A bit of SL fun then onto real CKD Virtual World Coaching

It has been a while since I just went for a wander in Second Life. I have very little building space on my islands now as they are pretty much totally rented out so I just have 1 corner or Hursley. So I thought as I was in there I would pop off and have a look around. It always helps to have a subject or a reason or something to search for, but I started off just looking at some art.
Kinesis sculpture
Though it then dawned on me I had not explored martial arts in Second Life for a very long while and I thought I would take a look with my new Choi Kwang Do enabled brain. (enabled by SouthCoast CKD 🙂 )
There are a fair few martial arts related places, groups etc. None specific to CKD though. I did check out an arena for more kung fu and weapon related battles at Colibri.
exploring SL martial arts
Then I thought it was time the CKD logo made its way into SL and so my little plot now has the start of a virtual Dojang.
trying some ckd in SL
I popped along to Abraminations, just like in the old days back on ’06 (is it really that long ago!) and checked out the fighting systems and animations. The closest was a kickboxing one.
Then I shot this little video to see how off the animations are from CKD. The guard hand and stance and a lot of the moves are not as flowing as CKD but it shows an interesting potential to people not yet versed in virtual world tech and sports.

Now I am wondering about taking the kinect tracking and seeing if I can mocap that to my patterns for CKD and get the BVH file up into SL. Just so I could use a lot of acronyms 🙂 I know the skeleton format is going to be different but it is something to work on.
This is initially just a bit of fun, but…. as we know with projects like The Coaches Center we are getting closer to being able to enable hold gathering and meetings and share more insights.
Here I am sat in my personal coaches office, with Choi Terms on the board and a synchronized version of the kinect ckd test playing, the same view anyone would get if I invited them in.
Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz021
(You can also load videos and graphics etc onto various other boards in the room to share with people)
So there I am with a virtual presence, a shared space and all the tools available voice, text, imagery, avatar placement reaching out to the web to pull in other content. All in Unity3d 🙂 check is out and register in the beta at The Coaches Center

Cool isn’t it? Imagine being able to attend a class from anywhere for those time when you just can’t get to the Dojang, or for blackbelts and masters all over the world to connect and share their insights.

Games Britannia – Inspiring the next gen through games tech

I was pleased, this week, to head up to the Magna Centre in Rotherham to share some time and enthusiasm with visitors to the Games Britannia festival.
I had two workshop sessions for teachers, students and visitors I went well prepared taking lots of things as you can see.
I had the Henry Cort room which is spooky as it is the Henry Cort School in Fareham that is one of the Dojangs we train at for the life changing Choi Kwang Do.
My ever evolving presentation I augmented with live uses of Blobo and of Minecraft, and also showed my real life Makie, arduino and Raspberry Pi.
There were sessions completely devoted to Minecraft and Raspberry Pi throughout the rest of the week but as I was covering the how makers will change the world overviews worked 🙂
Schools booked to come to the free event and signed up for talks. We had some monday morning last minute no shows, which was initially disappointing, and kind of shows the problem with technology in schools that these last minute no-shows may not have realised just how important all the things we were all sharing were to the future of education and the country. That may be part of the side effect of relating it to games, but equally it makes sense to do it that way!
It worked out brilliantly for me as I got to talk to some teachers who were concerned about what ICT would be replaced with. Clearly we need us lot from industry to be in the schools helping or offering support. It seems unlikely that before September anything will get sorted out. The general IT industry is not known for its speediness is it?
The second session I had some very willing recruits to hear about all sorts of things, of course the 3d printing follow on from UGC in games was somewhat of a hit. This combination of games and maker culture is a potent one to anyone, but particularly to young people with a passion for just getting on with things, not held back by rules.
The other exciting part about Games Britannia was the Replayed arena. A huge area filled with retro gaming marvels that took me back. I remember all of them!
It was good to see a permanent stand from CBBC (/me waves to @swingpants) which I could regard as the opposition having been on CITV/ITV but we are all in this together trying to educate and inform. Of course it is only really the BBC that has a direct budget to drive this it seems. The benefit of having a public education remit means that they will continue the great work.
It was great to hang out with my fellow workshoppers too.
Shouts out to Graham McAllister founder of Player Research who I met a few years ago at Develop. He does fascinating work on understanding users and player motivations and being able to apply that scientifically.
Also Mathew Applegate/pixelh8 who is a fellow STEMnet ambassador who has got the brilliant Computing after schools club and curriculum pattern going that will no doubt spread like wildfire.
It was also great to chat for a while with MinecraftEDU who produce a custom Mod for minecraft to help teachers and are getting a lot of traction. i.e. virtual worlds in education. Who would have thought it 😉 So it is great to see it expressed in Minecraft having ceom from a gaming direction for a change. Usually the VW’s are from a non gaming direction and they seem to have more trouble getting buyin from teachers which is a little odd. Still whatever works and drives the industry forward is good by me 🙂
Thanks to Mark Hardisty for doing all the arranging and gathering us and dealing with a complete week of event, whilst I was only there for the 1st day this is a long haul event 🙂

