In Washington DC for FCVW 2011

Right now I am in the US, in Washinton for the Federal Consortium of Virtual worlds as part of a delegation from and the IEEE to discuss virtual environment standards and eco systems. This is all very cool and forward thinking as twe are not just talking about file formats but about human experience.
Rather pleasingly though Dave Taylor has a poster session here and did a demo yesterday of the Missive Project. Around major incident simulations. This is a project very dear to my heart as various aspects of it are things that I built as Feeding Edge Ltd.
It is worth reading his post(er) and I am sure I will talk to a few more people at the conference about it.
Lots of the environments send and receive data form various sources. A web menu drives options, a remote virtual patient in a scenario model responds. I do all the brokering and message aggregation and interpretation in the middle. Old habits die hard, this was SL/opensim middleware.
It is great to catch up with friends old and new from the industry but if you need an ROI on virtual worlds (do you want to sit like this for 8 hours πŸ™‚ )
Legroom? Sure virgin was better than this?
Also I discovered on the flight over just how pitiful the 3DS battery life is, no wi-fi on and it only lasted about 3.5 hours of playing ghost recon! Not good. Though it did make me watch The Social Network on the seat back TV instead, which was much better than I though it would be.
Anyway, off to the conference.

Claiming back 3D – b.Tween3D

@andypiper pinged me and said was I aware of this upcoming event. I was not but I know if I had of been paying attention I would have been straight on the case for this. is an upcoming event, the content of which is being formed right now that is aiming to reclaim 3D and push forward the sort of experiences that we can grow from various combinations of ideas and technologies. Not just sitting with specs on in the cinema.
It is something that I think we need to do, which is why I often finish my talks with the picture of an ecosystem of content and inputs/outputs and transformations.

Virtual worlds and data augmenting physical worlds, augmenting other virtual worlds and also 3d printed goods from environments affecting the interaction in a physical environment which in turn alters a virtual or augmented environment. Its a loop. It challenges where the boundaries of “3d” or immersion are. It stops people thinking that everything is in one place or done one way. It also points the way to a vast set of new uses and interactions and businesses to grow.
As an example, take Alice Taylor / @wonderlandblog and her startup Makieworld. Here Alice is creating a business to allow people to build their toys and 3d print them out. Now what happens when that toy is then part of another digital capture experience, e.g. being held whilst an xbox kinect mocaps the player. The previously digital to physical has become digital again.
It is a fascinating loop, with no particular end point or start point. It has had me pondering it for some time, and each pitch I give it becomes more obvious to me this is where we are heading. It’s not just AR layers, not just games, not just virtual worlds for meetings, not just social media, not just location based services, not just 3 visualization, not just printing a 3d model. It is all of those, with stories and meaning intertwined where we need it as humans to get benefit and pleasure.

Gadget Show Live 2011 – the long version

I cut a longer version of the Gadget Show Live video, this time from scratch, with a Garage Band tune form loops and some sound effects. Going through it was a good memory jogger if nothing else. It also makes me appreciate even more what the pro’s do on The Cool Stuff Collective.

