Bound to Happen

May 13, 2008

We got our name mentioned by Wired on an article on… Virtual Sex… That was bound to happen: put cameras and internet together, throw human drive in it and what do you get? Well, that’s a market for sure, a “vertical” (though… in that case…) and Second Life hasn’t really prevented it to blossom. At least that gives us some idea for our next video…

I mentioned the paper to Mitch and that was met with lots of eyes rolling up the ceiling and hands waving in a “no, no, but what can we do…” fashion. So, for those following the progress of the Segalen project, I’m afraid to report that, if you ever want to see our technology applied to this, you’re gonna have to hack the code yourself… Sorry…



Bound to Happen on One Fell Swoop by The Spill Canvas, an “alternative rock” band from South Dakota. What’s “alternative rock” my friend Gina Arnold once asked? To which I offered my own definition: “alternative rock is : one good song, one bad song, one good song, one bad song, one good song…” 

April 13, 2008

I’m really not your post-crazy blogger type: I’ve been mentioned in the NYT and I still haven’t blogged about it… Tss, tss…

Well, it’s interesting to throw something in the public and see what comes back at you: absolutely not what was expected. The “holodeck” metaphor certainly never crossed my mind a second: where’s the 3D projection? And if you don VR goggle, why would you need a camera to track you? Inertial tracking in VR goggles works since decades now and some very smart folks have made it work within SL already in what they called SL as a Platform for Augmented Reality.

Well, it’s nice to see that this is capturing so much interest anyway. Trying to make things easier for everyone following the project though, I’m going to answer some of the questions I received directly on the HandsFree3D blog.

HandsFree3d Video and New Website

April 11, 2008

Last month I blogged about a new project I started mid January with Mitch Kapor. We made great progress in 10 short weeks and we have a pretty good set of demoable code coming out now. I promised then we’ll be doing some video demos. The first of those went live this morning here.

We also put together a small website called handsfree3d, dropping the confusing “Segalen” code name in the process (too bad, I kind of liked it… o well…).

More videos will be coming in the next few weeks and I’ll be blogging at handsfree3d, answering questions and requests as much as I can.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Segalen – A Keyboard free Second Life

March 3, 2008


So, since this fateful day of January 15th (see OSAF 2.0 and me), I’m now a full time employee of KEI (Kapor Enterprises, Inc.) and working on a project code named Segalen (picking its name from Victor Segalen for the curious) in Mitch Kapor’s “incubator”. That is to say that I’m basically working alone on the technical stuff and with Mitch on the idea, business aspects and everything else.


The objective of the project is to dramatically change the way users interact with online virtual worlds. The online world (or metaverse or MMO or whatever you want to call it…) in question for this project being, of course, Second Life.


For the moment, the Segalen mission is simply summarized in that short sentence:


Keyboard free Second Life!


That’s it! That’s what we’re trying to create. I’m hacking the open source slviewer and implementing different ways to interact with SL (navigate, change camera focus, initiate animations, interact with objects) without ever having to learn those weird and complicated navigation keyboard sequences (Alt-zooming anyone?) and, above all, allowing users to naturally interact in world without having to do everything with one single pointer (the mouse) and a handful of keystrokes.


To do so, we started exploring the use of new “3D” cameras, those capturing not only RGB but also depth or distance to the camera for each pixel. This makes the tracking of body features in real time much easier than simple “2D” cameras. In the first weeks of working on it, I was able to hack enough into the slviewer code to plug in a camera and start interacting within SL without the use of the keyboard. Things started working “for real” 2 weeks ago and Mitch got a little excited and spilled the beans at the Metaverse Roadmap meeting in Stanford.


I had to work extra hours over the following weekend to make the “segway” navigation he talked about work and, on the next Tuesday, I made a first demo to the whole KEI staff. That was received with cheers and applause. It felt great though, clearly, there were a lot of challenges ahead.


Since then, I completed the whole navigation UI: walk, turn, fly, jump, crouch, etc… It’s really cool and demos amazingly! It’s also a true different feeling being around SL with your own body (so to speak) instead of being tied to this darn keyboard.


Next on my list: direct interaction with objects inworld. I’ve some pretty cool ideas already and can’t wait to get enough code in there to start playing with them. The object edit code though lies in a completely different (and unknown to me) part of the source tree… Well, I guess I’ll get there as I did with the other part (navigation). 


