Its not all Android and iphone AR you know?

To keep the rolling theme of Augmented Reality going and highlight interesting applications Ron Edwards from Ambient Performance has recently posted this tagged AR demonstration but running on a Nokia N95.
So that means there have been good AR demonstrations live on Android, Iphone, S60 and a quick youtube shows some on windows mobile too. 😉

There is a definite technology way rolling based on the mass adoption of relatively powerful smartphones (probably powered by the user friendly nature of the Apple Iphone) with cameras and internet connectivity, combined with opensource development components to help build on these too.
I would say watch this space, but the space will get filled with something rendered in realtime!

Lie to me, avatars and actors

I have recently got into watching Lie to me, running on Sky 1 at the moment. It is an intriguing programme that has Tim Roth as an expert of human behavior and in particular body and facial language when they lie (apparently based on the work of Paul Elkman) . If nothing else it is worth watching for Tim Roth’s performance with his typical style of flipping intensities and focus as he talks. I do find it interested how the various elements of betraying ones true feelings are portrayed in the programme though. I have said to people that I think the show is designed to make us all feel clever. Much of what happens is made fairly obvious at the time, highlighting a crooked smile, touching an ear etc, and as humans we do many of those things and know via instinct what they mean.
There is of course an interesting loop here in that we are in fact watching actors, all of whom have a job which involves convincing us that they are something or someone else, yet at the same time they are convincing us that they are lying as part of that role.
It got me to consider the things I often say to people about engaging in virtual worlds and online and how different people have a different Neuro-linguistic Programming balance. i.e. some people refer to things with visual metaphors even in speech “I see your point of view”, or with aural references, “I here what you are saying” etc. These basics of human communication need to be considered in having the right experience for the right people online, and show why some people don’t take to some platforms.
In all this we have the overhanging spectre of people lying online. The accusation that people hide who they are online getting mixed up with people simply proxying who they are online via an avatar. It is these things that then remove our usual human facial detection systems to pick up on lies and truth. I believe the reason video conferencing in a social setting seems to be less popular that you might expect is because of the disconnect of these gestures and the direct feedback with the others on the call. However, when in avatar mediated space does the fact we have to decide on various ways to explicitly engage with people, gestures, sounds, words, position, pace, timing etc provide us with a different set of human detectors for deciding who to trust?
I know there is not an easy answer to any of this and the spectrum of usage is huge, from method acting role play, to fast talking business deals. Though I do think each of us finds a way to blend what we instictively know in a physical meeting about who we are talking too to how we interact online and give out the right signals and react to the right signals. Some people, as in physical interactions are going to be better at it than others.
I am not sure if the Lie to me script writers are going to delve into online interaction in a future show, but it would be interesting to see their take on the science applied to a very entertaining show and interesting subject.

The future is arriving even faster than we thought

Having very recently watched terminator:salvation and thought about the various permutations of the technology implications that science fiction shows us it is always even more interesting to then compare and contrast with what we actually have available today.
One such example is in augmented reality, of which I have a lot of recent blog posts. This is not about sentient machines and skynet working out we are the problem (though expect a post related to that in the near future).

(Thanks andypiper for sharing this one)
This mobile browser seems to do many of the things we need in order to be able to see the information all around us and about our world that we can’t normal see when we are actually there.
Why tie this to Terminator? Well part of the machine vision elements we see in all the films is clearly augmenting the view of the world, more precise ways to mix digital models with our location, we may well turn out to be the augmented ones rather than a technological race of robots?
Whilst on the subject there are still lots of stories about the data contact lenses.

Tweetups, random combinations, overland2oz

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

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

Virtual Worlds provide green shoots of recovery?

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

Southampton Tuesday Tweetup

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

Wimbledon – A fanployee perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wimbledon Second Life back in 2007 from epredator on Vimeo.

Wimbledon Second Life back in 2007 from epredator on Vimeo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We could do a whole lot more with the browser as a texture gecko engine, but for now the httprequest has made much of this much easier
For more on what IBM does at Wimbledon it really is a fantastic effort and a great partnership.
That is just the start of IBMers in the Metaverse.
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Anyway good luck everyone, and I look forward to actually getting to watch it this year ! Come on Murray !

Patently obvious

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

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

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