It used to take a day to render a cube! CAR

I remember when….. Seriously, it used to take ages for us back last century to do anything remotely interesting with computer graphics. Ray tracing applications and hidden line removals used to take hours and hours of rendering time. Now a home console like the Xbox 360 can produce this in minutes. I know there is some “cheating” going on with lighting etc but this still amazes me. I tried creating one of the special hi rez shots of a car on the top gear text track. The general images are 1024 wide and about 0.9Mp but this is a 8Mp (3840 x 2160) image (if you look at the full sizes available you will see the monster image)
Just rendered on a home console, on my TV, sent to the web wirelessly for all to see.
Forza Hi Rez f430
The trajectory is clearly going the right direction for more tools to allow us to create better and better images and merge photo realistic and also interesting non photo realistic art styles into a cohesive digital view of the the world.
Cohesive Augmented Reality? CAR – that’s a convenient name 🙂

Arduino (not just for adults you know!)

I was really pleased to get to take my own personal Arduino board (that I bought form Sparkfun) along for this weeks futuretech slot on The Cool Stuff Collective. Being able to get kids, or anyone for that matter, interested in the fact that electronics and programming has never been more accessible with so many open source projects was really dear to my heart.
We actually filmed a lot more for the piece but I think the version we have in the show gets the point across. My willing volunteer had not done any electronics of programming before.
I showed the simple LED on off circuit as that was the least fiddly to build in front of the cameras, and would happily work in a few takes. I then patched in a version on another breadboard that had 2 LEDs so we can show that you can make your own toys, in this case a fire engine.
Hotel room arduino building
The other pieces with servos, sounds etc would actually fill a much longer programme. You could see that the Arduino, along with raspberry PI could fill a gap in make and do software and engineering that could help lift our general tech education in the country and help people realise that open source is a force for good that anyone can contribute too.
I built the circuits in the hotel room the day before the shoot. It looks suspicious to have all these wires and pliers nowadays!
If you are in the UK (Not sure it will work outside) the ITV player has this show for the next week until we have some even more cooler stuff on next weeks show.
It was also good on this show I got to be Stunf Fish as The Blowfish said he couldn’t ride a bike for gadget heaven and hell and we had an electric A2B bike to review. That was a fun, and surprisingly fast electric bike. I think I need to get some sort of electric vehicle!
Oh, and there was a double custard piefest as 2 of the 3 toys were voted Pants not Chilly hot on the cool stuff wall of fame. (Rubs hands with glee as the vengeful Supergeek!)
You have got to love kids TV!

Forza 4 – Cool Stuff Ride

Forza 4 has hit the shelves, and quickly after that hit the DVD tray of my Xbox 360. I have always been a fan of the series and once again they have no disappointed. I really need to get a good force feedback wheel to enjoy this now. However they are a little pricey, or in short supply.
Each year when Forza comes out I have been painting logos on them. What is interesting from a branding point of view this year is that I have a few other things to put on that I have an affinity to. So I created this paint job for a Sierra Cosworth. Feeding Edge it on there right at the back, the epredator wii mii inspire face on the rear arches. However now I also have a good few TV slots on The Cool Stuff Collective that I feel the car needs to show, hence the g33k (from my tshirt) and an attempt at the shows logo.
cool stuff g33k mobile
It’s a few hours messing around as the way forza works is with stencil primitives, in many ways like Second Life pre mesh. The primitives and the mathematical twisting of them allows for easy distribution so that that when I race online or sell this car online people will get the design downloaded to them.
We can’t just upload pictures, you have to craft the result. (I am a tech g33k not a graphic designer though!)
***update now with video too

Back to the screens with real/virtual crossover and pie

The first show of Series 3 of The Cool Stuff Collective just aired (it will run all week 🙂 ) and there are a lot of changes.
We are now filming live in schools with an audience. This is great as the show if for kids we get to hear and see if they really do like what we do. (Good news on that front so far!). We have changed from a comedy character and sketch basis to a live interaction vibe. This has some interesting challenges as the production team have to create a TV recording setup in situ. Which is no mean feat. Lighting and sound are no longer a known quantity as in a TV studio.

