Stack of new tech to catch up on! Games, watches, Mocap and old age

Yes its been a few months, but as I write for a living about tech elsewhere it is a bit of a busman’s holiday to blog, but I intend to keep going, Sept and Oct were just very busy, travel and more holidays. All that and turning 50 at the end of August! What the hack happened there, where did that come from? Thanks all for all the comments and best wishes on Facebook and Twitter. Plenty more years left yet!

One of my presents was a trip with predlet 2.0 to the NFL game at Wembley, I had got him playing Madden on Xbox and he was all up for the game and how it worked which was fantastic.
NFL london
The game was a weird one full of incredible errors on both sides and the favourites, the Dolphins lost, which was quite amusing. Though all teams were supported, as you can see some cheeseheads in the background.

My kickstarted watch arrived yesterday, the Mykronoz Zetime. Now I do have an Apple Watch, but didn’t;t when this was first an thing to invest/preorder. This swiss based watch is a traditional watch with real hands, a good solid engineered feel to it too. However under the hands is a screen that can display watch faces and information. Regular buttons and/or touch screen interaction work. It paired with my iPhone and its apps so pretty much just works. When you get a message and need to read it the hands file to 9:15 to not obscure the text, then wind back to the time when you exit. It is supposed to have a 30 day battery life as a watch and 3 days burning smartwatch features. Heart rate monitor and movement sensing are all part of it too. I thin it will be more of a posher dress watch or just to show off at IoT conferences πŸ™‚
Just arrived
Mykronoz smartwatch
Mykronoz smartwatch
Mykronoz smartwatch

Today my Enflux motion capture suite arrived too. This top and trousers stretchy contraption has every sensors that track body movement and connect to blender and unity3d on Windows using BLTE. I am not posting pictures of me wearing it just yet, need to loose a few stone first ! However the connection and mocap calibration just worked straight away. I will see how well it works to record Choi, compared to the Kinect experiments of old
Enflux mocap suit
Here is how it records in unity3d

I had an interesting time ate the Augmented World Expo in Munich a few weeks ago too. AR is really getting embedded in a lot of enterprise solutions and the future is rosy for that as the user interface for IoT πŸ™‚
I did get to appear (just) in the Meta headset demo on stage.
I am sitting here in the meta workspace demo #ar #awe2017

Also I got to see and feel the very clever effect of the light field displays from Avegant in a private showing.

On the games front. Wow, we are in the midst of a bumper crop of interesting things. Forza 7 on the Xbox is brilliant as usual, and they have kept the importing of the custom car gfx which means I get to quickly repaint my cars πŸ™‚ Only picture I have handy is a stock paint set in the rain.

Mordor and Assassins Creed follow ups both giving a good deal of baddy bashing and climbing up things. Both huge games and probably never to be finished.

Double Mario on the Switch, first the turn based strategy mashup with the Rabbids, which proved to be far better than I expected and one of my favourites now, and a few days ago Super Mario Odyssey, giving Zelda a run for its money, though obviously more arcade like.

These need their own posts and comments but I think I will wait until the arrival of the Xbox One X in a few days hopefully.

I have had some really nice comments about the books too, still a few billion people to sell them too and a third one to find the time and energy to write πŸ™‚

CES 2017 – Bucket list, tick

For many years I have seen the CES show appear in magazines, then TV and then of course all over social media. As a long time tech geek and early adopter I have always wanted to attend, but never been able to. In my corporate days getting approval for a train to London was a chore. As a startup I never had the time or money either, preferring to invest in the gadgets like the Oculus rift or paying for a Unity license so I could build things. On the TV show we talked about CES, and if we had gone to a 4th series it was on the cards.
This year, with my industry analyst role in IoT I was able to go. Of course as a work trip it was a bit different to just being able to take the show in.
CES 17
I had briefing after briefing with a bit of travel time in between for the 2 main days I was there. Once thing that is not always obvious is just how big the show is. Firstly there is the Vegas convention centre with North and South Halls that is bigger than most airports. It was so big that I only got to really visit the south halls, the north hall of cars, a motor show in its own right alluded me. All the first days meeting were around the south halls. Day 2 was at the other areas of the show, the hotels have their own convention centres and also floors and suites get rented out. The Venetian Sands, Bellagio and Aria all had lots going on, each as big as any UK show it seemed.
Walking around 9-10 miles a day, still not seeing everything, at a trade show gives you an indication of the size.
#ces2017 steps
Again I pretty much missed most of the expo floor with meetings but the day I felt out I had an hour to pop back to the Sands main hall and see some things.
The split across the entire show of giant corporate powerhouses to tiny startups with a single table was amazing. I had assumed it was all the former, but the latter is heavily supported and with kickstarters and maker culture now mainstream it will continue to be really important.
One thing I was there to see was how much Augmented Reality was taking off running parallel with the VR wave, there were a lot of glasses and of course the Hololens and the industrial focussed Daqri smart helmet. Still not there as a consumer focus really yet, though the Asus Zenfone AR powered by Tango and Qualcomm was announced but not on sale until later in the year (no date given) which may put true AR into people’s hands.
#ces2017 day 1
#ces2017 day 1
DAQRI Smart Helmet

It was CES’s 50th anniversary, and that was fitting given I turn 50 this year too. It may not be the most exiting bucket list tick but I have already done lots of mine, and need to refresh the list anyway. I am not sure that will include riding in this human size quad copter that you fly with a smart phone though!
#ces2017 day 1

I guess we best experience everything before these guys and their bretheren take over.