Yet more future arrived in the post – Raspberry PI

This has been a good week , first my Makie arrived, and now the Raspbery Pi has arrived on my doorstep. I was a little behind ordering it so ended up in one of the later waves. It is odd seeing it in the flash as I originally wanted to feature it nice and early on The Cool Stuff Collective as it is an important development. That didn’t workout. Still here is it now.
Raspberry pi out of box
I suffered a few technical hitches though.
Raspberry pi time
Firstly I couldn’t find any USB keyboards, nor adapters for a PS/2 keyboard to USB. Then I thought I would risk my desktop wireless logitech, though I figured that would be a non starter it was worth a go. Secondly my card reader was not happy with the 4gb flash card, so I ended up using my wifes newer MBP as its built in one worked fine. (You have a flash card to put the Operating System on). Having sorted that I took the power supply out of the box to find it was a euro plug not a 3 pin UK one. The one travel adapter that works backwards, didn’t. Again I was saved by my wife’s Blackberry charger with mini USB.
I followed some instructions that suggested that fedora was the place to start, got it up and running
It's alive
After a bit of messing with the config.txt to fit the cheap HDMI TV I was plugging into I was all set to get going, but it refused to accept any of the passwords I had set. A quick google I found that i was working on some out of date info and that the Debian instance of linux was the one to use. The joy of open source is choice, but it is also its curse.
A few minutes later, a new image on the card and away we went.
Trying again :)
At the time out house was full of kids on holiday running around and screaming, so I did not do anything “serious” but I had to try the Commodore 64 emulation to bring things full circle.
That's more like it, 64 pi
Next up is finish the 3d printer (reprap) and print a case for the RPi, and see what makes sense to let the predlets loose on. At the moment it is an operating system tinkerers paradise, just instal x with y and of course don’t forget z. Still it all has to start somewhere.
A suitable kid friendly instance that doesn’t need lots of arcane command lines known only the linux gurus or that need another machine to constantly Google for best practice will no doubt appear.
It’s a good start.

Teaching Programming and Tech at School – Can I?

We are seeing more and more good articles and the beginning of some motion towards us being able to teach kids programming and related technical skills in school. Things such as this article from the guardian. We see role model comments and I was also doing my bit by introducing all sorts of accessible future tech on kids TV.
However I thought I would look at me doing a bit more, I have already signed up as a STEMnet ambassador and I do a lot of talks for people. People have often suggested and commented I would make a good teacher. So I thought with all this need for experience, technical awareness, future thinking I would see what options there might be for me to move into teaching.
Surely, all this talk of closer links to industry, bringing experience into the classroom etc would be there on the home page of the Department for Education Teaching Agency?

But no 🙁 Good encouragement to be a Maths teacher, A physics teacher, chemistry or Modern Foreign Languages (MFL). All good subjects. Also active encouragement to convert to teaching from the armed forces.
Nothing about the business of powering and using technology.
Now most subjects do need to use tech so it could be excused as all this will be part of the entirety. However the specifics of computer science are not represented well or at all.
So which teachers are going to be the ones showing kids about open source projects, online etiquette, contributing to projects, building hardware with arduino, rasperry Pi, creating virtual worlds with OpenSim, games design, virtual good markets, social implications of computing etc…. Who are the teachers who are helping the next generation of makers with 3d printers?
I am sure it will come, but right now it is not there in any official capacity. Should I try and create it ? or wait until called? Maybe I need to send someone a Fax to ask?

Spot the connection – 3d printing and toys

The last few weeks an interesting set of 3d designs appeared that have certainly got people thinking about the potential of modding and changing, mashing and merging elements together. It is the Universal Construcion Kit.

The Free Universal Construction Kit from Adapterz on Vimeo.

