The joy of exploration in game virtual worlds – Forza Horizon and Read Dead Redemption 2

Game worlds just keep getting better and better. The time and effort that goes into the environments in free roam games is certainly worth it, as a consumer and gamer. Two examples of free roaming but very different game types and narratives are Xbox’s racing game Forza Horizon 4 and the western epic follow up from the creators of GTA V, Read Dead Redemption 2.
Forza is about racing cars around, hundred of types, lots of customisation, on and off road. In Horizon 4 this time environment has moved to the UK. The huge game area represents areas of the UK, with cotswolds, lake district, Edinburgh all blended into the experience. It is not a 1:1 of the UK, but it doesn’t need to be. Also the game engine represents time of day changes and each week the seasons change which radically changes the look and feel of the game. There is also an incredible set of radio stations to listen to as you drift, speed, jump and crash around. You don’t have to stay on the roads either. The cars, as usual, feel great, but its augmented by the arcade madness of of os the challenges, of which there are many!
With all these free roam games the scenery is really important, the sense of wonder and space that they give really adds to it, hence you can just go for a drive as a digital tourist, not even engaging with the challenges of the game.

Also you can custom paint the cars, as I have often written and talked about.
Here the scenery is into winter, with a wonderful sky and my custom scooby with Choi and Reconfigure decals hurtling along. Pretty much anything you can see you can reach.

Forza Horizon 4 Scooby Snow

Here I am parked up at one of the houses that acts as a base, but the sky is the star in this photo. Remember this is a razzing around in a car game!

Forza Horizon 4 Sunset

The simulation elements of the cars are realistic but the antics don’t have to be. As you can get a lot of air

Forza Horizon 4 Jump

Forza Horizon 4 Bikes

The attention to detail in the sky and environment is just wonderful though

Forza Horizon 4 Sky trails

With Red Dead Redemption 2 the environment is even more detailed and huge. It also is even more key to the experience as you are a person in it, not a car razzing around. You trot around on your horse, or walk. It is full of wildlife and plants and trees of all sorts. Like Forza the night and day cycle, and weather fronts make a big difference. The immense map area transitions from mountains to plains, from desert to forest, swamps, lakes and rivers also feature. Once again if you can see something off in the distance, you can usually get there. The work id populated with lots of other characters and your gang help you drive the story forward, if you want to that is. It is fun just to go off on an adventure, just to see what you can find.

Here, as on of the initial camps the gang forms to get the story going you can see rich vegetation but off in teh far distance snow capped mountains.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Rich vegetation selfie

After a long ride you can find yourself up in those mountains (Making sure to change into a warm coat so you don’t freeze to death!)

Red Dead Redemption 2 mountain selfie

On the way, or in other adventures you get to see sights like this waterfall

Red Dead Redemption 2 waterfall

Dramatic skies

0_0-6Red Dead Redemption 2 sky

Even double rainbows !

0_0-Red Dead Redemption 2 rainbows

What is amazing is that many of these sights and sounds and experiences are unique to the player. With such a huge world being in a certain place at a certain time adds to the magic of exploration. On top of all that the games have brilliantly designed stories or things to do with set pieces that who the entire world to you in many different ways.

These are not the only two massive free roam games, but they are some of the best of the current crop especially in $K Ultra HD. With Just Cause 4 arriving next week we can expect even more free roam goodness with fantastic gameplay thrown in. The last one was 2016. In it I got to do silly things like this.

You see games, and in particular massive virtual worlds have a whole lot to offer 🙂

Made it at last (in VR too)- Thanks Streetview

I was just checking out Hong Kong on my Oculus Rift in Google Earth VR and also Streetview VR for a few mins today. I have a trip to China in a couple of weeks so was just using the tech to get ready.
After that I popped back to Basingstoke, remembering seeing the street view car in the summer as I left the station. I knew where I was, but I figured the picture would not be there yet or not be looking my way.

