Monthly Archives: June 2009


Tweetups, random combinations, overland2oz

Last night was the second running of the Southampton Tuesday Tweetup and it was interesting to pop along to somewhere relatively local to meet a set of people who happen to use twitter and happen to be near Southampton.
Unlike most other gathering and conferences what actually happens is that the collection of people there are inevitably very diverse. It is not one industry, one hobby or one subject. So whilst I point out that online “everywhere is local” that means it is easy to reach like minded people, on your chosen subject.
The tweetup brings people with a certain attitude to life together, and hence they are an affinity group, but also it collides worlds. I met a lot of great people last night and we talked about lots of things but one example to highlight in particular occurred just as I was heading for the train home.
I view myself as a bit of an explorer, finding new things and new technology, boldly going….. etc. However I had to ask one person last night why they had a map in their hand. Which led to hearing about something worth sharing here.
It turns out that Fiona Easterby is going to drive overland to Australia in a VW Beetle/Baja Bug in a few weeks time. This meant I could not dash for the train after all I had to hear the story. In particular because at some point on my wish list of ambition I would love to do a rally raid, like the Dakar through remote parts of the world. I had hit many of my mini ambitions, patents, Guinness book of world records, moderately famous for doing something to name a few.
Here though at a random gathering of people was someone who had already done two significant drives and was about to do another.
Fiona is using this to also raise money for charity and her website has the links for the donations
We also got to see Fiona’s Sebring SX and hear the wonderful engine note as she pulled away
Sebring SX

So I know that everyone who talked to @Overland2Oz will be wishing her the best of luck in her journey. Who knows the next journey might end up with a Feeding Edge logo on the side as sponsorship.

Virtual Worlds provide green shoots of recovery?

There has been a lot of speculation about the “green shoots of recovery” in the press around business and finance and how the world is going to pick itself up and move on. In all of this of course it highlights how money itself and valuation of assets, skills, resources is all really non existent, dare I say virtual? As the saying goes “something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”.
In dealing with many people who do not yet understand the “value” of “virtual” interaction it is unfortunate that a world economic collapse occurred by some of those same people to highly “valuing” things that did not really exist.
On a positive note though, as reported on Virtual World News another report, by Strategy Analytics has come out showing that many of the green shoots of recovery may be generated by the virtual worlds.
Cress Head
The main growth area indicated is the kids market. That makes sense in that they are not encumbered with thinking any of this stuff is cool or different, it just is what it is to them. Clearly that has the evolutionary drive through that as the 5-9 year olds grow up then these ways of communicating become natural and expected for them.
In addition as Virtual World news reports
“microtransactions expected to grow from slightly over $1 billion in 2008 to $17.3 billion in 2015. Microtransactions will account for approximately 86 percent of all revenue generated by virtual worlds.”
Now the is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the various bank bail outs. However microtransactions clearly make sense in the way people start to spend again. Recession is not a time for most people to make large capital expenditures, yet human behaviour is goal and reward driven. People need to give themselves little treats. (One reason that the chocolate industry is not in decline). Admist all the billions of pounds of debt, doom and gloom, buying yourself a 50 pence virtual tshirt before going to a free online event can have a positive mental impact.
If the 638 million people/accounts predicted by 2015 in this report all spend £2 a month, well thats £1,271,000,000 a month flowing in the global economy. Asset production costs are relatively cheap, distribution and replication is cheap and there is not a great deal of packaging or waste so its also good for the planet. It is also (potentially) a truly global marketplace and if we can keep the territorial lockouts away (that the games industry suffers from) then a whole host of new ideas and business models will evolve. That’s without even mentioning 3d printing to redistribute manufacture.

Southampton Tuesday Tweetup

Tomorrow (16th June) is the second Southampton Tuesday Tweetup at Dockgate4 Southampton. The last one was great and some of the photos can be found in this pool on Flickr
I have lots more stories to share from my travels and since starting Feeding Edge. With a bit or organization I may not have to drive there either 😉
See you there fellow southcoast tweeters, I should get it merged with the South coast Metaverse Meetup really. (As I remind myself I need to organize that franchise!)
Anyway follow @tuesdaytweetup for more information

Wimbledon – A fanployee perspective

With Andy Murray winning the tournament at Queen’s on saturday and Wimbledon looming this will be the first year since 1998 that I am not working at the Wimbledon tournament. So I really want to say good luck to all my friends and former colleagues for the forthcoming madness that keeps the Wimbledon web and media presence going. 

