Is Virtual Reality coming?

With HD, 3D, Ultra HD and faster more powerful graphics cards coming out. We’ve been able to enjoy better graphics in games than ever before.  We have watched movies with outstanding special effects.

But despite this, I just always felt that there was something missing. We are still getting all this content by staring at a flat screen.  To me, its like going to someones house party and standing outside and participating through the living room window.  You’re not really a part of it, just watching from the outside.

I have always loved the idea of being a part of a fantasy environment. Perhaps i’ve been watching too much Star Trek or Red Dwarf.  Star Trek shows us holodecks where you can basically be anywhere and any when with anyone!  Red Dwarf shows us Virtual Reality such as a game called Better then Life where you live an alternative life where everything great happens!  These futuristic virtual reality simulators are always portrayed as being just like normal reality. In fact, in Red Dwarf, in one episode it turns out the whole of Red Dwarf itself was just a computer game!

So of course the talk of Virtual Reality headsets has got me interested.

It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to try out an Oculus Rift Developers Kit model that I realised how interested I am!   It is the first time since the birth of smartphones that any piece of new technology has actually excited me!

I believe with the release of the Oculus Rift, in 2016 + other competitor headsets that we could be on the dawn of a real VR revolution.  The Rift will no doubt be the ZX Spectrum of computers today.  Its a huge step in the right direction.

So how does it work? Well its actually quite simple.  The rift displays a screen for your left eye, and right eye.  It also senses all your head movements and moves the game around at exactly the same time with next to no latency.  That way you are physically looking around your environment giving you a feeling of actually being there.  In fact the feeling of actually being there can be so good, that it can give you motion sickness.

VR Headsets aren’t anything new. Its been tried before and failed.  So what’s different now?  Well we didn’t have the graphical capabilities to drive these things before.  We also didnt have the online multiplayer and access to content that we had before.  I believe these have provided the required foundations to make VR a true success.  (They just need to fix the motion sickness somehow!)

Frustratingly, the Oculus RIft and other VR headsets don’t available yet.  Yet there seems to be user communities springing  all over the place. Its great to read, but just adds to frustration because I don’t have one yet they do!  They have the developer kits.  However for those keen to get into the game. There are headsets such as Google Cardboard which allows you to use your own smartphone along with it, to experience VR.  Smartphones already have the motion tracking capabilites, a graphics chip and a screen. So the headset is merely a wearable mount for your phone!

I was sceptical at first about how good this would be.  But actually I was really impressed!  It wasn’t as great as the Oculus, which gave a full field of vision. But it showed me the potential this technology has for the future. Truly immersive media.   I watched a trailer for Insidious 3. Except I wasn’t watching it. I was part of it.  Looking around at all the scary stuff going on!  I virtually walked around a Boeing Dreamliner checking out all the features the aircraft has to offer – which was basically an interactive advert for KLM.

Suddenly I’m no longer standing outside looking in through a window. I’ve joined the party!


Are Crypto Currencies the way of the future?

So I’ve discovered the world of Crypto Currencies recently.   Now I’m not a financial person or anything like that. I dont know much about how money works so my views are simply from a user base or technical point of view. But I must admit, I’m pretty excited.

Crypto Currencies are internet based “money” that works over p2p (similar to how torrents work).  You can obtain coins and spend them on stuff or trade them for real world money.  What is interesting, is that it is decentralised, which means there is no need for a ledger, or a bank to deal with the transactions. it is all taken care of over the p2p network. So money is sent directly from one person to another. Its like the internet equivalent of cash.

The banks hate it, because its cutting them out of business.  The law hates it because for most part, its anonymous and they cant freeze assets, which of course could leave it open to being used for dodgy business.  Which is exactly where it started with trading being done on the infamous Silk Road.   Crime doesn’t pay, and I do believe that law enforcement should be able to freeze assets of crime and I’m really not sure if this will be possible with crypto currency.  So there is a bit of a worry there.

But put that aside, because the world is run by genuine good people, not assholes. Crypto currencies are freaking AWESOME!!  Why? Because transactions can take place free of charge. You can send money from one side of the world to the other without pesky banks taking a cut. Plus a coin is a coin, it has the same value all over. Unlike having to convert between EUR, USD and GBP wherever youre sending money to.

The other benefit of course is for micro transactions.  Scan a QR code as youre grabbing a coffee, or getting on the bus with your phone, and you send some Bitcoin to that person or company with no bank charges.   No longer will i see “Minimum £10 spend to use a credit card”, no more fumbling for change.

Now that bitcoin has surfaced from the underground, I believe it could be a viable method of online money which is growing in value, so at the moment, buying some could be an investment opportunity.  An investment which the boat has already been missed in someway. A couple of years ago bitcoin was worth about $10. Now its worth over $700 a coin.  Damnit! Why didn’t I know about this before! I could have been rich!!

Another interesting aspect of online currency is how you can make it.  To run the network, there is an army of miners who basically leave their computers running 24/7 doing calculations and confirming transactions. By doing that, they earn commission and the coins are released to them.   So instead of a company, ie Bitcoin getting together and investing in a server room and infrastructure to run the network. The end users run the network! Its brilliant! There are no costs at all.  Because people who have decent spec PCs can leave them running, let them process the transactions and then they earn some money out of it.

The mining has caused a bit of an arms race though.  In order to control the flow of the currency (so it doesn’t devalue by being mined so quickly) a difficulty level is set. Which means the more people who mine, the thinner the profits are spread.  The faster equipment you have, the more share of the profits you can get.  This is leading the end users to invest in faster hardware to mine faster to earn more coins.

