future


CES 2017 – Bucket list, tick

For many years I have seen the CES show appear in magazines, then TV and then of course all over social media. As a long time tech geek and early adopter I have always wanted to attend, but never been able to. In my corporate days getting approval for a train to London was a chore. As a startup I never had the time or money either, preferring to invest in the gadgets like the Oculus rift or paying for a Unity license so I could build things. On the TV show we talked about CES, and if we had gone to a 4th series it was on the cards.
This year, with my industry analyst role in IoT I was able to go. Of course as a work trip it was a bit different to just being able to take the show in.
CES 17
I had briefing after briefing with a bit of travel time in between for the 2 main days I was there. Once thing that is not always obvious is just how big the show is. Firstly there is the Vegas convention centre with North and South Halls that is bigger than most airports. It was so big that I only got to really visit the south halls, the north hall of cars, a motor show in its own right alluded me. All the first days meeting were around the south halls. Day 2 was at the other areas of the show, the hotels have their own convention centres and also floors and suites get rented out. The Venetian Sands, Bellagio and Aria all had lots going on, each as big as any UK show it seemed.
Walking around 9-10 miles a day, still not seeing everything, at a trade show gives you an indication of the size.
#ces2017 steps
Again I pretty much missed most of the expo floor with meetings but the day I felt out I had an hour to pop back to the Sands main hall and see some things.
The split across the entire show of giant corporate powerhouses to tiny startups with a single table was amazing. I had assumed it was all the former, but the latter is heavily supported and with kickstarters and maker culture now mainstream it will continue to be really important.
One thing I was there to see was how much Augmented Reality was taking off running parallel with the VR wave, there were a lot of glasses and of course the Hololens and the industrial focussed Daqri smart helmet. Still not there as a consumer focus really yet, though the Asus Zenfone AR powered by Tango and Qualcomm was announced but not on sale until later in the year (no date given) which may put true AR into people’s hands.
#ces2017 day 1
HoloLens
#ces2017 day 1
DAQRI Smart Helmet

It was CES’s 50th anniversary, and that was fitting given I turn 50 this year too. It may not be the most exiting bucket list tick but I have already done lots of mine, and need to refresh the list anyway. I am not sure that will include riding in this human size quad copter that you fly with a smart phone though!
#ces2017 day 1

I guess we best experience everything before these guys and their bretheren take over.

#ces2017

Still at least we can 3d print new parts for ourselves

#ces2017

As you will see in this album the whole place just becomes a blur of everything looking the same, lights, sound, people, attract loops etc. All very fitting to be in Vegas.

CES 17

@xianrenaud and I wrote a spotlight piece for 451 Research as a show roundup which may end up outside the paywall CES 2017: connected, autonomous and virtual in case you do have access.

So that made a whirlwind start to this year. This time last year I was published Cont3xt and wondering what the next steps were going to be. This year I have stacks of IoT research and writing work to get on with, a 50th birthday to not get worried about, imminent wisdom tooth removal (yuk) and all being well a 2nd Degree/Il Dan black belt text in Choi Kwang Do. So onwards and upwards. Pil Seung!

