Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sports communities in Second Life – A new satellite dish?

With all my comments on needing to engage with virtual worlds and the olympics and the work I have done up to now with online sports representations is it really great to find an exemplar of a community driven collect of sports enthusiasts.
One great example is the Global Online Hockey Association
Hockey SL Style
In particular it is worth taking a look a Treet.Tv coverage of a live event held there on Jan 10th
Now there is a lot of passion and effort, plus community participation that goes into this, but when you think of the global budgets of the advertiser and sponsors of world sporting events this really is not very expensive! The same applied to Wimbledon in SL, which in reality I paid for the land and a few of us volunteered our time to build.
It is the fact that people with an interest and a passion can get an awful lot done themselves. However think about how all this could be made even better with just a little attention from an interested party.
For sports social media and virtual worlds need to enagage, for virtual worlds what could be more mainstream an example than sports? Much of the take up of Satellite TV in the UK was driven by people wanting to watch soccer.
Can virtual worlds and online interaction be the new Satellite dish?

The future of learning? Wake up to virtual!

This week I have been to two events related to learning and education.
The first was eduserv’s final get together on where next for virtual worlds. The entire audience was made up of experts and evangelists and practitioners of virtual worlds across lots of UK universities. As a body of people and experience it was very heartening to be in such a gathering. Given much of what I have been doing recently has been education related it was good to know there were so many of us.
Still however there was the pressure for many that this was seen as some strange art form and hobby sideline. We battle on though as we do know this is the right thing to do. It is not just the technology that needs to be accepted though. The main battle is challenging ways of doing things that are accepted practice and in many ways easy and lazy for people to change. e.g. rolling out another ppt lecture to a group of students forced to sit in a room an listen. Daniel Livingstone from Sloodle used a picture from the middle ages of a lecture theatre. This showed there are deep rooted patterns in education that can still be used but improved with a little bit of thought and willingness.
The second event was the Learning Technologies 2010 expo at Kensington Olympia where there were over 130 exhibitors in learning technology. Great ! It was a huge trade show to go to and full of experts in this field.
With only a very few exceptions I was struck by the number of filling in form based applications, not even all Moodle. Lots of putting powerpoint and video and documents into “elearning” courses. Lots of “evaluation” and criteria based systems. Where were the virtual world learning platforms, even the serious games. Where was the deep rooted use of social media?
I was surprised and dismayed, followed by not being surprised again at the lack of more forward thinking technology and social solutions. Most people I talked to were surprised at what can be done with a virtual world, and they were supposed to be selling to me really.
The expo and conference is running for two days and today there is a presentation by Mark Oehlert for the US DoD about all the virtual projects and clever things they have been up to. I know that is going to blow the audience away of all they are used to is forms and videos in “elearning”. It was good to catch up with Mark and with Koreen Olbrish from TandemLearning as we keep in touch usually but meet very rarely (the last time was 3DTLC in washington).
It was interesting that Koreen had recently written a post “Do Virtual World Evangelists Really Want To Go Mainstream“. The answer from this one is of YES! 🙂
The insular nature of some industries and cosy gatherings, doing things the way they always have been done really is human nature. I have already been push the fact that avatars and islands are not the end point. There is a way to go. However the way we get mainstream acceptance is (as Koreen points out) diving into places and industries and pushing things forward.
So I have to ask the question why was there such a small selection of game and virtual world related people at this show? It would seem there is a gap in the market. I was thinking I just should have had a generic metaverse stand and explained all sorts of things like The Coaches Centre (Using web.alive and moodle to work with sports coaches and their organizations) and the work I am doing at the moment in SL with instructional design etc. Invited some or all of the people from the eduserv conference to talk and share their experiences.
There was at lease one stand there though, Kevin Corti was there with Pixelearning, and I liked the fact they were actually stand 101 🙂
Another was Caspian Learning with Thinking Worlds which has a great way of allowing people to describe a scenario and generate a browser based game engine experience. Though these were single user stand alone ones.
Many of the others that had any rich visuals looked like they were more custom builds and effectively CG movies.
I am left back at the thought the games industry is still missing a huge trick here. Whilst the virtual world companies like Linden Lab explain the use of education in the UGC Second Life the games companies have fantastic tools and techniques for creating experiences, how script writers and level designers work with visual, audio and code production. There is a middle ground and place for the instructional designers and educators to make a huge impact.
Anyway I look forward to hearing how Mark’s pitch goes.
I will get back to my Opensim, Second Life, Web.alive, Unity3d, Moodle, Sloodle, Pivote and custom build meanderings and try and convert as many people as possible in as many industries. What do I know ?