It seemed a good time to do a collection piece on Wimbledon. Though as I seem to keep getting incorrect copyright takedowns from some of the media companies who knows how long the media will stay in place. 

Working at Wimbledon has been a very formative experience and I don’t want to repeat what I have written over the years on eightbar (of which there is a great deal), however it should be noted that it is one of the oddest and most high pressure jobs I have done in my career. The responsibility we all feel as a team towards the club, to the event and to one another is something that I will not ever forget. A rare mix of emotions as a fanployee.

The most unusual aspect of the event is the mixture of heads down pressure work to keep things ticking, intense periods of potential boredom when it’s all running smoothly, incredibly inventive moments when someone says “hey what if?”, fatigue and a sort of jet lag caused by early starts and late nights with play starting at midday, adrenalin highs from presenting to visiting customers, press and dignitaries and the actual customer as a partner in all this. Many more work environments could benefit from this sort of fanployee feeling and atmosphere!

I think it is safe to say that most people what work at Wimbledon in some capacity from IBM really do care deeply about the outcome of the project. That passion and willingness to make it all the best it can be also generates some envy and jealousy from those that don’t get that opportunity or who if they did may not cope. I have on a number of occasions had line managers suggest that working at Wimbledon is some sort of award. I can see the point of view, but that always shows a lack of understanding that only comes from actually having been there and coped with the highs and lows.

Wimbledon has been very good to me experience wise though. It was both technically challenging, but also brought mental toughness and the ability to present to people and be passionate about that presentation at a moments notice. (As clients just appear in the bunker office on the main tour and usually need entertaining). 

It was Wimbledon that started me blogging inside the company firewall, telling the behind the scenes tale that no one otherwise got to here and of course that inevitably led to my push in Second Life (yes all this will be in the book thats slowly getting constructed). 

I also can’t take credit for this (or can I?) but this is the first year that Wimbledon has been licenced properly into a video game of any note.
(c) EA Sports(c) EA Sports
EA Sports GrandSlam Tennis on the Wii as covered on the Wimbledon Website

*Update the game is on general release now and available here EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis (Wii) and also with the extra motion controller EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis (Wii) with Wii MotionPlus Accessory

For now though here are the 3 rough videos from 2006,2007 and 2008 of the Wimbledon Second Life build.

Wimbledon Second Life back in 2007 from epredator on Vimeo.

Wimbledon Second Life back in 2007 from epredator on Vimeo.

This is really the post that started it all off so you can see what I was thinking.

Bear in mind this was only just when http requests were opened up, before flexi or sculpty prims and really before anyone thought that this was any more than a joke (which of course a few people still think it is, but I will deal with them later 🙂 )

    Copied from eightbar.eu-gb.mybluemix.net for completeness and backup 🙂 Bear in mind this was back in mid 2006 the start of quite a journey

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IBM, amongst other things, runs the official Wimbledon website during the event. This has lots of exciting well designed tennis information, real time scores and we deal with a large volume of traffic. Most years I am onsite for a period of time, helping explain how we bring innovation to our customer as part of a large cross IBM team. In the lead up to the event, and with what I know about the data we have, I decided to take on a mini proof of concept to bring Wimbledon to Second Life.

The first point is that this is a proof of concept. The build is designed to show the various ideas rather than be a 1:1 representation of the actual place. That’s very possible, but would take more days to build.
Secondly, lots of people could attend, the shots show only one avatar.

The example security gate is there to show you can detect things about peoples avatars in this case it shows the name and if they are wearng anything that contains code.

The first item on the tour is the RSS weather feed globe. It updates now every hour from a weather service, but has a manual overide for some other cities to prove its not all smoke and virtual mirrors

Next is the highlight. The real world tracking data for actual tennis matches. We get a feed for the normal web scoreboard and the point tracker. Here we plot the ball in 3d space and can rotate around it for various angles. The net is actually in control, if it gets told another url to use it plays another rally. This can be done manually, by talking to it, or by another control box that cycles through the various games.
We could put players on this, with the extra data we have on which shot has been played and knowing when the ball changes direction, but I was working to a timeframe.

