Monthly Archives: March 2012


Spot the connection – 3d printing and toys

The last few weeks an interesting set of 3d designs appeared that have certainly got people thinking about the potential of modding and changing, mashing and merging elements together. It is the Universal Construcion Kit.

The Free Universal Construction Kit from Adapterz on Vimeo.

It does have an unusual acronym as the Free edition but all the pieces are there to download as open source designs
Being able to print just the right piece you need to mix Lego and Kinex is really intriguing. (not to self get soldering on the control board of your reprap !)
The great thing about the physical world is that it is starting to alter how people may see terms and conditions on software and other designs. Is this a breach of your Lego EULA to connect it to a competing plastic toy? Will the companies welcome this interoperability or seek to stop it through legal approaches? It has a correlation with what we see on other devices and software, that you must not modify or use in a way it has not been intended. However this clearly cannot be policed or enforced on kids toys as kids play with what they want in ways that suit them, not ways that suit the toy or toys.
So we could all learn a lot about modding and making from kids and be inspired by this particular development

Could this be the next Kinect?

I just ran into this video in several places, but props to Torrid Luna on google+ it shows a scatter approach to being able to reconstruct images of things that are hidden from view. I.e. see around corners.

It is a much more complicated and precise piece of equipment than the Kinect, but it shows an interesting future of being able to see and detect things close up that we could not detect before. We have come a long way from radar just a out detecting incoming planes during the second world war to being able to reconstruct things that are obscured from view. It is an interesting animation and presentation style too.

Outsourcing your brain

Last night on BBC Horizon there was an fascinating programme on the role of the unconscious mind. One of the most stunning pieces was at the end when Prof Paul Sadja of Columbia university showed how they are researching opening up the power of the parts of the brain we don’t know we are using.
As I am interested in how we communicate digitally at distance, and in person, and how we get ideas from one brain to another by transforming them this was bang on target for me, as in my very often used presentation slide 🙂

It was explained as something that is simple to do, and in principle it may well be, but it is still fascinating. A cortically coupled computer vision!
The principle was that a large hi res image needs to be analysed for anomalies. Scanning across the image consciously is tedious, difficult and inefficient.
So instead the professor wore an ECG headset, not unlike an Emotiv headset. He got a reading from the headset of the aha moment when he saw the sort of thing he would need to see in the image.
Then, and here is the clever bit, they broke the image into hundreds of individual and random chunks. The images were then blipped in front of the professor. His brain would spot the anomalies by generating the same aha spike as the control image without him even knowing. So relaxing and letting the images flow over him allowed the entire target image to be evaluated.
This was then put back together and the hot spot areas of interest highlighted.
It was stunningly accurate.
Many of us know that the best ideas come from the sub conscious when we are not forcing them to arrive. This brain outsourcing proved even more power sat there to be discovered.
There is an article here in case the iplayer link doesn’t work to see the actual thing.

Monkeying around in a virtual world

MonkeyQuest is a kids virtual world well worth taking a look, from Nickolodean, as it has quite a few things going for it.
1. It’s created in unity3d which is always great to see
2. It has great high end cute visuals
3. It is a Free 2 Play
4. It’s a side scrolling MMO platformer

It is a simple platformer at its heart with some very accessible (for younger kids) puzzles and collections.
It has a constant RPG style levelling up system and lots of things to earn and buy to custom up the your very own monkey.
As you are playing and moving around the lobby style areas you see lots of other fellow players, and some of the level gates need 2 players to work together to get through to them.
There seems to be a large crafting section too though we have not needed, not come across the tutorials for that yet.
Both the predlets have got into playing. Of course being f2p it is enticing with memberships just as club penguin, moshi monsters and bin weevils. It remains to be seen if we need to do that, a bit more free playing first I think.
As usual with these things they are in the world but I signed up to see how the game works and so we can work out together the level of communication and friending. it is always good to gauge this and help set some parental rules.
You sign on is separate from your monkey, it uses a fixed names list in 3 parts to let you have some control over the monkey name without giving details away. Though you will see from the image above mine is called Elvis Wildswing.
When I said it was a 2d scroller the visuals are very 3d but you traverse in 2d occasionally moving in or out of the screen to a new 3d plane. It does give a good sense of depth and avoids any confusion about moving around in full 3d.
I am looking forward to seeing how this evolves and what else there is to play in there, in particular when they get to the crafting.
See you in there?