Still at least we can 3d print new parts for ourselves


As you will see in this album the whole place just becomes a blur of everything looking the same, lights, sound, people, attract loops etc. All very fitting to be in Vegas.

CES 17

@xianrenaud and I wrote a spotlight piece for 451 Research as a show roundup which may end up outside the paywall CES 2017: connected, autonomous and virtual in case you do have access.

So that made a whirlwind start to this year. This time last year I was published Cont3xt and wondering what the next steps were going to be. This year I have stacks of IoT research and writing work to get on with, a 50th birthday to not get worried about, imminent wisdom tooth removal (yuk) and all being well a 2nd Degree/Il Dan black belt text in Choi Kwang Do. So onwards and upwards. Pil Seung!

An interesting game tech workshop in Wales

Last week I took a day out from some rather intense Unity3d development to head off to North Wales to Bangor. My fellow BCS Animation and Games Dev colleague Dr Robert Gittins invited me to keynote at a New Computer Technologies Wales event on Animation and Games πŸ™‚
It is becoming an annual trip to similar events and it was good to catch up with David Burden of Daden Ltd again as we always both seem to be there.
As I figured that many of the people there were going to be into lots of games tech already I did not do my usual type of presentation, well not all the way through anyway. I decided to help people understand the difference between development in a hosted virtual world like Second Life and developing from scratch with Unity3d. This made sense as we had Unity3d on the agenda and there were also projects from Wales that were SL related so I though it a good overall intro.
I have written about the difference before back here in 2010 but I thought I could add a bit extra in explaining it in person and drawing on the current project(s) without sharing too much of things that are customer confidential.

Why SL development is not Unity3d development from Ian Hughes

I did of course start with a bit about Cool Stuff Collective and how we got Unity3d on kids TV back on the haloween 2010 edition. This was the show that moved us from CITV to ITV prime saturday morning.
I added a big slide of things to consider in development that many non game developers and IT architects will recognise. Game tech development differs in content to a standard application, the infrastructure is very similar. The complication is in the “do something here” boxes of game play and the specifics of real time network interaction between clients. Which is different to many client server type applications (like the web)

After that I flipped back from tech to things like Forza 5 and in game creation of content, Kinect and Choi Kwang Do, Project Spark and of course the Oculus Rift. I was glad I popped that in as it became a theme throughout the pitches and most people mentioned it in some way shape of form πŸ™‚

It was great to see all the other presentations too. They covered a lot of diverse ground.

Panagiotis Ritsos from Bangor University gave some more updates on the challenges of teaching and rehearsing language interpretation in virtual environments with EVIVA/IVY, the Second Life projects and now the investigations into Unity3d.

Llyr ap Cenydd from Bangor University shared his research on procedural animation and definitely won the prize for the best visuals as he showed his original procedural spider and then his amazing Oculus Rift deep sea experience with procedural generated animations of Dolphins.
Just to help in case this seems like gobbledegook. very often animations have been “recorded” either by someone or something being filmed in a special way that takes their movements and makes them available digitally as a whole. Procedural generation uses a sense and respond to the environment and the construction of the thing being animated. Things are not recorded but happen in real time because they have to. An object can be given an push or an impulse to do something, the rest is discovered but he collection of bits that make up the animated object. It is very cool stuff!

Just before the lunch break we had Joe Robins from Unity3d, the community evangelist and long term member of the Unity team show us some of the new things in Unity 5 and have a general chat about Unity. He also did a session later that afternoon as a Q&A session. It was very useful as there is always more to learn or figure out.
We all did a bit of a panel, quite a lot of talk about education of kids in tech and how to just let them get on with it with the teachers, not wait for teachers to have to become experienced programmers.
After lunch it was Pikachu time, or Pecha Kucha whatever it is called πŸ™‚ 20 slides each of 20 seconds in a fast fire format. It is really good, covers lots of grounds raises lots of questions.

David Burden of Daden Ltd went first. VR the Second Coming of Virtual Worlds exploring the sudden rise of VR and where it fits in the social adoption and tech adoption curves. A big subject, and of course VR is getting a lot of press as virtual worlds did. It is all the same, but different affordances of how to interact. They co-exist.

