This week saw an update (a very quick to load one I should add) to the Xbox Live experience on the 360. As reported in virtual world news virtual goods are on the rise.
One of the key elements is that the avatars now have more than the free set of clothes to pick from, but instead have a range of items from 80 mspoints to 320 mspoints to adorn your representative online. For those of you who have not seen the 360 dashboard your friedns and contacts are always visible in avatar form as an integral part of the experience. When you play certain new games like 1 vs 100 the avatar is your representative in that environment. It is very much a blend of mii and ps3 home, but it is intriguing.
I thought I should try and buy a virtual item, though I kept it simple with this very cheap t-shirt. 50p or so I think it worked out as. As I have commented before these virtual items are the same principle as buying a mobile phone ringtone, except in this case you cant easily make them yourself.
Apparently some games will now be dishing out avatar kit. The problem comes from whether you feel you need a constant churn of looks or if you are happy to be recognised in some way shape or form. As some of the things are props rather than clothes this helps that problem go away, buying a light saber, a football or a chicken with a pulley (yes there is one) all augment your current look without altering it too much. Maybe one day there will be a proper predator look with the games in the pipeline. Sign me up for one of those please!
So a few million people spending a few pounds each. That seems a reasonable business model?
This just turned up on my twitter stream (via @jefftippett) it was reported in Fast Company (well worth a look at that article) It is obviously amazing, the pictures and subtitles say everything really.
Using technology of various sorts to provide inpuo to, and get output from a holographic display. Another glimpse of the future made real.
Hence business is about games? This does not mean that business is about any highly structured rules based board game like monopoly, nor does it mean that it is about a counterstrike mission to capture a flag, though all of these do apply in some context to business. Instead it could be said that business is about the politics of people knowing one another a little better, for some that is to get the best form one another, for others it is to get the drop on someone and exploit a weakness.
In my move from intrapreneur to entrepreneur I am of course trying to understand which game it is that we are all playing. My observation is that it really is not any different either in or outside a large organization from the types of games that you play in order to get things done.
Interestingly a recent piece from Gamasutra at casual connect brought out some themes from a piece by Playdom VP of Game Design Steve Meretzky and Executive Producer David Rohrl, along with Hit Detection founder N’Gai Croal. This was of course to try and help people understand where social games fit into the landscape of the games industry. I fully agree with the trends identified in the piece, but I though I would apply these not to social games in AAA games industry, but to business as a game.
Trend 1: Virtual Worlds
Any organization of people, a.k.a. a corporate, is a really a virtual world. It has boundaries, access controls, terms of service. Metaverses help highlight this as people gather and form other corporate structures such as guilds.
Trend 2: Customization and Personalization
Individuals in a business all strive to either blend in or differentiate themselves, all businesses try to do the same in their market place.
Trend 3: Collections & Wish Lists
Aspirations of collecting rank, awards, accolades, prizes, end of year ratings all sit in regular business.
Trend 4: System Simulators
In games this applies to feeling some mastery over something other than blind luck. Being part of an system and seeing the impact of small adjustments is really the payoff.
Trend 5: Narrative
Established businesses trade on their brand, their reputation and what is means to engage with them. Companies place one another in a pecking order and treat competitors as the bad guys. This is all part of the story of business.
Trend 6: Making Missions More Interesting
Motivation for a team is important. Boredom and a feeling of worthless activity does not help a business grow. Making work interesting and challenging will always get the best from people.
Trend 7: Gift Invites
Come join our organization, as an employee or as a customer. We see this with all sorts of incentives to attract people to business. Vouchers, special deals, sales etc. all fit into gift invites.
Trend 8: Donations as Revenue
In many businesses it is regarded as “professional” when a salaried employee to invest more time and effort than is contracted to help the business. Asking customers for feedback, even with a potential prize for an answer, is another donation to a company.
Trend 9: New Horizons in Virtual Goods
I do not see any difference between a real and virtual good or product. A business has to provide something people value. If that is software, consulting, digital media or a car all business looks for new horizons for products.
Trend 10. Using Friends’ Gameplay Data
This would appear to fit with the old adage it’s not what you know but who you know. In all business relationships you will hear people refer to what others have done and where they fit in that social structure.
