FLOSS Weekly 750, Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

Doc Searls (00:00:00):
This is Floss Weekly. I'm Doc Searls. This week Catherine Druckman and I talk with Michael "Hoff" Hoffman. He goes by Hoff and he is very experienced in VR xr, Microsoft's Hollow Lens wearables, the Metaverse, all kinds of stuff, and we dug deep in lots of subjects including mixed reality. This company I Q X R, which is part of a bigger thing called mesmerized, which you're going to hear being more about in the future, [00:00:30] all kinds of things going on with spatial computing. Where we stand right now, why we don't have the standards we need and that's going to make a lot things a lot easier once we get them a lot of stuff. And that is coming up Next.

This is Floss Weekly episode 750, recorded Wednesday, September 20th, 2023. [00:01:00] Ai. Just make it normal. This episode of Floss Weekly is brought to you by FastMail. Reclaim your privacy, boost productivity and make email yours with FastMail. Try it now free for 30 days at and by Collide, that's Collide with a k. Collide is a device trust solution for companies with Okta and they ensure that if a device isn't trusted and secure, [00:01:30] it can't log into your cloud apps. Visit to book an on-demand demo today.

Leo Laporte (00:01:40):
Listeners of this program get an ad-free version if they're members of Club twit. $7 a month gives you ad-free versions of all of our shows plus membership in the club. Twit Discord, a great clubhouse for twit listeners. And finally, the TWIT plus feed with shows like Stacey's Book Club, the Untitled Linux [00:02:00] show, the GIZ Fizz and more. Go to twit tv slash club twit and thanks for your support.

Doc Searls (00:02:07):
Hello again everyone everywhere. I am Doc Searles. This is Floss Weekly and this week I'm joined by Catherine Druckman, herself coming in from Houston, Texas, myself. Yeah, there she's howdy with what they call houseton in New York. There's a street called Houseton spelled exactly the same way for no apparent reason. Yeah,

Katherine Druckman (00:02:29):
That always [00:02:30] confused me. I lived there for several years. I was like, oh, it's Houston Street, whatever.

Doc Searls (00:02:36):
So how are you doing? Your mic looks huge and it's cool. It is

Katherine Druckman (00:02:39):
Very cool. I enjoy this mic

Doc Searls (00:02:41):
Actually, it looks like the grill on a classic car, also a style that may actually predate the shape of that microphone.

Katherine Druckman (00:02:51):
Yeah, it's streamlined. Kind of like 1930s design when everything was metal and space age and looked a rocket

Doc Searls (00:03:00):
[00:03:00] Kind. There is no, the symbol for a mic now, of course is the upright one that looks obscene only. Yes. And hardly any of those are used anymore. Yours is sort of the same vintage, but there's no symbol for a person other than a men's and women's room symbol among all the emojis. I think that's a similar or one for a customer. One for customer is one [00:03:30] that I want. What does a customer look like? It's not a shopping cart and that's just a puzzle for the back channel to solve while we're talking about other things. So are you familiar with our guest today by any chance? Have you done any homework on this?

Katherine Druckman (00:03:44):
I have a bit. Yeah. I think this is a really interesting area because I've always, again, we were talking about design and I've always been interested in sort of the way that humans interact with their environments, the things we interact with and taking that virtual is an interesting conversation [00:04:00] to me, so I'm pretty excited about that.

Doc Searls (00:04:03):
Okay, so I'm going to bring in our guest. His name is Michael. I'm going to give a little bio here. I've got more bio than I need, but I'm going to try and wing my way through it. Hoff, he goes by Hoff, his last name is Hoffman. He's the co-founder and c e o of I Q xr, a mesmerized group company and he's the head of platform there too. Trusted guide to immersive technology. Prior to joining there, he was the [00:04:30] principal engineering lead at Microsoft on the HoloLens team, which I'm sure we'll get into, where you developed a number of enterprise applications is also an expert on software design and XR having played a pivotal role in the development of Microsoft's M R T K tools, Microsoft Mesh, the HoloLens partnerships with nasa, J P L Trimble. I remember them as being like the G P S company. And Autodesk also founded XR Solutions Agency Object [00:05:00] Theory. Earlier in his career. He spent time in software engineering roles at Google, Nike, and several startups. And he is based in Seattle, Washington, which my father from New York pronounced Seattle, even though when he lived there, he actually did live there before he moved to Alaska where he met my mother and I went back to New Jersey. So how are you, Hof and you are in Seattle even though it looks like for those of us watching this, like you're surrounded by [00:05:30] R two D two cappuccino machines.

Michael Hoffman (00:05:32):
Yeah, I'm in my mad scientist lab based in Seattle. I actually aspired to be a mad scientist maker space kind of guy eventually. Yeah, so I am definitely based in Seattle. Moved up here for Microsoft, was down in Portland prior to that and then East Coast before that.

Doc Searls (00:05:53):
Yeah, I mean you check off a lot of employment places on your bingo card here. I mean Google, [00:06:00] Nike.

Michael Hoffman (00:06:02):
I've had a busy career

Doc Searls (00:06:03):
And a lot at Microsoft itself. So give us a little bit more about your career path and how you got into your current xr, whatever, AI xr, all of this stuff that everybody's talking about now, but nobody fully understands and maybe never will. Yeah,

Michael Hoffman (00:06:21):
It's a little, my entire career was meant to prepare me for where I'm at today. It's kind of weird. I started in embedded systems, which is I O T E, [00:06:30] did a lot on platform, like first generation platforms in various industries and telephony and nasc network attached storage and digital imaging workflows, printing and pre-press imaging. I even did little things like I actually wrote the Microsoft, I'm sorry, the Macintosh version of the F one 17 flight simulator for Micro Pros got deeply immersed in three D and what it means [00:07:00] to have a three D engine in a semi language and what all the code does. And then ultimately that led to me ending up at Microsoft on the HoloLens team. It was one of these interesting things where they brought me in for Lean Startup. I was the outside lean startup entrepreneur to help bring Lean Startup into Microsoft.

