Love it or hate it, Silicon Valley continues to be the home of innovation and insanity. Elon Musk, Temple Grandin et al. tell us why.
Prehistoric humans may have observed the sky via primitive lens-less “telescopes,” according to a team of British astronomers who have studied the long passageways of ancient megalithic tombs. The details were presented today by Kieran Simcox, a student at Nottingham Trent University, at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The thing about South by Southwest is that it’s huge. Like, mind-bogglingly huge. And, despite all of the best research and top-notch planning, it’s just impossible to be in the thick of the action all the time. As the festival goes into full swing Friday, SXSW’s Director of Tech, Scott Wilcox, says that there’s plenty to look forward to.
“This year we expect to produce 6,000 events at 600 distinct locations when you add it all up. A big part of what makes South by Southwest special,” he told TNW.
But there are ways to take advantage of SXSW and make sure you get the best of what this year has to offer. You might not get to see everything, but you’ll be able to employ a strategy that maximizes your time.
Alongside tools that SXSW provides to help festival-goers best take advantage of that daunting schedule, there is also an updated mobile guide, SXSW GO, for Apple and Android, developed by Eventbase. Wilcox and Eventbase co-founder Jeff Sinclair agreed that the app’s most important change is it’s new real-time recommendations based on location (thanks to the positioning of thousands of iBeacons around the SXSW limits) and social traction.
“This year, we’re taking it to a whole new level, extending attendee matching to session matches,” Sinclair adds. “We have an algorithm that will bring personalized recommendations to users that make sense.”
Of course, they also agree there are landmark trends this year that are must-sees. Wilcox says that he’s most excited for this year’s long look into civic tech, bookended by talks from both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. He’s also particularly excited about the emergence of health tech. For Sinclair, he’s all about VR and AR, which consume a large portion of the Interactive “future tech” track and are just emerging as consumer technologies.
But don’t get too married to your schedule.
“The key to having a great SXSW is to build your schedule, plan, connect with people in advance, and sort of wing it, too,” Wilcox says. “You have to see who you meet, or what SXSW recommends.”
Sinclair says that the recommendation engine found within the app is designed to create the serendipity normally experienced when you’re at the event. You won’t be stuck with looking at the same 5 panels or events the whole day.
“Your recommendations change throughout the day, and that’s part of going with the flow,” Sinclair added. “You’ll have a better event experience when you try to do new things as well as the staples you try to plan ahead for.”
So, you know, don’t sweat it so much.
“Going with the flow of it, you get the most out of it,” Sinclair said. “I’ve given up trying to plan years ago.”
We finally have a workable virtual-reality platform, but plenty of obstacles are between us and a Star Trek-style holodeck.
If you reach out to touch a table, you’ll feel the molecules of that piece of furniture push against your hand. Do the same thing in virtual reality, and you’ll feel nothing. This is a problem — and it’s one of the few that Oculus VR says it has no idea how to solve.
The company held a keynote address as part of its annual Oculus Connect developers conference today, and it put on something of a parade of its top talent. Business-development leader Anna Sweet, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, and even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg all took the stage. But one of the more interesting points came when Oculus chef scientist Michael Abrash gave an in-depth speech about everything the company needs to do to go from where VR is today to where it should get to in the future.
Abrash talked about improving the visuals with a wider field of view. He talked about providing 3D audio. He even speculated about creating a chemical-based way to deliver various smells to Rift users.
For every problem, he posed a solution that is either possible today or one that the company sees a way to work to in the future. Well, he did that for every problem except one.
Abrash pointed out that no one is even working on a technology that will make it feel like your hand is touching a table where no table exists.
This is something I asked Palmer Luckey about in a conversation we had a few months ago. He told me — and Abrash’s talk today reiterates this point — that the company wants to solve every aspect of VR. He essentially wants Oculus working on a way to fool every one of your senses. When I asked him about touching an object and feeling like it exists, that led us to the aforementioned Star Trek holodecks. That sci-fi technology manifests protons that it can give mass to. When I posed that idea to Luckey as a joke, I was surprised that he had already considered the idea.
“Photons are a dead-end,” said Luckey then.
So while Oculus doesn’t know what will work to make objects feel real in VR, it has already scratched one idea off the list.
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