Is anything real?

When I first started in computers as a young high school student, a big part of the attraction was the graphics and games.


The first computer game I remember playing was "Moon Landing" on a Texas Instruments calculator.


There were no graphics on this one though. You typed in a number that had something to do with thrust and how close you were to the moon's surface and you'd be shown a number back which meant you either crashed, landing or shoot back into space.



It was rubbish but we liked it for a while.


Then we got hold of "Flight Simulator" on my neighbours Dick Smith System 80. It was terrible but again, better than anything before it.


It was just a cross (the plane) hovering over a chess board (the ground) that had a wiggly line at one end (the mountains).


What's pictured below is close to it but quite a few evolutions better than what we started on. I don't recall having a 3D perspective on the first one and we definitely didn't have colour.


Then things like Space Invaders hit arcades and things got really exciting.


I already loved computers and programming but seeing this graphical evolution happening in front of me was exciting.


I really wanted to work with graphics. I didn't know exactly what but I knew it would be an important area and it looked fun.


But when I studied Information Technology and popped out into the workforce there were no graphics related jobs in Australia let alone many in the rest of the world.


I had to be content pushing numbers around for banks and the like. Making good money but not pretty pictures.


I did get to work on some pretty interesting things but I never got any closer to graphical computing.


I even worked for a company whose name had "Graphics" in the title, TCG - Technical Computing and Graphics, and that didn't come to anything (man is that a whole other story).


Fast forward to today and I don't need to explain to you just how far we've come with computer graphics.


Movies and computer games now include virtual worlds that can often be difficult to discern from reality.


In the early days of computer imagery in movies it would take days to render just a second or two of footage. The "super" computers had to do so much work generating just one frame that they'd be set off and left to it.


In the early days of computer games, as we've seen, the worlds were clunky and simple representations of familiar things. Just good enough to place you in 3D and let you get on with the game at hand.


Now these games use "engines" that produce 3D worlds in real time. These worlds are now so good that they are feeding BACK into movies...in real time.


These worlds are being projected as backgrounds in special studios where actors can do their thing seemingly "actually there".


We are all familiar with CGI 3D characters - characters that aren't really there...or partially there...that are filled in with computer graphics. Sometimes actors perform the character and then they are replaced with the computer generated character. This gets realistic motion and nuances into a digital character. This technique is called motion capture. It's been around for a long time in varying forms, possibly most famously Andy Serkis being transformed into Gollum from The Lord of The Rings.


Now, with 3D printing, the CGI assets, such as Gollum, can simply be printed out.


They are already defined in 3 dimensions and it is pretty much a simple matter of just "sending it to the 3D printer".


So what's happening now is that a CGI character, that actors used to have to imagine being there somewhere on a green screen, can now be actually there as a life size printed object.


So we have a situation where a fantasy world can be displayed at life size and interacted with and the imaginary characters therein can also be made tangible.


Do you see where I am going with this?


Of course you do. Are we living in a simulation already and is any of this real?


God I hope not because otherwise I've chosen a really crappy character to play.

But I digress.


A lot of this type of work IS now happening in Australia...and that's wonderful...and exciting...just not for me as such.


I missed it all by about 40 years. I couldn't code my way out of a paper bag anymore.

Anyway, watch the video below. It shows you what I have just been talking about. It is amazing:



Enjoy, David.






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