Cool Stuff Opensim and Metaverses (no Second Life) – S2Ep13

Metaverse’s are what I do and have done for a living for a good few years now. Just in case you did not know 🙂
This morning I finally got to see the piece on Opensim I did as part of my future tech slot on The Cool Stuff Collective. It has been odd getting to see it as I ended up with a duff DVD (it broke just before the piece), just as we sat down to watch some friends arrived so we had to put it on pause, but in the end I watched it.
Opensim on the TV
I managed to say Opensimulator (though we don’t say URL’s) and also get in a great reference to QuestHistory (From Rezzable), who kindly provided the OAR file for the greenies room that we flew around in on the show.
We had a 2 computer setup and were were talking to an OpenSim server I have running on a slicehost in the US. We were both running the Imprudence viewer, mine on the Mac and Sy on Windows. We had some picture in picture mixing too. So Sy had his view and I had mine. I got Sy to build a cube and then I modified it to illustrate the building tools.

My copy of the cool stuff set that we used was a 30 min build I did on a local opensim on the train one day.
The piece was a bit too long so some of the things we did didn’t make the edit but all the important pieces form co-creation, immersion and shared experience right up to and including the ability to drive 3d printers from these models we build and share together made it into the show.
My avatar had green spikey hair, my striped leather jacket and some felt tip trousers. These are all things that have a meaning and legacy for me, despite being “virtual”. The green spikes were part of my original Second Life avatar, the Jacket is my actual jacket photographed and textured as I wear in SL now and the felt tip trousers was something I coloured in when doing some painting with predlet 1.0 back in 2006. It would have been nice to have been able to talk about Second Life as an original seed and commercial operation, versus the open source opensim. However SL is really not geared up for 7-12 year old users so we could not encourage that. With the closing of the teen grid and the apparent ambivalence to education and establishment in general SL missing some great opportunities to make a difference again. So it was great to be able to talk about one that is actually doing things with QuestHistory well done Rezzable!
I gave Sy a cool stuff collective T shirt and skinny jeans 🙂 So we actually have more virtual t-shirts than real ones for the show? Anyone out there want to do some merchandising for the show then please contact archie productions. I am sure there is a market there!
It was interesting to be technically making live machinima too. It was an extra element of complexity that we had 2 cameras in world, a composite screen in the studio as a feed and also two real camera pointing at us. Now we have the studio in Opensim though we could do a whole show from there 🙂
Scale means nothing in virtual worlds
It has taken 26 shows to get to do Opensim. I had been using it as the emergency backup for any tech failures, but the 2 tech fails we have had on future tech did not fit nor would a quick piece do it justice so I am glad we waited.
Anyway, one more show left in the series next saturday. A Big Gadget Adventure piece. There is also a rather awesome gadget in the studio!

UPDATE – As the clips are no longer online at ITV there is a little bit on Youtube you can view You can catch up on the clips of the shows here, or if you are quick you can watch entire episodes on the ITV player here

3D screen scoop – Cool Stuff Collective S2Ep12

This weeks Cool Stuff Collective is now airing, also rather usefully it is now in full on the ITV player here so you can see the entire show (and a few recent ones) in their full glory. All those mad links that Sy Thomas does too 🙂 and that there is a storyline and plot for each show.
Monkey has turned into a pop impresario this week and is busy auditioning new acts, dressed with a white tshirt and high trousers…. Hmmmm I wonder who that is.
As part of the madness I have to audition for monkey singing Hello by Lionel Ritchie, it did not go well 🙂 We also had a rather tiring game of music gaming chairs. I must remember to lose more quickly!
The future tech section was rather exciting as it was a brand new type of 3D display from a Uk inventor. I actually found out about it during an impromptu conversation in Best Buy when I was getting our 3D TV, introductions were made producer Matt kicked into action and booked the tech on the show. As you know I like to let serendipity take its course and so we ended up with this screen on the show.
This screen is from Applied 3D technologies. It was a proof of concept prototype so had that wonderful mad inventor quality to it that I can totally relate to.
A3DT - 3d Display
The screen had a circuit board doing some processing from an ordinary DVD player as the video source. The video on the DVD had been post processed for the screen format. The screen was not shutter or LCD glasses based, and it was also not the stereoscopic lenticular lens that we see on things like the 3DS. It was a different effect that I think is best compared to the sort of illusion of presence you get with the trick effects of a coin in a convex mirror bowl. The real coin appears to floating, you can reach out to grab it but really its at the bottom of the bowl out of the way.
The objects on the screen appeared to be in front of the plane of the screen not “in” the screen. Moving side to side the image would shift, still floating like on the inside of a sphere rather than with a lenticular where a shift to the right or left gives you a flat image.
We only had single objects rendered on a black background, but they were real filmed objects not just CGI. So there was motion. This made it seem a lot less plane related than many 3D films do.
Being an optical projection is also means it scales small and theoretically very large.
It was actually secret how it worked so I can’t actually say much more than form this observation, but it was intriguing to see and I look forward to seeing it go further. It was great to see the Cool Stuff Crew gathered around off air. As these people work with images all day, for them to be so interesting in something that felt and looked a little different proved to me there was something in this too.
All the contact details are on A3DT website if you are interested in finding out more.

