An Early Friday Post

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Hi, yes, I know it’s still Wednesday. But tomorrow morning I fly to Chattanooga, home of the fabulous Chattacon, and on Friday I’ll be in full convention mode. So, rather than shortchange you guys, I’m blogging early.

And for the very first time, I’m going to write a blog-like blog! Yes. One where I simply send you to someplace else on the web where something genuinely cool is happening.

Here’s why. Years ago, I was on a panel at a computer human interface convention. I could talk for hours about how how much fun that was. But one thing that really grabbed me was a device that some major Japanese corporation (Sony, I think) had come up with. Something I think of as a “hand-grabber.”

The hand-grabber was simply one of those cheap webcams, except that it detected only IR. It also had a ring of weak IR lights around the lens. So anything that moved in the near-range focus of the camera registered on the program. In practice, this meant that your body was too far away to matter. But if you reached out toward the camera, it could place a wireframe of your hand (either visible or invisible) into the appropriate program.

A corporate model demonstrated this by playing a set of virtual bongos, stretching a manga character by grabbing the air with her hands, and moving icons about on a (projected) computer desktop.

Why did I want this? Simply because instead of clicking-and-dragging, it would have given me the capability of grabbing a program or document I no longer wanted and SLAM DUNKING that bastard into the wastebin.

Nothing ever came of this, alas.

But now an uber-nerd named Johnny Lee has come up with a very similar (and lo-tek) way of using parts of a Nintendo Wii to enable a one-person virtual reality program. Here it is:

Yes, children, Bruce Sterling’s spex have taken a faltering baby-step toward reality! Johnny Lee is one cool fellow. I like the way this guy’s mind works.

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