-sea divers and others who need to wear thick gloves.

Here’s what you’ll need to wear for this virtual tactile experience,

Caption: The new wearable tactile rendering system can mimic touch sensations with high spatial resolution and a rapid response rate. Credit: Robotics X Lab and City University of Hong Kong

An October 20, 2022 City University of Hong Kong (CityU) press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, delves further into the research,

“We can hear and see our families over a long distance via phones and cameras, but we still cannot feel or hug them. We are physically isolated by space and time, especially during this long-lasting pandemic,” said Dr Yang Zhengbao,Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering of CityU, who co-led the study. “Although there has been great progress in developing sensors that digitally capture tactile features with high resolution and high sensitivity, we still lack a system that can effectively virtualize the sense of touch that can record and playback tactile sensations over space and time.”

In collaboration with Chinese tech giant Tencent’s Robotics X Laboratory, the team developed a novel electrotactile rendering system for displaying various tactile sensations with high spatial resolution and a rapid response rate. Their findings were published in the scientific journal Science Advances under the title “Super-resolution Wearable Electro-tactile Rendering System”.

Limitations in existing techniques

Existing techniques to reproduce tactile stimuli can be broadly classified into two categories: mechanical and electrical stimulation. By applying a localised mechanical force or vibration on the skin, mechanical actuators can elicit stable and continuous tactile sensations. However, they tend to be bulky, limiting the spatial resolution when integrated into a portable or wearable device. Electrotactile stimulators, in contrast, which evoke touch sensations in the skin at the location of the electrode by passing a local electric current though the skin, can be light and flexible while offering higher resolution and a faster response. But most of them rely on high voltage direct-current (DC) pulses (up to hundreds of volts) to penetrate the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin, to stimulate the receptors and nerves, which poses a safety concern. Also, the tactile rendering resolution needed to be improved.

The latest electro-tactile actuator developed by the team is very thin and flexible and can be easily integrated into a finger cot. This fingertip wearable device can display different tactile sensations, such as pressure, vibration, and texture roughness in high fidelity. Instead of using DC pulses, the team developed a high-frequency alternating stimulation strategy and succeeded in lowering the operating voltage under 30 V, ensuring the tactile rendering is safe and comfortable.

They also proposed a novel super-resolution strategy that can render tactile sensation at locations between physical electrodes, instead of only at the electrode locations. This increases the spatial resolution of their stimulators by more than three times (from 25 to 105 points), so the user can feel more realistic tactile perception.

Tactile stimuli with high spatial resolution

“Our new system can elicit tactile stimuli with both high spatial resolution (76 dots/cm2), similar to the density of related receptors in the human skin, and a rapid response rate (4 kHz),” said Mr Lin Weikang, a PhD student at CityU, who made and tested the device.

The team ran different tests to show various application possibilities of this new wearable electrotactile rendering system. For example, they proposed a new Braille strategy that is much easier for people with a visual impairment to learn.

The proposed strategy breaks down the alphabet and numerical digits into individual strokes and order in the same way they are written. By wearing the new electrotactile rendering system on a fingertip, the user can recognise the alphabet presented by feeling the direction and the sequence of the strokes with the fingertip sensor. “This would be particularly useful for people who lose their eye sight later in life, allowing them to continue to read and write using the same alphabetic system they are used to, without the need to learn the whole Braille dot system,” said Dr Yang.

Enabling touch in the metaverse

Second, the new system is well suited for VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality] applications and games, adding the sense of touch to the metaverse. The electrodes can be made highly flexible and scalable to cover larger areas, such as the palm. The team demonstrated that a user can virtually sense the texture of clothes in a virtual fashion shop. The user also experiences an itchy sensation in the fingertips when being licked by a VR cat. When stroking a virtual cat’s fur, the user can feel a variance in the roughness as the strokes change direction and speed.

The system can also be useful in transmitting fine tactile details through thick gloves. The team successfully integrated the thin, light electrodes of the electrotactile rendering system into flexible tactile sensors on a safety glove. The tactile sensor array captures the pressure distribution on the exterior of the glove and relays the information to the user in real time through tactile stimulation. In the experiment, the user could quickly and accurately locate a tiny steel washer just 1 mm in radius and 0.44mm thick based on the tactile feedback from the glove with sensors and stimulators. This shows the system’s potential in enabling high-fidelity tactile perception, which is currently unavailable to astronauts, firefighters, deep-sea divers and others who need wear thick protective suits or gloves.

“We expect our technology to benefit a broad spectrum of applications, such as information transmission, surgical training, teleoperation, and multimedia entertainment,” added Dr Yang.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Super-resolution wearable electrotactile rendering system by Weikang Lin, Dongsheng Zhang, Wang Wei Lee, Xuelong Li, Ying Hong, Qiqi Pan, Ruirui Zhang, Guoxiang Peng, Hong Z. Tan, Zhengyou Zhang, Lei Wei, and Zhengbao Yang. Science Advances 9 Sep 2022 Vol 8, Issue 36 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abp8738

This paper is open access.

XR (extended reality) conference in Rome, Italy and four new projects at the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA)

As noted in the headline for this post, I have two items. For anyone unfamiliar with XR and the other (AR, MR, and VR) realities, I found a good description which I placed in my October 22, 2021 posting (scroll down to the “How many realities are there?” subhead about 70% of the way down).

eXtended Reality in Rome

I got an invitation (via a February 24, 2022 email) to participate in a special session at one of the 2022 IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference (more about the conference later).

First, from the Special Session 10, eXtended Reality as a gateway to the Metaverse: Practices, Theories, Technologies and Applications webpage,

ABSTRACT

The fast development of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) solutions over the last few years are transforming how people interact, work, and communicate. The eXtended Reality (XR) term encloses all those immersive technologies that can shift the boundaries between digital and physical worlds to realize the Metaverse. According to tech companies and venture capitalists, the Metaverse will be a super-platform that convenes sub-platforms: social media, online video games, and ease-of-life apps, all accessible through the same digital space and sharing the same digital economy. Inside the Metaverse, virtual worlds will allow avatars to carry all human endeavours, including creation, display, entertainment, social, and trading. Thus, the Metaverse will evolve how users interact with brands, intellectual properties, and each other things on the Internet. A user could join friends to play a multiplayer game, watch a movie via a streaming service and then attend a university course precisely the same as in the real world.

