Intal Softkinetic Creative CameraWe’ve written a few times about Intel’s Perceptual Computing initiative – a technology that we’ve been tinkering with and are really excited about. At IDF this year we saw even more, heard about some really cool upcoming features that we can’t talk about, and as a generalization the news just gets more and more interesting. I’m genuinely excited for the possibilities this technology offers. I think Lee Bamber was able to sum it up perfectly by saying that all previous input technologies have forced us to learn whatever “language” the computer was able to understand – be that keystrokes, mouse movements, or touch gestures. But PerC is the first look at where a computer will be learning how we like to communicate – with our eyes, our words, our body language. And that possibility is fascinating to me.

But today I wanted to share a brief thought that occurred to me as we were all brainstorming about the possible use cases for PerC inputs and that’s in the cases where environmental considerations make moving parts vulnerable and computing difficult. Continue Reading…

The bell has rung (follow the contest updates on Intel ,  Facebook,  and  twitter with hashtag #UltimateCoder  (We are also posting pics on Intagram with that hashtag too). Code-Monkeys is ready to let loose its collective intellect to throw down the competition. We just narrowly missed the crown last round, grabbing second place with Wind Up Football. The sting still lingers, yet the drive has been renewed. Code-Monkeys will be coming to the Perceptual Computing Challenge with guns blazing. For our project we will be taking our soon-to-be-launched game Stargate Gunship and making it a fully immersive perceptual game. We’re adding hand controls for firing, voice commands to switch weapons and gaze capture for targeting.

Will it be hard? Sure! But this time we are not letting anything stop us from victory.

Our small but capable team is made up of John McGlothlan, the lead ninja … Programmer. He will be developing and implementing the API to let the Creative camera and Unity 3D coexist in harmony. (Intel has already gone a long way down this road but John is already busy deconstructing that code) Gavin Nichols, our capable programming artist will be taking the API and integrating the GUI to make Stargate Gunship really pop. Chris Skaggs and Troy Parker will be the “Is-it-fun-yet?” team and verifying QA questions to be sure we’re poised to take the crown in the end. John Bergquist is our lead technologist making sure the world stays keen on our Victory, yes that’s right capital V victory!

The road is void of precedence but rich in amazement. This will distract the competition when they start to see the world they have entered. While it is easy to be distracted, our team will keep the vision on the target like a small beam of light stretching from the summit. While it is a long and steep road we face. The end will bring Programming Glory atop the mountain for all to witness.

Bwahahahaha!

Of course, we are inviting all the witness the climb alongside, and to join our rag tag band. To bring your support and comments, to keep our intellect sharp and our keystrokes firm. This marathon has the potential to turn even the greatest into weary travelers looking for rest. Yet we will not let the weariness cause us to waver or draw our minds from the final goal.

Indeed – we welcome the challenge!

Thank you Intel for providing us another opportunity to Go-Fight-Win!
Our minds are sharp and our hands are firm. Stay tuned.

Oh and catch a quick round up John shot two weeks ago. We will be giving detailed write-ups filled with code and tech explanations and Chris and JB (John Bergquist) will be giving a 30k foot roundup via video as well.

Belkin ThunderstormYesterday we learned that MacWorld awarded a Best of Show award to the Belkin Thunderstorm – a peripheral that adds BA speakers to your iPad 2 or 3.

Why do I care?
Because we built the app.

Of course the award actually went to a really great piece of hardware and not specifically to the app that allows users to configure and use the speakers but the app provides a major part of the overall user experience – so we thought a little horn tooting was in order.

As a work-for-hire software development shop, building software for clients who then brand the product with their own logos and IDs means that it’s normal for us to work in obscurity. That can make marketing our services a little tougher but it also means we get opportunities to work alongside a wide variety of world-class teams as well as plucky start-ups. In this case, we partnered with Belkin, Avnera, and Cinco Design to pull together a complete package of hardware, software and beautiful design – and scored a prestigious award for the effort.

The name of the game nowadays is strategic collaboration – no single company can excel at everything. That’s what we’ve done with Intel, Comcast, MGM, Aruba Networks and GeoLoqi (now ESRI). It’s how we won awards with independent projects as well as our own published apps and and games. Collaboration is what makes this whole rapid-deployment economy work. On the one hand, delivering another excellent block of code is just another day’s work…but it feels good to score the kudos.

I love this business.

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So as a kind of celebration/what’s next kind of thinking: We’re offering 20% off the next app we build – Up to $20k.

Coming off the recent success and Best of Show award of the Belkin Thunderstorm we’re looking for our next awesome project…maybe that’s yours? If your app is super cool, cutting edge, or out of the box – let us know. And the next app we sign on to will get a 20% discount off of our normal rate.

