Monthly Archives: October 2010

I am your Sensei – Halloween Cool Stuff Collective

It was very exciting to see The Cool Stuff Collective Ep7 air on ITV1 this saturday morning. It was also great because it was the best show yet.
For my part of future tech blending Evolver and Unity3d was something I had in mind from the start, being software and easily accessible makes it doubly important both for kids and for the business I work in.
The structure of the piece took a little bit of work in making a Sy, Tim at Evolver was very helpful in letting me have a few goes at exporting the characters I made. I had already got my army of the uncool rigged mesh but created a Sy and a slim me.
Cool Stuff Collective Halloween
The animations I did in very quickly in a 3d package with some very quick tweening as that was quicker than doing the programatically in Unity, but the rest was all pure Unity3d.
It wont win any awards for design, but got the point across I think.
I made it so that I could cam around Sy rather than make it a full FPS just to give us some filming options.
The live version of the unity3d piece is here if you are interested.
We also had some special effects with Sy generating as a new Sy at the end of the piece πŸ™‚ The magic of TV
Cool Stuff Collective Halloween
To avoid any of the hassles of direct web access in the studio I ended up doing a keynote slide show of the Evolver creation process and also due to “compliance” we are not allowed to show logos or say brand names too many times (as in the Lego shoot). Hence the blocked off areas in the slide show.

Cool Stuff Collective Halloween from Ian Hughes / epredator

The show ended with poor Sy having a pumpkin on his head, in the back room I decided to render a movie of that too using the avatar.

So it was quite a multimedia extravaganza to work on. I already blogged the behind the scenes filming so this is a bit of a “it went live” update.
I am sure clips of the show will appear with the other clips on
Whatever you do don’t say Pop Crash Grannies….. cue Ace of Spades and camera wobble!!
Next saturday 9:25 ITV we will have more madness and the Kinect piece πŸ™‚ Still on CITV monday 5:30 too. Onward and upward.
Well done to all at Archie Productions again !
(in case you have not seen the prog I claimed to be flying by Sy as an avatar as I am his Sensei )
Also being on ITV got us some interesting placement πŸ™‚
cool stuff collective ITV

Rocking the guitar at an MTV studio

Odd experience today, I popped along to the Cool Stuff Collective studio so we could take a look at the kit for the record tomorrow. It led to Matt, Sy and I playing the new Rockband 3 in the studio. Matt on drums, Sy on keytar and me on the new 102 button guitar.
It is an amazing device, every fret/string combination has a button and the strumming/picking strings are real strings but just in the box where you strum.
I was having trouble strumming as with no plectrum it did not pick up the gentle strumming, once I used something suitable things picked up.
Once we had finished the “rehearsal” picked the track will will use in the show record we moved the instrument into the gallery, i.e. the room where all the mixing desks are. We went from Rock Stars in the studio to roadies in one swift move.
As this is all filmed at MTV Camden this seemed very rock and roll.
My Rockband 3 set is on order from Amazon of course πŸ™‚ We love this stuff in our house.

Saturday morning Cool Stuff Collective – Tiswas, Swap Shop etc

This Saturday 30th October brings some exciting news that The Cool Stuff Collective will be on ITV1 at 9:25 yes thats right Saturday morning prime time just like the good old days of Tiswas πŸ™‚


It is the Halloween special too, so it does not seem so bad that we were bumped on CITV this half term week for back to back Horrid Henry episodes.