Snow joke its episode 11

This weeks Cool Stuff Collective features monkey in cape as super monkey, an electric mini Hummer and a stack of cool gadgets. My part of the show was another Big Gadget Adventure. This time it was the indoor snow slope at Milton Keynes the SnoZone.
We actually recorded this straight after the sky diving, so it was a pretty tiring shoot. It is great gadget to talk about though as the way the snow is made and kept fresh is fascinating. It is actually made by pushing water vapour in front of the air jets and the crystals fall and form.
Check this out
In the shoot I had to snowboard down a few times, my first turns after so many years were tricky but I stayed shiny side up.
More tiring than the boarding was walking back up and the slope for the sledging shots as we did that a few times.
Head first
I think that some of this shoot is about the comedy value of presenter abuse. I was pelted in various ways.
Presenter abuse
This of course will always make people laugh. You can’t beat a good bit of slapstick.
The indoor snow is so much better than the dry slopes that I tried to learn skiing on in the first place. The general piste is quite tightly packed for boarding but it still felt right. I can thoroughly recommend it 🙂

What do you do with all the costumes?

Wednesday was a bitter sweet trip to London for The Cool Stuff Collective wrap party. Now there was a time when fancy dress generally made me think “oh no!” however this past year or so working with Archie Productions on the TV show has completely removed any apprehension I have of such things. It is a similar tipping point to when you finally realise that it is OK to stand up in front of people and talk or present. I have often thrown myself into things for my own good to get past these apparent walls of confidence us humans create. I chose to work in a shop on saturdays as a teenager in order to get used to talking to the public. The first hour for me was terrifying, until suddenly it clicked. It may have been someone actually asking me what the difference between the blue and black ink was!
Standing up and giving presentations about things is a performance skill as much as an exercise in memory. It takes a bit of practice, but most people can find their voice and do that. Finding a subject that is interesting, or that you cannot get wrong because its personal opinion helps a great deal.
Anyway, we had a wrap party, we had a stack of animal and related costumes so we got changed at BBC TV centre, wandered the halls of TV power, went into Westfield, sat outside a bar, rode the tube, ate in a Soho Restaurant (Bodean’s was fantastic), hung around a pub watching Man Utd vs Chelsea and finally hit a nightclub. All dressed as elephant, crocodile/alligator, pig, cavegirl, lady blah blah, pirate, mexican, meerkat (or giant mouse as many thought) and I was the parrot.
So many people asked us why we were dressed en masse like this that this became a marketing exercise for the show (there are 4 more weeks left to air too). In fact compared to the madness of the show it was almost run of the mill.
Sy, whilst dressed as a pig had a great rock and (sausage) roll moment as someone came up to him and told him how much they had enjoyed his gig at West Byfleet the other day. In general people do not come up to you in the street and talk about work you do, I guess the costumes both attract attention and lower some barriers.
I cut a little video using the iMovie wizard again.

Whilst on the subject of videos, the comedy music piece by our very own pop crash grannies has also hit youtube.