The Metaverse development will require new software architecture that will enable decentralized and collaborative virtual worlds. These self-organized virtual worlds will be permanent and will require maintenance operations. In addition, it will be necessary to design efficient data management system and prevent privacy violations. Finally, the convergence of physical reality, virtually enhanced, and an always-on virtual space highlighted the need to rethink the actual paradigms for visualization, interaction, and sharing of digital information, moving toward more natural, intuitive, dynamically customizable, multimodal, and multi-user solutions.

TOPICS

The topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

Hardware/Software Architectures for Metaverse

Decentralized and Collaborative Architectures for Metaverse

Interoperability for Metaverse

Tools to help creators to build the Metaverse

Operations and Maintenance in Metaverse

Data security and privacy mechanisms for Metaverse

Cryptocurrency, token, NFT Solutions for Metaverse

Fraud-Detection in Metaverse

Cyber Security for Metaverse

Data Analytics to Identify Malicious Behaviors in Metaverse

Blockchain/AI technologies in Metaverse

Emerging Technologies and Applications for Metaverse

New models to evaluate the impact of the Metaverse

Interactive Data Exploration and Presentation in Metaverse

Human factors issues related to Metaverse

Proof-of-Concept in Metaverse: Experimental Prototyping and Testbeds

ABOUT THE ORGANIZERS

Giuseppe Caggianese is a Research Scientist at the National Research Council of Italy. He received the Laurea degree in computer science magna cum laude in 2010 and the Ph.D. degree in Methods and Technologies for Environmental Monitoring in 2013 from the University of Basilicata, Italy.

His research activities are focused on the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to design and test advanced interfaces adaptive to specific uses and users in both augmented and virtual reality. He authored more than 30 scientific papers published in international journals, conference proceedings, and books. He also serves on program committees of several international conferences and workshops.

Ugo Erra is an Assistant Professor (qualified as Associate Professor) at the University of Basilicata (UNIBAS), Italy. He is the founder of the Computer Graphics Laboratory at the University of Basilicata. He received an MSc/diploma degree in Computer Science from the University of Salerno, Italy, in 2001 and a PhD in Computer Science in 2004.

His research focuses on Real-Time Computer Graphics, Information Visualization, Artificial Intelligence, and Parallel Computing. Has been involved in several research projects; among these, one project was funded by the European Commission as a research fellow, and four projects were founded by Area Science Park, a public national research organization that promotes the development of innovation processes, as principal investigator. He has (co-)authored about 14 international journal articles, 45 international conference proceedings, and two book chapters. He supervised four PhD students. He organized the Workshop on Parallel and Distributed Agent-Based Simulations, a satellite Workshop of Euro-Par, from 2013 to 2015. He served more than 20 international conferences as program committee member and more than ten journals as referee.

As promised, here’s more about the conference with information about how to respond to the call for papers both for the special session and the conference at large. From the 2022 IEEE International Conference on Metrology for Extended Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Neural Engineering (IEEE MetroXRAINE 2022) website,

The 2022 IEEE International Conference on Metrology for eXtended Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Neural Engineering (IEEE MetroXRAINE 2022) will be an international event mainly aimed at creating a synergy between experts in eXtended Reality, Brain-Computer Interface, and Artificial Intelligence, with special attention to measurement [i.e., metrology].

The conference will be a unique opportunity for discussion among scientists, technologists, and companies on very specific sectors in order to increase the visibility and the scientific impact for the participants. The organizing formula will be original owing to the emphasis on the interaction between the participants to exchange ideas and material useful for their research activities.

MetroXRAINE will be configured as a synergistic collection of sessions organized by the individual members of the Scientific Committee. Round tables will be held for different projects and hot research topics. Moreover, we will have demo sessions, students contests, interactive company expositions, awards, and so on.

The Conference will be a hybrid conference [emphasis mine], with the possibility of attendance remotely or in presence.

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Program Committee is inviting to submit Abstracts (1 – 2 pages) for the IEEE MetroXRAINE 2022 Conference, 26-28 October, 2022.

All contributions will be peer-reviewed and acceptance will be based on quality, originality and relevance. Accepted papers will be submitted for inclusion into IEEE Xplore Digital Library.

Extended versions of presented papers are eligible for post publication.

Abstract Submission Deadline:

March 28, 2022

Full Paper Submission Deadline:

May 10, 2022

Extended Abstract Acceptance Notification:

June 10, 2022

Final Paper Submission Deadline:

July 30, 2022

According to the email invitation, “IEEE MetroXRAINE 2022 … will be held on October 26-28, 2022 in Rome.” You can find more details on the conference website.

Council of Canadian Academies launches four projects

This too is from an email. From the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) announcement received February 27, 2022 (you can find the original February 17, 2022 CCA news release here),

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) is pleased to announce it will undertake four new assessments beginning this spring:

Gene-edited Organisms for Pest Control
Advances in gene editing tools and technologies have made the process of changing an organism’s genome more efficient, opening up a range of potential applications. One such application is in pest control. By editing genomes of organisms, and introducing them to wild populations, it’s now possible to control insect-borne disease and invasive species, or reverse insecticide resistance in pests. But the full implications of using these methods remains uncertain.

This assessment will examine the scientific, bioethical, and regulatory challenges associated with the use of gene-edited organisms and technologies for pest control.

Sponsor: Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency

The Future of Arctic and Northern Research in Canada
The Arctic is undergoing unprecedented changes, spurred in large part by climate change and globalization. Record levels of sea ice loss are expected to lead to increased trade through the Northwest Passage. Ocean warming and changes to the tundra will transform marine and terrestrial ecosystems, while permafrost thaw will have significant effects on infrastructure and the release of greenhouse gases. As a result of these trends, Northern communities, and Canada as an Arctic and maritime country, are facing profound economic, social, and ecosystem impacts.

This assessment will examine the key foundational elements to create an inclusive, collaborative, effective, and world-class Arctic and northern science system in Canada.

Sponsor: A consortium of Arctic and northern research and science organizations from across Canada led by ArcticNet

Quantum Technologies
Quantum technologies will affect all sectors of the Canadian economy. Built on the principles of quantum physics, these emerging technologies present significant opportunities in the areas of sensing and metrology, computation and communication, and data science and artificial intelligence, among others. But there is also the potential they could be used to facilitate cyberattacks, putting financial systems, utility grids, infrastructure, personal privacy, and national security at risk. A comprehensive exploration of the capabilities and potential vulnerabilities of these technologies will help to inform their future deployment across society and the economy.