Portable Studio
Rehearsing Cool News
We also have two new front of house presenters. Vicky Letch and The Blowfish, who add to the live dynamic with their interactions with one another and the audience.
TheBlowfish and Vicky Day 1 filming
I still turn up to do future tech and this week I showed Vicky the Skylanders game and hardware. I have blogged about this before. What I wanted to show, and hopefully there will be some more like this, is the interaction between real and virtual environments.
Skylanders has physical toys with NFC chips in. When you select an actual toy it in turn selects that character in game. An important thing is that the toy also acts as the memory card for that characters levelling up. Data flows form the game to the toy. If you take that character collectible and take it to another persons house to play the game you are carrying your progress with you.
I love the mixed mode real/virtual concept and I had wanted a similar real to virtual product in the mix of the piece, but sometimes trying to show future developments seems to bump into regional marketing PR madness. Something may be out in one country, even all over the web, but the physical thing can’t be shown in another country for reasons best known only to themselves 🙂

One of the extra bit I end up having to do is strop off at the end of my enthusing about future tech when Vicky asks a complicated question about a field that I am not part of. This is nearly acting 🙂 I try and keep a sulky face on

My other (favourite) part is when, during the voting of chillies hot or pants not, when the crowd vote on a toy brought in by one of the kids, and a verdict of pants is reached there is a call out to super geek. I get to enter (stage right darlings) with a white lab coat and some safety goggles to custard pie the unlucky volunteer. This is the sort of saturday morning I grew up with watching Tiswas! Another ambition ticked off the list then 🙂

The team at Archie Productions (check out the end titles of the show for all the names) do a brilliant job making this show and it’s great working with them. We have filmed 4 so far and have another 8 to go 🙂

The Cool Stuff Collective returns this Saturday 15th October ITV1

It is that time again. Series 3 of The Cool Stuff Collective is hitting the screens here in the UK on Saturday 15th October. Its in ITV1 at 7:35 (or ITV+1) at 8:35 and then repeated Sunday 7:25 and on CITV too.

It looks like its early because of the Rugby world cup and the listings seem to show the second programme the week after is at 8am.
There are quite a few changes, which I wont destroy the surprise and nothing is certain until it actually airs.
We are off recording 3&4 this week too, complete with Wednesday rehearsals.
It all seemed to go really well, and I certainly have some cool things to talk about too.
I suspect the website will still be region locked, but that’s out of my hands.
I will be in my trailer if you need me 🙂

On the road with The Cool Stuff Collective

This week saw the start of filming series 3 of The Cool Stuff Collective. I can’t say much about it until it airs but it was very different to be on location and staying away for 2 nights at a Premier Inn with the entire crew.
The first morning of filming was a difficult choice of wardrobe. Blue or Green? 😉
G33k prep
As resident “Super Geek” my mini sub brand marches on 🙂
It was good to see John Marley (the shows creator and boss of archie productions had his game face on too)
Bring it on
I also hope I did not worry housekeeping at the hotel too much with my day before prep of an item
Hotel room arduino building
The show will air in mid October (AFAIK) and I think its a cracker of a show.
Watch this space 🙂

Lookout Gamefest here we come

There are a busy few days coming up, tomorrow is a BCS London presentation of all things metaverse/game/coolstuff etc and one of them is Friday when I am heading the press opening of Gamefest as the NEC. It is of course a good mix of personal interest and also for The Cool Stuff Collective to check out some of the latest and greatest game releases and get some hands on with some of them. I will be wearing my g33k tshirt of course as this is an official engagement 🙂
Maybe see you there?

Develop conference Day 2 and 3. A wind of change?

