A slurry of recent articles assert that Facebook increases polarization and perhap radicalization among its users. Facebook is circling the wagons to counter this narrative, even asking its employees to help push back. After all, if they claim to be the company that brings people together, it would be unfortunate to be widely seen as having the opposite effect.

The first step to understand how Facebook may or may not polarize us is to look at how recommendation engines work. …

The Road to Individual Autonomy

You’re walking down the street. You notice random teenagers gawking at you and then shying away. And not just a few. What’s going on? You ask a savvy friend for help.

They eventually figure out what happened. When you use Trawler’s (the leading fictional social network) AR glasses and add the “BodyNet” app, your clothing — as far as you can tell, just yours — becomes transparent to the person wearing the glasses. It’s like x-ray vision.

Nude. You. What?!

You don’t even have an account with Trawler, let alone your own AR glasses. …

About: This article was originally published on Motherboard (aka vice.com) in May 2019. This version contains new information and graphics.

Avi Bar-Zeev spent the last 30 years working on AR/VR/MR, helping companies like Disney, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple make decisions about how to unlock the positive potential of new technologies while minimizing harm. He helped start the original HoloLens project at Microsoft. Nothing in this article should be read as disclosing unannounced products or ideas from any company.

Humans have evolved to read emotions and intentions in large part through our eyes. Modern eye-tracking technology can go further, promising new…

A VR veteran weighs in on the problems with connecting your headset to Facebook

Stylish dark blue image of a man wearing Oculus headset.
Stylish dark blue image of a man wearing Oculus headset.
Photo: Minh Pham/Unsplash

The leaks are true.

Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, just announced the Oculus Quest 2, a very decent low-end VR head-mounted display (HMD) for under $300. This has been the company’s own internal quest for many years: to most cheaply solve the most common frustrations users have with VR. The theory is, with everyone now cooped up at home, and with the drop in price, the Zoom-fatigued and occasionally unwashed masses will now jump into VR’s new immersive social experiences by the millions.

At least, that’s what Facebook hopes will happen.

The company must have bought millions of components…

So you’re thinking of buying a surprisingly inexpensive XR headset from a notorious social networking company, but you worry about being tracked?

You are not crazy. But maybe you have some questions?

As you may know, the business model of social networks involves extracting your most personal information, your needs and emotional biases, and then using this information to target ads and keep you coming back. It’s no joke that you’re not the real customer here. Instead of paying directly for a service like Netflix, you’re paying indirectly, in the form of higher prices for the products you buy. …


November 20 Update:

Biden/Harris won the election (both popular & electoral college) by a big enough margin that the 12th Amendment gambit we describe below is not going to work — not that Trump won’t try.

Trump has lost 25+ alleged voter fraud cases, mostly thrown out for lack of evidence or lack of standing (as in: is there an actual victim?). Trump’s lawyers are making claims so wild about widespread fraud they should IMO be disbarred if they can’t prove it. FWIW, Trump has won one minor case, but it doesn’t matter.

The GOP has reportedly nudged several states with GOP legislatures…

Let’s meet nowhere

Michael Zawrel, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, presents the new HoloLens 2 at Microsoft’s booth at the Hannover Messe.
Michael Zawrel, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, presents the new HoloLens 2 at Microsoft’s booth at the Hannover Messe.
Photo: Friso Gentsch/picture alliance/Getty Images

I’ve been convinced for 30 years that telepresence is the “killer app” for extended reality (XR). Now more than ever, it seems like it could be an important replacement for face-to-face meetings and conferences.

This same idea led to the first HoloLens prototypes and a visually rich TED Talk by my former boss, Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman. The first two augmented reality (AR) devices Microsoft has released aren’t yet great for representing “live” holograms of people, mainly due to their narrow fields of view. Unless a person fits entirely within this field of view, we perceive them being virtually…

Lasers, fashion, occlusion, and other news from SPIE Photonics West

The HoloLens 2, an AR headset designed by Microsoft, exhibited during the Mobile World Congress, on February 28, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

I spent two days at SPIE Photonics West this week catching up on the latest innovations in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) displays. This particular conference may have been a bit too dry for even tech journalists to cover, so I’ll extract the most interesting bits for a less technical audience here.

Disclaimer: I am an adviser to several of the companies that presented. To keep this article balanced, I try to avoid endorsing or bashing companies by name. I will talk mostly about the tech: pros and cons. I’m also not an optics expert, though I’ve learned…

One of the original creators of Google Earth explains how it works

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

I originally posted a version of this story in 2007 and have added a few updates for 2020. For the technically inclined, you may want to read the patents — Asynchronous Multilevel Texture Pipeline, Server for geospatially organized flat file data — that protect these ideas. [Note: Michael Jones, Chris Tanner, Phil Keslin, David Kornmann, John Hanke, and more contributed to Google Earth in different ways and currently work at Niantic (the makers of Pokemon Go).]

We’re going to proceed in reverse, strange as it may seem, from the instant the 3D Earth is drawn on your screen and later…

A veteran designer for HoloLens, Apple, Google Earth, Second Life, and Disney VR is making an iPad app for his autistic son

Screenshot of movie player. Courtesy of the author

Leaving my full-time job at Apple was a hard choice, but the biggest benefit of returning to independent life was finally having more time to spend with and for my kids. It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but after two years of talking about it, I finally built a train table for my younger son, and I finally wrote this iPad app for my older son.

Isaac is autistic and, at age 12, still nonverbal. Experts advise that if autistic kids don’t start speaking by around age eight, they may never. So we’ve helped him learn how to…

Avi Bar-Zeev

Design and Technology Leader (fmr. HoloLens, Apple, Google Earth, Second Life, Disney VR) Profile photo is from generated.photos (read “Who owns YOU?” for why)

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