Which just gives me flashback to my youth, and the evil Decepticon cassette tape / jaguar – Ravage!
From one 1980’s toy to an update of another – what happens when you combine scalectrix (or perhaps, micromachines) with projection and computervision? Answer: you get this brilliant experiment by Lieven van Velthoven: Room Racers…
As pico projectors get cheaper and more powerful I wonder what new play forms are going to arrive in the next couple of years.
Friends of BERG, Bjorn Jeffery and Emil Overmar are likely to be involved if the first products of their new Bonnier-backed venture Toca Boca are anything to go by.
They are consciously not making games for kids but – get this – “digital toys”.
I downloaded “Helicopter Taxi” and it really is a digital toy. It’s simple, delightful, charming and radiates play. It’s aimed at 3 years old and up – but the 30somethings in the studio who played with it had stupid grins on their faces from the first couple of seconds they picked it up. Really looking forward to seeing what else the Toca Boca playsmiths come up with.
More beautiful digital playthings. Tom pointed to Fez, which I won’t even try and describe – it’s just lovely. Watch.
And finally, Matt Brown pointed us to the new video by Airside for Flashman – the new band by Fred Deakin (Lemon Jelly) and Robin Jones (Beta Band). It’s lovely – and as Matt points out, very New British Modern…
Matt Webb found this gorgeous isometric map of Hong Kong. I’ve not yet been to Hong Kong, but looking at it from this perspective, the immense density of the city started to sink in. Look at all those high rise buildings smushed in together!
Via Alice Taylor ‘s round-up of Toy Fair USA we discovered Kauzbots. How great are these? You get a cuddly handcrafted robot toy and support a good cause at the same time. I think several people I know may be getting these as gifts this year.
Finally, in case you missed it yesterday, the last Discovery space shuttle mission launch:
We’ve been sending humans into space for fifty years now, and there are two main thoughts that usually occur to me whenever I reflect on the fact of space flight: 1) “WTF?! We send people into space! There are people LIVING in space on the International Space Station! Un-effing-believable!” and 2) In the 1960s people expected by now that we’d have colonised the moon and interplanetary travel would be no big deal. What happened? Why aren’t we there yet?
At the beginning of the week, Matt Brown linked to a website featuring the work of Gerd Arntz and pointed out that many of the iconic shapes you see there were drawn around 85 years ago. Coincidentally, there is a small Isotype exhibition running at the V&A in London, until the 13th of March.
Alex found a video which explains the thinking behind the face of Watson, the Jeopardy-winning IBM supercomputer. The concept of a spacial arrangement of colours to convey emotions is reminiscent of the Drones in Ian M. Banks’ Culture novels.
Lastly, a bit of nostalgia. One of my most vivid memories of the Amiga era was formed by a game called Drive IFF, which arrived on the front of Amiga Format magazine in June 1991. Ostensibly a racing game, it owed more to the concept of the game grid from the original Tron movie than it did to games like Outrun.
To race, you need a track, and the developer’s brilliant idea was to dramatically simplify the entire design and rendering process. The racetrack is designed in plan view, and the resulting image is mapped onto the floor of a vast plain. The SNES featured a similar technique in Super Mario Kart, a year or so later.
The game didn’t enforce any boundaries, so when you reached the edge of the racetrack image loaded into a specific area of your computer’s memory, you simply carried on into the unknown. I was less interested in the gameplay, but was fascinated by the concept of this game as a window into the computer’s unconcious. In fact, the game was so unbounded it was possible to drive far enough into the unconscious space to crash the entire computer. We grabbed a short video of it in action, running in an emulator.
We’re practically all back in the studio after New Year – Jack and Kari return next week. The studio mailing list is humming again – lots of links from over the holidays being shared, not to mention interesting tidbits sniffed out from CES, and a general buzz from being back in the studio and back at work. Jolly good. Here’s a small selection from what we all saw this week.
From CES, an example of the digital becoming physical; in this case, a brand created relatively cheaply in the digital world starts to make inroads into the physical. Mattel’s Angry Birds: Knock On Wood is a tabletop game based on Rovio’s ubiquitous mobile game, transporting the bird-flinging action into the real world.
Alex found the Crayola Crayon Maker. You put old wax crayons in, melt them down, and then mould that mixture into new, multicoloured, crayons. They’re different every time. It’s not a million miles away from our Metal Phone; I like that it emphasises the wax-ness of wax, as it were: this is a material you can shape and mould, so why not make products that let you shape and mould otherwise unwanted crayons.
Matt J pointed out this beautiful Flickr set of playing cards for Braniff Airlines, designed by Alexander Girard in the late 1960s. Each card teaches a tiny fragment of foreign language, alongside a simple, stylized illustration. I really like the colour palette used in the images – just blue and red on top of the black-and-white line art.
Business Insider have collected this set of images of “ghost towns” in China – vast, empty residential and business districts, often in remote parts of the country, built as part of a huge property bubble in the country.