Trend 11. The iPhone and Social Games
How many businesses do not have a need for remote and mobile communications? In many ways it was the business user that caused the massive rise in mobile phone usage and the need to be permanently attached to the business.
Trend 12. Capitalizing on Player Resources
When someone chooses to work on a project, or with a business, or when a deal is made all parties involved are capitlizing on the existing resources of the parties involved.
So whether you are the largest corporation on the planet or the smallest would be startup you are in fact a casual game injected a global platform. The reach we all have now to organize and share is the same reach that is making social games so successful.
Just as the AAA games industry may have missed or turned its nose up initially to social games, AAA corporate business needs to make sure it does not turn its nose up to small interconnected business, or they may find themselves out flanks and their flags captured.
I just spent 2 days in Brighton just along the south coast at the Develop conference. This conference is for the games industry, of which there is a huge talented base of people here in the UK. Brighton is particularly well served too with games and related industry people, though the conference had people from all over the world.
The first day I attended was a new set of tracks from the traditional game development case studies and deep dives. It was entitled Evolve. Very much aimed at trying to show the games industry that the world is changing and its not all shrink wrapped products and giant corporations. Hence, that was an ideal place to check out.
I am not specifically from the games industry, but I am a gamer and I think bringing games technology and virtual worlds to enterprise and education has been an unusual but growing niche. What I was struck by was that like enterprise the games industry has a lot of people who for various reasons have locked into certain ways of thinking and of doing things. This means that some of the great (though initially small) opportunities are ignored in favour of the more tried and tested and seemingly worthy approaches. The industry is obviously slightly more sparky and used to sudden departures from the norm, but as it is really just regular enterprise and box shifting to the money men it shares much of the inertia of other corporate environments.
This explains why the games industry has not dived into and all over corporate and social use of virtual worlds, why elements of social media and user created content are still rare in mainstream games. It will happen, but it will be the independents and mavericks that make it happen but niche innovation.
David Perry is of course a gaming name that resonates with me as a consumer, and it was great to see and hear him enthuse.
Much of what he talked about was the changes in the games industry brought about by digital distribution. In particular he was showing http://www.gaikai.com/ the principle being that of Cloud gaming. There is still much speculation on cloud in general (or grid computing as we used to call it) however this is a clear crossover with every other industry. If your local processing cannot deal with something, or you local storage can’t keep something then with good network connections there is no reason to now process things elsewhere.
I do not think this is an either or solution, but a blended one. It will of course bring new ways to play and rent video game time, pay per play and per use.
Mobile Moving Games to a new beat : Dance Fabulous – Mark Ollila Nokia
Mark was showing the evolution of a freeform dance game on Nokia devices, featuring custom avatars, your own music collection and a mix of rhythm action pattern following and just expressive dance in a range of styles. Nokia Dance Fabulous also features a new artist Cindy Gomez who when the project started was right at the start of her career, and being featured in the game turned out to coincide with a blended discovery of her work by the media. Dave Stewart is all connected into this as he is a Nokia advisor, so it make an interesting cross platform story. (Mark handed out a few Nokia mirror balls after his talk and apparently my Ed Hardy t-shirt attracted his attention as I got one.)
The last session before Lunch was
20 Great Innovations in Casual, Social and Mobile Games That You Should Steal : Stuart Dredge, Pocket Gamer
Stuart is a gaming journalist and writer and admitted up front there were more that 20 things in his slide deck. For those of us who work and experience social media this was very much a validation of the sort of things we say about how to engage people, how to start small, how to adjust on the fly, how to tap into leveling up and bragging. He pointed out a few interesting trends such as the Spymasters and 140 mafia’s of the world, and that these principles should not be ignored in order to make what they call AAA games titles.
A common theme across the day(s) was that there was a massive base of people being able to just deliver and publish content now with facebook, web apps, iphone, unity3d, etc.
Most notable and funny was of course the conversation about Rainbow Poo in Pet Society. Pet Society is a casual/social pet based game. It has developed a cult following too. Whilst this seems to many people an odd expression of a way to reward use of a system people value things that happen with their pet. Certain conditions and unknown actions have led to some special excretions from the pets. (Given there are more than one physical kids toys on the market this may start to seem less strange). The digital asset that is rainbow poo is very rare, rarity brings value to those that care.
