Trust me I’m an avatar

Over on the Neilsen blog is a great set of numbers showing that a survey of 25,000 internet users across 50 countries found that people tend to trust the recommendations of friends and online aquaintances much more than anything other interaction.
Trust friends
This should not come as any great surprise, and presumably given these are internet users, bothering to respond to a survey they feel quite strongly about how they get to know about products and ideas and how they choose their path.
This links with the discussion on New World Notes about trusting anonymous avatars. The split between knowing who someone is, versus respecting what they actually do online without needing to know their physical embodiment in any way. I am not going to retype my comment from that discussion, merely to indicate that trust and the effort put into the trust of others is as valid online as offline. The expression of that trust and the notion of understanding the signals we give off in a digital expression (I keep linking back to my Lie to Me post) I find very intriguing and something that become even more important to products, brands and business online given the graph at the start of this post.

If you want people to buy your product, service etc. You need them to get to know you or your representatives in ways that is far more engaging, based on dialogue and trust. That aspirational glossy TV advert will become a very expensive low return item compared to the engagement of a real person with the customers.

Tubin’ AR style

As I wrote the other day AR really is what mobile devices are for. Today Brand Republic (which I saw via various tweets) wrote about this Iphone App that uses the 3GS to locate tube stations and lines (which by their very nature are hard to see as they are undergound).

I also recently tweeted “tweet from future: They used to sit a keyboards and look at screens a few years ago, can you believe that?. AR changed that”.
All that combined with some haptics on the way (possibly) from Apple, this market is set to explode I think. (Thanks to Koreen for bringing that one into my line of sight)

You too can be G.I. Joe at Work or Play

Thankyou Virtual Worlds News for reporting on this development (via by Hasbro with their G.I. Joe characters. In case you have not read the piece Hasbro(the massive toy company) are running a promotion for the new G.I. Joe movie. On the action figure website you are able to create a custom G.I. Joe character, with various pieces of kit and a background story arc in the profile. The creation of the figure is an entry into a competition and the top 39 winners will have the figure produced for them complete with a scan of their face on the action figure.
Ok so this is not mass 3d printing toy customization (yet) and there have been people who make action figures of you. However this is mainstream use of what is effectively avatar customization.
I am a fan of character collectible action figures. (I am not an obsessive collector but I probably could be). I have always been interested in these iconic sculptures, especially as they really came to the fore with Star Wars back in the late 70’s when I was 10 or 11 years old.
Character Figures
I am also intrigued by the placement of this and the psychology of play that it taps into. In my very basic understanding of development I believe that the younger children play with toys as an exploration of the physical world, outside of their persona. As they get older kids start to them develop role play, the empathy and excitement of being that character. It is that crossover that we start to get in both video games and virtual worlds. A mix of create-your-own-hero and path, versus reliving and acting as your favorite hero.
The choices of expression, and the resurfacing of that choice we see in adults in both business and leisure activities is highlighted in virtual worlds. It is precisely this that brings discussions of trust and identity, representation of ones personal brand conflicting and complementing the brand of a company you may represent. It also brings a hint of fear to some people who feel they have crafted and controlled their image in one plane, yet opportunity for the explorers and innovators to expand their presence and image in new and interesting ways.
There was something I read recently about the Peter Principle (people being promoted in corporations past their level of competence) and how the random selection of individuals versus the “merit” promotion of individuals had the same results. It is this sort of environment that you get to hear phrases like “Well their face fits”. That refers as much to personal brand fitting with an organization as just the pure looks of a person in a company.
As we become more digitally literate expressions of who we are outside of the boundaries of an organization become more important. Even BBC Click had a section on it about protecting elements of your facebook profile from the eyes of your management.
Of course keeping secrets, yet sharing nearly publicly is a strange thing to do, so I think people are just best to be open and honest and let society evolve around them to understand who they are, and to also let them evolve themselves in how they express themselves.
The question would be (to add an extreme boundary here). If someone had managed to win a G.I. Joe of themselves (which in unlikely in this competition you need to be 6-12 years old BTW) and had it sat on their desk at work, how would that affect your view of them? Have they shown creativity, skill in a new field and proven to be a winner as demonstrated by the personalized trophy they have or are they just too weird and strange for the status quo? Have you seen the expression of an innovative form of engagement with the audience or just a lump of coloured plastic?
I always find it worth considering the toy industry, just as you should consider the games industry. They are real industries and they do make money so discount the products from them as somehow silly or not worthy stops people thinking about new ways to engage with customers.

