Monthly Archives: January 2012

People used to shun games now they ‘tion them

This title People used to shun games now they ‘tion them is something I tweeted to @TheKevinDent when he was riffing on the use of games being referred to as gamification by adding fication to common task was doing. I was joining in identifying that there is a rush towards games being acceptable, yet at the same time treated as a bandwagon. For some people the very idea that you can just slap a game in the process will solve their inadequacies of product, sales, management, HR policy etc continues to put games down as somehow an add on and not a integral part of life. The same happens with technology, anyone who is a techie will know how ever expert they get, however they diversify at some point they will be handed a broken phone or laptop by someone not skilled in the art and asked to fix it to prove themselves. Very few other professions (with the exception of being a comedian) are you asked to perform some party trick to prove you know what you are doing in this way. You don’t sit at a table with a banker and say oh go on just bank will you.
The commodity of games is being asked in some inappropriate places to “go on tell us a joke and make us laugh”. However, I am not totally against gamification as is does herald a moving on in understanding of something that was very much a quirky area for those of us who were early adopters.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Commodore 64, I still have mine as you can see above. The Independent had a good article on Flight of the Commodore: How the iconic computer led to a golden age of geeks and to see things like attack of the mutant camels getting a mention once again certainly took me back to a magical time. Don’t get me wrong loading from a tape deck was a right pain, the games were simple yet elegant, but we did have that direct connection with the environment to be able to make new things. This, and the zx81 I had before shaped who I was to become and how my career, however bizarre, has evolved. Hence great fondness, and also a willingness to let another generation grow and learn from that.
There are some elements to what you might call gamification, that diverge from just adding badges to things. (I still maintain business is a game anyway, people use piles of money and positions on the corporate ladder to measure success or failure).
In many of my talks now I end up in this sort of territory and seems to boil down to the fact that games are not just an end product of a manufacturing process. In the c64 days people wrote games, we loaded them and played them, or we wrote our own. There was not the capacity to use an existing game as a platform for something else.

Playing games was the thing that people shunned. Play being regarded as a frivolous lack of work. That of course can still be the case but we know with the advances in the sort of games that exists that playing and rehearsing, experiencing things virtually all add to our human experience.

For the more serious minded, building games. It is strange that many computer scientists and software engineers still think that because the end product is colourful and things moves and lights flash that the level of engineering in games is not worthy. That is of course utter tosh. It is totally driven by the view of an end user and not liking the end product for whatever reason, usually few of exhibiting sub standard performance in front of someone skilled in the game. It is the path of building games that let us excite the next generation of software engineers. Kids play games and they DONT think they are a wast of time and pointless. i.e. they are the same as we were in the 80’s on our c64, “wow that’s cool I wish I could do that”

Luckily the world has also evolved to allow us to not just be either a player of a game or a builder of a game. Tools, games styles, application of game technology have provided all sorts of toolkits in games that let anyone create things, share things and make things happen. Some of these are just simple customisations, the sort that lend themselves to brand involvement (let me were my Nike tshirt in the game). Others are expressions of deeper creativity, painting cars in Forza4. There are even the much deeper technical challenges, building complex logic machines in Little Big Planet to create game levels. It is these elements that really look like the future of games in places where games would not normally tread, probably more so than badges and loyalty points. It is about deep engagement with ideas, brands, people etc across multiple places and platforms including the physical world. It is also very much about people being able to adjust build and mash together as they see fit.

It is Maker Culture

So it is good that the future for games is good, it is woven into society and will help us level up our kids if we think about it and use them wisely. (Oh and still enjoy a good frivolous play aswell!)