And then when Sate got promoted, that team got dissolved because it was mainly an experiment on the actually [00:07:30] use Lean to build something versus teach Lean to all the existing teams. But the best thing about it is that I used that two months they gave you to find a new place to land to shop around all Microsoft, get to know what's going on, and I landed on the super secret team where they couldn't even tell me what it was. I was a Microsoft employee and they couldn't tell me. Turned out only like a thousand people knew this secret project even existed. And it turned out it was the pre-launch all lens, which was back in those days was code named Baraboo. We weren't even allowed to say Baraboo because that had leaked at [00:08:00] one point and so we all called it just B and we worked on B.

I ended up calling it the Banana so I could talk at family. What I'm doing at work is working on the banana and then I started working on the audio for it, so it became the banana phone. Yeah, I'm working on the banana phone, which was kind of fun. But yeah, so that was the beginning of my career in this spatial computing was to be on that pre-launch team and I got slotted into the studio that was best aligned for me. I really care about solving real business problems. I've [00:08:30] never been interested in gaming or entertainment per se. Even when I wrote the Mac version of Civilization, my Civilization and F 1 72 Fight Simulator, I never played them just for me. It was like the project was to make it work really well and make it sing on a Macintosh. And the same was true in all this emerging three D.

So I was slotted on the team that did this NASA J P L mission planning for curiosity. In fact, I heard recently that still every single day, [00:09:00] a dozen or more geologists around the world, they literally stand on Mars based on all the latest photography and decide what curiosity is going to do. Curiosity is exactly where it is on Mars right next to them. And they look at the rocks and they try to figure out, okay, what's interesting, what experiments can we do? What drilling can we do? And they use these emerging technologies to decide what it's going to do every day. And then the other ones that you had mentioned, [00:09:30] the Trimble one was interesting. Trimble creates precision instruments for the architecture, engineering and construction industry, the big infrastructure projects. How do you measure at high precision an entire bridge so that you can make a modification to it or look for cracks and other potential faults.

And so we did a study of what it would be like to use these emerging technologies for putting a new building in a city block. I think it was in Denver. [00:10:00] The experiment was around and then two other were integrations with cad. We all recognize that CAD is the source of a lot of three D. It's the source of product under design, building under design. And so we did two different partnerships with Autodesk. One we did on our own, which was an integration with Maya, where Maya could in real time feed changes to a CAD and have it show up on HoloLens. One of [00:10:30] the cool things about the first day on the job was there was this weird motorcycle three feet from my desk that had none of the plastic on it, all the plastic had been removed. It's like, why is there motorcycle chassis three feet from my desk?

Well, they put this Frankenstein version of HoloLens on my head and said, here, look at this. And all of a sudden all the plastic, beautiful cowlings and everything and Tank all of a sudden appeared on that motorcycle. I was like, oh, oh, I get it, I get it. This lets you now try [00:11:00] different designs out on that motorcycle and see the different treatments and different color schemes. And I was like, okay, I picked the right place to go at Microsoft now that I know where I landed. It was a pretty cool moment. And then the other integration was Freeform, which was a Fusion 360 integration, which is a parametric package as opposed to Maya, which is three D triangles. And so we did a lot of experimenting with how do you get parametric data in real time coming across to a HoloLens, decimating it down to something [00:11:30] that can run on device. So that was kind of a thumbnail sketch of what got me into this industry. Obviously there's the rest of the story too, but I'll take a pause there.

Doc Searls (00:11:43):
So I'm wondering many things, but one of them is where did you start with all this? You have all these interesting jobs that were all over the place, but where did you start? I mean, what got you going on all this stuff?

Michael Hoffman (00:11:56):
Yeah, it was a fortuitous [00:12:00] start. My dad was registrar at a small private college in Raleigh, North Carolina, and my parents got separated and my time with my dad ended up being down in the basement mainframe computer center where he was trying to figure out how to computerize everything They did even grade reports because the one guy who knew how to run this rented data, general Eclipse had left. So he just took it upon himself, I'm going to learn how to do this, and I'm sitting there as a 11 [00:12:30] year old, okay, well I'm going to learn how to do it too. And he and I were in this basement learning how to program. And so I started on a data general eclipse and just one of the first things I ever wrote was a game that played blackjack. I had this book that I devoured. It was called the Playboy Book of Games. It had all the rules of every game you could possibly imagine in there, especially betting games like poker and blackjack. It's like, okay, well I'm going to write a competent blackjack program.

[00:13:00] That's where it all began and then I couldn't get enough of it. I ended up having a computer store called The Bite Shop one block maybe I guess two blocks from my house, and I would just go there and camp out and look at all these weird computers that had eight toggle switches and eight LEDs, and that's pretty much the entire interface on the whole little computer. I was $300 and it was like I was just so intrigued that I just soaked it all up. I read Bite Magazine, [00:13:30] I had a subscription to Bite Magazine as early as 13 year old, and that just led to me just doing it all the time. I was doing building robots. I bought my first computer as a 16 year old. I was called a Kim one. It was a 65 0 2 computer that had a whopping 1000 bytes of RAM 1,024 if anybody

Doc Searls (00:13:50):
Wants to. We were there at the same time. Were you at Meredith College or Shaw? Which small

Michael Hoffman (00:13:57):
You got it? My dad was registrar at Shaw University.

Doc Searls (00:14:00):
[00:14:00] Okay. It's not that small. I taught one course at S one time, only time I ever taught in the college.

