Gem from GK Chesterton

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

From The Everlasting Man

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When virtual reality approaches real reality

Crayon Physics is the best thing since sliced bread.  Why?  Because it closely simulates reality. Very closely. You digitally draw a crayon box, it falls, hits a CG board, then tilts, falls, knocks a CG ball which then rolls off of an edge.  The virtural springs spring like springs, virtual gravity pulls like gravity, virtual pendulums pendulate(?) like pendulums.  The "cool factor" lies in how close it approaches reality.

But why don't I have the same awe, fascination and intrigue about real reality?  Why not spend hours taking a ball, dropping it on the table, and watch it roll to the floor?  Some real life games capture this (marble contraptions, hot wheels tracks, etc...) but they have a different intrigue somehow.   A real pendulum that gets knocked by a box doesn't have the same wonder of its virtual counterpart.  But why shouldn't it?    The "cool factor" of computer simulation/games/CG increases exponentially the closer it gets to "Reality", but then takes a sudden dive when the line of reality is crossed.  This is why a very realistic, but virtural, Crayon Physics ball dropping seems cooler than a real ball dropping.  

Virtual Reality, The way it is

But shouldn't it be different?  Why shouldn't the cool factor increase (assymptotically?) just after it crosses the line into real reality?  Why shouldn't a real ball dropping hold even more fascination that the CG one?  Why not this?


I'd like somebody more mathematically adept to help me describe what is happening at the points on the two graphs where the red line crosses the dashed line. It seems that calculus infinitesimals and geometric asymptotes are playing a role here, but I'd be very grateful for your help and thoughts on that. (The truth? This call for cooperation and community is just a thin veil that tries to cover for my laziness. But I would be thankful nonetheless!)


  1. Hi Brian,

    I don't believe this to be a discontinuity of any sort, but two very different things.

    Crayon Physics' appeal is not exciting because it simulates reality. It's exciting because it allows us to CREATE reality, and effortlessly so.

    If you recall reading, while little, Harold and the Purple Crayon, you should understand where the fascination comes from. I got the same feeling from reading that book as a child as I do now playing with Crayon Physics.

    Here's another observation to strengthen my point: Crayon Physics would've been much less exciting if it were a passive experience, i.e., you'd sit back and watch the computer draw things randomly on the screen. So the mere act of watching computer simulate reality doesn't cut it.


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  3. I think the cool/reality line is more complicated. The crayon physics game would be even cooler with "unreal" attributes like gravity being centered in the middle, or repelling instead.
    The game is cool, to me, because it mimics a childhood game with crayon graphics and a suite of gadgets you can add. Like the previous poster said about creating reality.
    But, your idea about people trying to get close to reality and the closer it gets the cooler it is, is a good one. It might apply to robots pretty well.

  4. Santa Claus left me some Christmas dough. I'm sorely tempted to buy the PC version of Crayon Physics when it comes out. Or, if you've read the Paradox Post, I'd want to be in line for V1,000,000.


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