This assessment will examine the impacts, opportunities, and challenges quantum technologies present for industry, governments, and people in Canada.

Sponsor: National Research Council Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

International Science and Technology Partnership Opportunities
International partnerships focused on science, technology, and innovation can provide Canada with an opportunity to advance the state of knowledge in areas of national importance, help address global challenges, and contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals. Canadian companies could also benefit from global partnerships to access new and emerging markets.

While there are numerous opportunities for international collaborations, Canada has finite resources to support them. Potential partnerships need to be evaluated not just on strengths in areas such as science, technology, and innovation, but also political and economic factors.

This assessment will examine how public, private, and academic organizations can evaluate and prioritize science and technology partnership opportunities with other countries to achieve key national objectives.

Sponsor: Global Affairs Canada

Gene-edited Organisms for Pest Control and International Science and Technology Partnership Opportunities are funded by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). Quantum Technologies is funded by the National Research Council of Council (NRC) and ISED, and the Future of Arctic and Northern Research in Canada is funded by a consortium of Arctic and northern research and science organizations from across Canada led by ArcticNet. The reports will be released in 2023-24.

Multidisciplinary expert panels will be appointed in the coming months for all four assessments.

You can find in-progress and completed CCA reports here.

Fingers crossed that the CCA looks a little further afield for their international experts than the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and northern Europe.

Finally, I’m guessing that the gene-editing and pest management report will cover and, gingerly, recommend germline editing (which is currently not allowed in Canada) and gene drives too.

It will be interesting to see who’s on that committee. If you’re really interested in the report topic, you may want to check out my April 26, 2019 posting and scroll down to the “Criminal ban on human gene-editing of inheritable cells (in Canada)” subhead where I examined what seemed to be an informal attempt to persuade policy makers to allow germline editing or gene-editing of inheritable cells in Canada.

The metaverse or not

The ‘metaverse’ seems to be everywhere these days (especially since Facebook has made a number of announcements bout theirs (more about that later in this posting).

At this point, the metaverse is very hyped up despite having been around for about 30 years. According to the Wikipedia timeline (see the Metaverse entry), the first one was a MOO in 1993 called ‘The Metaverse’. In any event, it seems like it might be a good time to see what’s changed since I dipped my toe into a metaverse (Second Life by Linden Labs) in 2007.

(For grammar buffs, I switched from definite article [the] to indefinite article [a] purposefully. In reading the various opinion pieces and announcements, it’s not always clear whether they’re talking about a single, overarching metaverse [the] replacing the single, overarching internet or whether there will be multiple metaverses, in which case [a].)

The hype/the buzz … call it what you will

This September 6, 2021 piece by Nick Pringle for Fast Company dates the beginning of the metaverse to a 1992 science fiction novel before launching into some typical marketing hype (for those who don’t know, hype is the short form for hyperbole; Note: Links have been removed),

The term metaverse was coined by American writer Neal Stephenson in his 1993 sci-fi hit Snow Crash. But what was far-flung fiction 30 years ago is now nearing reality. At Facebook’s most recent earnings call [June 2021], CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s vision to unify communities, creators, and commerce through virtual reality: “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

So what actually is the metaverse? It’s best explained as a collection of 3D worlds you explore as an avatar. Stephenson’s original vision depicted a digital 3D realm in which users interacted in a shared online environment. Set in the wake of a catastrophic global economic crash, the metaverse in Snow Crash emerged as the successor to the internet. Subcultures sprung up alongside new social hierarchies, with users expressing their status through the appearance of their digital avatars.

Today virtual worlds along these lines are formed, populated, and already generating serious money. Household names like Roblox and Fortnite are the most established spaces; however, there are many more emerging, such as Decentraland, Upland, Sandbox, and the soon to launch Victoria VR.

These metaverses [emphasis mine] are peaking at a time when reality itself feels dystopian, with a global pandemic, climate change, and economic uncertainty hanging over our daily lives. The pandemic in particular saw many of us escape reality into online worlds like Roblox and Fortnite. But these spaces have proven to be a place where human creativity can flourish amid crisis.

In fact, we are currently experiencing an explosion of platforms parallel to the dotcom boom. While many of these fledgling digital worlds will become what Ask Jeeves was to Google, I predict [emphasis mine] that a few will match the scale and reach of the tech giant—or even exceed it.

Because the metaverse brings a new dimension to the internet, brands and businesses will need to consider their current and future role within it. Some brands are already forging the way and establishing a new genre of marketing in the process: direct to avatar (D2A). Gucci sold a virtual bag for more than the real thing in Roblox; Nike dropped virtual Jordans in Fortnite; Coca-Cola launched avatar wearables in Decentraland, and Sotheby’s has an art gallery that your avatar can wander in your spare time.

D2A is being supercharged by blockchain technology and the advent of digital ownership via NFTs, or nonfungible tokens. NFTs are already making waves in art and gaming. More than $191 million was transacted on the “play to earn” blockchain game Axie Infinity in its first 30 days this year. This kind of growth makes NFTs hard for brands to ignore. In the process, blockchain and crypto are starting to feel less and less like “outsider tech.” There are still big barriers to be overcome—the UX of crypto being one, and the eye-watering environmental impact of mining being the other. I believe technology will find a way. History tends to agree.

Detractors see the metaverse as a pandemic fad, wrapping it up with the current NFT bubble or reducing it to Zuck’s [Jeffrey Zuckerberg and Facebook] dystopian corporate landscape. This misses the bigger behavior change that is happening among Gen Alpha. When you watch how they play, it becomes clear that the metaverse is more than a buzzword.

For Gen Alpha [emphasis mine], gaming is social life. While millennials relentlessly scroll feeds, Alphas and Zoomers [emphasis mine] increasingly stroll virtual spaces with their friends. Why spend the evening staring at Instagram when you can wander around a virtual Harajuku with your mates? If this seems ridiculous to you, ask any 13-year-old what they think.

Who is Nick Pringle and how accurate are his predictions?

