March 5, 2007

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:47 pm by oceanstorm

We were lucky enough to have James Eberhardt come in and talk to our class about the interactivity on mobile devices. James is the Director of Technology at Marble Media a company in Toronto that focuses on bringing interactive programming to television, mobile and “whatever they can get their hands on”.

James talked to us about mainly about Flash Like2.0, however he did give us a brief history about the other technologies that came before it and that integrate it. Stuff like SMS (which is text messaging only), MMS (which are messages with formatting, audio or video) and these are the technologies that you can find on cell phones currently.

We then got into a discussion about WML (Wireless Markup Language), HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) which are used for the content in displaying websites on cell phones. WMLScript, which is like JavaScript and is the scripting language used in WML pages. If you are interested in learning WMLScript, check out W3Schools WMLScript Tutorial. One of the main reasons that WMLScript is a great deal like JavaScript is that Java was the first widely used mobile technology and currently is being used, as well as FlashLite.

FlashLite is a scaled down Flash Player for devices with slow processors and low memory. This could constitute anything from a cell phone to a PSP to an iPod. FlashLite 2.0 was released in January 2006 and new this year, FlashLite 2.1 will come free on Verizon phones. To read about the release of Flash Lite on Verizon phones, take a gander at the Infoworld Article that goes more in depth.

Finally James gave us just a few interesting insights into the future of cell phones and the current state of the market for them. First off, the Opera Web Browser is the first web browser to develop for mobile with their OperaMobile and OperaMini. He also pointed out to us, that perhaps the biggest market / money maker in mobile technology right now is the customization of them. From custom ringtones to image downloads for backgrounds to games, it is a large market. James told us of an article he read that said that Virgin Mobile, one of the smaller cell phone marketers out there right now, makes an estimated $10,000 a day on customizations for phones alone. Another thing to note, is the advertising that is being done on cell phones now. A recent article from estimates that in a few years, mobile advertising could be a $1-billion-a-year market. You can go to this link to read the whole article.

All in all, James showed us that to develop interesting, fun interactive content, you don’t always have to think big or look far away. You have but to look in the palm of your hand.

January 26, 2007

The Web 2.0 experience

Posted in Multimedia Pioneering at 11:39 am by oceanstorm

Today we had a very eye opening and mind opening visit from Wayne Macphail. He came in to talk to us about Web 2.0 and some of the various aspects and philosophies that surround it. First off I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed his visit as it truly did show me more about the world around me and make me realize a few things that I have been overlooking for awhile.

When you think of Web 2.0, you most likely have asked yourself, “What was Web 1.0?” The Web 1.0 was what the Web was like about ten years ago. It was when people were just discovering the internet and what it could do. People were using it as a dumping ground of information, literally. Full articles, books, information, everything was being transferred from the medium it was originally in, mainly print, and put onto the web in that exact format. It was very static, authoritative and a learning process. It was mainly a learning process as to what we shouldn’t do with this new technology and from that, the Web 2.0 has been born.

Wayne described for us the three main aspects of Web 2.0. Tagging, Social Bookmarking and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds. The reason these are the mainstays of Web 2.0 is the fact that the Web 2.0 is all about community, social interaction, sharing and communication. Communication not in the sense of what you use to communicate, but rather listening, speaking, sharing and creating. The Web is no longer a static environment, as you will see a little later on.

Tagging was the first thing that Wayne discussed with us. Tagging is just that, a tagging system for information, images and anything else in the web. The method is however much more open than it ever has been. People make their own tags for everything that they want to include. For instance, you have images you want to put on your Flickr site and when you upload them, you attach tags to them to allow other people to see them. You aren’t forced into putting them into categories that Flickr made up. What this allows is for people to add to and expand upon what you have done. People can link your image by one word they used to find it, however the various tags they use to link it to other people links your stuff to a whole new community of people you never thought of.

Social bookmarking works in a similar way. Instead of having your bookmarks on your computer and your computer alone, social bookmarking like allows your bookmarks to be public and open to all. Using the same open concept as tagging, people who have similar interests as yours can look at your bookmarks to find things that they themselves haven’t discovered yet and in the same respect, you can discover many things as well.

RSS Feeds are another great Web 2.0 tool that people are really starting to catch onto. Using tools like the Google Reader, you can customize the websites that you frequent so that the reader will go to those sites for you and see if there is anything new on them, mainly headlines. If there is something new that interests you, the reader will grab the headline and the subheadline for you and place all of them from their various sources into one place for you to pick and choose which you want to read and when. This way, you aren’t continually visiting sites a dozen times a day to just the once.

A few other Web 2.0 technologies/sites/applications that were mentioned as well were YouTube (a video sharing site), MySpace (a blog/personal space site), Vox (a blog site), Twitter (a live instant messaging site) and Podcasting.

Finally we got to spend some time talking about Second Life, 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. It is an interesting concept in the social aspect of the Web 2.0. Some people see it as an amazing breakthrough and the future of the Web, some people simply view it like a game, some an escape from reality and a new world they can live in, others a glorified SIMS. Instead of me telling you about it, go to their site that explains what Second Life is. Then you decide.

What did I get out of this in the end? A bit more understanding, a little more information and a ton more ideas. What do I suggest? If you don’t have a Flickr account, get one to share your images with the world. If you don’t have a Vox, WordPress or other Blog site, get one and share your ideas and thoughts with the world. If you don’t use social bookmarking, look into it to see what everyone else is interested in. If you don’t use an RSS feed, really take a look at it to make your life a little simpler. The great thing about all this in the Web 2.0 world is that it is all free so everyone can partake in it.