After a great lunch with Ren (Renzephyr) Reynolds, Jim (Babbage Linden)Purbrick and Dave (nanodave)Taylor talking all things metaverse. Imperial College’s healthcare project featuring on the Second Life home page amongst other things. This was great as it was a grounding and crossover with the rest of the people, of whom I knew many names and faces but I was more of a consumer than part of the industry (have to rectify that I think!). Jim is part of the advisory council for Develop and had pushed for the Evolve conference to try and extend peoples knowledge.
This was a very passionate and evangelizing pitch from a very successful company in the online casual games market. Kristian was very clear in explaining the the business model and the opportunities to engage with people across social networks and related platforms is very different to the shrink wrap AAA title. This part of the industry is usually online, and is able to capture huge amounts of data and statistics on usage. It was this data that Kristian was clearly indicating had to be considered. Knowing what people liked and disliked through data analysis was what the new marketing professionals in the industry had to come to understand. It is knowing what is happening almost live that allows the various games to evolve. They can evolve because of the way they are delivered. Start small but prepare for big seemed to be a message. One that I totally agree with. Elements of free to play, generating dedicated fans and then gaining money from that to sustain the business is important. Playfish of course do Pet Society (See Rainbow Poo above).
For me this was a busman’s holiday, it is a case study, as with some of my previous work, of engaging with people and driving things across various platforms. Kristian was also acting as a guardian for the industry, reminding the other companies to not make spam as that will kill the industry. Act with integrity, make people happy not annoyed. You can already see some lazy marketing efforts across social media and casual games. I believe we will manage to bypass those by ignoring them or finding ways to filter things out.
Launch Your Game Across Multiple Mobile and Social Platforms Without Killing Your Team Chris White, Glu Mobile
This was primarily about dealing with the complexities of going from low end java phones to Iphone and Android and how the there are porting considerations. It was interesting that one game was ported to Android in about 2 weeks by a new hire who was a good programmer and picked up the java source and learned the android platform.
Another consideration that Chris covered was the move into a facebook flash game and how you cannot simply port mobile to web. This was an interesting direction change. It used to be people talking about how they could get their games and content onto a mobile. This was a mobile company trying to come back the other way.
How Social Networks And Emerging Platforms and Technologies Will Re-Shape Gaming’s Oldest GenreStruan Robertson Gutso Games
This was one of my favourite presentations for crossover. Struan was explaining how sports games and sports experiences can be enhanced with technology and games.
Why was this so good? Well Struan mentioned Wimbledon and Hawkeye, real life data and how things could be done with it ( in the Q&A I had to come out of stealth delegate mode and say that not only was it highly possible but that was precisely what had happened in 2006). He also covered Augmented Reality potentials. I don’t need to write much more other than I think we were most definitely on the same page and I would recommend listening to him if you are in the games industry. He is right on the money!
I missed the next session as I had to go and find my hotel, but I was straight back for the closing keynote by David Edery, Pincipal, Fuzbi
The Long Tail and Games: How Digital Distribution Changes Everything
David was pointing out that the Long Tail of digital distribution is still influenced by the market demands and that the gate keepers and ing makers are still able to make a hit a hit in a sea of content.
He also talked about how an eco system without a gatekeeper or trusted source will be flawed.
David was also very clear that just having exceptional quality will not make a game or experience a mass market success. This is of course a common problem. People assume that great things will happen because they should, either by effort or quality of idea. This was really a rallying call to sensible and engaging marketing, even as a small startup you have to make friends and enagage.
It was also bang on the money that many of the elements of the current games industry are completely missing enablers for Long Tail at all. Whilst some games are engaging with ratings and UGC, shared experiences etc the consoles are not really built to deal with it. They are all aiming to get there, PS3 Home, XBox NXE are trying.
Unity3d, Flash and Torque also got a mention aswell as iphone for indie developers to just get on with it.