It does have an unusual acronym as the Free edition but all the pieces are there to download as open source designs
Being able to print just the right piece you need to mix Lego and Kinex is really intriguing. (not to self get soldering on the control board of your reprap !)
The great thing about the physical world is that it is starting to alter how people may see terms and conditions on software and other designs. Is this a breach of your Lego EULA to connect it to a competing plastic toy? Will the companies welcome this interoperability or seek to stop it through legal approaches? It has a correlation with what we see on other devices and software, that you must not modify or use in a way it has not been intended. However this clearly cannot be policed or enforced on kids toys as kids play with what they want in ways that suit them, not ways that suit the toy or toys.
So we could all learn a lot about modding and making from kids and be inspired by this particular development

Free Unity3d for iOS and Android

I noticed a few tweets on the #unity3d hashtag about there being a free licence for the already free Unity3d for iOS and Android. Sure enough if you pop along to download Unity3d at the store you can add the ability to publish directly to iOS and Android. (offer expires april 8th 2012)
I already have the iOS basic licence and unity3d installed so it was a little less clear what to do.
On the store page there is a licence upgrade link in there you have yo paste in your existing licence number then you are able to “buy” for free the upgrade you need.
Unity will then send you a new licence number that you reactive in the unity client with the menus unity/serial number and away you go you now have targeting for publishing to web, windows, mac, iOS and android all enabled.
What are you waiting for ? It is a brilliant dev environment.
NB. As I point out at conferences when I rave about it I don’t work for unity3d I just really like what they do 🙂

Back from the Hack To The Future which has now passed

After a lot of driving I have safely returned from Hack to the Future in Preston. It was certainly well worth the trip to experience the energy and excitement of over 300 kids and 130 volunteers, speakers, parents and teachers gathering together to enthuse and learn about the world of computer technology. As I have mentioned, more than once, everyone needs to understand the technical revolution they are in the middle off. The implications of not doing so for industry, commerce, entertainment and life in general is just too huge to explain. What this gathering showed was that the facets of technology to get involved in, to use and explore are many and varied. It is not a question of just becoming a programmer and sitting in front of a keyboard. There are many more opportunities out there to fit peoples individual creative talents as they grow and evolve.
I think I would have been there anyway, but with my Cool Stuff Collective super g33k hat (or rather tshirt) on and the subjects I covered in the 38 or so shows this diversity of interests and skills, plus some linking together of the arc of what I talked about on kids TV fitted rather will with aims of the gathering.
Teknoteacher (seen below) was the spark for Hack to the future and then a great rallying of many key organisers and doers piled into.
Packed hall at hack the future
Being an unconference the agenda formed on the day and a put my talk up twice on the board. Once in the main auditorium and once in a class room setting. The latter worked better for various reasons and ended up in a packed room. However it is always good to be able to share some of this stuff and I was pleased that at least half of each audience had seen the show.
I was also really pleased when I mentioned Forza4, Skylanders and Minecraft that the audience in general already knew the basics of what it was I was talking about, which meant I could explain the much further reaching impact of things like 3d printers when taking in the context of these sorts of gaming platforms.
I also cut a lot out of the talks as there is a more full hour+ version but we were working to 30-40 mins.
Meeting and talking to many people from all over the place was great too. I am sure out paths will cross at future events related to this subject too.
It was great it was a saturday with volunteers, but we all know that this sort of passion for the future and for science, with this sort of diverse options to fit with the interests and abilities of the community needs to be wired into education from the earliest days. There were a lot of very cool teachers at the event, passionate about making these changes. They were fellow evangelists but I am sure they also suffer the evangelist curse that the people in control over their time or budget have no idea why these people are doing what they are doing, until they have finished doing it when its so patently obvious they assume it was their idea in the first place. If it makes the changes happen its great but its a tough rough before, during and after.
Many of the talks had kids completely captivated, there were a lot of practical hands on things like soldering and coding going on too.
Freakyclown was doing a brilliant job of multiple talks on his pretty extreme ethical hacking and pointing out that they really should all get into tech in order to protect us all from the bad guys. Which he did by pointing out that he spent the first part of his career getting in trouble and using his powers for the dark side. As with many grey hats they have to have been there in order to have made the choices and gathered the skills to do what they do. If you get a chance to see him speak, or need to really understand whats going on out there persuade him to one of your events. Whatever you do for a living, whatever industry the things he talks about will affect your lives.

