a thoughtful web.
Share good ideas and conversation.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment by am_Unition
am_Unition  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: How to Self Quarantine

Thanks to a proprietary software language shitting the bed on me, I'm unable to work much. Instead, with quarantining and carbon emission reductions in mind, I'm trying to envision how we might eventually have virtual meetings if they are to even begin to approach the efficiency (or social fulfillment) of face-to-face meetings, and are suitable for professional use.

1. A VR headset device maps the room you'd like to physically occupy for meeting(s). This should be used to restrict movement to areas safe to walk in, but you'll also make decisions like which subset of your virtual room you'd like to use for presenting information, which could be as simple as a wall, but some users, like someone planning to present content to a large audience, might have some sort of smart canvas or other device to enhance their ability to manipulate their content.

2. Depending on the number of attendees and the type of desired meeting, software links your virtual space into a larger virtual space, throughout which others in the meeting will be located. The possibilities here are actually pretty interesting. You could do a VR TED talk (ok, maybe just TEDx), or you could chat around the VR water cooler.

3. A camera or array of cameras on the headset monitors movements of your face and projects them onto the face of your virtual avatar. Sounds in the virtual room, like multiple conversations, are modeled inside of this space to virtually propagate off the walls, adding to the immersion, and everyone can wear a glove or two, which communicate with to your VR headset and allow for gesturing.

Latency destroys immersion. Not sure how to solve this problem, and the sound modeling thing may be unfeasible if it even introduces another small fraction of a second.

It would take a magically-curved beam of light 67 ms to travel around Earth, on its surface, from yourself to the point antipodal of you. Currently, my international teleconferences have one-way audio latency >300 ms, and communication is a two way street (so they say), which means it's > 600 ms until I hear Bob telling me to shut up, which I didn't hear, because I had already started a new sentence. And then, at least with Zoom and WebEx, screen sharing while trying to display video data products shows that the software is running < ~5 FPS. That's gonna hafta come up.

The logistics of optimal data routing using existing internet infrastructure is daunting. Starlink (or the Iridium constellation) in low-Earth orbit only introduces another few ms, geometrically, but a beam of light cannot curve, and requires inter-satellite communication to bounce the signal. Bandwidth will be a major issue.

It seems to me like it's a problem of diminishing returns on investments to depress international-scale connection, and thus covid-19 is going to do almost nothing to speed along improvements. Like, it's not demand for this that's the problem, sadly, we're running up against physical and computational limitations.

Orrrrr... you could shave one-way antipodal latency down to 42 ms if you shot neutrino beams through the Earth. Just sayin', Devac, this could be our fifth failed business venture someday! Too bad we can't actually use entanglement to violate causality and thus achieve superluminal communication, despite hundreds of uninformed pop-sci articles implying otherwise.

Tagging kleinbl00, this is all sorts of your alley. Devac too, because you'll eventually be on some international project and its slew of teleconferences, in all likelihood.





kleinbl00  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I handed in the bid documents on a major airport expansion on September 10, 2001.

Everyone that was anyone was talking about how post-9/11 was going to be the golden age of videoconferencing, much as they'd done in the '90s and the '80s and '70s and '60s. Used to be you'd go to Kinko's and spend $100 an hour to sit in a room with a few cameras and a fast data connection - who wouldn't want in on that hot business? I mean, I called up a video switch manufacturer and said "how big is that Epica you put in at the New York Stock Exchange? You think you could do bigger?" because some shithead figured things would be cheaper for the prison if they did "video visitation" so I needed a way for 200 inmates to communicate at once.

Of course, you either help design a prison and go "yay law'n'order" or you start to question your career and then do something else. Meanwhile Skype eliminates the entire sector and preposterously large switches lose three whole decimal points off their value.

Here's the thing.

You need to look 'em in the eye, and your peripheral vision needs to see their posture while you do it, and your hearing needs to sense all the people in the room, and your skin needs to sense that you're all in the same environment so that your cortex can separate environmental reaction from communication. Not just language, but all the stuff that we pick up on that isn't going to come across no matter how fast your bandwidth, how tight your camera, how binaural your audio because you're looking three inches below the camera that's filming your face and so's the person you're talking to and that's not going to change any time soon - apple patents be damned - because it'll still be an incremental change and frankly, we're so far down the ladder of "presence" that you should take your Skype and be fucking happy with it.