As you can see you can control the camera even when your avatar is sitting enjoying the game

This shows several concepts. The main one is the 2 spheres, these are ambient devices that change size depending on who is winning the match, it shows the ambient device concept.
The picture on the right is of the IBM special keyboard used to record the matches, with keys for forehand smash, volley etc.

This shows one of the special products at work. The flying wimbledon towel. When anyone clicks the towel it act like a normal banner ad and directs them to the real wimbledon shop for the real towel. This banner add though can be flown as a vehicle. So I can fly around, advertising in places without leaving the ad lying around on private property. Avatar based marketing.

These images show a mixture of photo panels of things at Wimbledon and 3d objects such as the park benches. Just to add a bit of character. The go away rain sign is a legacy of many championships.

This is the most recent addition. advert watching posts. Stand in front of each of the screens and a streaming video of the IBM adverts with people from the AELTC and the BBC talking about Wimbledon, IBM and innovation

Whilst the trigger for the video is standing in front of a particular one (and hitting the movie play button in SL) the video will play on all the screens at once. It does not have to do this, I just liked the effect.

This is sort of Henman hill. Again to show a hint and nod to the real place. The video wall in this case is showing one of last years flash scoreboards, to show the analogy with the full size court and the previous web incarnations for tracking the ball.

Again this is a flavour of mixing 2d pictures with 3d objects the line of benches coming out of the space, giving depth.

More example pictures, with fencing and plants to show the potential

These pictures show an object raining multiple tennis balls down. No real reason its just fun, It actually the same code as the full court but the balls are physical, and hence fall rather than the one on the court demo that hang around, to help show the path of the ball.

The Fred Perry statue can be touched, and it will get the RSS feed from wimbledon.org

The chat history window shows us what Fred said, and formats its nicely.

Further up in the air, to use the small real estate, is a hovering Wimbledon shop.

The products in the shop include a Tshirt, using the actual tshirt as source to build a SL Tshirt that can be worn (see last photo). This shows the flow of money and product placement.

We also have some pose balls. These allow us to put an avatar in a pose when they are attached to it. In this case two backdrops with different poses. People then are able to take snapshots of them ‘in action’ like in new citizens plaza, but tennis branded.

The avatar I am wearing is available for sale from a poster of the avatar. Again shows the flow of money and the potential to look like real people.

We have a pagoda in the sky, its also a video wall showing one of the IBM vignette adverts.

So you can fly in and be immersed in the video.

And there we have it. Back to a normal(ish) look, but wearing my Wimbledon 06 tshirt.
If I leave the private Hursley island everyone will be able to see this shirt


We could do a whole lot more with the browser as a texture gecko engine, but for now the httprequest has made much of this much easier
For more on what IBM does at Wimbledon it really is a fantastic effort and a great partnership.
That is just the start of IBMers in the Metaverse.
===============

Anyway good luck everyone, and I look forward to actually getting to watch it this year ! Come on Murray !

Patently obvious

During my previous existence in the corporate world I applied for a lot of patents in a lot of countries with a lot of colleagues. This information was easily available, but I had not tried to find it all in the outside world. So I have created a new page along with the Bio page above to let people be able to see the public records of some of the applications and the issued patents. 

See the tab above or here if you are at all interested in patents and the sort of things that I managed to get on file. The list of closed ones is even more eclectic. Not everything gets through the initial triage, though some of them really should have.

This was all sparked by some other ideas I have had that may need patenting in the future, of course the path to take for those will be a new adventure/investment.

Trying a different presentation style in SL

Before going to present at Ander’s Train for success the other day I thought I better have some material ready as a backup in case voice broke, or the needs of the gathering changed. I used to carry a showreel object around that if I had rez permissions created the various pieces of work from tennis courts to twisted prim builds. However, as I had the presentation I do in RL usually and had laid that out in SL I wondered what would happen if I adjust the slide, made them more 3d and also used them as clothing. So I wear the presentation. That way I need no rezz permissions and can easily present. Extending the avatar past the look and the gestures and making me part of the scene I present.
Extending presentation

cavessl_001

cavessl_002

cavessl_005

cavessl_006

cavessl_004

Of course this goes with the explanations and what a presenter has to say, but it seemed a good step towards helping people get past pure powerpoint and see the potential.