Andy Fawkes of Bohemia Interactive talked about the Virtual Battlespace – From Computer Game to Simulation. His company has the Arma engine that was originally used for Operation Flashpoint, and now has a spin of with the cult classic Day Z. He talked about the sort of simulations in the military space that are already heavily used and how that is only going to increase. An interesting question was realised about the impact of increasingly real simulations, his opinion was that no matter what we do currently we all still do know the difference and that the real effects of war are drastically different. The training is about the procedures to get you through that effectively. There has been concern that drone pilots, who are in effect doing real things via a simulation are to detached from the impact they have. Head to the office, fly a drone, go home to dinner. A serious but interesting point.

Gaz Thomas of The Game HomePage than gave a sparky talk on How to entrain 100 million people from your home office. Gaz is a budding new game developer. He has made lots of quick fire games, not trained as a programmer he wanted to do something on the web, set up a website but then started building games as ways to bring people to his site. This led to some very popular games, but he found he was cloned very quickly and now tries to get the mobile and web versions released at the same time. It was very inspirational and great to see such enthusiasm and get up and go.

Ralph Ferneyhough of newly formed Quantum Soup Studios talked about The New AAA of Development – Agile, Artistic, Autonomous. This was a talk about how being small and willing to try newer things is much more possible and needed that the constant churn in the games industry of the sequel to the sequel of the sequel. The sums of money involved and sizes of projects leads to stagnation. It was great to hear from someone who has been in the industry for a while branching out from corporate life. A fellow escapee, though from a different industry vertical.

Chris Payne of Games Dev North Wales gave the final talk on Hollywood vs VR:The Challenge Ahead. Chris works in the games industry and for several years has been a virtual camera expert. If you have tried to make cameras work in games, or played one where it was not quite right you will appreciate this is a very intricate skill. He also makes films and pop videos. It was interesting to hear about the challenges that attempting to do 360 VR films is going to have for what is a framed 2d medium. Chris showed a multi camera picture of a sphere with lenses poking out all around it, rather like the star wars training drone on the Millennium Falcon that Luke tries his light sabre with. This new camera shoots in all directions. Chris explain though that it was not possible to build one that was stereoscopic. The type of parallax and offsets that are needed can only really be done post filming. So a lot has to be done to make this giant 360 thing able to be interacted with in a headset like the rift. However that is just the start of the problems. As he pointed out, the language of cinema, the tricks of the trade just don’t work when you can look anywhere and see anything. Sets can’t have crew behind the camera as there is no behind the camera. Story tellers have to consider if you are in the scene and hence acknowledged or a floating observer, focus pulls to gain attention don’t work. Instead game techniques to attract you to the key story elements are needed. Chris proposed that as rendering gets better it is more likely that the VR movies are going to be all realtime CGI in order to be able to get around the physical problems of filming. It is a fascinating subject!

So it was well worth the 4am start to drive the 600 miles round trip and back by 10pm πŸ™‚

