Rock, Paper, Cyborgs

This robot hand makes a mockery of its human opponent in a game of rock, paper, scissors with a 100% win rate – one more step towards the total obsolescence of the human mind:

Rather than operate within the parameters of its programming and AI, the robot uses available sensory info and its rapid processing power to effectively ‘cheat’, making AI redundant in this instance:

human-machine cooperation system

The effect (at human speed, anyway) is that it wins without a scrap of intelligence, so what does that say about us?!

A New Kind of Business Card

Question: How do you share that great idea of yours while keeping your intellectual property secure? Answer: You use a non-disclosure agreement.

Beer: tool of the trade

But NDAs are way too formal for the modern entrepreneur, who is more likely to meet a potential partner or investor at a conference, in a coffee shop, or over a beer than arrange to meet at the lawyers.

In an informal situation, the most common business exchange is probably handing someone your business card. I’ve been thinking about this, so in the spirit of sharing ideas, here’s what I’ve come up with:

What if your business card could unlock new conversations?

On the understanding that a signed non-disclosure agreement allows for a far smoother flow of communication in the exchange of business ideas, my business card design offers the ability to turn a casual conversation into a pitch scenario, but without the formality.

Take a look at this mockup I created for MOO Cards, who sadly weren’t interested in the exclusive ownership rights!

Click the image to see in fullscreen

My design is a perforated piece of card designed to be ripped in half:

  • One half lists the usual business card details
  • One half has space for a signature against the statement:
    “I hereby agree to treat your idea as confidential in a bond of trust”
    (or whatever)

Each party keeps one half of the card in this interactive business exchange. Not legally airtight, of course, but still an innovative means of quickly forming trust with a potential partner.

So then, anyone out there want to help turn this design into a reality?

Wipeout Reimagined with Quantum Levitation

You might have heard of quantum levitation, AKA the Meissner effect, flux pinning or superconducting magnetic levitation. But if you haven’t had the pleasure, then here’s what the fuss is all about:

When those two magnets are placed on the track and sent swirling in different directions, don’t you wish you could have a go yourself? Just me? I suppose I do bloody love magnets. But I’m not alone in this, however…

Wipeout Cover

A team from the ‘Japan Institute of Science and Technology’ (JIST) have sought to create a table-top game using the principles of quantum levitation at it’s core. Their inspiration? The classic racer wipE’out” on PlayStation.

Although there is some skepticism as to the authenticity of this work (there is no JIST and their video looks too smooth) the proof of concept alone is very cool, and obviously a lot of work has been put into this very clever fake. Take a look for yourself:

Gameboy Emulator for Android

You know how I love my phone like it was a sexy robot from the future? Well check this shit out. It’s also a full-blown GBA emulator, which with its massive AMOLED screen, and dual core processing, makes my Samsung way more awesome than I could possibly have conceived.

This is a screenshot from Tiger GBA running Advance Wars 2, on it’s original resolution (you can upscale but I like to kick it oldshool). The app integrates with a ROM downloader, where one can select ‘backups’ of the games they already own in order to play.

Legal note: it is against the law to download and play ROM backups of games you do not own. So play safe!

13 Tools to Promote Divergent Thinking

New ideas can come from anywhere, but are often hardest to find when you’re actually looking for them. However, I believe it’s possible to jumpstart your brain, even under pressure, by applying yourself to a bit of divergent thinking:

Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking.

Wikipedia

So to help anyone out there who may be stuck for ideas, here’s my list of divergent thought helpers:

  1. Stumbleupon – highly recommended: tell it your interests and hit ‘stumble’ to be sent to a random site
  2. Buzzfeed – hit the randomize button in the top right corner (occasionally NSFW) to see something usually quite cool
  3. Mystery Seeker – type something in the search box and receive a set of google results for a totally different subject
  4. The Wiki Game – start in one place on wikipedia, and try to end up in another, while seeing loads of content on the way
  5. We Heart It – inspiring and high-quality imagery, often captioned, and with decent search functionality
  6. We Feel Fine – an emotional search tool, potentially good for scanning & visualising need states
  7. Popurls – see the freshest stories from a range of great online sources, with customisation options
  8. Newsmap – a visualisation of the latest news, powered by google (quite old but potentially interesting)
  9. Thesaurus.net – high quality thesaurus dictionary: search synonyms, antonyms, rhymes, quotes and idioms
  10. Visual Thesaurus – see the associated meanings between concepts – worth paying for
  11. Bing Visual Search – search the web visually in an intuitive, exploratory way
  12. oSkope – discover images, videos and products related to a search query
  13. TouchGraph SEO – see the links between topics and websites

Finally, and it may take more time for ideas to emerge this way, but TED really is an amazing resource for this kind of thing. I recently attended TEDxObserver, after which my head was swimming with ideas.

Can you suggest any of your own?