Life in IoT, Pokemon, AR, Micro:bit, reports and scifi

I has been a few months since I wrote anything here. My new role at 451 Research has kept me doing a lot of writing about a lot of interesting subjects related to IoT. It is an interesting change to be on the receiving end of briefings where people tell me why their implementation or product direction is of interest, yes that’s bit poacher turned game keeper, but it is good to be able to share and build upon all my previous experience. The Internet of Things is huge and diverse, because like the internet it underpins everything. The great thing is it also include how we as people understand what is going on in a system, which lends itself to being able to discuss virtual and augmented reality. I had started to cover some VR and just posted a longer report spotlight on AR when Pokemon Go hit. It was only a matter of time before a mass market awareness thing happened, but few of us knew the form it would actually take. Most of what I write is behind the paywall for our customers, but somethings make their way outside. Firstly our AR report (as this was with @xianrenaud 451 Research IoT research director) made the home page and some free access to all. I was not in a position to write a whole report on Pokemon Go or its lack of real AR, but I did write an analyst note (our briefest piece of content). Which now is also on the homepage and free (linking back to the AR report). The VR report is still locked away but you can sign up for a trial account.
AR and VR also featured in at the end of a recent IoT Webinar on Brightalk that Christian and Brian did. I provided a couple of pictures for that. I take the position that VR is great but it is an extension of current screen technology at its heart. A screen for each eye. AR is a new departure, sensing the world and projection/translucent displays is a whole different ball game and one that had many more industrial and enterprise uses.
VR and AR diverge
Interestingly lots of AR tech is being retro fitted to VR. Nothing is ever clear cut, but its good to spot a trend or find a theory to explore.
Of course my IoT VR and AR experiences blend into the books Reconfigure and even more so the follow up Cont3xt and the adventures are still selling and being downloaded at $0.99 around the World. A few more reviews would be great. In some of my briefings some of the elements I have used start to get a little closer to reality, but it was always supposed to be near real sci-fi.
I have not thrown away my tech hands on approach to things though. Yes there is a lot of writing but the predlets still need to get the opportunity to learn their craft and this morning my/their BBC Micro:bit arrived. A fascinating Arduino like controller but loaded with LED’s, compass, bluetooth and gyroscopes. It will be great to see what they get up to with it. It is a full IoT endpoint when it comes to it.
At last BBC micro:bit #iot
Its not all work, though a lot of my play is work related too. However, we invested in a Wheel for the Xbox One, having had one on the 360. It was part present for predlet 2.0 getting a great school report and a pen licence. This time I also got a proper stand for it the Wheel Stand Pro V2. It makes a huge difference to all the driving games, particularly the rock hard Dirt 2 and Forza 6. Of course there is a prime example of where VR works, and I believe the PC version of Dirt now has headset support. If they sort it out for the Xbox, well I am in 🙂
Just keeps getting better #forza6 #thrustmaster #wheelstandpro
Another addition and a rather fantastic one was my Father’s day present of next generation slot(less) racing with Anki Overdrive. These fascinating cars read the track as they race on it, making any layout they will autonomously drive around mapping the reach first they you get to race using you phone/tablet. Switching lanes and controlling speed and virtual weapons and defences. They are fast and frenetic, and when they go off track they razz around trying to find it again. Watching the robot cars drive is pretty magical too. I know how they work, I know what they are doing, but…. wow. Once again another IoT style twist in the tail. Alluding to where the World is going, first liberating the ideas from play, just like Pokemon Go has.
If you want to see the diverse list of 451 Research reports I have been doing look here, thats not including all the press articles and conferences presenting I have been up to in just a few short months.
If you have anything industrial, enterprise or just plain quirky you would like to talk about please get in touch I am @epredator and do take a look at the books for some summer reading 🙂

451 Research has a new analyst, Internet of Things (IoT)

This is not an April 1st joke, though I know it is going to be interesting and exciting. Today I start work at 451 Research – Analysing the business of IT innovation. Specifically I am an analyst for the Internet of Things (IoT) industry. IoT is of course the underpinning substrate of almost everything that is going on so it covers an awful lot of new technology and evolving businesses.
The role entails a lot of writing and finding the important and salient facts to share with 451’s subscribers and customers.
I will be working from home, but with a fair amount of travel to conferences, customers and briefings. Those of you who work in the IT industry will be familiar with analysts making sense of the marketing and sharing their perspective on company developments and products.
Feeding Edge is continuing as a company, but not as a consulting one, as it has no employees. Having written the two sci-fi novels (that are strongly IoT related) it is now the publishing company for those books. The third book in the trilogy will be a little way away as I know the work load and writing load for my new role will be pretty intense.
What about virtual worlds and augmented reality? I am not leaving that behind. There are a lot of industrial uses in the IoT space that fit with AR in particular. When the world in instrumented you need a way to see what is going on. Likewise for VR and dealing with Big Data visualisation. When you consider the Wimbledon Second Life project in 2006-2008 a centre piece of that was the rendition of the real world trajectory of the ball pulled into the virtual space. It is a flavour of IoT. I have also worked on pushing and pulling data in and out of virtual environments making them, in some cases, an IoT simulator. So the quirky and the virtual still sit within my sights, though the focus is on the big stuff. Smart buildings, cities, corporate infrastructure, manufacturing, cloud integration, platforms and services etc.
I am going to be working for the Research Director, Internet of Things at 451 Research. Someone many of you may also know from the 2006 Virtual World days, and many other things, Christian Renaud. The role is global, but it is handy that I am over here near London and Europe to cover all the things happening here. I already have 4 conferences to attend in London this month. If you see me around say hi.
It will take a bit of getting used to the cadence of the work, but I am really looking forward to getting to hear the details of what companies are up to and sharing that with the written word, conference talks and webinars. It is a natural, but still challenging, step to take.
Thank you all for the support and interest over the past 7 years with Feeding Edge.

A big change, I am heading to something very exciting.