Michael Hoffman (00:14:06):
That's so cool that we have that. Yeah, and seriously, you probably even know about the bike shop then

Doc Searls (00:14:12):
It rings a bell and

It was there where we were looking. So we had an ad agency that was on off Northern Boulevard off St. Mary's and we went to Silicon Valley, we opened offices, we succeeded in North Carolina as a tech shop and then [00:14:30] opened an office of Silicon Valley that did a lot better. Then we folded up North Carolina and moved out there. But have you read the Soul of a New Machine, which is about the general in North Carolina, Tracy Kitter, there's a lot of Earl Gilmore we got mentioned there. It was one of our clients there. So there's some overlap. We may have been in the same store at the same

Michael Hoffman (00:14:49):
Time. I would not even doubt it. I hung out in that store all the time, so cool.

Doc Searls (00:15:00):
[00:15:00] I'm glad I asked that. That's a really interesting thing. So lemme go to the other end of things. So you had this awesome job at Microsoft and now you're off doing a different thing or the same thing in a different place. So tell me about that transition and what got you going at Mesmerize and is it IQ xr? IQ xr? Yeah,

Michael Hoffman (00:15:21):
IQ xr.

Doc Searls (00:15:22):
So you founded that, so you started something yourself. Yeah,

Michael Hoffman (00:15:26):
Yeah. So I [00:15:30] generally consider myself a startup guy, so going to startups is relatively a comfortable journey for me having started five companies at this point myself as well as being with other companies. So I'll fast forward a little from where I left off before, which was I caught wind of the fact that Microsoft was going to nurture some external agencies to start building stuff for these new emerging HoloLens devices. So I left to start this company called Object Theory for five years and we built for big enterprise companies, [00:16:00] I mean you name it, British Petroleum, Steelcase, Stryker Medical, Zimmer Bio even. We did a lot of work back to Microsoft and I did that for five years learning a boatload about how these technologies can move the needle for big companies and also all the challenges that made it really hard to move the needle for these big companies.

But as many of us that have been through this whole journey together, this market did not wake up anywhere nearly as fast as all of us had thought. I mean even [00:16:30] Microsoft's own projections ended up being unrealistic and a lot of it is blamed on the devices. I personally believe it's all about a device without software is just a bookend, it's just a brick. There just has never been a rich enough ecosystem of the software tools that it takes. So after five years of that, I basically threw in the towel. I said, this industry is not waking up. I know enough about what's happening to know that it's not going to wake up fast enough for me to fund [00:17:00] continue to fund it out of my own pocket. And so I went back to Microsoft and I landed in a really good part of Microsoft, which was the M R T K open source project.

We used the open source M R T K Open Source project and Object theory. So I was definitely familiar with it. I knew the key engineers who wrote it, Dave Klein and Curtis Ely. If anybody out there uses M I T K, you've probably heard those names. And so I went back and knowing [00:17:30] what I did about all the challenges of building for this industry, I did a survey of a lot of our customers of how are you using M R T K, what's working for you, what's not? And we came down with a distilled list of about six or eight key things that were not as good as it could be or as ideal as could be. So we for the next two years embarked on rebuilding M R T K from scratch to make it way more enterprise ready with [00:18:00] all the things that we were hearing about separability of functionality and more teamable and data bindable where it doesn't take over your app where you can put it.

M R T K was great for greenfield apps, but it wasn't great for retrofitting an existing app, rebuilt all the controls on top of the latest technologies in Unity. We even built a really good relationship with Unity. We're working very closely with their internal teams to make sure that they were providing what we needed [00:18:30] to create excellent ux. And then of course we built excellent UX that then was serving to make Unity a better product for these emerging devices. So we did that for two years as many of us in this industry know and were impacted by, my entire team was dissolved and the layoffs that started in January of this year, and [00:19:00] so my team got dissolved, all 11 of us were looking for jobs. I thought I could do that two month thing to look for something else internally, but Microsoft was genuinely trying to reduce I think, their footprint and so it was not possible for me to stay.

That would've been my preference, but it ended up being a blessing disguise. I started looking around at different opportunities. The one that very quickly raised above all the others was [00:19:30] Mesmerized group. It was UK company around 150, 200 people experimenting the space, trying to figure out where the signal was, where the value was, and they had identified that platform as where we can make a big difference. And I happened to have been building platforms my entire career since my early twenties and it quickly jelled into me coming on board to start I Q XR as one more of their family sister [00:20:00] companies. I'm one of six sister companies under the Mesmerized group and all of us are now structured to all work well together and support the creation of platform and then support building things on top of that platform. And every day I feel like I'm the luckiest guy on the planet.

We've built a great team. I co-founded it with two of the top leaders of Object theory, [00:20:30] Michael House, Natalie Kaiser, they are my partners in crime and every single day we are just feeling blessed at what we have. We're at 19 people now just five months in. It's pretty cool. We're growing pretty fast and our entire mission is to build the pieces that are missing, innovate in areas that need innovation so that this industry can wake up faster and we have a strong commitment to open source and open standards. We want to either adopt or drive [00:21:00] the creation of standards that are missing and we want to give away as much as we can logically and sensibly do through open source pieces of the puzzle that make it faster for everybody to get some basic something up and running. What we want to do is get it to the point where you can just focus on your core expertise. If your core expertise is surgery, you focus on the surgery part, not the how do I integrate audio, how do I integrate, how do I make it end to end secure, things like that.

Doc Searls (00:21:30):
[00:21:30] Well, that is a fantastic setup for all the questions that Catherine has that are lined up and our back channel because they're busy caring about open source and there's a lot of threads we can follow there. But first, I have to let everybody know that this episode of Floss Weekly is brought to you by FastMail Mickey Mail work for you with FastMail, customize your workflow with colors, custom swipes, night mode and more. FastMail now has quick settings. From the quick settings [00:22:00] menu. You can easily choose a new theme, switch between light mode and dark mode and change your text size without leaving the FastMail screen. You're looking at quick settings will also offer options related to the FastMail screen you're viewing. You can generate a new mask, email address, show or hide your reading pane. Switch between folders and labels and more. Choose to auto save contacts or choose to show public images of senders from [00:22:30] external services like gravita, such default reminders for events, change how invitations are handled, or turn notifications for calendar alerts on and off.