However, it was, and I got to see myself strolling back from a trip to London, but saw it first in VR 🙂 Now, I join the ranks of those that have appeared on StreetView. Yes I know I did TV, that was cool, but being on StreetView seems cool too 🙂

If only I was carry a copy of Reconfigure or Cont3xt
Here is the pic and the link

Spotted on Google Streetview

Forza and Bond a perfect combination

The upcoming release of the Xbox flagship car brand Forza, with Horizon 4 has given the developers some great fodder to advertise with. Horizon is a free roaming driving game and 4 is set in the UK, apparently with lots of seasonal activity, just like the real thing. You know, rain, and well… rain. 🙂
An actor James Bond car pack brings models of classic Bond cars to the series, complete with some gadgets.
In this brilliant advert, using the actual game engine they have combined the music of Bond, and recreate vignettes of Bond scenes with his car and the bad guys too.
I am a big Forza fan, having advertised my book via it.
Reconfigure book paintwork on a lambo
Also cool stuff collective,feeding edge and eightbar in various ways seeing it grow like this and be this good is awesome. Enjoy.

Watching Ready Player One on a VR Headset

This weekend I finally was able to purchase a digital copy of the film version Ready player One. It is something we saw as a family at the cinema but I had been wanted to take another look. I don’t buy many individial movies any more as with Sky, Netflix and Amazon things are usually easy to access as needed. It seems the US got to the home release first, another weird thing to be doing in the 21st century, slowly rolling out digital/streaming availability is so archaic and only really leads to piracy and lost revenue.
I had to make a choice on how to get to a digital version of the movie. Do I pay Sky for its buy and keep, where they also send blu-ray to go with the download. Or buy a blu-ray and attempt to figure out the film industry approach to digital, which, as with the release schedule is pretty archaic. Instead I went for Amazon Video. This we have on all our TV’s in the house, computers, pads and phones, alongside with Netflix. The last movies I bought were also on Amazon, John Wick 2 and before that The Raid 2, so its ideal to have next door to those.
I sparked up Amazon on the TV and home cinema and started to enjoy spotting even more of the references from my childhood and growing through the 80s as a gamer. Plus of course the who depth of engagement in VR is what flows through my head most of the time as a metaverse evangelist. Really though it is this targeted set of references and in jokes for me and my generation of geeks that I love. Wade’s Delorean with what seems to be a Knight Rider front grill, Duke Nuke-em aiming a launcher during the first battle scene, hello kitty and friends waddling along the bridge next to Wade, it goes on.
Being in VR though, with the headsets, suits, and running walkways I though I should at least try and watch it on my Oculus Go. I paused the TV stream, popped the headset on that is always next to me. I hoped an Amazon app had made it to the store, but no. Instead using the web browser I headed to Amazon video, logged in and found my movie, clicked play…. Nothing. It was a little deflating. Then though I noticed the “Use Desktop version” button in the top right and bingo it worked. Picking up where we left off at the start of the race with characters like SF’s Ryu wandering off to his car and seeing the Akira motorcycle raz into view. Selecting full screen gave a nice curved view of the 2D movie, enough I had to turn my head to look across the picture a little. Proper front row stuff. Not immersed as much as the main characters are int eh OASIS but a nice blend of traditional film, with new view tech and all a little bit meta 🙂

Another thing I noticed, which I think I had forgotten, was that when Wade first appears he has green hair, which he then dynamically changes to show avatar customisation in the OASIS. For me thats a big “yay” because I spent a long while with green hair in Second Life before finding my predator Avatar. My green spiked hair was a thing I identify with, and even got 3d printed. I also often referenced that in corporate presentations as the choice to have green hair is a subtle prod at conformity and social norms, just on the border of whether that would be acceptable to many in an office. It is not as full on extreme body shapes, or cartoon looks. The predator AV took this a stage further in the conversations. I also use green hair in almost every avatar in every platform as its a much quicker mental attachment than finding or trying to build a complex Yautja avatar. PS Home famously (from my point of view) did not allow green hair. Very odd!
So seeing Wade, in a movie about VR, the 80s and my generation my ego naturally assumed that any research the production team may, just may have come across my green hair metaverse evangelizing 🙂

Wade starts Ready Player One with  green hair. Just saying ;)

If you like player one ready, or don’t, you will still like my own VR and AR story telling with real world gaming and tech references though with Reconfigure and Cont3xt. Its got a love of Marmite in it too 🙂

