Virtual Athletes – A journey with some tech

It was really cool today to see the brilliant next edition of Flush Magazine hitting the virtual shelves (with my 3rd article). This time on some of the virtual sports technology and a little bit of historical evolution from my personal experience. There are lots of other things to read in the mag, also available on the ipad, but my contribution is pages 92 to 97.

There are lots of ways to check this out including a great PDF download
So thats virtual sports, merged with real activity and my newly found and exciting Choi Kwang Do martial art and the Coaches Center in this issue. The previous issues have been 3d printing and virtual worlds πŸ™‚
Huge thanks go out to @tweetthefashion for publishing these articles and the monumental effort it is for them to get the whole edition done, making them look so good and with everyones great stories and features πŸ™‚

A poem to the greedy on sharing on the Internet

Occasionally I resort to rhyme as I did here with inspiration from predlet 2.0 and here about a game. I am by no means an expert in the art, but occasionally a line will hit me and I think, I wonder where this can go. It was really about whether the tree of knowledge is under threat from overt attempts to curb sharing of ideas.
I think you have to let your ideas flow, not park them, or they cause a mental traffic jam that might mean the really good ideas never get out.
So here it is.

A poem to the greedy.
by epredator

So what you’re saying is the Internet is wrong?
Sharing our ideas really shouldn’t be done?
We should just keep things,
Lock them away,
Only selling to the highest bidder,
The ones that can pay.

The only problem being,
The money has all gone!
So all our work here is effectively done?

There is another way,
That liberates our crafts,
Share those ponderings opinionsΒ and drafts,
Make it all open, accessible and free.
Take the moral high ground,
and on it plant a tree.

A tree of knowledge,
A tree that can grow,
A tree that means everybody can know.

So go be open, go be honest, go be free,
Whilst you consider that,
I am off to climb that tree.

Yay! Flush the Fashion 3d print article published

Issue 3 of the full Flush the Fashion magazine has just gone live, complete with my multiple page spread on 3D printing πŸ™‚ It starts on page 107 (but obviously read the rest of the excellent mag too.

It is awesome to see professional the job done on the text I wrote and some of the pictures I provided, but added with a whole lot more.
Makie’s are in there, Second Life Reebok trainers, Minecraft printing and the TVRRUG reprap as seen on The Cool Stuff Collective and a Raspberry Pi case.
Two articles into this does that make me a journalist officially now πŸ™‚
You can view it online with the viewer above or download it here as a PDF and there is a regular weblink too.
***Update there is also the newstand ipad version which looks brilliant too, flush magazine if you search on the app store πŸ™‚
So virtual worlds last issue, 3d printing this issue whats next? I have a cunning plan.

Technology and Martial Arts

After a great Hampshire Choi Kwang Do festival I have been pondering ways to use some of the readily available technology to help support the teaching of CKD.
CKD is a modern martial art and one that is not set in stone but evolves. Whilst I have only been learning (with predlet 2.0) for the past 6 months I have been impressed with the art’s flexibility.
At the festival we saw some technology to help measure and observe. All professional kit but I wondered what could be done in a maker style at home.
The first thing was to work out if I could build something to measure contact force or pressure. I was looking through my box of bits for the Arduino but then googled and found things like this. The pieces of foam that chips are delivered pushed into have an interesting property that when pressed their electrical resistance changes. They become pressure sensors. I got a small square of foam, put tin foil on either side of it, jammed multimeter probes into it and sure enough when you push on the foam the resistance drops. So next is to make a bit more robust connection, attach it to the arduino and see what happens with the foam gets punched rather than pressed.
The other thing I wanted to check was if the Kinect open source modules would respond quickly enough. I did a quick test using SensorKinect/OpenNI/NITE and it seemed to work. There is a way to go to be able to make sure that we can track the subtle elements of the movements but it will certainly help with some of the angles and stance positions.

I also have a cunning plan with the Blobo if I can get the dev kit to try it out but as it is a 3 way accelerometer with bluetooth connectivity to be able to count hits.

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 πŸ™‚
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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ™‚
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 πŸ™‚

Another positive virtual world wave approaching

We can argue about the delineation between types of virtual world, games and social media and their popularity with users, press, business etc. However it does seem there are some interesting developments that feel like a rejuvinating step. For those of us in the industry and still passionate about it it is good news as we can help all the people just discovering all the wonderful benefits, the interesting challenges and sparking new ideas on how to communicate live online.
The first biggie is the birth of the web based (Facebook) virtual world. Cloud Party. In the very early few weeks of this I could not easily get in on my Mac, teething troubles with sockets etc. So I left it to settle a little.
Now I have at least visited. I popped into the environment, did a little bit of customisation on my avatar(no green hair by default πŸ™ ) and had a chat with a fellow Metaverse Evangelist Joja Dhara, so it was like old times just in a new place.
With in seconds I was trying building from the mesh palette.
Cloud Party
Of course it is well known in the metaverse world that Cory Odrejka the former CTO and co-creator of Second Life is high up in Facebook. So this was bound to happen πŸ™‚
In other news we saw announcements about Google having another go a co-creation and virtual world spaces.Combining with Lego to create BuildWithChrome which is starting to look interesting after the demise of Lego Universe Online.
Also the the former Nortel Web.alive, now AvayaLive is finally working not Macs too. It is less live user generated content but it does let user move around and talk with the VOIP working very well and is one to watch for what is a yet untapped corporate market for online communication that is richer than those telecons and powerpoints.
I feel I have said that before a few times πŸ˜‰
So lets see how this wave pans out, our seed of evangelism coming to fruition? Then we can get on with the next innovation πŸ™‚

The future of Maker Culture – Redbull style

It seems Redbull manage to spot and engage with movements pretty quickly. They obviously sponsor a lot of mainstream sport, and also lots of the cooler extreme sports but they are also promoting maker culture, even themeing an Arduino called the Bullduino which forms the basis of the competition to make something interesting. This is a drinks company engaging in the future and on the cutting edge of what is happening in society.
The competition running out of the US is called RedBull Creation and even its home page has an interest twist with an very homebrew look to the windows it shows.