The show day I went to was press/professional day so it was probably a more subdued affair that then the 20,000 people per day paying public days. For a start the arena show was off bounds as the guys were rehearsing. So no crossing of gadget and games show streams there then.
When I arrived I went straight to the back of the hall and found the UK computer museum, they had a huge stand for each decade and lots of that is in the video above.
There were a lot of 3D TV’s and laptops mostly with glasses. The Nvidia stand had a huge 101 inch 3d TV playing Crysis 2 on a high end PC and it was VERY impressive. The LG 3d projector show was good too though it was more for the pure quality of the picture than the 3D effect which seemed somewhat subtle as they played the Tron light cycle scene.
Elonex were in full force, and had huge number of tablets and e-readers. For a Uk company they are right up there in the rankings getting more market share than many of the major electronic giants.
The vehicle test tracks were great, lots of electric bikes and scooters. The TP Scoot was particularly impressive. Very stable, and very fast and road legal. I skipped going on the Segways as already done that πŸ™‚ funs as they are they are of no use here as they are not street legal. WE had a go on a smaller electric scooter that was only Β£100 and that was fun too but the TP was my favourite.
Sugru we are the show and it was great to see them there, the hack anything putty was getting lots of attention over near the future tech section.
In future tech (4 small stands by one wall) there was laser object capture, robot guitar hero player, a working 3d printer, Neurosky and some robotic kits. The commercial stuff is great but they could do with a much bigger future tech section. I guess thats what the wired nextfests are for though πŸ™‚
In the gaming zone, for some reason, people had to queue to enter the 3DS zone. Matt did point out that we were wasting time queuing as I already had one , had been to the launch party and we had had it on the show. So in dipping out of the queue I managed to rip my trousers. Not very rock and roll, but it was funny. It somewhat restricted my movements but luckily the badges we had all had safety pins so I risked it and pinned what I could back in place.
When we found the new games section where gears of war 3 was running and duke nukem I had to take a phone call about sorting out an Opensim server that was having a few issues. So I stood there looking at Gears of War 3 (awesome!), talking about Opensim and rebooting a remote machine via my iphone, wearing my TV g33k tshirt with the crotch of my trousers held together with pins. It was, not to put to fine a point on it, a surreal moment. Ninty you owe me some trousers!
Game had a big store in the game zone, they had pretyy much everything at full price, just a couple of pounds off Crysis 2. That seemed a bit of a pity, though saved me spending any money.
There were a lot of motion gaming chairs at the show, which looked very expensive. One of the more interesting cockpit versions though featured a projected dome. to give a 180 degree view from a regular project source, using a convex mirror. That in 3D would be awesome though complicated.
The paintball experts at were great to talk too. They have a great lazer tag system (as in the video) and also they run kids games using foam non exploding pellets (like a fancy Nerf). Though they showed a whistling sniper bullet for regular paintball that was very cool and their custom markers were stunning. 25 rounds per minute, precise control.
It was odd seeing Flip on the Cisco stand on the day that Cisco closed the doors on the poor little thing. I am sure they are getting some flack today!
I was looking forward to the Vuzix AR glasses, but they were there but not working when I popped in.
There was a very strange couple of stands for some wrist band that is like an acupuncture pressure band, but with a “hologram” on it instead. This was just odd.
The venue was certainly full enough of some amazing kit, though equally if you pay attention to gadgets and hang around in best buy and read the tech press it was probably less surprising, but still well worth the trip.

Gadget Show Live 2011 part 1 – video

I was at the preview day for Gadget Show Live 2011 and it will be a cracking few public days coming up. I took my new minicam and between us we managed about 20 mins of film. I thought I would upload this quick iMovie trailer version before posting and explaining what I saw and thought. It was great though and thanks to Elonex for inviting us.

London Toy Fair 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game design – Virtual Goods World Perspective

I attended, and spoke at, the Virtual Goods World Europe 2010 conference on tuesday morning, held at the Millennium Mayfair hotel. There was a great line up though I had to miss the afternoon and day two with a combination of family things to sort out and the Cool Stuff Collective wrap party.
Of all the talks I heard the one by Zhan Ye was the most insightful. Obviously working in the virtual worlds industry for quite a few years means that some of the content is more of a re-enforcement, after all it is generally for people to come and learn. However Zhan Ye covered his personal experience on the transition and difference between the stock AAA game title and the more casual and social game experience and in particular how China has spent many years leading the way in creating these experiences which western developer are now having to come to terms with.
There were some elements that rang very true about the current crop of social games, a recipe for the genre.
Introduce conflict – bragging rights, friends scoreboards all give an incentive to compete and publicly show off.
Sell convenience – This is where the monetization (horrible world) comes in. Playing to the time poor but cash rich who still want to be in the game and maintain status.
Add peer pressure into play – With conflict also comes friendship. If you are going to let down a friend who has invested lots of time and money you do not want to be the spoil sport.
Zhan Ye was also quick to point out that these manipulative tactics raise moral questions about fleecing or manipulating players. The answer to this morality is gamers free to leave.
This tied in with another nice quote “Have to be a player before they become a payer” from Anthony Royce Sony at a later panel.
This got a little cheer from the game developers in the room. In all the talk of monetization and cash generation that virtual goods produce there is still a willingess to not just cash in but make something people want to play and interact with.
On the panel I talked on the final question was about brands that worked and ones that didn’t. All my worst examples were generally film ties ins, as they showed a cashing in with either a AAA game or a bad mobile or web experience, with little thought, care or respect for the player.