There are a number of different coins out there. Literally there are hundres.  Which I’m sure over time it’ll all windle down to just two or three. The most prominent and most valuable one is the  Bitcoin. Currently sitting at nearly $800 a coin.  To mine the bitcoin you need some very specialised hardware, known as ASIC processors, which for a decent one will set you back a few thousand.

Then there is Litecoin, which seems to be Bitcoins younger brother. To mine this you need a good array of high end graphics cards.

But interestingly, there is another coin called the DOGEcoin, which you can still mine using a normal laptop. Ok its worth practically nothing, but I think its a great introduction for learning how the whole thing works without having to worry about anything!

So yeah, watch this space.  The way we use money online could changing!

Might be worth making a few investments on crypto currency stock exchanges!


Is Facebook reaching the end of the line?

So I was reading on The Register earlier about some research paper that has predicted that Facebook is reaching the end of the line, and by 2017 it will have lost 80% of its user base.  This news has come out not long after reports of our younger generation also quitting the social network site, citing it as a site for us older people.

I’m sure Mr Zuckerberg has stashed enough money to feed himself and the next ten generations of his family, so whether he cares that his lifes work may come to an end, I’m not sure.  I don’t know if I would be, unless I had coined some sentimental value to it all. But I’m sure if he wound up his company or sold it on, he could live out the rest of his days in luxury on a nice island somewhere.

Facebook has been an awesome ride though. It became the news site for people you know, or used to know.  You could catch up and see what people you haven’t seen for years are up to.  But like everything, that novelty starts to wear thin.  As we get older, instead of being fascinated about what people are posting, we actually find their posts annoying and boring.  Then we come to a realisation of “Do I really care what James whom I haven’t seen for 15 years had for lunch yesterday?”  No….  And I’ve just wasted time in my life reading that particular update.

I believe the problem isn’t so much Facebook. Its just that people are crap at using Facebook.   I have some friends who post nothing at all, and it just seems a waste of time them even having an account.   Then I have friends who are posting everything.  They post so much about themselves, that when I actually see them, there is nothing to talk about because I already know everything.  Then there are friends that constantly post crap – and they just become annoying.

So here’s the list:

1.  You’re having / have a baby. Congratulations, Your baby is 1 out of approx 107,602,707,791 to have to have lived on this planet.  361,481 babies are born every single day. You are not significant. I don’t need daily updates from some shit app about how far along you are. Or daily updates about how much the baby is kicking.   Just send me a message when baby is born so I know all is well.  We also don’t care about your babies sleeping, eating, puking and shitting habbits, and definitely don’t need updating on it on a daily or hourly basis.

2. Like and Share competitions.   Stop fucking spamming your friends!  Its bad enough getting it from stranger in my email. Not from trusted people I’m supposed to know. You’re not going to win the competition when its from “Apple Products Ltd” and they have 20,000 brand new iphones that cant be sold because the box has a slight tear on it.  You just look like an idiot for believing this stuff.  And like spammers, I will add you to junk senders list.

3. Ambiguous status updates, aka Vaguebooking. “pissed off”  “oh no :(” .  Do you switch the news on and see the news and see “Today’s headlines: President Obama is Upset.  New York is Celebrating and Michael Schumachers doctors have released a statement.  And that’s it for todays news, next news in an hour.”  NO!!! You don’t! So stop it!  If you truely want your friends to know your news, then tell them. Don’t be vague about it.  Its irritating to everyone.

4. Constant updates about the TV show you’re watching.  Your entire friends list is not watching the same TV show you are currently watching, and your entire friends list may not even be remotely interested in the TV show you are currently watching.  We don’t need constant updates. “OMG I can’t believe she didnt get through!” WHAT??? Who cares? I don’t, I’m not watching it. Take it to twitter, take it to a group of fans who are watching that show. X Factor is the worst.

5. Mundane updates.  If you take a photo of Spaghetti Bolognaise that you just made, because its a step up from Microwave meals, you can bet your bottom dollar that 99% of your friends list couldn’t give a shit.  Nor do we give a shit if you’ve been to the gym, or if you woke up at 7.30 this morning.   We also don’t need daily messages telling us how bored you are.  If you’re bored, your friends are certainly bored of reading about how bored you are.

If you’re guilty of the above, you can rest in the knowledge that your updates don’t appear on my news feed, and probably don’t appear on many other of your friends either.  You’re actually systematically killing Facebook. Because your friends are finding Facebook more boring to read and not logging on very much. In the end, you’re just talking to yourself – because you’ve bored everyone to death.

We’ve all been guilty of it.  My Facebook time line history is cringe worthy as well, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got my fair share of people who have unfollowed me in the past.

The problem with Facebook is that it only supports positive re-enforcement.  There is no “dislike” button, and facebook doesnt notify you if someone has unfollowed you, or unfriended you.  Why? Because it doesn’t want people getting upset with the site.  You can be posting pictures of your baby eating lunch every day and will not realise that most of the people are sick of seeing it.  That is unless they comment on it. But people won’t want to do that, because they don’t want to upset you, and its your facebook account, you can publish what you like. Instead they’ll quietly remove you from their newsfeed.

Perhaps facebook should apply the “Seen by” which is applied to Pages.  Which shows you how far your post spread is going.  But then that’ll never happen, because when you realise that only 30 of your 200 friends are actually seeing what you write, then you’ll give up posting at all, and facebook requires us to post in order to work.

The only solution is, is for people to get wiser in posting more quality updates about ourselves so that our friends will find it interesting to read.  I think Facebook should encourage this.  People don’t realise that they’re boring everyone to death on Facebook because they’re so tangled up in their own excitement about what is going on. After all, having a baby is exciting for you.  Its probably exciting to your close friends, but its not particularly exciting for distant friends especially on a daily basis.