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Blog: bruce-sterling

The Space Liberation Front Steals the Stage from Bruce Sterling

Chris Cameron May 30, 2011

We’re churning out videos from Augmented Reality Event 2011 like a machine, and today we have a rather special one for you. ARE opened again with a keynote from sci-fi author and futurist Bruce Sterling, but this year, things didn’t exactly go as planned (or did they?).



Before Bruce could begin his speech, he was interrupted by an organization calling themselves the Space Liberation Front. Their origins are, shall we say, mysterious. The group rushed the stage dressed in white hazmat suits and preceded to dramatically read their manifesto for the freeing of space.



Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?



It’s all quite entertaining to witness, so have a look in the video embedded below. Following their brief interruption, of course, is Bruce’s keynote to open the festivities at ARE, so enjoy that as well! We’ll be back with even more ARE 2011 videos as the week continues!





Photo by akihitok1973 on Flickr.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/290

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Regarding “Strong AR” and “Weak AR”

Gene Becker May 25, 2011

Layar’s AR Strategist Gene Becker penned this blog after attending Augmented Reality Event 2011 in Santa Clara, California, last week.



At the end of his otherwise lovely keynote at ARE2011, Microsoft’s Blaise Aguera y Arcas proposes a distinction between “strong AR” and “weak AR”. Aguera’s obviously a very talented technologist, but in my opinion he’s done the AR industry a disservice by framing his argument in a narrow, divisive way:

“I’ll leave you with just one or two more thoughts. One is that, consider, there’s been a lot of so called augmented reality on mobile devices over the…past couple of years, but most of it really sucks. And most of it is what I would call weak augmented reality, meaning it’s based on the compass and the GPS and some vague sense of how stuff out there in the world might relate to your device, based on those rather crude sensors. Strong AR is when you, when some little gremlin is actually looking through the viewfinder at what you’re seeing, and it’s saying ah yeah that’s, this is that, that’s that and that’s the other and everything is stable and visual, that’s strong AR. Of course the technical requirements are so much greater than just using the compass and the GPS, but the potential is so much greater as well.”

Aguera’s choice of words invokes the old cognitive / computer science argument about “strong AI” and “weak AI” which was first posed by John Searle in the early heyday of 1980’s artificial intelligence research [Searle 1980: Minds, Brains and Programs (pdf)]. However, Searle’s formulation was a philosophical statement intended to tease out the distinction between an artificially intelligent system simulating a mind, or actually having a mind. Searle’s interest had nothing to do with how impressive the algorithms were, or how much computational power was required to produce AI. Instead, he was focused on the question of whether a computational system could ever achieve consciousness and true understanding, and Searle believed the concept of strong AI was fundamentally misguided.



In contrast, Aguera’s framing is fueled by technical machismo. He uses strong and weak in the common schoolyard sense, and calls out “so-called augmented reality” that is “vague”, “crude”, and “sucks” in comparison to AR that is based on (gremlins, presumably shorthand for) sophisticated machine vision algorithms backed with terabytes of image data and banks of servers in the cloud. “Strong AR is on the way”, he says, with the unspoken promise that it will save the day from the weak AR we’ve had to endure until now.



OK, I get it. Smart technology people are competitive, they have egos, and they like to toss out some red meat now and then to keep the corporate execs salivating and the funding rolling in. Been there, done that, understand completely. And honestly, I love to see good technical work happen, as it obviously is happening in Blaise’s group (check out minute 17:20 in the video to hear the entire ARE crowd gasp at his demo).



But here’s where I think this kind of thinking goes off the rails. The most impressive technical solution does not equate to the best user experience; locative precision does not equal emotional resonance; smoothly blended desktop flythroughs are not the same as a compelling human experience. I don’t care if your system has centimeter-level camera pose estimation or a 20 meter uncertainty zone; if you’re doing AR from a technology-centered agenda instead of a human-centered motivation, you’re doing it wrong.



Bruce Sterling said it well at ARE2010: “You are the world’s first pure play experience designers.” We are creating experiences for people in the real world, in their real lives, in a time when reality itself is sprouting a new, digital dimension, and we really should try to get it right. That’s a huge opportunity and a humbling responsibility, and personally I’d love to see the creative energies of every person in our industry focused on enabling great human experiences, rather than posturing about who has stronger algorithms and more significant digits. And if you really want to have an argument, let’s make it about “human AR” vs. “machine AR”. I think Searle might like that.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/287

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Come Out to LAYAR DAY L.A. May 20th

Chris Cameron May 10, 2011

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, we’ve got a special event coming up that we hope you’ll join us for!



On Friday May 20th, we will be hosting LAYAR DAY L.A. - a full day of hacking space and time with augmented reality. Join us as we seek inspiration from visionary thinkers and from street-level artists, and help us make some cool AR!



Meet the Layar team at 10:45am at the Geffen Contemporary for an informal visit to the Art in the Streets exhibition of street art. MOCA opens at 11am and admission is $10 at the door.



From 1:30-3:00pm, we move to the Arts Center College of Design where artist Sander Veenhof and Layar’s Gene Becker will lead a hands-on workshop for artists, designers and enthusiasts who want to learn to make augmented reality experiences on the Layar platform. We’ll use street art, public AR art exhibitions and historical layers as examples of hacking space and time.



Following the workshop, join us from 3:00-6:00pm for an afternoon with some of the most visionary and creative minds in augmented reality. We have an incredible lineup of speakers including noted author Bruce Sterling, Layar co-founder Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, Scott Fisher of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Dutch artist Sander Veenhof.

The LAYAR DAY L.A. workshop and symposium is hosted by Art Center College of Design, and will be held in the Faculty Dining Room at ACCD’s Hillside Campus, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena, CA. The informal tour of Art in the Streets will meet at 10:45am at the Geffen Contemporary.



Space is limited so visit this page to reserve your place at either the workshop or symposium.

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/277

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Bruce Sterling: The Uni-Modern Uni-Medium

Chris Cameron April 28, 2011

The what? Yeah, that’s what we thought at first too.



As we mentioned yesterday, AR icon Bruce Sterling dropped in on Layar HQ to tell us all about the class he’s going to be teaching this summer on the subject. During our Q&A, he answered a question about the best medium for augmented reality, and his answer was, well, surprising.



He brings up the idea of the “uni-modern uni-medium” in which there is no real difference between one medium or the next, it’s just all one big blended medium.



It’s a really fascinating concept, so have a look at his answer in the video below!



Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/270

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Bruce Sterling Drops by Layar HQ, Imparts Wisdom

Chris Cameron April 27, 2011

Today at Layar HQ in Amsterdam we had a special treat as sci-fi writer, futurist and all-around AR guru Bruce Sterling graced us with his presence and wisdom. 

As Bruce says, a healthy part of the growth of any important industry is the proliferation of education on the subject. Bruce will soon be teaching a class in augmented reality, which we think is a great step towards to the popularization of the technology. 

Bruce reminds us that today, it is very common to see courses, majors and professors focused around newer subjects like video games - so why not get the ball rolling on AR education?

We also bestowed upon Mr. Sterling the noble title of Guardian Seer of Augmented Reality, and presented him with a fancy trophy. 

 To hear more about the class and Bruce’s thoughts on the current state of the industry, check out the video below!

Permalink: www.layar.com/news/blog/269

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