We are delighted that her work on the Advisory Board of the Quello Center will continue to work with the Quello Center’s Advisory Board. Given the Center’s work on projects like ICT4Detroit, we can see her new role providing a continuing stream of useful perspectives and advice for the Center.
‘3D Yet Again’
A. Michael Noll
November 26, 2015
© 2015 AMN
Stereoscopic 3D has always created a strong fascination with its feelings of depth and realism. Today it has morphed into the hype of something called “holographic enhanced virtual reality.”
As a child, I had both a Tru-View stereoscope that used 35mm filmstrips and also a View-Master™ stereoscope that used small images on disks. They both presented separate pictures for the left and right eyes that created the feeling of stereoscopic depth.
While employed at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey during the1960s, I programmed the computer there to create stereoscopic pairs of random shapes, a form of virtual sculpture. I used various stereoscopes to view the 3D pairs, such as the cardboard viewer shown in the Figure. I also made computer-animated stereoscopic movies, such as a computer-generated ballet, random kinetic objects, and four-dimensional hyper objects. [Noll, A. Michael, Computer-Generated Three-Dimensional Movies,” Computers and Automation, Vol. 14, No. 11, (November 1965), pp. 20-23.] The 3D movie of the 4D hypercube can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXYXuHVTS_k Simple cross-eyed viewing will give the 3D effect without the need for any viewing device, although some practice is required. We who did research on 3D learned how to relax or cross our eyes to see 3D pairs without the use of any viewing device.
Decades ago, it was suggested to use half-silvered mirrors so that the computer-generated imagery could be superimposed on reality. When the head moved, the computer-generated images would be suitably changed so that virtual shapes and objects would be seen in real settings. It was even suggested back then to couple this 3D imagery with tactile sensation so that virtual objects could be seen and felt in real settings. [Noll, A. Michael, “Man-Machine Tactile Communication,” SID Journal (The Official Journal of the Society for Information Display), Vol. 1, No. 2, (July/August 1972), pp. 5-11.] Prototypes were invented and built, but applications were not clear – and the technology was massive and complex.
Google is promoting its 3D viewer – called Google Cardboard. It has two lenses to view separate stereoscopic images on a smart phone. It is little more than the Tru-View, 3D Mail-O-Vue, and View-Master of the distant past.
The term “holographic” is even being used to describe today’s 3D imagery. But the images are not holograms at all – they are just simple 3D stereographic images and technology from decades ago.
Some “new” devices present separate images to each eye from two small screens mounted in some form of viewer that is attached to one’s head. But even this is not new, and such technology was used in the 1960s for helicopter pilots to see the ground under them. [Upton, H. W., “Head-mounted displays in helicopter operations,” USAECOM-AAA-ION Technical Symposium on Navigation and Positioning, Fort Monmouth NJ, September 1969.] The use of such head-mounted displays was also used for computer graphic display. What is “new” today is the ultra-miniaturization of the technology, along with motion and position sensors, and vast computing power that was unimaginable decades ago. But what applications of all this 3D technology will excite consumers?
Figure. Photo of Stereo Mail-O-Vue viewer. This cardboard foldable 3D viewer was used for seeing 3D stereoscopic images on a 35mm filmstrip. [Photo courtesy of A. Michael Noll.]
Michael Noll has been teaching and conducting research on communication and technology since the early 1980s, most recently as a Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at USC. Prior to joining Annenberg, he was an engineer at Bell Labs in its heyday, from 1961-1971. At Bell Labs, Michael pioneered in such areas as digital art, three-dimensional displays, and tactile communication, and video communication. Michael as drafted in to design the prototype of video conferencing used in Stanley Kubrick classic film, 2001 Space Odyssey. Professor Noll has been supporting the Quello Center, such as through his blogs on technology and policy, and also drafting a book that reflects on his experience at the center of innovation in communication technology before the locus of innovation shifted to Silicon Valley. While so much has been written about the culture of Silicon Valley, relatively little has been written about Bell Labs. Professor Noll’s book helps rectify this imbalance. Written in a clear and accessible style, Michael blends personal anecdotes and engineering insights into an informative and engaging history of this center, illuminating the dynamics of a culture that fostered innovative people and ideas used round the world.
− Bill Dutton, Director of the Quello Center
Memories: A Personal History of Bell Telephone Laboratories
by A. Michael Noll
This manuscript tells the story of Bell Labs, concentrating mostly on the 1960s, from the personal perspective of the author who actually was employed at its Murray Hill laboratory as an engineer and researcher. Bell Labs continued the tradition of Thomas Alva Edison’s invention factory and had an environment that today is associated with Silicon Valley. The buildings, various locations, amenities, and most important—the people—are described to give a sense of what it was like to be at Bell Labs and why so many wanted to work there and contribute to its many inventions and discoveries.
Biographical Sketch: A. MICHAEL NOLL is professor emeritus at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. During most of the 1960s, he was employed as a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, and recently worked on the papers of Dr. William O. Baker, who was vice president of research during what many consider the “golden years” of Bell Labs. He brings this personal knowledge and perspective to this manuscript.
This manuscript is a work in progress, distributed as a working paper of the Quello Center at Michigan State University for educational use. The author welcomes comments and questions on this site as he moves this toward publication.
The manuscript can be downloaded here: Memories-Noll.
A March 10 article in Variety by Todd Spangler discusses recent competitive trends in the sector of the online video market that has long been dominated by Google’s YouTube platform. Its main theme is summed up by a quote from Peter Csathy, CEO of investment and consulting firm Manatt Digital Media, who sees “a critical mass of threats that represent real challenges to YouTube’s complete dominance for the first time.”
