Cool bananas and wikipedia

This week’s Cool Stuff Collective a.k.a Show 10 is currently airing. I just spoke about the show a little in my panel at Virtual Goods World Europe and had to admit that if people tune in on Saturday on ITV they will only see me as a banana not as a tech geek. However…. that’s just awesome !
Monkey, Donkey and Bananas
The show has some great stuff in it, Monkey wins the lottery (apparently I helped him). The irony of it being the lottery may become apparent in a few weeks time, but I will leave that a mystery.
Sy get to play Harry Potter on the Kinect and does a pretty good job of sorting out the spells.
However in out very own “COOOOOOL NEWS” cue camera shake… The Cool Stuff Collective has made it to Wikipedia. It was already listed with no link as a CITV show but is very much alive and well on there now.
I already had some references too as epredator so I have reached the heady heights of having my very own bio page on there too with lots of references to all the other work I did with virtual worlds and with the media, Newsnight, Business Week, Sky News etc.
The page is is you want to go and contribute any extras for me, as you know we cant edit our own pages, so a big thumbs up to crowdsourcing at work.
I have donated to Wikipedia now too as it needs out support and I use it all the time, so if you have a spare few quid please help it out.
If anyone out there wants to write Sy Thomas’s page he needs one!

3d Gadgetfest for Cool Stuff Collective Xmas show

We are all here recording the final 3 shows of The Cool Stuff Collective for this season. Episode 13 features christmas and I will be, tech willing, covering some other ways to deal with 3D in the home.
3d Cool Stuff Collective kit
I have some Vuzix 3d wrap glasses, where the screens are in the glasses and give the impression of a 67″ screen floating in front of you.
Vuzix glasses
A fuji 3d stills and video camera with a lenticular lens screen on it to allow you to see 3d without any glasses.
Fuji 3d camera
Finally there is a Toshiba laptop with an Nvidia 3d/glasses combination video card.
It is a good chance for me to experiment with all these before they get sent back and see what works with what, how it feels to use these.
So far I am very impressed all round.

Virus, Rock and Roll and Brain Control

A strange combination of words in the title, but then that is what happens when you get (happily) dragged into the developing madness of The Cool Stuff Collective.
Episode 9 aired this evening though is the one that will be on the mainstream ITV1 channel on saturday 13th November.
I was watching it whilst at the BCS where I was about to run a session on Virtual Worlds in Healthcare for the Animation and Games Development SG. So there was some surprise I was sitting in that open office watching CITV streaming and crying with laughter at the whole show. Or was it a way to deal with the mild embarrassment or the “I can’t believe its all turned out this awesome”.
Brain control
In this show the future tech piece is about mind control devices, the NeuroSky headset and Mindflex toy. This is amazing enough and it was an interesting piece to make work. The devices prefer to be fitted properly and given a little time to calibrate in a quiet environment. So obviously a TV studio and throwing 2 headsets Sy’s way may not have been ideal, but it actually worked.
However from a more personal viewpoint it was an honour to be able to play Rockband 3 with the new MadKatz guitar on screen. Sy was in Spandex, Monkey on the drums with elvis glasses and me in a wig and shades and yes…. my leather jacket finally made it on screen.
Rockband 3
We were playing for real too, “I Love Rock and Roll”.
Rockband 3
Monkey’s drum solo was hilarious too!
This show had yet more, and probably something that I will get a certain degree of stick about, but as far I am concerned it is what this show has been all about. People trying funny things and they generally work 🙂
We had been infected with a virus in the studio and my diagnosis of it see’s me over the course of the show get more and more wrapped up until Monkey fixes it by rebooting the show. This works great but leaves me with the School Choir virus, and yes…. I sing in a daft voice on the TV.
More cables
So those years of playing Rockband/Guitar Hero came in useful, likewise the trying to sing (which I can’t) on Singstar things like “The Final Countdown” also came into play.
Of course this just adds to the complication when people ask “so what do you do now then?”