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Katherine Druckman (00:24:46):
I do. I'd like to go back to the openness of it all, like you just mentioned. I loved what you said about empowering people to focus on their own area of expertise for, you're a surgeon, right? You don't have to worry about how this stuff works. [00:25:00] Is that your end goal? Do you envision a world where you really are empowering non-technical users even to take advantage of these open source spatial computing platforms? Or do you mean empowering developers or is it kind of a roadmap that involves both of those things and how does openness play into that goal? How does it enable everything?

Michael Hoffman (00:25:23):
Yeah, really good question. We do plan to take baby steps and the first baby step would be to [00:25:30] make available tools for developers with potentially the one exception is that we're also focusing on the creator flow. One of the biggest things that we realized over the past eight years is the cost of content creation is one of the bigger barriers and we're looking at all the clever ways in which you can potentially reduce that cost of creating the very content that you want to show. I mean, a good example is you want a really nice sky box around a scenario. Let's just say you're doing a [00:26:00] aircraft training or aircraft maintenance. Wouldn't it be cool if it were look like you're in a hanger? Well guess what? Now you're talking about creating either a three D model of a hanger or you're creating a fake photograph, 360 skybox.

Either one is thousands of dollars and then you have to find the artist or already have an artist on the team. And even little things like that cost a lot of money. So we're looking at all the clever ways in which we can use existing and emerging technologies [00:26:30] to help on the credit flow and that immediately helps the non-developer obviously even during the development phase, unique content and it can help during that phase two. The layer on top of that is going to be a node-based workflow way of programming. A lot of people call that low-code or no-code, very similar to the blueprints in Unreal as an example, and some of the various node-based shader designers. We intend to make that available as a layer on top [00:27:00] of the programming layer and now we're getting a little closer to the non-developer being able to piece together an experience and sequence things out, have branches if the person did this, now do this next.

A little bit like the state machines that you can use inside animation engines. It's kind of that level. The next level after that that we intend to build on top of that which will create nodes for you is things like you've got a headset on and you're designing this scenario in real time. [00:27:30] It's almost like three D PowerPoint or something where you're building it as you go and you're wiring things up and you're doing all that in three D itself. And then the next step after that is prompting. I want this scenario and I want this to be over here and that to be over there. And then AI is helping you build the actual scenario. So we plan on being on every step of that journey and we're going to do it in approximately that order obviously with some overlap. And [00:28:00] what we want to do is get to the point where this is available to everybody.

I firmly believe that we will be in a future where the way we interact with all technology will be the glasses on your face and eventually even scarier things like lenses in contact lenses in your eyes, or even the bio interface we all talk about and it's written about in science fiction like neuro answerer. So yes, the answer is it is a roadmap [00:28:30] that includes all of those and one of the things that we're committed to is that every layer actually builds on the layer below and you're allowed to go into the hood and actually work at the layer below. So if a node is missing that does something cool that you need write a new node and all of a sudden this new node's available, oh by the way, there'll be a marketplace where you can sell your node if it's interesting enough and you can use it yourself and you can actually make an entire business around that new node that you've written.

And then the nodes of course are written on top of a p i layers that we're highly committed to all of the lowest level [00:29:00] parts of the stack to all be based on storing things in open standard document formats using open standard protocols, using our maybe not, I guess, open standard languages. I guess you could argue the languages of the internet are open standard and we all believe that everything is really the evolution of the web. So a lot of it will sound familiar. It'll sound like web technologies and that's because that we believe that is where this is all heading.

Katherine Druckman (00:29:30):
[00:29:30] So I think you kind of partially answered my next question, which is everybody's really excited about how AI plays into everything now, right? AI is the, it's kind of taking over every conversation there is about technology, especially when you're talking about enabling less technical users to do things, to create things, to create very complex things or things that would've been incredibly time ofensive or difficult in the past. And I'm really interested in that angle, but also [00:30:00] how you see, again, the openness in AI is a bit of a challenge, which we could go, I don't want to go too far down that rabbit hole, but how do you see those two things, the spatial platforms that you're working on in AI really working together even before you get to the point where the end user can create a fantastical environment with which to interact even before that, even for developers today?

Michael Hoffman (00:30:28):
Yeah, and you do mention [00:30:30] some of the challenges we're all hearing about in ai, which I absolutely agree with. Probably the only time my career I've actually raised alarms is around the emerging conversational AI like chat. G P T AI is a big field. It is a lot more than just conversational AI in these large language models. I prefer to call it machine learning as opposed to ai. AI I think should be reserved for the time when it gets closer to sentient chat. T B T arguably is actually getting close to something that genuinely [00:31:00] is more in the AI camp as opposed to the machine learning camp. But just to give you an idea of the landscape, the landscape is so broad. A lot of us are using AI already and don't even realize it. Open CV just to understand objects in a scene. AI is being used to learn how to make sure you know how something is aligned with the real world with a decent amount of accuracy.

It's already being used a lot in these emerging technologies because [00:31:30] we now have eyes that are looking at what you're looking at and can even do things like detect whether something has a crack on it and know whether something going down the assembly line was properly assembled or in some way has a flaw. And so those are all ways in which it's being used that don't touch upon some of the genuine challenges of these conversational large language model ais. The other interesting area that's emerging, which is an alternative to three-dimensional [00:32:00] meshes is nurse. The nurse are basically an AI way of creating the stereoscopic renderings of a scene based on photography. You take a bunch of photos, you create a machine learning model of those photos and then from any angle it knows how to deliver the correct stereoscopic screens, the two screens that you see in your device.

And so that opens up all kinds of possibilities for using machine learning to quickly take a scene [00:32:30] that let's just imagine a real estate agent taking photos of a house now you can use nerfs to very efficiently that to a person for things like a walkthrough and I mean there are just so many other areas that are using AI already. One is, there you go. For those of you, I forgot what the acronym stood for, I was going to rattle it off but I forgot. It is not exactly an easy thing to rattle [00:33:00] off your tongue neural radiance field. The other areas that are behind the scenes are things like we now know where you're looking and there's the whole creepy parts of that, but there's also the just you're looking at this thing and you're supposed to be pushing that and you're not pushing it.

