Monthly Archives: November 2010

Monkey hands and e-ink

Episode 12 of the Cool Stuff Collective and poor old Sy Thomas has got a monkey app obsession is turning into monkey. I get to turn up and show off e-readers and to talk about the future of e-ink, what it is and how it works.
As with all the subjects there is a lot to cover, ad in this case there are a few products to show.
First though I get cheered in to Muse Uprising whilst those hands are waved around πŸ™‚
Monkey hands
As I say in the intro the written word is still one of the best gadgets we have, its here on this blog for a start and works great for me πŸ™‚
Cool Stuff Kindle
I have always found e-ink a fascinating concept. Being brought up on screens, CRT then LCD and on to OLED, they have a shiny quality to them. However e-ink just looks like its not been turned on yet, like the protective example cover is still on them, then you turn a page and it changes.
When we get the principles of e-ink applied to any surface it will be amazing.
If you think about the e-ink too as an adjustable but camera based trackable marker you end up in an interesting but scary loop I think.
Whilst on the written word, we have the Cool Stuff Wikipedia page and I am incredibly honoured to have my page but it would be great if Sy’s page got written. I have put a request on the biographies request page if anyone fancies doing it πŸ™‚ You don’t have to mention the monkey transformation.
I had refrained from photos that did not have me in them, for no other reason than copyright, but the real monkey (right) and the “needs a good iron” Sy monkey on the left was just too funny to not post. The tail gag and the end of the show is just so surreal and brilliant monkey acting from Matt.
Sy and Monkey

Gran Turismo 5 – Only the shadow knows

GT5 is certainly one good car game. Lots of variety and a great feel, but it seems to have lost its way in the lighting model.
Take a look at the shadow on this
Gt5 jaggy shadows
Even in a screen shot from the TV, on an iphone, the car and road look great (yes dented) but the jaggy shadow is pretty appalling and much worse when you sit and watch it.
There is a great in game photo mode that lets you take all sorts of pictures from the replays as per usual and that seems to clear things up. Though that is then a rendered still so you can expect that.
You can see more jaggy shadows on this image
Gt5 jaggy shadows
Its very odd and very distracting as it wobbles along with the car.
There were a few other “funnies” You can tune cars and alter options, play in 3d etc but you are warned at the very first choice (of overall/helmet combo) that you will never ever be able to change this again so pick well. I know this is not an avatar based game but thats a bit odd?
There is also the 8gb install it offers to do. If you start the game it says it will take 20 mins, if you do it from the in game menu it says 50mins! I left it running and it sat after 20mins saying “40 seconds left” for another 20 mins so I gave up on that.
My final gripe (for now). The replays, not only filled with cloudy wobbly shadows but there is only a pause, no forward or backward, yet you have stacks of options when paused for taking that perfect photo. Of course you can’t navigate to your perfect moment because the controls wont let you. Very odd.
So yes love it, yes its GT but Forza 3 with its car customisations and slickness for now has GT5 beat.

Good morning inspiration – a poem?

Yes this is a slight departure from my usual posts, a poem!
We were playing with some words on the school run today and I came home and just wrote this.

Good Morning Inspiration
by Ian Hughes

Nobody knows what the nose knows,
Nobody here hears what the ears hear,
Few people understand the feats of the feet,
Or know if their brain is in fact called brian.

Many people count their fingers as allies,
They are pulled along by their toes,
They really need their knees,
And they don’t pick on their bones.

Anybody would say that their body is great,
It’s all made up, each piece plays its part,
Bits get along to help being a being,
One that trips along having fun without falling.

So get on out there, think your great thoughts,
Dream what you can and can what you can’t,
Sniff an idea, and you will be happy.
Trust me I know, I am your nose leading the way.

I actually tried to not make it rhyme as it sounded better just playing words. As it just all flowed out onto the page I thought it best to share it.