Adaptive camouflage – Hiding in plain sight

This is a great piece of inventive marketing combined with a use of technology that has been talked about in labs and a few high end demos.

It is basically taking what is behind an object and bringing it forward onto the screens. Giving a form of invisibility.
Earlier this year BAE unveiled its shapeshifting adaptive camouflage,primarily for infra red spectrum that re-emit a different signature for a military asset. Making a tank look like a car, but putting large pixels on the side of the tank.

So you can’t always believe everything you see. It is a kind of live photoshopping!

Free Unity3d for iOS and Android

I noticed a few tweets on the #unity3d hashtag about there being a free licence for the already free Unity3d for iOS and Android. Sure enough if you pop along to download Unity3d at the store you can add the ability to publish directly to iOS and Android. (offer expires april 8th 2012)
unity3d
I already have the iOS basic licence and unity3d installed so it was a little less clear what to do.
On the store page there is a licence upgrade link in there you have yo paste in your existing licence number then you are able to “buy” for free the upgrade you need.
Unity will then send you a new licence number that you reactive in the unity client with the menus unity/serial number and away you go you now have targeting for publishing to web, windows, mac, iOS and android all enabled.
What are you waiting for ? It is a brilliant dev environment.
NB. As I point out at conferences when I rave about it I don’t work for unity3d I just really like what they do 🙂

Thinking out of the music box – Physical/Digital blur

A rather brilliant use of Quadrocopters has been doing the rounds this week with this James Bond theme. It is a very physical creation of music, powered by robotics but with the jeopardy of free flying and the physics of the real physical world thrown in.

It is mesmerising and obviously very geeky!
This expansion of the old fashioned music box principle, with mechanical parts playing notes based on their physical spacing in a roll of punched paper, or as pins in a metal drum out is always being expanded. Many people are thinking out of the very literal music box.
Along these lines is the wonderful car driving video from OK Go, exponents of the unusual video.

Notice this even starts as a music box principle on the front of the car before becoming stunningly huge in its layout and concept.
Many of the games that have any sort of sound capability and user created content or modding often end up with layout builds of music machines too, as we see in Minecraft

This gets taken to an even further extreme with games like FRACT osc which is shaping up to be a stunning game set in a musical synthesiser world.

This is looking really interesting. This level of creative interaction is all part of the waves of Maker Culture in an unusual form.

Skylanders, Dads and Tech

As you may know I am a fan of the concepts used in Skylanders and I was more than happy when I was asked to take part in a podcast by @wideawakewesley along with two other Dads, Gamers and experts in the field of games and game journalism @Geekdadgamer aka Andy Roberston of Wired and GamePeople and @jwhdavison of Gamespot fame.
I had written a few pieces for Andy (see here for the list). It was good to be sharing ideas with all three of them.
I had covered Skylanders on Cool Stuff Collective back in October (and it appears in my showreel available at all good internet browsers on that there youtube) so it was interesting to see how they have developed, how popular and controversial it had become and where it was going. I think we all brought similar concerns and experiences but from different perspectives. My main one was of blurring the real and virtual and how the impressive the use of the technology is. However check out the podcast and see what you think.



Podcast Powered By Podbean

Of direct link to Media pulp is here with links to iTunes and all other handy audio repositories so you can’t miss it 🙂
I am sure there will be much more Skylanders and related NFC cool interactions, and if they manage to do some of the things I suggest with 3d printing that would just be brilliant. (I am available to help anyone wanting to put a bit of the future into their gaming strategy, it is what I do after all 🙂 )