I should add to that Mark Rein from Epic was sat behind me, a brush with rock and roll stardom. Though he seemed to be happy to comment out loud with various exclamations. I guess you cant argue with the success of Unreal engine can you? Still I hope that dave realized the noises and sub heckling was not from me but from the person behind 🙂
Then it was a an evening’s entertainment across at the Linden Lab party with some great conversations with everyone. I still never get to talk to everyone as those gathering inevitably we get into some deep conversation. So hello to everyone. We then retired to the Koba Bar somewhere for Credit Crunch cocktails and some interesting conversations about the games industry, and also certain other larger companies and their attitudes and policies. That though is not for blogging as its off the record conversation 🙂
Day 2 kicked off with a change of pace and some new delegates, as this was now the main part of Develop not Evolve.
Online Functionality for Your Next Game? Why Not Go 100% Online : David Jones Realtime Worlds
David Jones is somewhat of a legend and he admitted he seldom did conferences. (Though to be fair he has rather a good new development to plug so it really did make sense).
He has been the driving force behind some of the best and my favourite games of all time. So I switched very much into Fan Boi mode for his pitch. Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto and Crackdown. Anyone one of them would be enough for a wow! you did that! but all 3 is fantastic.
He explained a little about his history (being of my age this all made sense) ZX 81’s etc. He said that he liked to build games that made people laugh as some point too. It was good to hear this history, but even more exciting to hear about where he is taking APB his new game.
The game is a cops and robbers free roaming persistent online experience (my words not his). There is a great article here with actual quotes on gamesindustry.biz
For me the things that stood out.
The avatar customization was tremendously powerful, Dave indicated the problems of needing to be able to distribute customizations in a MMO environment but that they had to compete with the likes of Forza2.
The game is based around celebrity to. It is actively designed to let you become famous in game for various things.
I loved the trailer video because it also featured the brilliant Imelda May in the soundtrack.
The game is PvP multiplayer but introduces some new dynamics. I liked the concept that if 2 people were getting away with murder too much then new players would be introduced to the mix such as 10 police to counteract. All the players of the game are people, players are the content. There are NPC’s as scenery of course.
Another thing that got a round of applause was a little music composition gadget in game. It lets you build a tune/jingle in an old school 8 bit tracker way and then use that to attach it events in world, like someone else’s death. So not only have you taken them out, but you play your theme over them. That can be a funeral march or (as demonstrated) a crazy clown like mario style jingle.
The player customization was also demonstrated by the video of the Obama they made, brilliant and exciting stuff indeed. Buzzed indeed! and a true gaming legend presenting the idea.
Playstation Home – First Term Report: Peter Edward
This session was Peter saying how Home was getting on and where it was going. It was interesting to see Peter pitch as I had seen him at VWFE a few years ago, when I was on a separate panel on enterprise virtual world use.
So Home has grown considerably. 7 million downloads, 3 million in europe and 6 million virtual goods bought (include free buy) in europe alone.
Peter showed some of the advances in using Home as a development platform to make interactive games and experiences to support other brands and properties. If you are a registered Playstation developer you have access to the HDK (Home dev kit) though it is a pity we don’t all have access to that in order to explore ideas with the LUA scripting. Whilst I accept they are gating the content and approving it.
Peter also was asked about the problems of the US content being much richer than Europe. There appears to be some underlying politics, but also a genuine element of needing to localize for multiple languages (which the US seldom needs to do).
I was intrigued by the comment that the ability to place your own content in you own apartment ( a feature I like in the closed beta) was available in the US but not in Europe for legal and moderation reasons. That is more than a little irritating.
It was great to see some of the positive things happening, the promotions of watchmen and star trek in world, and the EA Sports hub mini games and poker. All good stuff that may take Home past a lobby.
After lunch (where I got to talk to some great people) it was back to being a fan again
Designer Mash-up: David Braben and Dave Jones play Elite and GTA
As if it was not enough to have the creator of GTA sharing his thoughts and new stuff earlier this session brought in David Braben the co creator of Elite. Elite was one of the games that I suddenly realized back in the 80’s that there really was so much more to games than a timed 10p a go shot now we had home computers. Trading, exploration, dog fights, levelling up in space. Elite is an influence on my thoughts and formative years that really cannot be ignored.
This session was also introduce by William Latham! So it could not get more gamerati.
The two guys talked about their seminal games whilst the other played them on the screen. So Elite running on a BBC emulator and GTA actually running on Vista.