Web chop shop serendipity

Serendipity and patterns in what I bump into out there on the web always attracts my attention. It becomes a way for a train of thought or voyage of discovery to be documented and shared. Just a few days ago I was thinking back to my early days on the web, precipitated by reconnecting with someone on Facebook because of an amusing experience with the word banana which came to mind because of Monkey and The Cool Stuff Collective.
This led me to think back to the way we used to use sounds in an open plan office as a bonding experience. It was somewhat playful but part of the vibrant nature of early web development. WAV file battles and soundboard battles would bubble up across the office, certain sounds becoming catchphrases in their own right.
One development, which I can’t remember when we originally bumped into it, was Let Them Sing it For You which I was amazed to find still there, or at least resurrected. This has a set of samples from hundreds of songs where just an individual word is used. You type in text and it matches the word to the sample and you end up with a bizzare mashup of the words you type sung by lots of artists in lots of styles.
Just a few days later I noticed this Twist Our Words from Channel 4, a video mashup version of the same sort of idea. It would have normally caught my eye anyway but in this particular flow of thoughts it was more meaningful. Not only that but to complete the loop I decided to use the fact that they had Monkey and Donkey as words to use for one of my contributions.

These sort of things really help anyone get a little laugh, but also show them that creativity with digital tools comes in very many sizes and shapes and also user generated content can be very simple to do (for the end user, making the tools is a bit more tricky!)

Cool Stuff 11, Stars, jokes and multi-touch

This weeks Cool Stuff Collective is Joke Book Bingo, where Mr Sy Thomas is not having much luck in telling jokes whilst Monkey is the king of the standup. I tweeted when we filmed it how we had to laugh on cue, but this really wasn’t acting, I mean look at us, what a motley crew, hard not to laugh anyway πŸ™‚
We also had to not laugh at any of Sy’s jokes
The show had some other very notable moments though. Not least was the arrival of “TV Legend” Eamonn Holmes to hijack “coooool neeewws”. A bit that has me in stitches every time I see it. Not only that but it means we appear named in the credits together. There is something I never expected to see, say, write or consider.
Another very good piece the team did was Monkey’s day out filmed on portable video camera’s. Its made the predlets laugh a lot I should add. That’s good enough for me.
My main part of the show was with the SMART table, a wonderful multitouch table which can cope with 80 individual touch points which is very cool.
SMART table
I think it came across very well on screen as a piece of kit, I was not sure how it would look at an angle, but the matt finish to the touch screen and its design seems to sort this out.
So thats 11 out of 13 aired. The repeat of this one is on Saturday morning 9:25 ITV1.
The show just keeps getting better IMHO. I have been getting lots of positive feedback from all sorts of places.

Xfactor vs Star Wars

For some reason we had XFactor on tv last night whilst we were both messing with iphones and the web. I decided it was about time to try the Star Wars Arcade Falcon Gunner on the iphone. This app uses an entire sphere around you as the playing field as you shoot down incoming tie fighters. You can move the gun turret in the playing space both by moving and spinning your body around and by a little bit joystick control. In a nod to AR and to give a bit of a frame of reference along with the Elite style scanner it patches in the video from your iphone.
Millennium falcon xfactor
This led to the accidental mashup whereby I was about to start shooting overlayed tie fighters and as I spun around Simon Cowell and Xfactor came into view.
Gets you thinking about head up displays and being able to see and maybe share information on people and things around you doesn’t it.
XFactor (which is the first we have really seen this series) was truly awful too as many great Beatles songs were ruined IMHO. Star Wars is truly awesome!. Net win in the favour of Star Wars though.

Game design – Virtual Goods World Perspective

I attended, and spoke at, the Virtual Goods World Europe 2010 conference on tuesday morning, held at the Millennium Mayfair hotel. There was a great line up though I had to miss the afternoon and day two with a combination of family things to sort out and the Cool Stuff Collective wrap party.
Of all the talks I heard the one by Zhan Ye was the most insightful. Obviously working in the virtual worlds industry for quite a few years means that some of the content is more of a re-enforcement, after all it is generally for people to come and learn. However Zhan Ye covered his personal experience on the transition and difference between the stock AAA game title and the more casual and social game experience and in particular how China has spent many years leading the way in creating these experiences which western developer are now having to come to terms with.
There were some elements that rang very true about the current crop of social games, a recipe for the genre.
Introduce conflict – bragging rights, friends scoreboards all give an incentive to compete and publicly show off.
Sell convenience – This is where the monetization (horrible world) comes in. Playing to the time poor but cash rich who still want to be in the game and maintain status.
Add peer pressure into play – With conflict also comes friendship. If you are going to let down a friend who has invested lots of time and money you do not want to be the spoil sport.
Zhan Ye was also quick to point out that these manipulative tactics raise moral questions about fleecing or manipulating players. The answer to this morality is gamers free to leave.
This tied in with another nice quote “Have to be a player before they become a payer” from Anthony Royce Sony at a later panel.
This got a little cheer from the game developers in the room. In all the talk of monetization and cash generation that virtual goods produce there is still a willingess to not just cash in but make something people want to play and interact with.
On the panel I talked on the final question was about brands that worked and ones that didn’t. All my worst examples were generally film ties ins, as they showed a cashing in with either a AAA game or a bad mobile or web experience, with little thought, care or respect for the player.