Unity Networking – Techie info

I have been diving into Unity3d multiplayer again. Whilst previous attempts I was using a socket server I had ignored the simplicity of the Peer to Peer networking that Unity can do to make life much easier to prototype things.
The way this works is that unity3d provide a broker a.k.a a Master Server which acts as a lobby to allow a network game to show up and a client to connect to it. Once that connection is established through some very simple properties and through the use of RPC (Remote Procedure Calls) you are able to make things happen on each client.
For a more robust MMO solution there are things like Photon however to get into what it means to create a distributed system its worth just using the basics to start.
I am not going to go over the lobby essentials as that is in various other network tutorials but just wanted to share the simplicity of the network synchronisation.
When each person gets their version of the unity scene for the game the one that initiated the network connection is regarded as the server all the others that connect are clients, but they are all running the same code.
This is where some confusion comes in, but Network.isServer is a property that helps you decide on whose the boss.
Any of the clients or server is able to create an object with a special version of “Instantiate”. This is used to create an instance of a fully functioning object (or prefab) in a scene. If that prefab is bestowed with the special component Network View is is then able to be created with Network.Instantiate. The component is at the bottom of this picture. How the data flows and which property to inspect is configurable.

What that does is make the object appear on the creating client, but it also messages all the other clients(and server) to create the same prefab (as they are running the same code anyway). Each of these objects is able to have a property or set of properties to then keep updating. Typically this is something like the objects position and orientation (transform). If the owner of the object changes where it is, the changes are rippled to each of the other clients without any further effort. Magic.
This helps provide some interesting design choices in the distribution of responsibility. I was building a generic playing card deck and I started with each client being responsible for instantiating their cards as that is how it feels it should work. However it quickly became more obvious that the one client (i.e. the Server) should be in control of the deck. This sounds obvious, but maybe it is isn’t always the case. The Server instantiates all cards and those ripple to all clients (including itself). Ownership of the cards for the game is then maintained by my own collections, despite the attraction of .isMine property on objects. Now other objects and types of interaction will be better distributed more equally. Either way you end up having to send other messages back and forth. Whilst unity3d will keep track of transforms your have other data to send and synchronise.
Once an object has a network instance you can call functions on scripts on those objects wherever they are on which ever client using networkView.RPC().
This lets you specify the function name to call the values to send and more interestingly an RPC mode. This means that you can call the function on all networks instances or every other network instance other than this one clients version etc.
Functions are made available on the script with a simple extra tag in c# (works in .js in a similar way)
void setvalue( int myval) {
cardval = myval;


So before you know it you have state synchronised objects across a network and you can concentrate on what and why they exists. It is certainly somewhere to start if you are not used to these sort of distributed problems.

Join in NOW on government future of ICT plans

There is currently a government consultation on the future of ICT open to all to comment on. It is here. There is an online form to fill in with just 4 pages.
Any of you concerned with the future of computer science and technology education in the UK really should just fill this in firstly as an individual, but also try to get official responses from your organisations and employers.
All the comments do add to the weight of concern we all have.
My response was mainly that this is about people being able to show how the technology works, using easily accessible resources, not about a huge IT spending requirement. It is the passion of the tech industry, maker culture and experiences professionals that will make the difference. Eventually that will mean more technology and science related teaching.
It turned out I was response number 22 so I seem to have got in early. I would be interested to see what the numbers are like as this is something almost everyone I know in the tech and games industry feels very strongly about. So lets try and add to the weight of the argument with some positive suggestions to the government.
(The BCS is heavily involved hence us doing it as individuals as well, just mention you are BCS or IET, STEMnet Advisor etc in the form)
I will be running for office before you know it ๐Ÿ™‚