My best example though was Moshi Monsters. Having seen this at its earliest stages on a visit to Mind Candy I know that there was not just a money making core to this but an integrity and a reason to create it. The education without education and hence the winning over of parents and kids alike has made this quite rightly very popular. It has extended out into related merchandise and physical products but still seems to maintain that initial spirit. I heard that Michael Acton’s presentation on it the following day was superb too.
On a personal and performance style note. The room was an unusual layout for the conference but as people were at round tables many people had laptops and pen and paper handy. I noticed when I did my little intro “I am known as epredator online ” there was the usual slight grabbing of attention, “so feel free to google for me” was the same level, but when I said “or look me up as epredator on wikipedia” lots of pens got reading and heads looked at screens. A swift follow up with the Cool Stuff Collective plug and it was starting to sound a bit over the top, so I mentioned if anyone watched this Saturday I was not really in the show as usual but merely dressed as a big banana.
Its a fine line that I walk between over doing my excitement and enthusiasm for the industry with my own ego trip so it is great to have some mad material to draw on and provide some balance.

Virtual Goods World Europe – Conference time again

It feels as if its back to normality with the Virtual Goods World Europe conference this coming week in London.

I will on a Panel at 12:00 on Tuesday 16th to discuss “What are the obstacles to greater brand participation?” to virtual goods.

The panel consists of a good cross section from the industry.
Mr Pano Anthos,CEO, Hangout Industries

Mr Ian Hughes,MD, Feeding Edge

Ms Margaret Wallace,CEO, Playmatics

Mr Adam Caplan,Vice President (Virtual Currency), SuperRewards

I am there with a general virtual world and hence virtual good hat on, but also combining the gaming startup that I have embarked upon which relies on gaming and virtual goods being out there to interact with.
I had said yes to this ages ago and so only just remembered to ask for my bio to include the fact I am a (fledgling) TV presenter on The Cool Stuff Collective πŸ™‚ Of course this is also the week where the show running Mon 5pm CITV and Sat 9:25am ITV1 does not have a full future tech feature in it πŸ™‚ Just a cameo as a banana. That certainly gives me some gravitas for the panel…

Real or Virtual its all the same thing

My friend and (sometime theatrical agent) Scotty pinged me to tell me about a bargain at blades and bows a predator mask for Β£20. It seemed to make a great deal of sense to buy this as a prop for some of presentations, as well as out of personal interest.
It has just arrived and it is pretty cool, and very heavy!
Predator Mask
I have taken to using some physical props when I present at conferences, in particular some of the 3d printed items. Something solid and tangible reflected from something in the virtual environment helps break down the barrier between audience, screen and concept.
The predator mask is going to be one such prop. However it feeds directly into the discussion of representation of self online, into reputation and into knowing who someone is.
In SL my epredator avatar wears a predator mask. I often quote that “I wear a mask but don’t hide behind it” and that it indicates a lot more than a digital replica of my actual face in certain contexts.
Saying that with a ppt presentation picture of me in predator gear and leather jacket in Second Life I tend toblend to point out my RL leather jacket and the crossover of personal branding and a willingness to share who I am. The predator mask can be used to then show that there are cultural boundaries and social norms that differ from place to place. Wearing the mask would be seen as a slightly mad act, but showing it and choosing not to wear it in that context I think is a powerful message.
We talk often about real and virtual, there really is no such divide. We experience things, internalize them and try and make sense of them.The recent Horizon programme Seeing is Believing on BBC highlighted this more than ever. Demonstrating the NeuroPlasticity of the human brain and the combination of senses we use to predict what we are seeing. Including things like the McGurk Effect where are brains are unable to stop themselves altering what we hear based on what we see.
The point is virtual environments are real, not a total figment of imagination as they operate, run and we interact with them. A virtual environment tends to be experienced through the little glass window on our laptops which helps us deal with the containment of it. However its real people on the other end doing the same thing. Communicating and interacting with us and the environment. Whilst there is currently a line to be drawn the world around us is full of virtual structures and organizations. Does your company actually exist? Is that organization chart really real?
So I think we have shades of Real, all converted into the virtual experience we call memory.
All that because of a Predator mask? Well yes, though it is just really cool in its own right too πŸ™‚

