KASPAR the robot – Something different on Cool Stuff Collective

The something different in the title refers both to the content of the future tech slot and also the format of it again this week. Saturday saw the first showing of this weeks Cool Stuff Collective (available now on the ITV player) and features the rather unusual KASPAR robot and one of his creators Dr Ben Robins.
This future tech I got to be a full on TV presenter. I.e I did the intro and link into and out of the item and interviewed Dr Robins. It was great fun to do, and as I had a raging sore throat at the time it was good that someone else could do the talking.
However (my TV presenting CV enhancement aside), how we did the item is less important than what the item was about.
KASPAR is part of an EU project looking at the minimal expressions needed in a robot rather than aiming for 100% realism. In a way this lives in and around the uncanny valley rather than trying to cross it.
Dr Robins’ specialism though is in using various techniques to aid children with varying levels of autism to engage with other people initially mediated through KASPAR.
The robot is not an autonomous one (though it could be), instead it is a mix of responsive sensors and touch sensitive skin and the skill of the mediator to puppet him in an interaction with someone.
We had a good chat in the “green room” (a.k.a. Staff room) before the piece as often robots are considered as replacing people.
Dr Robins was keen to point out that in the delicate human relationships that need to form in helping those with autism the robot becomes a conduit for the teacher to engage with the student. This is because this is about therapy, not technology.
The look of KASPAR seemed to divide both the crew and the audience from fascination to being a little freaked out by him. It is precisely the open nature and blend of tech and features that appears to endear him to those students that Dr Robins works with though.
It was a real honour to have something that is part of some very different research in robotics that is aimed at making a real difference to peoples lives.
Dr Robins was also a great sport in the “oooh touchy” storming off that he did, as he is a massive Asimov fan but the script asked him to play otherwise just for the long running joke. He did this with great charm and a smile on his face too.
You can read more about KASPAR and the wider project here.

Music, Lights and exceptional pies

This weeks Cool Stuff Collective was fully of twists and turns. Whilst we don’t have a lot of scripted gags we do have a few things that are repeated throughout the series. As we are technically half way through the guys at Archie Productions now throw in alterations to what has become an established pattern. Hence making it more funny. (That’s enough analysis of comedy writing).
In Future Tech I had the interesting musical light show the Tenori-On to talk to Vicky about. Using a live instrument with 64 buttons, and 16 modes of operating was a bit of a continuity knightmare but I tried to learn it enough that I could repeat various things as needed.
I had a few days to experiment with it and become one with it, but as i am a tech geek not a musician ….
It is a bit like the monome used to be, an intriguing shape and feel to it. In many ways its like playing with Midi equipped bubble wrap. I found it fascinating though. It generates all its own tunes and is a multi layer sequencer. Some of the drawing modes that let you swipe across and twirl around yet create some soothing electronic music feels very theraputic.
We discussed in the piece how new ways to generate and record music were being powered by tech, but that it is not a replacement for traditional instruments. Remembering back to the original days of the synth when some were heralding the end of all instruments. There is a lot to be said for the performance element of a traditional instrument, the skill needed to interact and the subtley. Still tech instruments are cool too 🙂
I also got to mention, though not show (as it was still in customs!) the Ninjen Gaki a quirky little device that uses human body electrical resistance to modify the sounds it makes. You hold onto it and grab someone else’s arm who is holding the device too and it plays notes.
However it was at the end of the piece that the twists started. Traditionally Vicky asks me a question and I stomp off in a huff saying I am not a whatever the gag is, I am a tech geek. In this one I get to turn the tables and ask Vicky a question. She strops off and I get to do the “oooooh touchy” to camera. All in good fun.
However it was in the Wall of Fame that the biggest twist hit. Not only did I get to pie the unfortunate holder of the toy that got the “pants” vote but Blowfish was in the line of fire.
Now before you look at these pictures you should know that Blowfish is actually a serious marine biologist not just a pie target, but then I am a “serious” tech geek too 🙂 You can see some of his passion to ecology and the see here at School Of Fish
When you have done that check out this Saturday morning kids TV classic moment 🙂
Traditional Pie
What a mess
Thankyou for being such a good sport, and yes I know what goes around comes around!
You can (in the UK) see this all, and the back catalogue on the ITV player.