Braben had some very cool insights into the 18 month process of building elite, being keen to get it out, but the publisher wanting to hold off until after the summer. Stats like it actually sold more copies that there were BBC micro machines as people bought copies to play on their school computer club machines. Procedural generation of the massive star system managing to fit the entire game into 40-50Kb as Braben pointed out the same size as a normal email these days.
Jones talked about the fact the top down GTA was based on pinball with a hint of pac man. It started as a tech demo and they made it into a game. They knew there would be controversy with the idea (it started as a cop game but they wanted to change it to perp). Their publisher BMG was used to rock stars, so they were happy to deal with controversy. They also had Max Clifford as PR for it. He made the call that as it was so cartoony and top down to not show it to anyone. That led to uproar and politicians/daily mail etc getting all het up, then seeing it they we disappointed. A brilliant image 🙂
Watching Jones play Elite on the emulator was funny and as most of the audience had played it (and GTA) there was a common understanding of what had happened as a pirate zeroed in on him only seeing the scanner blip then a debris of his own ship.
In GTA Braben started chasing the odd pedestrian and chased one around and around which got a giggle.
It was interesting to hear the dichotomy that Elite was 3d in a world that only knew 2d at the time so got criticized for that and GTA was top down 2d in a world gone 3d and also got criticized, yet they are 2 of the most influential games in my gaming history.
This was a great session to have been a part of and I hope it got filmed (though I guess you had to be there).
Panel Crossing Over: How Working With Other Industries Can Improve Your Games and Your Bottom Line
Alex Amsel, Jamie Campbell, Adam Russel and Chair Margaret Robertson provided an insight into a creative networking experience called Crossover Labs. The point of the session was to remind people in the games industry the need to engage with other industries (in this case mostly TV and film) to understand one another’s thoughts and processes, but also to get the sort of seeds of ideas that come about when separate industries combine.
I was impressed by the passion that the panel had for the experience. As I was there to cross over with this part of the industry it all resonated. Equally the techniques used and the mashing of people together is pretty much what caused the virtual world industry to blossom. I asked the question if the process used had been adjusted and exercised in virtual worlds and online in order to extend it. That led to a long discussion afterwards.
It is well documented that we use elements of the virtual world to aid in communication and sharing of ideas and opening peoples minds to new thoughts. So watch this space I think.
The Art of LittleBigPlanet – A Big Medley Kareem Ettouney and Mark Healey
This was another rock and roll moment. This brilliant presentation had the co-founders of Media Molecule explain the though processes and creative hurdles that faced them trying to get to the absolutely brilliant Little Big Planet on PS3.
Once you play LBP you can look at what they have day and see that it fits and in some ways you may say “oh thats obvious” but like all brilliant design you almost don’t notice it.
They explained that once they came up with the notion of Hand Made the rest followed from there.
It was also interesting to see the team dynamic. It looked as if Mark was the more edgy and Kareem the more grounding. It reminded me of Liam and Noel in Oasis. They even alluded to where they had the odd massive falling out over some of the ideas.
One telling anecdote was Mark creating the spongeworld previz video. Showing a character interact in teh 2d/3d way with the physics. That worked so well that some of the publishing execs only wanted spongeworld to be developed. So too good a previz can lock peoples ideas too early.
The decisions to end up with menus and icons when they had wanted to keep them out was based on trying to use the in world tools and it getting too much hassle, so as Mark said windows and icons were tried and tested so they gave in. Kareem pointed out that the designers came up with a felt pen look which blended so well with the handmade feel.
They covered the strange and fantastic results of a User Generated Content environment. Users of the system creating things that the team did not think were possible. That seemed to be a real buzz for them.
There was also some discussion about the recent new hire they had in their small team of 30, based on some fantastic work by a fan. His attention to detail and creative thought showcased through his levels.
LBP is particularly amazing in our house as my daughter is a fan and is able to enjoy building and playing levels as much as my peers. The fact that my good friend and long time gamer Mike (who runs MIST Susuki) and I played at the same time as my daughter for several hours and no-one got bored. That was amazing.
So that was it, I had been in the presence of some huge figures that have influence my life and now my kids. It is also an industry that was the reason I started programming because of (back in the 80’s) but somehow fell into corporate enterprise. My journey via the web, virtual worlds and social media and now an entrepreneurial life has led me back.