After seven years of employing myself here at Feeding Edge, I am making an exciting and very positive move and I have accepted a new role. This part of the adventure has been incredible and I have learned an awful lot, worked with some fantastic people and projects and ended up with something to remember these times by in the shape of the two sci-fi novels.
feedingedgelogotransparent
Feeding Edge as a company will be staying, as that’s the publisher of the books, I just won’t be working for it any more as an employee, issuing myself a p45. It may get to publish the third in the trilogy too, just not for a while yet 😉
What am I off to do? Well, I will be able to say in detail, and for who, in a few weeks when I officially start. I am still very much in the emerging technology industry, I will also be out and about a lot at conferences and various other events. I will also still be doing what I set out to do here, in ‘taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to.’ I will also be doing lots of writing.
In all the variety of things I have experienced I have found a great deal of fulfilment in writing, both fictional and factual, historic, now and future. The sharing of the patterns and ideas that I get to experience feels like something I should carry on doing. Which is why this was just too good to pass up.
Each day here, I have found a little spark of something interesting to pursue. Some of those became small and intense flames of interest in a full project. With what is on the horizon, I feel a massive burst of energy ready and raring to power forward with. It is so interesting that whilst I don’t actually start for a few weeks I am already just getting on and doing some of the prep. It all builds on what has come before that is more about now having a sense of direction and purpose, and a team to belong to and not want to let down.
Team work and a something to rally around is important. I think it is Choi Kwang Do training that has helped me want to belong in a group again. We all help one another, and can identify still as very individual in our pursuits but part of a whole. I will of course carry on with that part of my life, as it is very important and a family bond too. With my new role I will be able to be both part of an organisation, a focussed team and with an individual focus too.
Did I mention Internet of Things? I will be very focussed on that, which is of course pretty much everything! As it’s an infrastructure and a concept that underpins the current wave of emerging technology. I have of course been in and around this since before the name got attached to it, so it’s all familiar, though ever changing. Just the way I like it.
I have one last semi-official gig with Feeding Edge this weekend, as I am honoured to have been asked to go to Jersey and judge a gaming hackathon Though this is more BCS Animation and Games dev and also a book tour.
Anyway, Thank you to everyone I have worked with over the years here, to all those opportunities that have been presented to me, for the support and believe in my abilities, and that I have learned so much from, and found this new direction to head in because of that.
Now I need to go and work out where all my little bio pieces are around the social web to get ready to update them. A nice problem to have, I think?

Self driving cars – The concept of electric opens the way

I attended a lovely wedding on Friday. It was one that I did not really know anyone at, except @elemming of course. We drove to Chorley Wood, but took the petrol car as it was about 100 mile round trip. The Leaf could make it with a splash and dash charge, but it was not worth the extra hassle. We sat in a very long M25 traffic jam getting there, 50 mile in 2 hours. Coming home late that night the M3 was closed for roadworks so we had a bit of detour to Reading in order to get back to Basingstoke. That experience is a very common one on our road system here in the UK. Petrol guzzling engine blocks sat almost motionless in a long queue. As I sat in the jam I thought how the electric Leaf would not be using any power at all sat still, but also that if all these cars were computer controlled there would be no jam, as efficient network algorithms would get us all where we needed to go, as long as everything was able to talk to everything else.
Oddly, we gave some people a lift form the church to the reception. In the few minutes drive our electric car came up in conversation. People are still intrigued, it is still early adopter territory, but in a well understood space. How does it work, how much does it cost, are they really that fast? etc. I am a tech evangelist so I love sharing this sort of information.
Nissan #leaf under the bonnet
The subject of Tesla came up too. Elon Musk and his wide ranging and World changing innovations became the topic of the continuing chat. In particular we talked about self driving cars. It was talked about, not in a laughing at the concept way, but in a how long before they do. I mentioned the fact that Tesla’s were already patched over the air, like an iPhone app would be, and had some basic extensions applied to them to enable self driving features. Once again this did not seem odd to anyone in the car.
It seems that the reality of an electric car, real people owning real ones and using them, makes a dent in the automobile paradigm. It’s electric, therefore it is probably all ‘computery’ and of course it will be on the Internet as a composite Internet of Things device. That may be a terminology step to far for someone not in the industry, but the principle is there in people’s minds.
A petrol car is stuck, tethered to a petrol pump, constantly pouring pounds into it. It is heavy and lumbering, resistant to change. It is like a telephone box on the street. The electric car is more like a wifi enabled, 4G smartphone. It can do way more than just make calls. After all if you are going to completely change how a vehicle works, and see that it does, why not change everything else around it, including who drives it.
This morning on the BBC news Ford were at the Mobile World Congress. They were explaining they were not longer just a car maker, but a platform maker. When asked when they would have full self driving cars the answer was that they already have some assistance features (which are like the Tesla) and that they had not set a date for a Level 4 fully autonomous vehicle yet, but when they did it would be mass market.
It was the first time I had heard the term Level 4. Wikipedia came to my aid on this one.
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car

In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a formal classification system:[14]

Level 0: The driver completely controls the vehicle at all times.
Level 1: Individual vehicle controls are automated, such as electronic stability control or automatic braking.
Level 2: At least two controls can be automated in unison, such as adaptive cruise control in combination with lane keeping.
Level 3: The driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions. The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control and provides a “sufficiently comfortable transition time” for the driver to do so. Example: Tesla Model S
Level 4: The vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time. As this vehicle would control all functions from start to stop, including all parking functions, it could include unoccupied cars.
An alternative classification system based on five different levels (ranging from driver assistance to fully automated systems) has been published by SAE, an automotive standardisation body.

