Aug 30, 2009

Yelp has an Augmented Reality iPhone App for the iPhone 3Gs, "The Monocle"!

(Cross posted from tshwi)

Thanks to Dan Saffer for the link from the Read Write Web!

Here is my partial "reblog":

"Social review service Yelp has snuck the first Augmented Reality (AR) iPhone app specifically for the US into the iTunes App Store. The undisclosed new feature allows iPhone 3Gs owners to shake their phones three times to turn on a view called "the Monocle." This view uses the phone's GPS and compass to display markers for restaurants, bars and other nearby businesses on top of the camera's view...Blogger Robert Scoble discovered the hidden feature and posted about it on FriendFeed today. "

Video (in French, but easy to understand by the demonstration)

"Both GPS and a compass are used to determine location and direction being pointed at."

Screen Shots:

I want an iPhone. Verizon, can you hear me now?!

Links to Accessibility Posts: 1, Hello Haptic Flash Cards; 2. Samsung Braille TouchPhone Prototype is Cool, uses Electric Active Plastic

Here are the links to the posts:

Samsung Braille TouchPhone Prototype is Cool: Uses Electric Active Plastic

Hello Haptic Flash Cards

More about the camera for the visually impaired/blind later!

For techies and the tech-curious - Panel podcast: Is Software Development Too Complex?

If you are interested in programming, software development, UI design, or if you are a student/technology "hobbyist", a recent panel discussion .NET Rocks! podcast is a must-listen. Even for even if you are NOT a Microsofty.

Is Software Development Too Complex? 8/27/09

"Recorded live at devLink in Nashville, Tennessee. Billy Hollis, Kathleen Dollard, Jim Holmes, and Josh Holmes (no relation) discuss the issue of the complexity of software development. Several .NET celebrities in the audience also chimed in."

If you listen carefully, and take notes, you will find several gems of wisdom. It is well worth the time. If you don't have 78 minutes to listen to the podcast, listen to it while you do your laundry or something!

(Lots of people in the podcast's audience still write programs using in .NET 2.0)

The real question:

How do we develop usable, elegant software to support a complex society, and at the same time, meet the demands of a world that holds high expectations about what technology can do the future?

A couple of quotes from the panel discussion:

"They've all seen CSI Miami!"

"Ohmygod, what do I have to learn NOW?"

"Microsoft, stop the insanity!"


Jesse Liberty's Post & Reader's Responses to Dot Next Rocks

A user's point of view about the complexity of technology:

Computers conspiring to overthrow us- Gail Collins, National Columnist 8/30/09

Aug 29, 2009

For the Gamers: Episode three of Half-Life 2 will incorporate sign language!

Below is a video of a discussion between Gabe Newell, a game developer at Valve, and a focus group including deaf and hearing impaired gamers. Valve is conducting research to gather information needed in order to incorporate signing into Episode 3 of Half-Life 2.

In the video, the importance of the use of realistic facial expressions was discussed, as well as other issues, such as deaf culture.

(All three video clips related to Gabe's focus groups can be found on the Escapist website.)

(I'm a little behind the game accessibility news...)

Natural User Interface Surfaces: TouchCo - IFSR technology company, founded by NYU Media Reseach Lab's Ken Perlin and Ilya Rosenburg

Earlier this year, I had a very vivid dream about haptic touch-screen overlays. That's how things go for me sometimes. At any rate, the dream inspired a blog post, "Last night I dreamt about haptic touch-screen overlays...". Since this is one of my interests, I try to keep up with developments in this field when I can.

It is amusing to see how seemingly unrelated things have similar roots. Today I came across information about a cool mobile phone concept for the visually impaired, designed by Samsung. The touch technology involved in the concept phone incorporated something called Electric Activating Plastic, or EAP. 

This sparked my curiosity, and while searching for more information, I came across an article in MIT's Technology Review that caught my eye:

A Touch of Ingenuity: Inexpensive pressure-sensitive pad could make surfaces smarter
(Kate Green, MIT Technology Review September/October 2009)

UPDATE:  As of 2/2010, TouchCo no longer exists. It was bought by Amazon:

"..Now that more and more smart phones and MP3 players have touch-screen interfaces, people have grown accustomed to interacting with gadgets using only taps and swipes of their fingers. But on the 11th floor of a downtown Manhattan building, New York University researchers Ilya Rosenberg and Ken Perlin are developing an interface that goes even further. It’s a thin pad that responds precisely to pressure from not only a finger but a range of objects, such as a foot, a stylus, or a drumstick. And it can sense multiple inputs at once."