Goto; Amsterdam part 2 of 2 –Some Choi then Makers gather

Day 2 (part 1 is here) of Goto started very early in the morning for me. I woke up and thought, hmmm I should do my Choi Kwang Do stretches and patterns, not realizing it was only 5am. Still it made me feel pretty good after the slightly heavy night out previously. Conferences are weird time shifts too, the intensity of being in conference mode needs something to balance it and this did. Besides I was going to be talking about Choi in my presentation and I had not been to class since the Saturday. It was now Wednesday!
Room with a view and an iMac  :)
So I entered the morning keynote pretty refreshed and ready to hear some interesting things.
The twitter wall was up and running again, as were my tweets. The wifi was rock solid the whole conference too !
Twitter wall #gotoams that was a well timed shot :)
First up was Martin Fowler, author of many books I have owned and read on patterns, UML etc. He had picked a couple of his talks that he has in his kit bag. For pure software engineers these were probably very useful. Schema’s still being there when there is no Schema made sense as at some point anything needs a structure put on it.
The tracks for the day were, It’s all about the people, stupid, Agile Closing the Loop, Hard Things Made Easy, Mobile, Case Studies, Legacy Systems and our Emerging interfaces track.
I stuck with the It’s all about the people, so that I could hear Linda Rising (@risinglinda) talk again. She talked about the power of the agile mindset. This was nothing about the Agile development approach, but really about human motivations and how they get messed up depending how they are addressed. Linda cited an experiment that gave an easy test to a group of students. After the test the group was divided into to by a subtle difference. This was not revealed until the rest of the story had been told. Instead Linda introduced Fixed and Agile thinking groups. Fixed being of an attitude that any task, intelligence, talent etc cannot be improved, you stick with what you have got and make the most of it, versus an agile mindset that is not fixed but is intrigued and motivated by the challenge and the effort aiming to improve.
In the story the fixed group were asked if they wanted to take a new easy test or a new hard test. They all chose easy again. The effort/agile group chose harder tests, thriving on the challenge.
There were several elements to the research that had been done that Linda recited, but it showed that the fixed mindset tends to measure itself against others being worse, assuming it can’t improve it maximises others flaws. The agile mindset looked for challenges, understood that failure was a learning experience and enjoyed the entire process comparing only to themselves and wanting to coach others to join them.
Now it turns out the only difference in the groups in the experiment was that the fixed group were handed their results and told that they were very clever. The agile group was handed the results and told they must have worked very hard. There are lots of examples of this but also that the fixed thinking tends to be destructive. The “rank and yank” approach of Enron and other corporates that seek to measure and find “the best” cut the others out etc. which leads to a set of people only wanting to not be in the bottom of the pool. This was compared to organisations like Southwest Airlines who seek to grow people, help them get better at whatever they do.
This is all out there in research, that is obviously ignored as it is a bit scary. However, linking back to my morning Choi exercises, in CKD there is no competition.We all want to learn, we want to grow and improve ourselves and help others. Nothing is ever wrong, it is a way to learn to do it better. Instructors are helped to understand how ti give positive re-enforcement and to praise effort. I don’t often hear “you are brilliant” used about people in the art, instead “that was a great effort”. Find you limit and push a little past it, then a little more. Just strive to get better not be the best. it is so simple and effective and it works.
(It has got me pondering an evolution of my blended learning piece of the pitch that features CKD and dive more into the similarity with how to do any good team growth and nurturing based on the CKD experience.)
The next presenter was Simon Brown on Sustainable competence – the people vs process and technology. This was more of a consulting experience presentation, but about the same subject. How and where it works to let people take an agile approach. It also was important to point out that Agile as a buzzword did not mean quick nor sort it out without the complications of design, build and test. In fact the examples were all of how teams that trust one another and are self organised take time. It is something that needs to be trusted to get on with itself. I had flashbacks to previous teams and how we tried to do that (without the Agile word). Always a corporate control freak would try and crush it at the wrong time.
A spot of lunch and then it was me. 50 minutes of cool stuff collective, games tech, 3d printing etc. It is my same slide deck, in a slightly different order but it is here and if you were there it might make sense πŸ™‚ I felt the crowd were engaged and enjoying it. There were some interesting shows of hands, or not to some of my questions to see who did what where. 80% of people knew about 3d printing but the viral nature of reprap was a surprise to many.
I was really glad that all of us presenting had some freaky and interesting things to say but in particular next up after I had shown some custard pies being thrown (usually quite hard to follow) Daniel Hirschman @danielhirschman had more than enough to follow that madness. He has several angles to his work. As an artist and physical designer he has a different perspective to developers. However he also wants the world to learn to code, to be a maker to hack. This is a very cool combination. He is a fan of the Arduino and of processing, and builds real things with it.
This was fantastic, all built with arduino and some other hacks to make a corner shop a musical instrument for a beer advert by his company Hirsch and Mann ltd. Check out the other work, like the Turin interactives at the science museum.

However he also showed lots of the work too of his educational company Technology Will Save Us that makes kits with arduino and alike to let kids or any makers play with an idea and build some interesting things. His final mad example was Bright Eyes. Which he got a kickstarter going for and raised some funds

(We speculated that Andy Piper would have been one of the backers, and yes he is :))
These came out later at the party. They were very popular.
We then changed tack to several lightning 10 minute talks. We had kinect for shop windows being demoed, Dan (@mintsource) showed a clever web sockets sort of local network distributed pub quiz with real prizes. I missed out by 1 point on a prize grrr. Dan also showed Leap motion working.
I did a quick piece on Unity3d and hospitals it was great to be able to talk a bit about code and how it worked. For my own brain it was good but also to not just be the crazy virtual world guy πŸ™‚
It was a maker fest really πŸ™‚ It all seemed to fly by and lots of people wanted to talk afterwards to it seemed to hit the nail on the head.
I had not mentioned this conference had lots of breaks, good 30 minute ones. Not a quick 10 minutes to dash to the next talk, but ones to stop, chat, reflect etc. It’s pacing was really good. They have been doing it a while though.
The final keynote was different in that we all stood up. The chairs had gone. The speaker was Mike Lee @bmf He was talking about the App universe after the big bang. It was a war story presentation, and he admitted to being a bit jet lagged after the alternative WWDC conference he had run. He is ” Mayor of Appsterdam” and brought a typical ebullient American delivery but blende with a love of the art and culture in Amsterdam. His main thing was “don’t make games” basically he was saying it is not going to make you rich and it is too hard. He is making games, he is suffering for his art. He managed to get his plug in at the end, but as it is an educational game, or at least one that tries to blend learning and fun it is worth a look. It was entertaining and depressing in equal measure, but finished with the line “lets go drink beer”.
We all stayed at the venue for a while as it was meet the speakers time, and as a speaker I was there to be met πŸ™‚
Then it drifted back to what must have become a very expensive bar bill at the hotel.
As mentioned the Brighteyes came out, but the also went head ot head with a Google Glass rig (and won)
Google glass meets kickstarter #brighteyes #gotoams
It was also very cool that the father of OTI and VisualAgeSmalltalk and Java Dave Thomas also took to them πŸ™‚
Behind the lens flare that's Dave Thomas (visual age) wearing led #brighteyes 100+ LEDs playing patterns #gotoams
Anyway I had some awesome chats with people, made some great contacts, enjoyed what I heard and had a great trip.
So thankyou again Gotocon and trifork

