Mars – Curiosity – inspiring a generation too?

This morning amidst the amazing sporting achievement of the Olympics we had the great news that the Curiosity Martian rover had arrived and landed safely on the planet Mars. It may not seem quite real, but it has taken 8 months to get to 350+ million miles and then descend and land safely in a complex “7 minutes of terror” as the scientist called it.
The project cost a mere $2.5 billion according to reports. That is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider the money spent on things like banking bailouts and alike.
NASA has always been good at sharing what is going on online, but this time this project is tweeting to the world too. So to follow @MarsCuriosity is a must. The web exists to share information, that was the original intent. So when lots of others are still locking away their information NASA is giving theirs to the world.
We were even tweeted to a picture being twitpic’ed
Mars
It takes 14 minutes for a signal to get back from Mars, and to get from earth back to the Rover. It is how ever not doing it on its own. Two other orbiting spacecraft are acting as relays in orbit for it, Odyssey and MRO.
So that’s 3 objects 350 million miles away on another planet interacting with mission control back here on Earth ! It is still just amazing isn’t it!!!!!
The official website has a stack of information, e.g. the batteries on this laser firing, sample collecting and analysing, self driving collision avoiding marvel will last over 600 days! Take that iPhone/3ds/laptop !
London 2012 is set to inspire a generation of athletes and achievers, I hope that Curiosity, now and during the next 2 years of analysis inspires a generation of scientists and explorers. That has to be worth a few billion $?

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 🙂 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 🙂
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 🙂
So virtual worlds last issue, 3d printing this issue whats next? I have a cunning plan.

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.
abranimation
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.
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(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.

More Choi Kwang Do kinect tests

Having tried using a relatively complex set up for the previous text of kinect on the Mac specifically for enhancing or viewing Choi Kwang Do moves I came across a much richer way to visual it. This uses the Tryplex created set of macros in the Quartz Composer on the Mac.
Oddly I had not come across the incredibly powerful and useful Quartz composer sat here on my machine!
It allows structured linking of macros and rendering to create motion graphics and sound.

The Tryplex toolkit has a lot of examples of how to process skeleton information and render it. It comes in two flavours. One is the more complicated to set up OpenNI/Nite/OSCSkeleton as the input for the data. i.e. the setup I had previously for the simple viewer. Or it uses a quicker to run app requiring no setup called Synapse. Despite having the other pieces set up I just used the synapse app for this one.
You simply copy a few macro files into the quartz libraries, run synapse to start the kinect and then run the Quartz simple skeleton.
This requires a cactus stance for calibration, unlike my previous uncalibrated example. Then away it goes.
I am by now means a reference pattern for the Choi moves, but I did try a yellow belt pattern and also a yellow senior speed drill, plus a few others. I also threw in some mistakes like punching from the front foot not the rear to see how easy it is to spot them.(I also tried a music replace with youtube, tongue in cheek 🙂 )

I have to say I was impressed! There are a whole load of other coded demos that show acceleration on a particular body part, or a very cool one involving shaping and moving a cube as a gesture object.
Now I have to figure out how to write Quartz macros, just another tech language 🙂
It also looks like a great way to combine the inputs from something like the BPMPro with the Kinect that I mentioned yesterday
Roll on tonight and another session at South Coast CKD to keep learning and on the journey

Run Makie Run

Firstly this is not related to anything official to do with any major sports event, so no brand police actions thank you very much.
The other day I blogged about using some homebrew kit to make martial arts related monitoring. It is an ongoing side project, but as part of that I mentioned using the Blobo for some of it as it has a motion sensor. Well in the course of thinking that through I wondered if I might be able to do something a little quirky to bring my Makie alive.
With the hollow head in the Makie designed for an arduino lily pad I thought I would see what happened if I put the Blobo in as the brain. I mean a 3 axis bluetooth transmitting fully functioning device seems like a good idea and saves a lot of soldering 🙂
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The Blobo nearly fitted in the head. Without the eyes in it is the right size as is.
However much of the Blobo is designed to give it a decent size and feel, so with the guts ripped out it looks a much better fit.
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So here he is going for a “run” with the Blobo sprinting app.

I have the SDK kindly provided by Martin Gossling at Quarternion so I can write some more Makie specific Unity3d applications. So if you pick up the Makie or move him at all he will be able to respond.
Trying this project out led Martin to get in touch re the Choi Kwang Do requirements and in a wonderful bout of serendipity they have repackaged and upgraded some of the same principles of the Blobo into BPMPro which looks like a great thing for CKD practitioners to give a go so watch this space as this looks very exciting 🙂 I think that combined with Kinect to some brilliant insights and ways to fine tune technique (not just power an speed) will evolve.
So this has merged the threads of 3d printing with Makie, homebrew use of technology for things other than it was intended (Maker Culture), the modern martial art of Choi Kwang Do and some Unity3d. Funny little ideas need to be explored as they are often lynch pin to a wider goal. “Feeding edge: Taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to” 🙂

Generating music from an emotion curve

I just came across this interesting looking web application called MusicFlow. I am always fascinated by things that make the creative process more open to anyone. Clearly fully fledged composer and musician is better than a generated algorithm but…. Here you draw a graph on a time line of the sort of rise and fall of emotion you need and it creates a piece of music for that.
There are several video demos, but before I watched these I just had a quick go and straight away had an interesting piece going.

We have some similar things now in iMovie where it generates a score based on the pace of the film, the cuts etc, but it is good to see a more generic one hit the web.
I was also reminded of the old Instant Music program on the Amiga again, as that was the first one I saw that was able to allow an in tune jamming using the mouse which is similar in many ways to drawing an emotion curve. Anyone else remember that?

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.
Packing
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.
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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!
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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 🙂

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 🙁 ) 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 🙂
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 😉
So lets see how this wave pans out, our seed of evangelism coming to fruition? Then we can get on with the next innovation 🙂

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.