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The Drive for Storage Space and Speed

More music; more films; more photography; more, more, more. More of everything seems drive this fetish for storage space and power. Yet is it just more, more, more, or can more actually equal better?

In the case of virtual environments it certainly can.

We desire higher fidelity virtual worlds. We desire expansive, interactive landscapes the look, feel, smell and sound real. We desire SimStim, and highly detailed artificial bodies. We desire all that and more.

Every time you ramp up the complexity of any aspect, you radically ramp up the demands of storage space.

Take a simple cube:

  • Six sides,
  • eight corners,
  • twelve vertexes.

Add four smaller cubes, one underneath, on each corner, to make a table.

  • Thirty sides,
  • forty corners,
  • sixty vertexes.

Turn those sides into triangles, as they render faster, effectively doubling the number of sides.

  • Sixty sides,
  • forty corners,
  • sixty vertexes.

We can simplify things, remove some of the vertexes - we can take away eight - two from each corner, as they are duplicates. That still leaves us with fifty-two. The surfaces cannot join as they would no-longer be squares then, but big, complex shapes that actually take more space to store.

That's just a simple, crude, not very nice table. Add in texture mapping to make it look wood, shading to add depth and contrast, transparency, raycast lighting for natural light upon it, marks and scuffs from use, put on a fancy border for a hundred more triangles, as mug sitting upon it, tricky surface - a hundred more.

It soon becomes clear just how many things have to be stored and tracked, and that is just one table, visual only. We have not even started on what it feels to touch, how it tastes, how the wood it's made of smells, even how heavy it is. A million things and more, can go into the creation of a simple table.

Just one table, not even the rest of the room yet.

It is not inconcievable that a single table could end up taking up several megabytes of storage space. It would be no more or less a table than the cube we started out with, but it would be much higher fidelity, and would feel as real as the desk upon which your pc is likely perched.

All it takes to achieve it, is a drive for more storage.

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