“I am against the promise of any claim to a ‘VR empathy machine’, and I am against it forever,” Yang recently wrote on his blog. “How do you know this is actually empathy you’re feeling? Do you really need to wear a VR headset in order to empathize with someone? Can’t you just fucking listen to them and believe them? You need to be entertained as well? Are you sure this isn’t about you?”
“Things were always changing at Autodesk. By the time I stopped working there, in 1992, the Advanced Technology division employed about twenty or thirty people. As well as my little Science Series programs, they’d set up a virtual reality lab.
We had sets of Jaron Lanier’s new VR goggles, which held a little TV screen for each eye, also his stretchy, optical-fiber-equipped data gloves that tracked the position of each finger joint, creating images of your hands in the virtual world that the goggles were showing you. I wrote a demo that immersed the user in a flock of artificially alive birds that were continually wheeling and regrouping around the user’s position in cyberspace. Rather than making them look like actual birds, I made the birds look like three and four dimensional polyhedra that I called topes—and thus my demo was called Flocking Topes.
The lab’s goal was to develop a VR operating system to be called Autodesk Cyberspace®. They’d picked this name on their own, and without asking me about it. My old cyberpunk writer friend William Gibson was a little annoyed by this development. After all, he’d coined the word cyberspace, and now Autodesk wanted to trademark it? A few months later, when I saw Gibson at a San Francisco virtual reality fair called the Cyberthon. He half-jokingly threatened to trademark the name of Autodesk’s original virtual reality programmer, a talkative hipster named Eric Gullichsen.
Although sales of our Chaos program were even better than CA Lab’s had been, the profits from these relatively low-priced packages were negligible compared to Autodesk’s income from their flagship product, AutoCAD. And Autodesk Cyberspace® was shaping up to be a dud. And then the company’s stock price dropped.”
— Rudy Rucker, Nested Scrolls, Chapter 19.