Posts Tagged ‘virtual reality’

Elon Musk has said that there is only a “one in billions” chance that we’re not living in a computer simulation.

Our lives are almost certainly being conducted within an artificial world powered by AI and highly-powered computers, like in The Matrix, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO suggested at a tech conference in California.

Mr Musk, who has donated huge amounts of money to research into the dangers of artificial intelligence, said that he hopes his prediction is true because otherwise it means the world will end.

“The strongest argument for us probably being in a simulation I think is the following,” he told the Code Conference. “40 years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot. That’s where we were.

“Now 40 years later we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, we’ll have augmented reality.

“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, just indistinguishable.”

He said that even if the speed of those advancements dropped by 1000, we would still be moving forward at an intense speed relative to the age of life.

Since that would lead to games that would be indistinguishable from reality that could be played anywhere, “it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in ‘base reality’ is one in billions”, Mr Musk said.

Asked whether he was saying that the answer to the question of whether we are in a simulated computer game was “yes”, he said the answer is “probably”.

He said that arguably we should hope that it’s true that we live in a simulation. “Otherwise, if civilisation stops advancing, then that may be due to some calamitous event that stops civilisation.”

He said that either we will make simulations that we can’t tell apart from the real world, “or civilisation will cease to exist”.

Mr Musk said that he has had “so many simulation discussions it’s crazy”, and that it got to the point where “every conversation [he had] was the AI/simulation conversation”.

The question of whether what we see is real or simulated has perplexed humans since at least the Ancient philosophers. But it has been given a new and different edge in recent years with the development of powerful computers and artificial intelligence, which some have argued shows how easily such a simulation could be created.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/elon-musk-ai-artificial-intelligence-computer-simulation-gaming-virtual-reality-a7060941.html

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An immersive virtual reality therapy could help people with depression to be less critical and more compassionate towards themselves, reducing depressive symptoms, finds a new study from UCL (University College London) and ICREA-University of Barcelona.

The therapy, previously tested by healthy volunteers, was used by 15 depression patients aged 23-61. Nine reported reduced depressive symptoms a month after the therapy, of whom four experienced a clinically significant drop in depression severity. The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open and was funded by the Medical Research Council.

Patients in the study wore a virtual reality headset to see from the perspective of a life-size ‘avatar’ or virtual body. Seeing this virtual body in a mirror moving in the same way as their own body typically produces the illusion that this is their own body. This is called ’embodiment’.

While embodied in an adult avatar, participants were trained to express compassion towards a distressed virtual child. As they talked to the child it appeared to gradually stop crying and respond positively to the compassion. After a few minutes the patients were embodied in the virtual child and saw the adult avatar deliver their own compassionate words and gestures to them. This brief 8-minute scenario was repeated three times at weekly intervals, and patients were followed up a month later.

“People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives,” explains study lead Professor Chris Brewin (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology). “In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion. The aim was to teach patients to be more compassionate towards themselves and less self-critical, and we saw promising results. A month after the study, several patients described how their experience had changed their response to real-life situations in which they would previously have been self-critical.”

The study offers a promising proof-of-concept, but as a small trial without a control group it cannot show whether the intervention is responsible for the clinical improvement in patients.

“We now hope to develop the technique further to conduct a larger controlled trial, so that we can confidently determine any clinical benefit,” says co-author Professor Mel Slater (ICREA-University of Barcelona and UCL Computer Science). “If a substantial benefit is seen, then this therapy could have huge potential. The recent marketing of low-cost home virtual reality systems means that methods such as this could potentially be part of every home and be used on a widespread basis.”

Publication: Embodying self-compassion within virtual reality and its effects on patients with depression. Falconer, CJ et al. British Journal of Psychiatry Open (February, 2016)

Visitors to a new exhibition at The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, won’t just be looking at art. Thanks to virtual reality, they’ll be exploring a Dali painting in a dreamy, three-dimensional world that turns art appreciation into an unforgettable, immersive experience.

The new exhibition, “Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination,” tells the story of the relationship between Salvador Dali, the surrealist artist, and Walt Disney, the great American animator and theme-park pioneer.

But the museum exhibition’s highlight comes after visitors have seen the Disney-Dali show’s paintings, story sketches, correspondence, photos and other artifacts. As visitors leave the exhibition area, they’ll be invited to don a headset to try the virtual reality experience.

Called “Dreams of Dali,” the VR experience takes viewers inside Dali’s 1935 painting “Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.'” The painting depicts two towering stone figures along with tiny human figures in a bare landscape with a moody sky. Users can move around inside the painting, using Oculus Rift headsets to navigate a trippy three-dimensional environment that includes motifs from other Dali works like elephants, birds, ants and his “Lobster Telephone” sculpture.