Now I know to tell you by the way, push the red button. There's ways for it to just know what you're doing and even what you're potentially emoting and helping you, you navigate a situation, maybe it sees you [00:33:30] being an expert because you're moving faster than a typical person that's seen going through a training exercise and it knows to accelerate it and adaptively matches your pacing of how fast of a learner you are or how slow of a learner you are. And those are all ways in which machine learning can make all of these experiences better and nicely. A lot of them never will touch on the genuinely concerning areas of hallucinations and [00:34:00] not even knowing whether what it told you is factual or not or just made up or approximately true, but only probabilistically true, not actually true. Those are some of the existing challenges around conversational ai.

Katherine Druckman (00:34:16):
So you said something about smart glasses and I love that conversation that can go a lot of places. Doc and I love to have conversations about privacy and that sort of thing and that seems very relevant here when you talk about the [00:34:30] way that people would interact today or in the future with smart glasses and their environment. And I just wondered first, so yeah, how do you feel like privacy plays into the conversation about the way that people might interact in that way?

Michael Hoffman (00:34:47):
Yeah, really good question. And there are no easy answers unfortunately. I absolutely think that we need more regulation than we do today. I believe that it's the wild west and companies can get away with practically anything. [00:35:00] Sometimes the industry gets slapped like the Google glasses. It certainly was being ridiculed for how easy it was to take photos and videos of your environment. I do believe that regulation is going to be key to these emerging technologies being widely deployed and not ultimately being seen as more of a hazard than a benefit. That said, I do believe in general, [00:35:30] for better or worse, we are largely comfortable with being generous with the technological infrastructure, the Borg knowing a lot about us, which I think has its pros and cons. Obviously it can be used in ways, nefarious ways which aren't good for society, but I do also believe that we're entering a world or a field where it has a lot of [00:36:00] potential to do good and to be able to genuinely help you be more efficient and to use technology in ways which are less intrusive and more empowering than today. I don't know about you, but I've got calluses on my finger from how many times I pull out my phone.

Literally it's like from the number of times I put my hand in my pocket

Katherine Druckman (00:36:29):
Over user For [00:36:30] sure.

Michael Hoffman (00:36:30):
Yeah, exactly. And for this to become the less intrusive and more of a genuine almost, you can almost imagine, it eventually starts feeling like your friend, right? It's there to help you, it's there to help you with the number of times I'm driving down the street is when I have this inspiration and even dictating to something is hard now, wouldn't it be cool if you just said, Hey, whatever I call my glasses, here's an idea I have. Can you jot it down for me? And I just imagine this future [00:37:00] five, 10 years from now where these smart glasses, yes, invoke concerns about privacy and I do agree about that, but they also are the better way for us to interact with our technology. It's honestly the first time technology has at least the opportunity to be 100% conforming to us instead of us conforming to it, right? All the things we do now to use our technology can melt away. It takes really good software and really good creative thinkers [00:37:30] to figure out how to melt away all of the ways in which technology isn't efficient and isn't human in how it approaches helping you in various ways. But that will happen and we certainly are trying to play a part in that.

Katherine Druckman (00:37:47):
You talk about, and I am with you, I guess I suppose rather focus on the positive exciting parts rather than the dystopian future where someone can look at me walking down the street and see my resume most embarrassing college photos [00:38:00] and or worse. But like you say, the ease of interacting with the environment is very interesting and conforming to us is an exciting way to phrase that rather than the other way around. And I wonder if we could talk a little bit about ergonomics because again, I mentioned earlier that I get very excited about history of design and stuff like that and the evolution of how we've interacted with our environments. I love to talk about kitchen design as an example, how we've evolved into this ergonomic [00:38:30] triangle and how we do things. And I wonder how much that study and ergonomics plays into the work that you do as far as people interacting with created environments or real environments. When you're talking about glasses, you could be interacting with actual physical environments, whereas when you're talk about spatial computing and the other things you're working on, you're talking about created environments. So I wonder if you could speak about that a little bit.

Michael Hoffman (00:38:55):
Yeah, ergonomics is so important. I mean there's the ergonomics of the experience [00:39:00] you're experiencing and obviously there's ergonomics of the physical device. I'll start with the ergonomics of the experience. One of the greatest things about M R T K was that behind M R T K was a massive team of brilliant, passionate UX experimenters, designers, innovators who are making sure that we understood how do you leverage these new technologies to make things intuitive. When your finger approaches a button, if it glows, is that helping? What's going to happen next as you depress [00:39:30] it? Is it giving you a nice sound haptic feedback that the pressing is happening and all the little ways in which good design can make the experience you're experiencing more ergonomic? Those are hard problems to solve and it takes innovation to actually solve them well. And I was really impressed with the level of commitment that we had across Microsoft to figuring that out.

And that is embodied in M R T K. That's honestly one of the most valuable aspects of [00:40:00] M R T K is all the thinking that went into making that intuitive. It's easy to find examples of software that hasn't figured it out, and we're kind of in that early phase of a new emerging industry where we're going to go through a lot of experimentation and there's going to be a lot of bad software out there and then there's going to be a lot of innovative software and eventually the innovations will make it into the mainstream. And so from that perspective, it is incredibly important because [00:40:30] these are new emerging technologies. Can you imagine if all the swiping and tapping and all the things you can do on an iPhone where they're in version one of an iPhone, it would've been really hard for anybody to adopt an iPhone because there's so many different ways in which we've learned over the years and actually decades to this point of all the ways in which we can interact with our devices.