Also some great news is that loads more clips are up on the official website (may still be UK only of course)

Great news for everyone involved πŸ™‚

Understanding music – DJ Hero 2

I am a big fan of the current crop of music games. It could seem that games that merely have you follow a pattern in time with music are somehow lazy gameplay, but what has happened with all the music games is that degrees of expression and choice flow into the patterns that you follow. A prime example is DJ Hero 2. The styles of music may not be to everyones taste, though the set list is full of songs that everyone will have heard rather than esoteric club tracks.
The mixes that you play involve a certain amount of pattern following using the controller to tap notes, move the cross fader or do very flattering scratches that fit in with the tunes. However they have introduced some freestyle elements. These really get you to feel the music you are playing and feel part of it.
One if freestyle scratching, so for a short period how you move the platter rather than just the speed of moving alters the sound. The other and more obvious is the freestyle crossfade. Here the two songs are playing together and you live mix back and forth to create a unique sound. There are some visual cues on the track as to where big gaps and breaks are but it really is effective.
Kicking it old skool
I cannot claim to be a DJ, though I do dabble with audio editing packages, yet this may not make me a DJ but it really does make me feel like one. That also means that it has my attention and hence I am listening to the music track on the game (around 80 mixes) rather than listening to any other music source. It is not passive listening though, I feel I am learning a bit more about the tunes I know well, finding a new vocabulary of musical interaction in how the mixes have been created and also it is a performance. If other people are around and you go wrong it feels bad, so you want to make it sound good.
On the Xbox 360 you also have the chance to use your own avatar as the DJ. This adds yet another sense of depth to the proceedings.
So yes, its a plastic turntable with a few buttons playing some old tunes mixed together on a games console but it ticks a lot of other buttons in understanding motivations, ways to learn, expressiveness and entertainment.
And by the way notice the subtle coca cola product placement in the photo.
Then there’s Rockband 3 …… thats for another post once I get my 102 button guitar

Real or Virtual its all the same thing

My friend and (sometime theatrical agent) Scotty pinged me to tell me about a bargain at blades and bows a predator mask for Β£20. It seemed to make a great deal of sense to buy this as a prop for some of presentations, as well as out of personal interest.
It has just arrived and it is pretty cool, and very heavy!
Predator Mask
I have taken to using some physical props when I present at conferences, in particular some of the 3d printed items. Something solid and tangible reflected from something in the virtual environment helps break down the barrier between audience, screen and concept.
The predator mask is going to be one such prop. However it feeds directly into the discussion of representation of self online, into reputation and into knowing who someone is.
In SL my epredator avatar wears a predator mask. I often quote that “I wear a mask but don’t hide behind it” and that it indicates a lot more than a digital replica of my actual face in certain contexts.
Saying that with a ppt presentation picture of me in predator gear and leather jacket in Second Life I tend toblend to point out my RL leather jacket and the crossover of personal branding and a willingness to share who I am. The predator mask can be used to then show that there are cultural boundaries and social norms that differ from place to place. Wearing the mask would be seen as a slightly mad act, but showing it and choosing not to wear it in that context I think is a powerful message.
We talk often about real and virtual, there really is no such divide. We experience things, internalize them and try and make sense of them.The recent Horizon programme Seeing is Believing on BBC highlighted this more than ever. Demonstrating the NeuroPlasticity of the human brain and the combination of senses we use to predict what we are seeing. Including things like the McGurk Effect where are brains are unable to stop themselves altering what we hear based on what we see.
The point is virtual environments are real, not a total figment of imagination as they operate, run and we interact with them. A virtual environment tends to be experienced through the little glass window on our laptops which helps us deal with the containment of it. However its real people on the other end doing the same thing. Communicating and interacting with us and the environment. Whilst there is currently a line to be drawn the world around us is full of virtual structures and organizations. Does your company actually exist? Is that organization chart really real?
So I think we have shades of Real, all converted into the virtual experience we call memory.
All that because of a Predator mask? Well yes, though it is just really cool in its own right too πŸ™‚

