Monthly Archives: January 2011

Where the magic happens – Behinds the scenes

Last week I shot a quick behind the scenes view of The Cool Stuff Collective studio before the madness of filming started. I think it gives a good impression of the size of the studio and they are fascinating places.

It’s an early return to the studio this week, as we now are filming on a Wednesday not a Friday as we did with the first two.
I am not sure whether we will end up having a massive Nerf fight in here given our sponsors, but that would be a laugh to see!

Cool Stuff Collective returns – S2Ep1 Cloud

The second series of The Cool Stuff Collective hit the screens today, sponsored by Nerf (from Hasbro) which in itself is cool. It’s this Nerf N-Strike Barricade RV-10

The Cool Stuff Collective is now filmed at BBC television centre in Studio 2 which is a much bigger studio than we had for series 1 at MTV Camden.
Where the magic happens
There are Blue Peter signs everywhere which is quite awe inspiring.
The production gallery is up above us as opposed to the side where @marleyman007 directs us from.
Monkey has been reborn too, and has some wonderful googly eyes too.
Monkey reborn
Another new character on set is Lady Blah Blah complete with beard
Sy, Lady Blah Blah and the popcrash grannies
Here is Lady Blah Blah with Sy Thomas and the Popcrach grannies, though I realize this looks odd as Janice has lent back to talk to Victoria.
This is the view we have sat on set (though there are usually more people staring at us 🙂
View form the set
This week the gag was that we had all forgotten Sy and call him Sid as its been a few weeks since the last series. Predlet 2.0 was a bit confused watching the “acting” he asked me if I really had forgotten Sy’s Name 🙂
So the show opened Sy introducing it all and then I come on measuring the TV and feign ignorance.
Calling Sy Sid
My tech part of the show is more back to normal though in a attempt to define cloud computing and cloud gaming in 3 minutes.
I used the basic principle that cloud is really about the break up of the PC and of computer components and moving them away to other places.
I took an old computer and pulled a card out and handed it to Sy by way of a prop to try and explain the distribution of compute resource, storage etc. It was a simplistic explanation but when you boil it down that is what is happening.
I then explained how Onlive works and is coming to the UK with BT very soon and that it is actually good for gaming in that we can play any game on any console, and will not really have to replace any of our old kit as all we need is a screen, network and input controller.
The final extrapolation is a planet wide grid of compute resouurce. I was going to throw in IPv6 but that got too tongue twisty. Any resource anywhere local or remote and combined into massive computing power and storage.
This first show (and next weeks) was great fun to record and the coming shows look awesome too. The team at Archie Productions and Sy Thomas have done a great job and I love being part of that.
I guess that wikipedia article needs updating now for the show? to reflect series 2 and the new record location.
See you all next week same time same place 🙂 (Or any of the many repeats all week)

Having a go with Kinect Hacks

For reasons that will become apparent in a few weeks time I needed to see if I could get my Mac to talk to the Kinect using the brilliant open source I don’t do too much in the command shell on my Mac so the realms of Homebrew and MacPorts mentioned in the instructions, whilst I knew what the point of them is, meant that my machine was in a bit of a state.
I had used something call Fink a while back, but could not remember why so I tried the Homebrew instructions but failed and had too many paths and bits not very happy to take what is a ready made package. So instead I went to the MacPorts compile it yourself path.
The glview application then ran nicely and told me I had 0 kinects attached to my Mac 🙂
A prerequisite for this is to have the kinect with a power supply as opposed to bundled newer xbox and kinects where the power is built in. I simply took the Mac to the xbox, unplugged the USB from there and popped it into the Mac, ran glview again as a test. Bingo!
At its very basic mode you can see the colouring for depth being rendered as the predlets are nearer or further from the device.
Next step is to hook into the libraries and make sense of the data 🙂