Wonderful conference in all ways here in Finland

It has been a really great conference here in Lahti Finland. The venue, the Sibeliustalo was truly stunning and the hospitality of everyone for all of us visiting speakers.
Whilst I do call us Metarati moderately tongue in cheek when your fellow speakers have such a reputation and track record in the whole breadth of virtual world interaction it really is a cool club to be considered part of.
Ken Hudson had asked some of us a while back if we wanted to come and speak. For me I was intrigued what Finland was like having never visited before, and also to see where my European neighbours were on the whole scene. It has ended up being culturally enlightening for me personally too.
The conference was a huge success in my opinion because of very good organisation (the sort of smooth running that does not cause the delegates any stress), and a willing and knowledgable audience. That makes it much easier for the speakers to share their stories.
Not only that but in the evening yesterday we were treated to tickets to a symphony performance in the acoustically superior hall. Then a wonderful dinner followed by some of the students performing circus routines from ropes and bands suspended from the wooded frame of the building. The performances were all stunning.
This certainly gave us lots to talk about as well as the metaverse subjects were were here to share as we then headed of to sample the Finnish ‘White Wine’.
The venue was set up with both a constant SL presence on a giant screen in the hall and a constant twitter feed too. It was not trying to hack around between a single projector screen. We had AV kit it was filmed, photographed and streamed, radio mics when needed, power, good stable wireless, presentations we both in RL, SL and a backup on the web. We also had translators who expertly dashed to wherever us English only speakers were and told us what was going on when a presentation was in Finnish. Truly wonderful stuff!
The well organized mixed media nature of this meant I could sit on stage and visit myself in Second Life whilst tweeting. You don’t get much more connected than that.
Karl Kapp did his opening keynote for today (which I missed the first 10 minutes of to my annoyance but it could not be helped). Insights into the degrees of engagement in virtual worlds, reminding people of the time and emotional effort that causes identification with the avatar and presence to name but a few. He also signed a copy of his book for a fellow presenter. I expect there will be some very good coverage on Karl’s blog
I had to do some last minute alteration prep to my pitch for later in the morning, but it was good to see RealXtend represented and the fascinating school of the future project
The Finn’s understand and take education very seriously. In many other places such as the UK it seems to not be held with quite the same high regard by the establishment and society in general.
I followed the pitch by Bill May of the state department with the great job of director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Innovative Engagement (part of the Bureau of International Information Programs). Using social media and virtual worlds for political and cultural engagement. I first met Bill at the first virtual worlds conference in New York back in 2006, so it was good to see all the things that have transpired and that he has done since those conversations.
I did a cut down version of Washing Away Cave paintings the primary thing still being to consider not getting stuck in old ways already and to challenge the patterns, including not assuming SL is the only way. Leading to the amazing loop of virtual to real and back to virtual again. Something that is a game changer. (I also kept getting to throw in The Cool Stuff Collective too πŸ™‚ )
It was good to bring up Augmented Reality and reference the work done here by the guys and show how far forward they are in their thinking and doing, whilst also showing there is even more potential than anyone would initially think.
Georges Segura (who led the organisation of the whole thing) also then presented with some Live demo’s AR applications build using the Total Immersion toolkit. A very cool circus clown demo which blended markerless tracking then seamless into facial tracking. Then a student build RC car was driven in that was streaming video to eye glass screens.
This practical demonstration was a great way to end the main elements of the conference. It flowed nicely from the the things I had been pushing forward, and AR does wow an audience. (I am thinking I should drop some AR live and risky demos into my pitch, maybe do the slides as AR triggered objects as it may add a little bit more to the whole story)
So thankyou everyone in Finland, presenters, translators, delegates, organizers and stake holders. Its the 3rd year this has been run and it is the best and most inspirational conference I have been to and thats not the “white wine” talking.
Well done all!

Learning in other worlds – Lahti

There are a few of the metarati gathered here in Sibelius hall in Lahti for a very well organized conference. Right now Ken Hudson is doing his opening keynote setting the scene for the rest of us to layer our experiences on.
Ken used some initial setup with both the Gartner hype cycle, indicating the trough of disillusionment is a good thing.
Then illustrating the proteus effect and how all media is a place that we populate with shades of ourselves.
The main part of the pitch is the canadian border crossing examples or training and rehearsal, combined with documented results.
Using the anecdotes and examples that populate our industry. The real life life saving based on having learned in America’s Army etc. There is also the great example of an American Football player running along the goal line before a touchdown. When asked why he said “That’s what I do in Madden on the console to run the clock down”.
What is interesting and cool is the level of organization of the conference though. I have power, I have wireless. There are 3 main screens the presenter screen one side, a twitter feed the other and its being videocast into Second Life and Second Life is up on the third screen.
A body of staff and students are busy running the event. There is an official twitter feed @oem2010
As a national Finnish conference of some note it is not just treated as a freebie. The SL attendees are paying guests.
A few of us, Bill May, Karl Kapp and I are doing a business track pitch today, a panel and then tomorrow a bit longer pitch (where I can do the whole cave painting piece looking forwards).
Claus is here to talk about Popartlab too so we have a great variety of conversation. So some of the #metameets crew are here πŸ™‚