Full body and emotion tracking in 3d with Project Natal

At E3 Microsoft announced to the gaming masses a new project, along with Steven Spielberg, a device to do full body and motion tracking. If it works properly its going to be one impressive shift in game control. However when you move this sort of technology to standard virtual worlds, we start to see that we can remove some of the problems people have in virtual worlds with the keyboard puppetry and control. As you can see from this extract.

“This incredible new experience is made possible thanks to the Project Natal Sensor, which combines an RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone and custom processor running proprietary software all in one device. Existing cameras and controllers only trace movement in 2D, but Project Natal tracks full body movement in 3D and responds to commands, directions… even shifts of emotion in your voice!”

Above from http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/news-features/news/Controller-free-gaming.htm

More green hair in Lanzarote, merging more realities

I am off on holiday with family and friends in Lanzarote at the moment. Of course it is not a simple case of turning off the computer and leaving home. Having a fledgling business and wanting to know what is going on in the world and keep a finger on the pulse means that I decided to rent local 3g access here. Rafael from http://www.lanzarotetouristnetwork.com/ met me at the airport and I grabbed my Vodafone 3g which works just fine. Thin slicing work/life and the bits in between means that things have to be connected and consistent. It does not mean being online all day everyday, but 2 weeks is a long while online.
Today though we headed for a market town, and whilst walking around the artisans we not only saw this logo a few times (not dissimilar to the Second Life logo). The photo is from the seafront not the market town.
IMGP3793
What really got me though was this mannequin outside a shop.
IMGP3851
Art imitating Second Life it would seem.
The great thing though was that this t-shirt was on the front of the stall. This was so in keeping with my personal branding it had to be bought. As I often use green spikey hair as my default avatar customization test online, and the slightly aggressive look it is, as you can see, very me 🙂
Green Spikey hair biker
Another interesting happening was that it is predlet1.0’s birthday out here and we needed a cake. Searching google for bakers and cake shops seemed to not give us very much information. So I twittered asking if anyone knew of a good place. JulieCJ very kindly twittered back with a great suggestion. The power of asking people can’t be beaten. Wetware grid beats search any day.

Peggotty’s, Mirror Worlds and knowledge

I have written before about Sid Corleone who is bringing my home town and some local businesses into SL and it appeared here on virtual worlds news. I just popped into the Great Yarmouth sim to take a look and ended up in Peggotty’s bar. This is a real bar in Yarmouth, and one we used to start our nights out in my late teens all those years ago.
Peggottys
 
It is named after the Charles Dicken’s character who lived in an old upturned boat on Yarmouth beach. Now it is in SL even more cultural references are combining. I have to say just seeing the outside and walking up to it gave me goosebumps, way more than just looking at a photo (an I am an old hand at this stuff so should expect such reactions).
You can also have “Chips off the market” which are much more famous than I ever thought given the Dragon Sir Peter Jones drove DJ Chris Moyles all the way to Yarmouth in his lino to experience.
chips off the market

Of course this will not be as personal to everyone out there, but imagine a place you remember having a good rendition or tribute in SL or some similar world.
Peggottys SL style
Whilst on the subject of mirror worlds too I was lucky enough to attend the roof closing ceremony at Wimbledon last Sunday. In conversations with someone there asked if any other tennis tournaments have a roof. There was some thought and discussion and I pointed out the Australian Open does. I knew that because Piper and Gizzy had built a working roof on the Second Life stadium and not becuase I had been there and seen it.
Wimbledon's new roof
This mirror world rehearsal and knowledge also came into play on a recent trip to London. I was heading for Pall Mall, but walked over Westminster bridge, past parliament and round past the treasury and the back of horseguards. I was then in a short piece I had never walked before, when I arrived at these steps
London PGR3
I instant recognized them from the car racing game Project Gotham 3 on the Xbox 360. Having driven laps lots in the past I knew where I was and where I needed to head too. I looked to the right and sure enough there was the other part of the course.
Mall
Now PGR3 is not a training game for navigation, but the fun elements of driving the cars around did bring me to a level of understanding that I would not have had otherwise

Avatars add up

Predlet 1.0 came home today with a username and password from school for a site called Mathletics. She was very keen to get on and have a look. She also was very keen to login herself and said the password was secret and not for me to see. (That’s a good start).

What I was struck with was how straight away the first task was customization of the character to represent you. I should not have been surprised but I was. The site is global and has elements of competition and scoreboards for completing the flash based maths games. It was very slick and very well done and she enjoyed it too. 

During the customization I got asked “dad what colour are my eyes?” and “does this hair look like mine?”. Entering work mode for a moment I said “why do you want it to look like you?”. The reply “It is me”. So we had certainly moved from the notion of the thing online being a toy to externalize.  She was showing a need to control her own brand effectively. 

I did point out that some of my characters online don’t look like me but are me, e.g. spikey green hair and that its ok to play with the look 🙂 However it is one of those stages we all have to go through. Start to be 100% accurate, then start tweaking. The difference here is that my daughter is starting this at age 5 going on 6. What will her self expression be like in the systems in 5 years time?. An interesting thought and great seeing a digital native evolve.

