Friday, June 24, 2016

Hamlet on the Holodeck

It's easy to imagine a future VR/AI where you can relive and interact with the familiar worlds of classic fiction.

It's not so easy to point to any real milestones that have been achieved (except insofar as the classic fiction you're aiming for resembles Grand Theft Auto).

I want to look back across the history of videogames, and retrace with baby steps some overlooked models that might actually serve useful functions when applied specifically to the challenge of simulating James Joyce's Ulysses.

We might begin with the geology of Dublin, Ireland, where his story takes place.  .

The significant neighborhoods of the city can be abstracted into a classic hexmap.

Every straightline path taken by any character can be measured, and the required traveltime simulated.

The Hades carriage-ride could be parodied using the 'Oregon Trail' model.

Since HTML5 now has built-in sprite animation, we can divide the book into scenes and re-enact the characters' relative movements.

Bloom looks quite a bit like Donkey Kong's Mario, traversing Dublin streets.

There are many toolkits for animated storytelling.

Doom was a breakthru in 3D graphics, and mocking up Dublin even in wireframe graphics could be educational.

Minecraft lets architecture be rendered at any scale and explored.

Second Life can approach photorealism in a giant simulacrum of 1904 Dublin.

Ulysses chapter three is being rendered with the Unreal engine.

Shifting gears, cellular automata can capture a very simple model of character dynamics.

Dublin pedestrians can be treated as idealised traffic.

Some of their abstract interactions might even be symbolised with chess pieces.

AI has a long history with path-planning algorithms.

A detailed map might be crowdsourced.

Shifting gears again, we could take some very primitive steps towards emulating Joyce's prose.

We can easily generate simplified Joycean interior monologs.

We can take on the uncanny valley of characters' facial expressions.

We can render the voices of Sirens via MIDI with appropriate timbres

We can keep one eye on the growing power of emoji to capture critical events in a handful of signs.

We can rethink Bloom's 'odyssey' as a sequence of puzzles