Augmented Reality – Evolution in 3 mins

On The Cool Stuff Collective this week, that just aired. I got to talk a little about AR. Whilst we did not show any of the more traditional camera/marker overlay for various reasons I think we covered a lot of AR ground from marker triggering with fiducial markers and creating magic mirrors all the way to the Vtech kids video camera that acts as a live AR magic lens. Then mentioning the display contact lenses as a future way of delivering information to us in physical world.
Magic cubes
It was particularly cool for me to be able to use the Junaio triggering Royal Mail stamps that kick in a video of Bernard Cribbins.
AR video camera
Its a real bind getting a video feed out of some of these smartphones, this was a Droid, but the Iphone is also very awkward. So whilst we did connect and did trigger the video and it really does work it was better for Archie Productions to edit in the actual video.
I think we may end up with some more AR content down the line though as there are some really good products and demos like the ones we got to see in Finland OEM 2010 using Total immersion D’Fusion.
For the program I had created a Junaio channel for Feeding Edge which you get a floating Cool Stuff text model floating above the Cool Stuff TV logo if you point at it. Its all very doable! Just did not come out on the screen too well without that pesky video feed and screen shots don’t do AR justice.
Also the website going live with some Uk only video did mean I could pop into SL and do some virtual world augmented reality.
lego universe via TV in SL
Epredator getting to see G33K me streaming into a media texture talking about another virtual world the brilliant Ledo Universe Online which goes live in a few days. You have to love the meta loop !
Also great to see the CYGLO tyres running on the TV more on those at

A lot of places to talk.

Very often there seems to be an assumption that we all live, talk or work in one place online and offline. That is of course not true. All these places whether text, image or virtual worlds are collection of places and venues that suit certain people at certain times. The brilliant infographic has just surfaced showing a whole load of places and why we use them.

The image is from
If you relate this to the physical world, to offices and shops, houses, rooms in houses you will see that it really does not fit the human condition to have one and only one place to communicate, or one mode.
This may scare people, how do I learn all these places and ways of working, but in reality it is no different to learning that a grocers sell and works differently to a barbershop.

One of the oddest days and the Kinect Rocks!

Todays recording of The Cool Stuff Collective(this just went live showing some of the parts of the show online though only in the UK πŸ™ ) was probably the weirdest and funniest yet. For several reasons I think. The first is the pace and stride the production team at Archie Productions have got into and the building of jokes upon previous material etc. The second is those of us who are new to all this are more comfortable with the whole process and pace. So we have all found our voice. Another element was that one of the shows is the Halloween version, which is always good for a few odd experiences.
Where else would a pop crash grannie in a witches costume, a heavily pregnant make up guru and a tech geek spend time wrapping toilet roll around a long suffering show researcher to create a mummy gag? A fate later to befall another much loved character on the show this time with kitchen roll and gaffer tape too.
(There are some more behind the scenes photos in this set)
However for me the absolute highlight was being able to do my slot on the show on the Xbox Kinect. Having this set up on set at lunchtime meant trying it out a bit more. I got to see the development viewer for it (that we could not use on the show) that gave all the various sensor inputs and showed what the device was going, the points it was tracking etc.
We played Kinect adventures on the item and it performed really well. Everyone on the crew who had a look or a go just all said wow. November 10th cannot come too soon as I know the predlets are really going to enjoy this kit. Being able to not only sense you arms and legs and body movements but deal with depth and location in the room is simply amazing.
When players swap over or move into view the device knows its not the person who was there before. The recognition process takes hardly any time at all.
It is quite simply stunning.
Its not often I want a photo taken with a piece of kit, but in this case it was like a major celebrity turning up so I had to get a photo with it.
Oh look a Kinect

Sleeping on the job

The current episode of The Cool Stuff Collective ran on Monday (repeats on Friday Sat and Sunday on CITV). The show is really getting into its stride. I was a bit unsure of my Lego Universe piece as we did several takes, yet with awesome editing it came across pretty well I think. All the other slots in the show rocked. I love the bananas dropping on Sy’s head when monkey pulls the rope gag.
Lego Universe G33k style
This was also the one where Elvis, Monkey and I had to be sleeping on the job after Sy’s intro about the team never resting. To say it was hot under that duvet is an understatement and for Monkey it was like the surface of the sun. Still we suffer for our art πŸ™‚
Elvis, me and Monkey
It was very cool to be able to introduce Lego Universe as it really is a great MMO from what I have seen in the beta. The predlets loved it too so you can’t say more than that really can you! I am looking forward to programming my blocks in my own space very soon.
If I ever need to really write a CV ever again i am wondering how I place this whole experience. However in the book of the journey from the backroom to this odd entrepreneurial place with all the twist and turns that occured via virtual worlds I think it fits nicely in context?