Unity3d growing – lets get schools in on this

A recent press release from Unity3d gave some impressive figures “Unity Technologies Surpasses 250K Developers Milestone and 35M Installs of Free Unity Web Player
I am a big fan of Unity3d as you will have seen over the years and it is great to see the company doing so well. I do not think this success is purely technical, Unity3d is a great product but it has been the positive and open attitude of the company which if you ever talk to the CEO David Helgasson you will see why. It is a true startup come good.
The figures are impressive for the web plugin but the figures not shown, that are in fact even bigger is the fact that every iphone and droid can run Unity3d apps. Many of you will have even played or used some and possibly not even noticed.
Unity3d 3 editor
I expect to see Unity3d appear in more and more schools as part of both art and science lessons, that was partly my intention in showcasing it on The Cool Stuff Collective. This is a tool and an environment that has both great simplicity and the ability to get as complex as you want. Programming and graphic/sound integration is the ultimate UGC. We also have lots of ways to deploy and share that content.
It seems that a set of simple course material prefabs would make a great module in both infant and secondary education to help find the story tellers, game developers, artists and programmers of the future by letting kids just get on with it and create. There may be some real gems of ideas bubbling away out there don’t you think?
Having seen the willingness to create with my own kids, watching a 3 year old choose to paint the Kart in Mario Kart on the DS and decorate away, or seeing a 7 year old revel in 3d modelling with the haptic device we really should be pushing this future tech (not just Unity3d BTW) into schools, helping teachers understand the creative and learning potential.
I know lots of people are, I know there is lots of resistance to change too. However some of this is not massive capital expenditure (most schools seem to have computers). In just the same way as many of us solo entrepreneurs are able to punch above our human resources weight with access to amazingly accessible technology, so should the classroom.
It is then not a lesson about computing or tech but about creativity, expression as well as STEM.
Fingers crossed we can ride this wave. It is certainly one I want to pursue.
Anyone out there have good Unity3d educational related prefabs?

Kinect – Yes its fantastic

The current Cool Stuff Collective show airing or Tx8 (of 13) as they call it in the trade 🙂 features yet more great and cool gadgets and games. For me though the true star of the show was the Xbox Kinect. Having it set up in the studio and having had a little bit of time to look at it, seeing other peoples reactions to it it truly is one awesome piece of kit.
The show aired on Monday 1st November on CITV but you can see it on ITV this Saturday 6th on ITV1 9:25.
Cool stuff kinect
Being able to stand up and present this and explain it to Sy let me do my usual arm waving, what was great was that the avatar on the screen was obviously mirroring me as I occasionally stopped steering the boat with Sy in the and gesticulated to get the points across about how revolutionary this really is for commercial in the home technology.
Cool stuff kinect
Seeing the debug console earlier and all the points of the body and various cameras at work is a very surreal experience too. Obviously the games are about controlling an environment and immersion but the avatars responding to you is more about self reflection. You know its not you, its not really a video of you but a fully rigged puppet responding to you. This is much more engaging and emotive that I expected it to be.
Of course being The Cool Stuff Collective it cant all be serious philosophical points about the nature of self and existence.
So here is a picture of Monkey, Me and the Pop Crash Grannies Janice and Victoria as we have a joke sleepover party at the end of the show.
Monkey, g33k and popcrash grannies
Yes that is a seagull flying past on the end of a fishing rod… oh I gave the secret away….
Yes we also had the introduction of Donkey to the show this week and the return of Cave Girl
Cool stuff collective sleepover
Of course the irony/serendipity of working with Cave Girl who arrived on the show due to Monkey inventing a time machine that I helped him with, when my main presentations on the direction of virtual worlds and gaming technology is called washing away cave paintings really cant be ignored either. Its all linked you see 🙂
As is the whole Chicken suit in fable3 that I mentioned here
Cavegirl attacks

Here is to next week with yet more bizarreness.

I am your Sensei – Halloween Cool Stuff Collective

It was very exciting to see The Cool Stuff Collective Ep7 air on ITV1 this saturday morning. It was also great because it was the best show yet.
For my part of future tech blending Evolver and Unity3d was something I had in mind from the start, being software and easily accessible makes it doubly important both for kids and for the business I work in.
The structure of the piece took a little bit of work in making a Sy, Tim at Evolver was very helpful in letting me have a few goes at exporting the characters I made. I had already got my army of the uncool rigged mesh but created a Sy and a slim me.
Cool Stuff Collective Halloween
The animations I did in very quickly in a 3d package with some very quick tweening as that was quicker than doing the programatically in Unity, but the rest was all pure Unity3d.
It wont win any awards for design, but got the point across I think.
I made it so that I could cam around Sy rather than make it a full FPS just to give us some filming options.
The live version of the unity3d piece is here if you are interested.
We also had some special effects with Sy generating as a new Sy at the end of the piece 🙂 The magic of TV
Cool Stuff Collective Halloween
To avoid any of the hassles of direct web access in the studio I ended up doing a keynote slide show of the Evolver creation process and also due to “compliance” we are not allowed to show logos or say brand names too many times (as in the Lego shoot). Hence the blocked off areas in the slide show.

Cool Stuff Collective Halloween from Ian Hughes / epredator

The show ended with poor Sy having a pumpkin on his head, in the back room I decided to render a movie of that too using the avatar.

