OMG what a fun opportunity!! I got to have a chat with Savannah Niles, an MIT Media Lab alumni who has been leading Magic Leap’s efforts to create Social and Avatar experiences.
She is very brilliant, I got to catch her after her talk at LeapCon, a blog about that time and wider thoughts is linked below. This next chat we got deeper on what she has worked on, how the Magic Leap team approached designing avatars and then went deep on some areas she wanted to hear from me about: environmental AI
Talking with Savannah as an avatar was a beautiful and surreal experience. It really felt like we were sharing space together, because we were! We stood up, shifted weight, moved around and even high fived and ended with a fist bump! She is in Florida and I’m in California and we hung out in shared space together for over 40 minutes and could have kept going.
Social on Magic Leap has already changed everything for me. Video calling is a weird outlier as far as Im concerned: the experience of being avatars is that much better. I don’t want to sit and stare at a screen I want to inhabit the same space as a friend, and that’s what Social on Magic Leap lets us do.
This conversation inspired an upcoming blog about embodied AI and Environmental AI that will feature clips of our conversation to help explain the ideas.
Here is the full conversation all the way through cut up as segments so you can browse. I’d recommend just letting it play through, we were on fire!! ;)
Let it play through, choose videos or scroll below as I’ve also pulled out some segments with context so scroll down if you desire!
We were just talking so the fact that it went into such nice conceptual bins is a testament to how intelligent Savannah is and how engaging the Avatar experience really is on Magic Leap.
Just keep in mind that the ‘camera’ for this is tied directly to my head so things might get a little shaky as I nod in agreement or do other natural things ;)
Exploring how the Avatars were designed for Magic Leap Social and finding the “Millennial” art style!
We talked about XR as a spacesuit (had never heard that metaphor and now the ML marketing materials make a lot more sense!) and also how mixed reality might be a kind of antidote to the fracturing of reality that can come when everyone has their own virtual playgrounds.
Asking after how shared context will be handled in Magic Leap Social was too on the nose for her to discuss currently, so let’s just wait and see what they are cooking up ;)
Savannah was curious to hear more about what I had been thinking since our first quick chat and so I downloaded some of my thoughts. Stay till the end of this clip when she walks across the shared space to write down notes, that was a holy grail moment for me in terms of UX because it drove home that we were both spatially present. and inspired the next set of discussion below.
I was very interested to find that Savannah has visited DynamicLand, and we had a fun discussion around using paper in XR since she had just finished making a note in her local paper notebook and the moment so perfectly invited in the deeper future for XR where local physical items can become digital twins for avatar collaboration.
I have researched stylus based drawing input and am excited to bring more gestural free-hand interpretation into the MagicVerse.
Reflecting on this discussion I kept coming back to a 2017 talk from Ken Perlin at SIFFGRAPH in a very unique set up. I got to see real Mike Seymour be Virtual Mike Seymour to interview the venerable Ken Perlin as an avatar discussing with a photorealistic avatar MeetMike at Siggraph 2017, very good insights from Perlin on what an Avatar’s job is in communication and how it can best achieve those goals given constraints. I think the Magic Leap team succeeded along his line of thinking with their avatar system: not overly complicated, just communicate the basics of emotion to enable the humanity to shine through.
As an end little note, this video below was a reflection after a quick chat with Savannah after her design panel talk at LeapCon 2018 where I was working out some ideas and seeing her feedback. How the avatar intelligence will understand how to be it self is an ongoing research area that enables all this, her a short little musing about how to conceptualize that in technical terms:
See you around the MagicVerse everyone!