Cool Stuff Collective RepRap 3D printing

Today The 3d printing (part ii) aired on The Cool Stuff Collective. A huge shout out of thanks goes to Malcolm Napier and his daughter Hannah (who has built most of the machinery) for bringing along their collection of RepRap 3d printers and getting it all working so well so quickly. Including the dicussions on which colour plastic we should use for the best impact. (Blue in this case 🙂 )
Also thankyou to @AndyPiper for the intro’s via Reading Geek Night. A particular unsung hero award to producer Ros who manages to make all the arrangements and get things to make these items work.
Reprap in action
The kids at the school we filmed at were enthralled as were the Archie productions crew, with the printer actually working. That is always a good sign when you are going to be showing some future tech.
RepRap head
In the piece we talked about how the printer worked, how the reprap is designed as an open source project that aims to replicate one printer from another. I also threw in the massive change to manufacturing and the planet of replicating what you need locally. No packaging, shipping, wasted manufacture. It’s a huge concept, but the kids watching the show will be living in a world where that is even more important.
We also talked a bit about bio printing, though I did point out thats not with a reprap (yet!). Vicky brought in the kids questions, which were all their own too. One in particular about why is this different from a lathe was great 🙂
Now a set of reprap bits costs about £300, so I think that every school should be making one in science lessons and then learning about how to craft 3d objects.
The kids loved the g33k tokens. it was almost the start of a new craze 🙂
Malcolm and Hannah created the g33k text 3d model, whilst we had lots of taller bigger samples we could print it was better to have a relatively thin but constantly repeating model to not cause massive continuity errors or problems for when they get edited up by series producer Jenny. If you can imagine printing a tall tower some takes, and doing 2 takes of the piece and trying to weave the best parts of each together. With my ad hoc non scripted presentation it would mean the tower would keep changing height. We also did not want to keep stopping and starting the reprap. Though it would cope it was better to just film whilst it was running.
RepRap g33k print
If you are in the UK and you want to see the show it is on the ITV player for the rest of the week.
I would love the show to be out there for a wider audience as I am really happy with what we have been doing the past few series and it feels it is getting better all the time.
If it can help and inspire just a few people back into science, or open up some creative maker talent out there then I think we are doing a good job.
It seems an age away from that first show, and my “debut” as a boffin in the luvvie world (to quote google’s boss Schmidt). Yet it was only a year ago, but over 30 shows of future tech already in the can(or memory stick)!
Roll on monday/tuesdays recordings!

The Cool Stuff Collective returns this Saturday 15th October ITV1

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

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

Talking careers, games, TV, BCS and Virtual worlds in 5 mins

At the Develop conference this year I was asked if I minded doing a quick interview for so I popped along and this is the result.

We had a very quick chat before and then we just blasted through in 1 take 🙂
I am in good company if you look at the actual site here
Between Colin Anderson of Denki and Mick Hocking of Sony.
The BCS and its role in careers may be of interest or resonate with some games industry people looking for some structure.
I am pleased with the points I got across too. Thanks to @davidsmithuk for putting this together and asking such good questions in the interview.

Some interesting pro-made gaming webisodes

Yikes I used webisodes (how very turn of the century). However it looks like a good series is forming on games and gaming, in 4 minute bite sized chunks with Dom Joly. He always it entertaining, just as Charlie Brooker is but for different levels of sarcasm.

This series is by Channel Flip who I previously noticed had done Richard Hammond (of Top Gear fame) Tech Head. I guess having done some technology presenting on TV I was not overly impressed with Tech Head. Probably just professional jealousy, but it did not seem Hammond’s heart was in it, unlike Top Gear.
Anwyway Dom Joly is looking good in this and its good to see the subject covered with his style in place.
See what you think.

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

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 🙂

Predlets – The Movie

I am cross posting this on because it is one of those things that crosses the business and personal life divide.
The predlets want to be in TV now too so get them used to taking a bit of direction and also so I could have a play with imovie we made this.
Enjoy the world premier of the trailer of Predlets the movie

Imovie now features some trailer wizards. It sets up the transitions and generates a suggested shot list. So having had a quick glance at that we hit the garden to do some single shots, group shots, action shots and landscape shots and then I picked parts of some of them and this is the result. They have about 10 different wizards in there and it would be good if there were more to either buy or adapt and create. Writing a script first and deciding the shot list works really well. I think I learned a little about getting this in you head from watching how our Cool Stuff Collective big gadget adventures were filmed. Film more than you need, top and tail all the shots to allow for editing. My film is not in that league of course 🙂
All shot on an iphone in about 10 mins though so not bad. In fact with my new infinity uber fast broadband the upload took hardly any time at all. The editing took about 20 mins and the generation about another 10.
Give it a go, what are you waiting for 🙂 Oh, and get these kids a movie deal please