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The Politics of Technology and Vice Versa
Published on May 15, 2004 By Phil Osborn In Politics
The other day, I attended a meeting of young Democrats - as in, early-teen - in order to hear one of the local adult candidates speak. There were actually only a couple of kids present, both resident children of the hosts, and they were right out of Harry Potter. They actually looked the parts - the boy, with his long black wizard cloak, could easilly have done Harry, with some glasses - and the girl had that distracted eatherial quality, not to mention being quite beautiful, and was wearing one of these mediaval/futurist outfits, like with almost a semi-miltary Star-Trek quality to it.

Then, on Thursday, on lunch break at the local McDonalds, I see this drop-dead gorgeous woman - this time mid-20's or so - similarly attired, again with the medieval LOW cut front, the military trimness and the metal ornaments. I made a point of telling her that she looked totally awesome. (It's become much easier for me to come on to women since I realized that they live in another dimension, and thus no real interaction is possible.)

This on the heels of the utter failure - almost, anyway - of my most recent prior fashion prediction: Tails.

(It was logical. The low slung jeans thing was getting absurd. Some women, I'm certain, dared not sit down if their back was visible. Others did dare - and it was a mistake. For at least 99% of women, that lower back area is just a big square of ugly thick skin, usually bulging out with fat - unless you take it a little further, in which case it isn't sexy; it just makes you think of potty training. And tatoos don't really help - not if you know that about 30% of people with tatoos are carrying one of the varieties of hepatitus as a consequence, and will probably be dead in a couple decades.

Now they've moved to those silly one-legged pants, but the fashion designers never give up in their war on women, so the length on those has been shrinking from both ends. So, the full-battle-dress science fiction / fantasy regalia is one answer, I suppose - just jump all the way to the other extreme, and start uncovering breasts. Ok, fine, although, frankly, while breasts do tend to visually counter the poor upper body development of most women, they're just for feeding babies - duh - or for making the statement - FEMALE! FEMALE! FEMALE! (But don't you dare treat me any differently!). But tails would've worked just as well, and offered all kinds of fashion opportunities - braided, colors, lights, sound effects, prosthetic motion. I mean, if bustles could sell, then certainly tails could. But, I guess it was too obvious. I did actually see a couple of women wearing tails in Costa Mesa at the coffee club I frequent, the Gypsy Den, but only those two times. O'well.)

But that's not really the subject, altho we're getting there. Trust me. The inspiration for today's piece was Digital Village, (you can listen or download an archive of the show) a radio show that has been broadcast every Saturday on KPFK FM for almost a decade now, covering the social/legal/political aspects of all things digital. Last week they had Bruce Sterling as their guest. This week they covered E3 (The Electronic Entertainment Expo), which just ended at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I used to cover E3 and SIGGRAPH, and Meckler Virtual Reality Conferences and Digital Hollywood and other various shows for computer magazines, so I'm very familiar with them. (Unfortunately, all the magazines I wrote for - freelance -went belly up, which does not set well on one's resume, I suspect, even though I don't think it was my fault - I mean just because the printer kept running out of ink???)

I won't be able to finish this today, for sure, but here's what I will be saying, in summary:

Many of the hottest new technologies shown at E3 and discussed on Digital Village as though they were new and unheard of have actually been available in usable form since at least 1986. I even discussed them ten years ago with the hosts on Digital Village. They were blocked and withdrawn from the market in the past and may well be blocked again, based on my feelers to Sony thus far, by people holding onto key patents. You may expect to see a bunch of products appear and then mysteriously disappear, as this has happened many, many times over the past couple decades.

Why? Because we have a system now in which intellectual property laws are no longer tilted toward encouraging innovation, but rather toward encouraging monopolization. Typically the actual innovator gets NOTHING, while some large corporation uses its legal patent leverage to sieze the patent rights and add them to its concealed store of patents, most of which will never see implementation, but will be used to challenge new products introduced by competitors.

Many patents, such as the famous one that IBM used to post on their site - an actual patent on using a laser pointer to entice a cat or other pet to chase it - are granted by harried patent clerks who have no time or the nescessary expertise to run proper checks to see if the thing was new or original or non-obvious. They depend upon competitors challenging it. But that rarely happens, and the time period lapses for a challenge, and then the corporation has another stick to use to hit small companies that actually do real innovation. Additionally, the patent office structure was altered in recent years. Now they are expected to make a profit! A profit selling patents?