So it was quite a multimedia extravaganza to work on. I already blogged the behind the scenes filming so this is a bit of a “it went live” update.
I am sure clips of the show will appear with the other clips on
Whatever you do don’t say Pop Crash Grannies….. cue Ace of Spades and camera wobble!!
Next saturday 9:25 ITV we will have more madness and the Kinect piece 🙂 Still on CITV monday 5:30 too. Onward and upward.
Well done to all at Archie Productions again !
(in case you have not seen the prog I claimed to be flying by Sy as an avatar as I am his Sensei )
Also being on ITV got us some interesting placement 🙂
cool stuff collective ITV

Rocking the guitar at an MTV studio

Odd experience today, I popped along to the Cool Stuff Collective studio so we could take a look at the kit for the record tomorrow. It led to Matt, Sy and I playing the new Rockband 3 in the studio. Matt on drums, Sy on keytar and me on the new 102 button guitar.
It is an amazing device, every fret/string combination has a button and the strumming/picking strings are real strings but just in the box where you strum.
I was having trouble strumming as with no plectrum it did not pick up the gentle strumming, once I used something suitable things picked up.
Once we had finished the “rehearsal” picked the track will will use in the show record we moved the instrument into the gallery, i.e. the room where all the mixing desks are. We went from Rock Stars in the studio to roadies in one swift move.
As this is all filmed at MTV Camden this seemed very rock and roll.
My Rockband 3 set is on order from Amazon of course 🙂 We love this stuff in our house.

Saturday morning Cool Stuff Collective – Tiswas, Swap Shop etc

This Saturday 30th October brings some exciting news that The Cool Stuff Collective will be on ITV1 at 9:25 yes thats right Saturday morning prime time just like the good old days of Tiswas 🙂


It is the Halloween special too, so it does not seem so bad that we were bumped on CITV this half term week for back to back Horrid Henry episodes.

Also some great news is that loads more clips are up on the official website (may still be UK only of course)

Great news for everyone involved 🙂

Augmented Reality – Evolution in 3 mins

On The Cool Stuff Collective this week, that just aired. I got to talk a little about AR. Whilst we did not show any of the more traditional camera/marker overlay for various reasons I think we covered a lot of AR ground from marker triggering with fiducial markers and creating magic mirrors all the way to the Vtech kids video camera that acts as a live AR magic lens. Then mentioning the display contact lenses as a future way of delivering information to us in physical world.
Magic cubes
It was particularly cool for me to be able to use the Junaio triggering Royal Mail stamps that kick in a video of Bernard Cribbins.
AR video camera
Its a real bind getting a video feed out of some of these smartphones, this was a Droid, but the Iphone is also very awkward. So whilst we did connect and did trigger the video and it really does work it was better for Archie Productions to edit in the actual video.
I think we may end up with some more AR content down the line though as there are some really good products and demos like the ones we got to see in Finland OEM 2010 using Total immersion D’Fusion.
For the program I had created a Junaio channel for Feeding Edge which you get a floating Cool Stuff text model floating above the Cool Stuff TV logo if you point at it. Its all very doable! Just did not come out on the screen too well without that pesky video feed and screen shots don’t do AR justice.
Also the website going live with some Uk only video did mean I could pop into SL and do some virtual world augmented reality.
lego universe via TV in SL
Epredator getting to see G33K me streaming into a media texture talking about another virtual world the brilliant Ledo Universe Online which goes live in a few days. You have to love the meta loop !
Also great to see the CYGLO tyres running on the TV more on those at

One of the oddest days and the Kinect Rocks!

Todays recording of The Cool Stuff Collective(this just went live showing some of the parts of the show online though only in the UK 🙁 ) was probably the weirdest and funniest yet. For several reasons I think. The first is the pace and stride the production team at Archie Productions have got into and the building of jokes upon previous material etc. The second is those of us who are new to all this are more comfortable with the whole process and pace. So we have all found our voice. Another element was that one of the shows is the Halloween version, which is always good for a few odd experiences.
Where else would a pop crash grannie in a witches costume, a heavily pregnant make up guru and a tech geek spend time wrapping toilet roll around a long suffering show researcher to create a mummy gag? A fate later to befall another much loved character on the show this time with kitchen roll and gaffer tape too.
(There are some more behind the scenes photos in this set)
However for me the absolute highlight was being able to do my slot on the show on the Xbox Kinect. Having this set up on set at lunchtime meant trying it out a bit more. I got to see the development viewer for it (that we could not use on the show) that gave all the various sensor inputs and showed what the device was going, the points it was tracking etc.
We played Kinect adventures on the item and it performed really well. Everyone on the crew who had a look or a go just all said wow. November 10th cannot come too soon as I know the predlets are really going to enjoy this kit. Being able to not only sense you arms and legs and body movements but deal with depth and location in the room is simply amazing.
When players swap over or move into view the device knows its not the person who was there before. The recognition process takes hardly any time at all.
It is quite simply stunning.
Its not often I want a photo taken with a piece of kit, but in this case it was like a major celebrity turning up so I had to get a photo with it.
Oh look a Kinect