Sculptors and 3d printing

On friday I had a trip to London, talking finance, equity shares, next steps for a major project all very heavy stuff. On the way back from the meeting one of my good friend and business partners and I stopped by at The Royal British Society of Sculptors on Old Brompton road.
The outside of the building had a reactive sculpture that opened mechanical umbrella type flowers that wound up the side of the building like a vine so I knew this would be interesting.
Inside the main exhibits were suitably technical yet artistic. One was the wearable tail, a robot fashionable tail that was really more like Second Life than south kensington. Others were water bubbles generated in a tank to create the shapes of numbers, which was a forerunner of the glowing ball structures that rise and fall with the stock market at the London Stock Exchange.
Out the back there were a set of design concepts for a competition that would be the next installation to replace the flowers out front.
I was immediately drawn to this model
3d printed model By Bruce Gernand FRBS
It was a computer designer 3d model that had been rendered using a 3d printer in order to be able to see the concept before it is rendered in full size aluminium.
So there I was in a sculpture society looking at a physical rendition for a virtual model that would become a full size one. That was the winner for me as you can imagine.
I left a comment that I would like to be able to share the experience of exploring the virtual model as well as seeing the physical model.
With HP doing deal with Stratasys moving into the 3d printing market this sort of thing will become a lot more common!

Crowdsourced digital recreation of Olympics 2012?

I managed to get this idea into a tweet of 140 characters. Which I guess means that its not too bad an idea and easy to explain. The original text was
“2012 olympics spectators to share their videos. Pump video into project natal. Mocaped events rerendered in vw. Bypass agencies”

Image from Konami Track and Field at
To explain the how and the why of this a bit more now the elevator pitch is done.
The London 2012 olympics is a huge event that will be taking place in a world that is already heavily immersed in social media. People are already willing to take photos, share their experiences. A mass event like the Olympics will mean huge numbers of people sharing that experience from their mobile devices at the event.
On the other hand we have an event that has lots of international politics around it, huge sponsorship deals to guarantee coverage and to also pay for the logistics of the event.
We want 2012 to be the best games ever. However we are in a cash strapped world coming out of a major recession.
One of the things I have majored on over the past few years is the recreation of sporting events (and other training events too) from data and descriptions of the event. This is in part a technical interest but also one where I know that sport is understood by most people, so representation of sport in new ways helps them understand things like virtual worlds, social media and games.
I got to thinking that if the various bodies and rights management people controlling the Olympics flow of content and data have the whole thing locked down, negotiated and controlled but are not doing anything forward thinking now using the emerging technologies then we need another option.
A crowdsourced and opensource approach may just be one that at least demonstrates the potential power of the crowd covering the event.
The basic premise.
2012 a high percentage of people able to attend the olympics either on corporate tickets or paid for will have good mobile equipment, cameras etc. Network coverage will be good as it will be boosted for the event too. So there will be a vast amount of tweets, pictures, videos, streaming video, blog posts, facebook chat etc flowing in and around the events. That will of course not be as good as the TV company coverage but it will still have a great deal of potential.
Taking some of those images, videos etc and utilising technology to work out which athlete is where, what event was this, and even motion capture the individuals at events using Project Natal (like) technology means we have a great deal of data available to digitally recreate the games in the public domain. Its the sort of approach Photosynth takes to recreate imagery from mass use of digital media. To feedback to the crowds with data driven augmented reality applications etc. It is a little way out, but it is not impossible and there is a lot of technical and social innovation that can occur in the next 2 years with web, mobile, virtual worlds and games.
I think London 2012 needs a focussed and serious look at the things that can have a huge impact to the coverage and popularity of the games. The things I am considering here are homebrew ideas. They can be done very cheaply by anyone. Their is huge scope for something much greater to be done for very little extra cost and effort in the scheme of things by the powers that be.
Capture, Analyse, Recreate, Share. Yes CARS for the olympics.