Over on the Neilsen blog is a great set of numbers showing that a survey of 25,000 internet users across 50 countries found that people tend to trust the recommendations of friends and online aquaintances much more than anything other interaction.
This should not come as any great surprise, and presumably given these are internet users, bothering to respond to a survey they feel quite strongly about how they get to know about products and ideas and how they choose their path.
This links with the discussion on New World Notes about trusting anonymous avatars. The split between knowing who someone is, versus respecting what they actually do online without needing to know their physical embodiment in any way. I am not going to retype my comment from that discussion, merely to indicate that trust and the effort put into the trust of others is as valid online as offline. The expression of that trust and the notion of understanding the signals we give off in a digital expression (I keep linking back to my Lie to Me post) I find very intriguing and something that become even more important to products, brands and business online given the graph at the start of this post.
If you want people to buy your product, service etc. You need them to get to know you or your representatives in ways that is far more engaging, based on dialogue and trust. That aspirational glossy TV advert will become a very expensive low return item compared to the engagement of a real person with the customers.
As I wrote the other day AR really is what mobile devices are for. Today Brand Republic (which I saw via various tweets) wrote about this Iphone App that uses the 3GS to locate tube stations and lines (which by their very nature are hard to see as they are undergound).
I also recently tweeted “tweet from future: They used to sit a keyboards and look at screens a few years ago, can you believe that?. AR changed that”.
All that combined with some haptics on the way (possibly) from Apple, this market is set to explode I think. (Thanks to Koreen for bringing that one into my line of sight)
The last few days have seen a good few events in both virtual and physical space. It is a mini conference season.
The first (that I had to drop out of half way through) was Raph Koster talking to Cory Ondrejka in Metaplace.
This was notable for several reasons. The first was the number of Second Life friends in there. With a back channel conversation about how we were all happy to have both SL and Metaplace as places to gather for different reasons. The second was that Raph was kind enough to pick up on my question that relates to avatars and what they actually are. I asked “Can we have our avatars be the room?”. Cory spotted the similarity with the concept of being a Dungeon Master which is the though that got me on this track a while back.
Also Metaplace has now become embedable in pages. So your event can be seen live by people sitting on your blog as Cory did.
The other event has been Cisco Live, with some spin off panels in Second Life. I was not able to attend the first of these on Virtual Universities but the excellent treet.tv has this archived already In addition they have archives of all the Metanomics shows including my first outing as Feeding Edge should wish to listen to what I said again and pick me up on any of it down the line 🙂
I managed to attend the other SL event though. This was about the sensor networks and the Stirling “internet of things”.
There was a great crowd there and the panel expanded and explained the trend we are seeing of a massive amount of simple connected devices being spread over the planet. Spimes (Space+Time) being one of the main descriptions of them as championed by David Orban
In the post event I sort of changed from audience to presenter as I showed off my mini wearable presentations which turns me into a virtual peacock to show off some ideas. It was not a spamming or griefing excercise but just sprung out the conversation.
Another post event discovery was when the audio stream switched to Kona Radio Gospeed Racer was at the event too. They played a fantastic mashup that I had not come across. (Sorry to the cool kids who alread know of this artist). It was called Boulevard of Broken songs by Party Ben. This was an incredible mash of Green Day and Oasis (Plus Travis and Eminem). I checked out some more of the songs and they are all fantastic, cleverly technically but also creatively. Well worth checking out.
This of course highlights the importance of the post event mingle that we get in virtual worlds again. The 10 mins after the event let me connect with a fellow SLer who often came to SL Wimbledon (Hi Sean), show of some ideas live to an interested audience and also have my ears opened to an artist I had not come across. (You don’t get that on a telecon do you !)
Finally in the events list there is the event that I did not get to in physical or virtual form, but that instead had some great coverage from my good friend Roo Reynolds.
He always takes great notes and shares the salient points on his blog. In this case the Guardian Activate 09 gathering. The official site is also still live
In particular I liked these lines by Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post
Mainstream media suffers from attention deficit disorder. New media suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder.
You consume old media sitting on your couch. You consume new media galloping on a horse.