Wonderful conference in all ways here in Finland

It has been a really great conference here in Lahti Finland. The venue, the Sibeliustalo was truly stunning and the hospitality of everyone for all of us visiting speakers.
Whilst I do call us Metarati moderately tongue in cheek when your fellow speakers have such a reputation and track record in the whole breadth of virtual world interaction it really is a cool club to be considered part of.
Ken Hudson had asked some of us a while back if we wanted to come and speak. For me I was intrigued what Finland was like having never visited before, and also to see where my European neighbours were on the whole scene. It has ended up being culturally enlightening for me personally too.
The conference was a huge success in my opinion because of very good organisation (the sort of smooth running that does not cause the delegates any stress), and a willing and knowledgable audience. That makes it much easier for the speakers to share their stories.
Not only that but in the evening yesterday we were treated to tickets to a symphony performance in the acoustically superior hall. Then a wonderful dinner followed by some of the students performing circus routines from ropes and bands suspended from the wooded frame of the building. The performances were all stunning.
This certainly gave us lots to talk about as well as the metaverse subjects were were here to share as we then headed of to sample the Finnish ‘White Wine’.
The venue was set up with both a constant SL presence on a giant screen in the hall and a constant twitter feed too. It was not trying to hack around between a single projector screen. We had AV kit it was filmed, photographed and streamed, radio mics when needed, power, good stable wireless, presentations we both in RL, SL and a backup on the web. We also had translators who expertly dashed to wherever us English only speakers were and told us what was going on when a presentation was in Finnish. Truly wonderful stuff!
The well organized mixed media nature of this meant I could sit on stage and visit myself in Second Life whilst tweeting. You don’t get much more connected than that.
Karl Kapp did his opening keynote for today (which I missed the first 10 minutes of to my annoyance but it could not be helped). Insights into the degrees of engagement in virtual worlds, reminding people of the time and emotional effort that causes identification with the avatar and presence to name but a few. He also signed a copy of his book for a fellow presenter. I expect there will be some very good coverage on Karl’s blog
I had to do some last minute alteration prep to my pitch for later in the morning, but it was good to see RealXtend represented and the fascinating school of the future project
The Finn’s understand and take education very seriously. In many other places such as the UK it seems to not be held with quite the same high regard by the establishment and society in general.
I followed the pitch by Bill May of the state department with the great job of director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Innovative Engagement (part of the Bureau of International Information Programs). Using social media and virtual worlds for political and cultural engagement. I first met Bill at the first virtual worlds conference in New York back in 2006, so it was good to see all the things that have transpired and that he has done since those conversations.
I did a cut down version of Washing Away Cave paintings the primary thing still being to consider not getting stuck in old ways already and to challenge the patterns, including not assuming SL is the only way. Leading to the amazing loop of virtual to real and back to virtual again. Something that is a game changer. (I also kept getting to throw in The Cool Stuff Collective too πŸ™‚ )
It was good to bring up Augmented Reality and reference the work done here by the guys and show how far forward they are in their thinking and doing, whilst also showing there is even more potential than anyone would initially think.
Georges Segura (who led the organisation of the whole thing) also then presented with some Live demo’s AR applications build using the Total Immersion toolkit. A very cool circus clown demo which blended markerless tracking then seamless into facial tracking. Then a student build RC car was driven in that was streaming video to eye glass screens.
This practical demonstration was a great way to end the main elements of the conference. It flowed nicely from the the things I had been pushing forward, and AR does wow an audience. (I am thinking I should drop some AR live and risky demos into my pitch, maybe do the slides as AR triggered objects as it may add a little bit more to the whole story)
So thankyou everyone in Finland, presenters, translators, delegates, organizers and stake holders. Its the 3rd year this has been run and it is the best and most inspirational conference I have been to and thats not the “white wine” talking.
Well done all!