November 9, 2006

GestureTek – Moving into the future

Posted in Multimedia Pioneering at 4:39 pm by oceanstorm

GestureTek. What comes to mind when you think of these words? Tek is spelt wrong? Technological movement? Moving in the future? Well GestureTek is a company that has been around for a great many years and have developed some pretty amazing technologies. First off, check them out at GestureTek to read up more about them. Several of the the technologies that we were shown simply awed me thinking about what they can be used for. One of the first things we were shown was the “green screen room” with a few of the interactive games that they have created. From being on a futuristic hovercraft going through hoops to get a high score to being the goalie in a soccer game moving around blocking balls to playing drums on the screen, it got me thinking about the various ways these technologies can be used for physiotherapy at home for people trying to get their muscle movements back. Having access to dozens of different games that will get the body moving and doing the specific gestures that the body needs to do to heal would definitely make it more interesting for the patient as opposed to doing the same exercise over and over again every day, as well as to make the amount of time they spend on it less noticeable.

Another technology that was introduced to me was the projection onto “glass walls”. Having whatever you want displayed in whatever space you want and being able to move it, control it and interact with it by not even quite touching the wall was really neat. Flipping through a books pages simply by waving my hand made me think of older people having these in retirement homes where a book could be displayed on a wall for them and they can sit in their chair and simply turn the pages with a wave of their hand. This would not only allow them to read the books a little easier, because they could change the size of the font/display and would be able to keep their minds more active as a result. It could also be used on much larger walls perhaps in children’s hospitals to have many children play with each other, though still being confined to their rooms.

The third technology really caught my eye, though mainly because the demo on it was putting a whale together. The screen was several feet in front of the podium, which is movable, and to move the stuff around on the screen, we simply pointed in mid-air in the confines of the podium and moved our finger to the places we wanted it to go. It was a neat technology, though for me, it seemed a more business related application.

Probably the most fun I had at GestureTek was when we started playing with the floor that they created. You see, it really isn’t the floor that they made, rather the projection going onto the floor and how it interacts with people. There are two ways that any projection would interact with people. One was to reflect the objects and the other was to attract them. Imagine an “image” of fallen autumn leaves covering the floor and as people walk over it, it whisks them away to either reveal something underneath or to just make a pile of leaves elsewhere. Now the attraction one was quite neat, with several dozen spiders skittering across the floor and if you walked on the floor, the spiders would come and “attatch” themselves to where your feet were. It would also work for several people at once as well. You could even play “table hockey” on the floor.

Now the one thing that I was truly wondering and wanted to try and figure out was how to get both to work at the same time. Imagine a person standing on a “rock” in the center of the floor, water all around them, moving their hand in and out doing Tai Chi and having the water either move towards you when you bring your hands closer to you or have the water be pushed away as your arms move out. I truly think that would be a very soothing and relaxing experience.

GestureTek is also delving into the realm of video games. The Xbox Live Vision Camera is an excellent example of this.

Vincent John Vincent is a co-founder of GestureTek , who’s vision is to allow people control various devices using only natural movements.

To read more about Gesture Technology, here are a few more links for you to immerse and gain more knowledge about.

Gesture Technology is an article written by Vincent John Vincent explaining how the technology works.

ProAV Just an interesting article by another company that is exploring the world of gesture technology.

October 19, 2006

Brilliant Ideas and Too Much Time

Posted in Multimedia Pioneering at 10:40 am by oceanstorm

So my first foray into the world of “Big” Interactive occurred today. We had a guest from InterAccess come to our class today to show us what they considered great examples in the world of big interactivity. These examples include people like David Rokeby, a Canadian media artist who to me is one of those people who has these brilliant ideas and an absolutely amazing imagination and brilliantly creative mind, the only drawback to this is the fact that like most of these people, he was many years ahead of his time.

Creating in the 1980’s a program and the hardware to take someone’s body movements and having that translated into sound and music is simply amazing to me. In a time where most people do not have a computer in their home or even care to use one, I find it quite remarkable that he didn’t go mad from people not understanding or even being able to explore his creations. As it was mentioned to us, he became frustrated with people interacting with his technology and simply reacting to the sounds that they themselves were creating. As someone who creates many things (all-be-it nothing even remotely close to what he does and most of mine being written creations), I can understand how he can lose hope in society and their ability to comprehend and explore these concepts to even half of their potential. If you are curious about seeing some of the amazing things he has created, please go Here to explore his world, which is wonderful.

The one part of the presentation that truly got my attention is a project that I already had knowledge about, but was extremely interested to see how some of the people in the class reacted to seeing it for the first time. Blinkenlights is one example of BIG interactive multimedia that I knew about before starting this class. Their Site shows you many of the marvels of what they have done, they being the Chaos Computer Club of Germany, Europe’s largest group of hackers that was founded in 1981. Please follow this link to see a small bit of what they are capable of creating. What they do is take requests from people around the world, via phone calls, internet, text messages and the like and produce the message/image/animation you request on the entire side of the building they have “taken over” in Alexanderplatz using the buildings own lighting hooked up to their computers and with them rewiring the circuitry to allow them to control the electrical in the building.

This also made me think about a video I saw a few years ago of a gentleman that created a Christmas light display outside his house that was synchronized to the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Go Here to see the video that was created to show what he had done. Now this, like any other great work of art, spawned another person to try and expand on what was originally done. The Holiday House in Sacromento, California is an “improvement” on the original is that he has figured out how to allow any music to be input into the combination of his sound software, lighting software, synchronization software and hardware he has created, to show many different light shows. The First Video is his rendition of what was first accomplished. Second Video is The Christmas Can Can, while the Third Video is Queen of the Winter Night.

Seeing how people can expand on what other people have initially done as well as seeing the wonderful things that people can create using their imagination is just an amazing experience, even more so when it is interactive.