In short, I’m not done yet but making daily progress. I wanted to keep things quiet but I saw that some people are starting to pick up on Mitch’s story so I wanted you to hear what’s going on from the horse’s mouth. I don’t know exactly when I’ll be done with everything I want for a first really knocks-your-socks-off demo (if something like that ever existed) but I think it will be weeks rather than months. Optimism is  required in this kind of job!

OSAF 2.0 and Me

January 16, 2008

I’m late to the announcement list and I’m shamelessly borrowing Ted’s post title of the same subject. I won’t go over the why and what and how of OSAF’s restructuring, well covered by Scott Rosenberg’s post.

On OSAF’s future, it’s clear that having a much smaller team and burn rate does actually increase its chance of survival: more nimble and more agile, it’s now better scaled to imagine a sustainable business model, one that can indeed pay the staff and keep the project going. I’ll be continuing promoting Chandler on my end, recruiting users and, more importantly using and contributing to the product, ’cause, in the end, that’s the only thing that counts for an Open Source project. The idle comments of Monday morning Technology Pundits (no link, I don’t want to point fingers…) won’t change that basic fact.

On my future, I’m moving back to graphics with a Second Life related project. I’m starting today working with Mitch on this (no details for the moment). So, no worry about my immediate future. I’m actually incredibly excited by this new project. Right now, I’m trying to get up to speed on Second Life Open Source client. Since I’ll be working quite by myself in this new project, I guess I’ll have more urge to vent and talk about stuff on this blog than I did on Chandler (where most of my writing was done on the mailing lists and OSAF’s wiki).

Chandler on Scoble

October 12, 2007

So, we made it on the Scobleizer blog. If you have 50 (!) minutes to spend, the video is making a pretty good tour of the product though I feel that Chandler does much more (the Quick Entry widget and its capacity to parse natural text is the most underrated feature in Chandler IMO) and that the “email as a conduit”, though mentioned, will not be captured correctly by viewers. Well, that should motivate me to blog on those aspects, shouldn’t it? 🙂

Anyhow, this blog post translated into a nice spike in the number of Chandler downloads, proof that Scoble’s blog is much more read than mine (thanks for coming however… 🙂 ).

As for the bizarre comment someone left of Scoble about the Church of Scientology, I just wanted to assure my worried family and friends that there’s no relation of any kind between OSAF and that cult (considered as such in France for sure). I’ve no idea where this guy got the idea though I have to admire how he phrased it, a sort of master piece of libel.

Chandler Preview… and more!

October 5, 2007

That’s funny: for a long time, I was preventing myself to post here because Preview was not out, now, Preview has been out since a month and I still haven’t posted anything yet… and we just branched and created RC1 of 0.7.1!

“Already” you might say but actually, the reason why we’re releasing an update is not so much because of the staggering amount of bugs we fixed or the new features (actually this new release is rather nible on that respect…) but rather because we decided to switch to a “scheduled releases” strategy. Gone the days you had to wait for months for a new version of Chandler! Now you’re going to enjoy a new crisp freshly baked Chandler every month!

We had quite a bit of discussions on the subject and we’re quite pleased with this new plan. It’ll make us more nimble, agile and, hopefully, more able to change course according to users feedback… this is where you come in 🙂

So, yes, time for you to download Chandler and let us know where you think we should focus our efforts.

The Art of the Release Note

August 9, 2007

I’ve been really swamped recently, struggling with the OSAF team to finish Chandler. We’re really close now, with only 11 bugs in the queue and a good shot at closing all within a day or 2… That close…

We also worked a lot on the Wiki and one of the tasks devoted to me was to write the Release Notes for Chandler Desktop. Since we haven’t made an official release since 0.6.1, I did a summary of everything we did since then, i.e. roughly a year of work. Well, whatdoyaknow, we did a lot of work in that time frame! For sure, the app is quite different from what it was back then when only the calendar was working. I actually felt pretty good after writing those Release Notes and thought I’d share that.

Once Preview is shipping, I’m planning to write here on little known features of Chandler. That’ll be fun 🙂

Patent System going Open Process

June 7, 2007

One recent article (Administration Seeks Overhaul of Patent System) on the patent system upcoming reform had me smile with relief. At last, people with common sense tackling the USPTO problem.

The idea that:

Reform legislation […] should require the applicants to conduct a thorough search of related patents and technical journals, and then explain why the patent being sought represents a significant innovation beyond previous ideas in the field

had me wondering if anyone read my own blog entry on the subject where I was suggesting that exact same thing. A quick look at my blog stats made clear that this was unlikely and that this idea germinated independently in mine and their minds. Not surprising: it’s just common and practical sense after all.