Knowing who you know

Very often the naysayers of social media will point to the vacuous nature of connections online. Friend does not mean an actual friend etc. We are also restricted as human in how many people we can successfully know and stay in touch with. We are though in a position where we are able to share who we are and what we do, and make it available to anyone who finds it useful. We may all have a mental model of our relationships and who matters, who influences us and who we mentor in life. Social media has brought us the ability to visualise and data mine those relationships. (It has also allowed others/businesses etc to look at those and use them commercially).
Linkedin has started a project to show your professional links to people and it produces very organic looking social media graphs, this is my one from my profile connections
linkedin IH
When you create it you also get to label the coloured groupings which are roughly people in certain types of network. I have lots of virtual world and tech people in my network both from my corporate career colleagues and from other places and a little spin out cloud of media people and one directly related to WImbledon.
Visualizing data like this and being able to navigate around it does start to inform and provide a check and balance for your mental model.
The application is available here

London Toy Fair 2011

Yesterday i got to go along to the Toyfair 2011 at Olympia with a press badge with Archie Productions and with my Cool Stuff Collective g33k t-shirt on.
Like superman :)
I was not there to film but to do a bit more research, meet some people and see how roving reporters and crews get things done.
I have been to a fair few trade shows, including lots of standing around on a stand talking about virtual worlds but I was not sure what to expect from a trade toy show. It was good to be able to head onto a stand and do a bit of promoting back on the TV show. It was also interesting the sheer number of PR people manning the stands. The ones I have been to tend to be the actual people from the actual company, close to the product. That was in evidence at the show but the huge corporate machines were in full PR mode. There were secret rooms, closed invite only stands and classification of how much of a prospect you might be worth talking too.
Some stands had character guards

many others had actual suited and booted bouncers. If your names not down you are not coming in. However a TV crew tends to alter that a little. A few places it was a hindrance as some pre-release toys and film footage was not ready for the press yet, only for the corporate buyers. An old trick about feeling exclusive, being let in (as we do with web betas). One particular secret door kept opening and closing so much that each time the motion caught my eye, I glanced across only to be scowled at by the bouncer. Very different the the playfulness of the toys around, but it is big business.
It was great to see such a big Moshi Monster presence though
More Moshi Monsters
I was thinking back to 2007 when Roo and I went to see the very early stages of Moshi, and the various virtual world trade shows we had stands near one another. It is of course now huge, Roo wrote about it back then
One thing about the toy industry, like the game or virtual world industry is that no matter how straight laced the pitch is nearly everyone had that outlet to press a button and play with something. You can sit a look at a massive zhuzhu pet stand, analyse your profit margins etc but if you pick one up and press a button a scurrying hamster will raise a smile.

On the Bandai stand I saw a corporate tour but whilst they were quite serious they got involved testing the car that you shout at make it go.
There were some great character costumes wandering around as you can see

On a very small stand there was a suitably wavering Captain Jack Sparrow, with a big sign saying no photos. However he obviously needed a break at some point, stayed in character and wandered around the show, where he placed himself on the edge of the Gelli Baff (Bath goo toy) as it was filmed. This was one of the most bizarre and amusing sights.
Captain Jack Sparrow watches a bath of Goo
It would have been really amusing if it actually was Johnny Depp of course 🙂
I was also amazed to see Grape Escape reborn as Smashed Potatoes.
Grape Escape Reborn with Potatoes
Was it really back in 2007 I blogged about that ! and posted this video of Grape Escape in action.

My favourite things of the whole show though. Firstly was from Revell, it was the Leonardo da Vinci plans made into wooden kits. They have a great look about them and are very cool models. They are wooden but with the edges coloured it makes the 3d model look like the sepia toned sketches from the original gadget guru and inventor.
da Vinci models
Secondly lots of great toys and games, but very little in the way of video games/consoles or handhelds which was a surprise. The toyfair is a very physical product event in London at least. There were inklings of crossover products, obviously Moshi is an online environment but I saw a very interesting approach on the Meccano stand.
Mechatars is a range of robot radio controlled battling bots, that level up as you play with the physical toy. They can then be connected into a unity3d based environment where the levelled up stats are transferred. Playing online levels up too and transfers back to the bot. I loved the fact the world is called the Mechaverse too 🙂 As a cross world principle this has so many ways to build up on the actual implementation and I look forward to seeing how this pans out.
Toyfair is on the next few days, worth a trip across

BTW if you end up on the Lego stand let me know what its like, we would have been allowed in but could not film anything.
Don’t forget to watch The Cool Stuff Collective as of this Saturday 9am ITV

Saturday morning – Look whats on ;)

If you check your TV schedules you may notice The Cool Stuff Collective appearing. This Saturday morning 29th January 9am ITV1. There are numerous repeats during the week to catch up with too.
TV Schedule 29th Jan
I don’t want to spoil any surprises or break any TV style embargoes, but tune in or record it and see a second series arrive on your screens.
***Update the schedule is as follows Saturday ITV1 9:00am , CITV 4:30pm Sunday ITV1 7:55am , CITV 11:30am, Mon CITV 5pm, Fri CITV 5:30pm !