In the coming weeks we will be diving into a ton of new code as contestants in Intel’s second Ultimate Coder Challenge.  Last fall we came in at second place in the first challenge with our game Wind Up Football.  This time the challenge is all about perceptual computing. And we have big plans. Back at IDF 2012 (The Intel Developer Forum) all the Intel Black Belt Developers were invited to a closed door briefing to show us all Intel was doing in perceptual and fully interactive computing. It was really stunning. We have all seen X-Box Kinect with its broad gestures and body motion maneuvering of games. Well this new technology is what I like to call granular. You can control things at the smallest level of a fingertip. Fully functioning gestures that use all your fingers and joints as well as facial recognition and expression tracking. And that is just the beginning. We were blown away and so were the others in the fellowship. The SDK uses Creative’s Interactive Gesture Camera Developer Kit.

Fast forward to today and we are fully involved in bringing this technology to our games. The first one and the one we will be entering into the contest is a property we have been developing for a few moths with MGM Studios. Stargate Gunship is of course just plain cool. At least we sure think it is. Beyond touch interface for the iPad, Android and Windows 8 devices we plan to write our own plugins and Unity 3d 4.0 to fully use the camera to control the game. We are going to reserve telling you our biggest plans for the contest for a later date. Let’s just say that John Anderton of the Minority Report would feel right at home. So there we have it. The contest is planned to begin around February 15th and you can follow along on Intel’s page (we will add link here once it is announced). On twitter look for the hashtag conversation #UltimateCoder and of course we will be posting updates here on the Code-Monkeys Blog. Thanks and please follow along. It is going to be a kick.

Sony Vaoi Tap 20

Sony Vaoi Tap 20 – A whole new coolness.

With Windows 8 Microsoft finally accepted the need to add touch to their desktop. While this is a small congratulations for coming into the 21st century, it actually is more impressive then that. Microsoft’s xBox division has been pushing forward innovation very well, but Windows as a division has always been a wait-and-see innovator.  Windows 7 was a good example of that.  Windows 7 added “base” touch functionality to show everyone they were now longer in the dark ages, yet the implementation was flawed. It never felt natural. Because of this Windows 7 was never felt to be “Touch Implemented”, more “Touch Added”.

This has dramatically changed with Windows 8. Windows 8 redefined how a Windows desktop machine is used. The new interface not only brings Touch to a desktop machine  it makes it the forefront. Honestly it feels like a requirement to make Windows 8 Usable. Which perhaps is the biggest reason it will take time to be “accepted”, each person always says “I am going to wait until I have a touch interface to upgrade.”

When using Windows 8 as a pure keyboard and mouse interface it feels clunky which to the normal user would probably seem like moving backwards. Yet in my experience every time a person first experiences Windows 8 using a touch interface you see the “finally” exhale occur.  With that exhale their eyes are opened to the future of desktop machines (Yes Microsoft actually did something that feels new even though it is old <clap, clap>)

The new interface brings forth features that are missed without usage.  First it ends up being a great party interface. Windows 8 will bring people around the desktop, no longer represents a single user interface that sits in the corner. One great example is the Sony Vaio Tap 20.  This device is a 20 inch “coffee table”.  The best use of this machine is to place it in the middle of the room.  From there it can become the center of discussion, entertainment or it can be used to add ambiance. Another is the “wow” factor that Windows never had. When someone comes and plays with Windows 8 they actually feel it, they see how to use it. It doesn’t take a class to learn how to use it which is something Microsoft needed for its new interface because they aren’t looking back, expecting the world to move forward.

Microsoft, thank you for deciding to look forward and not back.  To not worry about how to get users to accept the interface but to let them know this is where the future is going. This is the first time in years that I felt Microsoft was taking a step forward into something new and knowing that their usage base may not like it. Yet knowing they will love it when they do finally take that step forward into touch.

My Name is PeggyI am in the middle of what is probably the worst customer service I’ve ever had.

I bought a piece of software about four months ago that activates on a month-to-month subscription. The problem is – mine won’t activate. Instead it tells me my 30 day trial is over and kicks me out.

In an effort to fix the problem, and use the software I’m paying for every month (did I mention that I’m still paying for it?)  I’ve been on the phone or on-line chat with 8 different tech support people, spending over 40 work hours – and all for nothing. In fact, at this point not only is that one piece of software broken, but the tech support efforts have managed to disable all of my software from that same company. Cool huh?

Here’s the critical problem:
This is no longer a tech-support issue, it is a customer service issue, and the company has failed to notice the difference.

Continue Reading…

Educause 2012

Chris Skaggs —  November 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

Last week, Erin Morris and I (Chris) were honored to have a chance to speak at the Educause conference in Denver. The conference is basically all about the confluence of higher education and technology. It’s a very well educated, high powered, and goal oriented group…not at all likes gamers generally speaking.