Goto; Amsterdam part 1 of 2 – Software engineering is changing

I was really happy to be asked to both attend and speak at this years Goto; conference in Amsterdam. I just got back and whilst I had been tweeting (probably a little too much) from the conference I thought I would try and distill a few things that I noticed and felt about the whole thing. Firstly thanks to Dan (@mintsource) for inviting me along, we were on the emerging interface track and so it was the mad end of software engineering, but as with all emerging stuff as we know, it’s the future.
The venue was the old corn exchange right in the heart of Amsterdam, a very impressive structure and has been modernised inside in some interesting ways that do actually fit.
Great venue for #gotoams
Our track was in the glass cube inside the brick frame πŸ™‚ A cool space (though a little warm πŸ™‚ )
Tomorrow's venue after lunch talking blended reality, learning, games and tv #gotoams
I knew what our track was going to be like but I have not been to a pure software engineering conference for a long time. Times have changed.
The first keynote was from the wonderful Linda Rising. @risinglinda talking about Incentives: why or why not?”. She is a very inspirational figure as she explains the path she has taken in tech and now even more so in dealing with people not process and into the realms of neuroscience. Not as a researcher but as a student. She also explains she may seem an odd person to see at a tech conference for various demographic reasons. This talk was the start of something I was surprised to see addressed quite so much. The importance of actual people, doing actual work and their motivations to do that. Linda pointed out the amount of real research that indicates certain well held corporate beliefs in what motivates people are pretty much wrong. Taylorism seems to have got hold and taken hold everywhere. Several other books were mentioned including The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
Also the Pygmalion of Management HBR research showing that people clearly make a first impression and when they are managers they manage to that impression of someone. Which is of course detrimental all around.
Obviously with slightly rebellious and provocative attitude to the ridiculous practices in corporate life that I have often challenged she was speaking to the converted. We had a good chat after the presentation at one of the breaks and I was very much looking forward to her next talk the following day. As I have been busy reading (yes actually reading) Thinking, Fast and Slow and the author was mentioned in the talk it fitted really well as a kick off for a conference for me.
We then split off into tracks. The Rise of Educational Startups, HTML5 Rocks Javascript, Big Data NOSQL search, software craftmanship and bring your own language.
As usual you can’t go to everything. I stuck with the rise of education startups and with HTML5 and Javascript. The former because I do a lot of that sort of thing, the latter because I wanted to see what the high end world of software engineering was saying about the potentially anarchic new web tech.
The first pitch by Matteo Manferdini was a bit of a busman’s holiday as he was pointing out the flaws in educational games that try and have education as an end reward for some play. It did dovetail nicely with the keynote as really this is about rewards or incentives and why anyone would want to do something, including playing a game. He ended up showing the videos that were played at IGBL 2013 too with the never ending bin and the musical stair case. It was also a place for him to tell Jane Mcgonigal (@avantgame) story and also mention Raph Koster and theory of fun. This all made sense, and I was glad to see it being presented as it meant I wasn’t going to be doing my talk to a load of people who had never heard some madness πŸ™‚
The next pitch was Nick Grantham of @fractuslearning asking “Are You Giving Teachers Blisters? – Finding the Right Fit for an EdTech Startup”. being an Aussie who lives in Ireland he had a suitably different presentation. Relating education to shoes. The wrong shoes at the wrong place give you blisters. So chucking in educational tech for the sake of it causes friction, and therefore fails. It was a very good one, some good war stories and consulting style references.
After lunch it was time for HTML5 etc.
Sergi Mansilla started off talking about “HTML5 is the future of mobile” It was really a direct pitch about the new Firefox OS. Not so much as a sales pitch but pointing out the politics of mobile. The walled garden native apps causing all sorts of problems for developers, the lack of open API’s to help use any device in anyway. Also the fact that HTML5 is often thought of as a single thing, just like a simple markup. It is instead a mix and match ecosystem of so many bits and pieces that its flexibility is also its drawback.
Next it was tech royalty time. Douglas Crockford the creator of JSON talked about some code he was working on “Managing Asynchronicity with RQ”. Now this was real code, talking about a set of helper functions to allow multiple asynchronous calls to go out to the world and be composed and returned as results without blocking. Definitions like, call these 3 weather API’s I don’t care which one comes back first, but if one does come back, use that and move on. It was a different model to event driven systems and despite being just code slides it made a nice counterpoint to the other presentations. Well worth checking out.
Finally in the tracks for that day and before the party. Brian Le Roux did a talk “Best of WTFJS”. This was based on him having gathered a collection of weird and wonderful JS bugs and features, work around and hacks. He did the entire thing in a terminal window just typing them πŸ™‚ They all made sense, but were all daft at the same time. It was a great live pitch. One of my favourite pitches too.
Wtfjs #gotoams a live terminal showing mad js
e.g. 3 > 2 > 1 returns false πŸ™‚
Anyway it was nice to end on some code but have started on people. Then it was back to people, beer, wine and food for the mid conference party.
However just before that we had another keynote. Eric Meijer gave a dynamic and crazy speech about “A Monadic Model for Big Data”, basically pointing out the huge flaws in the relational database model. It was partly a joke, but not really. It did conclude with the fact that if it works use it, but that there are better and simpler ways that doing a select statement. In particular when you are dealing with live data, it is just there, not a summation of a report of stored information. The web is a huge repository of live data, distributed and now. His example of an earthquake app pointed out that the application was going to find an earthquake as it happened. Not go and lookup the data of yesterdays reports in a relational table πŸ™‚ Anyway it was a buzzing and well done pitch from Mr c#.
#gotoams party flyers
Much fun was had by all (and some great chips afterwards too πŸ™‚ )
Part 2 to follow. (actually here it is :))