This year will be printed – 2012 fabricaneur

My journey deeper into the RepRap 3d printers is continuing at a pace. This is good as it is about 14 years since I “quite fancied getting one” but didn’t have a spare ยฃ200,000 and the company I worked for couldn’t quite see the point, which at the time was fair enough.
It was in 2006 when I nearly spent a few thousand on one, but bought Second Life islands instead.
Now it is all merging, as predicted. The 3d design of virtual worlds and the tools around those provide a great distribution mechanism for content to be printed. It’s not all completely straightforward but in this Maker Culture we only need a few bits that hook together to put a workable solution in place for most things.
After doing the 3d printing piece on Cool Stuff Collective I said to Malcolm Napier I was up for joining in his Thames Valley RepRap User Group (TVRRUG) as they were gathering a group of people to mass buy and tweak the RepRap Prusa model. The cost of this being well below any other way of doing this, in the hundreds. Whilst its a bit of a trek to go to the meetings (part of this is about socialising the tech) there are plenty of online ways to share. That of course is the point and where being a metaverse evangelist fits in.
I picked up the first parts of the kit from Malcolm last Friday. Then spent a few nights with spanners, youtube and a hammer putting together the first part of the kit. I am primarily a software person, mechanical engineering has never been my strong point, though electronics, soldering etc is or was. So I figured that if I applied myself and got the right tools, with the support of TVRRUG I would be able to make this work.
So it started as a cardboard box of bits. The main structural pieces are metal rods, joints, angles and moving parts have been printed on a reprap (which is the point of the design to self replicate)
box of bits for reprap
Its gives you a bit of a oh heck where do I start moment as you unbox.
Ready to start -reprap
However, the prusa video explanations get you going very quickly. The fixed camera position and clear audio really helps. There is text to read and fall back to but I found the audio and visual worked just fine.
Once the first parts went together…. we were away
First parts together reprap
The end triangular structure soon took shape
Duplicated frame part 2 reprap
Bearings and motor holders attached to cross beams, washers all over the place
Bearing/Motor y plate reprap
Next the frame started to take its tentative steps to standing upright.
Partial frame - reprap
By this stage I realised (and was also being told by the instructions) that getting the measurements correct and squaring off the frame was very important.
RepRap Frame
It is around this time my software mind thinks… we can get the basics going and revisit performance and tweak it later, but instead an engineering mind thought, for once, no! get the tools measure it properly with verniers callipers and make this thing work as close as possible, and keep revisiting this as bits are added.
(There are two types of good software developer. The precise engineer who builds exactly to spec, very much needed skill and the other sort that builds for flexibility, using the spec as a guideline. Both skills complement one another and you have to know when to do each. I am not suggesting software is a giant bodge, though in many case it may well be)
Having got the frame it was then very exciting to put on the plywood moving platform which has tube bearings. It is here that using tool to make it as accurate as possible (i.e. not a quick look with a tape measure) seems to have paid off. I did have to have a couple of goes and strip this bit down but now have a relatively smooth running platform.
RepRap Frame
Moving platform 1st axis
Moving platform
By this time I was on the specific instructions by TVRRUG as we have a slightly wider machine and some parts have been modified, which is the nature of all open source development including mechanical ones.
Last night was the final pieces of this bit of jigsaw with the vertical drive stepper motors the the rods that that lift up and down
First motor
There was a tiny bit of adjustment needed again to make sure things were squared off and equal as putting the final rods for the x axis showed there was a millimetre or so of pushing needed to get the last screw in place. However I think the care in the early stages paid off. I may still have to get more accurate but it feels right, looks right and doesn’t wobble ๐Ÿ™‚
End of stage 2 build
So there is it, ready and waiting for the user groups next batch of pieces. Having built one to this stage it would make building another considerably easier.
As with all these things it is good to doing things, to be hands on and not just talk about them. Of course there is a way to go yet but I hope in the not too distant future I can start exploring some of the ways we get things to print. After all I have the haptic device, virtual worlds, minecraft etc all generating the right content.
So I will become a fully fledged fabricaneur. Making things as a business.
Whilst on the subject of 3d printing I also popped along to the Aram Gallery 110 Drury lane. A furniture shop that has a 3d printing exhibition running for a few weeks on its 3rd floor. This is called Send to Print / Print to Send
It had all sorts of examples of 3d printing. It was interesting hearing the comments of some of the other visitors as they tried to figure out the impact of all this. I tried not to dive into the conversations and enthuse at them ๐Ÿ™‚

The full set of pictures is here
I was really pleased to see the examples of solar sintering there form the self contained desert machine by Markus Kayser

His video of this experimental art form was going down rather well earlier in the year.
The gallery was showing a number of videos including this one of the work.
They also had a fully completed reprap there, a slightly different model to mine but great to see one close up again and take the time to look at it, with a more experience eye onto its construction.