Hoo boy, did somebody get that one wrong or what? Mind you, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool free-marketeer, anarcho-capitalist, like all really smart people. So, what's wrong with selling patents? Hey, who owns the patent office? Can you say "the state?" And what is a patent? Essentially, it's a title to intellectual property, right? What is property? Property is the exclusive right to use and disposal. Which means, a legally enforceable monopoly. So, here we have a state monopoly granting property titles and basing their income on how many of them they grant. And each new patent means one more think that you and I and all the non-patent holders can't do, or will have to pay off the patent holders to do.

Now when we're talking about physical objects like cars or land, property titles make a lot of sense. We both can't simultaneously drive my car (actually, motorcycle) at once, so we have to have a better method for determining who gets to drive it than duking it out. That title doesn't give me anything except the expectation that I will have use of the motorcycle when I need it - and you won't. With property titles in place, I can make travel plans, plant crops without fear that you will decide to pave over my farm into a parking lot, etc. Property titles enable long-term planning, which is essential to human survival.

And, they are not infinite in scope. Just because I "own" the land, doesn't mean that I own what is under it. I don't own a conic section extending to the center of the earth. What I own is a bundle of rights, such as the right to keep you off, if I choose, unless there exists a prior common-law right of passage thru the land, which I must respect. I own the right to demand that if you do own the minerals beneath the land, then you have to extract them in a way that doesn't interfere with my farm.

Or, we could dispense with property titles and form warring camps, armed to the teeth, to keep our neighbors from stealing our crops, our cars, etc. Property titles essentially say, "Hey, assume that I can and will respond to protect myself, and this piece of paper proves it." And, it's generally a true statement, as the state will send its police or armed forces in, if necessary, to protect the validity of that title. Else, the state essentially ceases to exist, and - failing a better solution, such as proposed by us anarcho-capitalists - we are in the Hobbesian war of all against all.

(Actually, we anarchists consider the state to be a very poor social mechanism for protecting rights in general, in fact usually the perpetrator of all manner of rights violations itself, and extremely inefficient at doing the legitimate jobs it takes on. But that's a whole other topic.)

With regard to "intellectual property," the essential patent rationale is clear. It's based on a single question. Assuming that you were able to keep a process or invention secret while doing the R&D, finding the financing, building the manufacturing facilities, hiring the marketing and sales people, doing the advertising, convincing the distributors, delivering the product and maintaining that market over time, then, would that secrecy give you a significant market advantage?

If so, then maybe you should have a patent granted - a title that gives you the exclusive right to use and disposal of that invention. Why? Because, the patent saves you up front all that need for secrecy, which, in many cases would be impossible to maintain, or at least prohibitively expensive. Thus, a patent is simply a social mechanism, like property titles in land or cars or whatever, that enables us to avoid the expense of duking it out. It simplifies and facilitates productivity.

Of course, if your idea is so obvious that anyone - or, at least any of a population of many experts in your field - would think of it when posed the problem it solves, then the actual value of all that secrecy would be nil anyway, and, thus, there is no basis for granting the patent. In that case, the patent becomes theft in your favor.

Similarly, if the idea is already out there and available, then no amount of secrecy is going to help you, and, again, granting you a patent is in fact merely theft.

And, finally, if the idea has no market, and thus no value to begin with, then secrecy is not going to make it valuable, so why should you get a patent? Unless, you can thereby block someone else from producing something - which is again theft in your favor.

But this is exactly what the patent office has been doing - wholesale theft, in order to increase their own profit, as per their mandate, and, also, I can virtually guarantee you, to increase the baksheesh that any significant corporation can afford to provide to that patent official who slides the application on thru regardless of major questions as to whether the idea may be obvious or already public - or worthless, except for extortion purposes.

This not new. When radio was new, Motorolla, Philco, etc. all rushed to hire hundreds of engineers to design every conceivable circuit and then get a patent on each and every one, even though they knew that 99.9% of the circuit designs would never be used. Even if the circuit never saw productive use, eventually some competitor, perhaps some lone inventor, would employ it as part of something else, without realizing they had just committed patent infringement, and were thus liable for serious legal penalties, all of which could be held over them to steal their invention.

And the real lone innovators, such as in the infamous case of Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television, rarely manage to collect anything from the megacorps who casually steal whatever patents created by such individuals they feel like, and then depend on their legal teams to contain the costs.