Its an anthem in the making 🙂
Anyway another show on tomorrow ITV1 8:10 see you there 🙂

Smartboards and catwalks at my fingertips S2Ep10

Show ten of this series of The Cool Stuff Collective’s 14 shows is currently airing. The show is one based around Sy Thomas having various hair related problems and a slight fashion vibe. Several of us were roped in to demonstrate some wearable tech. I got to go first. As you can see Sy is sat in a bald wig as a setup for the later gag during my future tech slot.
Catwalk at Cool HQ
I was given a musical t-shirt and asked to camp it up as I strutted on and off. Some how to get the hips wiggling, and because I had to keep hold of the volume control (as the t-shirt was rather sensitive and noisy) I found myself conducting with a swinging right arm. I don’t think I have a future modelling, though I was quite proud of my turn. I just have not developed anything approaching the Zoolander Blue Steel 🙂
After this item monkey gave Sy a magic potion to restore his hair with disastrous results.
This gave a good hook to tap into demonstrating the Smartboard, as I got to use some of the tools on it to show how to fix Sy’s hair.
Bad hair day
The Smartboard we had came from up near bagshot and Jamie came along to help make sure it all worked for us. We had to recalibrate it out the back of the studio, and ended up having to do it again when we moved it on set as it was a bumpy journey.
The Smartboard we had was portable though. As I said in the piece many schools now how these and I know in Predlet 1.0’s school the teachers do use them for more than just showing powerpoint( as I asked at parents evening). I was a little concerned we were going to be showing things that many kids had already seen at school but I hope it will help, via my simple demonstration, for some schools to start to harness the power of the tech more.
I had a picture of Sy on screen and used my catwalk finger to operate the board.
How to use a Smartboard
I showed drawing a gesture square which created a zoom function, then showed doodling and drawing lines. Then it was the piece that I found exciting in delving into some of the mathematical tools.
The story was Sy’s hair needed to be a perfect 39 degrees. The Smartboard software has protractors and set squares in it. You are able to bring up a device, set an angle then lose the device. It draws the angle and lets you use that to measure and adjust things on screen.
Maths, Smartboard and 39 degrees
You can see on the right an active 39 degree angle.
Also anything on the board that appears to be a doodle is a complete actual object in its own right.
So I took the scribble I made at the start of the piece dragged and rotated it to 39 degrees and placed it on Sy as his hair.
Smartboard objects
The future of these boards is of course multi-touch which starts to take more gesture based computing in a multi-user environment.
I was also intrigued to hear (though we did not talk about it as we may do a follow up item) that there is a physics based piece of software that means levers, cogs, gravity etc can be simulated. Draw a boulder and it will drop. I know also there are some virtual world adaptations that have been made to do similar immersive journeys on these boards.
We also did not have time to thread in the use of remote machines to control the Smartboard, though the Fizzbook makes an appearance in the shows later.
We have now finished recording this series, and series 3 is back in the autumn. It was quite a sad, yet exciting record last wednesday. Just a wrap party to survive now.
Don’t worry though there are still four more cracking shows and next weeks future tech is a snowy one !
The wikipedia pages for us all are getting some interesting traffic still.
Cool Stuff gets a lot of comments, Sy Thomas invented Brocolli apparently and mine gets the odd geek fan comment. Of course just comments or abuse tend to get reverted pretty quickly but it is good to see people realising they can contribute. If anyone wants to update things there are some pieces I have left on the talk pages 😉 such as

Formula 1 here I come and some magic too

Well the title may not be strictly true, but it is the start of the F1 season so it was rather good timing that this weeks Cool Stuff Collective was my Big Gadget Adventure to PureTech racing near Gatwick.
If you get to see the footage I think it is very obvious just how violent (and exhilarating) the whole experience is.
The show features a celebrity take over by Lucy Versamy, so when we have the usual chants of “Ian” Lucy walks in instead and introduces my VT, just in case anyone was as confused as when we moved TV time slots and we all turned into Hannah Montana.
The place is amazing in having 10 high spec simulators that throw you around with incredible force and precision at up to 1.5g. The steering wheels are force feedback and the track is a composite of some great corners from around the world.
In doing my TV style intro I had to say “most advanced formula racing simulators in the world” and it was so hard not to turn into Jeremy Clarkson at that point.
PureTech big gadget adventure
I really enjoyed hurtling around this track and I was getting some decent times and seeing where to improve. It was tiring but I could have done that all day, tuning and adjusting to get it just right. The middle part of the track (as I shouted in the VT is “Top Gear!!!!” and flat out (if you line up right) through some amazing corner combinations.
Puretech big gadget adventure
The other cool anecdote about todays show was that the Gadget of the Week in Monkey’s gold box was a magic wand controller from the Wand Company. (You may have caught this on Dragon’s Den). The reason it was on the show was because @bowlsey tweeted me as a representative of the wand and asked what I thought of them. The tweet started a cascade of communication and next thing you know it was on the roster as the Gadget of the Week as Matt thought they were cool too 🙂
It is amazing to think that on wednesday we shoot the last 3 of series 2 of The Cool Stuff Collective and how far it has all come and how it just keeps getting better IMHO. There are still 5 shows to air out of the 14 but its a body of work everyone is really proud of, and has enjoyed for the most part 🙂

