Lego Mindstorms 360° Photobot for Gear VR

I found this video a week or so ago showing how to create 360° spherical photos that can be viewed in the Samsung/Oculus Gear VR. It works nicely, but it is both tedious and error-prone trying to manually capture all the images needed for a full spherical picture. I figured it would be much more convenient if something could automatically move the camera appropriately. Enter the Lego Mindstorms 360° Photobot for Gear VR!

The Photobot

The Photobot

This video on YouTube shows how it works. It’s not perfect–you can definitely see the stitching, especially on photos of relatively small spaces.

Here’s a sample photo of me and my daughter playing Minecraft taken using the photobot. (Yes, the room is a complete mess. I’ve been playing with Lego instead of being a grown-up!)

360° Photo for Gear VR

Sample 360° Photo for Gear VR taken using the Lego Photobot

This photo also shows something else that the photobot enables–being in your own 360° picture. The selfie-360 is born!

Now, what I would really love to do is capture 360° stereo photos! The sense of space is pretty decent without stereo, but stereo would certainly add a lot to the effect, especially for small spaces.

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The future of Virtual Reality is not gaming…

It is starting with games, games are a great fit, and the games are going to be awesome. But it will become huge through immersive sports, immersive music, and most importantly, immersive storytelling.

Why? Because regardless of technology by far the most popular entertainments are ones that people can enjoy passively. Many more people regularly watch sports than play sports. Many more people enjoy music performances than play music. Many more people read books, watch TV, and go to the movies than play video games.

But why is VR such an advance for these experiences? Because all these things to some degree take us out of our normal existence and transport us to a different world. Anyone who has tried the primitive 360-degree experiences available on the Oculus Rift or Gear VR knows that Virtual Reality takes this to the next level.

Example: sports

With VR you will be able to get a court-side seat at a basketball game without leaving your home. In a very real sense VR with presence will make it feel like you are there. It won’t be the same as going to the game because there is so much more about going to a game than being at the game. Going to a game is a social outing, and social outings will remain. But it will be at an entirely different level than watching on TV.

Example: music

VR will transport you to the concert arena where you can experience an awesome concert complete with fully immersive lighting, pyrotechnics, lasers, etc. For music VR also gives something more–the ability to be up-close with the greats in a way that is just not possible for the vast majority of us in the real world.

Example: Storytelling

Storytelling has been the killer app for human entertainment throughout history. Storytelling is fundamentally about transporting us to other worlds. Plays, books, cinema, and TV all do this. Using VR you can be with David Attenborough anywhere in the world as he unfolds nature’s story. You can go into things, even at microscopic scale. Or at larger scale Brian Cox can weave a tail of the stars while you float in space next to an exploding supernova.

But these real worlds are just the tip of the iceberg. Peter Jackson could take us into Middle Earth. Not just seeing it through a window, but actually being immersed in it with splendor of Rivendell unfolding on all sides. With presence you will really feel like you are there. Imagine Gollum creeping up behind you. Or raising your head up to see Barad-dûr towering its immensity with the eye of Sauron burning its gaze upon you. This will happen. You will be there. It will be awesome.

It is coming…

There are many technical and creative challenges ahead–especially when it comes to storytelling. We don’t yet know the best way for stories to unfold when the listener/viewer/experiencer is immersed in the world of the story. Transformative technologies are like this–the first movies were essentially filmed plays. But we quickly understood how to use moving pictures to tell stories and we will do the same with VR.

Also, the social aspect has to be incorporated, and we don’t really know how to do that yet. I want to go to the game with my friends, but exactly what that means remains to be seen.

Despite these issues things are moving fast. Very fast. The universe is about to expand. In a very real sense we are about to enter the age of the multiverse–virtual universes will start popping into existence and we all get to visit them. Sit back and enjoy. You will be awed.

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How Magic Leap redefined magic. Literally.

There has been huge excitement at the long awaited announcement that Harry Potter will be reinvented in Cinematic Reality. Despite this excitement some truly die-hard fans are angry. Why? Because Harry, Hermione, and Ron won’t be using magic; they will be using sorcery.