It is interesting that we have such a leap in levels. The move from 3 to 4 is huge if you think about it. If we were starting the road system from scratch now, we might just dive into Level 4. Dedicated lanes, less complexity and adversity for the computers to have to cope with. Now though we have a mixed system. Any level 4 car will have to cope with all the existing Level 0 drivers and a world built for them. e.g. a full Level 4 system would not need traffic lights. Cars could interleave at junctions with an automated flow system.

As you can see just form a wikipedia article, even the standardisation of the level numbers has not occurred. How and where the massive automotive corporations are going to collaborate on communications standards across the vehicles is going to be interesting. The pressure on the software industry to create realtime systems that do not fail at all is also going to be high. All our computers, phones etc crash. They need a reboot here and there. That doesn’t matter so much sat at your desk, but in a car hurtling at 70mph+ in an environment where lots of the other cars are still Level 0 and have human driver quirks to deal, and not having any software problems and actually crashing with is no mean feat.

As a long time software engineer, we used to have a long lead time in testing. Once deployed changes tweaks did not happen. Fixes were bundled and applied to big central systems but you tended to have to get it correct first time. Now we are in a permanent patch environment. This is great as things can improve over time, but also it can cause an attitude in engineering and the pressures to hit deadlines, that it is OK we can patch it later over the Internet.

I wonder what is going to happen to the automotive industry, and the things around it. The diversity of car design, engine performance and general handling all feature heavily in shows like Top Gear and whatever Amazon’s reboot of it will be called. If our vehicles just become self driving taxis will we still try and show off our design choices and apparent status with them. Will a custom car be nothing more than a large iPhone case? There are some huge social implications in how we feel about cars and what we do in them. A car will be an office, full attention can be given to phone calls or emails, maybe even just donning you VR headset for a virtual meeting on a nice simulated desert island rather than watch the motorway sidings zoom past.

It is definitely an area that will impact all our lives and is another exciting, and slightly scary one to consider.

Lucky 7 years – Feeding Edge birthday

Wow. It is seven years since I started Feeding Edge Ltd. That is quite a long while isn’t it? The past year has been a more difficult one with less work in the pipeline for most of it. It has meant I have had to take stock and look to do other things, whilst the World catches up. It does seem strange given the dawn of the new wave of Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality that I have not managed to find the right people to engage my expertise and background in both regular technology and virtual worlds. In part that was because I was focussing on one major contract, when that dried up suddenly there was no where to go. It is starting from zero again to build up and sell who I am and what I do.
My other startup work has always been ticking along under the covers, as we try and work the system to find the right person with the right vision to fund what we have in mind. It is a big a glorious project, but it all takes time. Lots of no, yes but and even a few lets do it, followed by oh hang can’t now other stuff has come up.
On the summer holiday, I had a good long think about whether to give this all up and try and find a regular position back in corporate life, I was hit with a flash of inspiration for the science fiction concept. It was so obvious that I just had to give it a go. That is not to say I would not accept a well paid job with slightly more structure to help pay my way. However, the books flowed out of me. It was an incredibly exciting end to the year. Learning how to write and structure Reconfigure, how to package and build the ebook and the print version. How to release and then try and promote it. I have learned so much doing it that helps me personally, helps my business and also will help in any consulting work I do in the future. I realised too that the products of both Reconfigure and Cont3xt are like a CV for me. They represent a state of the virtual world, virtual reality, augmented reality and Internet of Things industry, combined with the coding and use of game tech that comes directly from my experiences, extrapolated for the purpose of story telling.
Write what you know, and that appears to be the future, in this case the near future.
This year I have also been continuing my journey in Choi Kwang Do. This time with a black suit on as a head instructor. It has led me to give talks to schools on science and why it is important, with a backdrop of Choi Kwang Do as a hook for them. I am constantly trying to evolve as a teacher and a student. Once again the reflective nature of the art was woven into the second book Cont3xt. I did not brand any of the martial arts action in the book as Choi Kwang Do as that may mis-represent the art and I don’t want to do that, but it did influence the start of the story with its more reflective elements, later on a degree of poetic licence kicked in, but the feelings of performing the moves is very real.
I have continued my pursuit of the unusual throughout the year. The books as a product provide, rather like the Feeding Edge logo has in the past, a vehicle to explore ideas.
I still really like my Forza 6 book branded Lambo, demonstrating the concept of digital in world product placement.