The smarter mega-corps can be very clever about this, as they have the resources to plan strategically. Note that the company that recently sued claiming that the Linux kernal contained pieces of proprietary code design that they owned the patents to was in fact largely owned by MicroSoft behind the scenes. I predicted in the mid '90's that MicroSoft might try to sneak patented code into the core of any serious OS challenger, and advised Linux people to beware. I'm certain that the code totally functionally equivalent to the code in question could have been written by independent contributors to the LINUX project, and would have been, except that it appeared that ithe job had already been done. Thus, the patent rights only had value in being useful for damaging the competition.

Francis Fukayama examined an exact historical parallel in his famous "Trust," a book that started a whole school of economics. In France, the monarchy greatly feared that the example of the English Magna Carta - basically a contract limiting the power of the king over the lesser nobility - would lead to a similar rebellion in France. Thus, they conceived of a counterplan, which worked - until the excesses it engendered destroyed them utterly in the Revolution. But that was centuries hence, so, why worry?

Part of the plan was to require that the nobility spend huge amounts of time and money at court in Paris. Fashion became an obsession, and the more something cost, the better. Thus, dangerous nobles became subservient popinjays with their wigs and gold embroidered silk finery, and endless servants, who also had to be costumed in the latest fashion set by royalty.

An offshoot of this effort to forestall political freedom was the legal innovation of selling patents on virtually anything. You could buy a patent from your local court to wear a red cockade at 1pm on every third Sunday on a particular street. And if some dastardly patent thief should appear with his own red cockage, then, BY GOD!, you WILL have justice - which meant a huge fine for patent infringement, to be split, of course, between you and the court. And, everyone is supposed to know the law... right? I mean, the patent was posted outside the court, along with ten thousand others.

So, according to Fukayama, a great competition was thus engendered in which people - and businesses - took out patents in self-defence on any absurdity. Henry Haslitt, in his classic, "Economic in One Lesson," discusses why the British outcompeted the French, who had every advantage of natural resources. One French textile mill had the patent for black woof, but not black warp. Another had the patent for black warp, but not black woof. So, all either could produce was grey. Again, according to Fukayama, it was this insane contest of all against all that the patents created that destroyed the internal trust between individuals in French culture. And, even hundreds of years later, they still have not recovered. (Watch a few French films if you don't believe me.)

And there we are today, here in Amerika. A war of all against all, in which survival is increasingly going to depend upon having a strong backer. Forget justice. But I degress...

The stuff at E3 in my focus here, however, may make it this time, or eventually anyway, but when it does, we will see some interesting inversions of virtual and real. I'm referring to EyeToy, and the other versions of "videoplace" shown at E3...

Whoa! Just was so startled that I accidentally cancelled my edit session and lost all my work today... Why?

I just SAW MYSELF! At the Club VR site, they have a little promo video in which - right about in the middle - I appear for a few seconds, doing body painting on the Mandala videoplace system, way back around 1995. Hey - my 15 seconds! I'm the dark-haired bearded guy in the white looking pants waving his arms around and then you see the results - which are pretty messy on the tiny PC video screen.

Anyway, "videoplace" is the term that shows that you're one of the digerati, as the only people who use it are people anxious to show that they're one of the digerati. And, in fact, they probably are, or they wouldn't have a clue as to what it means, or probably why it's so important.

A "videoplace" system is anything in which the incoming video image controls the computer. Typically, a person's body image is mapped into a virtual environment, and the person then sees themselves in that VR. There are a host of technical hurdles to overcome with videoplace, but that's not why you haven't seen it all over the place. The stuff I was playing with at the then "Global Trends" was hot enough to get repeat invites for the VR crew to Prince's Glam Slam, and Coca Cola hired them for its publicity for world cup soccer, as well, and this was around 1993. That particular software - Mandala - had never really been upgraded from version one and was seven years old even then. The Mandala system from the Vivid Group in Toronto appeared in 1986 on the Amiga computer.

So, once again, WHY have we not seen it take over the world????

Superficially, the answer seems rather simple. Myron Kreuger has the patent, and he's sitting on it. Whenever someone else does some kind of videoplace, eventually, if they start making it in the market, the word gets back to Myron, who is pissed because they're using his invention without giving any credit, much less paying him any royalties. The second part of this difficulty is that Myron, based on my many conversations with him over the years, doesn't want to be bothered with all the demands and responsibilities associated with working with a company that has an actual product, but at the same time, he feels morally obligated to step in and make sure that it isn't used for some destructive or immoral purpose.