It’s quite a thing to see urban planning on this scale: universities designed to house 2.3 million students; whole city districts practically empty. And, of course, everything planned out up-front: there’s no organic growth here; just new towns dropped onto the map in one fell swoop. And now, the prevalence of aerial imagery allows us to see these cities from afar, their empty car parks and deserted streets preserved for history on Google Earth.
One emerging trend on the internal mailing list has been a steadily growing number of threads about robots – covering both big mechanical things, and also more domestic models, and even (as in the case of Barbie below), barely-bots. Time to start gathering those up!
Gadgetwise point out the Barbie Video Girl Doll. It’s a Barbie doll, with a video camera embedded in it, so you can make movies pointed from her point of view, and a slightly immersion-breaking screen in her back. You can also transfer videos off the doll via a USB connector. And, as the Gadgetwise article point out, “because the doll can be posed, she doubles as a pretty good tripod.”
It’s more than just a doll because it’s a sensing object, albeit not a very smart one. Still make it walk and you’d have something not unlike a telepresence robot for kids.
Autom also uses social cues to seem more lifelike, a big psychological difference from working with a static computer screen. She blinks her eyes, turns to look at who she’s talking to, and ends conversations by saying, “I hope we can talk again about your progress,” in a female voice.
From the end of 2008, it’s a map of the top 10 countries of the world by Robot Population Density, as part of this IEEE Spectrum article. Of course, it’s very specifically talking about industrial robots, but it’s an eye-opening set of figures nontheless.
The studio is nice and full and humming and buzzing and it’s a great place to be, but gosh, we’ve been busy. And being busy working on projects – like Schooloscope, launched in beta this week – means there hasn’t been as much time for writing as normal.
Even if posts don’t make it to the blog, though, there’s a steady hum on the internal studio mailing lists – bursts of banter, links to curios dredged up from around the internet – and all good fodder for a post full of videos after a quiet period. Time to start clearing that backlog.
Campbell found this delight – the winner of the “Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest” 2010. It’s brilliant, and the reveal is obvious and uncanny all at once:
Each week, we like to begin and end our Tuesday morning all-hands meeting with a piece of theme music. Matt B and Matt J tend to take the lead there, and this week, Matt J picked “La Serenissima” by Rondo Veneziano – which can’t really be experienced without its surreal animated video:
The lovely stop-motion video for Cornelius’ “Fit Song” came up in conversation one afternoon:
Last week, Matt W tried to explain the magic of the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland, and eventually found us a video of it:
It’s now quite a while since the skies went quiet under the threat of volcanic ash. I loved this animation, based on data from flightradar24.com, showing just how quiet European airspace went for a week.
And that’s a full slate, I think. Have a lovely weekend.
It’s Easter break in the UK – a pair of public holidays on Friday and Monday that give us a long weekend – and so we’re off for a few days. To send you on your way: some pictures and films, presented with citation and links, but without comment. Have a happy Easter.
Players stand in front of a green screen while the game films them and creates a music video background while they sing. Their performance is then emailed to them or burnt onto a DVD players can take home.
How’s that for a piece of product design? I particularly like that it offers you a choice of DVD or emailed video file – the latter leads to an instant community of Star Studio videos on Youtube, the former to replayable experiences for families. Of course, the make-or-break is going to be the quality of the videos, and whilst they’re obviously somewhat cheesy, the output – from a cheap green-screen in a photobooth-sized cabinet isn’t half bad, when you watch the videos of the developers playing:
Would it have sold DVDs to kids in malls and arcades across the US? We’ll never know.
I always enjoy Chris Dahlen’s writing, and his lateset column for Edge Online – about “user-generated, machine-mediated content – UGMMC, or ‘Ugh-Meck’” is a cracker. User-generated content is a hot topic in the games industry right now, but it’s not without its drawbacks – notably, the time and skill required to make anything in even the most basic of game editors.
Dahlen proposes something different: using content that players are already making – on serivces like Twitter or last.fm – and working that into their games:
“…what if you make personalisation easier? Consider a game that brings your real world into your game world, all on its own. It could grab data from the internet about the real world and the gamers that live in it, and weave it into the game experience, for an effect that is both surprising and personally meaningful. You would see yourself in a game without having to put yourself there.”
Dahlen’s clearly only scratching the surface – it is, after all, a column rather than a design document – but he’s expounding on something good. And he ends on a note about narcissism that I find convincing in its poetry:
“…even used sparingly, Ugh-Meck personalises an experience for even the laziest user. It shows us our reflection – however tiny, however distorted – inside our games, an experience that is guaranteed to mesmerise us.”
And finally, here’s a video of a pancake-sorting robot, that can stack 400 pancakes a minute. Why? Because I like videos of robots in factories, especially when they’ve got arms as interesting as that one. Worth watching to the end to see it really hit its stride.