Plato, a clever bloke.

I have seen this quote by Plato flying around a lot recently. It is particularly apt and correct when trying to help people come to terms with the benefit of gameplay in all fields.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Now bear in mind we have the ability to play and interact with one another on all sorts of digital channels. Social media is about conversation of course, but it is also the social side of gaming, be that a dedicated game or people choosing achievements that mean something to their friends and playing, competing and cooperating. e.g. unusual photo competitions on flickr.
Imagine too that we are playing multiplayer games. So you get to learn more about several people in 1 hours gameplay online than several years worth of individual conversation.
The amount that we reveal about who we are online through these gaming, and in the case of virtual worlds semi-gaming experiences should not be underestimated as a powerful reason to interact. The institute of the future has a post on Avatar Maximization around how people react to us and our digital representations.
This is not really just about identity, though its clearly a subject to consider as we see on New World Notes about real life versus made up vs augmented names. It is about what happens when humans communicate in ways other than purely talking face to face.
Discovering more about motivations, styles of operating and preferences do shine through in our gameplay. Games of all sorts help put people at ease and when at ease their true self shines through. Not all games of course, in poker the aim is to not give anything away and keep that poker face. However, the method by which you control your “tell” or discover others is equally enlightening.
I suggested in my predictions that Games as Work is a way forward and it would appear that Plato agrees (sort of).
It could well be that with fantastic creative tools like Unity3d and virtual world toolkits like Opensim we will indeed see even more “gamification” as David Helgasson Unity3d CEO has suggested
That can only be a good thing for understanding our colleagues, friends and competitors.

Virtual World/Augmented Reality Olympics, World Cup?

In a report just published by EngageExpo on the future of virtual goods there is an interesting comment by Tom Hale the Chief Product Officer at Linden Lab (Of Second Life fame) that says.
“Continue to see large brands experiment with engagement based investment to maximize exposure during zeitgeist events, for example the Olympics.”

Now I am hoping that it really does get taken seriously by the organizing bodies. The ways of representing sporting events are open for massive innovation.
I wrote that here in April and here and here in 2008 on eightbar and have proved the potential with the Wimbledon work since 2006 in Second Life.
I also received an invite to a conference (via Layar) for the M-Football conference whose aim is to ensure that the 2010 world cup (soccer) acts as a catalysts for mobile applications (inluding augmented reality ones).
Now with 2 years to go it really is time for the UK in particular to wake up and start doing things. It wont be enough to throw some things into Second Life or a quick Facebook app on there 2 mins before the event.
We are all here to help and to work that direction. We can indeed make this the best Olympics ever.
Wimbledon/World Cup mashup bleak times
Back in 2006 when England went out of the World cup Yossarian and I shared the experience enhanced with Second Life as a back channel at the prototype Wimbledon. It was simple, effective and very memorable (and I had Avatared up as Sven (The coach).
Head in hands as we crashed out.
Imagine what we can all do if we actually plan this !
Apologies to any agencies working on this in earnest already. I do get the feeling we have not really started yet though.

A decade of gaming innovations

Over at Play Think Learn Nicola Whitton has described a good set of 5 major innovations in gamin we have seen this past decade. I was going to do a retrospective post, but Nicola’s one pretty much covers it so check it out.
Interaction, Casual, Mobile/AR,ARG and MMORPG growth feature.
I could add one that surprises some people. The move away from the pursuit of more and more “realistic” graphics at all costs.
Many people who are new to games or are suddenly taking note will start with the assumption that we need more and more photo realism and that if its not high end visuals its not a game. In part this is because the non gamers can relate to photo realism as being somewhat more understandable. There is of course room and need for these highly “real” visual games, Gran Turismo, Forza 2, Assassins Creed 2 etc. However the sideswipe the Wii made and the rise of the casual puzzle game (as you point out) thrive on not being highly rendered. For gamers The Legend Of Zelda:Wind Waker going cell shaded could be said to have tipped this trend (around 2002). So great gameplay and engagement through simpler visuals with Crayon, Toribash, Loco Roco etc has been a feature of games evolution. Then of course there are the hybrids such as the fantastic Little Big Planet whose design ethos was to look like real things but handmade from craft material and junk.
epredator little big planet style
Of course Play,Think Learn had already written about this with Just My Imagination but I thought it should be in the list of the decade too 🙂

