June 12, 2007

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Break out the folding-chair prims, Dinah, it's gettin' crowded in here.

Seems like it’s getting so you can’t hardly turn around without bumping into some kind of celebrity, politician, or professor-turned-cyborg.

Comedy’s easy: dying’s hard

The man who has perfected the art of dying hard recently got himself a second life. Bruce Willis appeared in the new Virtual Movie Expo sim to meet fans and give an interview with IGN (Imagine Games Network). Although an overall success, we have to admit that hearing Willis’s voice while watching his closed-mouth avatar bob its head slightly was more than a little eerie. (And no, smart ass, it isn’t exactly the same as watching one of his movies -- when he acts or reads he moves his lips.)

When asked what characteristics he shared with McClane, Willis told the 50 or so SL citizens attending the event that they both have “a healthy disregard and disrespect “for authority and “kind of a cop gallows sense of humor.”

He also shares McClane’s tendency to get beat up a lot.

“It was the first shot of the day and Maggie Q's stunt double just mistimed the stunt and kicked me in the head with two high-heeled boots. I didn't take a hiatus; I went to the doctor's. I got stitched up and I took the rest of the day off, but I was back to work the next day. ... I think there's a shot where I'm talking to Cliff Curtis' character who played Special Agent Bolman, who was the Head of the FBI in this film, where you can actually see those stitches in my forehead, around my eyes.”

Like many of his fans, Willis also believes the first Die Hard movie is the best, calling it “the only good one,” quickly amending that to “the only great one anyway.”

The Virtual Movie Expo sim contains complete recreations of various scenes from the movie including the “Warlock’s Command Centre” (a basement lair that would make any geek proud) and a 3D freeze frame of an exploding bridge tossing a truck in the air. You can actually walk through these scenes and get a feeling for exactly how the actors must feel -- if they were computer generated avatars on a monitor.

The display will be in place until the third week of July and visitors can pick up various avatar accessories related to the movie.

Pardon me, is that a chip in your arm or are you just happy to see me?

Professor Kevin Warwick has many accomplishments. When he was 16 he quit school to join British Telecom, and at 22 took his first degree at Aston University. This was followed by a PhD and a research post at London’s Imperial College, various positions in Oxford, Newcastle, and Warwick universities, and ultimately his present career as Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, England. He is also director of the University KTP Centre, which raises over £2Million each year in research income for the University.

But mostly he’s known for his curious tendency to insert microchips into his nervous system, thereby turning himself into what has been billed as the world’s first real-life cyborg.

On Monday, April 23, 2007, Warwick lectured in Second Life at an event organized by the Second Life Chapter of the World Transhumanist Association. His avatar, of course, was a cyborg (designed by Rein Mitra).

He talked about the implications of combining humans with computers in a biological fashion, and told his audience about an experiment in chip implants in both he and his wife allowed him to actually feel in his own body when his wife moved her finger. “My brain knew it was my wife sending a signal. It felt like my wife communicating.”

All of his experiments are still in the rudimentary stage, but the implications are apparent to anyone. In the future we may no longer have to rely on physical computers which freeze, crash and lock up: we will be able to freeze, crash and lock up all on our own.

Keep those cards and letters coming

We’ve got embassies, why not political offices? Kan Suzuki, an MP in Japan (and no relation to the movie editor of the same name) has created his own office in Second Life with the aim of using it to disseminate information and build his popularity. His opponents have criticized his move as being nothing more than a publicity gimmick. Well duh! What else do politicians do?

The real problem is that he may have already broken the law. According to Japan’s 50-year-old Public Office Election law, politicians cannot update websites while they are actively engaged in campaigning. All information must be distributed by postcards and pamphlets. Considering the live, real time nature of Second Life, anything Suzuki does during his campaign would be in breach of the law.

Although at first glance, the law would seem to make no sense, in reality is actually quite unreasonable. But the real puzzle is this -- if the law is 50 years old, how on earth did its framers know about the Internet?