If you have read the books, and if not why not? they are only 99p, you will know that Roisin like Marmite. Why not ? I like Marmite, again write what you know. It became a vehicle and an ongoing thread in the stories, and even a bit of a calling card. It is a real world brand, so that can be tricky, but I think I use it in a positive way, as well as showing that not everyone is a fan. So the it is just another real world hook to make the science fiction elements believable. So I was really pleased when i saw that Marmite had a print your own label customisation. It is print on demand Marmite, just as my books are print on demand. It uses the web and the internet to accept the order and the then there is physical delivery. I know its a bit meta but thats the same pattern Roisin uses, just the physical movement of things is a little more quirky 🙂
Http://www.cont3xtbook.co.uk meets #marmite
I have another two jars on the way. One for Reconfigure and one for Roisin herself.
I am sure she will change her own twitter icon from the regular jar to one of these later as @axelweight Yes she does have a Twitter account, she had to otherwise she would not have been able to accidentally Tweet “ls -l” and get introduced to the World changing device @RayKonfigure would she?
All this interweaving of tech and experience, in this case related to the books, is what I do and have always done. I hope my ideas are inspirational to some, and one day obvious to others. I will keep trying to do the right thing, be positive and share as much as possible.
I am available to talk through any opportunities you have, anytime. epredator at feedingedge.co.uk or @epredator
Finally, last but not least, I have to say a huge thank you to my wife Jan @elemming She has the pressure of the corporate role, one that she enjoys but still it is the pressure. She is the major breadwinner. You can imagine how many 99p books you have to sell make any money to pay anything. She puts up with the downs whilst we at for the ups. Those ups will re-emerge, this year has shown that too me. No matter how bleak it looks, something happens to offer hope. I have some new projects in the pipeline, mostly speculative, but with all these crazy ideas buzzing around something will pop one day.
As we say in Choi Kwang Do – Pil Seung! which means certain victory. Happy lucky 7th birthday Feeding Edge 🙂

Using the Real World – IoT, WebGL, MQTT, Marmite, Unity3d and CKD

All the technology and projects I have worked on in my career take what we currently have at the moment and create or push something further. Development projects of any kind will enhance or replace existing systems or create brand new ones. A regular systems update will tweak and fix older code and operations and make them fresher and new. This happens even in legacy systems. In both studying and living some of the history of our current wave of technology, powered by the presence of the Internet, I find it interesting to reflect of certain technology trajectories. Not least to try and find a way to help and grow this industries, and with a bit of luck actually get paid to do that. I find that things finding out about other things is fascinating. With Predlet 2.0 birthday party we took them all Karting. There was a spare seat going so I joined in. The Karts are all instrumented enough that the lap times are automatically grabbed as you pass the line. Just that one piece of data for each Kart is then formulated and aggregated. Not just with your group, but with the “ProSkill” ongoing tracking of your performance. The track knows who I am now I have registered. So if I turn up and rice again it will show me more metrics and information about my performance, just from that single tag crossing the end of lap sensor. Yes that IoT in action, and we have had that for a while.
Great fun karting. Yay for being faster than 9 year olds :)
The area of Web services is an interesting one to look at. Back in 1997, whilst working on very early website for a car manufacturer, we had a process to get to some data about skiing conditions. It required a regular CRON job to be scheduled and perform a secure FTP to grab the current text file containing all the ski resorts snowfall, so that we could parse it and push it into a form that could be viewed on the Web. i.e. it had a nice set of graphics around it. That is nearly 20 years ago, and it was a pioneering application. It was not really a service or an API to talk to. It used the available automation we had, but it started as a manual process. Pulling the file and running a few scripts to try and parse the comma delimited data. The data, of course, came from both human observation and sensors. It was collated into one place for us to use. It was a real World set of measurements, pulled together and then adjusted and presented in a different form over the Internet via the Web. I think we can legitimately call that an Internet of Things (IoT) application?
We had a lot of fancy and interesting projects then, well before their time, but that are templates for what we do today. Hence I am heavily influenced by those, and having absorbed what may seem new today, a few years ago, I like to look to the next steps.
Another element of technology that features in my work is the ways we write code and deploy it. In particular the richer, dynamic game style environments that I build for training people in. I use Unity3d mostly. It has stood the test of time and moved on with the underlying technology. In the development environment I can place 3D objects and interact with them, sometimes stand alone, sometimes as networked objects. I tend to write in C# rather than Javascript, but it can cope with both. Any object can have code associated with it. It understands the virtual environment, where something is, what it is made of etc. A common piece of code I use picks one of the objects in the view and then using the mouse, the virtual camera view can orbit that object. It is an interesting feeling still to be able to spin around something that initial looks flat and 2D. It is like a drones eye view. Hovering or passing over objects.
Increasingly I have had to get the Unity applications to talk to the rest of the Web. They need to integrate with existing services, or with databases and API’s that I create. User logons, question data sets, training logs etc. In many ways it is the same as back in 1997. The pattern is the same, yet we have a lot more technology to help us as programmers. We have self defining data sets now. XML used to be the one everyone raved about. Basically web like take around data to start and stop a particular data element. It was always a little to heavy on payload though. When I interacted with the XML dat from the tennis ball locations for Wimbledon the XML was too big for Second Life to cope with at the time. The data had to be mashed down a little, removing the long descriptions of each field. Now we have JSON a much tighter description of data. It is all pretty much the same of course. An implied comma delimited file, such as the ski resort weather worked really well, if the export didn’t corrupt it. XML version would be able to be tightly controlled and parsed in a more formal language style way, JSON is between the two. In JSON the data is just name:value, as opposed to XML value. It is the sort of data format that I used to end up creating anyway, before we had the formality off this as a standard.
Unity3d copes well with JSON natively now. It used to need a few extra bits of code, but as I found out recently it is very easy to parse a web based API using code and extra those pieces of information and adjust the contents of the 3d Environment accordingly. By easy, I mean easy if you are a techie. I am sure I could help most people get to the point of understanding how to do this. I appreciate too that having done this sort of thing for years there is a different definition of easy.
It is this grounding in real World pulling info data and manipulating it, from the Internet and serving it to the Web that seems to be a constant pattern. It is the pattern of IoT and of Big Data.
As part of the ongoing promotion of the science fiction books I have written I created a version of the view Roisin has of the World in the first novel Reconfigure. In that she discovers and API that can transcribed and described the World around her.
This video shows a simulation of the FMM v1.0 (Roisin’s application) working as it would for her. A live WebGL version that just lets you move the camera around to get a feel for it is here.