Gameware: A Case-Study in AR Development

I have been aided in this series by a connection with Gameware Development Limited, a Cambridge-based commercial enterprise working in the entertainment industry. Gameware was formed in May 2003 from Creature Labs Ltd, developing for the PC games market which produced the market leading game in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Creatures. When Gameware was formed, a strategic decision was made to move away from retail products and into the provision of technical services. They now work within the Broadcasting and Mobile Telephony space in addition to the traditional PC market. I use this business as a platform to launch into a discussion of the developments current and past that could see AR become a part of contemporary life, and just why AR is such a promising technology.

Gameware’s first explorations into AR came when they were commissioned by the BBC to develop an AR engine and software toolkit for a television show to be aired on the CBBC channel. The toolkit lets children build virtual creatures or zooks at home on their PCs which are uploaded back to the BBC and assessed:

 

A typical Zook, screenshot taken from Gameware's Zook Kit which lets children build virtual creatures
A typical Zook, screenshot taken from Gameware's Zook Kit which lets children build virtual creatures

 

The children with the best designs are then invited to the BAMZOOKi studio to have their virtual creatures compete against each other in a purpose-built arena comprised of real and digital elements. The zooks themselves are not real, of course, but the children can see silhouettes of digital action projected onto the arena in front of them. Each camera has an auxiliary camera pointed at AR markers on the studio ceiling, meaning each camera’s exact location in relation to the simulated events can be processed in real time. The digital creatures are stitched into the footage, and are then navigable and zoomable as if they were real studio elements. No post-production is necessary. BAMZOOKi is currently in its fourth series, with repeats aired daily:

 

BAMZOOKi, BBC's AR game show where children’s zooks compete in a studio environment
BAMZOOKi, BBC's AR game show where children’s zooks compete in a studio environment

 

BAMZOOKi has earned Childrens BBC some of its highest viewing figures (up to 1.2 million for the Monday shows on BBC1 and around 100,000 for each of the 20 episodes shown on digital Children’s BBC), which represents a massive milestone for AR and its emergence as a mainstream media technology. The evidence shows that there is a willing audience already receptive to contemporary AR applications. Further to the viewing figures the commercial arm of the BBC, BBC Worldwide, is in talks to distribute the BAMZOOKi format across the world, with its AR engine as its biggest USP. Gameware hold the rights required to further develop their BAMZOOKi intellectual property (IP), and are currently working on a stripped down version of their complex AR engine for the mobile telephony market.

I argue, however, that Broadcast AR is not the central application of AR technologies, merely an enabler for its wider applicability in other, more potent forms of media. Mobile AR offers a new channel of distribution for a variety of media forms, and it is its flexibility as a platform that could see it become a mainstream medium. Its successful deployment and reception is reliant on a number of cooperating factors; the innovation of its developers and the quality of the actual product being just part of the overall success the imminent release.

As well as their AR research, Gameware creates innovative digital games based on their Creatures AI engine. They recently produced Creebies; a digital game for Nokia Corp. Creebies is one of the first 3D games which incorporates AI for mobile phones. Gameware’s relationship with Nokia was strengthened when Nokia named them Pro-Developers. This is a title that grants Gameware a certain advantage: access to prototype mobile devices, hardware specifications, programming tools and their own Symbian operating system (Symbian OS) for mobile platforms. It was this development in combination with their experiences with BAMZOOKi and a long-standing collaboration with Cambridge University which has led to the idea for their HARVEE project. HARVEE stands for Handheld Augmented Reality Virtual Entertainment Engine.

Their product allows full 3D virtual objects to co-exist with real objects in physical space, viewed through the AR Device, which are animated, interactive and navigable, meaning the software can make changes to the objects as required, providing much space for interesting digital content. The applications of such a tool range from simple toy products; advertising outlets; tourist information or multiplayer game applications; to complex visualisations of weather movements; collaborating on engineering or architectural problems; or even implementing massive city-wide databases of knowledge where users might ‘tag’ buildings with their own graphical labels that might be useful to other AR users. There is rich potential here.

In HARVEE, Gameware attempt to surmount the limitations of current AR hardware in order to deliver the latest in interactive reality imaging to a new and potentially huge user base. Indeed, Nokia’s own market research suggests that AR-capable Smartphones will be owned by 25% of all consumers by 2009 (Nokia Research Centre Cambridge, non-public document). Mobile AR of the type HARVEE hopes to achieve represents not only a significant technical challenge, but also a potentially revolutionary step in mobile telephony technologies and the entertainment industry.

Gameware’s HARVEE project is essentially the creation of an SDK (Software Development Kit) which will allow developers to create content deliverable via their own Mobile AR applications. The SDK is written with the developer in mind, and does the difficult work of augmenting images and information related to the content. This simple yet flexible approach opens up a space for various types of AR content created at low cost for developers and end-users. I see Mobile AR’s visibility on the open market the only impediment to its success, and I believe that its simplicity of concept could see it become a participatory mass-medium of user-generated and mainstream commercial content.