There's protocol for telepresence. We all adapted to it quickly, and we're all comfortable with it. Jaron Lanier pointed that out in early VR research - you can arbitrarily map a person to an imaginary VR squid and they'll figure out how to squirt ink with their pinky pretty quickly. It's just schema. It's not in-person communication and it never will be. It's incrementally, marginally, slightly better than a conference call.

You are not going to fix presence by putting people in goofygoggles and banana avatars. You're not. The fact that Zuckerberg thinks you can is proof positive that he's Borg. The stuff you trigger off of is entirely uncaptured by telecommunications.

Take it from the guy who used to design the stuff. 5% better than Skype costs you five times as much as skype and 10% better than Skype is unachievable.

am_Unition  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That was great. Thanks, I didn't know just how deep in your wheelhouse I ventured there with the prison bid.

    You are not going to fix presence by putting people in goofygoggles and banana avatars. You're not. The fact that Zuckerberg thinks you can is proof positive that he's Borg. The stuff you trigger off of is entirely uncaptured by telecommunications.

Ugh, I think you're right. Man, that's such a bummer. I've just been in flat out denial that VR will almost certainly never replace real life. You're absolutely correct that the smallest nuances are everything. The chronology is critical; <100 ms resolution of non-verbal cues, those moments can shape a conversation, a relationship.

OK, so a related question is whether or not this experience causes us to seriously re-examine whether or not the amount of global commerce and travel that we've worked up to is sustainable. Nah, I'm sorry, I was /s'ing, we're not going to ask that question, we know the answer.

Other questions that some of us coughDJsomeonecough might actually be asking include real gems, like "which Dem most recently played a doctor for halloween and posted pics?", "isn't it likely that Hunter Biden's work in China was to make coronavirus?", "why are my scientists refusing to confirm how well Mike's prayers are working?", "maybe Stephen could find a way to get the germs to the border and sanctuary cities?", "shouldn't we be able to only report deaths and stuff after the election is over? isn't this unfair to me?", and, repeatedly, "as long as my base isn't infected, won't things be OK for me?".

Edit: I've just imagined a likely scenario in which, for many reasons (passing money in the collections plate, hand shaking, hugs, and no modification of traditional behaviors, but mostly 'cuz elderly), rural religious communities are going to have some of the worst impacts. Then, I imagined all of the eventual "rapture" disinformation on social media, as perhaps many communities refuse to let this disrupt their regular attendance. "Maybe this is the lord's disease, people are saying." ok sorry, sorry, done for with trumpGen. For a bit.

_refugee_  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I agree that there is absolutely nothing like being in person. klein's point about the increased expense of developing more software to simulate in-person is a good one. I work with people in person as much as possible.

There's another element of being in person that isn't touched on, so far in this thread. It's all of those easy, quick, innate interactions that just don't happen when you're virtual, and I don't care how many chats or Slack channels or whatever you built to try to replace them. When I'm in person at the office and I know Jack is an expert on x or y and Jack's in the office, it's so very easy to walk over to his desk and have a quick conversation with Jack. It's not easy to do that virtually. I can look over to his desk and see if he's there or not. If he's there, I can see if he looks busy or not. When we have the conversation, unlike a discussion over chat, our discussion isn't reduced to a series of questions where Jack is simply trying to answer whatever I put before him.

I've worked full time from home and I've worked full time at the office. I do think a job where you can have a healthy mix of both is good -- people need flexibility in their lives for various reasons -- but I also think that, if I can, I want to be in the office 4 out of 5 days a week or so. I want to be managed by someone who I interact with in person at least once a month if possible. When I become a manager, I want to manage a team in person. I've seen work relationships that never clicked and it was in large part due to failures encouraged by two people not being in the same location.

You can make it work if you're not in person, but it's so much more difficult to do so.

kleinbl00  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

John Oliver pointed out that "The Leftovers" is an HBO series about 2% of the population disappearing.

Smithsonian Magazine pointed out that literature treated the 1918 pandemic like a repressed memory.

Trump shook hands with the chairman of AIPAC, and the chairman shook hands with someone with Coronavirus.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 86.

You know who's fucked the hardest in this? Rural senior citizens with inadequate access to emergency services.

Look to your friend on your left. Look to your friend on your right. Statistically, one of you three is going to lose a grandparent to this.

Devac  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  
This comment has been deleted.
am_Unition  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thank you for me now imagining project meetings with Nightbot in the chat menu. How in the hell could I forget how functional international competitive gaming is?