3DS Ignition launch party

Thursday night I headed to London to meet up with some of the Cool Stuff Collective team as we had VIP media tickets to the Nintendo 3DS launch event. This was of course a very exciting invite. We were not filming anything, but the chance to mingle, to play some pre-release games and to be at a great music gig too was impossible to say no to!
I am sure many media people go to these things all the time, but for me it was a bit of a novelty.
We had to stand in a short queue the other side from the actual red carpet. Jodie Kidd was just arriving as we got there so it took a little while for the photographers to finish before we snuck in past them.
The venue was the Old Billingsgate hall on the bank of the Thames. After a little bit of confusion about names on the list (there were five of us, a small amout of “don’t you know who we are” we were ushered, given a gold write band and headed up stairs.
It was a very impressive set up. There were on the mezzanine level (where you needed the wrist band) stand after stand of 3DS with every game there is for it, so it seemed. We were suspended above the main floor where there other party guests and competition winners were able to play on even more machines.
The public 3ds play stands
We had to do the usual set of party pictures.
Celebs :)
I was also wearing my g33k t-shirt, though I probably should have gone incognito 🙂
Matt got to meet some fellow costume based performance artists too.
Not mushroom in here
The 3DS is really great and I can’t wait until my one arrives (cough… Amazon !!!! you missed the release data).
It really is 3d
The highlight of the evening though was the music gig we were able to wander down to the floor and also escape the crush back upstairs again 🙂
Russel Kane intro's acts
Hadukon got the energy level up with a great set but I really was looking forward to seeing Plan B. They were absolutely brilliant live! DJ Yoda did a fantastic set after that too and took us off into the night.
The only slight problem was that I had to get up (having stayed over in London) and head up to Scunthorpe to give a talk to 200 sixth form students. I was a little croaky for the talk but I think it went well 🙂
Now where is my 3DS! I have two games and no console
Something missing from this picture
We couldn’t get them off the display stands to take home 🙂
Sy and 3ds

Introducing open source to kids TV – yes really!

I really enjoyed the chance to explain something really important on this weeks Cool Stuff Collective. The core of the piece this week was the principle of Open Source collaboration. I had started to lead up to this concept with the wikipedia piece a few weeks ago, showing the views that anyone can get involved can contribute and not just consume on the web.
The way to approach open source though had to be something other than the “traditional” software applications such as the Linux operating system. Whilst it is one of the most advanced and technically rich exemplars of the this self organisation and support eco system its really not compelling enough for kids.
The open source libraries for the Xbox Kinect however are spot on. It is a triumphant story of the explorers out there seeing what they could do with what is already an amazing piece of consumer technology. It being the big xmas hit only a few weeks ago most people can relate to it and what it does in the context of the Xbox. Many of the viewers will have played with one too.
The speed with which the open source community gathered and hacked the kinect, released the code and then people started gathering and building more and more things was so fast it highlights the speed disruptive innovation can side swipe large corporate entities. In the first few days of the hacking Microsoft took a “not with my box of bunnies” approach. Legal proceedings were threatened etc. Somewhere, somehow there was someone with enough sense to stand back and say… “wait a minute, at the very least this is selling even more kinects, people are buying kinects who don’t have xbox’s”. After all no harm was being done really, the kinect was not being stolen, it was not a DRM issue. The thing has a USB plug on it! Now it may have been all calculated to frown and them embrace the hacks but however it has worked out Microsoft come out pretty well having decided to join the party rather than stop it. Whilst not specifically part of the open source movement(s) they are releasing a home hacking kit.
The choice of how to work with your kinect on a computer is a varied one but just for the record (as we did not give any names/URLs out on the show)
I used (and hence was helping to support) the Libfreenect piece of software on my Mac. All the info you budding hackers need is at
This let me show Sy the depth of field display running on a Mac. The left hand colour picture reflects distance, one of the key points of the Kinect in sensing movement over an above a regular webcam. I was not altering any code just showing what was available at its very basic level.
I also demoed the audio hack of a Theremin the Therenect by Martin Kaltenbrunner of the Interface Culture Lab. I bumped into this demo via a serendipitous conversation about what a theremin actually is and how it works just before putting this piece together. Martin is also one of the inventors of the ARTag and TUIO integrations that I used in the AR show in Unity3d and the brilliant Reactable that I hope will be in the final Big gadget adventure film towards the end of series 2. (So a friend of the show as his stuff just works whenever I try it!)
There are of course lots more things going on and so many good examples of people working on the kinext and hooking up other free and accessible pieces of code, and more importantly sharing them. @ceejay sent me this link on twitter after the show aired.