A concerned citizen of the web – SOPA? PIPA? – Blackout time

Firstly, I do not condone piracy, theft, unfair use of others work. However, I really am concerned that the gains we have made, and continue to make, in human communication online are going to be impacted by laws made in individual influential countries, like the US seeking to restrict some behaviour they regard as wrong.
There will be all sorts of political agendas at work with SOPA and PIPA in the US, but as we know country boundaries and country interests are eroded by the internet. Everything is local now. Passing laws, or attempting to that give well legally well represented organisations the power to block other “threatening” groups may seem to make sense in downloading movies, or music but the pattern does, and will apply to other areas. These laws will not stay in the areas they are intended. The vested interests of a few will have a wide reaching impact.
My personal experience in this is of the already draconian DMCA takedowns that can occur. Whilst officially working at a sports event I posted a video on youtube of the venue as part of a blog post. Somewhere one of the media partners had an intern trawling the internet for any references to the sports event and video of it. The rules being that no live play should be put on the web. In my video the venue was not even open. Yet the large company issued a DMCA takedown to google which caused the video to instantly be blocked. I did of course have the ability to try and get it back, this involved sending faxes, letters, emails etc to Youtube. It then required the other organisation to be bothered to acknowledge that. They were in the next door office, so I went and personally told them. However… the people spotting the infringements were not empowered to undo them. So it took weeks for the video to return. Now that example is just 1 simple mistake on 1 simple video but even it was a huge company with a lot of lawyers hitting one person without them. Imagine if that had led to the knock on of also crippling all my websites or my business, for however short period of time whilst an “appeal” occurred.
These control acts do nothing more than put everyone in jail cells so that no crimes are committed. It is not acceptable. Again I point out that this video incident did not matter, it was inconsequential against outing tyrants, helping the poor, improving the lives of disadvantaged people. Yet it was also not actually breaking any laws yet the law was applied. If it can happen here it can happen to anything. It will be abused, it will be misused and we will all suffer for it.
So like many much bigger sites this site will be going dark on 18th January 2012. The irony of self censoring will of course be lost on the passionate followers of this sort of restriction. We do though have do stand up against it.
There is more here in this video on what this is all about.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Car advertising the virtual way – Hyundai Veloster

Way back in the early days of the web I worked on, amongst other things, the Vauxhall car website. This was on an off for several years (we worked on multiple accounts in the early days). This was around 1997, a time when many of the things we wanted to do were not technically possible, or the web had not quite got where it needed to go. It was also at a time of CD-ROM experiences on magazines as opposed to downloads.You can see the sort of things that team was being done in 1996 here there were a number of advanced applications, traffic reports, screen savers and a touring car site, links to videos, later there were 360 quick times of the cars. It evolved in the next few years, around 98/99 into a personalised web site with login and buying capabilities and car configurations. These sorts of sites are common place now and so it is expected to be able to look at things online. Something we had all wanted to do was put the cars in a virtual experience, or game so you could drive them. At the time there were games like TOCA for touring cars so we could drive Vectra’s around, in the same livery as the touring car mini site we used. There was of course no link between the game, us and the car manufacturer, nor really the ability to make that happen. After all it was only a game, or only a website ๐Ÿ˜‰
Now though the whorl has changed and this is a prime example. As a free download in the excellent Xbox driving experience Forza4 Hyundai has released a drivable, and explorable version of its new car the Veloster, both in road and race versions.

So this is really state of the art advertising. The car models are well known for their accuracy and quality in Forza. The ability to drive and experience the car inside and out, yet delivered for free makes this a very interesting experience. It doesn’t require the car manufacture to be a games developer, the game is a channel. Many people with Forza, probably everyone will at least download it as its free, new cars in game are exciting. Game challenges will pop up that are car specific too. Photos, videos etc will be created and distributed by fans online.
The physical and virtual world start to blend even more. It’s gaming but not gaming at the same time.