Being a delegate : Brighton Develop

Yesterday I got my pass/ticket through to the Brighton Develop conference. I am attending the Evolve sessions on the first day, and then the first day of the develop track. I am excited about going to this as for the first time (probably ever) I am going to an industry conference but not as a speaker or booth person. This means the only obligation I have is to Feeding Edge and myself of soaking up the entire thing and getting to know yet more people in the industry. As I see the virtual world industry and the games industry as very much on a collision/merger course seeing who is doing what fits nicely on this companies mission.
So as per usual if you are there come say hi or track me down. I wont be hiding in any corners, though if the weather remains this hot I may have to just carry my leather jacket 🙂
Heading for Develop 09

Update: It will of course mean I will miss the excellent Southampton based @tuesdaytweetup at Dock Gate 4 so hi to everyone remotely.

You are able to confer – virtual gatherings all over the place

The last few days have seen a good few events in both virtual and physical space. It is a mini conference season.
The first (that I had to drop out of half way through) was Raph Koster talking to Cory Ondrejka in Metaplace.
metaplace talk raph and cory
This was notable for several reasons. The first was the number of Second Life friends in there. With a back channel conversation about how we were all happy to have both SL and Metaplace as places to gather for different reasons. The second was that Raph was kind enough to pick up on my question that relates to avatars and what they actually are. I asked “Can we have our avatars be the room?”. Cory spotted the similarity with the concept of being a Dungeon Master which is the though that got me on this track a while back.
Also Metaplace has now become embedable in pages. So your event can be seen live by people sitting on your blog as Cory did.
The other event has been Cisco Live, with some spin off panels in Second Life. I was not able to attend the first of these on Virtual Universities but the excellent has this archived already In addition they have archives of all the Metanomics shows including my first outing as Feeding Edge should wish to listen to what I said again and pick me up on any of it down the line 🙂
I managed to attend the other SL event though. This was about the sensor networks and the Stirling “internet of things”.
cisco live

spimes at cisco

There was a great crowd there and the panel expanded and explained the trend we are seeing of a massive amount of simple connected devices being spread over the planet. Spimes (Space+Time) being one of the main descriptions of them as championed by David Orban
In the post event I sort of changed from audience to presenter as I showed off my mini wearable presentations which turns me into a virtual peacock to show off some ideas. It was not a spamming or griefing excercise but just sprung out the conversation.
Another post event discovery was when the audio stream switched to Kona Radio Gospeed Racer was at the event too. They played a fantastic mashup that I had not come across. (Sorry to the cool kids who alread know of this artist). It was called Boulevard of Broken songs by Party Ben. This was an incredible mash of Green Day and Oasis (Plus Travis and Eminem). I checked out some more of the songs and they are all fantastic, cleverly technically but also creatively. Well worth checking out.
This of course highlights the importance of the post event mingle that we get in virtual worlds again. The 10 mins after the event let me connect with a fellow SLer who often came to SL Wimbledon (Hi Sean), show of some ideas live to an interested audience and also have my ears opened to an artist I had not come across. (You don’t get that on a telecon do you !)
Finally in the events list there is the event that I did not get to in physical or virtual form, but that instead had some great coverage from my good friend Roo Reynolds.
He always takes great notes and shares the salient points on his blog. In this case the Guardian Activate 09 gathering.
The official site is also still live
In particular I liked these lines by Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post

  • Mainstream media suffers from attention deficit disorder. New media suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • You consume old media sitting on your couch. You consume new media galloping on a horse.
  • The cost of launching a new business is now so low that sometimes it’s indistinguishable from starting a new hobby
  • The Guardian covered Arrianna’s speech in an article
    As a gathering and conference with the tag line “Politics, economics, technology and society: Building a better future through the internet” the whole thing was well aligned with my interests as Feeding Edge, so I am thankful as I could not attend that I got a version in Roovision.

    Painting with physics – Kinetic Sketch

    AnnieOK just tweeted a link to this kinetic sketch web application. Its a Flash based application that the brushes are objects that are responding to one another and acting as physical simulations. i.e. a round brush rolls and square one will tip from its corner. In addition to simple physics like gravity there are lots of creativity settings for the trails that are left behind. You can even use live video (though on my Mac I had to tell flash to use the USB video class (a right click on the background and quick menu select in settings to sort that out) in order to get me as a brush. You can then post to multiple places such as I did here with going straight to Flickr (so its suitably social media aware as to be useful too 🙂 )
    my kinetic sketch
    I still find the most basic of physics simulations interesting, as they used to be the things I wrote with my first computer (a ZX81) intertia, collisions and gravity even just in 2D have an organic feel to them. This though takes that even further with the painting aspects leaving a digital echo of the physical movements. Wonderful stuff IMHO.

    I did a little extra with it that was not camera based.
    Accident in a Tetris factory evolved

    It started to remind me of the recent Tate Modern show on the futurists that I went too.

    Futurism postcards - Tate Modern

    It is interesting what those talented and revolutionary artists may have done back in 1911 with the technology we have today.

    It also reminded me I had not blogged about the wonderful sculpture that I did not get a photo or postcard of by Umberto Boccioni (who also did the running man above) entitled “Development of a bottle in space”
    Bottle in space

    This was a very striking piece but also one that looked more like prim twisting in Second Life than anything else I had seen.