Inworld conference today- Train for Success

In Washington I met up with Anders Gronstedt of the Gronstedt group and he asked if I would willing to come along and talk at his “Train for Success” in Second Life. So today is the day. I will be attending and speaking at the session here at 9am SLT or 5pm UK time.
Previous sessions are recorded and available here and I guess I will pass into the archives if you are reading this after today.
As usual whilst I do have a subject I have a fair few anecdotes from the past few years to draw upon, and some ideas about the future direction of the industry. So we will have to see where the conversation goes and where questions take us.

Handheld Gaming Augmented Reality – Invizimals

These combinations of technology packaged for consumer use are coming think and fast from E3. (I really must go next year!)
This time using a PSP with a camera and some registration markers to allow the collection and battling of multiple handheld views of individual pokemon style characters.
Now I have Eye of the Beholder an AR card game on the PS3 and the last few blog posts have been about Natal and Eye Pet. However this has a subtle extra point. The representation of a character via the magic window effect off a registration point can be done on anything, what they have done here though is use the connectivity of the PSP to allow more that one point of view or experience to be shared.
I see my view of the Augmented World, you see yours and we interact through it. Sounds like a metaverse to me, once we get from the single user experience (which is very cool but essentially a book or a movie) we then start to get to augmented reality virtual world brokered human communication.
In this example the kids are battling together in the same place, but as everywhere is local and distance does not exist on the web you can extrapolate how this could expand (as with Natal and the other tech) to a mixed mode virtual world or communication channel.
I bumped into this via the Guardian games blog feed on Youtube

Future Virtual world interaction, Milo, Project Natal, Eye Pet…

I just got to see this video from E3 with Peter Molyneux from Lionhead and the wonderful Project Natal gear that seems to work already, though you can never quite tell.
This however combines some Artificial life into the mix and Molyneux speaks about how everyone feels the immersion, picking things up, handing things over. There is of course an element of escapism required, but all our media requires that. Enough cues though and the brain engages, as with the few degrees of tilt on a fairground simulator, combined with a rushing video, the sense of speed, g force and braking becomes far greater as several senses are fooled at once.

Also the PS3 is showing what is does with a simple camera and markers, providing similar degrees of interaction without a controller with its forthcoming eye pet. The drawing of the toy for it to play with I am looking forward to see how it works. Its not on this viddler video but in the PS3 Home lounge I saw a kid draw a plane and it then rezzed as a cartoon plane that the pet flew away on. Very similar to the skateboard scanning in the earlier Natal trailer

So not only have we had the toe dipped in the water of removing the standard game controller, the rise of the Wiimote, the drums, guitar and microphones of rockband and guitar hero but we now also have gesture based computing, realtime on consumer entertainment platforms.

Whilst these are for pure entertainment, as the Wii balance board has shown they can move into actual exercise, real movement of real muscles. So think of Project Natal and alike providing a physio therapist the ability to remotely instruct on exercise with a good degree of feedback on actual performance of the patient, kids to rehearse their dance moves for upcoming shows with one another in different schools, an emerging science of remote body language (do we use the same signals as we do in real life when instrumented in this way). The list goes on. Of course this can also still work sat at a desk, pointing at things, handing things to one another and mixed with traditional communication media.

This is showing the way leading to some new interaction paradigms for people. It is also very real. There may be the odd bit of hype but we are now getting several generations into the technology. Next it goes mobile and we have full AR in a consumer package. How exciting is that !

EA Sports Hub in PS3 Home, looking good

I just popped into Home after my usual update post holiday to catch up with things.
The new EA Sports hub is looking very good. Various sports starting to be represented around a single atrium but not just rooms and shops, the golf shop extends off as a golf course.
The posters come alive with loaded content for various games and there appears to be a game of poker to play upstairs, though Home’s downloading live updates takes a bit of time so I am writing this whilst waiting to see.
EAsports hub
It was quite busy too lots of people wandering around whatever shard counts as mine for PS3 Home in the UK.
Well worth a look.
***Update here is the official looking trailer for it.