Our session was called “Crossing the Chasm between Educators and Game Developers for Improving Game-Based Learning

hangmouse

Why do educational games typically fail? Because essential fun gets sacrificed to an inappropriate educational goal.

and our thesis was to say something like this: Edutainment is a drag for everybody. Please, for the love of all that’s good in the world, don’t do any more of that. Instead, understand that a game without a lesson is still a game, but a game without fun is only an expensive torture device.

Ergo: Put Fun First.

Continue Reading…

Nearly two years ago I first sat down to define an emerging trend I was beginning to see. This is something I termed the Unbundling of Knowledge. The iPad was but a few months old when I penned my original piece, and the very first iPad pilots (our own included) were just beginning to be developed.

I talked about a trend I saw coming that had the potential for far reaching influence. A fundamental shift was happening and that “the concept of knowledge, the creation of content, the acquisition of knowledge and in some ways the very definition of knowledge are all undergoing a tremendous revolution.” So did that revolution materialize? Are we in a new world? Without a doubt I resoundingly say yes! I think many teachers, parents, administrators and content consumers would agree.

We have seen the iPad bring a new tablet niche into prominence, and into homes and schools across the nation. With 55 million iPads sold in the first two years, the device has seen unprecedented market adoption, and with over 600 school districts using the device in classrooms last fall, the changes are not limited to business and personal use. Looking back at that blog post from 2010, I want to draw out some of my statements and ask: how do you think they are stacking up?

  • “In today’s information age there is a rapid transition going on not only in education but in all facets of knowledge transfer. It is like a massive decentralization of everything. Granularization.”
  •  “Knowledge and content creation are being decentralized at an ever-increasing pace. The creators of content are no longer operating solely through traditional channels but rather through an exponential number of new mediums.”
  • “the consumers of knowledge are no longer relying strictly on traditional sources to provide that knowledge.”
  •  “…education’s continuing emphasis on the internet has spread, building up the maturity and quality of the materials available online.”
  • “The future of knowledge is anyway, anytime, anyplace. The power has returned to the consumer!”

Two years ago I began to consider the transformations happening in knowledge. Over the next few weeks I want to bring some of those old posts back, and consider how these transformations are happening and what might be on the horizon. This week: The Unbundling of Knowledge, originally published in June, 2010….

Right now there is lots of buzz out there about education and knowledge changing. From the iPad, to digital textbooks, to open source LMS’, to the “Open Letter to Educators” the conversation is happening. People are coming to a consensus that there is change going on and we are in the midst of a techno-knowledge revolution! Defining the extent of this revolution may be too nebulous to nail down, but we can begin to identify and talk about some of the aspects of the revolution.

On my wall, behind my computer screen is a sticky note: this ante-digital method of reminders, says simply: Unbundling Knowledge. This simple phrase reminds me that the concept of knowledge, the creation of content, the acquisition of knowledge and in some ways the very definition of knowledge are all undergoing a tremendous revolution. In today’s information age there is a rapid transition going on not only in education but in all facets of knowledge transfer. It is like a massive decentralization of everything. Granularization.

The way we interact with knowledge is changing. If you are one of the ones out here having this conversation you are likely already well aware of it. Knowledge and content creation are being decentralized at an ever increasing pace. The creators of content are no longer operating solely through traditional channels but rather through an exponential number of new mediums. Similarly, the consumers of knowledge are no longer relying strictly on traditional sources to provide that knowledge.

At its core the unbundling of knowledge to me means the separation of content and medium. For centuries the singular word book has meant both the content and the medium. With the dawn of the internet we began to see a divergence of these two roles, but the nascent technology was immature, and could not yet be trusted with something as material as real knowledge. Slowly though that has been changing, and while there remain plenty of meshuggeneh spewing their trash onto the internet, they have been joined by genuinely authoritative voices. Beginning with online learning management systems, education’s continuing emphasis on the internet has spread, building up the maturity and quality of the materials available online. The other day I found myself cruising Wikipedia while prepping a lecture on Soviet Stagnation in the 1970’s and I suddenly wondered in amazement, when did Wikipedia become (almost) trustworthy?

Into this landscape enters the current e-reader boom. Whether you are a Kindle lover, an iPad aficionado, or a sworn Luddite it is hard to deny the rapid advances that are being made in digital reading from hardware to content accessibility. Now the changes to knowledge that have spread through the internet are being increasingly taken mobile and are “going viral.” No longer is content available in one format, and in one time and place, but rather mobile and accessible. A person can start reading a new digital book on their iPad over the weekend, switch to reading it on their phone on the train to work, and pick up where they left off on their Kindle that evening, all without losing their place! The future of knowledge is anyway, anytime, anyplace. The power has returned to the consumer!

That makes this an exciting time and just the beginning of the conversation, so join in!

Tablet Growth

John Bergquist —  February 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

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