My best example though was Moshi Monsters. Having seen this at its earliest stages on a visit to Mind Candy I know that there was not just a money making core to this but an integrity and a reason to create it. The education without education and hence the winning over of parents and kids alike has made this quite rightly very popular. It has extended out into related merchandise and physical products but still seems to maintain that initial spirit. I heard that Michael Acton’s presentation on it the following day was superb too.
On a personal and performance style note. The room was an unusual layout for the conference but as people were at round tables many people had laptops and pen and paper handy. I noticed when I did my little intro “I am known as epredator online ” there was the usual slight grabbing of attention, “so feel free to google for me” was the same level, but when I said “or look me up as epredator on wikipedia” lots of pens got reading and heads looked at screens. A swift follow up with the Cool Stuff Collective plug and it was starting to sound a bit over the top, so I mentioned if anyone watched this Saturday I was not really in the show as usual but merely dressed as a big banana.
Its a fine line that I walk between over doing my excitement and enthusiasm for the industry with my own ego trip so it is great to have some mad material to draw on and provide some balance.

Cool bananas and wikipedia

This week’s Cool Stuff Collective a.k.a Show 10 is currently airing. I just spoke about the show a little in my panel at Virtual Goods World Europe and had to admit that if people tune in on Saturday on ITV they will only see me as a banana not as a tech geek. However…. that’s just awesome !
Monkey, Donkey and Bananas
The show has some great stuff in it, Monkey wins the lottery (apparently I helped him). The irony of it being the lottery may become apparent in a few weeks time, but I will leave that a mystery.
Sy get to play Harry Potter on the Kinect and does a pretty good job of sorting out the spells.
However in out very own “COOOOOOL NEWS” cue camera shake… The Cool Stuff Collective has made it to Wikipedia. It was already listed with no link as a CITV show but is very much alive and well on there now.
I already had some references too as epredator so I have reached the heady heights of having my very own bio page on there too with lots of references to all the other work I did with virtual worlds and with the media, Newsnight, Business Week, Sky News etc.
The page is is you want to go and contribute any extras for me, as you know we cant edit our own pages, so a big thumbs up to crowdsourcing at work.
I have donated to Wikipedia now too as it needs out support and I use it all the time, so if you have a spare few quid please help it out.
If anyone out there wants to write Sy Thomas’s page he needs one!

Kinect – Open source explosion

The wires are full today of the results of some work by Oliver Krelos and others taking the only just released Kinect and applying it to places other than the Xbox 360 set of games. This is all very opensource and hacky, but it shows what can be done in a very short time when talented people, not always in the original company, have access to the kit and freedom to operate.

Much of the code is starting to be released (though a dependent piece of code if not yet) also as it is GPL licensed I am sure many corporate colleagues will be warned off, however its here

Virtual Goods World Europe – Conference time again

It feels as if its back to normality with the Virtual Goods World Europe conference this coming week in London.

I will on a Panel at 12:00 on Tuesday 16th to discuss “What are the obstacles to greater brand participation?” to virtual goods.

The panel consists of a good cross section from the industry.
Mr Pano Anthos,CEO, Hangout Industries

Mr Ian Hughes,MD, Feeding Edge

Ms Margaret Wallace,CEO, Playmatics

Mr Adam Caplan,Vice President (Virtual Currency), SuperRewards

I am there with a general virtual world and hence virtual good hat on, but also combining the gaming startup that I have embarked upon which relies on gaming and virtual goods being out there to interact with.
I had said yes to this ages ago and so only just remembered to ask for my bio to include the fact I am a (fledgling) TV presenter on The Cool Stuff Collective πŸ™‚ Of course this is also the week where the show running Mon 5pm CITV and Sat 9:25am ITV1 does not have a full future tech feature in it πŸ™‚ Just a cameo as a banana. That certainly gives me some gravitas for the panel…