Ken Perlin and Ilya Rosenberg developed this system as part of their human-computer interaction work at NYU's Media Research Lab, and with the success of their work, went on to start a new company, Touchco, to commercialize and market this concept, known as IFSR (Interpolating Force-Sensitive Resistance) technology.

"The IFSR sensor revolutionizes the field of multi-touch human-computer interaction by out-performing existing solutions in both price and capabilities. Unlike traditional capacitive sensors, our patent pending system can detect any object - not just a finger - and can determine how much pressure is being applied to every point on a sensor simultaneously. IFSR sensors are natively multi-touch, use less power than capacitive sensors, and are much less expensive to produce, making them a highly disruptive technology with widespread market applications."

The Touchco website has a wealth of information regarding this technology. (Update: The TouchCo website was taken down in February 2010)

Other members of Touchco include Nadim Awad, Fang Cheng, Julien Beguin, and Christopher Nam.

I know of Ken Perlin through his Games for Learning work, and also through his on-line application, Responsive Face, which I use in my work with students who have autism.

Ken Perlin's Blog
Games for Learning Institute

TechPsych Post:
Samsung Braille TouchPhone Prototype is Cool: Uses Electric Active Plastic for functional tactile feedback.

Aug 28, 2009

Ron George's Interaction Design Toolbox

Ron George, an interaction designer, recently posted a comment on my blog. So I visited his blog and found that he has a great set of resources that many of my readers would appreciate!

For starters, take a look at Ron's Interaction Design Toolbox page, and then spend some time browsing around the rest of his site/blog.

Ron works at Microsoft on a team that is exploring Natural User Interface/Interaction (NUI). He previously was on the Surface team.

Multi-touch App for Pediatric Neuropsych Assessment and Rehab

Microsoft Surface Multi-touch Application for Pediatric Neuropsychological Assessment and Rehab, by Vectorform

Above is a link to my TechPsych post about the Cook Children's Health Care System's use of multi-touch technology for children and teens who have suffered traumatic brain injuries or have other significant neurological disorders.

Aug 25, 2009

MT-50 Multi-touch Table: Ideum + NUITech = Interactive Delight

Here are a couple of kids on Ideum's MT-50 multi-touch, multi-user table. You can see the delight!

The picture was taken from the videoclip below:

According to information from the video, the MT-50 screen provides a higher resolution than Microsoft's Surface. It comes with bundled with GestureWorks, a software development kit that works with Adobe's CS4, and NUITech's multi-software product, Snowflake Suite.

The MT 50 is designed for use in interactive museum exhibits, but in my opinion, holds great potential for use in public libraries and K-12 media centers (libraries), and even in classroom settings.


Ideum's Press Release (pdf)
Ideum's MT-50 Table Specs (pdf)
Multi-touch Snowflake Suite trial, downloadable from the NUITech website

Aug 24, 2009

Eric Havir's Microsoft Surface in Education Links

I cut and pasted the following information about Microsoft Surface in Education from Eric Havir's Microsoft Surface blog. I've posted about some of these applications, but in light of the plea for Microsoft to listen to educators concerning the development of multi-touch applications, I thought it would be a good idea to share these links.

I hope that Eric won't mind mind this "re-blog"!

"Here are some applications by Microsoft, our Microsoft Surface partners and others."

  • imageChurchend Primary School shows how teachers and students react to Surface in the classroom. There's also a great behind the scenes for developers.
  • I had a few visits with Dr. Neil (1 2 3) talking about his firms edu apps for primary and secondary school kids.
  • A paint application called Paint Touch that shows how even pre-schoolers can be engaged with Microsoft Surface.
  • Wales Education Suite is a set of applications for primary schools
  • Play together, learn together mixes fun with education
  • Surface Math shows primary school kids engaged with Surface
  • Magnification Ring has applications in education and museums
  • The Local Impact Map used by Microsoft to educate representatives of governments and NGOs on corporate social responsibility
  • History at your Fingertips is an adult focused application used at the national conventions last fall during the US presidential race
  • The Pits is used at trade shows for sales, but has great educational applicability.
  • Calculation Game by Ohio State's Computer Science & Engineering students and Geography faculty
  • This clip from Microsoft Research UK show's how magical Microsoft Surface is for primary school students. It's fun to see the kids reactions.
  • This video by Max is a music creation application, but imagine the possibilities with the objects to create educational applications linked with the physical world.
  • Neuro-rehab is focused on healthcare, but can easily be applied to education as well.