I.e., he wants control but he doesn't want control. Since contradictions cannot exist in the real world, it is much more convenient to make just enough fuss to make any large backers for the latest videoplace back off. End of product = end of contradiction. Now Myron can get back to the really important work that he loves, of solving incredibly complex and interesting problems and inventing clever and beautiful products which may never see the light of day beyond his lab. Like so many truly creative people of genius caliber intellect, Myron just wants the wherewithall to do his work.

Unfortunately, for the rest of us, that has meant no videoplace for the past nearly two decades during which it was demonstrably feasible. It will be really interesting to see what happens with EyeToy, and the flood of reported competitors. Will it break the jinx? Here are some of the videoplace systems that I have seen over the years.

Product / CompanyOSYear Releasedcapabilities Example applicationsCosts
Mandala / The Vivid GroupAmiga1986fully programmable, full body interaction, full control of computer (with full pre-emptive multi-tasking standard on the Amiga)Body painting, virtual drums & other musical instruments, soccer goalie, chase the birdAmiga - $1000, LIVE! Board - $600, VidCam - ???, Software - ~$200-$1,000
CyberScape / Tensor ProductionsAmiga1989 (?)fully programmable, full body interaction, full control of computer (with full pre-emptive multi-tasking standard on the Amiga)Body painting, virtual musical instruments, various coordination games, musical dancingAmiga - $1000, LIVE! Board - $600, VidCam - ???, Software - ~$200
Mandala, version 2 / The Vivid GroupPC~1990completely non-programmable turnkey black box, full body interaction, full control of the computer Body painting, virtual drums & other musical instruments, soccer goalie, chase the birdPC - $25,000 - $40,000, including two custom PC Boards and turnkey software for specific application.
CyberScape, version 2 / Tensor ProductionsPC~1991 (?)fully programmable, full body interaction, full control of computer Body painting, virtual musical instruments, various coordination games, musical dancingPC, Matrox Meteor Board - $600, VidCam - ???, Software - ~$200


Note that Mandala on the Amiga had MORE capabilitities in 1986, AND was considerably cheaper then - at a low price of $129 for a brief period and then rising to $1,000 for the same identical product by the early '90's. Meanwhile, the PC version of Mandala released about five years later, no longer had any user programmabiltiy, less functionality, and cost about 40 times as much. Why? Because Vivid - and this is my interpretation, based on talking to the various participants - concluded that if they went the mass market route and succeeded, then the attorneys would beat a path to Myron's door and take it away from them on patent infringement. So, they marketed a few very expensive and very limited systems to rock groups and museums.

And, weirdly enough, Mandala continued for over a decade to steal the show at various conferences, such as CyberArts, SIGGRAPH, etc., through the mid-90's, with their famous dance-performance piece, even though the product that they were demonstrating was no longer really available - by their own choice. Perhaps the last people to actually buy the original programmable version of Mandala were the Global Trends group, headed by June Lavenburg, who saw it at CyberArts '91, and then pestered Vivid for a solid year until they finally sent her a copy for $1,000. In a fairly short time, she was running it as the hit of the show at Prince's Glam Slam, among a host of other venues.

Meanwhile, one-man-show Tensor Productions, created a Mandala clone for the Amiga and then for the PC, but preserving all the programmability and other functionality of the Amiga version, unlike Mandala, and sold it at a tiny fraction of what Vivid was asking for a vastly inferior system. However, Joe Shen (Tensor) also feared patent suits, and so he never tried to seriously market his product. Dean Friedman ended up as Joe's only customer,* and finally he put the Amiga version of his CyberScape out there for anyone to use freely, and took the PC version off the market altogether.

*Other people did buy and use Cyberscape, such as Carel Struker of "Lurch" fame, who designed VR environments for physical therapy applications, but none of them ever achieved real commercial mass market success, unlike Dean Friedman, who did actually design and sell CyberScape systems and applications to venues like Nickolodean. But still nothing for you and me to use or design for our own purposes.

In the latter half of the '90's, various companies and universities - especially MIT - were experimenting with variations on VideoPlace. MIT's smart house project, for example, was written up in a big article in Scientific American, and it was largely videoplace-based. However, they never once mentioned Myron, who was the source for most of their ideas, I'm sure. One group out of Pasadena, with backing from Sony, came out with a product in the late '90's that allowed your motions to be mapped to a gaming character in any of many games that used a standard controller interface. When you jumped, the character jumped, etc. It worked, and actually quite well, and a few of the games actually showed up in big gaming arcades, but the proposed cheap interface that the company originally planned that would allow anyone to do it at home off any of several standard game boxes totally disappeared. Wonder why???

