“Inexpensive” 3D

A few weeks ago, I ended up in Orlando somewhat by chance. Since it had been a few years since I had done it, I took the opportunity to check out a few of the newer exhibits. One that struck me in particular was Mickey’s PhilharMagic (Disney, wikipedia) which is staged somewhat in the middle of the Magic Kingdom. The theater itself is somewhat designed like the ficitional theater in the 1993 John Goodman film Matinee (imdb, wikipedia). In the film, Goodman’s character, Lawrence Woolsey, introduces what he calls Atomo-vision and Rumble-rama. These innovations bring more senses into the movie watching experience like touch through things like vibrating seats just at the scary moment. In the current Disney version, they use lots of gimics like spraying water, various scents, smoke, and bursts of air to enhance the experience.

One of the additional features is the use of 3D with more modern glasses that almost look like cheap sunglasses. Of course, there are all of the standard 3D gags like pies flying at your head, trombone slides popping off the screen, and gems floating in the air that appear easy to reach out and take for yourself. We’ve seen all of that done before. What I found interesting was the other applications of 3D like flying through the clouds with Donald Duck, swimming under the sea with the Little Mermaid, and riding the magic carpet through narrow streets and buildings with Aladdin. The 3D models of those environments in combination with the use of the 3D glasses made it feel like we were actually flying through those environments.

So here’s my question, couldn’t we do that same thing with computer screens with video game technology? It shouldn’t be that hard for the “cameras” in video game engines to split and display the image to work with a set of inexpensive 3D glasses. Rather than spending all of the money to create heavy and expensive head gear, couldn’t this be a simpler, less expensive, and faster solution? Sure, maybe the image resolution won’t be as high, but it was more than enough to create the illusion. Can some of my engineer readers fill me in on this?

The Future of Video Entertainment

Much ado has been made recently about the end of the format war between Blu-Ray and HD DVD. Sony finally won a format war, much to my (and many other people’s) surprise. After losing Beta vs. VHS, Memory Stick vs. SD, and MiniDisc vs. who-knows-what, it’s hard to fault everybody (including me) for predicting the demise of Blu-Ray.

Sadly for Sony, I’m not sure it’s that much of a victory. They finally win one and it turns out the battle has changed. Given my recent track record on predictions in this battle, I’m not sure I should be making others, but here’s my new prediction: neither HD DVD nor Sony Blu-Ray win the format battle. Instead, downloads direct to some (really any) media device will win. Sure TiVo/Amazon have allowed people to download movies for a while now, but they charge anywhere from $0.99 to $3.99, allowing 30-60 minutes before starting to watch is wise, and they limit viewing time to 24-hours once you start watching it.

Last night, I finally got around to trying the Netflix download service. First, it’s “free”. Since I already have the service, I can download any one of about 8,000 movies instantly at no additional cost. While 8,000 certainly doesn’t cover all movies, it’s way more than are available on pay-per-view, more than are available at my local Blockbuster, and more than were available on the TiVo/Amazon partnership. Next, I was able to start watching within about 5 seconds. I’m sure it varies based on the hardware, but I tried it on a slower laptop over a wireless network and had no issues. Sure, watching video on a laptop isn’t that much fun especially for a group, but all the new HD TV’s have a computer input, making that connection simple. The quality was as good as any regular DVD I’ve rented (though not yet HD quality). When I didn’t like the movie, I felt like I could stop the movie. I hadn’t paid for it. I didn’t have to wait another 30-60 minutes for the next download to start. I didn’t have to take the DVD back to the store or even put it in the Netflix mailer. I could move on with little or no penalty. Sure other software, not the least of which is iTunes, offers some of the same capabilities, but none (that I’m aware of) offer it on a fixed price, all-you-can-eat model, and none that I’ve seen that allow viewing almost instantly at full quality.

Now that’s the future of video entertainment!