The presentation I talked through was pretty much the same as the vienna one last week (or most of the ones I do at the moment) in slides but the conversation and tone went to some different triggers. Mainly telling kids to keep playing games because experiencing them and using all the features of them start to turn you into a maker and builder. With Minecraft being a typical example.
Eyebeams was kind enough to post a quick interview we did capturing why the event was important.
Ian (@epredator) Hughes” interview at Hack to the Future (mp3)

ProactivePaul also posted a handy 5 minute montage of the entire day. It happens at 2:20 to have my screen as I sparked up Opensim and showed who we created and distribute objects and code directly in virtual environment. (I couldn’t do the live demo in the auditorium session but could in the classroom)

Les Pounder, who was leading the crew has posted a great set of photos on Flickr
Even one of yours truly at the start of my pitch 🙂
Ian Hughes (@epredator)

There was a massive raffle at the end for everyone kids and helpers alike. My name got pulled out of the hat and so I now have another Arduino board which is fantastic 🙂

The closing keynote was the very eloquent Dr Tom Crick, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at CMU; Leader of @CompAtSch in Wales. He tied it all up by reminding everyone just ow important computers are, how they impact every aspect of your life and how the traditional geek image is not really that accurate anymore. (Something I try and play with as G33k on the TV, claiming geek back and showing its about sharing and showing the technology not just insular technobabble and lacking social skills).

It was also good to be travelling up with Andy Piper just after his big resignation from IBM after 10+ years. A fellow eightbar originator we share a lot of the same ideals, ideas and history in the expanding tech world. Andy was coopered into being crew at the event as well as organise and run the Nanode session which is a derivative of Arduino.
Here he is moving quickly to explain something on the charts before setting about making some very cool flashing lights
Andy piper talking nanode in workshop #h2df

My slides were a variant of this

We have been starting to make sure we collect the pieces from the talks on Lanyrd

Hacking up north to the future

This Saturday there is a large gathering of various technorati who are passionate about making sure the next generation gets to understand and see what a wonderful science filled world they have the ability to shape. We have been gathered mostly by social media and twitter in the first place by Alan Teknoteacher O’Donohoe

It is Hack To The Future, an unconference style event being held in Preston. Andy piper,recently liberated from the old firm and I are driving up today ready for an early start on Saturday.
You can tell that we are all keen as for us Preston is a 260 mile drive up into that north west of England. Quite a trek. There are people coming from equally far a field.
I will hopefully being inspiring the attendees and fellow presenters with tales from Cool Stuff Collective and my blurring of physical and virtual worlds. As we have all agreed to just go with the flow though this may, as with any unconference, turn into something completely different. There is a wiki explaining some of the sessions, but the on the day this gets finalised
I am sure we will all blog and report on proceedings too, assuming we don’t get snowed in!

More Digital/Physical blurring experiences – Choi Kwang Do

Back in June last year I started using my Xbox and Kinect sensor with physical fitness in mind. So to all intents and purposes I was playing a game, as the blurb says, with my body as a controller. This was the UFC Trainer. UFC is a mixed martial arts championship that has spun off a lot of franchise activity. It started as cage fighting, pitting extremely well trained and tough fighters in various styles against one another. Nothing virtual about that. However, as with many things it has spawned traditional fighting AAA games titles. Which is a fairly normal path. What is more exciting though has been the move to create the personal trainer that you interact with by actually performing the exercises. This is not really a game, it is a rep counter and technique tutorial.
Standing in front of the kinect the system will ask you to start throwing hooks or crosses, knee kicks etc. It looks very roughly at your form and counts and shouts at you to meet the rep target. It is not all fighting though, traditional push ups and dumbbell exercises, squats, lunges and holds. To avoid the boredom you may get from a video/DVD style exercise this is of course able to be a bit more dynamic. 30,60 and 90 day programmes in weight loss, endurance or strength provide a ramping up of lots of different styles of workout that are also adjusted by your fitness level. This turns out to be a doubling of reps as you step up in the fitness test it gives you, but it feels much more varied.
So whilst this is a “game” on a “game console” and isn’t real contact fighting it is a very rigorous workout and with the graphs and stats it tracks for you it feels very comprehensive. The effects on your body are very real especially after a few months sticking with it.
The other thing it has built-in is sharing with social media, however it never worked very well as the website, like many game websites is pretty appalling, looping registrations, lots of region specific switching etc. So I let Raptr fill in my activity on Facebook.
So this game to physical activity started to feel part of life and my youngest (predlet 2.0) started to ask about having a go with the kinect to do exercises. I felt he was a little too young to do this on his own and that we would be better in a real martial arts class, with his peers and an attentive instructor. Doing any exercise, developing bad form and habits can do lots of damage!
Then, serendipity kicked in, a leaflet appeared at school for the fastest growing martial art in the world the Korean inspired Choi Kwang Do, and a new school opening around the corner.

