A very foolish brain dump

Well, it is no longer really April fools day in many parts of the world, but I guess it is in the states, so I can probably get away with the above.  In short I thought I would write about a number of things that I think are interesting or that I’m thinking about, and maybe then sketch a short story idea or two.

Unity package / feature request

Something that I’m still interested in is a level editor for Unity3D that allows people to edit a level in real time while other players are running around within it.  Sort of like roll20, but in 3D.  There are a few technologies that I think are reaching towards this – the multiplatform level editor plugin here, and the scene fusion multi user unity editing plugin here.

The latter technology looks very useful for building games (as collaborative development and improved team productivity is really the market that it is angled towards, and it looks tremendously useful for that), and probably would double as sufficient for the purposes of moving people around a world and pretending that one was in a Roll20 style role playing game sandbox.  So I could certainly imagine that if there was a ‘master editor’ or admin user who could lock down certain parts of the unity editor then that would probably be enough for my use case.

The former technology does not extend unity but rather runs in game.  It allows the user to edit a scene at runtime and save the level to a serialised format that can then be loaded and run.  There have been many improvements to this over the last couple of years, however it does not really support what I’m after, which is the ability for somebody to add things to a scene while the ‘play’ mode of the game is active, and then export the current state of the level to a serialised format (after the manner of a ‘saved game state’).

Largely speaking, however, the code for the former is available and quite malleable to forking, so it is possible that it could be modified to allow me to then plug in something like the Bolt/Zeus networking stack (download links here) to support a multiplayer scenario.  However, I am lazy (and also time poor), so I find it much more efficient merely to write about what I’m after.  Scene Fusion probably would support what I want but is overkill for what I’m looking for, and I also would not have visibility of the code in the way that one can for Bolt and the multiplatform level editor.  I probably also wouldn’t be able to tinker with the networking servers in the same way that I could run Zeus on a rightscale managed amazon ec2 instance.

Ultimately I’m not after purchasing a game, or a piece of software that is a black box to me, but rather I’m keen to use something that I can tinker with, recompile the individual components, and learn a bit from.  Hopefully that makes sense.

Mathematics

I’ve made a bit more progress with a paper that I’ve been working on.  In particular I managed to prove existence and uniqueness of a lift of a particular function to the reals, and also came up with an interesting identity for a generalisation of another function, which may or may not be true.  Over the next month or two I hope to make a bit more progress.

Additionally I’ve been considering potentially to publish a presentation that I gave at a conference a few years ago, but I’ve been procrastinating a little in regards to that.

Quantum machine learning and the Fredkin gate

So apparently recently I discovered that quantum machine learning is a thing.  My interest in this area was piqued when I started wondering what might be next for AI after the triumph of DeepMind’s deep learning expert trained to play Go.

In particular it has struck me (and others) that with the advent of quantum computers within the next ten years or so, it might be possible to take the architectural subtlety of machine learning to new heights, and get closer to that goal of AI, for machines that truly think.  Indeed, many are arguing that this is the ‘killer application’ for quantum computing.  I’m slightly late off the mark here, since the inception of the field was a couple of years ago in 2014, but this is still a fairly young discipline and I think many exciting things lie ahead for it.

There are essentially two key observations in this respect: observation the first, that existing algorithms could run much, much faster on a quantum computer and with much, much more data.  However, much more exciting is observation the second: that quantum computers would allow one to construct much more complex and intricate algorithms for supervised and unsupervised learning.

Towards the objective of actually building such a device, there was a recent breakthrough achieved where researchers managed to construct a quantum Fredkin gate.  The reason this is exciting is because Fredkin gates are atomic to conventional computers: any logic operation can be devised by stringing a whole series of them together (rather like NAND gates in logic diagrams).

Of course this might not necessarily be ‘the’ critical advance but quantum computing is an area that is certainly seeing a large amount of progress at the moment.  Doubtless people are hungry for more computational power, beyond what is achievable with classical computers – and the time seems perhaps right, with the slow down currently being experienced in Moore’s law for run-of-the-mill circuitry.

Google compute cloud

Another thing that I recently learned was how deeply subtle and sophisticated google’s cloud computing operation has become.  With products such as bigtable, redshift, dataflow (based on Apache Beam) and others, Google has become truly a formidable contender in the area from a relatively late start on Amazon’s established lead just a few years ago.

I will not write much here because I do not understand too much about what google has to offer, but I thought I would point out how quickly it appears that this area has moved, and how sophisticated cloud computing services have become.  The price points do not seem too bad, either – I learned the other day that one can hire a t2.nano from Amazon now for about $3.50 USD a month, which is amazingly cheap (although, of course, you get what you pay for, which, in the case of a t2.nano, is next to nothing at all).

Automated testing of virtual reality applications or ‘websites’

As a tester (my current gig) I have been wondering as to what automation testing might look like for a virtual reality based application or website.  I think it could be quite interesting to write tests for such beasts.

Towards a ‘static’ virtual reality website on the web

I am also interested as to what a ‘static’ virtual reality website might look like.  In particular it would be nice to have say a room with bulletin boards on the walls and clickable links, or the ability to read a newspaper lying on a virtual table, for instance.

Integration testing of microservices

I’ve noticed that there is a trend in microservices testing towards using docker compose and jenkins to run tests based on a build pull request, to spin up a container for the project, and also containers for adjacent projects.  The idea is then that one hits endpoints on these boxes to verify that APIs are working correctly.  This is something that I would like to see better documentation for on the web, but so far most of the knowledge seems to be locked up in the heads of specialists, and there are not many public projects or tutorials (or courses!) geared towards teaching people how to do this form of blackbox testing.  Hopefully in the next year or two there will be some more chatter on the web in regards to this area, because it is certainly something that I’d like to do a bit more of.

Story ideas

In want of writing a story I thought I might write a few (short) story ideas.  Maybe I’ll post a short story to this blog tomorrow to make up for sidestepping my previous promise in said regard.

  • I thought it might be interesting to write something based in a world where some corporation exerts tremendous control.  Over time, the protagonist eventually finds their way to the executive of this company, and discovers a terrifying secret: that the Chief Executive Officer is actually just a magic 8-ball named Terence.  ‘The shareholders love him.’
  • A horse play.  A children’s story written as a play, where the main contenders are essentially just horses that do not behave themselves particularly well.
  • Writing about the present from the perspective of the past (eg, the way SF authors in the 1960s viewed today), which inserting incongruous references.  For instance, writing about the early years of the 21st century in a moon base, and then making reference to a contemporary event that actually has happened.
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