At the end of his September 6, 2021 piece, you’ll find this,

Nick Pringle is SVP [Senior Vice President] executive creative director at R/GA London.

According to the R/GA Wikipedia entry,

… [the company] evolved from a computer-assisted film-making studio to a digital design and consulting company, as part of a major advertising network.

Here’s how Pringle sees our future, his September 6, 2021 piece,

By thinking “virtual first,” you can see how these spaces become highly experimental, creative, and valuable. The products you can design aren’t bound by physics or marketing convention—they can be anything, and are now directly “ownable” through blockchain. …

I believe that the metaverse is here to stay. That means brands and marketers now have the exciting opportunity to create products that exist in multiple realities. The winners will understand that the metaverse is not a copy of our world, and so we should not simply paste our products, experiences, and brands into it.

I emphasized “These metaverses …” in the previous section to highlight the fact that I find the use of ‘metaverses’ vs. ‘worlds’ confusing as the words are sometimes used as synonyms and sometimes as distinctions. We do it all the time in all sorts of conversations but for someone who’s an outsider to a particular occupational group or subculture, the shifts can make for confusion.

As for Gen Alpha and Zoomer, I’m not a fan of ‘Gen anything’ as shorthand for describing a cohort based on birth years. For example, “For Gen Alpha [emphasis mine], gaming is social life,” ignores social and economic classes, as well as, the importance of locations/geography, e.g., Afghanistan in contrast to the US.

To answer the question I asked, Pringle does not mention any record of accuracy for his predictions for the future but I was able to discover that he is a “multiple Cannes Lions award-winning creative” (more here).

A more measured view of the metaverse

An October 4, 2021 article (What is the metaverse, and do I have to care? One part definition, one part aspiration, one part hype) by Adi Robertson and Jay Peters for The Verge offers a deeper dive into the metaverse (Note: Links have been removed),

In recent months you may have heard about something called the metaverse. Maybe you’ve read that the metaverse is going to replace the internet. Maybe we’re all supposed to live there. Maybe Facebook (or Epic, or Roblox, or dozens of smaller companies) is trying to take it over. And maybe it’s got something to do with NFTs [non-fungible tokens]?

Unlike a lot of things The Verge covers, the metaverse is tough to explain for one reason: it doesn’t necessarily exist. It’s partly a dream for the future of the internet and partly a neat way to encapsulate some current trends in online infrastructure, including the growth of real-time 3D worlds.

Then what is the real metaverse?

There’s no universally accepted definition of a real “metaverse,” except maybe that it’s a fancier successor to the internet. Silicon Valley metaverse proponents sometimes reference a description from venture capitalist Matthew Ball, author of the extensive Metaverse Primer:

“The Metaverse is an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.”

Facebook, arguably the tech company with the biggest stake in the metaverse, describes it more simply:

“The ‘metaverse’ is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.”

There are also broader metaverse-related taxonomies like one from game designer Raph Koster, who draws a distinction between “online worlds,” “multiverses,” and “metaverses.” To Koster, online worlds are digital spaces — from rich 3D environments to text-based ones — focused on one main theme. Multiverses are “multiple different worlds connected in a network, which do not have a shared theme or ruleset,” including Ready Player One’s OASIS. And a metaverse is “a multiverse which interoperates more with the real world,” incorporating things like augmented reality overlays, VR dressing rooms for real stores, and even apps like Google Maps.

If you want something a little snarkier and more impressionistic, you can cite digital scholar Janet Murray — who has described the modern metaverse ideal as “a magical Zoom meeting that has all the playful release of Animal Crossing.”

But wait, now Ready Player One isn’t a metaverse and virtual worlds don’t have to be 3D? It sounds like some of these definitions conflict with each other.

An astute observation.

Why is the term “metaverse” even useful? “The internet” already covers mobile apps, websites, and all kinds of infrastructure services. Can’t we roll virtual worlds in there, too?

Matthew Ball favors the term “metaverse” because it creates a clean break with the present-day internet. [emphasis mine] “Using the metaverse as a distinctive descriptor allows us to understand the enormity of that change and in turn, the opportunity for disruption,” he said in a phone interview with The Verge. “It’s much harder to say ‘we’re late-cycle into the last thing and want to change it.’ But I think understanding this next wave of computing and the internet allows us to be more proactive than reactive and think about the future as we want it to be, rather than how to marginally affect the present.”

A more cynical spin is that “metaverse” lets companies dodge negative baggage associated with “the internet” in general and social media in particular. “As long as you can make technology seem fresh and new and cool, you can avoid regulation,” researcher Joan Donovan told The Washington Post in a recent article about Facebook and the metaverse. “You can run defense on that for several years before the government can catch up.”

There’s also one very simple reason: it sounds more futuristic than “internet” and gets investors and media people (like us!) excited.

People keep saying NFTs are part of the metaverse. Why?

NFTs are complicated in their own right, and you can read more about them here. Loosely, the thinking goes: NFTs are a way of recording who owns a specific virtual good, creating and transferring virtual goods is a big part of the metaverse, thus NFTs are a potentially useful financial architecture for the metaverse. Or in more practical terms: if you buy a virtual shirt in Metaverse Platform A, NFTs can create a permanent receipt and let you redeem the same shirt in Metaverse Platforms B to Z.

Lots of NFT designers are selling collectible avatars like CryptoPunks, Cool Cats, and Bored Apes, sometimes for astronomical sums. Right now these are mostly 2D art used as social media profile pictures. But we’re already seeing some crossover with “metaverse”-style services. The company Polygonal Mind, for instance, is building a system called CryptoAvatars that lets people buy 3D avatars as NFTs and then use them across multiple virtual worlds.

If you have the time, the October 4, 2021 article (What is the metaverse, and do I have to care? One part definition, one part aspiration, one part hype) is definitely worth the read.

Facebook’s multiverse and other news

Since starting this post sometime in September 2021, the situation regarding Facebook has changed a few times. I’ve decided to begin my version of the story from a summer 2021 announcement.

On Monday, July 26, 2021, Facebook announced a new Metaverse product group. From a July 27, 2021 article by Scott Rosenberg for Yahoo News (Note: A link has been removed),

Facebook announced Monday it was forming a new Metaverse product group to advance its efforts to build a 3D social space using virtual and augmented reality tech.

