Monthly Archives: April 2012

Are you into CrowdFunding and 3D Printing?

Back in the second ever Cool Stuff Collective in series 1 we featured a wonderful haptic design device and some exciting software to help anyone use it to model in 3d. It was something that I ended up buying too as I was so impressed.Then the predlets got to use it
Now the project is looking to reach its next level with a crowd funding model to get more support.

Check out the Anarkik3d IndieGoGo project sitting there ready for you to invest.
There is a new website too for yes that is a UK startup for 3d design and printing. The founder is Ann Marie Shillito, an internationally renown designer maker and contemporary jeweller. At Edinburgh College of Art, she instigated and led the original research into the effectiveness of a haptic interface for a 3D modelling package for designer makers. (As her bio say on the website). Ann Marie knows what works and so this makes it a very different modelling packages.
I look forward to printing some things out that I have designed with my Falcon using my reprap once it’s operational:)

But it is just a game…. Variety, Bikes and Dragons

This weekend I finally managed to to my St George impersonation and slay the final Dragon in Skyrim. I have by no means finished the game though, there are many more adventures and places to explore in the game environment. Skyrim is a virtual environment, a huge one. Mountains, rivers, dungeons, castles, towns, heaven and hell. It is populated by all sorts of races and creeds. As a player you really do choose your path, hitting things with swords, axes, or standing back and casting all sorts of spells. All of which level you up as a character. It was a huge undertaking to build this game, its depth and the 100+ hours of interaction make it an epic quest. It becomes what you put into it. Obviously it’s storyline and the experience fits with the medieval sword and sorcery genre. It is Lord of the Rings (In no way associated with the Olympic Rings in case the LCOG brand police are reading this), it is Game of Thrones. (That’s Game, not Games as in Olympic Games etc. ) In case you wonder why I said that read this in the Guardian
Anyway, it has been a deep and enjoyable experience. Very varied within it’s context. Hugely time consuming. That is were I felt I had to bring in the notion of variety. Yes it is just a game, like other forms of entertainment are just books, or just films. It requires a lot to get into and continue it, and unlike many networked games it is a single player experience (generally though that is changing, and the PC version has a Mod kit to build your own pieces).
Just as I was finishing this behemoth of gaming the follow up to Trials HD, called Trials Evolution arrived on Xbox Live. This game cost about £10 as a download, rather than the £45+ of Skyrim. It is “just a motorbike game” Anyone who has played Trials HD, or knows of the old Kickstart game will know it is a fantastic flexible physics puzzler at it’s heart. You control a motorbike, in a side scrolling left to right environment. You balance throttle, brake and leaning forward and backward to try and traverse the terrain as fast as possible. The original was fantastic, infuriating and rewarding in equal measures. This evolution has the same attributes and also some extra variety carried over from the previous game with odd sports challenges. It also has a course constructor. On top of all that it also has head to head online super cross racing. The online experience has a great asynchronous version too. Whilst racing any track you fastest friends times are represented by little social dots (rather than full on ghosts) showing how far behind you are. So playing alone you feel connected.
Where the real surprise is though is that this “it’s just a motorbike game” which stands well enough as it is has an incredibly varied editor. It is not a simple course constructor to just place the odd ramp. No, the things people are creating are 2D top down shooters, FPS games, Table Football(Foosball) and who knows what else will appear. All of these creations are appearing online as part of the games youtube like connection lobby.
In the official trailer you can see some of these pop in, check about 50 seconds in here, almost as a throw away statement!

Giving people tools with which to create, where they can completely turn the original game on its head is very exciting. As with Little Big Planet, Minecraft and alike we are going to see an explosion in ideas. This gets people exploring how to integrate assets, respond to events etc, it is a form of programming and problem solving. It is very exciting!
Makers of the world Go Abberate 🙂

