Monthly Archives: December 2010

Hello 3d gaming

I have now had to chance to spent a decent amount of time trying out my panasonic 3D 42″ TV. I have been intrigued by the demos of 3d content I have seen and in particular the consequences for gaming, and what prolonged gaming feels like.
3d gaming
There seems to be enough 3d content out there to warrant the upgrade. Xbox, Ps3(games and 3d blu ray), and Sky 3d all having things to offer
The first extended game I had was a few hours on Gran Turismo 5 on the PS3. Initially this was a disorientating effect using the in car view, the layers of HUD information being closer than the car details meant it was a little harder to take in the peripheral information from the HUD. After about 20 minutes though I think my brain adjusted and it became a very compelling experience. If anything it was braking that became more obvious, and some of the turn in points and reference points were more obvious. I have been playing driving games for a long while and have seen others struggle a little with the concept of slowing down for corners as unless you immerse yourself into the experience mentally you can’t feel the forces of the car. The 3d certainly helped with this. Spinning out was also a bizarre experience and it seemed to be quicker to deal with that and have the situational awareness.
Equally wearing the glasses has an odd bubble effect that makes it feel a bit more like it does when you get in a car. After the initial 20 minutes adjustment I felt no more odd finishing the session than playing normally.
Next up was Black Ops on the Xbox 360. Turning the 3d on was a bit more fiddly than in GT5 as the TV did not respond automatically and you have to select side by side 3d, the PS3 switches things automatically. (It seems Sky 3d doesn’t switch either).
The HUD crosshair is a little distracting initially as it breaks the immersion, there is an option to turn this off but that seemed to crash the machine! That aside the experience is brilliant IMHO. I had played through most of the game already but the last few chapters in 3d were amazing. The disorientated running around towards the end with the “numbers” zooming around was a stunning piece, and I am looking forward to going back and trying things like the first vietnam sequence.
However the test was really to play the online training multiplayer with bots and with @asanyfuleno. I found that I felt more in control and aware of my surroundings. I think this may be similar to the driving game mental model. I know that in FPS’s it takes me a while to feel the levels. I felt instantly connected to the environment and whilst this would still not equate to pwnage online I felt the 3d levelled me up, at least in situational awareness.
The view down iron sights and cross hairs is also remarkable.
As with the driving the glasses did not get in the way, but seemed to place you somewhere other than the room you are actually in. This was not something I was expecting to happen, but thinking about it it makes sense.
The third game was Tumble on the PS3 with Move. I have said before how fantastic Tumble is with the tactile feedback and I have to say it is very much enhanced by the feeling of space crated with 3d. The need to use the shadows of the blocks as reference points just melts away.
So a nights gaming on 3d was enhanced and from my point of view will only get better as we get more used to it and designers take advantage of it. I think being an old school gamer I will still play 2d games and with a 4 year old in the house (where the advice is to not use 3d for under 7’s) means we can’t do all 3d gaming yet. However as many of the games I end up playing are 18 rated that is not such a big issue.
There was an additional serendipitous happening when I purchased the TV from Best Buy, whilst waiting for the box to come out of the stock room I got talking to the head of the 3d TV section, who also happens to run a startup creating 3d displays(more of that in a later post). It was fascinating to be talking to someone who knew a lot about the subject. Its one of the reasons I like Best Buy, no pressure or hassle salespeople and when you do talk they know their stuff. This was by contrast with my experience when I popped into Comet to get an extra audio optical cable, the salesman was pleasant enough but when he asked if he could help me I was not expecting to have to explain to him what an optical audio cable was for. He also made the usual “pay more for cables as the signal is better” type of comment which for many digital things simply isn’t true anymore.
So…. shop in Best Buy!

What’s the point of a tweetup?