Hopefully next (and final record for the series) I will get to do the Opensim piece, more open source wonderfulness to build upon this and the previous conversations.
Many people are not aware just how complicated Open Source is as a concept and the implications it has as part of any eco system. It is a threat and an opportunity, a training ground for new skills, a hobby and a political minefield of ego’s, sub cultures, competing interests. What come out of the early days of Open Source is usually very rough, but it works. If it does not work quite right you change it and contribute back. We have yet to see the ultimate long term effects of open source in a networked world. We have though seen it make massive changes to the software industry, but the principles of gathering and sharing and building applies to way more that our geeky business. It is about governments, banks, manufacturing and even the legal system. It is, not to put too much pathos on this, the will of the people. (just not always the same people who consider themselves in charge or market leaders.)
Open source projects also tend to spring up in response to a popular commercial event, challenging windows with linux as an example. Without something big and unwieldy, or not done quite how people really want it done, an open source movement will not form with enough passion and gravitas. That is not to say that people do not realise lots of things as open source. You write code and share it, build and show etc, but that is open sourcing and not the complexity of an open source movement I think.
So, a heavy subject once you drill down but it is the future and its already here.
Open source is messy, it about people, it tends to not fit all the preconceptions of a product. However people tend to expect a product to work and be supported the same as if they paid for it. Which is why there actually is a financial and business opportunity in wrapping open source up, and providing labelled versions and services with appropriate licensing. The people that build still need to eat and be recognised for their work too. So it is by no means just a load of free stuff on the internet, but you are free to join in and I hope some kids will be inspired to at least take a look or ask their parents and teachers about the social implications of all this too.

G33k Chic at Cool HQ

This weeks Cool Stuff Collective is themed around a musical. Lookout Glee!. I did wonder how that was going to end up but I really liked the show. In particular I loved Sy (who now has a proper wikipedia page) doing his wiki wiki wah wah rapping with Monkey shouting chiiiimp. I missed seeing that getting recorded as I was out backstage trying to help an inventor get his kit for my emerging tech piece working. It worked fine in the green room, but when it got wheeled out it failed to work at all. We will try again though.
So this musical show manages to not feature me in my g33k tshirt talking tech, but a lot of other great bits. The tshirt was still on me but covered up by my Dinner Jacket and bow tie.
Shocking I know but I was “dancing” and “singing” with the rest of the cast in what turned out to be something that took us the most takes of anything ever to do.
Cool Stuff Collective - The Musical
We are singing our lines to the William Tell Overture, which is a speedy piece of music to bumble your lines out to at the best of times.
I would say this is another string to my bow too (to keep the William Tell theme going) and I don’t think michael buble has much to worry about. A tux does make you move in that old jazz/swing style though. Maybe I should wear it more often.
Anyway normal service is resumed next week Sat 8:10am ITV1 (whatever normal service is!)

Cool kids presenting 3d printing and Cool Stuff Collective

Thanks andypiper for pointing me at this video of a cool kid talking about 3d printers on a big stage. It is the future by a participant of the future.

Whilst on the subject of kids doing cool things I also just bumped into this, which I assume is an homage to our Cool Stuff Collective. Brilliant 🙂

Once again the power of the web, the willingess to create and share and the ability for people of any age to create and engage. It really is a massive social and artistic change. Still ignoring social media ? (If you are you probably are not reading this though are you 🙂 )