Facebook’s new Metaverse product group will report to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of virtual and augmented reality [emphasis mine], who announced the new organization in a Facebook post.

Facebook, integrity, and safety in the metaverse

On September 27, 2021 Facebook posted this webpage (Building the Metaverse Responsibly by Andrew Bosworth, VP, Facebook Reality Labs [emphasis mine] and Nick Clegg, VP, Global Affairs) on its site,

The metaverse won’t be built overnight by a single company. We’ll collaborate with policymakers, experts and industry partners to bring this to life.

We’re announcing a $50 million investment in global research and program partners to ensure these products are developed responsibly.

We develop technology rooted in human connection that brings people together. As we focus on helping to build the next computing platform, our work across augmented and virtual reality and consumer hardware will deepen that human connection regardless of physical distance and without being tied to devices. 

Introducing the XR [extended reality] Programs and Research Fund

There’s a long road ahead. But as a starting point, we’re announcing the XR Programs and Research Fund, a two-year $50 million investment in programs and external research to help us in this effort. Through this fund, we’ll collaborate with industry partners, civil rights groups, governments, nonprofits and academic institutions to determine how to build these technologies responsibly. 

..

Where integrity and safety are concerned Facebook is once again having some credibility issues according to an October 5, 2021 Associated Press article (Whistleblower testifies Facebook chooses profit over safety, calls for ‘congressional action’) posted on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) news online website.

Rebranding Facebook’s integrity and safety issues away?

It seems Facebook’s credibility issues are such that the company is about to rebrand itself according to an October 19, 2021 article by Alex Heath for The Verge (Note: Links have been removed),

Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th [2021], but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more. A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment for this story.

Facebook already has more than 10,000 employees building consumer hardware like AR glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones. In July, he told The Verge that, over the next several years, “we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”

A rebrand could also serve to further separate the futuristic work Zuckerberg is focused on from the intense scrutiny Facebook is currently under for the way its social platform operates today. A former employee turned whistleblower, Frances Haugen, recently leaked a trove of damning internal documents to The Wall Street Journal and testified about them before Congress. Antitrust regulators in the US and elsewhere are trying to break the company up, and public trust in how Facebook does business is falling.

Facebook isn’t the first well-known tech company to change its company name as its ambitions expand. In 2015, Google reorganized entirely under a holding company called Alphabet, partly to signal that it was no longer just a search engine, but a sprawling conglomerate with companies making driverless cars and health tech. And Snapchat rebranded to Snap Inc. in 2016, the same year it started calling itself a “camera company” and debuted its first pair of Spectacles camera glasses.

If you have time, do read Heath’s article in its entirety.

An October 20, 2021 Thomson Reuters item on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news online includes quotes from some industry analysts about the rebrand,

“It reflects the broadening out of the Facebook business. And then, secondly, I do think that Facebook’s brand is probably not the greatest given all of the events of the last three years or so,” internet analyst James Cordwell at Atlantic Equities said.

“Having a different parent brand will guard against having this negative association transferred into a new brand, or other brands that are in the portfolio,” said Shankha Basu, associate professor of marketing at University of Leeds.

Tyler Jadah’s October 20, 2021 article for the Daily Hive includes an earlier announcement (not mentioned in the other two articles about the rebranding), Note: A link has been removed,

Earlier this week [October 17, 2021], Facebook announced it will start “a journey to help build the next computing platform” and will hire 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union (EU) over the next five years.

“Working with others, we’re developing what is often referred to as the ‘metaverse’ — a new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality,” wrote Facebook’s Nick Clegg, the VP of Global Affairs. “At its heart is the idea that by creating a greater sense of “virtual presence,” interacting online can become much closer to the experience of interacting in person.”

Clegg says the metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities across the globe and the virtual world.

In an email with Facebook’s Corporate Communications Canada, David Troya-Alvarez told Daily Hive, “We don’t comment on rumour or speculation,” in regards to The Verge‘s report.

I will update this posting when and if Facebook rebrands itself into a ‘metaverse’ company.

***See Oct. 28, 2021 update at the end of this posting and prepare yourself for ‘Meta’.***

Who (else) cares about integrity and safety in the metaverse?

Apparently, the international legal firm, Norton Rose Fulbright also cares about safety and integrity in the metaverse. Here’s more from their July 2021 The Metaverse: The evolution of a universal digital platform webpage,

In technology, first-mover advantage is often significant. This is why BigTech and other online platforms are beginning to acquire software businesses to position themselves for the arrival of the Metaverse.  They hope to be at the forefront of profound changes that the Metaverse will bring in relation to digital interactions between people, between businesses, and between them both. 

What is the Metaverse? The short answer is that it does not exist yet. At the moment it is vision for what the future will be like where personal and commercial life is conducted digitally in parallel with our lives in the physical world. Sounds too much like science fiction? For something that does not exist yet, the Metaverse is drawing a huge amount of attention and investment in the tech sector and beyond.  

Here we look at what the Metaverse is, what its potential is for disruptive change, and some of the key legal and regulatory issues future stakeholders may need to consider.

What are the potential legal issues?

The revolutionary nature of the Metaverse is likely to give rise to a range of complex legal and regulatory issues. We consider some of the key ones below. As time goes by, naturally enough, new ones will emerge.

Data

Participation in the Metaverse will involve the collection of unprecedented amounts and types of personal data. Today, smartphone apps and websites allow organisations to understand how individuals move around the web or navigate an app. Tomorrow, in the Metaverse, organisations will be able to collect information about individuals’ physiological responses, their movements and potentially even brainwave patterns, thereby gauging a much deeper understanding of their customers’ thought processes and behaviours.

Users participating in the Metaverse will also be “logged in” for extended amounts of time. This will mean that patterns of behaviour will be continually monitored, enabling the Metaverse and the businesses (vendors of goods and services) participating in the Metaverse to understand how best to service the users in an incredibly targeted way.

The hungry Metaverse participant

How might actors in the Metaverse target persons participating in the Metaverse? Let us assume one such woman is hungry at the time of participating. The Metaverse may observe a woman frequently glancing at café and restaurant windows and stopping to look at cakes in a bakery window, and determine that she is hungry and serve her food adverts accordingly.

Contrast this with current technology, where a website or app can generally only ascertain this type of information if the woman actively searched for food outlets or similar on her device.