The future of tech education – ICT upgrades to open source

In the final show of Cool Stuff Collective series 3 I put forward my wish for 2012, which actually occurs at 20:12 in the show that ICT in schools needed a revamp (there a few days left before this rotates from the player, I don’t have the rights to youtube it AFIAK yet). Now I am not the first person to say this about ICT, and I was adding to the many voices both of the various tech industries, reports to government UPDATE* The Royal Society have just release a report too here* and those teachers bypassing some of the ICT curriculum to get kids actually skilled in computer science and building with technology. Yesterday the government minister for education Michael Gove gave a public speech at the BETT education conference that indicated that all the pressure was working. Admitting that ICT was not working, was boring the kids and was leading to a crippling loss of hi tech skills in the UK.
There is a full transcript of what was said here and of course it features general political sound bites. yet the core of it is positive as far as I can see.
Two things stood out for me.
1.”Thatโ€™s why, rather than focusing on hardware or procurement, we are investing in training individuals. We need to improve the training of teachers so that they have the skills and knowledge they need to make the most of the opportunities ahead.”
2. “An open-source curriculum

Advances in technology should also make us think about the broader school curriculum in a new way.

In an open-source world, why should we accept that a curriculum is a single, static document? A statement of priorities frozen in time; a blunt instrument landing with a thunk on teachersโ€™ desks and updated only centrally and only infrequently?

In ICT, for example, schools are already leading the way when it comes to using educational technology in new and exciting ways โ€“ and theyโ€™re doing it in spite of the existing ICT curriculum, not because of it.

The essential requirements of the National Curriculum need to be specified in law, but perhaps we could use technology creatively to help us develop that content. And beyond the new, slimmed down National Curriculum, we need to consider how we can take a wiki, collaborative approach to developing new curriculum materials; using technological platforms to their full advantage in creating something far more sophisticated than anything previously available.”

1. Is about people, teaching teachers, industry getting involved to help and
2. is an amazing alteration in the view that the processes and interactions are open source as much as the actual technology itself. Something many of us in the emerging tech and open source world already know and share.

It could be seen as dropping responsibility for ICT but I think this will work out, as most collaborative ventures as activists with clear positive ideas making changes and that will naturally drag everyone along.

As you know I try and not just talk about things but do take a bite out of technology so you don’t have too and this has all coincided with some observations and activities by my kids, aka the predlets. Predlet 1.0 is 8, Predlet 2.0 is 5 (just about). Yesterday Predlet 1.0 was not well in the morning so ended up not going to school. Rather than veg out in front of the TV I put minecraft on for her. Yes a game, but also with some other properties.
With a few hours of focus she got to do things other than just build blocks. She tried survival/crafting mode for a while and learned how hard it was to manage resources, this made her appreciate the open world of creative mode where all the blocks and resources are available to you all the more. Having switched to creative mode she started to explore the functioning blocks. Minecraft has mechanical and electrical components in it. Very soon there were switches and pressure plates opening and closing doors, mine carts propelled by red ore repeaters on rails, some needing more power to go up hill etc.
When Predlet 2.0 came home from school he was keen to join in so it was time to get computers running and a local minecraft server. This then meant the two of them were in their own virtual world, together. Where the actions of one impacted the other. They talked about it a lot and started to build a house. This was a collaborative build in a location they felt was best for the house. By a river near some mountains with a lush forest around it. 1.0 the showed 2.0 how the switches and mechanisms worked on doors.
This is the result. Viewed from my minecraft as I too can attach to our server and see how things are getting on.

Here there is a pressure plate in front of and behind the door to “automate it”
The small room has a bed each and also notice a bookcase as books are important

Whilst running this multiplayer setup across our network there was a crash. I was on a call so tech support was closed for 30 mins. They used their initiative and got the server going again, though were foiled by passwords on the clients, so instead switched to offline play on their own individual worlds until I was free.
Now this may not be a regular lesson, I am not a teacher. Yet this covered an awful lot of ground.
a)In world they were moving around in 3d space, aware of one another. There were creating and removing 3d block objects, choosing from inventories. So the mechanics of a metaverse, just like being in Second Life or OpenSim were in full use.
b)They were collaborating on a single project, dividing the tasks up, one did the walls whilst the other did the floor.
c)They chose a location near water and other resources, which to all intents and purposes is a geography lesson!
d)They shared how to start to build machinery, basic physics and mechanics and to some degree electronics, and implemented those together.
e)When there was a tech failure they attempted to resolve it, understood there was a server component that was brokering the 2 clients. When that did not work they worked out a fall back resolution. They now also are starting to ask about general systems management and how interconnected processes need to be kept running.
f)They enjoyed it immensely.