    This is what a mobile device is for. AR

    In the quest for mobile communication the telecoms companies have tended to stick with the same principles. We need a mobile phone to carry voice, we need a camera to take pictures so that we can have a video conversation (that has not quite seemed to take off). Text messages with SMS was a bit of a suprise and point to point MMS is not quite what people wanted. The rise of the social web, communicating in plain site online has more than ever driven the take up of data plans. Far more than downloading movies, or on the move TV it would seem.
    Augmented reality is in a gap though. When you take the cameras which accidently evolved to show the world not show the user, you take the processing power onboard and the recent huge rise in combined device capabilities we start to see yet more Augmented Reality.
    This is a great IPhone example from some guys at Oxford in the UK.

    It is impressive at it is in effect markerless using the environment to figure registration points.
    The new Iphone 3GS with its compass and even more ways to tell which way is up lends itself also to this sort of game control mechanism. Which is not Augmented Reality as such, though is a branch of the field. Here the real world is used as the control mechanism for the virtual world, and it does not matter where in the real world you are, but the virtual world is always “inside” on the device.

    3d Printing multiple materials with Objet

    I just received a sample from Objet of the results of their new PolyJet Matrix(tm) 3d printing technology. Why is this important? This particular technology means that in one pass an object can be constructed of several types and forms of material. In the example sent through, a rendering of Zebedee from the magic roundabout the various components all feel very different. Given my original 3d print sample was a small ABS plastic box from a few year ago things have really come on.
    Objet 3d print sample
    The hat and nose are actually made of a rubbery substance and soft to the touch, the spring flexes when you push on the sides of it and the body and head have some intricate detail and colour to them (such as the tiny buttons on his front).
    It was an Object printer that was used by the creators of the Coraline movie in a very interesting way too. 3d printer sample

    There is a whole stack of information in particular on the entry level 350 printer here and you can follow @3d_printers on twitter.
    I am even more convinced than ever of the impact of this sort of technology when combined with the digital design and distribution channels we have. It will continue to get cheaper, better and faster and as in my previous post about some uses of the printers we have a whole host of new business and entertainment uses to consider over and above pure manufacturing of products. This is akin to the differences in virtual world technology usage of mirror worlds and mirror builds compared to more expressive and unusual environments. Mix that all up with Augmented Reality applications and we have one very interesting leap and trends forming.
    As experts in the field of design in this space also warn such as csven on ReBang there are responsibilities in learning to design these sorts of products. Making people aware of the opportunities in their product design profession will bring along safe usuable products.
    Either way, like virtual worlds and Augmented Reality, 3d printing is not going away, in fact they are on a march together it would seem. So join the march I say 🙂

    John Bull printing set for digital natives – gives me an AR idea

    I just saw a great link from Shapeways about using the 3d printer to create a stamp of a QR code. Using ink on the stamp and pressing it on a surface leaving a valid QR code impression.

    This of course works as an idea on so many levels. It did remind me of the conversation we have round the invention of the printing press and the liberation of thought through that. It also took me back to my childhood with the John Bull printing set. We had small rubber and wooden letters that we lined up in a holder to print sentences. image of John Bull printing set
    (Image from )
    It also struck me that this is a great way to place Augmented reality tags too. QR codes are great in that they encode URL information, they can even be updated live as in Andy Sc’s QR code clock. However placing the markers and tags means they need to be physically rendered somehow if your are doing AR.
    The marker here from this old demo was printed via a regular printer and pasted on a board. How cool would it be to be able to place those markers using a 3d printing stamp?

    That then got me thinking……
    The problem with an AR code marker is that on its own there is not an indication of what it was intended to relate to. It is just a token marker. So stamping AR tags all over the place are meaningless without context. QR codes on the other hand are more detailed versions of a bar code containing things like urls and other indicators.
    So without having to reinvent any standards the AR marker could also include context with a QR marker indicating the context and even where to get the model or the rendering for the AR tag. That combined stamp could then be applied. Just as with any URL then the value of what the QR code points to could be adjusted as needed, updating what the AR does with the tag. An ARRI Augmented Reality Resource indicator.

    Happy 6th Birthday Second Life

    Second Life is turning 6 years old, and as per usual there is a party going on. I popped in to have a quick look (just missing the preview party) but the first thing I saw I loved.
    This build is animated too. It is a blend of Pac Man, Pong, Star Wars and Tron. I will give it a proper credit when I go back but had to share this picture as I found it instantly fascinating.
    It was also interesting that within minutes I bumped into a Wordle banner in there too on a Linden build. Wordle being something that seems to have swept into all sorts of places and created by Jonathan Feinberg from my old firm.
    wordle in SL
    There is a lot to see with a huge number of resident built exhibits. See you in there!