We're kind of on the early part of that journey too, where you want to start small and simple, but then you do want to create a larger and larger vocabulary of gestures and a larger and larger vocabulary of ways [00:41:00] of interacting just because it becomes efficient. Just like we like more words because it's more efficient to say what's on your mind when you have more words. Same with gestures on these emerging technologies. So eventually we will have a very rich vocabulary of gestures that will allow us to efficiently interact with these emerging technologies. Right now the efficiency isn't there and you can't get rid of your keyboard yet. You can't get rid of your mouse yet because the efficiency isn't there yet. But that will come over time.

Doc Searls (00:41:30):
[00:41:30] That's very encouraging. And I have some thoughts and questions that I'll get to right after letting everybody know that this episode of Floss Weekly is brought to you by Collide. That's collide with a k Collide is a device trust solution for companies with Okta and they ensure that if a device isn't trusted and secure, it can't log into your cloud apps if you work in security or IT and your company has Okta, this message is for you. Have [00:42:00] you ever noticed that for the past few years, the majority of data breaches and hacks you read about have something in common? Its employees. Sometimes an employee's device gets hacked because of unpatched software. Sometimes an employee's leaves sensitive data in an unsecured place and it seems like every day a hacker breaks in using credentials they fish from an employee. The problem here isn't your end users, it's the solutions that are supposed to prevent these breaches, but it doesn't have to be that way. [00:42:30] Imagine a world where only secure devices can access your cloud apps in this world, phished credentials are useless to hackers and you can manage every oss, including Linux, all from a single dashboard. Best of all, you can get employees to fix their own device security issues without creating more work for your IT team. The good news is you don't have to imagine this world, you can just start using collide. Visit [00:43:00] to book an on-demand demo today and see how it works for yourself. That's K O L I D

So Hoff, you did a really good job I think of sort of explaining where we are historically now getting toward a large vocabulary of gestures and all that. I think one of the problems that we have as [00:43:30] computing has moved, has become more and more friendly, has been moved farther, kind of the stack just keeps going up at the application layer where infinite convenience is introduced, but there's more is almost infinite opacity for what's going on behind the screen. You look at an old fashioned television's full of vacuum tubes, it heats up, you kick it, you slap the top, you adjust the horizontal and a vertical.

And even [00:44:00] with early computers, I mean an Apple two or an I B M PC had a big back plane, you could put the ethernet card in there, you could put the graphics card in there. Now it's all software. And I'm wondering how we as individuals and especially as individual hackers, because actually our audience here to a large degree, the people doing the work and who want to be as close to the metal and as close to the substrates as they can, [00:44:30] I have this fantasy that a mix of our people here, our listeners and viewers and the big companies like Apple and Microsoft, which started out as personal computer companies, they're working for people. That's their first interest. And I think there's still some hope in that we're going to get our own personal ai, we're going to run our own lives with something that, I mean, I want to be able to have an AI know that when on my [00:45:00] visa bill, the Amazon charge does not match what Amazon says on their accounts page because they sort them out by shipments and not by actually what you got billed for.

And it's always algebra involved in trying to figure this out manually. I'd love it if that's all fixed and I'm seeing very little happening there. So far I'm seeing very little that's like what can I do for myself? I mean, somebody sent me one yesterday. I wouldn't name the name of the company about to ream them in [00:45:30] my blog, but that's a brand new personal AI thing and it's all about following your every motion on your screen and what you're doing online so you could better work online. And 90% of our lives are not online actually still, even though we're using our phones all the time, or if they are, they're in our offline world. Who are my contacts? What's on my calendar? Where did I travel? What do I already own? I own a lot of stuff. I'm not buying anything right now. And the whole advertising world [00:46:00] is set up to imagine you're buying something all the time. So I'm wondering what hope we might have that we can start equipping ourselves going through what you did when you went from data general running picked, and even then you're probably working for yourself on that thing.

How can we be personal on this thing again? And I'm actually imagining having some way to shut off on our side. [00:46:30] No, don't follow me out of here. Give me that. Don't give me that in a gestured way, in a really simple way. So we have a sense of where our boundaries are and that those boundaries are hard and they're accountable and we can look back and say, wait a minute, you screwed me over right there. Or even little things like when I'm traveling, when I get in my car or I'm using my phone, I want to be able to turn on and off whether or not I'm telling Google or binging where I am in traffic. [00:47:00] That's actually a privacy violation on me a hundred percent of the time. Phone company needs to know because they need to hand off the call. But that doesn't mean I need to be participating in all these functions that, or if I am, I want control over saying, okay, anonymous, that's all right, but I want more control over that stuff. So how do we get that? Is there hope for getting that? Yeah,

Michael Hoffman (00:47:25):
There's definitely hope. And I mean the biggest barrier in my mind is [00:47:30] lack of widely supported open standards. I mean, think about it. The ability to parse language these days is pretty mature, right? Lewis is a technology that is available on Azure Lewis is kind of like a mix between machine learning expert system to parse a sentence and to learn variations of a sentence and it's readily available to everybody. Everybody has the ability to parse language, so that isn't the barrier anymore. You could argue that conversational AI has all of its challenges of it misunderstood [00:48:00] what you wanted it to do and maybe it doesn't do the right thing, but I do believe that it is already possible to do things like have an expert agent that helps you with day-to-day life and helps you do things like reconcile whether or not your insurance bill is correct or your Amazon bill is correct.

The barrier in my mind is that unless everything is following a standard for ways of talking to it, for things like this, you're not going to ever be able to have an ecosystem be [00:48:30] built that makes it possible at scale. You'll have lots of experiments you'll have at work in particular ecosystems. But just think about it, why on earth is it still today not possible for anybody with any phone from any manufacturer to just somehow tap it and share contact information? It is insane that that doesn't exist. It doesn't exist because no one has formed promoted and established ubiquity for an open standard for [00:49:00] doing that across all device manufacturers. And this is the unfortunate part, of course, is you need the participants in that ecosystem to actually be part of that. And unfortunately we do have walled gardens out there. We do have companies that see their core strategic advantages is not playing nice with other ecosystems and that is an unfortunate part of the reality that takes away from the hope that we'll be able to get there.