Accompanied by a haunting piano soundtrack punctuated by bird cries, the VR visuals also include a crescent moon, a stone tunnel and even an image of rocker Alice Cooper, whom Dali featured in a hologram he created in 1973.

“You actually have a three-dimensional feeling that you’re inside a painting,” said Jeff Goodby, whose firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners created the VR experience. “It’s not just like you’re inside a sphere with things being projected. It’s actually like there are objects closer and further away and you’re walking amidst them. It’s a vulnerable feeling you give yourself up to. It’s not like anything you’ve ever felt before.” The VR experience was previewed in New York for the media 10 days before its opening Saturday at the Florida museum.

Disney and Dali met in the 1940s in Hollywood, according to museum director Hank Hine. “Their sensibilities were very connected,” Hine said. “They wanted to take art off the palette, out of the canvas and into the world.” The exhibition looks at the castle motif that became a symbol of Disney parks, along with Dali’s “Dream of Venus” pavilion from the 1939 World’s Fair, which some consider a precursor of contemporary installation art.

Disney and Dali also collaborated on a short animated movie, “Destino,” that was eventually completed by Disney Studios. The six-minute movie, which can be found on YouTube, features a dancing girl with long dark hair, a sundial motif and a song with the line, “You came along out of a dream. … You are my destino.” Clips will be played within the gallery for the Disney-Dali exhibition and the full short will be shown at the museum’s theater.

The show also displays the Dali painting that inspired the VR experience, “Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.'” The surrealist work was Dali’s interpretation of a 19th-century painting by Jean-Francois Millet depicting two peasants in a field, heads bowed in prayer. Dali said that his work was a “fantasy during which I imagined sculptures of the two figures in Millet’s ‘Angelus’ carved out of the highest rocks.”

Museum marketing director Kathy Greif said record numbers of visitors attended its last two major shows exploring Dali’s relationships with Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. Given the Disney brand’s immense popularity and the VR novelty, attendance expectations for this show are high as well.

Dali “wanted art that took you over,” said Goodby. “He wanted to take you away and do something different with your head and that’s what this does.”

http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:bbb7d86c27c34a5d8a53310f2ece2c98

Bill Gates calls Ray, “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.” Ray is also amazing at predicting a lot more beyond just AI.

This post looks at his very incredible predictions for the next 20+ years.

So who is Ray Kurzweil?

He has received 20 honorary doctorates, has been awarded honors from three U.S. presidents, and has authored 7 books (5 of which have been national bestsellers).

He is the principal inventor of many technologies ranging from the first CCD flatbed scanner to the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. He is also the chancellor and co-founder of Singularity University, and the guy tagged by Larry Page to direct artificial intelligence development at Google.

In short, Ray’s pretty smart… and his predictions are amazing, mind-boggling, and important reminders that we are living in the most exciting time in human history.

But, first let’s look back at some of the predictions Ray got right.

Predictions Ray has gotten right over the last 25 years

In 1990 (twenty-five years ago), he predicted…

…that a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998. Then in 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov.

… that PCs would be capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly via the Internet by 2010. He was right, to say the least.

… that by the early 2000s, exoskeletal limbs would let the disabled walk. Companies like Ekso Bionics and others now have technology that does just this, and much more.

In 1999, he predicted…

… that people would be able talk to their computer to give commands by 2009. While still in the early days in 2009, natural language interfaces like Apple’s Siri and Google Now have come a long way. I rarely use my keyboard anymore; instead I dictate texts and emails.

… that computer displays would be built into eyeglasses for augmented reality by 2009. Labs and teams were building head mounted displays well before 2009, but Google started experimenting with Google Glass prototypes in 2011. Now, we are seeing an explosion of augmented and virtual reality solutions and HMDs. Microsoft just released the Hololens, and Magic Leap is working on some amazing technology, to name two.

In 2005, he predicted…

… that by the 2010s, virtual solutions would be able to do real-time language translation in which words spoken in a foreign language would be translated into text that would appear as subtitles to a user wearing the glasses. Well, Microsoft (via Skype Translate), Google (Translate), and others have done this and beyond. One app called Word Lens actually uses your camera to find and translate text imagery in real time.

Ray’s predictions for the next 25 years

The above represent only a few of the predictions Ray has made.

While he hasn’t been precisely right, to the exact year, his track record is stunningly good.

Here are some of Ray’s predictions for the next 25+ years.

