Monthly Archives: November 2011


Nokia Lumia – Massive 3d projection

The launch of the new Nokia phone in a fight back against all the iphone/droids etc hit London with this very impressive and massive 3d projection on Millbank Towers in london. Which presumably has the right aspect ratio as a building to show the smartphone in a good light.

This on building projection is getting really popular and is really a giant augmented reality application that requires no headsets. Projecting onto the real world in any form makes it a good shared experience and the project technology is precise enough now to allow for the surfaces of building to be taken into account.
According to the youtube information “Each of the 120 metre high building’s 800 windows were covered with vinyl as 16 powerful projectors, stationed 300 metres away on the other side of the river, beamed 3D images onto the structure”
I hope the phone is as good as the advert!

ICT education is not what we need – Official

Today, as you will have noticed from twitter, the UK government (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) has published “The Government’s response to Next Gen. Transforming the UK into the world’s leading talent hub for the video games and visual effects industries”.
The next gen report was originally written by Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope and is part of a ground swell of annoyance at the lack of proper technical education in schools due to the curriculum being filled with ICT which is “using” not “building”. Other reports have come out too from the government and with Google’s Eric Schmidt indicating in a major speech he felt the UK had too many luvvies and not enough boffins it really does need addressing.
The response in this new report does not exactly leap of the page calling for action. As with most government documents it is full of “welcoming comments”, “recognizing the issue” etc.
It does point to “lots” of after school clubs allowing various activities “However, the Department for Education is keen to encourage even more such clubs and looks forward to working with the sector to develop ways of achieving this.” yes that seems to be missing the point that these development skills for programming are actually core skills now, needed and lacking.
The report does sing the praises of Raspberry Pi as an ideal project and they seem to recognise that it is of use, though goes not further than that.
Equally in teaching the response is “The Government recognises the need for more high quality computer science teaching and will, over the next few months, be looking at the best ways to achieve this.”, but this is of course on the backdrop of a massive teaching strike over pensions this week.
I think the stand out quote though, and one that will be the seed for the beginning of any growth or change is
“However, the Government recognises that learning the skills to use ICT effectively and acquiring the knowledge of the underpinning computer science are two different (albeit complementary) subjects. Furthermore, the Government recognises that the current ICT programme is insufficiently rigorous and in need of reform.”
The rest of the report really is a lot of word play around not actually knowing what to do now they have spotted that.
Things move very slowly in politics, so hopefully armed with this information industry will step in to help. That of course leads to a two tier system of those that have the tech and those that do not. I was in a school that is sponsored by Apple last week. ipads and Macs everywhere, and more importantly being used to create and learn. We still have a long way to go but lets hope we can keep the next generation inspired long enough whilst the people with all the power get their act together.

Getting to 1000mph – Cool Rockets

We had an interesting departure from the sat at a table format on The Cool Stuff Collective future tech section this week. Vicky (now on twitter πŸ™‚ ) and I ended up outside in the playground and we had a guest expert along.
In this show we got to talk to the Bloodhound SSC (Supersonic car team). A project aiming to build a 1,000mph car but also to spark interest in schools and colleges across the country in the fun and future in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. (I.e. we share a common goal in that respect).
The car is still being built, and obviously it would be tricky to fire a huge 1,000 mile an hour rocket in a school playground.
I got to be a bit more presenter and a bit less guest and intro and talk to Gerry from Bloodhound SSC. We had a scale model of the actual rocket/jet car to talk about but then we got onto the big experiment.
Bloodhound SSC scale model
A wire was put up along the playground and Gerry had electronic ignition rockets that he places in two identical looking models of the SSC. The aim to show the audience that how heavy something is really changes the performance of a rocket even in tiny models.
As you can see from my behind the scenes video of the initial practice (which made Vicky jump and splutter a bit πŸ™‚ ) and then one of the many firings we did for the record the kids thought it was really exciting. That is the start to an interest in science.