Finally an interesting advert – Gadget Show 360, F1, Second Screens

Last night at 9pm a very innovative ad aired for the new Gadget Show. It relied on an iOS application installed and running ready to go. At 9pm the tv promo started, the jingle ditty at the start cued the application to life to run the same promo advert. The TV was of course a fixed camera, but the app was a full 360 video. Moving the iPad around looking up down left right and behind you could follow the action, and it was perfectly synchronised to the TV advert. So as Jason dashed around the studio you could follow him.
The video was of course preloaded in the app, but it was a very impressive experience. It was a polished example of innovation using both the TV screen and the ever increasingly common iPad.
The video is available on the web here, in the same sort of way the old quicktime VR’s were back in 1998 🙂 It was the linking of the fixed TV showing what you would have seen combined with the physical activity of moving the iPad around whilst held up that made this more engaging than just a 360 video on the web.
Of course this would have been even better taken to the next level. If we were all in the studio too and were aware of one another. Think a virtual world synched to the TV broadcast. Where we have the same sort of control on out view of the system.
The second screen as it is being called is becoming very influential. It has been great being able to watch the Sky coverage of F1 both on the TV and with the app on the iPad letting me look at stats, track positions and in car driver feeds. It is an extension of us sitting here with our wireless enabled laptops, or having moved the desktop PC into the main living area (the previous wave) to be able to look things up, to follow links to add to our enjoyment of a previously passive experience.
It is all a part of blending realities with all the new forms of visualisation and and interaction hardware that we now have available to us. Why restrict us to one screen?

Gadget Show Live 2012 – Press day

Last week I popped along to Gadget Show Live Professional. Which is otherwise known as the press day. It seemed much more spaced out in layout this year compared to last year, yet it also seemed to not have quite so much in despite being across more halls. Being a pro day there is less barracking from people on the booths as really its a rehearsal warm up day. Also the flagship live show is doesn’t run as the team are still putting it together and doing dress rehearsals.
There was nothing that leapt out at me this year, but it may be that I spend so much time with new technology it takes something pretty amazon got get the attention.
What I was pleased to see was the team represented who do all the Gadget show builds and I got to talk to them. very jealous at the Gadget Show TV budget but equally seems the guys were always up against it. Can you just… by tomorrow 🙂
Things like the electric “jet” bike and Jason’s robot martial arts training dummy were on show.
Electric bike
It was also great too see at least one 3d printing company there. Bits from Bytes. So we had a bit of chat about printers and building your own.
Bits from bytes repman
It used to be the case, probably before I started to get to go to such things, that freebies and interesting merchandising ruled the day but all I came back with from the show was a t-shirt for the new Spec Ops game
Spec ops t shirt #gsl2012
I got to play on a few games, the best was the new Dirt game. Which is a bit of a favourite at home. This new game which is called Dirt Showdown. Apparently not Dirt 4. This game is about demolition derby and trashing cars whilst Dirt 4 will be a more serious rally game. Anyway it looked and played great and it’s got cars in it 🙂

The computer museum had a stand, as last year. It is great to see old tech. It is ironic that that was probably a bigger stand than most of the big players. Retro is still in
Retro kit
Of course I could have stayed at home for a touch of retro as I found opening a few old boxes.
A logic 5 and some Dreamcast controllers, and a copy of OS/2 Warp ! Still in its shrink-wrap.
Treasure trove geek style
Anyway at the show I managed to finally pull Scotty away from this uber gaming desk
Scotty falls for a desk
The screen rise out of the desk like Ozzy Osbourne’s TV used raise out of the foot of his bed. It was part of a massive gaming rig with more graphics cards than Dreamworks office!
We headed off our separate ways and I bumped into Jason Bradbury and got to say hi, just after we had been talking 3d printers and haptic tattoos on Twitter. I was in full g33k tshirt from Cool Stuff Collective but it was not a showbiz luvvie moment 🙂
Anyway, it was a good show, but it was showing the recession was in effect I think. You might aswell look at the bustling film I made from last years. This year just didn’t really warrant the vid.

Are you a Han or are you a Muppet? – Game crossovers

It seems the interwebs are awash with the horror of a much revered franchise, Star Wars, over stepping the mark of good taste and decency with respect to its characters. The recent Kinect Star Wars appears to not just be the light sabre and force push gestures that fans were looking for, but instead has thrown in some dancing sections where you get to boogie on down with Han Solo and the Princess.