For me seeing a multiplay sandbox creative environment like this running is yet more of the same that we had with Second Life back in 2006 when we started to use the environment to communicate and share ideas. Back then we wanted our own servers for privacy and control. That spun out into things like Opensim which exists today. The pattern is the same with minecraft though it has more of a game feel and reason for existing, yet this creative mode becomes about building. Why build? well answers a) to f) above should be a good reason.

We are obviously a tech g33k family, and social exclusion from technology does worry me. However… put this sort of thing in schools to get kids interested in the first place? Those that like sys admin will gravitate towards the power of running servers. Those with a design eye will build interesting things, the engineers will make machines and understand cause and effect. Then of course there is the growth of 3d printing, the digital things can also become real products. Online social skills and etiquette will grow. It does not have to be minecraft, there are lots of ways to do this. It does not even have to be a specific tailored experience.

These things are there, available, not science fiction. There are also those of us out here ready to help because we have tried some things out. So the future looks bright doesn’t it?

Another virtuous loop in 3d printing/metaverses

It is a few years back now that we started to see applications that would print our digital 3d designs form Second Life out into physical form. Now the current king of user generated content in a 3d multi user virtual world toolkit/game (metaverse) – Minecraft, is getting the same treatment.
Eric Haines has created an open source package to help go from the digital blocks of Minecraft to a file format suitable for 3d printing.

Whilst there is a pursuit of mesh reality in Second Life, smooth curves flowing lines Minecraft’s charm is that everything looks blocky, but you can still be creative in the use of those blocks and colours. (i.e. there is a prim and its a cube (there are a few extra shapes ๐Ÿ™‚ ). It is so far way from the uncanny valley, yet it is actually full of valleys in its digital representations.
What I think is great is that its the same cycle as in 2006, in 2011/12 but with even more buy in at the game level, and lots of education uses. Plus this time around we have services like Shapeways to print with.
More please ๐Ÿ™‚

Cory Doctorow warns DRM is just a mini boss to defeat

It should be no surprise that Cory Doctorow has thought this all through but in his recent presentation at 28c3 he talked about The Coming War on General Computation – The copyright war was just the beginning. What was interesting is that it was based on extrapolating the current war on copy protection, DRM and the film and music industry attempting to control how and what we see and hear based on the use of copyright. I is speech he points out that this is almost an minute replica of what is going to happen to the whole of society that far out weighs anything as insignificant as whether a song is copied or not.

There is a transcribed version here too
The premise is that of control. Those wanting to control how or what you do with something versus you wishing to use it how you want. He points out that appliances are often restricted computers. The computer can do everything, but it is not allowed to by root kits or other mechanisms that stop that particular computer doing what it could do.
You could view this as a simple case of buying the thing you want to do the thing you want. Processes that you do not want to be running on your appliance are outside your control, for your own good. Which of course may mean its just easier to use, or that you are being manipulated either financially at first or politically as a regime seeks to stop you doing things it considers detrimental to its existence.
So it seems we trade freedom for convenience. At some point that could come back to remove any freedom to trade?
The current arguments over SOPA are another escalation in the copyright wars. The internet is being looked at as something that needs filters and controls by those who need to filter and control. In doing that it breaks the internet. It threatens open source development (which of course has always threatened large corporate entities), it threatens creative expression (which of course can point fingers, be satirical and root out hypocrisy) the list goes on. Yet is it there to stop a few people stealing some things that maybe are not worth being stolen?
That is not to say there is not a problem with real thrift and real criminality that happens to occur on the internet and computers in general, but…. do we lock up everyone in jail so no-one commits any crimes?
There was a particularly good tale of unintended consequences, which is really what happens with all this sort of regulation and control, it may be well meaning to start with but messes things up.
From the transcript (CC-BY Joshua Wise)
[[931.2]] This kind of superficial resemblance and underlying divergence happens in other engineering contexts. I’ve a friend who was once a senior executive at a big consumer packaged goods company who told me about what happened when the marketing department told the engineers that they’d thought up a great idea for detergent: from now on, they were going to make detergent that made your clothes newer every time you washed them! Well after the engineers had tried unsuccessfully to convey the concept of “entropy” to the marketing department [audience laughs], they arrived at another solution — “solution” — they’d develop a detergent that used enzymes that attacked loose fiber ends, the kind that you get with broken fibers that make your clothes look old. So every time you washed your clothes in the detergent, they would look newer. But that was because the detergent was literally digesting your clothes! Using it would literally cause your clothes to dissolve in the washing machine! This was the opposite of making clothes newer; instead, you were artificially aging your clothes every time you washed them, and as the user, the more you deployed the “solution”, the more drastic your measures had to be to keep your clothes up to date — you actually had to go buy new clothes because the old ones fell apart.

It was also this piece about hearing aids that struck a chord (again CC-BY Joshua Wise)
[[1627.8]] As a member of the Walkman generation, I have made peace with the fact that I will require a hearing aid long before I die, and of course, it won’t be a hearing aid, it will be a computer I put in my body. So when I get into a car — a computer I put my body into — with my hearing aid — a computer I put inside my body — I want to know that these technologies are not designed to keep secrets from me, and to prevent me from terminating processes on them that work against my interests. [vigorous applause from audience] Thank you.

This was because a family member recently went to have a hearing exam and in that the doctor “upgraded” the existing hearing aid to work on the audio loop facility that you have in banks and cinemas. It seemed strange that this feature, which already existed, had not been enabled by default? It makes you wonder what else is in that device or any other?

So next time you have a copyright argument, as Cory says, think of this a the mini boss towards the end of the level that we get to practice on before the mega boss at the end.

Use the Force (feedback) – Haptic Driving

For christmas I got the wonderful new Mad Catz Force feedback steering wheel and pedals for the xbox 360. You have to be careful buying steering wheels as many of them just regular controllers, i.e. the haptic feedback from them is merely a rumble.
Mad catz FFB wheel
This wheel (like the discontinued microsoft one before it and along with the very expensive other ones exploits the fact that the physics models in games are accurate enough to generate forces back out to devices. When you drive a real car different surfaces and different speeds generate a different load and feel on your control of the car. A force feedback wheel emulate some of that. The subtlety of such control may not be important for many gamers but for sheer enjoyment of car racing of any sort it really is a must.
Dirt 3 generates some amazing violent ruts and bumps as you hammer through the rally terrain, F1 2011 generates load on the corners and vibration in the dirty air of the cars in front and Forza 4 becomes an even more sublime experience.
Force feedback wheel
Another key element is the separation of control of speed and braking (with your feet), which pedals allow a more obvious analogue travel, but even more important is the gear changing. Whilst I love driving games I can never really be bothered with manual gear changes on the joypads. This wheel has both flappy paddle and an interchangeable left or right gearstick. The gears are sequential, something most of us don’t have in cars but that works great in games.
This separation of control allows you to leave a car in higher (or lower) gear to control traction with the accelerator. In the higher end cars that spin out at moments notice driving with the gears can help find the balance.
Whilst sat on a sofa is not a recaro seat, and other things rare missing, actual speed and danger, lateral and vertical movement, it still elevates the experience.
I found my lap times dropped initially, but as I switched on my mental map of the joypad and patched in my driving brain they started to increase. I shaved seconds already from the excellent “star in a reasonably priced car” rivals challenge on Forza 4.
Now I have driven various fast car experiences, a bit of rally too and of course the higher end simulators like Pure Tech that we visited in series 2 of Cool Stuff Collective and I can say that this generation of console and force feedback wheel are pretty stunning, exciting and enjoyable.
We have of course had this sort of tech for ages, the PC fraternity have a dirty of controls. I had a sidewinder stick in the 90’s. However if tech gets more accessible and the games designers take account of it, or the engines do that for them, then some of our gaming experiences will be elevated even further.
The more the digital becomes physical and breaks that plane of the screen, distributes into real life the better.