Trust me I’m a Doctor

Yesterday, July 8th 2018 was a very unusual day. I was invited to Southampton Solent University to receive an Honorary Degree in Technology. I got the invitation a few months ago and I have to say it is a really humbling feeling. As with all these things it is not individual effort that has led to this, but all the fantastic people I have had the opportunity to work with and share time with over the years. Also thank you everyone for you kind wishes and congratulations, likes and jibes online 🙂
My job that day was to join in with the rest of the academic body on stage and congratulate each of the 600 graduating students with a round of applause from the stage. Then I had my citation read out and the Chancellor handed me my tube and conferred the honor. Then I had a free form 5 minutes to talk to the students and families about the wonderful opportunities out there for them all. This part was the biggest honour of the day as a graduation day is a rare and special time. I talked a little about Choi Kwang Do and the milestones that we have in martial arts, and how getting a belt doesn’t mean stopping practicing and learning from the previous belts, its ongoing to learn and practice and the journey really does matter more than the destination. I also implored everyone to share and work together and most of all be nice, all the time if possible!
Doctorate shots
Also with me in gaining a Doctorate was Mark Sanger, Oscar winning film editor on Gravity (amongst many other fantastic films). He became a Doctor of Art. He gave a really good speech, and we commented afterwards how we said very similar things in different ways, which I hope helped get re-enforce our enthusiasm for getting on out in the World.
Doctorate shots
The university link is here but I am adding int he video from that page of the mini interview and roundup that the team did and put up really quickly!

I can haz FPV drone

Father’s day saw my headset count++ with the google cardboard style parrot headset for the iPhone to let me fly the Mambo drone and its camera. Its great fun as you would expect. Unlike VR where you move your head to see you end up keeping still as you have to move the drone, but it is like sitting on it. For a little drone its very fast about 10mph according to some of the logs it generates.
I also used Swift playgrounds to program it to fly under code control on the iPad. Which is awesome too. Writing code, flying drones and VR headsets seems like some sort of perfect geek storm to me.

Travel broadens the mind – Japan Part 1 Tokyo

This year has been pretty full with travel mostly with work but also with a fantastic family trip. The work trips included January to Boston, February it was Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Las Vegas for an IBM event in March, end of April it was Hannover and I just got back from Santa Clara, California from an IoT event. Nestled in there between Vegas and Hannover at the start of April was the family trip to Japan. This was a 50th birthday gift from my wife that I received the previous August. It seemed to take an age coming, partly with all the other travel before it, but was well worth the wait.
We headed out from Heathrow airport stopping by Heston’s airline food place in the terminal

Heston at Heathrow

Our first stop was Tokyo (ignoring the part about the very long flight as I just zone out and get on with that now)
We arrived to be met by the local representative, as this was all book through the wonderful Trailfinders company. He presented us with all the train tickets and schedule reminders and navigated us to the hotel (we chose a to pay for a taxi though we had train tickets as … you know a long flight!). Driving through the Tokyo roads the place looked and felt just right, it was not even too crowded or busy. The taxi driver was wearing white gloves (no picture of that but it just came to mind)
We were staying in Park Hotel at the Shiodome Media Tower which was ideally situated for the train lines.

Park Hotel

The hotel took up the top floors of what a media office block but its internal atrium style made it feel miles away from anything.

Park Hotel

We still had some time to explore after arriving before crashing out, so we went for a walk.

Tokyo Sunset

Being in the media part of the city there was some interesting art. Which kind of hints at the wonderful Japanese mix of efficiency and buttoned down approach to life combined with a great expression of art and culture and the joy of life.

Odd Sculptures

Right near all the polished skyscrapers we found this district full of small arcades and shops. The loud noise of the pachinko places, where thousands of small ball bearing ping around pins was noticeable. We did not go in as they don’t allow under 18’s in to these gambling areas, despite the bright lights and manga window dressing.

Near the hotel

So here we were in Tokyo, ready for the adventure

Family in Japan

As expected, vending machines were everywhere, this was just round from the shops. Hot and cold cans of drink of all sorts.

Vending machines

Across from the hotel they were shooting a kids TV show, I was going to try and join in for old time’s sake 🙂

Japan trip

It made for an odd skyline picture but again, so very Japanese in its contrast and blending at the same time.