To understand why, we must go back nearly 15 years to the summer of 2015 when Magic Leap exploded into the world’s consciousness. I had tried Oculus VR and it was stunning, but nothing prepared me for my first Magic Leap experience. I was so excited on my first first trip to the Magic Shop to see the Flutterpods. My first purchase? A dragon, of course! His name is Tarquin and he’s perched on my bookcase right now, cleaning his wings. It was clear to me at that moment that Magic Leap had invented magic. So along with everyone else I began calling this new technology just that: magic.

The speed with which magic became ubiquitous is, of course, well known. I’m writing this sitting on my couch with a translucent writing screen conveniently floating in front of me. When my daughter Magic-Skyped in a few minutes ago the screen faded away and instead she was there in the room with me. We magiced in her mom as we planned for Thanksgiving. When done they magiced away and I magiced the writing screen back up with a nod of my head. Remember all those devices that we used to have–phones, TVs, tablets, laptops? They are all pretty much obsolete now. Everyone just uses magic.

And this is the problem for Harry Potter. For the generation that has grown up with magic it becomes confusing when characters are engaging in the fictional supernatural phenomenon that is now commonly known as sorcery, but are referring to it as “magic”. Personally, I think the younger generation should be given enough credit to understand that Harry Potter comes from the time before magic. I don’t expect Hollywood to agree with me.

The redefinition of words by technology is nothing new. Consider that the word “computer” originally referred to a person who would perform computations. But if I say, “the time before computers” everyone understands I am not talking about such people. Likewise, when I say, “the time before magic” most people will understand what that means–it means the time before Magic Leap.

Magic has its problems and everyone is aware that not all the social implications have been positive. But despite these issues I feel extremely lucky to be living in the age of magic. And as I throw snacks for Tarquin and watch him swoop down to pluck them out of the air I want to say a big thank you to Magic Leap for inventing magic. And yes, magic was invented in the same way that computers were invented. It was invented so completely that the very word has been redefined. Literally.

Posted by Arthur
November 22, 2029.

(This is a work of speculative fiction. I have no connection to Magic Leap nor do I have any inside information. I am not from the future.)

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After wearing ourselves out in the real world, my daughter and I…

Today, after wearing ourselves out in the real world, my daughter and I have paddled down the Anduin and through the Argonath, floated in space above the Earth, flown through the Solar System and marveled at the beauty of Saturn’s rings, watched some of The Lego Movie in 3D on a giant theater screen, caused asteroids to explode by staring at them, shot paper balls around a classroom and played a Game Boy under the desk, until the game came out of the Game Boy and filled the classroom, sat in a cafe in Paris as a robot, enjoyed butterflies fluttering around us and petals floating softly from above, ridden a roller coaster through a lava factory, and flown inside our own Minecraft worlds. This is just the beginning. Thank you Oculus. Everything is awesome.

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Soft Oatmeal Cookies

How software engineers make cookies, or a true story about over thinking everything… Continue reading

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EF 6.1: Creating indexes with IndexAttribute

Since EF 4.3 it has been possible to use CreateIndex and DropIndex in Code First Migrations to create and drop indexes. However this had to be done manually by editing the migration because the index was not included anywhere in the Code First model. Now with EF 6.1 it is possible to add index specifications to the model such that creating and dropping indexes can be handled automatically by Migrations. Continue reading

Posted in Code First, Code First Migrations, Data Annotations, Entity Framework | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

EF 6.1: Turning on logging without recompiling

I already blogged about SQL logging in EF6. Part 3 of that series shows how to use EF with a logging framework such as NLog. If you do this then you can easily switch logging on and off using NLog or equivalent without any changes to the app. This is the approach I would use if I wanted to log SQL from EF. But what if logging was not considered at all when the app was created? Now with EF 6.1 you can switch logging on for any app without access to the source or recompiling. Continue reading

Posted in DbContext API, Entity Framework, Extensibility, Interception, Logging | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments