CyberArts X 10th Anniversary YLEM (Artists Using Science & Technology) 20th Anniversary Celebrations, Exhibition, Conference, Webcast, Avatar World Cyberspace Atmosphere Portal & Party

Report on exhibited 3D/VR tools, NASA Mars Robot VR App & VR Theme Park; Appendix Tribute to Exploratorium Technical Curator, Physicist Larry Shaw

by SFRSA Mediameister Cliff Thompson

September 15-16, San Francisco, CA

On the weekend of 9/15-16, 10am-6pm, I attended an Exploratorium-hosted McBean Theater webcast of the YLEM (Artists Using Science & Technology) & CyberArts X Celebration Conference, which webcast was accompanied by a Virtual Reality Avatar World, (both of which I participated in from home by computer), &, on Saturday evening, 9/15, 8pm-12am, a Somarts Cultural Center-hosted Party that I made it to in physical form in San Francisco. During the event I took several screenshots of the computer display, one showing the desktop as setup for the webcast & virtual reality world as configured for the cyberspace event, running on my home computer system, along with a rare, behind-the-scenes webcast screenshot, captured during “break”, of Exploratorium Technical Curator Larry Shaw, (the white-shirted “maestro-like” figure on-stage), serving as the event’s overall engineer, video-gopher & “Cable Guy”.


Website, X Event
Conference Agenda, Details


CyberArts Co-Founder Robert Gelman, who also help produce the post-Mac World Digital Be-In’s, emceed the event & first introduced YLEM Founder Trudy Reagan, whose group meetings are also Exploratorium McBean regular events, like our Robotics Society. One of the early-on pair of speakers were Bruce Damer, author of the book “Avatars”, Principle/Founder of DigitalSpace Corp., & Michael Kaplan, Adobe Systems Atmosphere Senior Engineering Mngr., (bio’s in the above CyberArts “Conference Details” link), who introduced the Adobe Atmosphere 3-D Virtual Reality Author/Player program system that supports VR Worlds, Community Server, Conferencing & Avatars, a sample environment of which accompanied the webcast & was launched from a “worlds portal”; the two speakers further described the product’s fresh design perspective, to overcome the crash-&-burn histories of previous VR systems, by implementing highly ingenious, efficient & modern design paradigms including Renderer/Community Server separation, Client-side rendering, background streaming portals & a kind of dynamically allocated parallel computing concatenation of connecting Client computer resources to add resources to, not pull resources from, the Server, reminiscent of the “SETI@Home” model of distributed computing – all resulting in very small object file sizes leading to impressive performance even over 56K modems. Currently the entire Atmosphere System is available for free download. 

Adobe Atmosphere
CyberArts Atmosphere World
Atmosphere Worlds Community, Portal

Bruce’s company DigitalSpace Corp. is engaged in building numerous Atmosphere virtual worlds which include among their number Adobe’s Atmosphere Community “Atmospherians” &, for NASA Ames, a virtual habitat on Mars slated for potential use in the NASA Mars 2003 mission, & a Dashboard for the International Space Station. Digitalspace has also setup & hosts “Traveler”, which supports Community, Meeting & Voice Conferencing functions, and is capable of supporting other typical video conferencing applications. Bruce emailed me some screenshots of the Mars world showing virtual robotic rovers & a Mars Society Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station. 


Atmosphere Worlds Gallery 
"Traveler" Community, Meeting, Voice Conferencing 

Atmosphere Mars Habitat screenshots:

Rover’s “Grand Day Out” 
Homeward Bound
Station interior “Yurt Sweet Yurt”

NASA Mars 2003 mission
Mars Society Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station

A sample public Mars Habitat may be visited by installing the Atmosphere Browser & following these instructions Bruce emailed me: 

…entering into the Atmosphere chat line the following statements: For the last version of the hab interior…


(if you move your mouse and use the ctrl+shift+click over the ladder or the railing for the ladder on either the upper or lower section it will teleport you to the other section).

and for the exterior:


Also speaking on VR was Linda Jacobson, author of “CyberArts: Exploring Art & Technlogy” & “Garage Virtual Reality”, former SGI VR evangelist, currently Founder of “Glass House Studio”, a VR content development, training & consulting services company. I first met Linda years ago when she was running the “Virtual Reality Group” (VRG), yet another landmark Exploratorium McBean-based user group, during one of which meetings was featured guest Mark Pesce, creator of VRML 2.0. 

Glass House Studio

A most remarkable talk followed, listed in the section of Conference Agenda/Details as “True Immersion: Future Themeparks & Theatre Technologies”, a presentation by UC Berkeley Electrical Engineer & Xulu Entertainment Founder James E. Solomon, titled “A Quest for High Immersion: The Xulu Physics-Based Universe”, described as a “…story-based alien Universe that allows multi-person sightseeing, explorations, sports, games and other forms of natural social experiences…This massively multiplayer universe can be accessed over the Internet, and at physical showcase sites that provide highest-quality human interfaces and life-sized experiences. The physics, graphics and human interface subsystems are all robustly designed…”. Describing the extraordinary efforts of large teams of top animators & engineers in coming up with a “physics solver” to render every physics-based property of every pixel in a universe-sized VR world, James described large-scale VR Centers slated for opening in various cities including SF circa 4th ¼ 2002, at which Center you engage in immersive Star Trek/Wars-like adventures at Spielberg-levels of simulation, quality & resolution, & which you can also enjoy to a degree from home via joystick & RGB projector.

Xulu Quick Tour  (click on each screen’s smoldering blue sphere)

Also of interest was Institute for Global Futures Senior Fellow Charles Ostman who prognosticated a stunning vision of the future where many advanced technologies including quantum physics, AI, ALife & Nanotech have converged & merged with human evolution to produce hybrid beings psychically enhanced by an independent inner cybernetic VR Avatar AI Agent operating within the psyche. To illustrate these ideas, Charles showed an astonishing VR graphics visualization video that dramatically illustrated numerous nanotech robots engaged in brain cell repair & augmentation activities.

Nanotech video screenshots:

Repair nanite
Virtual human avatar entities

Charles Ostman:

Institute for Global Futures

At the party that followed, highlights included meeting DigitalSpace Corp. Founder Bruce Damer, Adobe Systems Atmosphere Senior Engineering Manger Michael Kaplan & Adobe Senior Production Manager Dianne Eckloff, who treated us to very in-depth demos of Atmosphere & worlds such as the Mars Habitat. We also got a look at “Siemens Virtual Reality Theatre”, which utilized customized versions of Autodesk software to project synchronized left-right views out a pair of ganged RGB projectors onto a screen viewed through polarized glasses to produce home theater-sized stereo visualizations. Also demonstrated was SFRSA Past Vice-President Ed Severinghaus's "Body-Synth" motion capture synthesizer-driver suit, in a dance performance put on by Ed's partner Chris Van Raalte. Also in attendance were Exploratorium Technical Curator Larry Shaw & his wife.

Siemens Virtual Reality Theatre


Due to the cultural impact of this latest in a long series of Exploratorium-sponsored events in which Larry has performed a central role, this report includes and ends with the following... 

Appendix: Long Overdue Tribute to Physicist Larry Shaw, Exploratorium Technical Curator and “GodFather” of the San Francisco Robotics Society of America (SFRSA).