When I was growing up I remember lots of things about world speed records, seeing the old cars at Beaulieu, having Top Trumps sets of crazy fast boats, bikes, planes and cars etc.
We all had fun doing this which is an important factor in making it interesting and fun for the audience too.
More than ever though this one put us amongst the kids and I got to have some great chats with them about science and tech. Being at the school is not just a case of using it as a scene, its about getting a chance to inspire some kids to. We could almost be a cool stuff collective roadshow doing that in various places live, with the TV show as the secondary product.
The show is up and live for a few weeks on the ITV Player
As the next few shows air we have got even bigger with future tech pieces. Only 2 more to record (though lots more to air yet ) πŸ™‚

Music, Lights and exceptional pies

This weeks Cool Stuff Collective was fully of twists and turns. Whilst we don’t have a lot of scripted gags we do have a few things that are repeated throughout the series. As we are technically half way through the guys at Archie Productions now throw in alterations to what has become an established pattern. Hence making it more funny. (That’s enough analysis of comedy writing).
In Future Tech I had the interesting musical light show the Tenori-On to talk to Vicky about. Using a live instrument with 64 buttons, and 16 modes of operating was a bit of a continuity knightmare but I tried to learn it enough that I could repeat various things as needed.
Tenori-on
I had a few days to experiment with it and become one with it, but as i am a tech geek not a musician ….
It is a bit like the monome used to be, an intriguing shape and feel to it. In many ways its like playing with Midi equipped bubble wrap. I found it fascinating though. It generates all its own tunes and is a multi layer sequencer. Some of the drawing modes that let you swipe across and twirl around yet create some soothing electronic music feels very theraputic.
We discussed in the piece how new ways to generate and record music were being powered by tech, but that it is not a replacement for traditional instruments. Remembering back to the original days of the synth when some were heralding the end of all instruments. There is a lot to be said for the performance element of a traditional instrument, the skill needed to interact and the subtley. Still tech instruments are cool too πŸ™‚
I also got to mention, though not show (as it was still in customs!) the Ninjen Gaki a quirky little device that uses human body electrical resistance to modify the sounds it makes. You hold onto it and grab someone else’s arm who is holding the device too and it plays notes.
IMG_3195
However it was at the end of the piece that the twists started. Traditionally Vicky asks me a question and I stomp off in a huff saying I am not a whatever the gag is, I am a tech geek. In this one I get to turn the tables and ask Vicky a question. She strops off and I get to do the “oooooh touchy” to camera. All in good fun.
However it was in the Wall of Fame that the biggest twist hit. Not only did I get to pie the unfortunate holder of the toy that got the “pants” vote but Blowfish was in the line of fire.
Now before you look at these pictures you should know that Blowfish is actually a serious marine biologist not just a pie target, but then I am a “serious” tech geek too πŸ™‚ You can see some of his passion to ecology and the see here at School Of Fish
When you have done that check out this Saturday morning kids TV classic moment πŸ™‚
Traditional Pie
What a mess
Thankyou for being such a good sport, and yes I know what goes around comes around!
You can (in the UK) see this all, and the back catalogue on the ITV player.

Nobel Prize winning physics on kids TV – Graphene

In this weeks Cool Stuff Collective we ventured into some very high end and future thinking technology to talk about the centuries apparent wonder material Graphene. Initially I had this on a list of things to do but was not sure if it would work. Independently from my list the shows creator @marleyman007 said why are we not doing anything about Graphene. That was a very clear green light to give it a go.
Graphene has some amazing properties, it is an atom thin layer of carbon that is bonded into a hexagonal structure. It, like most things in science is a whole load of other variants but for the purposes of explaining it on the show we stuck to this structure.
Ros worked her producer magic again and managed to source this from Manchester. A real sample of graphene. The flecks in the postage stamp sized piece glass are single atomic layers of Graphene.
Graphene Yes you can see atoms.
We also tried to explain the potential strength of this formation of carbon by explaining if you had a clingfilm thin sheet of graphene it could support the weight of an elephant. Placing a cuddly toy elephant on a bowl covered with actual cling film.
It appears that graphene is super strong, light, thin, has interesting electrical properties, thermal conductive properties many of which that are continuing to be explored. Even the UK government is putting a little bit of research money into it!
I was very keen to add that this was not some random piece of science but that it was experiments on Graphene that won the 2010 Nobel prize for physics
There is lots to look at about graphene, and whilst it is looked down upon the Wikipedia article is a good place to get a starter feel for the depth of potential of this material.
I know some people get nervous of dismissive of “wonder materials” and world changing claims. We will of course have to wait and see, but it does seem to be a very positive step and one that our scientists of the future will be exploring further.
(I also found out that predlet 1.0 has actually talked about graphene in science at junior school which is brilliant news)
Lots of back catalogue versions of the show are still on the ITV player too.