Mathletics

Tribes – Pay attention please

If you have not had a chance to read Seth Godin’s tribes, watch this video instead. If you have read Seth Godin’s Tribes, watch this video from TED anyway.
For me he gave a name and a validation to what I think I was doing with my virtual world movement in the corporate world. I started way back before this book was described. However a desire to change things when people suggested “its always been done this way, we dont like it but what can you do?” is a powerful driver. Now that everywhere and everyone is local to us and we are able to gather and share there is no excuse to not make tribes work.
This should also be a waker up call for people who feel at odds with anything they have to operate with or within. Godin has managed to show that whilst we may consider this a revolution, it is in fact taking us back to basics, back to our human needs rather than us being a slave to systems of our own creation.
If you are in marketing, or locked into corporate ways of doing things or in any regimented organization take note and adapt.
As I always point out if anyone needs to know the story of how this all happened to me and my former collegues, the rise of eightbar and adoption of virtual worlds in the enterprise I am more than happy to come and share that with you. (It’s an ever evolving story!)

Props to Rich White whose blog attracted my attention to this video, via twitter 🙂
Props also to Ian Smith, he introduced me to Seth Godin’s work and in particular Tribes

TronjiWorld – BBC virtual world for kids

I have been taking a look (with the predlets) at TronjiWorld that launched a public beta yesterday to coincide with the TV show airing. I have been interested in what this might turn out like for some time. In particular this is because the platform it is running on is by NiceTech a company based out of the UK.
tronjiworld

You should not be fooled by the cartoon nature of the images you see, because under the covers NiceTech state they “use ‘autonomous agents’ to model objects for real.” and “access to a number of biological components ranging from genetics and biochemistry to neural networks.”. This is because the CTO of NiceTech is Toby Simpson who was instrumental in the creation of the Artificial Life game Creatures in which the characters learned and evolved through genetic algorithms. (This ties in nicely with yesterdays post about flocking and the complexity created by simplicity).

Another win for Tronji world. My random character I created had spikey green hair

At the moment I have just wandered around had a few hello’s with some other people via the key word chat and earned a bike to ride around on from a mission. I think the predlets like the look of it too. Its a heft download and windows only but you cant have everything can you 🙂

There is definitely something going on in world though as whilst writing this 3 large dionsaurs and some bouncy little people turned up of their own free will to watch the big screen TV
tronjiworld2

Flocking Brilliant (fill in own joke here)

In my exploration of what unity3d does and how easy it can be to get things going I was about to set upon implementing the Craig Reynolds flocking code in the environment. I have done a fair few things related to using this flocking algorithm. Not all were published publicly, though I did about 4 years back create an organizational structure viewer where on selecting a person their related people would flock around them so that you could navigate through a organization based on relationships and drag flocks around.
The principle of the flocking code is very simple. Each individual in a flock has a motivation to aim for a destination, but to back from a collision with any other member of the flock. The code used is pretty much the same everywhere based on Craig originals. Flocking can provide some dynamic insight into relationships between objects, in particular when more than one flock, or the focus of the flock can be changed.
Before I set about my coding example I had a look around, and not surprisingly I found that the Unify community wiki had already done the work needed in both C# and JS.

Once set in motion the boids (as they are referred to everywhere) a cast out into the world. They then try and reach a point at the centre of the flock, never bumping into one another, as they get close they back off and then try again. An element of random direction provides an interesting display. Bear in mind these are simply acting under a simple rule, the path and shape of the flock is just emergent from those simple rules.

I have simply published a version of that on this page (it will do the plugin download for you) as you need to see the beauty in both the complexity and simplicity of movement.
As you can see a still just does not do it justice.
Flocking
So now I have this I can see what I can apply it to. (Flickr Flock of Photo maybe? )

Hijacking the Metaverse Week In Review

Last night Malburns kindly invited me on to the Mogulus powered Metaverse week in review show. We had been talking about various things at the Apply Serious Games conference and he asked me if I would come and appear, chat and also talk a bit about Feeding Edge.

I had a Mogulus account signed up and Mal invited me to be part of the channel, i.e. the ability to deliver video and audio content into the channel. I have to say I had not experiemented before the show other than to try the windows Procaster plugin application that lets you stream your Second Life (or any other window in as the video source). So as the show was going live, and I had assumed we were all meeting in world I hit the publish button on my machine. I had not realized that the default settings were to instantly publish to the channel rather than just enter the studio application ready to be cued in live. So SL epredator appeared and cut Mal off. (oops)

Once I got introduced in and tried the broadcast it all went OK (apart from knowing the sort of delay we were dealing with). Once I had finished my talking I cut the channel publication, but that seemed to cut off the end of what I was saying as I should have just left it running and let Producer Mal cue himself up.

So then it seemed a good idea for my next talking bit to go to webcam and live me. So I switched to the Mac, and sparked up the web studio application. (I failed to notice the audio monitor on/off button). On going live I generated a massive feedback loop as the MBP mic and speakers did not noise cancel. However that resolved and seeing the toggle (as well as everyone screaming at me in chat) we were soon back to normal.

I really enjoyed the show for the live nature of it, but I particularly enjoyed hearing what Jenn Hienrichs has to say about here plans and the excellent story approach she is taking to “SL Things to Do” a group of travellers and explores that I remember well form the early days visiting Wimbledon SL in 2007.

Anyway the various parts of all this (as it got archived in 3 parts due to my interference can be found here On demand Live Shows, Week in review 10th May

Metaworld2b

Metaworld2c

Metaworld2

Anyway, thanks for having me on the show, and thanks for letting me break a few things in order to learn 🙂

Talking Tech with Dogear Nation

I was invited onto the 101st Dogear Nation show this week. The premise is simple, we discuss what is going on out on the web, in particular in virtual worlds and game related areas through the medium of the shared URL. i.e. if you take things on delicious with the tag dogear-nation then they form the selection for the running order of the show.
It is always a blast doing this show and this week was no exception.
Check it out, it will be up on itunes very soon too.
Michael Rowe had also done this advert video for dogear nation this week 🙂