After the backlash of the recut Darth Vader “Nooooooo!” moment and the amazingly tacky Vodafone Yoda adverts, combined with PC World representing the Evil empire it seems that nothing is sacred in Star Wars anymore.
It is easy to get po faced about the seriousness of a beloved icon that many of us grew up with, I was 10 in 1977 when Star Wars came out so it, along with Star Trek and Blakes 7 shaped what I do. I have fond memories of the characters and of the science. Games and games marketing has often had bad film tie ins, yet Star Wars has generally had a good run. The Star Wars lego games in particular would at first seem a disruptive cash in but they played more to playfulness of recreating the Star Wars universe as we all did after we had seen it for the first time and played Jedi. They are tongue in cheek because they are outside the actual virtual reality of Star Wars. The video above though is aiming to be photo realistic, not a lampoon and, along with Yodafone take something away from a cherished experience that then gets tainted with a cashing in bad taste.
For once I decided not to pre-order a game and left Star Wars Kinect for another day. I had heard tales of the content and style and I thought do I actually want to pay for the privilege of being annoyed by how a game does not fit.
This is an example of the sort of crossover that we often talk about not doing in Virtual worlds. Whilst people want content from place x in place y, unified avatar logins etc they really can mess things up for everyone culturally.
A crossover that does work is Little Big Planet Muppets. In a way this is like Star Wars Lego in that it is a cartoon lampoon of the muppets. Of course the Muppets are themselves cartoon lampoons so it manages to re-enforce the fun that is the Muppets. They are comedy characters that are based around odd things happening. Yoda was of course heavily related to the Muppets too. I think though that along with not doing appalling film tie ins of films there should be a responsibility to a brand to not overdo its game ripping off. It used to be the case that light sabres were not allowed in gamer controlled characters as George Lucas held them up as a higher order device that you needed to be a real Jedi to wield. That may have been to far the other way, but it seems he has given up and is just raking it in now which is such a pity.

As you can see above this is great fun, a fantastic blend of the muppet look and the homemade Little Big Planet materials.
I can’t wait to see a remix of this brilliant song done as “Are you a Han or are you a Muppet”

Teaching Programming and Tech at School – Can I?

We are seeing more and more good articles and the beginning of some motion towards us being able to teach kids programming and related technical skills in school. Things such as this article from the guardian. We see role model comments and I was also doing my bit by introducing all sorts of accessible future tech on kids TV.
However I thought I would look at me doing a bit more, I have already signed up as a STEMnet ambassador and I do a lot of talks for people. People have often suggested and commented I would make a good teacher. So I thought with all this need for experience, technical awareness, future thinking I would see what options there might be for me to move into teaching.
Surely, all this talk of closer links to industry, bringing experience into the classroom etc would be there on the home page of the Department for Education Teaching Agency?

But no 🙁 Good encouragement to be a Maths teacher, A physics teacher, chemistry or Modern Foreign Languages (MFL). All good subjects. Also active encouragement to convert to teaching from the armed forces.
Nothing about the business of powering and using technology.
Now most subjects do need to use tech so it could be excused as all this will be part of the entirety. However the specifics of computer science are not represented well or at all.
So which teachers are going to be the ones showing kids about open source projects, online etiquette, contributing to projects, building hardware with arduino, rasperry Pi, creating virtual worlds with OpenSim, games design, virtual good markets, social implications of computing etc…. Who are the teachers who are helping the next generation of makers with 3d printers?
I am sure it will come, but right now it is not there in any official capacity. Should I try and create it ? or wait until called? Maybe I need to send someone a Fax to ask?

6 years in Second Life – Rez Day again – Constant change

Another year passes! Certain milestones in life act as reflective placeholders. When I started work full time in 1990 it would be unlikely to be celebrating, or even mentioning that you had been with an online service for any period of time. Computer systems were tools, things that you happened to use. You did not commemorate 2 years since your first email. However that was before we started to interact and have very deep experiences online. Interacting directly with other people, with personas, with environments. So it is now 6 years on I am able to happily shout that its my 6th birthday there.
A lot has also changed out there too. For instance, this birthday snap was taken in Second Life, but then posted to the Second Life personal web profiles, then curated (the new word for shared bookmarking 🙂 ) on Pinterest. Where it is then disseminated to both twitter and Facebook. Our virtual worlds were never really supposed to be isolated islands in the digital landscape, despite the use of islands to represent server space in this particular metaverse. It was always about integration. The integration of our thoughts and ideas with one another, mediated by rich digital channels.

Source: via Ian on Pinterest

Oh it is fun too despite that elaborate description 🙂
These environments, and the ones they evolve into and the new ones that get created are offering us richer and richer ways to meld our minds. Of course in the meantime we have to let everyone evolve their own digital persona through twitter, Facebook and now curation. Some forms of interaction become fire and forget, whilst others rely on conversation and personality. The great thing is we have lots of options, not one tool to communicate. Long may confusion reign. Not least so I can help people make sense of it as I find out for myself where this all goes. Constant change continues.