This weekend we had a Southampton based tweetup as a christmas spin off off the occasionally Tuesday Tweetups that have been going on well over a year now.
Just as twitter, or any social networking online gets the odd guffaw from those who don’t use such services, the tweetup with physically meeting people is usually greeted with some derogatory comments about geeks getting together to tweet one another in a room.
As with all events they take some arranging, and commitment to turn up, with such a loose affiliation as twitter this may seem unlikely, however with both the efforts of @OzoneVibe and some quick thinking by @amandagolding to book the excellent Orange Rooms in Southmapton we all gathered, ate, drank and talked (not in that order).
However the tweetup is another form of social gathering, it is like popping into a local pub. (very often a tweetup is actually in a local pub anyway). The pub used to be the social hub of a community. Regulars and visitors mingling, and generally a mix of people from many walks of life. Of course a local pub clientele of old would probably have pretty much been people of a similar background, same schools, local firms etc. The world has changed quite a bit of course, demographics and people moving around more, vast changes to the employment and industrial makeup means that we mix and connect in different ways. Some would point out our web cliques on social media restrict our serendipitous meetings, and that can be the case just as in any social environment. . However I think the affordances this gives us to meet and listen to other people, friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues etc means if we are open to new conversations there are there to be had.
Saturdays tweetup was a case in point. Many of us hook up with people we already know online, friends, colleagues and people in the field we are interested in. However in that you also tend to bump into other people. In the case of this tweetup is happens to be a gathering of people in and around the Southampton area.
On going there you find that in a group of 30 or so people you will know a few personally, and a whole lot more more indirectly they had open conversations with the people you already know. It is those people who are quite often in a completely different sphere to you.
A prime example was that many of us techies were chatting away but we then got talking with a fellow tweeter and someone asked her how her pants were going. (Pants being colloquial word over here for Knickers).
That meant we needed to find out more as thats a pretty good ice breaker.
It turns out that @dellacunio from local manufacturing firm Who Made Your Pants
We got to talk a little before the music kicked in at the venue we were at and this is a brilliant workers cooperative social and ethical business.
They help provide training and jobs to help women who have not had the chances to work and and improve their qualifications.
The business cooperative and ethical actions it take have attracted positive attention from those in the lingerie business. Social enterprises are always interesting, the antithesis of the corporate world, but with real business pragmatics in place. They are founded based on ethics not profit, yet they still work and succeed. Maybe a lesson for corporate life there?
Yes this is a web based business, but it is certainly more about serendipity and choosing to connect with people on social media that led to this conversation, and hence this blog post.
Updated 13/12/2010 with this video of the organisation and the founder talking.

I got talking to all sorts of people, but not everyone there, so there is plenty more where this story came from I am sure.

Addicted to frags?

This week saw a BBC Panorama documentary attempt to explore the dangers of addictions to gaming. I thought I would give myself a few days before writing about it as at the time the programme struck me as intensely annoying.
That is not to say I am not concerned about addiction or any of the harmful affects of the industry and its content but it did seem to be wandering into Daily Mail territory rather.
Many of the examples of excessive addiction seemed to be related to parents suggesting they had no idea what their kids were doing. That is of course a little strange as unlike the more worrying addictions that are drug related, most of the long term gaming will happen in the comfort of your own home on a nice warm PC or console connected to the internet.
Clearly some parents will not appreciate the intensity of the gaming experiences that their kids are enjoying but if they are not sleeping/eating/going to school etc then you would surely have a duty to spot that? Thats easy to say with hindsight of course.
The show aimed to inform us that there was little recognition or research into the addictive dangers of games and that the industry is in some way ignoring the fact. I do agree that dismissing it as an industry as of no consequence because there is not scientific evidence suggesting a link between games and addiction is probably not a smart way forward. We all know how addictive games can be especially when you combine the social media factors into them. This is of course something that got lost in the show. An addiction to a single player game is very different to an addiction to a multiplayer/clan/MMO based game. Whilst extremes of anything are probably not good the fact that people are focussed on working with other people to achieve their goals does alter the problem space a little.
The show managed to travel to South Korea to show the scope of the supposed problem too. It pointed out there were professional leagues, televised and a national obsession and there were coming appearing “over here” as if that in itself was some terrible consequence of games. Obviously an entire nation watching some overpaid athletes kick a piece of inflated leather around on some grass every saturday is so much better?
I tweeted at the time that life is a collection of addictions, things we attend to for various periods of time, unbalanced addictions are ones where the collections of things that are attended to are smaller that the “normal”. If the object of your obsession is generally destructive then it would appear to be on the bad side of the spectrum, however if the thing you spend all your time doing is enriching or helping your life and others, where new skills are being practiced, new bonds being formed then it really is not so much to be worried about?
Again the counterpoint to all this is the extremes, so yes those extremes are bad, but to damn an entire art form with all its genres as being the worst thing to happen to us, possibly due to not understanding it, would seem foolish.
Instead of simply suggesting the games suck you in and keep you there and you need to be pulled away to some sort of “real life” the focus should be:

  1. What is that is so compelling that people pay to engage in these activities and become so involved in the powerful medium that they approach addict status?
  2. How can that game design, technology and human willingness to participate be harnessed for the supposed worthy things that people should otherwise be doing?
  3. What are the attributes and aspects of these addictions relating to human relationships, where the game is online, versus single player obsession?
  4. Examine how we can embrace the creative and technical medium that has arrived at our doors and be proud of what it can do.