If lag is so low, (though, depending on how the software handles the data, the official record of player actions and positions is only a one-way transmission to the central server, right?), why in the hell are companies paying for conferencing software like WebEx, with 5x or more latency? Security?? It looks like the market is ripe for disruption. Not VR disruption, simple improvements in teleconferencing software. ~75 users. None of us use our cams. We're VOIP, with low FPS screen sharing, and we're doing > 300 ms one-way delay. There has to be something I'm missing here.

kleinbl00  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    How in the hell could I forget how functional international competitive gaming is?

Right - which needs audio, which needs video, which can generate all of it locally, and which must pass control signals along in 6ms or so. Compare and contrast with the games that actually require assessing the human on the other side, ie poker.

Poker is so broken without human interaction that pokerbots arose within weeks of poker going online and nobody could tell.

    why in the hell are companies paying for conferencing software like WebEx, with 5x or more latency?

"There's only one product, the only thing that changes is how you sell it."

(a legit book I bought on VOiP systems)

So look. I replaced our crusty AT&T Synapse system with a 3CX system. I pay $250 a year and I can do up to 8 simultaneous calls in and out. Which is plenty because we have one phone number. It runs on a Google virtual server which costs us about $2 a month. But I had to take about 10 hours worth of classes to be trained up enough to fumble my way through, and I had to buy the software from someone who had taken about 50 hours of classes to be trained up enough to support me when I break shit.

I coulda bought Vonage or Nextiva or whatever. Rather than $1000 worth of hardware, $5 a month in VOiP fees, $2 a month in server fees and $20 a month in licensing fees, I could be paying Vonage $30 per extension per month. I currently have 17 extensions (for 8 employees! Sweet jesus!) so I'm pretty cheerfully NOT doing that. But if you need a business phone, most people hit the easy button.

Unless you have a spare MCSE sitting around keeping your shit running, in which case that asshole will save you $500 a month. Outfits with a dedicated IT guy? They don't pay Vonage.

People pay for WebEx because it's the easy button. My eight simultaneous calls also allows me to do a 100-seat videoconference. I could literally have my wife's state-level professional organizations dial into our office to run their distance learning events. Skype ain't magic.

But if you don't understand it you're more likely to overpay.

Devac  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  
This comment has been deleted.
user-inactivated  ·  319 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I can also recommend roll20 if your project meetings requires a lot of procedural dice rolls and initiative tracker

You laugh, but I have rolled dice to generate estimates a few times. Project managers who shrug when you tell them you can't guess how long something will take without knowing exactly what that something is will go find out what the something is when they see you roll for it.

am_Unition  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

First of all, congrats on that job, dude! This is what I get for never reading pubski and being too issue-focused. Sorry, I remember hearing about your prep for this, aaaaaaand of course you nailed it. :)

I remember this terrible bootleg, which we used for Halo, it would simply assign one Xbox as "host", and then the worse the host's internet connection, the more advantage they had. Cool, fun times (NSFW, and damn! 13 years ago. checks out with the 2006 tag on the XBconnect git file).

You're right about the default UX needing to be simple, and I'm sure the package deal as well, probably something like calendar software that integrates easily with company e-mail servers. The opposite direction most companies seem to be moving right now, in my experience. Zoom is still OK. Or, no, but it's best, imho. The good ol' cycle of once-decent products ruined by management and market forces demanding software updates.

    procedural dice rolls and initiative tracker

No, but do you have anything to combat induced nausea? I'm working on a video that shows how field lines move through a remarkably small nozzle-like region, where plasma and magnetic flux are allowed to pass between two topologically-distinct magnetic domains. It's like where you'd glue a paper Mobius strip together. Simple-ish. But the surfaces of the magnetic field separatrices, which extend away from there, are very 3D, with a pretty complicated geometry. Some may puke. One sympathizes.

Sorry, we've gotten wayyyyyy off topic, but I just don't know what else there is to do, quarantined here in these threads like this. This post, this is our home now. Yes, yes, we need to also simulate a quarantine on Hubski to... um, to equalize the karmic balance between the reals and the cybers in our minds.

kleinbl00  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Sorry, we've gotten wayyyyyy off topic, but I just don't know what else there is to do, quarantined here in these threads like this.

https://hubski.com/chat

Devac  ·  320 days ago  ·  link  ·  
This comment has been deleted.