The Amiga versions of videoplace all required the A-Squared Live! realtime video capture and manipulation board, which originally sold for ~$500. This was the only piece of hardware other than the Amiga itself that was essentially designed by the original Amiga design team, and it was about 12 to 15 years ahead of its time. In fact, you would be hard pressed today to find a PC board that could do some of the Live! tricks. Because A-Squared went out of business (due to not being able to get PAL chips in time for the Europpean market.) after making a few tens of thousands of Live! boards, for about a decade there really wasn't any substitute. In fact, I recall selling a Live! board to Dean Friedman in the mid-90's for $700. How many PC boards do you know that have increased in value, even a decade after they were manufactured? Even today, 2004, this 19-year-old board is quite sellable. (And you have to have an Amiga to use it, as well.)

Besides the two programmable videoplace systems for the Amiga - Mandala and CyberScape - there were a host of custom applications for security systems, entertainment, etc. I was told by one of the creators of the 3DO gaming system that he had designed a custom system for use on Danish TV in which a band of quadriplegics used their facial expressions to play music in concert. Closer to home, one of the members of the Long Beach Amiga club had a wife who worked at the local Blind Children's Center. He set up a Mandala system for a quadriplegic kid who could move one finger of one hand, so that he could fulfil his dream of playing drums. There are a multitude of similar uses that anyone could think of, but first you have to have the hardware and software, right?

In the very late 1990's yet another company released a version of VideoPlace on the PC that was able to drop out the background in realtime. For a little while, it appeared all over the place on major brand PC cams from Logitec, etc., in the form of a little hoops game and several other trivial demo applications, and they even offered a free development kit for it on the web. (Surprise, surprise, the software was largely designed by Amiga programmers who had worked for Commodore.) However, when I called them and started asking questions about patents and Myron, all of a sudden the chill was palpable, even over the phone line. And they're gone, as well, of course. The development kit disappeared rather quickly, and then the software disappeared from the various PC cam packages.

So, now we have Sony and the EyeToy and no developers package - even though there allegedly was one posted for free download at one time, or any user programmabiltiy, and no response to my emails even though they guarantee a response within 48 hours. And, the local Sony games rep who handles venues such as ToysRUs, where the EyeToy is selling like hotcakes, won't return my calls, either. So, how long before EyeToy vanishes???

AND, what ELSE haven't we seen on the market, due to the same sinister forces?

More coming....

For example: How do you protect yourself from video identity theft? Very soon it will be possible to construct in real-time a video image that looks absolutely identical to you, with all the characteristic habitual facial expressions, body language, tics, etc. Mapping this image into a virtual or real environment will be trivial. So, what can you believe? The image shows you carrying a package. You leave without it. The building explodes. "No, No. you cry," "I was at home in bed with the ful!" Can you prove it, when there is an unbroken video trail of you and the package?

So, what kind of digital signature protection systems can you use to pre-empt video identity theft? That's one thing that I'll be talking about. And what are the fashion implications? Stay tuned.

Comments
on Jun 17, 2004
Vivid Group's Mandala was fully programmable in every incarnation. Vivid developed a scripting language in the Amiga version that still lives in an evolved form in the GestureXtreme systems that Vivid Group sells today. The PC version is far more powerful than the Amiga version and has been evolving continually since its debut at the Taejon Expo in Korea in 1993. Vivid has always been a small company, and the decision to stop selling the development tool to others was tied to an inability to properly support a developer community, not any fear of patent repercussions. Similarly, the shift to a higher priced model in the early 90s was tied to the realization that the system was not suited to the consumer market at that time but rather to the institutional market (museums, science centers, location based entertainment, etc.), where Vivid has placed over 800 systems to date. Vivid has its own patent (5,534,917 filed in 1991) that does not infringe the Krueger patent. In fact, the Krueger patent is referenced in the Vivid patent and was examined by the USPTO. The EyeToy and other computer vision based game architectures read much more closely on the Vivid patent than they do on the Krueger patent. I love Myron's work, but his patent requires that the user be distinguished from the background (he used rear illuminated screens, but modern chromakey or ultimatte studios are the equivalent) and that specific features be tracked to trigger the interactivity. Most people will not be setting up TV studios in their homes to run camera based games. In the EyeToy implementation, "any" moving object can be used to interact with the games, pointing to the Vivd patent as the base art to contend with. The Vivid patent contains claims that speak directly to the "active region of the participant" interacting with game objects in order to influence game play. This is a much more valuable patent as it speaks directly to the technology in this area that is actually making inroads into the home.
on Jun 17, 2004
"Vivid Group's Mandala was fully programmable in every incarnation." "the decision to stop selling the development tool to others" I'm sure that the PC version was fully programmable by Vivid. However, your own statements indicate what I heard directly from Vivid reps repeatedly at many, many digital arts shows: that you were only selling turnkey systems. I'm sorry if I didn't make my own position clear enough. Let me restate for the record.