As one would expect in a media industry trade publication, Spangler’s long and informative piece approaches the subject mainly from a “who’s winning and who’s losing and why” perspective.
If there could be said to be a poster boy for YouTube, it may well be Freddie Wong. Known online as FreddieW, the 29-year-old is the creator of “Video Game High School,” a comedic sci-fi series…But when the time came for Wong’s digital studio, RocketJump, to shoot his next project, he says YouTube didn’t exactly jump at the idea…Unsatisfied with YouTube’s offer, RocketJump and Lionsgate Television steered the project to Hulu, where the untitled eight-episode series will be available exclusively…
Hulu is not the only company complicating life for YouTube these days. It’s bad enough that social-media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have upped efforts to bring video to their services — and plan to more aggressively compete with YouTube for advertising dollars. But there are also upstarts like Vessel and IAC-owned Vimeo, which, like Hulu, are signing deals with some of YouTube’s homegrown talent, and promising creators bigger bucks for their work in exchange for exclusive rights.
As Spangler notes, YouTube’s competitors are pursuing a range of business models.
Per the well-publicized terms of YouTube’s standard revenue-sharing agreement, content owners typically receive 55% of ad money. Vessel is already offering a 70% ad split to creators, while Vimeo pledges to pay 90% of transaction fees back to partners…
Meanwhile, there’s a separate set of rivals using a subscription business model that aims to lure top talent and producers, skimming the cream off the top of the massive base of more than 1 million YouTube creators who make money on the site…
Moreover, there’s yet another class of YouTube rivals, represented by companies looking to license or fund content for reasons unrelated directly to selling ads or subscriptions. Samsung Electronics, for example, last fall launched Milk Video: a proprietary shortform mobile vid service available only on its Galaxy smartphones and tablets.
Spangler notes that while YouTube, over its ten year history, has grown into a “a multibillion-dollar advertising juggernaut…its profits may be negligible — or nonexistent.”
Last year, the service pulled in about $4 billion of revenue, up from $3 billion in 2013, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing anonymous sources. However, YouTube basically broke even, after accounting for content and infrastructure costs.
The broader significance of the industry dynamics reviewed by Spangler from a more academic and policy-oriented perspective is that there appears to be a strongly competitive and innovative ecosystem emerging in the online video marketplace.
Though Google’s YouTube remains the 500 lb. gorilla in key respects, the relative ease of market entry in the online video platform arena (for example, as compared to the wireline access market) is spurring competition and innovation that are pushing Google to continue investing and innovating rather than channeling cash flow into dividends and stock buybacks.
Value creation vs. value extraction
The latter tendency (channeling profits into dividends and buybacks rather than investment and innovation) was the focus of an article by William Lazonick, Professor and Director of the University of Massachusetts Center for Industrial Competitiveness, and President of The Academic-Industry Research Network. The article, published in the September 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review was entitled “Profits without Prosperity” and referred to this corporate trend as a shift “from value creation to value extraction.”
This trend was also the focus of an Oct. 6, 2014 piece at BloombergBusiness entitled S&P 500 Companies Spend Almost All Profits on Buybacks. It noted that:
CEOs have increased the proportion of cash flow allocated to stock buybacks to more than 30 percent, almost double where it was in 2002, data from Barclays show. During the same period, the portion used for capital spending has fallen to about 40 percent from more than 50 percent.
The reluctance to raise capital investment has left companies with the oldest plants and equipment in almost 60 years. The average age of fixed assets reached 22 years in 2013, the highest level since 1956, according to annual data compiled by the Commerce Department.
This makes me wonder whether the rate of innovation, investment and value creation in other sectors of our economy (including the wireline access market) could benefit from some of the competitive pressures we’re seeing in the online video sector. I invite readers to share their perspectives on this question, as well as the broader trends and issues to which it is related.
Professor Adam Candeub, Director of the Intellectual Property, Information & Communications Law Program in MSU’s College of Law, has organised a very promising event for the 2nd and 3rd of October, entitled ‘Public Domain(s): Law, Generating Knowledge in the Information Economy‘. In addition to Adam, speakers include: Johannes M. Bauer, Chairperson of the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, & Media, Michigan State University; John F. Blevins, Associate Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law; Bruce Boyden, Assistant Professor, Marquette University Law School; Daniel Brenner, Judge, Los Angeles County Superior Court; Annemarie Bridy, Alan G. Sheppard Professor of Law, University of Idaho College of Law; Jennifer Carter-Johnson, Associate Professor, Michigan State University College of Law; James M. Chen, Justin Smith Morrill Chair in Law, Professor, Michigan State University College of Law; Jorge Contreras, Associate Professor, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah; Robert Frieden, Professor and Pioneers Chair in Telecommunication and Affiliate Law Faculty, Penn State University; Yaniv Heled, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University College of Law; Justin (Gus) Hurwitz, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska College of Law; Thomas D. Jeitschko, Professor, Michigan State University; Daryl Lim, Assistant Professor, John Marshall Law School; and Jonathan Obar, Assistant Professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology; Research Associate, Quello Center, Michigan State University; J. Janewa Osei-Tutu, Assistant Professor, Florida International University College of Law; Sean A. Pager, Associate Professor, Associate Director Intellectual Property, Information & Communications Law Program, Michigan State University College of Law; Mark F. Schultz, Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University School of Law; and Andrew W. Torrance, Professor and Docking Faculty Scholar, University of Kansas School of Law. The schedule of panels and talks is available online, along with related information about the event, at: http://www.law.msu.edu/ipic/public-domains/schedule.html