In all the google+ messing around I had not got around to writing up my remaining thoughts and experiences at the Developer 2011 conference in Brighton. Day 1 for me was the Evolve conference a sort of future thinking bolt on that is gaining some traction with the industry. The Evolve strand then blends into the next 2 days which are the official Develop conference when everyone else turns up.
Develop 2011
Breakfast Serendipity
The day started heading down in the lift from the 6th floor. I was already wearing my badge and a fellow delegate asked me at the lift where the registration desk was. we got chatting and then sat and had breakfast. The usual sort of conference chat, who are you what do you do. The bizzarre thing was that my fellow delegate was called Iain, (I am Ian of course). It also turned out we were both doing a presentation at 3pm that afternoon. This was Iain McCaig who was going to be doing the Art Keynote as an artist and conceptual designer. For those of you who don’t know he has worked on some the biggest movies and characters including creating Darth Maul! of all time. Clearly I was going to lose a “who does the coolest things” competition but we were actually talking about our shared interest in inspiring kids to create. For him it was drawing for me it was tech. We talked about 3d printing a bit too. As he is from the movie biz it was the first time anyone has said in a matter of fact way “yes we use those all the time”. I left breakfast completely inspired and to be speaking some of the same language and ideas as someone so successful gave me a real buzz.
More Media Molecule
In a reprise of last year the opening keynote was the guys from Media Molecule talking about their journey with Little Big Planet. It was done as an interview style with Phil Harrison. For anyone at previous Develops they will have heard many of these stories before. However it is interesting stuff. There was, of course a little more about Phil and Sony’s side of things. The key people who green lit LBP.
TV to Games and Back Again
The next session I popped into was part of the Evolve track, it was also in the room I would pitch in later so it all fitted nicely. Simon Harris of BBC worldwide explained the different approaches BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC) is approaching tight integration of TV and games and the various other offline media. In many ways it was similar to the Moshi Monsters direction from the day before. It is not about bolt ons or after thoughts to cash in but about enriched branded experiences. There was a lot about Torchwood and how the growth of this to a US based series was also joined with specific threads being written for episodic games that track and augment the TV show. Top Gear also was very prominent with the deal to weave Top Gear into the Forza 4 experience. Though they did have to get Clarkson to re-record he dialogue as when it went to the certification boards it was not longer a 3+ game but had moved up to teen ranking. The future of the BBC in games and related interesting content seems assured with a lot of focus and investment and this very rich integration. A great session.
Mickey Mouse gaming
The post lunch keynote was the gaming legend David ‘elite’ Braben talking about of all things a virtual world 🙂 There were some amusing moments with the projector, that decided to clip the presentation (which did get sorted. Not a great picture but ‘king Disneyland’ made me laugh anyway.
Slight projector problem :)
This virtual world is Frontier’s new game in conjunction with Microsoft and Disney. It is Disneyland adventures. They have completely and perfectly modelled the California disneyland and players are able to wander around the park using where they then join in in rides, quests, minigames etc. This did look very cool though we did see the same attract loop a good few times. David talked about the language of the Kinect and how we are all forming the vocabulary of interaction. In his game you navigate by pointing, but not with a tiring arm out point, but an elbow at your side at 90 degrees movement, using a turn of the shoulders to go left and right. The attention to graphic detail had to be obsessive as this is disney, and being a real place that millions have visited and will visit it had to be a mirror world location.
So you think virtual worlds aren’t important
This was me and my first foray into persuading people in the game industry of the changes brought about by virtual worlds and 3d printing. I gave a live demo of Opensim too. Of course The Cool Stuff Collective features as well as this is validation that if you don’t get this tech and its uses then next generation already are because we are telling them about it. I also dropped in unifier and kitely as examples of services that are evolving to support the demands for virtual worlds. This was very handy as I had an audience question that it was too much messing about to get into a virtual world to have a meeting. My answer was that people are trying to simplify it, but it is also based on demand. if the games industry applied its approaches to running and hosting, and to usability they would have a whole new market to reuse and expand into. They wont do that until they are made aware there is a need.
I also did a straw poll in the room of how many people had heard of the BCS. There was only 1 hand went up which is indicative of the work we have to do to help people in their careers in the games industry.
Raspberry Pi
It was back to David Braben again, this time at the other strand of the conference Games:edu. I already explained a little about this over here. Create a computing device so simple and cheap that allows kids to explore and program. As opposed to just being able to play and consume. This fills the chasm between the creativity of little big planet and other creative tools to the world of computer science. I am very hopeful as whilst we harped back to the 80’s back then we only had the computer to write code on. we did not have the feeder of the creative platforms, the virtual worlds and UGC were not a thing we experienced.
Day 3 – More 3d
Day 3 began rather like day 2 with a reboot of a previous years presentation. This was Mick Hocking of Sony talking about a year of PS3 3D. Last year it was a lot of slides and a quick demo we all had to crowd around. This year we were all in the Odeon with passive 3d specs on. It was a good pitch when we saw examples of design considerations actually played out in 3d. breaking planes, reversing images, forcing convergence and divergence past comfort levels. However a lot of it was 3d powerpoint which was really very annoying. It was a waste of the tech and the time to float bullet points IMHO.

I missed the next session as I was having a few meetings and conversations about beta’s and new tech with people.

Finally the next 2 sessions were the best of the entire conference.