The Amiga version of Mandala was fully programmable by the end-user, as was Tensor's CyberScape, the main difference being that CyberScape was cheaper and less buggy, but did not have a GUI interface; you had to code directly in the script language, compile and then run to test, whereas Mandala's GUI interface allowed a non-programmer to easilly set up complex environments using only the mouse and whatever graphic, images, animations, digital sounds, videodisk clips, MIDI, etc., were on hand (when it didn't crash - and, yes, CyberScape also crashed, just not quite so often. On both systems, once you got something running, it tended to be stable).

By all reports, CyberScape on the PC was functionally equivalent to the Amiga version, but allowed higher resolutions, etc., that the PC supported. Mandala on the PC, however, became a black-boxed system, as far as the end-user was concerned.

Regarding the patent issues: I will have to look up Myron's patent again, I suppose, but my reading of it convinced me (and Myron for sure, based on the dozen or more times that I spent hours on the phone with him) that Mandala as well as the myriad of other VideoPlace systems out there are certainly covered by it. I am aware of the Vivid patent (I even remembering discussing it with one of your team at one of the CyberArts before it had been granted), although I don't recall all the specifics, except that it covered the use of a proportional device.

My personal take on that at the time was that it might be a good thing if you had some legal leverage to break VideoPlace free and get it out in the mass market. At the same time, the proportional device was something so trivially obvious that I or any knowledgeable person in the field would have assumed would be part of a VideoPlace package (I was surprised to hear that it wasn't!), so my conclusion on that issue is that the Patent Office did their typical rubber-stamp, and when no one objected, it went through. Lucky you.

I just wish that you would get together with Sony - or somebody - now that the hardware is really up to snuff - and produce a "LEGO" version of VideoPlace, similar to the Amiga version of Mandala. There are thousands of useful applications waiting to be authored, such as pet training systems, or baby watching systems that will instantly alert the mother in the kitchen if the baby - or the new kittens - stray out of the permissable zone, or physical training systems, or interactive educational systems for toddlers, etc.

I'm sure you have thought about this, as I have several of your demo videos from the '80's. VideoPlace environments should be no more esoteric or difficult to creat and modify than a document produced on a modern wordprocessor or a picture created on a decent graphics program, and, in fact, the Amiga version of Mandala was pretty much like that. Too bad it went away.
on Aug 28, 2004
Thank you for a very 'insightful' (in true joeuser jargon) article Phil. I was googling things on videoplace type environs and came across this article.
I myself have been an amiga fan(atic) since '86 and grew up Djing and doing visuals with that baby.
I am one of Cybersacpes other users with my limited scripting ability and have used it on one occasion (compleyely profit free for a childrens festival last year).
It is good but ofcourse limited in graphical sophistication as far as a Pc is concerned nowadays.
I did find the Vivid system cost prohibitive and restrictive (as far as adding customization went) tho in its favor I must say, that the prices being asked are well in tune with what commercial players *can* afford.
I am still small time tho, so have been seeking alternatives. It would be great to know your thoughts on systems like
1) I-Jen (www.syfi.co.uk)
2) Smoothware (www.smoothware.com) - This system im already playing around with, and it holds great scope
3) Nimoys Director Xtra (http://webcamxtra.sourceforge.net/)

The interesting part is, will there be any patent implications using these, considering this would drag macromedia programming technology and knowhow into the fray?
Shame about RealityFusion, I was just getting to push my self to learn C++ programming to use their Sdk and then they deserted it

I do wish all this becomes clearer, and who-ever owns the patents allows for a reasonable "royalty" based on audience sizes etc, much like most of my other Visual software authors do (vJing software)
That would make sense and encourage Virtual reality and indeed augmented reality system development.

Regards,
Clyde
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