Therefore, in the Metaverse, a user will no longer need to proactively provide personal data by opening up their smartphone and accessing their webpage or app of choice. Instead, their data will be gathered in the background while they go about their virtual lives. 

This type of opportunity comes with great data protection responsibilities. Businesses developing, or participating in, the Metaverse will need to comply with data protection legislation when processing personal data in this new environment. The nature of the Metaverse raises a number of issues around how that compliance will be achieved in practice.

Who is responsible for complying with applicable data protection law? 

In many jurisdictions, data protection laws place different obligations on entities depending on whether an entity determines the purpose and means of processing personal data (referred to as a “controller” under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)) or just processes personal data on behalf of others (referred to as a “processor” under the GDPR). 

In the Metaverse, establishing which entity or entities have responsibility for determining how and why personal data will be processed, and who processes personal data on behalf of another, may not be easy. It will likely involve picking apart a tangled web of relationships, and there may be no obvious or clear answers – for example:

Will there be one main administrator of the Metaverse who collects all personal data provided within it and determines how that personal data will be processed and shared?
Or will multiple entities collect personal data through the Metaverse and each determine their own purposes for doing so? 

Either way, many questions arise, including:

How should the different entities each display their own privacy notice to users? 
Or should this be done jointly? 
How and when should users’ consent be collected? 
Who is responsible if users’ personal data is stolen or misused while they are in the Metaverse? 
What data sharing arrangements need to be put in place and how will these be implemented?

There’s a lot more to this page including a look at Social Media Regulation and Intellectual Property Rights.

One other thing, according to the Norton Rose Fulbright Wikipedia entry, it is one of the ten largest legal firms in the world.

How many realities are there?

I’m starting to think we should talking about RR (real reality), as well as, VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), MR (mixed reality), and XR (extended reality). It seems that all of these (except RR, which is implied) will be part of the ‘metaverse’, assuming that it ever comes into existence. Happily, I have found a good summarized description of VR/AR/MR/XR in a March 20, 2018 essay by North of 41 on medium.com,

Summary: VR is immersing people into a completely virtual environment; AR is creating an overlay of virtual content, but can’t interact with the environment; MR is a mixed of virtual reality and the reality, it creates virtual objects that can interact with the actual environment. XR brings all three Reality (AR, VR, MR) together under one term.

If you have the interest and approximately five spare minutes, read the entire March 20, 2018 essay, which has embedded images illustrating the various realities.

Alternate Mixed Realities: an example

TransforMR: Pose-Aware Object Substitution for Composing Alternate Mixed Realities (ISMAR ’21)

Here’s a description from one of the researchers, Mohamed Kari, of the video, which you can see above, and the paper he and his colleagues presented at the 20th IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR), 2021 (from the TransforMR page on YouTube),

We present TransforMR, a video see-through mixed reality system for mobile devices that performs 3D-pose-aware object substitution to create meaningful mixed reality scenes in previously unseen, uncontrolled, and open-ended real-world environments.

To get a sense of how recent this work is, ISMAR 2021 was held from October 4 – 8, 2021.

The team’s 2021 ISMAR paper, TransforMR Pose-Aware Object Substitution for Composing Alternate Mixed Realities by Mohamed Kari, Tobias Grosse-Puppendah, Luis Falconeri Coelho, Andreas Rene Fender, David Bethge, Reinhard Schütte, and Christian Holz lists two educational institutions I’d expect to see (University of Duisburg-Essen and ETH Zürich), the surprise was this one: Porsche AG. Perhaps that explains the preponderance of vehicles in this demonstration.

Space walking in virtual reality

Ivan Semeniuk’s October 2, 2021 article for the Globe and Mail highlights a collaboration between Montreal’s Felix and Paul Studios with NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and Time studios,

Communing with the infinite while floating high above the Earth is an experience that, so far, has been known to only a handful.

Now, a Montreal production company aims to share that experience with audiences around the world, following the first ever recording of a spacewalk in the medium of virtual reality.

The company, which specializes in creating virtual-reality experiences with cinematic flair, got its long-awaited chance in mid-September when astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide ventured outside the International Space Station for about seven hours to install supports and other equipment in preparation for a new solar array.

The footage will be used in the fourth and final instalment of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, a virtual-reality journey to space that has already garnered a Primetime Emmy Award for its first two episodes.

From the outset, the production was developed to reach audiences through a variety of platforms for 360-degree viewing, including 5G-enabled smart phones and tablets. A domed theatre version of the experience for group audiences opened this week at the Rio Tinto Alcan Montreal Planetarium. Those who desire a more immersive experience can now see the first two episodes in VR form by using a headset available through the gaming and entertainment company Oculus. Scenes from the VR series are also on offer as part of The Infinite, an interactive exhibition developed by Montreal’s Phi Studio, whose works focus on the intersection of art and technology. The exhibition, which runs until Nov. 7 [2021], has attracted 40,000 visitors since it opened in July [2021?].

At a time when billionaires are able to head off on private extraterrestrial sojourns that almost no one else could dream of, Lajeunesse [Félix Lajeunesse, co-founder and creative director of Felix and Paul studios] said his project was developed with a very different purpose in mind: making it easier for audiences to become eyewitnesses rather than distant spectators to humanity’s greatest adventure.

For the final instalments, the storyline takes viewers outside of the space station with cameras mounted on the Canadarm, and – for the climax of the series – by following astronauts during a spacewalk. These scenes required extensive planning, not only because of the limited time frame in which they could be gathered, but because of the lighting challenges presented by a constantly shifting sun as the space station circles the globe once every 90 minutes.

… Lajeunesse said that it was equally important to acquire shots that are not just technically spectacular but that serve the underlying themes of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. These include an examination of human adaptation and advancement, and the unity that emerges within a group of individuals from many places and cultures and who must learn to co-exist in a high risk environment in order to achieve a common goal.

If you have the time, do read Semeniuk’s October 2, 2021 article in its entirety. You can find the exhibits (hopefully, you’re in Montreal) The Infinite here and Space Explorers: The ISS experience here (see the preview below),

The realities and the ‘verses

There always seems to be a lot of grappling with new and newish science/technology where people strive to coin terms and define them while everyone, including members of the corporate community, attempts to cash in.