Happily ever after: The Story of one girl’s refusal to delegate
Nat Marco from Honeyslug told a brilliant story of how she was persuaded into learning to code a game in LUA and XML by Ricky. I knew this would be good as I was enthralled at the Kahoots story last year from Honeyslug
How this led to a whole host of remote working relationships with artists around the world producing content for her. She also talked about the relationship with a script writer and how Nat made sure she imposed her own direction and creative will to keep her project how she wanted it to be. It was lighthearted, yet covered some very important points. The team that worked around Nat was global, it was not about co-location. The programming she had to learn was a start, and she saaid it was not as bad as she thought. She was also completely immersed (and supported in that immersion by a publisher) in the project in order to maintain its quality at every stage.
Another year down the gaming toilet
I met Ricky back at the first independent keynote I did at the ACE conference in 2009 and I know we share a lot of the same ideas and humour. Last year he told me I must go to this one particular session. I didn’t get to it but this year I made sure I did as it was running again.
Develop 2011
Jerry Carpenter is an artists and developer, he has spent years, each day on a bus on the way to work, writing down short crazy, eccentric and bizarre games ideas. He has a completely different presentation style to anyone else as it kind of rambles, bumbles then hits you square in the eyes with a flash of genius or comedy or both. His inspiration for describing mad/bad games was someone commented one of his games was like watching paint dry. So he made a watching paint dry game that you could only win by sitting watching the paint dry for 24 hours 🙂 So his entire site is now dedicated and full of these brilliant cartoons and succinct ideas for a game. Much of it is NSFW BTW :). I loved 1080 qwerty extreme – a game where you turn you keyboard upside down and stand on it to snowboard, and Ultimate feline optimal area tester (a cat swinging game in a room). The ideas do stand up on their own buy the way he tells about the train of thought had us all in stitches and was brilliant. He should have his own show 🙂 Much of what he shows hits at the heart of some of the terrible grind that is part of social gaming at the moment and is combined with film and political references too. if you get a chance to see him speak please go!
I decided I needed to get back home after that. I could not see anything topping those two sessions for inspiration so I headed on back, collecting all my 3ds spot pass new connections one the way. I look forward to another great conference next year.

Develop Brighton 2011 – featuring Virtual Worlds

I just got the great news that my application to present at the Evolve portion of this years Develop conference has been accepted. It will of course be an elective session. Having attended Develop the last couple of years, and really enjoyed the sessions I felt that the virtual world industry and the crossover into social media was missing. So this year I thought I would throw my hat in the ring and do a version of washing away cave paintings.
Develop 2011 Brighton
Evolve is a part of the conference on day 1 that is about emerging trends and tech. Michael Acton Smith of Moshi is keynoting the day too 🙂
I submitted this as my talk.

EVOLVE: So You Think Virtual Worlds Aren’t Important?
Session Details
User generated virtual worlds may seem a sideshow. Open source development is making inroads, with Opensim, into fully user generated environments hosted anywhere run by anyone. These are used for entertainment and in training medical staff or school education.

They are an innovative platform for the next wave of designers and programmers. We have shown, on the kids ITV show The Cool Stuff Collective, these virtual worlds are growing to be a distribution platform for goods that will not remain solely as digital properties. Virtual things are getting real. Come and pay attention to virtual worlds and the future.

Wish me luck and maybe see you there (early bird registration finishes june 15th )

Cool Stuff at INTECH – The final show

So there we are, the last show of series 2 of The Cool Stuff Collective is airing this week. It is hard to believe that this time last year I had only done a few TV interviews, and now I have 26 shows under my belt!
For this final show it was a big gadget adventure to the wonderful hand on science centre INTECH near Winchester. I know this place quite well as I have visited a few times both as a parent and also in a professional capacity. I was lucky enough to go and see the Planetarium as it was being built and also to go and talk to the board about virtual worlds and do my more usual Metaverse Evangelism.
For the piece we spent all afternoon dashing from exhibit to exhibit (There are at least 100!). It was during a half term break so the place was buzzing, and of course bringing a camera crew in tends to attract a little attention. We also filmed after closing too though. Everyone there was very helpful and they do a great job as they build most of the exhibits and experiments and keep the place in tip top working order.
We did film quite a lot of the Reactable, though much of it must have hit the cutting room digital waste basket in order to keep the piece to time. Still its a great gadget if you want to play with one go to INTECH!
Intech reactable
We also wanted to make sure we got the aforementioned planetarium in to. We left this until last to not get in the way of the families that had come to see the presentations.
intech planetarium
As this was the last show there end gag was that I was to be packed up and put into storage until next series as Sy Thomas looks on in disbelief. This is probably what a few people out there would like to see more of 😉
Wrapped up
I hope its a nice small storage facility and not a giant Area 51 style warehouse as in Indiana Jones, or I may not be found ever again.
Anyway, that a wrap x 2, and it can still be found on ITV player for a few weeks in the UK too 🙂
The Cool Stuff Collective is back in the autumn for series 3 🙂