GOTO Amsterdam 2013 conference

Today I am heading off to the #gotoams conference in Amsterdam. I am really looking forward to this one. I have a whole day to attend tomorrow before giving my blended reality talk on wednesday and also a lighting talk on MMIS.
There is lots more info on the website, and if you are going come and say hi.

GOTO Amsterdam

GOTO Amsterdam

I am looking forward to the track “RISE OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY STARTUPS” too as that crosses over with what I talk about and work in and with the recent IGBL in Dublin
I have not been to Amsterdam since the 2011 Metameets, which I have some great memories of too being with so many like minded metaverse people at the time
It does mean I will miss a few Choi lessons this week, but as I am talking about Choi (in part) and will no doubt wake up early in the hotel I am sure I will get some practice in for my grading next week πŸ™‚

IGBL – Learning from Games Based Learning

Last week I popped over to Dublin for the Irish Symposium on Games Based Learning at the Dublin Institute of technology. It is a few years since I was there last at Metameets listening and talking virtual worlds.
There is a very influential core of virtual world people there and many of them were at the conference so that is alway good to have a real world/SL meetup.
Dr Pauline Rooney from DIT opened up the conference and it felt like I was in the right place.
The opening keynote was by Dr Nicola Whitton from Manchester Metropoliton University. “Game Based Learning in an Age of Austerity”. I then knew I was in the right place because everything Dr Whitton said resonated with some many projects. The key theme was that you don’t have to spend millions of pounds making games for learning, they also don’t all have to be technical deliveries of games. Making a game out of making a game can be as beneficial as putting people through the end product.
She showed an example of the sort of thing that happens in medical sims and games. Lots of huge expensive graphics and realism with a text multiple choice question on the top. Having had to build some things like that, to meet requirements, but having also subverted that with simpler ideas and gaming concepts I was sat there nodding in agreement.
#igbl2013 keynote take home points
The other point as you can see in the take home points above was that it is ok to play. Humans learn through play and it still gets regarded as not serious enough. Tales of people expecting to put away childish things and then how restrictive their thinking gets when faced with exploring and creating in a playful way.
After a quick coffee I chose to stay in the same room for the next track.
Neil Peirce from Learnovate Centre Trinity College Dublin presented his academic paper “Game Based Learning for Early Childhood“. I did not get so much form this, though I am sure the research was very as really I needed to read the paper. However, this was an academic conference and I am not technically an academic so it was not aimed at me πŸ™‚
I was more interested in “An investigation into utilising a Theraputic Exergame to improve the Rehabilitation Process” where the Waterford Institute of Technology had worked with physiotherapist and used a Kinect, Unity and Zigfu to explore repetition of exercise in the home. This appeared successful, and fitted well with my experience of kinect and how we can broadcast and work together physically using these devices.
Next up was a great Prezi presentation by S. Cogan from the National College of Ireland. He was explaining “engagement through ramification”. Whilst the word gamification is now tired and over used he presented it from a point of view of not knowing what it was, how he was going to use it and shared waht worked and didn’t work in getting the student he lectured to be bothered about class. The positive results were that he had got much better attendance and pass marks, but also that he himself felt a greater sense of achievement making some of the activities more game like. It was very inspirational to hear a younger lecturer looking to change things around a bit, but not completely overturn the system. It all just made sense, and sharing what failed (wrong rewards, too much game in some things etc.) was very refreshing.
After lunch it was 2 hour workshop time so I popped along to “Developing games for Learning using Kinect”. Now I was not sure what to expect, I thought I might be able to help out as well as have a bit of fun myself. I had not fully realized that it was Stephen Howell who is the creator of the very cool Kinect for Scratch. It was great to hear @saorog explain scratch to the audience of mostly non techy people and get them programming in the same way its done with kids, then hit everyone with the simplicity of using the kinect in scratch. It was very well done and very well delivered, he is a clever bloke πŸ™‚ . He also showed us his Leap motion controller in action πŸ™‚
After a bit of Irish culture on the evening.
Followed by almost no sleep as my hotel room had no double glazing so the ongoing partying in Camden Street and the subsequent bottle deliveries pretty much filled all the early morning….
Elfeay and I did out little pitch. “I am a Gamer. Not because I don’t have a life, but because I choose to have many”. We each did a 8 minute chat on how we have found our various tribes, how games and games technology and culture have led us to places that then feed into more games and games culture. My example being the journey in Choi Kwang Do via games and tech, plus a few other things thrown in πŸ™‚ It provoked some good workshop style discussion too. It was also great fun to do in that format and huge thanks to Elfeay for getting it all on the roster πŸ™‚