WebGL is a new target that Unity3d can publish too. Unity used to be really good because it had a web plugin that let us deploy applications, rich 3d ones, to any web browser not just build for PC, mac and tablets. Every application I have done over the past 7 years has generally had the web plugin version at its core to make life easier for the users. Plugins are dying and no longer supported on many browsers. Instead the browser has functions to draw things, move things about on screen etc. So Unity3d now generates the same thing as the plugin, which was common code, but creates a mini version for each application that is published. It is still very early days for WebGl, but it is interesting to be using it for this purpose as a test and for some other API interactions with sensors across the Web.
In the story, the interaction Roisin starts as a basic command line ( but over Twitter DM), almost like the skiing FTP of 1997. She interrogates the API and figures out the syntax, which she then builds a user interface for. Using Unity3d of course. The API only provides names and positions of objects, hence the cube view of the World. Roisin is able to move virtual objects and the API then, using some Quantum theory, is able to move the real World objects. In the follow up, this basic interface gets massively enhanced, with more IoT style ways of interacting with the data, such as with MQTT for messaging instead of Twitter DM’s as in the first book. All real World stuff, except the moving things around. All evolved through long experience in the industry to explain it in relatively simple terms and then let the adventure fly.
I hope you can see the lineage of the technology in the books. I think the story and the twists and turns are the key though. The base tech makes it real enough to start to accept the storyline on top. When I wrote the tech parts, and built the storyboard they were the easy bits. How to weave some intrigue danger and peril in was something else. From what I have been told, and what I feel, this has worked. I would love to know what more people think about it though. It may work as a teaching aid for how the internet works, what IoT is etc for any age group, from schools to boardroom? The history and the feelings of awe and anger at the technology are something we all feel at some point with some element of out lives too.
Whilst I am on real World though. One of the biggest constants in Roisin’s life is the like it or love it taste of Marmite. It has become, through the course of the stories, almost a muse like character. When writing you have to be careful with real life brands. I believe I have used the ones I have in these books as proper grounding with the real World. I try to be positive about everyone else products, brands and efforts.
In Cont3xt I also added in some martial arts, from my own personal experience again, but adjusted a little her and there. The initial use of it in Cont3xt is not what you might think when you hear martial art. I am a practitioner of Choi Kwang Do, though I do not specially call any of the arts used in the book by that name as there are times it is used aggressively, not purely for defence. The element of self improvement is in there, but with a twist.
Without the background in technology over the years and the seeing it evolve and without my own personal gradual journey in Choi Kwang Do, I would not have had the base material to draw upon, to evolve the story on top of.
I hope you get a chance to read them, it’s just a quick download. Please let me know what you think, if you have not already. Thank you 🙂

Promoting a product – Reconfigure

It is only a few days since Reconfigure went live on the Amazon store. I need to apologise for the single minded promoting of this 2 month project. It has been a both nerve wracking and exciting time. I have spent many years promoting other peoples ideas, getting buy in and passionate about what they have produced. Now I have to do that for my own product. From a standing start, not having written like this before it is an intriguing position to be in. I believe I have some social capital across social media and the tech industry, but it will be the sales figures that tell me that or now. The Book is only £1.99 so I hope friends, family and followers just support it with a purchase to help the sales rank. A good ales rank draws other people to the book.