One of the things again that [00:49:30] we want to do is create open standards for things like you're describing for ways. If I have something built on IQ XR platform, it just magically can translate between my language and the native language of the friend I'm trying to talk to in some other part of the world, Germany, Spain, wherever, and I don't speak their language, that should just be automatic. Why is that not automatic? And all the technology clearly is there today. Obviously somebody has to pay for the amount of compute it took [00:50:00] to do the translation, but those barriers, I believe are not the reason that it's not happening. It's not happening because there isn't a universal lingua franca for how to just make that normal across everybody's technology stacks. And this is an area where we hope we can move the needle by thinking that way in everything we do.

Creating and adopting these open standards, making it really easy to drop these into apps so that they just for [00:50:30] free get the kinds of things you're talking about for free. The agent can wake up that gives you information because if somebody somewhere along the way is willing to pay the small amount it takes to have that in there, and that can be through many, many different means through advertising, whatever. Now all of a sudden that agent just is magically available for those kinds of things. And the up and standards for how that agent can do the research on your behalf to research whether or not your insurance bill is correct can eventually [00:51:00] be the kind of thing that agent can do just because the mechanisms via open standards and ideally open source as well where somebody has done the heavy lifting can just add that to pipelines and workflows that are just nodes. You just need that. So you just put the right node into your workflow and all of a sudden it can translate. All of a sudden it can be super low latency because that's important. All of a sudden it can talk to your billing system. You gave her permission to do that research for you. [00:51:30] I feel hopeful I want to be part of the solution. I do know that it does require adoption by the big players and that is the part that won't be in my control personally, but I hope to move the needle.

Doc Searls (00:51:43):
I'm going to go a little bit further down this thread right after this break. So Hoff, there are two directions here and one is I think you were actually at Microsoft during some of the time when they became an open source company. [00:52:00] They were very against open source and they became one. And I paid attention to I B M when that happened back in the late nineties. And basically they were taken over by their own engineers, their own engineers said, wait a minute, we're not running your printer server, we're running samba and we're just going to run out old Windows machines on Linux because they all led on lots of old Windows machines. So that's one thing I'm wondering to what extent a company like Microsoft can go [00:52:30] in the direction of what there has to be an ecosystem here that's full of standards for ways that people can put together what they need and maybe it's got our stuff in it, maybe it's the other guy's stuff.

We're all going to adopt the same thing. It's happening right now. Apple got dragged kicking and screaming at U S B C even though it was already on the iPad. By the way, I've got one. It doesn't work with anything because it's got U S B C. That's another thing. But first I'm making a standard, so I have experience with this and it's not good. [00:53:00] I'm with a group that I put together in 2017 called I e e P 7 0 1 2, the standard for machine readable personal privacy terms rather than us always agreeing to terms that others are pushing at us, why don't they agree to our terms? Which might be as simple as don't follow me out of here, sign here. And I've got a machine readable thing and we're fairly close, but we need people to jump and help us with this. So I'm kind of doing my own ad here. So look up [00:53:30] I E E E P 7 0 1 2 and get in touch with me. I'm a first or anybody, you know how, I mean we're close to finishing this thing and we want to finish it, but it is been since 2017. This is six years.

Michael Hoffman (00:53:45):
These are long run

Doc Searls (00:53:46):
The horizons on this thing in a fast moving thing. So I don't know how you could put this together and we don't have much time left, but there's how do you make all these standards that we don't have and get big companies [00:54:00] like Microsoft and Apple and Facebook and others, Adobe, there are a lot of big ones that could be helping with this. How do you get 'em to do that?

Michael Hoffman (00:54:10):
I mean, honestly, I believe the best way is to be really good at designing an A P I or a standard adopt it, get ubiquity, be good at what you do and put it out there for free and have a commitment to when it actually has gotten noticed to have that commitment to form [00:54:30] a committee or to join a committee to then formalize it. The best way to make a really good standard is to actually build one and use it just like they say, the best technologies tend to come from solving your own need. It's similar to that where you create this technology, it needs to exist, you use it, you get it out there in the market, you demonstrate that it's valuable and now suddenly it's really just a matter of being willing to make it open. I mean a good example right now in our [00:55:00] industry is USD is a really good format that everybody's adopting, but it's owned and controlled by Pixar.

Wouldn't it be cool if they just made that decision to say, okay, it's time. Let's turn that into now an open standard. That's exactly the kind of path that I imagine that we are going to be on at I Q X R over and over again where we just say, we need this. We're going to create it. We'll form the committee as early as it makes sense, maybe even right away, but that's not going to slow us down. We're going to use it as we go now we may not win, but I believe that the [00:55:30] trick is be relevant and you probably will be able to win. And even if you don't so much about that need for that particular standard that you can help make sure that that standard is good no matter who ultimately drives it and who ultimately wins at creating a standard around it. And as long as we're actively participating, we can then make sure that it is meeting the broader needs and we then would just switch over to that presumably better flavor of that standard and abandoned [00:56:00] hours because we want to be adopting the best one that's out there.

Doc Searls (00:56:07):
Okay, we're fairly close to the end here. So the back channel says time flies. It really does. This is incredibly interesting. So there are several questions I'd like to ask at the end, and one is, first quickly, can you answer anything that we haven't asked or that your PR people wanted us to ask and forgot to ask? [00:56:30] I still have so many questions.

Michael Hoffman (00:56:34):
Well, I think the quickest thing to say is that I have never in my entire career felt so set up for success. We are surrounded by some of the most amazing, brilliant people I've ever worked with. They're passionate, they're committed to openness, they're open source, open standards. We have really good funding. We have amazing industry contacts. I feel fully empowered. I make sure everybody on our [00:57:00] team, it feels fully empowered. The six mesmerized sister companies, we're all structuring it so that we compliment each other. One is a consulting company that will build at client velocity on top of our platform. Another one is already building solutions in this field for hard skills training and using immersive technologies. And one is a very strong data sciences and AI team. 30 people that are brilliant data scientists, AI wonks. And [00:57:30] so I think the biggest thing to say is, please follow us.