It is difficult to reconcile the ideas. “You should stop playing games and do something more worthwhile as games are silly” combined with “Wow these games are really powerful things we need to keep an eye on them” which are almost used in every sentence of the show.
It does end with the sentiment that the presenter will keep an eye on his kids games use just to make sure they are not falling prey to anything, but that should have been the starting sentence IMHO.
As for it being “real” from my personal point of view I have always been a gamer, it used to be that playing games was just fun, some were a little addictive and distracting, then it turned into needing to know how they worked, which became an obsession with technology that has carried me through my entire career to whatever point I am at now. Maybe I am a functioning games addict, but it could just be they are not all that terrible after all?

Cool 3d Christmas

The final episode (13) of The Cool Stuff Collective series 1 is airing this week and its the christmas special. I was lucky enough to be able to give a variety of 3d pieces of tech an outing. A fuji 3d camera, the vuzix eyewear and a Toshiba/Nvidia 3d laptop.
Cover 3d on 2d TV is like doing colour on a black and white screen but I think we did it justice. A screen for each eye with vuzix, showing 2 lenses and a lenticular lens viewer on the camera and side by side images for the laptop.
3d camera
The lenticular lens rippled nicely on screen and the side by side picture illustrated the principle whilst Sy got to see the actual real effects. We did not fake any of it either as it seems important to do these things for real.
3d Specs
The madness of christmas meant we did a 12 presents of christmas line up passing the presents along the line whilst Father Cool did his vicar style duties followed by a christmas rap. Hence the various stances we took.
It was a manic take and we just got told to go for it, the more disorganised the better. Which is what we did. We had to be really careful with some of the toys to not press any of the noisy buttons as we passed them along the line. This was a great finale I thought and probably the most I have laughed at work ever, and thats saying something.
Cool Stuff Collective xmas
In the recording I talked about the aspirations of the 2022 Japan World Cup bid, which of course now we know has gone to Qatar, however the technology future still stands up.

Fingers crossed still for series two. I think I like doing TV you know!

Imperial Treet – Hospitals, Patients and SL

This week Dave Taylor/Davee Commerce and Robin Winter had a special on about lots of the virtual world projects in Second Life that Imperial College London have been up to. It is a great show to watch to see the variety of ways Dave has got Second Life working from public information, targeted patient experiments and doctor training.

The doctor training and evaluation that appears around about 32 mins in Dave says. “This is where we have our virtual patients, and these patients are controlled by software actually outside of Second Life. That software has a knowledge of the patients physiology and condition.” He also explains there are 3 wards and 3 patients in each giving 9 levels of difficulty in scenario.
“We are using this to research how we can asses trainee doctors at different levels of training”. “We have tested about 60 doctors so far on this”.
I am glad this is out in the public as this has been part of the work I have been doing in SL. I can’t explain exactly what does what as its a private project but as Dave points out the patients and the interactions are controlled from outside of Second Life, my part in SL is the broker talking to that external model. I also ended up building the dynamic menus and handlers in world. The menu’s are based on the data coming back, and align to the correct place in world so they are designer friendly. This was built before the web on a prim existed, and we aimed to do everything in world. As you know handling text can be a problem in SL and variants of Fasttext and xy text came to rescue. Though rezzing a dynamic button and making it know what it is supposed to do is a non trivial task. This was also before HTTP in world servers were stable so SL is the controller asking the external software what to do next.
It has been a fascinating project, as has its follow on ones that have increased in complexity and in interactions. Making SL a component in a system not the sole piece of the project makes for a greater richness and flexibility. After all SL is not a database/data handling application.
What is great is that Robin, who is one of SL’s foremost designers (along with his other half) and has been for years(he built the original Dublin sim), is able to craft animations and objects and then trigger them into existence using our message protocol, after the external software model tells my broker code that its got some changes to display.
There are a few of us pushing the bondaries of data interchange with SL and also with opensim and other virtual worlds. I hope this helps people understand that we can do very complex integrated tasks using the best of a Virtual World and the best of a traditional server application. Integration is the key.