Character Hiding

With the potential confusion of a language that we have almost no possibility to read or speak with any degree of competence we had a guide show us around Tokyo on the first day. This was also great to be able to talk about the differences and similarities in our cultures. I learned an awful lot from our guide and we also shared our perspectives. One of the key things that we learned was about the religious side of life. Japan has both Shinto and Buddhist culture, plus a smattering of other things like christian churches. However the key is that there seems to be no specific religious tension, it is not a choice of believing or not in one or the other, the Japanese people have absorbed both, or all. Our guide said asking someone what religion they were in Japan would be a confusing question, as its melded and just all part of life. Shinto shrines are typically marked by the typical square arch, with rope and white flags and buddhism has ornate temples, they co-exist.
We first went to a temple though, obviously a tourist trap with lots of shops around it, but at the same time oddly tranquil despite the crowds. We were shown how to cleanse our hands with water and make an offering and a prayer. It did not, as an atheist feel hypocritical nor like being a tourist, just blending in.

Tokyo tour

Tokyo Temple

We were lucky enough to see some of the famous cherry blossom

Cherry Blossom

We also got to see a very rare art exhibition of panel paintings, not photos of those, but they were stunning. All telling various Japanese samurai stories and fables. The art style being 2d and not using perspective, yet at the same time feeling flowing and in motion.

Escaping hustle and bustle we entered the Japanese garden next to temple. The aim of these is to recreate elements of nature, ponds are lakes and sea, rocks represent mountain ranges.

Garden

Like our pond at home, lots of Koi

Koi

The garden is very old, again part of the absorbing of the old and new that the culture seems suited to.

Tokyo tour

Right next door, in the same grounds as the temple this was our first view of a Shinto shrine, we did not visit this particular one as we had more of that to come.

Shinto

We took a boat trip back to our next destination, but our guide pointed out these buildings and highlighted the symbolism that is often used. The Horns on the building in the background are the logo of the beer company, the building to its left has golden windows and a white top, representing a glass of beer!

Beer building

we were heading to another park, in the background one of those buildings is our hotel.

Park

The park offered more peace and quite from the hustle of the city

Cherry Blossom

Park

We were heading to a tea house, where we had our first tach of Matcha (Green tea). This is not the normal weak green tea, but frothy almost broth. Sweet paste is eaten first then the more sour tea is slurped down.

Matcha

No chairs (or shoes)

Tea house

Tea House

On leaving we saw one of the original 60’s capsule architecture examples. Still nestled in and preserved and absorbed.

Capsule architecture

Then it was up to a very high floor to have a meal.

High up

They did have an english menu but our guide talked us through this

Menu

It was also really nice to get this, and odd as I had forgotten it was now april 2018 and my birthday was in August 17 🙂

Birthday

An yes there were robots, Softbank’s Pepper made an appearance on this trip a few times

Pepper

In Tokyo, whilst navigation may have been a worry, once you get there its pretty easy, every is labelled and numbers and signs tend to have English too.

Sign

We went past or through a shopping district and ended up in a toy shop, thousands of collectibles. Including dancing storm troopers

Star Wars

I nearly bought this wonderful predator Mr Potato Head, but showed some restraint. In Second Life my full name is epredator potato, just to add to the serendiptiy! I bought a mini Deadpool instead.

Tokyo trip

We were headed to the main Shinto shrine, we were shown how our guide respectfully crossed each arched boundary, at the side of each, bowing with respect as we got deeper into the shrine.Not something everyone was doing by any stretch, but it seemed the right approach.

Shinto entrance

Organisations have barrels of Sake and of Whiskey stored as an offering for good luck and prosperity.

Sake Barrels

Whiskey

The centre of the shrine was a very large structure and area.

Shrine

Then for utter contrast we were taken to the “teenagers” favourite shopping street and hangout. An utterly crammed area that we battled around so that the kids could take a look, but I was very glad to escape.

Teenager alley

Tokyo tour

We then hopped on the train back to our hotel.

Train

I didn’t photograph all my food, but there is more of this later. Stunning textures and colours and presentation on every dish we ate everywhere

Soup

The next day we were on our own heading out into the city

Japan Tokyo day 2

More to come…….