Minority Report for Real with the Wii

Much thanks to Peter Durand over at the Center for Graphic Facilitation blog for the post pointing this out. Want multitouch, but the big multi touch screens are too expensive or unavailable? How about converting your Wii into a glove sensor device with all the same functionality and more? They don’t talk about it in the video, but you could go well beyond the demonstration of moving and sizing photos. Multitouch has a limitation. It’s forced to be on a 2D surface (hence the “touch” part of the name). Therefore, any 3D manipulation is forced and unnatural. The gloves remove the 2D limitation and give the entire 3D space to work with (as long as you can reach it). Imagine rotating 3D objects or zooming in on them, simply by grabbing them and turning or pulling them closer. Very cool.

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Very cool comic creator

I know, I know, I’m so far behind in my personal blog. I’ve been posting over on the VizThink blog (http://www.vizthink.com/blog). How people do multiple blogs with multiples posts a day, I’ll never know. Anyway, this one was good enough to break my silence with.
Check out this very cool, very easy, very powerful web-based comic creator: http://www.bitstrips.com/

It was in Beta for the ever-popular SxSW (south by southwest) conference. Be sure to try it out!

Visual Thinking & eLearning

Have you wondered how Visual Thinking applies to eLearning? or What is Visual Thinking anyway? You’re not alone. So, over at the VizThink community (website, wiki, blog), we’ve decided to do a series of podcasts and webinars covering these topics. Here are the first 3 topics:
Who is TechSmith and what do they do with Visual Thinking? (with Tony Dunckel)
What is idea mapping and how can it be used? (with Jamie Nast & Susi Watson)
How is Visual Thinking related to eLearning? (with Dave Gray & Tony Karrer)

Many more are on the schedule including sessions on graphic recording, presentations, and many others. All of the podcasts and webinars are FREE, but some require registration. Be sure to bookmark the VizThink blog or add it to your reader in order to get the latest updates.

Taking Responsibility

It’s interesting that I chose now to check back with the Wayback Machine which is an archive of all pages posted to the Internet, ever. It’s not perfect, but every once and a while it comes in handy. I’ve been meaning to go out there for a while because I had some articles I wrote for my website several versions ago and in the process of switching machines, had lost the text. Turns out, they are sort of blog posts, before blogging began. There are 3 that I’ll share over the coming weeks. However, given the post I just wrote on New Orleans, this one seemed particularly interesting. It was written 6 or so years ago, but seems just as relevant today. Here it is:

Personal Responsibility

I think its about time that somebody weighed in on personal responsibility. It has be come more and more common to hear from the mothers of murderers who say that is not the criminal’s fault and that the real problem lies with the society that raised the child. I use a harsh example for a problem that cuts across all races, all incomes, and all regions of this country. People on the factory floor, in the office, or on the street corner can all be heard saying “it’s not my problem, let somebody else deal with it.” When did this begin to happen? When did it become everyone else’s responsibility for an individuals actions? People need to begin taking control of their own lives. The statements of the mothers are even more disturbing when the child is underage and only 10 or 12 or 15. The child is old enough to know right from wrong and surely able to understand that actions have consequences. Where is the parent’s role in the whole matter? When did that mother get absolved from her role in rearing the child? Hillary Clinton believes that “it takes a village to raise a child.” In today’s society that may be true since it seems that many parents have removed themselves from that role.

I know people that have been dealt difficult situations in life some of their own choosing and some that were harsh realities of the game. Yet some people rise above the hand that they are dealt and don’t fold. Instead they work to survive that hand long enough to get another deal. These are people who take responsibility not only for their own actions, but for the situation they are dealt. It is a great first step to take what comes out of your own decisions and actions (or inactions). However, I believe it goes a step beyond that. Rampant throughout business and industry today in union and non-union shops, you will hear the phrase “It’s not my job” or “It’s not my fault” repeated over and over. However true that may be, if you have the solution to the problem, then you should make it your responsibility to resolve that issue. I know people who have been put in situations that could not have been predicted or avoided, yet chose to survive instead of bury their head in the sand and ignore their environment.