It also dovetailed nicely into some Pecha Kucha sessions where slides are timed and there are a given number in a given time slot. It is almost the presentation equivalent of a vine or a tweet. Concise, well planned to fit and delivers a lot in a small package.
Dudley Turner from University of Akron in the states did a great piece of “developing a quest-based game for university student services”. Making the discovery of what is available to new students on campus through a mix of alternate reality pieces of information like emails and mini websites linking a narrative to real world tresure hunting using Aurasma AR location specific tags to get them to places. It is all part of a course that they have to take anyway, but this gets them out and about and engaged with the places they need to be at, not just reading and looking at maps.
The next was P.Locker presenting “The snakes and ladders of playing at design:Reflections of a museum interactive designer, game inventor and exhibition design educator”. This was refreshing as it was not really about the tech end of things, but the core of play and interaction. Physical installations and how being a board game designer helped create museum pieces and teach others how to make them. There are elements of practicality and robustness in the physical aspects to consider as well as the learning aspects.
Finally, last but by no means least, S. Comley the University of Falmouth talked about “Games based learning in the Creative Arts”. It was surprising to hear that arts were not heavily involved in the use of games in the learning process. It seems human nature to stick with what you know hits everywhere. It will be interesting to see where her research takes her, as this was a precursor to a much bigger piece of work, stating the problem and the potential benefits. In particular to get cross discipline interaction in academic arts.
That was it for the main tracks. I missed a lot as lots was on at the same time but it was all brilliant.
It ended with a keynote from Fiachra O Comhrai from Gordon Games. “Using game science to engage employees and customers in the learning, knowledge sharing and innovation process”. What was interesting here was that Gordon Games was formed by non gamers. Mr Comhrai said he formed the company then decide to look at some games. I felt slightly uneasy at that, but good on them for doing it anyway. As a long time gamer where I both play and analyze what is going on it felt that my 40 years of gaming experiences was being summed up as something that you pick up in weekend on xbox. I am not sure that is what he meant. Also much of their work is in call centres, though we did not get to see many examples of Gordon Games, we did get to see some fun videos from other people.
After that some of us Second Lifers headed off for lunch before I dived into a taxi and headed home.
Here we all are looking very shifty πŸ™‚

@elfeay @acuppatae @inishy @d_dreamscape @iClaudiad
So thankyou Dublin and thankyou everyone at the conference it was a blast and very inspiring to be with so many clever and passionate people.

Almost a re-launch here we go

After what has seemed an age we have finally moved family home (and of course the base for Feeding Edge). It has meant a lot of down time work wise. Packing shifting, unpacking all takes real time out of the day. The biggest problem had been a lack of internet. This is somewhat essential for an online business! At the previous place we had superfast broadband with BT Infinity FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) about 70 Mbps. When we moved house I checked the local exchange and it seemed to be Infinity enabled. In putting in a house move request though it was not possible for BT to determine if they could re-do infinity until the phone line was enabled, but could give 2-8Mbps broadband. It was also going to take 2 weeks to enable the line, i.e. after we moved.So I took the off the net time to sort out all things house related.
BT Broadband
On wednesday the ASDL router lit up and data was once again able to flow, albeit at 5Mps to all the various machines. I was a bit surprised that the phone didn’t light up too. As it was now enabled I thought I would phone BT and check what was going on. The helpdesk was adamant that I did not have internet enabled as the phone line was not connected yet. They insisted that I must be picking up a neighbours wifi not an ADSL line. I was not overly worried about that but I was attached to ADSL I was looking at the router admin pages, the light was on and we were on my wifi network and I had looked up the number to call and the status page using that internet.
All I can assume that happened was a very kind engineer had been trying to sort out the phone and broadband, there was clearly a tech fault with some element of the phone number but they patched in broadband (which is actually more use that a phone line these days). The BT checker says we can’t get Infinity yet, though does say it will be available May 2013. As it is May 2013 I really hope we get hooked up soon. It is very hard to go backwards in capacity and it is certainly going to slow me down a little.
Either way the phone got fixed and by Thursday this death star was fully operational (well on reduced power really).
Friday I got to try the new quicker route to London and went to talk about some more medical related training development building from MMIS.
So Monday, today is the first proper day of the new, but the same Feeding Edge. I am still here taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to. The digital doors are open and let’s see what this part of the adventure brings us.
Already though next month (June) is looking pretty busy.
I am speaking (along with the wonderful Lisa Feay ) and attending the Irish Symposium on Game Based Learning