I think this points out that a lot more people are taking notice of maker culture in ways that are much more mainstream than anyone would have thought. It is a wave and one that collects up all the interesting technologies and social changes. Hardware and software creation and engineering, gaming, virtual world and 3d design and of course rapid fabrication with 3d printers.
It is maker culture that needs to be nurtured in schools now that ICT has been scrapped. This is because it encourages the STEM subjects and the new engineers but also blends that with other creative forces and ideas. Rather than split things into one subject or another, one hobby or another the generalist concept of Maker culture fits much better. It is filled with a can do, can hack attitude that is going to be really refreshing to see it develop.

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.

The future just arrived – in the post – Makie

Just as the Queen was arriving at St Paul’s for her Diamond Jubilee celebration another major event happened a little closer to home. The doorbell rang and the DHL man delivered my Makie. For those of you who have not been paying attention Makie’s are custom made 3d printed action figures and are in alpha here
Being an early adopter and exploring both what technology does and what it actually feels like it is important to be in these first waves. In 2000 I emailed and ordered a small 3d printed tub from a multi-million pound printer as a sample, in 2006 I got my avatar from Second Life printed, as a solid piece. Now, in 2012 I have designed a face, picked eyes, hair and clots and have a 10″ fully articulated 3d printed figure. Printed close to home in the UK. He, as it is a he, has a hollow head ready for a lilypad arduino and a hollow body suitable for a battery. He is also number 31 out of 100 from the very first alpha run. So he is physical proof that the future is here, and he will be coming on tour and to conferences to prove that very point. It is quite an advance over the past 12 years, and hard to ignore the physical evidence or progress.
He arrived in a very nice tube.
Makie box
Everything neatly packed in that tube, look you can see his head…. lets loose that analogy!
Makie about to emerge
And here he is, modesty covered by the ownership certificate.
Makie unboxing
I went a bit elven with the ears, and went for solid colour eyes and the grey wig (I would have gone for the usual green hair, but there is always dye πŸ™‚ ) The eyes can hair can of course be swapped out as this is a modular design.
#makie epred arrives
Once dressed in his g33k science lab coat (one of the early clotehs designs that clearly appeals to the target market) he gave the Queen a quick wave.
Make epred waves to the queen
These early alphas are labelled as over 14’s only something the Predlets were in awe of, as they have got used to checking the age ratings on games and alike and knowing if they are allowed new them. They were amazed still that he came from a 3d printer and that it was a one of a kind. Predlet 2.0 even gave him a little peck on the head to welcome him πŸ™‚
I wonder what I will be having printed and where in another 6 years time?

Flags, Flashbacks and Graffiti – The Royal Jubilee

Back in 1977 there was a Royal Silver Jubilee. I was 9 going on 10 and I do remember it as quite an event. Though 1977 was a good year for lots of other things too. Punk and Star Wars as an example. I remember all the flags being out, street parties and lots of pomp and circumstance. This weekend is likely just the same. A 4 day weekend in the UK to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
The predlets school is having a red white and blue day, combined with some parades and a re-enactment of the coronation. We have some parties to go to and everywhere you look there are union flags. I popped to London on wednesday and it was obviously fully decked up.
Flags cabs and buses
What was interesting though was that I don’t remember any good graffiti in 1977. It was just tagging and general vandalism but London had some great graffiti celebrating the Queen’s reign. Which seems a little odd and mainstream, yet still is part of a counter culture.
Jubilee graffiti
All this got me thinking to what it was like for tech and life in general when I was 9. It was even before the Atari VCS console. We had amusement arcades but we were just on the cusp of the video game age and the arrival of Space Invaders.
The technology I was being influenced by, that shaped my future was Captain Scarlet, Joe 90 and Star Trek on the TV and in comics it was the start of the mighty 2000 AD – Judge Dredd, Harlem Heros and Flesh. These were all things lots of us liked, played out, talked about and things that connected us kids. They, like punk, separated us from the older generations who thought this was all stuff and nonsense.
I can’t help thinking that all the tech and maker culture around kids today is naturally going to lead to an explosion of ideas and creativity that will leave many people behind just as these other popular culture revolutions did. In many ways the backlash against social media in some quarters is a “turn down that noisy racket” parental response. It is good there is that to rebel against, to rebel against spoon feeding of brands and products and allowing creativity to thrive around them.
So we are way past 2000AD in 2012, but I think we have ended up with an even more exciting future, sure we are not all in space and flying cars around but the tech we have at our finger tips would have been just as amazing in 1977 to us 9 year old would be geeks and gamers as anything that we read or saw on TV.
The future is a cool place isn’t it? πŸ™‚