It is moments away – AR extreme

I had to repost this video as I think it is brilliant in its extreme view of Augmented Reality. The extremes of a use of tech and how it impact life are were we start to find the new ideas. The diving into the social web mid tea making and then the final part of user preference is really great.
Of course this is lots of virtual information placed onto a single physical world, but AR is also virtual environment augmentation. Where do we draw the line though?

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

It was posted on IT World and from a tweet by @mmpow

Merging Cool Stuff Collective and Second Life for the BCS

Last night I was invited by the BCS Berkshire branch to give a follow up presentation to my Washing Away Cave Paintings but this time do the pitch in Second Life. It seemed a great time to join some dots. I offered to talk both about the experience and content in Series 1 of The Cool Stuff Collective, and at the same time show some other ways to deliver information in a virtual environment to a mixed audience of new SLers and some very experienced ones.
Also it was a goto time to use Robert Gittin’s Bangor university sim where an auditorium and BCS office is located. Robert is treasurer of the committee that we have with the BCS Animation and Games Development specialist group and a long time fellow metaverse evangelist. He very kindly came along too to chaperone and help what turned out to be quite a large group. Gatherings in SL of 5-6 people are manageable, but once you get to up to 20+ as we did it is good to have more than one person helping everyone.
I was busy talking and presenting so I did not take very many pictures, though in the post event mingle I snapped this one.
For me this was almost a flashback, having been in virtual worlds so long it is refreshing to see new people come and try it. Whilst there is sometimes some embarrassment from new people to an environment it is nice to be able to settle those nerves and show that we are all new to this and there things for anyone to discover, ways to work, things to see that are just as easily spotted by someone new as an old hand.
I opened up with some traditional powerpoint, just a few slides on a single screen. Mostly about the BCSAGD, but primarily it was about the simplest way to present, replicate real life.
I then rezzed a giant Cool Stuff Collective poster, the aim to start filling the virtual space and start the line of conversation about the technology and some anecdotes about the show.
In order to start to be a little more extreme in presentation terms I rezzed a shot of the cool stuff website hovering horizontally across the floor. This page is a grid of thumbnails and labels for each of the pieces of tech I presented on the show. Rather than a static image behind me I made it a phantom object which allowed my to walk around in and on the image. Using the avatar as a pointer and having the image cut through me is a very basic way to break the real world illusion. A reminder that things don’t have to mimic real life.
Here I started talking about Lego universe, and its similarities in building and programming to Second Life.
As I went on I started to use more in world rezzed props. This started when I explained how I rehearsed the very first show items using my own virtual world. I have written about this before but this was the first time I had talked about it in world and live. In order to get the points I needed to make in the piece when talking to Sy I built some small plinths in my local Opensim to represent the key points. I then walked past them in turn making a mental note. It meant when I was talking about it in the concise 3 minutes I had a visual cue of where I should be and what was next in my minds eye. In the pitch last night I started to build some of those plinths live to demonstrate how easy these visual sketches can be. You can see the remnants of that quick live build in the top photo in this post on the left.
I had two other main props, my Parrot AR drone, which was another quick build but a physical item in SL. I rezzed to of these and was then able to lift them up, hover them over the audience (just with edit tools), and then describe how the emergency cut out works on the device and how it drops to the ground. Which I did by dropping into the audience. Again its quick and easy and much more effective when you are telling a story or getting a point across. The other prop was my Kinect in SL, which I built when this was called project natal.
Project Natal SL Style
A nice piece of reuse as I built this back in June 2009 ! Part of the conversation about Kinect was about the rise of the Kinect Hacks and how important it was that people shared what they did and that the web and social media is a powerful force that, when used to share, makes things happen really quickly. This was an excuse to rez the old favourite, the giant hands attached to my avatar and explain and show how that can have a different impact on a pitch.
My final quick prop was about audience participation. I rezzed a physical sphere and kicked it into the audience. As a presenter it is hard to know if people are listening, the visual cues and feedback from an audience is hard to judge, but when you throw a ball into the audience and people start kicking it around it is a very obvious reaction. That is not to say I did not think my audience was engaged, they were, we had some questions both voice and text, but it seems better to get people using their avatars, either doing things that make them look around and cam around, click on things, or in the case of the ball have a kick around.
I finished up on using web pages, with the Cool Stuff Collective website as an example. Of course at this point the older residents of SL pointed out they were using different clients, so I kept that a bit more brief but tried to explain to those new to SL how web on a prim works, and how it can be confusing.
After the official end of the hour lots of people stayed to talk and ask questions, we also formed a BCSAGD group in SL, open to anyone as we are very keen to have more presentations and gatherings and build on the BCS work that Robert has been doing.
I really enjoyed doing this pitch, for me being able to talk both about the technology and gadgets, about the future, whilst referring to the experience of the TV show and at the same time demonstrate some ideas of how to engage people in SL was such a multi dimensional conversation that it really got the adrenalin flowing. I have obviously be enthusing about virtual worlds for years now, but still the spark of human connectedness, the ability to be open and natural whilst still in a quirky virtual environment is fascinating. If you have not tried to demonstrate something in ways other than powerpoint, do on give it a go 🙂