Games based learning

Games based learning

I am also heading to Amsterdam to talk Blended Reality Learning at the GOTO festival

GOTO Amsterdam

GOTO Amsterdam

So it’s all go, all the same, yet brand new πŸ™‚

A busy week of sharing ideas

This week has been a very busy one of sharing ideas with all sorts of people in all sorts of places. It started Monday with the BCS Animation and Games Specialist group AGM, with a bit of the usual admin, making sure we are all happy with who is on the committee and inviting a new member to the fold. Then I got to do another presentation. As I had already done my Blended Learning with games one a few weeks before I talked about how close we might be to a holodeck. Mostly based on my article in Flush Magazine on the subject Afterwards though the discussion with some of the game development students turned into a tremendous ideas jam session. It was a very cool moment.
Tuesday I did a repeat visit (after 2 years) to BCS Birmingham for the evening and gave the ever evolving talk on getting tech into TV land for kids. I have to de-video the pitch and pop it onto slideshare as I use footage from The Cool Stuff Collective and I don’t have the media rights to put those bits up online. Something I am always asked about why? I don’t have a good answer as it is out of my hands.
Wednesday was a quick trip to Silicon Roundabout to talk funding and games and startups. Getting off the tube at Old Street and walking to ozone for a coffee based meeting felt like stepping into a very vibrant hub of startup and tech activity. Which it is of course.
Fancy coffee
Thursday was an early start and off to London for the BCS members convention. It was good to catch up with a lot of people I have met over the years through this professional body. It was very refreshing to see a definite fresh approach by the BCS with some great presentations, lots of tweeting and some interesting initiatives.
Lots of companies work with Bcs on computing as 4th science in uk schools #bcsmgcon
The most important was the work the BCS Academy has done (along with industry) to get Computer Science recognised by the department of education as the fourth science in the new syllabus. They really are going to start teaching programming from 5 years up! Result!
The day had already started well when I was honoured to receive an appreciation award from the BCS for the work I do as chair of Animation and Games. As I had done two talks the two days before this was very timely πŸ™‚
A nice certificate. Much appreciated
Friday was a trip to help on the Imperial College London stand at the massive education science fair The Big Bang Exhibition.
Big Bang fair
Excel was buzzing with thousands of visitors.
Big Bang fair
There were tech zones, biology zones, 3d printers, thrust sec and even an entire maker zone.
Big Bang fair
The robot Rubiks Cube solver was there in all its glory too.
Big Bang fair
Space was well represented with real NASA astronauts chatting and drawing quite a crowd.
Big Bang fair
The Imperial College London stand was based around the medical side of things and on the corner of that stand was a Feeding Edge Ltd production πŸ™‚
There will be a proper post on this but here is a link to the official line on the Multidisciplinary Major Incident Simulator

This unity3d and photon cloud solution (that I wrote the code for) allows for staff to practice a kind of air traffic control situation of dealing with a massive influx of patients. Having to shuffle beds and decide who goes where.
It was great being able to show this to a younger generation at the exhibition. Many came to the stand because they were interested in medicine. However a few came over to talk tech πŸ™‚ They wanted to be programmers and build games. We had some good chats about minecraft too. Many of them appreciated the zombies that we threw into the configurable scenarios too :). If just a few % of the people who came to the fair get excited about science it will be worth it. It seemed though there was a new vibrant interest in all sciences and it is not as gloomy as it may appear sometimes.
Now it’s time to get my Dobok on and go and celebrate the opening of Hampshires first full time Choi Kwang Do facility and help get more people interested in the wonders of Choi. Phew!

Games and what it means to be human at TEDx

I was really pleased to see that Andy Robertson aka GeekDadGamer and of Wired UK and GamePeople and fellow guest on the Media Pulp Skylanders podcast got to do a TEDx talk about games and what it means to be human.
Andy has been doing a lot of looking at games from a family perspective and here expands on his other way to approach an investigation of the depth of games by engaging with local artists to use games as the starting material.
Take a look as he explains what he means πŸ™‚ thats is of course the point of the talk.

It particularly resonates with me that Andy asks for a new priesthood of game critics that get the point of the game and the mechanics but connect it to being human. That is because it is a view I share with not only games but all this technology and linking how things feel, how they change us socially and in the context of work is important to me.
(Hence my Taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to tagline)
Anyway, well done Andy, a great talk.
I wonder if the world is ready for me to do a TEDx πŸ˜‰