Peering At The Future: Jesse Schell Speaks
December 3, 2010 Page 4 of 6
Specifically them because of the talent pool that's working with it, or because of the audience targets, or what?
JS: For a number of reasons. Because Unity's home is likely to be mobile and web. It's more centered on mobile and web than it is, say, on game consoles, and mobile and web are more suited to things that aren't necessarily games, right?
If you have a character that's like happening on a game console, he's going to stay the game console guy. But if you've got a character doing cool stuff, you know, in your games on your PC or on your phone, it's not hard for him to start then giving you the weather or the times at the movies or whatever.
Further, since people are doing non-game things on their mobile and on their web, there will be opportunities to use Unity for non-games there because to have meaningful 3D characters, you need an ubiquitous 3D solution, and it will be there. And then further, it's got multiplatform, so if you want these characters to follow you throughout the day... So, there's a lot of reasons, I think.
You know, you talked about 10 technological areas that need to improve drastically to make this possible...
JS: Well, yeah. Ten things that are gradually making this vision happen, yeah.
You know, it starts to sound a little cyberpunk when you bring it all together towards the end. It starts to sound a little bit like a Neal Stephenson novel, I think.
JS: The world starts to sound... Do you remember in Snow Crash the part where they go to see the librarian, and he's got this really cool thing. It's a globe that you can like turn and zoom in and stuff and see anywhere in the world with any map in the world, and we all read it in, what, 1990 [ed. note: 1992] was when Snow Crash came out, something like that.
I was like, "Man, that's cool. I wish we'd have that." Now we all have it in our pocket. We're beyond where he was. He had to actually go to some dude's house in order to see this thing. We all have that crap in our pocket now. So, yeah, that's where the world is going.
It's interesting that you brought up Milo, and I thought you were very honest about Milo, which was good because otherwise the audience would've rolled their eyes.
JS: Yeah. No, I didn't want to be a jerk about it, but it's also too easy to dismiss Milo because there is some fakery in it.
More than "some".
JS: Right. Without a doubt. But, you know, hey, PT Barnum. You expect PT Barnum to stretch the truth, whatever. The important part is the vision that I think Milo represents, and they really put some bold work into that, more than like any AI lab I've ever seen do.
I heard some really facile dismissiveness about Milo from day one. Someone said like, "Why would I want to interact with an 8-year-old boy?" and I'm like, "You're not even looking at the potential here." [laughs]
JS: Well, it's like the same people... "I don't want to wave my hand. I don't want to get off my couch and play a video game. Oh my God." Right? I remember... I won't name names, but there were a number of industry people who were publicly dismissive of the Wii when it came out, and it's easy to be in your niche and like "I like the things in my niche. You're doing something not in my niche. It seems stupid." But the world is big, and there's room for lots of things.
So, your company is pretty small still, right?
JS: Yeah, 55 people.
Okay, that's bigger than I thought.
JS: It depends on your point of view.
You seem to have an eye toward these potential really future developments. You're talking about Milo, that's like Microsoft-level R&D for that kind of tech.
So, you can't participate in this stuff as...
JS: Not so easily at the company. We can make select choices. I mean, it's even tougher for us; we don't have any investment or investors or anything. We hunt our own meat, as it were. We got out and get contracts with companies, partnerships, and publisher-funded development, and we try and take and profits we're able to take and do our own development, which is a slow path because, you know, how many people can I possibly put on them? Not very many.
But it's not always like "Oh my God. I see this distant future vision. Let's start building it now." It's more like it's useful to look out there because you're like "Oh, it's going to be going here. You know what? Let's pick this one over this one because it's in that direction, and it will get us a little closer."
And so part of it is part of the reason why we started to get a little more aggressive with Unity because a lot of people are dismissive of Unity. "Oh, it doesn't have the install base." And I'm like "Yeah, now. But let's get good at it now so we're ready when it goes big." And at the school, I get to do all kinds of crazy things because I still teach at the school. And my obligation at the school is to prepare the students for the future. Preparing them for the present is of little use.
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