By the late 2010s, glasses will beam images directly onto the retina. Ten terabytes of computing power (roughly the same as the human brain) will cost about $1,000.

By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Normal human eating can be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test begins to be passable. Self-driving cars begin to take over the roads, and people won’t be allowed to drive on highways.

By the 2030s, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real. We will be able to upload our mind/consciousness by the end of the decade.

By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence (a.k.a. us). Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in physical world at a whim.

By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.

Ray’s predictions are a byproduct of his understanding of the power of Moore’s Law, more specifically Ray’s “Law of Accelerating Returns” and of exponential technologies.

These technologies follow an exponential growth curve based on the principle that the computing power that enables them doubles every two years.

http://singularityhub.com/2015/01/26/ray-kurzweils-mind-boggling-predictions-for-the-next-25-years/

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Glynis Freeman stands on a tower balcony in nighttime London, peering down at the dizzying lights hundreds of feet below.

The distant rumble of city traffic rises up from the streets. A gust of wind brushes her hair. Freeman smiles while swiveling her head in all directions to take in the view.

“That was cool,” she said a few minutes later. “I want to go back to London.”

That’s because Freeman was never physically in London. The Marietta, Georgia, woman was 4,000 miles away in an Atlanta hotel lobby, wearing a headset and trying out a demonstration of new technology that can place people in exotic virtual settings almost anywhere on the planet.

It’s all part of a new experiment by Marriott, the global hotel chain, to let guests sample virtual destinations with the Oculus Rift, a headset whose high-definition, 3-D display immerses wearers in a lifelike interactive world.

“We really want to appeal to the next generation of travelers,” said Karen Olivares, director of global brand marketing for Marriott.

Virtual travel is in its infancy and a long way from being mainstream. But the travel industry is intrigued by its potential, which goes far beyond Google Street View or online “virtual tours” of hotels and resorts.

The idea is not that virtual travel will replace real-world travel, because nobody in the industry would go for that. Instead, the travel industry hopes that people who sample virtual snippets of alluring vacations — say, rafting the Grand Canyon or hiking the Great Wall of China — will be persuaded to splurge on the real thing.

Behind the Oculus Rift

Driving this trend are next-generation systems such as the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus, which promise a leap forward in virtual-reality technology.

The much-hyped Oculus Rift headset looks like something a skier or scuba diver might wear and fits snugly over the wearer’s face, paired with headphones. Its crisp 3D display immerses you in an interactive world — a medieval village or a tropical jungle — which you sometimes can navigate with the help of a game controller.

The goggles come packed with a 100-degree field of view, extending beyond viewers’ peripheral vision. They have an accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to track the position of your head and sync the visuals to the direction where you are looking — allowing Oculus to improve on the sometimes jerky visuals of other virtual-reality systems.

The Oculus Rift was designed to enhance video gaming. But Facebook paid $2 billion for its maker, Oculus VR, in March, seeing the device as a potential future communication platform.

One developer for the Oculus Rift is excited about the technology’s long-term potential to tranform travel.

“I could go for a run in the morning in some exotic beach and in the evening stroll the streets of some city … I could be a virtual storm chaser close to a tornado and even travel deep in the ocean,” the developer wrote in an online forum.

“In fact these experiences will be so real, without risk, and of course cheap that I might actually have second thoughts about traveling … Antarctica without the cold … Jungles without the heat and bugs … And people who will provide (this) content will make millions.”

Virtual journeying

Consumer versions of the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus — which works in much the same way — aren’t expected on the market until 2015 at the earliest. But that hasn’t stopped the travel industry from tinkering with prototypes.

Thomas Cook, the international travel agency, announced a trial program in August that will allow customers at one of its stores in England to don Oculus Rifts and experience a flight on one of its airplanes or tour a Sentido resort.

And Marriott has been touring U.S. cities this fall with its “Teleporter,” a booth that invites visitors to climb inside, strap on an Oculus Rift and take a virtual tour of Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach in Maui and Tower 42 in London.

Viewers watch a 90-second video produced by Framestore, the British creative studio that has done visual effects for “Gravity” and other movies. To make the experiences feel more lifelike, fans in the booths blow soft breezes while misters recreate the feel of ocean spray.

Whether such virtual-reality glimpses inspire someone to take a real trip remains to be seen. But visitors to the booths on a recent weekday in Atlanta came away impressed.

“That was truly amazing. It reminded me of something from ‘Star Trek,’ ” said Lisa Lewis of Monroe, Louisiana. “London has always been a dream destination of mine. And just to get a feel for a place — it was much more than I imagined.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/31/travel/virtual-reality-travel/index.html?c=&page=3