The cost of launching a new business is now so low that sometimes it’s indistinguishable from starting a new hobby
The Guardian covered Arrianna’s speech in an article
As a gathering and conference with the tag line “Politics, economics, technology and society: Building a better future through the internet” the whole thing was well aligned with my interests as Feeding Edge, so I am thankful as I could not attend that I got a version in Roovision.
In the quest for mobile communication the telecoms companies have tended to stick with the same principles. We need a mobile phone to carry voice, we need a camera to take pictures so that we can have a video conversation (that has not quite seemed to take off). Text messages with SMS was a bit of a suprise and point to point MMS is not quite what people wanted. The rise of the social web, communicating in plain site online has more than ever driven the take up of data plans. Far more than downloading movies, or on the move TV it would seem.
Augmented reality is in a gap though. When you take the cameras which accidently evolved to show the world not show the user, you take the processing power onboard and the recent huge rise in combined device capabilities we start to see yet more Augmented Reality.
This is a great IPhone example from some guys at Oxford in the UK.
It is impressive at it is in effect markerless using the environment to figure registration points.
The new Iphone 3GS with its compass and even more ways to tell which way is up lends itself also to this sort of game control mechanism. Which is not Augmented Reality as such, though is a branch of the field. Here the real world is used as the control mechanism for the virtual world, and it does not matter where in the real world you are, but the virtual world is always “inside” on the device.
I just received a sample from Objet of the results of their new PolyJet Matrix(tm) 3d printing technology. Why is this important? This particular technology means that in one pass an object can be constructed of several types and forms of material. In the example sent through, a rendering of Zebedee from the magic roundabout the various components all feel very different. Given my original 3d print sample was a small ABS plastic box from a few year ago things have really come on.
The hat and nose are actually made of a rubbery substance and soft to the touch, the spring flexes when you push on the sides of it and the body and head have some intricate detail and colour to them (such as the tiny buttons on his front).
It was an Object printer that was used by the creators of the Coraline movie in a very interesting way too.
There is a whole stack of information in particular on the entry level 350 printer here and you can follow @3d_printers on twitter.
I am even more convinced than ever of the impact of this sort of technology when combined with the digital design and distribution channels we have. It will continue to get cheaper, better and faster and as in my previous post about some uses of the printers we have a whole host of new business and entertainment uses to consider over and above pure manufacturing of products. This is akin to the differences in virtual world technology usage of mirror worlds and mirror builds compared to more expressive and unusual environments. Mix that all up with Augmented Reality applications and we have one very interesting leap and trends forming.
As experts in the field of design in this space also warn such as csven on ReBang there are responsibilities in learning to design these sorts of products. Making people aware of the opportunities in their product design profession will bring along safe usuable products.
Either way, like virtual worlds and Augmented Reality, 3d printing is not going away, in fact they are on a march together it would seem. So join the march I say 🙂
I just saw a great link from Shapeways about using the 3d printer to create a stamp of a QR code. Using ink on the stamp and pressing it on a surface leaving a valid QR code impression.
This of course works as an idea on so many levels. It did remind me of the conversation we have round the invention of the printing press and the liberation of thought through that. It also took me back to my childhood with the John Bull printing set. We had small rubber and wooden letters that we lined up in a holder to print sentences.
(Image from http://www.metaltype.co.uk/ )
It also struck me that this is a great way to place Augmented reality tags too. QR codes are great in that they encode URL information, they can even be updated live as in Andy Sc’s QR code clock. However placing the markers and tags means they need to be physically rendered somehow if your are doing AR.
The marker here from this old demo was printed via a regular printer and pasted on a board. How cool would it be to be able to place those markers using a 3d printing stamp?
That then got me thinking……
The problem with an AR code marker is that on its own there is not an indication of what it was intended to relate to. It is just a token marker. So stamping AR tags all over the place are meaningless without context. QR codes on the other hand are more detailed versions of a bar code containing things like urls and other indicators.
So without having to reinvent any standards the AR marker could also include context with a QR marker indicating the context and even where to get the model or the rendering for the AR tag. That combined stamp could then be applied. Just as with any URL then the value of what the QR code points to could be adjusted as needed, updating what the AR does with the tag. An ARRI Augmented Reality Resource indicator.