Kaboom, there was supposed to be a Kaboom

For reasons that will become apparent in the fullness of time @andypiper was kind enough to bring his @ARDrone over to Feeding Edge HQ again last night. The aim, investigate a good way to pop balloons with it. It sounds straight forward, get something sharp, but maybe not too sharp (for safety reasons), fly at the balloon and BANG!
In reality this was not the case. That’s not to say its impossible, we did in fact pop some balloons, quite a few actually. Generally though it was a fatal for the Drone. The safety systems to stop the rotors slicing though things cut in and the Drone, quite rightly, fails safe and crashes to the ground. There is usually a bit of a reset after this. The rotors tended to be the most effective at popping balloons. Sharp attachments out the front still allowed a good flying experience, more so than the cocktail sticks we places on the outer edges pointing upwards.

What is amazing is how robust the Drone is when it does hit the floor. The outer protection for the blades works very well and generally it lands flat on its head. There is a cushioning system in there to airbag the poor CPU and connections.
Again a huge thanks to @andypiper for risking his device and thank you too for not crashing into the predlets, though our wall calendar was not so lucky 🙂
We had quite a G33kfest. It is not often anyone comes to Feeding Edge with gadgets that we don’t have. Andy brought his Kindle (which I had reviewed on The Cool Stuff Collective ep 12 but don’t own) and the AR Drone (must get me one of those!). I responded showing him my Midi Rockband guitar attached to the Mac and converted him to the power of 3D TV with gaming 🙂

Want to know about 3D GT5 – head over to Gamepeople

I was recently asked (via twitter initially I should add talking to @GeekDadGamer) if I would be interested in contributing game reviews to the Gamepeople site.
Gamepeople logo
Gamepeople is a site where people review games from a personal perspective and with a niche angle. This perspective is different from the more generic reviews. There are reviews from a family perspective, both from parents and from kids perspective, sports and hobbyist specialists and the column I wrote some guest pieces for, the tech gamer column.
By way of an initial piece, and with the purchase of my 3D tv, it made sense to explore the additional features of Gran Turismo 5 in stereoscopic mode.
Gt5 3d no specs
So here is the resulting article, which makes more sense posted on Gamepeople than here.
It has been a while since I blogged as part of a team and it is good to have a watchful editor to get my wording and grammar tighter.
Following on from that I was challenged to write about the completely different experience that is Double Fine’s Costume Quest on the 360. The technical angle was probably a little less obvious than the 3D of GT5, but the gamecraft and production values, and the back story of having to re-appraise AAA development made for good article fodder.
There should be more to come so I will keep you posted 🙂 You can follow Gamepeople on Twitter and Facebook of course