I didn’t know much about it but it clearly was aimed at both adults and kids to do physical training in a practical sense but without the direct competition of combat. Still lots of hands on kicks and punches though.
So we went along to out trial lessons with SouthcoastCKD and I was immediately taken by the style and the ethos. Predlet 2.0 seemed to like it too. Being abel to train together at a family session and also I get to go to adult sessions as and when I can makes this ideal.
I had wanted to do a martial art since I was about Predlet 2.0’s age but had never actually taken the plunge. Now, the xbox training since June in mixed martial arts and general flexibility and fitness has inspired me to level up to a real class.
Of course this is a nice circular story in that now when I train on UFC kinect and will start to adjust the style to that of CKD, as none of the strikes are lock out punches. The Xbox will not really worry as it does not try and get precise form, only counts the general action.
That’s the thing with video games they rot your brain and make you lazy!</sarcasm>

People used to shun games now they ‘tion them

This title People used to shun games now they ‘tion them is something I tweeted to @TheKevinDent when he was riffing on the use of games being referred to as gamification by adding fication to common task was doing. I was joining in identifying that there is a rush towards games being acceptable, yet at the same time treated as a bandwagon. For some people the very idea that you can just slap a game in the process will solve their inadequacies of product, sales, management, HR policy etc continues to put games down as somehow an add on and not a integral part of life. The same happens with technology, anyone who is a techie will know how ever expert they get, however they diversify at some point they will be handed a broken phone or laptop by someone not skilled in the art and asked to fix it to prove themselves. Very few other professions (with the exception of being a comedian) are you asked to perform some party trick to prove you know what you are doing in this way. You don’t sit at a table with a banker and say oh go on just bank will you.
The commodity of games is being asked in some inappropriate places to “go on tell us a joke and make us laugh”. However, I am not totally against gamification as is does herald a moving on in understanding of something that was very much a quirky area for those of us who were early adopters.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Commodore 64, I still have mine as you can see above. The Independent had a good article on Flight of the Commodore: How the iconic computer led to a golden age of geeks and to see things like attack of the mutant camels getting a mention once again certainly took me back to a magical time. Don’t get me wrong loading from a tape deck was a right pain, the games were simple yet elegant, but we did have that direct connection with the environment to be able to make new things. This, and the zx81 I had before shaped who I was to become and how my career, however bizarre, has evolved. Hence great fondness, and also a willingness to let another generation grow and learn from that.
There are some elements to what you might call gamification, that diverge from just adding badges to things. (I still maintain business is a game anyway, people use piles of money and positions on the corporate ladder to measure success or failure).
In many of my talks now I end up in this sort of territory and seems to boil down to the fact that games are not just an end product of a manufacturing process. In the c64 days people wrote games, we loaded them and played them, or we wrote our own. There was not the capacity to use an existing game as a platform for something else.

Playing games was the thing that people shunned. Play being regarded as a frivolous lack of work. That of course can still be the case but we know with the advances in the sort of games that exists that playing and rehearsing, experiencing things virtually all add to our human experience.

For the more serious minded, building games. It is strange that many computer scientists and software engineers still think that because the end product is colourful and things moves and lights flash that the level of engineering in games is not worthy. That is of course utter tosh. It is totally driven by the view of an end user and not liking the end product for whatever reason, usually few of exhibiting sub standard performance in front of someone skilled in the game. It is the path of building games that let us excite the next generation of software engineers. Kids play games and they DONT think they are a wast of time and pointless. i.e. they are the same as we were in the 80’s on our c64, “wow that’s cool I wish I could do that”

Luckily the world has also evolved to allow us to not just be either a player of a game or a builder of a game. Tools, games styles, application of game technology have provided all sorts of toolkits in games that let anyone create things, share things and make things happen. Some of these are just simple customisations, the sort that lend themselves to brand involvement (let me were my Nike tshirt in the game). Others are expressions of deeper creativity, painting cars in Forza4. There are even the much deeper technical challenges, building complex logic machines in Little Big Planet to create game levels. It is these elements that really look like the future of games in places where games would not normally tread, probably more so than badges and loyalty points. It is about deep engagement with ideas, brands, people etc across multiple places and platforms including the physical world. It is also very much about people being able to adjust build and mash together as they see fit.

It is Maker Culture

So it is good that the future for games is good, it is woven into society and will help us level up our kids if we think about it and use them wisely. (Oh and still enjoy a good frivolous play aswell!)