The entire album of photos (all 550+ of course!) https://flic.kr/s/aHskBD8Lbw

Blaming MWC for missed anniversary! 9th Year of Feeding Edge

Somehow we have ended up in March, almost as if February with its short number of days decided to sneak past us all. February is an important month for Feeding Edge as that is the birthday month. This 9th year I managed to not find the time to post and celebrate like every other year In part this is because of all the preparation for heading to Mobile World Congress this year in Barcelona. I had not had the chance to attend this show before, but this time my 451 Research and IoT and AR/VR analyst work took me there, along with a lot of my colleagues.
The scale of the event and the major venue the Fira Gran in Barcelona was pretty amazing, 8 very large halls with a good 30 min walk from end to end if you didn’t stop or go into any halls. A major surprise was that it was very cold and snowed for the first time. Not ideal !

Warm sunny Barcelona #mwc2018

The analyst life is not one of joyfully hopping from stand to stand enjoying the great shows, but one of 30 min meetings every 30 mins usually 30 mins away from one another. All the big shows suffer from this, but equally we get to hear a lot of great stuff. There are the odd times when meetings move or there is a gap but in general every day is like this. Also I started the show off with moderating a presentation set on stage, so had to hold off on the dashing and do more of the imparting of information to a large crowd in an auditorium all looking to hear about IoT Security and Blockchain

A lot of walking and half that time talking #mwc2018

The best way to get from hall to hall is on the top corridor

MWC 2018

You may think of MWC as a mobile phone selling show but it is getting much more like CES with lots of huge stands and gadgets and of course cars.

MWC 2018

F1 had a significant presence too.

MWC 2018

MWC 2018

Including an esports racing challenge

MWC 2018

There was an awful lot of AR and VR on stands across the board, lots of 360 video such as Intel showing Shaun White’s gold winning winter olympic run.
Elsewhere I saw this AR based race track demo

MWC 2018

MWC 2018

A few hololens made an appearance too

MWC 2018

Make of this poster what you will

MWC 2018

Our robot masters made an appearance in a number of shapes and sizes, though AI was big news to go along with IoT and Blockchain at the event. i.e. my day job 🙂

MWC 2018

MWC 2018

MWC 2018

It was great to see the Kickstarter smartwatch with real hands that I backed have a presence at the show too – MyKronoz

MWC 2018

MWC 2018

Makes one feel a little space out!

MWC 2018

I nearly did not get home, and I know some other UK people actually didn’t so I think myself luck as we had snow. Lots of it for us. It meant driving the Nissan Leaf around to help Predlet 1.0 do her paper round, and one other round too for several hours on Basingstoke estate roads.

White stuff

Predlet 1.0 got her round and one other today so we drove around in this delivering papers.

So I think that makes a memorable belated 9th birthday. I will have to pay close attention to the decade of Feeding Edge next year, a bit more travel to do first though, Vegas, Japan, Hannover, Santa Clara takes me to June. Now if I can get everyone I meet to also just take a look at Reconfigure and Cont3xt and post a nice review that would be most useful. It may even help book 3 making its way from the back of my brain to the page.

Happy New Ye#AR – Welcome 2018

These years just tick away don’t they? Last year finished in a big rush of work with reports to get out before I took the rest of my holiday that was sitting there ready to expire. I was really please that I got my AR and VR long form report out for 415 customers. These a 6k or words and pictures but I was not expecting to be in a position to share Augmented and Virtual reality insights quite as much as I have this past year. It is what I know, and what I feel or course, but there are a lot more things in IoT especially in Industrial to try and stay on top of. However, AR is the UI for IoT, so there it is. It was over 18 years ago trying to get a shared avatar space of our offices working with presence of people, at the turn of the century! The along came Second Life, which made things a lot easier in 2006.
2017 was supposed to be the VR year, and it sort of was, but also AR is hot on its tail and finally Magic leap, on the 20th December unveiled their AR goggles.Yes, that was just a few days AFTER I managed to ship to AR/VR report with the words, “we shall have to wait and see what they do” in it. Though the shut down of Tango, which I did get in as an amendment waved the flag that would happen.

No prices, not dates, other than 2018, but its a jump in technology with light field (hopefully)

We are also very close to Ready Player One hitting the screen, which will be the main point of reference for escapist VR with Spielberg directing. So it seems all the future thinking stuff we have all been doing is going mainstream to some degree or other.

Apple ARKit and Google ARCore put AR tracking into the hands of everyone with every mainstream device too.

Maybe a few more people will spot my novels and enjoy them with all the AR and VR, IoT and Quantum theory in them 🙂

So it looks like being a good year.
Enjoy !