Those muppets prove they are not muppets

This whole Disney/muppets campaign for a volunteer workforce is really interesting rich web design with user created/personalized elements. Take a look at the main experience at the end of this short video.
The viral nature of how to get people to share with one another (as I am here) is also very interesting. There have been some similar pieces of technology most notably the BBC’s psychoville which I have to admit I was caught out with whilst on holiday in May by that pesky Roo 🙂

BTW, in case you are not familiar with UK slang its became quite common to call someone a muppet if they were a bit inept. Just watch Lock Stock and two smoking Barrels.

Interesting control mechanisms: Cars, Rockets and Choppers

Props to @infiniteunity3d for tweeting this. This is an example of using a different control mechanism to enhance a virtual experience. In this case it is slot car racing. It is built in Unity3d which once again shows the power to just be able to get on and try out the ideas rather than battle the middleware. (I am sure it had it moments though 🙂 )
Slot car racing is a very tactile experience, the friction of the pickup on the rheostat and the precision of trying to get just the right speed for a corner is the charm of slot racing. Scalextric was a big part of my childhood.

AlabSoftware have hooked the controller up to a set of slot racing cars. They did not just stick to a top down view either it is a full 3d model (as that is what Unity3d is very good at indeed).
Nearly the first thing I built in Second Life was a slot car racing system. I say nearly because other things like the tennis got in the way. My initial thoughts were to build a construction set in a world that was by its very nature a construction set. Being able to provide limited resources (track pieces) and specialized types of car etc had the makings of an economy and toolkit within the economy and toolkit.
There is a definite movement to more haptic control interfaces, none more so than the blend that has been created and released on the world at CES 2010 with the Parrot AR helicopter. A wirelessly controlled flying toy/copter that you control with your iphone and that also provides video and data feedback to you with various headsup displays and tricks. It is a form of AR, but like most AR the term gets used for all sorts of things.

Sitcking a camera on a vehicle is of course not a new thing DCJ put a wireless camera on his rocket at the launch day we had back in 2008 but the Parrot AR Drone is a very nice evolution and combination of technology and design

Xbox 360 Avatar Arcade (Ps3 Home-a-like?)

Thanks to @josholalia for tweeting “Not for me. But I’d pay to watch @ritajking duel @charliechu & @epredator RT @majornelson: Game Room Trailer here->” and pointing out the video (via Major Nelson) of the future of the xbox 360 arcade game room.
This is the start of a virtual world usage of the 360 avatars to let you walk up to arcade cabinets (by the look of it) and play the old school arcade originals. Arcades where where I grew up and hung out and they were a very social place as you could not play the games all the time. I liked it when I saw the walk up cabinets in Playstation Home and I have to say this bears more than a passing resemblance to that just on the 360 😉

It sounds from the blurb (link to a word doc on this page) too that this is a customizable room that you place your arcade cabinets in. “invite friends into your custom arcade to check out your collection or visit their game room”.
It is also cross windows and xbox.
So what Microsoft has cleverly done is repackage the old arcade games (which has been done more than once) but added a highly social layer to it. Games whose high score table was only ever visible for the day in the arcade until the power was turned off will now be available all over the world.
One other line I liked (though would have preferred this to not be in a word doc !) was “Challenge friends to beat your high score by sending custom challenges and taunts across platforms”.
Customer challenges and taunts – fantastic.
It is generally accepted that the Xbox Live environment has been a major reason for the 360’s success. It is certainly why I buy more games for the 360 than the PS3. Sony has retro fitted trophies and achievements and innovated by adding Home. Microsoft started out with great connections between games and is evolving the virtual world connections and representations based on those connections. As we are all saying and learning this is all about people first tech features second.