The last time I looked (probably about two years ago), I wasn’t able to find any good definitions for alternate reality and mixed reality. (By good, I mean something which clearly explicated the difference between the two.) It was nice to find something this time.

As for Facebook and its attempts to join/create a/the metaverse, the company’s timing seems particularly fraught. As well, paradigm-shifting technology doesn’t usually start with large corporations. The company is ignoring its own history.

Multiverses

Writing this piece has reminded me of the upcoming movie, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (Wikipedia entry). While this multiverse is based on a comic book, the idea of a Multiverse (Wikipedia entry) has been around for quite some time,

Early recorded examples of the idea of infinite worlds existed in the philosophy of Ancient Greek Atomism, which proposed that infinite parallel worlds arose from the collision of atoms. In the third century BCE, the philosopher Chrysippus suggested that the world eternally expired and regenerated, effectively suggesting the existence of multiple universes across time.[1] The concept of multiple universes became more defined in the Middle Ages.

Multiple universes have been hypothesized in cosmology, physics, astronomy, religion, philosophy, transpersonal psychology, music, and all kinds of literature, particularly in science fiction, comic books and fantasy. In these contexts, parallel universes are also called “alternate universes”, “quantum universes”, “interpenetrating dimensions”, “parallel universes”, “parallel dimensions”, “parallel worlds”, “parallel realities”, “quantum realities”, “alternate realities”, “alternate timelines”, “alternate dimensions” and “dimensional planes”.

The physics community has debated the various multiverse theories over time. Prominent physicists are divided about whether any other universes exist outside of our own.

Living in a computer simulation or base reality

The whole thing is getting a little confusing for me so I think I’ll stick with RR (real reality) or as it’s also known base reality. For the notion of base reality, I want to thank astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University in Anil Ananthaswamy’s article for this analysis of the idea that we might all be living in a computer simulation (from my December 8, 2020 posting; scroll down about 50% of the way to the “Are we living in a computer simulation?” subhead),

… there is a more obvious answer: Occam’s razor, which says that in the absence of other evidence, the simplest explanation is more likely to be correct. The simulation hypothesis is elaborate, presuming realities nested upon realities, as well as simulated entities that can never tell that they are inside a simulation. “Because it is such an overly complicated, elaborate model in the first place, by Occam’s razor, it really should be disfavored, compared to the simple natural explanation,” Kipping says.

Maybe we are living in base reality after all—The Matrix, Musk and weird quantum physics notwithstanding.

To sum it up (briefly)

I’m sticking with the base reality (or real reality) concept, which is where various people and companies are attempting to create a multiplicity of metaverses or the metaverse effectively replacing the internet. This metaverse can include any all of these realities (AR/MR/VR/XR) along with base reality. As for Facebook’s attempt to build ‘the metaverse’, it seems a little grandiose.

The computer simulation theory is an interesting thought experiment (just like the multiverse is an interesting thought experiment). I’ll leave them there.

Wherever it is we are living, these are interesting times.

***Updated October 28, 2021: D. (Devindra) Hardawar’s October 28, 2021 article for engadget offers details about the rebranding along with a dash of cynicism (Note: A link has been removed),

Here’s what Facebook’s metaverse isn’t: It’s not an alternative world to help us escape from our dystopian reality, a la Snow Crash. It won’t require VR or AR glasses (at least, not at first). And, most importantly, it’s not something Facebook wants to keep to itself. Instead, as Mark Zuckerberg described to media ahead of today’s Facebook Connect conference, the company is betting it’ll be the next major computing platform after the rise of smartphones and the mobile web. Facebook is so confident, in fact, Zuckerberg announced that it’s renaming itself to “Meta.”

After spending the last decade becoming obsessed with our phones and tablets — learning to stare down and scroll practically as a reflex — the Facebook founder thinks we’ll be spending more time looking up at the 3D objects floating around us in the digital realm. Or maybe you’ll be following a friend’s avatar as they wander around your living room as a hologram. It’s basically a digital world layered right on top of the real world, or an “embodied internet” as Zuckerberg describes.

Before he got into the weeds for his grand new vision, though, Zuckerberg also preempted criticism about looking into the future now, as the Facebook Papers paint the company as a mismanaged behemoth that constantly prioritizes profit over safety. While acknowledging the seriousness of the issues the company is facing, noting that it’ll continue to focus on solving them with “industry-leading” investments, Zuckerberg said: 

“The reality is is that there’s always going to be issues and for some people… they may have the view that there’s never really a great time to focus on the future… From my perspective, I think that we’re here to create things and we believe that we can do this and that technology can make things better. So we think it’s important to to push forward.”

Given the extent to which Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, have proven to be untrustworthy stewards of social technology, it’s almost laughable that the company wants us to buy into its future. But, like the rise of photo sharing and group chat apps, Zuckerberg at least has a good sense of what’s coming next. And for all of his talk of turning Facebook into a metaverse company, he’s adamant that he doesn’t want to build a metaverse that’s entirely owned by Facebook. He doesn’t think other companies will either. Like the mobile web, he thinks every major technology company will contribute something towards the metaverse. He’s just hoping to make Facebook a pioneer.

“Instead of looking at a screen, or today, how we look at the Internet, I think in the future you’re going to be in the experiences, and I think that’s just a qualitatively different experience,” Zuckerberg said. It’s not quite virtual reality as we think of it, and it’s not just augmented reality. But ultimately, he sees the metaverse as something that’ll help to deliver more presence for digital social experiences — the sense of being there, instead of just being trapped in a zoom window. And he expects there to be continuity across devices, so you’ll be able to start chatting with friends on your phone and seamlessly join them as a hologram when you slip on AR glasses.

D. (Devindra) Hardawar’s October 28, 2021 article provides a lot more details and I recommend reading it in its entirety.

The Canada Council for the Arts, a digital strategy research report on blockchains and culture, and Vancouver (Canada)

Is the May 17, 2021 “Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks (BACP) Digital Strategy Research Report” discussing a hoped for future transformative experience? Given the report’s subtitle: “Towards a Digitally Cooperative Culture: Recommoning Land, Data and Objects,” and the various essays included in the 200 pp document, I say the answer is ‘yes’.