Please watch us. We're going to be doing amazing things. We already are. We're emerging out of our planning phase. We've been planning for the past five months. I told our leadership and investors don't expect a single line of code yet because we just want to make sure we're building the right thing, not just building it right. We want to make sure that we're building the right thing. And that is all in line with what I've been telling you about open source, open standards, and doing it right for the long haul. Basing it on emerging web standards. [00:58:00] I know that was a long answer, but I

Doc Searls (00:58:02):
Couldn't No, that's good.

Michael Hoffman (00:58:04):
Three minutes.

Doc Searls (00:58:06):
A quick one is this is becoming one we're using more often. What is the weirdest thing you've seen done with anything you've invented?

Michael Hoffman (00:58:16):
Oh, interesting. Interesting. Wow. Weirdest thing I've seen done. That is an interesting [00:58:30] question. I don't how to answer that.

Doc Searls (00:58:35):
Yeah, well, it's not a requirement. Yeah,

Michael Hoffman (00:58:39):
No, of course. I'm going to be pondering that until I come up with something. I do know that I've created things in the past where people have used it in ways that I didn't predict, which is a sign of a good design, that it's even possible to use it in ways you didn't predict. But I can't honestly recall specifics because I have a horrible memory for specifics. I remember concepts [00:59:00] in abstract versions of things. So

Doc Searls (00:59:06):
Like me, I can understand math concepts, but I can't add a column of numbers, but I'm making a mistake. Okay, so we'll wrap at this, and this is what we always ask. What are your favorite text editor in scripting Language?

Michael Hoffman (00:59:21):
I love TechMate on my Mac. I use TechMate all the time. I love the fact that Vim exists everywhere and I use Vim, [00:59:30] but TechMate is my go-to. What was the other question you said?

Doc Searls (00:59:35):
Oh, and scripting language.

Michael Hoffman (00:59:38):
Scripting language. I have to say for just whipping up quick stuff, every time I use Python, I'm blown away. How did Python make this so easy? I just am blown every time, blown away. And I wouldn't use it for product and production, just to be clear, but for any kind of quick scripting language, python's my gut. Hard to

Doc Searls (00:59:58):
Beat. Hard to beat. [01:00:00] And we can't get Guido to come on this show because he's busy being retired. He's done his work. Well, Hoff is a great having you on the show. We will have to have you back. I would love to lots of guests, but you're moving so fast that that's a requirement.

Michael Hoffman (01:00:18):
Yeah, I'd love to come back. And there's other I can explore too.

Doc Searls (01:00:22):
Yeah. So thanks for being on. Well, good.

Katherine Druckman (01:00:24):
I have a lot more questions.

Doc Searls (01:00:25):
I know so many. We're saving them up. I

Katherine Druckman (01:00:28):
Believe it's only been an hour. I

Michael Hoffman (01:00:29):
Know [01:00:30] this is a pretty fast hour. I can't believe it's over already. Yeah.

Doc Searls (01:00:34):
Thanks again. Thank you. Yeah,

Michael Hoffman (01:00:36):
You're welcome. It's great to meet you.

Doc Searls (01:00:40):
Thanks. Likewise. So Catherine, actually, I mean, you could say what some of your questions might be just to tease the next show that we do with

Katherine Druckman (01:00:48):
Oh yeah.

Well, so the Metaverse in general has a lot of hype and I just kind of want to know, I want to talk about a little bit more about do we think it's going to live up to [01:01:00] the hype? When do people want to interact virtually and when do they not? And the type of environments we're talking about. There's just so many different places to go. We could talk an entire episode just about glasses and how we might all of it. We could pick out any part of this conversation and go for another hour at least. So yeah,

Doc Searls (01:01:22):
I haven't put it in the chat, but I invented a pair of glasses, which I called S'S Glasses immodestly because it got ear in the middle of it in a year. In [01:01:30] the middle of it that are privacy. It is just the design for privacy oriented glasses that would signal to the other person whether or not you're being spied on and stuff like that. Absolutely. Nobody has picked up on it. So if that tells you what my box office is on that. But yeah, those are going to be good to cover. So what do we want to plug, Catherine?

Katherine Druckman (01:01:49):
Oh, what do we want to plug

Doc Searls (01:01:50):
At least two other podcasts you're on?

Katherine Druckman (01:01:52):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, we've got Doc and I do the other podcast, that's Reality 2.0. And then I do one over in the open [01:02:00] ecosystem team at Intel, and that is called Open at Intel. And I talk to a lot of interesting people doing interesting things in the community. And yeah, that's about it. Find or reality two or on Twitter or on Mastodon or all of these various places.

Doc Searls (01:02:19):
And I need to plug next week's show. It's going to be Michael Marito, which when I expand. Okay. [01:02:30] He's the c e o at 2 73 I don't have the topic yet. I do know the co-host is going to be Simon Phipps is always great. So that's going to be next week, Michael Bon Marto. So until then, I'm Doc SSLs. I'll still be Doc Searls next week and I'll see you then.

Rod Pyle (01:02:49):
Hey, I'm Rod Pyle, editor in Chief VAD Astor magazine. And each week I joined with my co-host to bring you this week in space, the latest and greatest news from the Final Frontier. We talk to NASA chiefs, space scientists, [01:03:00] engineers, educators and artists, and sometimes we just shoot the breeze over what's hot and what's not in space books and tv, and we do it all for you, our fellow true believers. So whether you're an armchair adventurer or waiting for your turn to grab a slot in Elon's Mars Rocket, join us on this weekend space and be part of the greatest adventure of all time.

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