Blippar Marmite – Product PackARging

The Blippar application on smartphones is an interesting development in Augmented Reality. It is using markers to determine what to show and where to show it in a magic lens configuration (sticking virtual over a real view of the world with your camera/screen). However the markers are not odd looking tags but merely the unique brand images from product packaging.
Blippar Marmite
In this case it it detecting Marmite and providing some overlay recipes and information. What was good was that it was not an ordinary jar of marmite but an commercial tub (I buy in bulk !)
So if it sees a logo it has in its library then it initiates the AR experience.
Of course if you see an unusual marker with other AR or even just the simple QR codes you may be inspired to reach for your phone to view it, rather like seeing a text URL and typing it in. However as this gets more prevalent, maybe always on cameras looking for content for our headsup displays on out glasses or contact lenses then that becomes less of a barrier to entry.
There is of course an odd problem with this. What you are doing is replacing and obscuring the brand logo, the very thing you recognize, with some extra digital content. I hope there will be some more clever design (rather like on the 3DS AR games where the table becomes warped and morphed) that incorporate, not just replace/overlay the marker.
Still, its a massive change from a few years ago when AR couldn’t happen easily without people having lots of screens and cameras. Now, ordinary (yet still quite pricey) devices let us explore digital layers and see information that is not usually visible.
Don’t forget though AR is not just one layer on a real environment, there is lots of scope to use the principles and invent some very clever real/virtual mashups

This week on Cool Stuff – Hydrogen Fuel Cells – Green tech

We took a bit of a departure from some of the usual technology in Future Tech this week to talk about how we power technology in the future. The current Cool Stuff Collective show with this is on ITV player this week (as are some fo the previous shows like 3d printing πŸ™‚ ). The core of this was discussing Hydrogen Fuel Cells. In particularly PEM (Proton Exchange Membranes).
We had this “toy” hydrogen powered car. It is not really a toy but a science experiment.
Generating hydrogen power a car
It has two little bell jars on the back. The fuel cell is actually a reversible one.
This means it can be used to break water passed into it down (by passing electricity across it) into oxygen and hydrogen. This then acts as the fuel source when you rever the process and power the electric motor of the car by passing Oxygen and Hydrogen into the fuel cell where it recombines into water and generates electricity.
As I pointed out in the show if you use renewable clean electricity to generate the hydrogen this seems to be a very efficient and clean fuel system.
The car worked well, the discussion of the future and also the problems with the volumes of hydrogen needed etc all worked I think.
I know that green energy is an emotive subject, but it is the next generation that will ultimately decide (or be forced too). It comes down to whether it is easier to store hydrogen to make electricity, or easier to just store electricity in a battery. That electricity may of course have been generated from hydrogen/oxygen combination, or solar, or waves etc.
We had some great questions, one was what will Hydrogen cars look like. The answer is of course they can look like any car today, as with the Honda FCX Clarity or they could be re-engineered to fit the dynamics of the power source.
What I liked about the fuel cell was we just had one there, I generated the fuel with it and then powered the little car with it. It worked. Nothing theoretical about that.

Spot the difference – Kids virtual worlds

Predlet 1.0 introduced me to a new website/virtual world/game that her friends had been playing the other day. It is called Bin Weevils. There are clearly a lot of interesting things coming along all the time but I was struck but the almost complete similarity between this and Moshi Monsters
It has comedy and education linked, many quick brain training puzzles, maths and observation to generate the things you need for your character.
It is abstract in its reference to the character too, i.e. its a pet not an avatar proxy for the user. It is tied into CN/Nick Tv too and has a free to play with an enticing subscriber model.
It is also visual similar, to the point I can’t help thinking this is a white label moshi?


I have not come across any pop star baiting yet in Bin weevils but I am sure that humour will be there too.
They are both UK based too which is interesting in its own right.