However to promote it properly I have done the following.
1. Share the fact it was happening. This was form the outset, helping me through the writing and editing process with people retweeting or asking me about the book.
2. A URL for Reconfigurebook.co.uk. This links to a page on Feeding Edge but it acts as a central point for sharing the book before it was live on Amazon.
3. A Facebook page for the book too. It is replication but some people share those things and not blog posts or tweets. You have to try and be everywhere.
4. When it went live tweeting the link and pinning that to my profile
5. Instagram post of the front cover and the URL
6. Creating profiles on Author central in the US and the UK I now have amazon.com/author/epredator
7. Author central suggested creating a video. So I did, and also then put that on youtube. A bit of editing and bit more information and background to the whole project is in this mini advert.

8. Linkedin. Sharing there too. Adding it to the publications I have listed
9. Pinging a few people privately. I did not want to spam everyone, but just a few hello’s to some nice people who might like the book, or like the fact I have done the book and share a bit wider.
10. Empire Avenue, I created a little mission for people to click through
11. With the video uploaded to Facebook is can be linked to an action, just as there ar links in the youtube version to the site or to amazon
12. Make a print copy of the book. This is in process at the moment. CreateSpace is part of Amazon and helps you put together the different layout and parts for a print on demand. I will have to see how that goes as it was not in the original plan. It might be nice to have a few copies.
13. What next? Well if the social network and everyone out there helps the sales figures this may not need much more, it may tip. However, next would be the costly options of advertising. Where and how and with which service I have yet to work out. I can see direct sales figures so have a good idea of how many people have been good enough to support this for me, not and hopefully with some more sales over the coming weeks.
14. Write another one. It seems having more than one book or a series can attract more people to what you are doing. As with all these things it can be a case of ‘yeah so what you wrote a book’ 🙂
15. Get positive reviews. These are important. It has already started but more would be lovely.
Update 28/10/2015
16. I realised I had not actually advertised on Amazon. It makes sense to be there after all. So I just did started an ad run there too.

I am going to explore and keep an open mind. The story is out there, it feels like I am at the end of my own box set series and now I am looking for the next thing. I did not go down the agent route as I wanted to see and experience this part. Doing everything form start to finish using the tools available to me. I did some unusual twists in that path. e.g. the swirls on the cover are actually effects in Unity with a planetary plugin. I created the layout and background, removed some parts added others and snapped the 3d view into 2d. It forms a backdrop for the cube, which was also Unity3d. It fits with the story in a nice meta way too.

Pepper’s IGhost

A few days ago on Facebook I saw a post about build of a visual trick that makes a smartphone look like it has a hologram floating above it (props to Ann Cudworth for sharing it). It is of course not really a hologram but a version of Pepper’s Ghost using a trick of light passing through an angled piece of transparent material. This allows the eye to see an object floating or looking transparent and ethereal.
The video shows how this all work and how to build one.

I did have a go with an old CD case but I found the plastic shattered way too much so instead I used a slight more cut-able acetate sheet. I made a quick prototype that was a little bit wonky, but it worked still.
"Holographic" acetate
There are lots of these types of video out on youtube
There are some commercially available version of the such as the Dreamoc which works in a similar way but the pyramid is the other way up.

There are lots of other examples where a visual trick fools our brains into thinking something is truly 3D and floating in space. It’s all done with mirrors 🙂
Some of you may remember the time traveller game

This used a projection onto a bowl shaped mirror. This effect is also used in the visual trick you sometimes see in gadget and joke shops. Such as this one from optigone

There are some fascinating tricks and of course Microsoft Hololens, and Magic Leap will be using “near eye light fields”, which are slightly more complex arrangements than a bit of acetate on an iPhone, but we can appreciate some of the magical impact may have by looking at these simpler optical illusions.
Our ability to do more more light, and not just deal with the flat 2d plane of a TV screen or of a single photo is definitely advancing. The recent camera’s such as the Lytro which is a light-field camera treat multiple layers of light as important. Just as the Near Eye light fields bounce the light through multiple screens of colour and different angles to create their effect.
Whilst sometimes the use of the Hologram word is over used I think that what matters is how it makes us feel as a human when we look at something. The mental leap, or the trick of our brain that causes us to think something is really there is fascinating. If we think it is, well… it is.
At the moment we are still focussed (no pun intended) on altering the images that travel into our eyes and the way the eye works with its lenses and optic nerve to the brain. It is only a matter of time before we go deeper. Straight to the brain. Already there are significant advances being made in helping those with no eyesight or restricted eyesight to have a digital view of the world directed and detected in different ways. So it may be that our true blended and augmented reality is to further augment ourselves. Quite a few ethical issues and trust issues to consider there.
Anyway, back to amazing the predlets with Pepper’s IGhost, time to build a bigger one for the ipad!
**Update Just after posting I made a larger one for the ipad. The predlets enjoyed watching the videos in a darkened corner.
Predlets enjoying holographic effect on ipad
Then maybe an interactive unity3d live version.