When the opportunities come up, if you have a way to resolve the issue or the ability to take action, just do something…anything and we will have made tremendous strides to make this a better place for each one of us. Take responsibility for your own actions. Deal with the situation you were given as if it was your responsibility. Help those around you succeed in their own struggles. Maybe just maybe, we can make this just a little bit better place to be.

Those are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.

Do Something, Anything

This week, I had the chance to go to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. I don’t really have a way to count, but it’s probably about my 11th or 12th trip there. It’s a town I know pretty well and have enjoyed many times. We toured not only the largely unaffected areas of the French Quarter, but also the devistated areas of the 9th ward. It’s hard to really understand without being there in person. The devistation pictured on the news isn’t really conveyed until you actually step into one of the condemend houses in the 9th Ward and see the utter devistation. Lives up-rooted. Over 1/3 of the population gone. Homes and lives destroyed.

Then you talk to the people which I had the chance to do many times over the short trip. There’s an amazing sense of community…of neighbors helping neighbors…of hope. I believe that the shocking lack of outside support, which continues even now, has forced the community to work together and will create a bond that was even stronger than it was before. There are so many bad things that came out of this tragedy, but if good can rise from a tragedy, it’s certainly happening in the community. I saw many of the people fighting back tears as they told their stories. What was striking was how often the tears were tears of joy in how someone generously helped them out or met an urgent need without respect for reciprocity. It was truly inspiring.

I don’t know if Brad Pitt’s project is good or bad. It’s probably both. Should the money be spent on marketing and PR or should it be used to build more houses? Clearly much of the rest of the country has forgotten about the region, so maybe, but the need is so great, how many more houses could be built? Sure green and hurricane-ready design is essential, but shouldn’t the designs also reflect and respect the local culture rather than an overly modern look. I don’t know what the right answer is, and I’m not sure it matters. At least he’s doing something.

Rebutting the Rebuttle

So, in my Kindle…the Single Function Device post, I took Mark to task a little bit for his overly-amibitious praise of Amazon’s new e-book reader. You can also find his return comments both as a comment on my post and in an additional set on his blog.

His first rebuttle is on capacity. To do that, he leverages the image of over-filled book bags breaking the back of his son on his walk to school and of other kids using roller bags to avoid the back strain. Sure, no one wants to see kids injured, but I think it’s going to be a long time before we see grade school text books available on the Kindle. It wasn’t designed for kids. It’s not kid-proof or done with a kid sensibility. If they were going for that market, then they missed the boat even more than I thought they did.

Then he get’s to form factor and says “Its not pretty. Its also first generation.” First generation is no excuse for poor product design. There are plenty of great products out there they could have based it on. They learned a little from previous e-book attempts, but clearly not enough. The main navigation buttons (back and forward) are right where you place your hands causing pages to turn when you don’t want them too. The shape of the device is so large, you have to place the device on your lap to type on it, yet the keys are designed for thumb typing. Sure, the iPhone wasn’t perfect out of the gate either, but it was a whole lot better version 1.0 than this is. They would have been better to take the time to get the design right. It’s not like anyone else was rushing to get out another failed e-book reader.

Finally for my rebutting the rebuttle, he talks about the $400 price by saying that the price of textbooks for a semester would justify the purchase. That might be true, if the books were discounted for being e-books. However, not only do you have to purchase a $400 reader, you also have to still purchase the books…at full price! That doesn’t sound like a savings to me. There are two general business models here…use the Kindle as a loss leader by giving it away or heavily discounting it and make the money off the e-books…or sell the hardware and discount the books heavily. Pick one business model, not both if you want this plan to succeed.

For even more discussion and a link to a great paper on the topic, check out Mark’s follow-up post.

Kindle…The Single Purpose Device

In Mark’s recent post on the Kindle from Amazon. Now normally, I find myself agreeing with Mark which probably scares both of us. However, this time, I don’t think he could be more off base.

