The Treachery of Images

<%image(20080327-Howarde_Avatar.jpg|230|201|Ceci n'est pas Howard)%>There’s a photo of me in the current Information Week. Only it isn’t a “photo,” and it isn’t “me.”

The picture fixes a specific pattern of electromagnetic radiation and is made using a device called a camera, but it was captured before any photons hit the ether. It is an accurate likeness of my avatar in Croquet, which in turn is a reasonable virtual representation of myself. The caption and indeed the story do not mention me by name, but they are about our work at Qwaq. And I am largely defined by my work. (There is another picture with David and Andreas that is also not a pipe.)

The commercial process to create this avatar is not yet mature enough for everyone to be able to do this today, but the technology is quite sound. I bought a figure for $50 online from a firm in Europe. I imagine the artists were from even further east. The figure was (mostly) automatically processed to be incorporated into a special program by a fellow in yet another country, who I have also never met. I took a single snapshot of myself and fed it into this program, which produced the avatar.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. That is one scary-looking Stearns. A badass avatar, I’m saying. Can you imagine his avatar and Jason Bourne’s avatar in a no-holds barred virtual fight to the death? Look out! This guy looks like he means business!

  2. It’s that damn blue pill…

  3. Today our new avatars appeared in “Today’s Wall Street Journal in Photos” – amid stories on Armageddon, Hillary Clinton, and beer sales:

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