Emotiv Insight – Be the borg

Many years ago a few of us had early access, or nearly early access, to some interesting brain wave reading equipment from Emotiv. This was back in 2005. I had a unity arrive at the office but then it got locked up in a cupboard until the company lawyers said it was OK to use. It was still there when I left but did make its way out of the cupboard by 2010. It even helped some old colleagues get a bit of TV action
It was not such a problem with my US colleagues who at least got to try using it.
I got to experience and show similar brain controlling toys on the TV with the NeuroSky mindflex gym. This allows the player to try to relax or concentrate to control air fans that blow a small foam ball around a course.
So in 2013 when Emotiv announced a kickstarter for the new headsets, in this case the insight I signed right up.
We (in one of our many virtual world jam sessions) had talked about interesting uses of the device to detect user emotions in virtual worlds. One such use was if your avatar and how you chose to dress or decorate yourself caused discomfort or shock to another person (wearing a headset), their own display of you could be tailored to make them happy. It’s a modern take on the emperors new clothes, but one that can work. People see what they need to see. It could have worked at Wimbledon this year when Lewis Hamilton turned up to the royal box without a jacket and tie. In a virtual environment that “shock” would mean any viewers of his avatar would indeed see a jacket and tie.
It has taken 2 years but the Emotiv Insight headset has finally arrived. As with all early adopter kit though there are some hiccups. Michael Rowe, one of my fellow conspirators from back in the virtual world hey day, has blogged about his unit arriving
Well here is my shiny boxed up version complete with t-shirt and badge 🙂
Emotiv insight has arrived
The unit itself feels very slick and modern. Several contact sensors spread out over your scalp and an important reference on the bone behind the ear (avoid your glasses) needs to be in place.
Though you do look a bit odd wearing it 🙂 But we have to suffer for the tech art.
Emotiv headset
I charged the unity up via the USB cable waited for the light to go green. Unplugged the device and hit the on switch (near the green light). Here I then thought it was broken. It is something very simple but I assumed, never assume, that the same light near the switch would be the power light. That was not the case. The “on” light is a small blue/white LED above the logo on the side. It was right under where I was holding the unit. Silly me.
Emotiv insight power light
I then set about figuring out what could be done, if it worked (once I saw the power light).
This got much trickier. With a lot of Kickstarters they all have their own way of communicating. When you have not seen something appear for 2 years you tend not to be reading it everyday, following every link and nuance.
So the unit connected with Bluetooth, but not any bluetooth, it is the new Bluetooth (BTLE). This is some low power upgrade to bluetooth that many older devices do not support. I checked my Macbook Pro and it seemed to have the right stack. (How on earth did NASA manage to get the probe to Pluto over 9 years without the comms tech all breaking !)
I logged into the Emotiv store and saw a control panel application. I tried to download it, but having selected Mac it bounced me to my user profile saying I needed to be logged on. It is worrying that the simplest of web applications is not working when you have this brain reading device strapped to your head which is extremely complex! It seems the windows one would download, but that was no good.
I found some SDK code via another link but a lot of that seemed to be emulation. It also turns out that the iPhone 8 updates mashed up the Bluetooth LTE versions of any apps they had so it doesn’t work on those now. Still some android apps seem to be operational.
I left it a few days, slightly disappointed but figured it would get sorted.
Then today I found a comment on joining the google plus group (another flashback to the past) and a helpdesk post saying go to https://cpanel.emotivinsight.com/BTLE/
As soon as I did that, it downloaded a plugin, and then I saw the bluetooth pair with the device with no fuss. A setup screen flickerd into life and it showed sensors were firing on the unit.
The webpage looked like it should then link somewhere but it turns out there is a menu option hidden in the top left hand corner, with a submenu “detections”. That let me get to a few web based applications that atlas responded. I did not have much luck training and using it yet as often the apps would lockup, throw a warning message and the bluetooth would drop. I did however get a trace, my brain is in there and working. I was starting to think it was not!
Emotiv Insight Brain trace
So I now have a working brain interface, I am Borg, it’s 2015. Time to dig up those ideas from 10 years ago!
I am very interested in what happens when I mix this with the headsets like Oculus Rift. Though it is a pity that Emotiv seem to want to charge loyal backers $70 for an Emotiv unity plugin, that apparently doesn’t work in Unity 5.0 yet ? I think they may need some software engineering and architecture help. Call me, I am available at the moment!
I am alos interested, give how light the unit is, to trace what happens in Choi Kwang Do training and if getting and aiming for a particular mind set trace, i.e. we always try and relax to generate more speed and power from things that instinct tells you to tense up for. Of course that will have to wait a few weeks for my hip to recover. The physical world is a dangerous place and I sprained my left hip tripping over the fence around the predpets. So it’s been a good time to ponder interesting things to do whilst not sitting too long at this keyboard.
As ever, I am open for business. If you need an understand what is going on out here in the world of new technology and where it fits, that what feeding edge ltd does, takes a bit out of technology so you don’t have to.