First, out of the many eBook attempts over the last 5 years, none of them have been even partially successful. In fact, calling them miserable failures is probably being generous. So, expecting this one to succeed is a gross over-expectation at best. Sure, it solves a few of the earlier problems…lighter, longer battery life, simpler technology. However it still misses the whole point. For it to be successful it needs to fulfill a market demand or unmet need of some sort.

Capacity: I don’t need to carry 500 books with me. I’ve already got a stack that I can’t seem to find time to get to. I don’t think I’m alone here, but carrying books with me wasn’t a problem that needed solving. It actually works quite fine right now.

Form Factor: Look at the thing. It’s ugly. The technology _appears_ old school. (Yes, I know they’re using the fancy ink/paper thing). At 10 ounces, it’s still to heavy and way too little of the interface is used for the actual book. Sure, the integrated keyboard makes it so that a computer isn’t required, but they could have taken a lesson from Apple here and spent a few more dollars on design. Additionally, it’s not a standard size (either paper back or sheet of paper) so it won’t fit securely in the regular places during transportation.

Price: $400??? Are you kidding me? Plus I still have to pay the regular $10 for the book? Maybe if they worked it like the heavily subsidized razor/blade or cellphone/subscription models it might be more attractive, but please…at $400 the switching cost is way too high. Of course, I did hear one report (on Cranky Geeks) saying that at $400 it probably was already subsidized…which makes you wonder how much it really costs.

Single Function: When was anything anymore a single function device? For $400, it should have a scanner or a printer built in. Maybe I should be able to display and edit other documents. Hey wait, that’s a PDA or a laptop and I can do a lot more with those. In fact, I could even by a decent laptop for less than $200 more and it could do a lot more than read books.

Location: I often read when I’m in a spot where electronics aren’t allowed (like an airplane). So, with this, I’d still need to carry print with me. Great, now I have to carry both? How does that make sense?

Mark’s final point was that companies should by these for employees and put the manuals on them? Really? Mark? Come on now. First, who’s writing manuals anymore? Second, shouldn’t we really be talking about wikis, blogs, help systems, knowledge management, search, or any one of a dozen other approaches to organize structured and unstructured information rather than converting print manuals to an e-book form factor?

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Serious Games are neither Serious nor Games, Discuss

In this week’s Escapist, Ben Sawyer has a great article on the 10 Myths about Serious Games. Here’s the quick list:

  1. Myth: The Game Industry Doesn’t Work on Serious Games
  2. Myth: Serious Games are for Learning and Training
  3. Myth: Serious Games Aren’t Fun
  4. Myth: Serious Games are Always Serious
  5. Myth: Serious Games aren’t Commercially Successful
  6. Myth: Games are Young media, so Serious Games are for Young People
  7. Myth: There is No Proof that Games Affect Anyone
  8. Myth: Game Developers Don’t Want to Work on Serious Games; Serious Games are an Academic Pursuit
  9. Myth: Serious Games are Games for Good
  10. Myth: Serious Games are Dominated by the U.S. Military

Here’s just a few of the great quotes from the article:

“Sure, there are times when serious games lack the joy of play that at times disproportionately drives commercial games…to think that fun is the only reason users play games isn’t giving people much credit. If anything, serious games are more than fun.”

“The term ‘serious’ isn’t a grammatical modifier related to a serious game’s content. What makes a game a serious game is the designers’ choice to make their game more than entertaining to the player.”

“Organizations…frequently say games are a great way to reach young people. It can become a mantra at times. The fact is, for all the amazing growth rate,s many young people don’t play games regularly…the gaming demographic is getting older every year…to say it’s a genre for children is just flat-out wrong.”

“While the military is a major player in the field, it’s definitely not the only big spender. In fact, in terms of revenue, health and healthcare will likely dominate the field within a few years.”

Great stuff, Ben!

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