One thing I haven’t thought about is the following:

The patent office is experimenting with the concept of opening the examination process to outsiders, inviting public peer reviews. On June 15, Mr. Dudas said, the patent office will begin a pilot project for open reviews of software patents. The patents in the pilot program will be posted on a Web site, and members of the public with software expertise will be allowed to send the patent office technical references relevant to the patent claims.

As we say on Chandler’s mailing list: “+1 to that!” and shame on me for not thinking about it since this idea of “Open Process” is something we at OSAF are trying to promote and put in practice.

Anyway, it’s a really good idea and a welcome development in the current software patent mess. I hope the experiment will bear fruits and that no special interest or company with deep pockets will try to shoot that one down.

“Lettre d’injures”

May 10, 2007

I can’t remember the name of the fellow but, in the 1920’s, a writer and poet member of the surrealist group in Paris used to start his day reading the papers with his morning coffee. He regularly got so inflamed by what he read that he would mark the articles and say in a sigh: “lettre d’injures” (“remember to send an insulting answer”). When done with his reading and coffee, he proceeded and dutifully went on to write those “insulting answers” with the seriousness and no-nonsense energy of a longshoreman moving crates on the waterfront. That was his duty, his contribution to sanity in an insane World.

That’s basically the kind of duty I felt called to this morning reading this pity of an article by Michael Kanellos on CNet. I already talked about patents in this blog and since Kanellos mentions Open Source, I feel such an answer belongs here.

So, what does Kanellos have to say about patents and copyrights? Not much really. Midway in the article though, the first piece of evidence in favor of patents is that “without them, the rapid pace of technological innovation around the world would slow to a crawl”. Really? Well Michael, this is not a fact but an opinion. Moreover, my dear Michael, since your article is trying to prove that “patents are good”, such a statement cannot be used as a proof or, at least, needs to be backed by facts: size of the economy created by patents, benefits brought to consumers, benefits brought to the functioning of markets. Those would be interesting to balance in a discussion about patents. None of this is provided here, mostly I fear, because no such data would prove his point.

And as for the argument that “without them, most open-source projects would rapidly wither away: without an intellectual property behemoth like Microsoft to fight, what would be the point?”. This is akin to say that “without cancer and death, high tech medicine would be pointless”. True but that’s hardly an argument in favor of cancer Michael, and not one to ridicule people searching for a cure as if they were some kind of accomplice to the disease.

In all honesty though I’d say he has a point comparing IP business to “burning someone else’s kingdom to the ground” or “[bribing] state legislators to obtain canal and railroad contracts”. At that point, I wondered if the whole article was not some kind of gigantic ironic joke. Is the article date April’s 1st? Will the second part of the paper shift in reverse and blast the premisses? Sadly not. The rest of the article is basically a collection of cutsy anecdotes without much merit. Nicely done and entertaining but, Michael, that’s story telling, not journalism.

At one point, Kanellos mentions Intellectual Ventures as an exemplary IP company: as someone who wrote patents own now by IV, I found that amusing. Imagine that: IV owns stuff I wrote with the consequence that I’m legally barred of making any improvement on these inventions without paying IV a hefty price. Tell me: where’s the “innovation mechanism” at work here? Will IV pay me to improve those inventions? Well, they’ll pay me to improve the patents but not the implementation (the reality) of the invention. Why? Because that’s not their business model. They’re just too happy to simply “own” the IP and sue (or threaten to sue) big names in the industry with this in their portfolio and get licensing fees (though none of those companies are really implementing anything: they just want IV out of their back…). Consequence on innovation? Negative. If anything, those good ideas (mine and those of others) will simply never be developed, frozen in some lawyer’s drawer who couldn’t implement them if its life dependent on them.

Remember: patents are supposed to protect the inventor (that’s why patents are nominal) and allow the inventor some protection so he or she can work and improve on them. The logic would be that patents couldn’t be transfered to legal entities like IV. They should be own by industries, companies with a vested interest in developing them. Without active development and use, patents should be revoked and fall in the public domain so others, more talented and active, could improve and continue to innovate. That’s how they could be a boost to innovation: use them or loose them. That ought to be the rule.

As for Kanello’s weak point of view on Copyright, I think I’ll let our good friends at Creative Commons to blast it. I’m sure they’ll get to it after their own morning coffee…