The report was launched by 221 A, a Vancouver (Canada)-based arts and culture organization and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts through their Digital Strategy Fund. Here’s more from the BACP report in the voice of its research leader, Jesse McKee,

… The blockchain is the openly readable and unalterable ledger technology, which is most broadly known for supporting such applications as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This report documents the first research phase in a three-phased approach to establishing our digital strategy [emphasis mine], as we [emphasis mine] learn from the blockchain development communities. This initiative’s approach is an institutional one, not one that is interpreting the technology for individuals, artists and designers alone. The central concept of the blockchain is that exchanges of value need not rely on centralized authentication from institutions such as banks, credit cards or the state, and that this exchange of value is better programmed and tracked with metadata to support the virtues, goals and values of a particular network. This concept relies on a shared, decentralized and trustless ledger. “Trustless” in the blockchain community is an evolution of the term trust, shifting its signification as a contract usually held between individuals, managed and upheld by a centralized social institution, and redistributing it amongst the actors in a blockchain network who uphold the platform’s technical operational codes and can access ledgers of exchange. All parties involved in the system are then able to reach a consensus on what the canonical truth is regarding the holding and exchange of value within the system.

… [from page 6 of the report]

McKee manages to keep the report from floating away in a sea of utopian bliss with some cautionary notes. Still, as a writer I’m surprised he didn’t notice that ‘blockchain‘ which (in English) is supposed to ‘unlock padlocks’ poses a linguistic conundrum if nothing else.

This looks like an interesting report but it’s helpful to have some ‘critical theory’ jargon. That said, the bulk of the report is relatively accessible reading although some of the essays (at the end) from the artist-researchers are tough going.

One more thought, the report does present many exciting and transformative possibilities and I would dearly love to see much of this come to pass. I am more hesitant than McKee and his colleagues and that hesitation is beautifully described in an essay (The Vampire Problem: Illustrating the Paradox of Transformative Experience) first published September 3, 2017 by Maria Popova (originally published on Brain Pickings),

To be human is to suffer from a peculiar congenital blindness: On the precipice of any great change, we can see with terrifying clarity the familiar firm footing we stand to lose, but we fill the abyss of the unfamiliar before us with dread at the potential loss rather than jubilation over the potential gain of gladnesses and gratifications we fail to envision because we haven’t yet experienced them. …

Arts and blockchain events in Vancouver

The 221 A launch event for the report kicked off a series of related events, here’s more from a 221 A May 17, 2021 news release (Note: the first and second events have already taken place),

Events Series

Please join us for a live stream events series bringing together key contributors of the Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks Research Report alongside a host of leading figures across academic, urbanism, media and blockchain development communities.

Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks Digital Strategy Launch

May 25, 10 am PDT / 1 pm EDT / 7 CEST

With Jesse McKee, BACP Lead Investigator and 221A Head of Strategy; Rosemary Heather, BACP Editorial Director and Principal Researcher; moderated by Svitlana Matviyenko, Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Simon Fraser University’s Digital Democracies Institute.

The Valuation of Necessity: A Cosmological View of our Technologies and Culture

June 4, 10 am PDT / 1 pm EDT / 7pm CEST

With BACP researcher, artist and theorist Patricia Reed; critical geographer Maral Sotoudehnia, and Wassim Alsindi of 0x Salon, Berlin, who conducts research on the legal and ecological externalities of blockchain networks.

Recommoning Territory: Diversifying Housing Tenure Through Platform Cooperatives

June 18, 10 am PDT / 1 pm EDT / 7pm CEST

With 221A Fellows Maksym Rokmaniko and Francis Tseng (DOMA [a nonprofit organization developing a distributed housing platform]); Andy Yan (Simon Fraser University); and BACP researcher and critical geographer Maral Sotoudehnia.

Roundtable: Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) & Social Tokens

Released June 25, Pre-recorded

Roundtable co-organized with Daniel Keller of newmodels.io, with participation from development teams and researchers from @albiverse, trust.support, Circles UBI, folia.app, SayDAO, and Blockchain@UBC

Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks is supported by the Digital Strategy Fund of the Canada Council for the Arts.

For more, contact us hello@221a.ca

Coming up: Vancouver’s Voxel Bridge

The Vancouver Biennale folks first sent me information about Voxel Bridge in 2018 but this new material is the most substantive description yet, even without an opening date. From a June 6, 2021 article by Kevin Griffin for the Vancouver Sun (Note: Links have been removed),

The underside of the Cambie Bridge is about to be transformed into the unique digital world of Voxel Bridge. Part of the Vancouver Biennale, Voxel Bridge will exist both as a physical analogue art work and an online digital one.

The public art installation is by Jessica Angel. When it’s fully operational, Voxel Bridge will have several non-fungible tokens called NFTs that exist in an interactive 3-D world that uses blockchain technology. The intention is to create a fully immersive installation. Voxel Bridge is being described as the largest digital public art installation of its kind.

“To my knowledge, nothing has been done at this scale outdoors that’s fully interactive,” said Sammi Wei, the Vancouver Biennale‘s operations director. “Once the digital world is built in your phone, you’ll be able to walk around objects. When you touch one, it kind of vibrates.”

Just as a pixel refers to a point in a two-dimensional world, voxel refers to a similar unit in a 3-D world.

Voxel Bridge will be about itself: it will tell the story of what it means to use new decentralized technology called blockchain to create Voxel Bridge.

There are a few more Voxel Bridge details in a June 7, 2021 article by Vincent Plana for the Daily Hive,

Voxel Bridge draws parallels between blockchain technology and the structural integrity of the underpass itself. The installation will be created by using adhesive vinyl and augmented reality technology.

Gfiffin’s description in his June 6, 2021 article gives you a sense of what it will be like to become immersed in Voxel Bridge,

Starting Monday [June 14, 2021], a crew will begin installing a vinyl overlay directly on the architecture on the underside of the bridge deck, around the columns, and underfoot on the sidewalk from West 2nd to the parking-lot road. Enclosing a space of about 18,000 square feet, the vinyl layer will be visible without any digital enhancement. It will look like an off-kilter circuit board.

“It’ll be like you’re standing in the middle of a circuit board,” [emphasis mine] she said. “At the same time, the visual perception will be slightly off. It’s like an optical illusion. You feel the ground is not quite where it’s supposed to be.”

Griffin’s June 6, 2021 article offers good detail and a glossary.

So, Vancouver is offering more than one opportunity to learn about and/or experience blockchain.