We've had a number of higher education institutions buying Microsoft Surface as well, so if you're at college you may see curricula including Surface in markets where it's available. Education developers - don't forget that MSDN-AA has the Microsoft Surface SDK Workstation Edition for subscribers to get you started. Let me know if I've missed anything in my list above. I'll make future posts on healthcare, financial services, etc.


Thanks, Eric, for sharing information about these Surface applications.

Multi-touch on Firefox: Felipe Gome's Work

Felipe Gomes is a 4th-year computer engineering student at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. He's been working on a multi-touch project that enables the FireFox web browser to respond to multi-touch interaction and gestures. Below is a demonstration of this work:

Multitouch on Firefox from Felipe on Vimeo.

Code snippets for the demo can be found on the Mozilla Wiki

MICROSOFT: ARE YOU LISTENING? Cool Cat Teacher (Vicki Davis) Tests Out Microsoft's Multi-touch Surface Table

When Microsoft unveiled the Surface in 2007, I was disappointed that there were no immediate plans to market it for use in education. At the time, there were no immediate plans to release the Surface for research and development by university students. I had just completed a course in human-computer interaction, and with my background as a school psychologist, I KNEW this sort of technology would work well in education.

My head was brimming with ideas for this innovative technology for use with the students I work with every day.

The following video shows a demonstration of Microsoft's multi-touch, multi-user Surface table at the 2009 NECC conference, and also provides insightful comments from Vicki Davis, author of the very popular Cool Cat Teacher blog. Vicki discusses the value of surface/tabletop computing in education and shares her views about the need for user involvement in the educational software development process. She also gives great advice about how Microsoft or other developers of tabletop computing systems should proceed.

I agree with Vicky's comments, 100%, as my regular blog readers know!


In the above video, it is apparent that the musical instrument applications do not provide a good touch response on the Surface. Vicki suggests that touch responsiveness is key, and that all Surface applications should be held to the high standard of Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. Vicky goes on to say that Microsoft should support easy development of applications, and ensure that applications are very user-friendly and easy for school folks to install. If you work in a K-12 setting, you know what I am talking about ; )

Vicky is preaching to the choir when she stresses that Microsoft R&D (and others) should involve users in ongoing development, in a meaningful way, by using REAL people, REAL teachers, people who work with students. If you have ever battled with a "lame" educational application, you know why this is so very important!

Vicky's enthusiasm for the use of tabletop/surface computing in education can not be ignored. She absolutely knows what she is talking about, and she is the instructional technology voice for a multitude of educators around the world.

Here is Vicky's plea:

"I wish Microsoft would listen to these 3 things from a teacher in a classroom (me). I know Microsoft has bigger things to do than watch this video, but, I can dream, can't I?"

(I've paraphrased the following quotes.)

1. Understand the amazing potential for Surface devices in education. Look at three to five years out. You are looking at the future.

(This technology can engage students who have ADHD, etc.)

2. Harness the power of your users! Pull in your users. There are so many people in education would give their thoughts for free!

3. Create virtual and online ways for Microsoft to interact with teachers.

"If Microsoft decides to invest in this, and I do hope that somebody watching this video will understand the importance of integrating the world around us into the learning experiences and the learning environment, as part as how we remake and re-do education."

My sentiments exactly!

A few thoughts:

So where are we now?

Smart Technologies has come out with the SMARTTable, but it was designed for younger students. At this point, there are very few options, especially affordable options, for educators of students in the upper grades to use this technology.

Some members of the NUI-group are involved in creating educational applications for table-top systems, but they are few in number.

A few companies are using this technology for education, but the applications are mostly limited to interactive museum exhibitions.

From my research on this topic, there are very few developers that have the interest or the inclination to create educational applications for table-top computing.

My hope is that this will change soon! Join me in this conversation.

Aug 23, 2009

Bump Top 3D Desktop on a Touch Screen: Toss Your Photos to your Facebook Icon!

BumpTop is a 3D computer desktop organizer that provides much more flexibility- and perhaps efficiency, than the current folder-icon based desktop we interact with every day.

Touch Screen Version - Supports the use of 1 or 2 fingers - Multi-touch version for Windows 7 coming soon:

Original Version

If you want to see how different people use BumpTop, there are quite a few BumpTop videos on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

The next release will support multi-touch, running on Windows 7. According to the BumpTop blog, the application will be bundled with 3D graphics cards. The full version is just under $30.00.



Patrick Dubroy's Personal Blog
FYI: Patrick works for BumpTop. He has a master's degree in human-computer interaction, and focuses on HCI, programming, and interaction on his blog.

Link to Update on Assistive Technology

On the TechPsych blog:

What's New in Assistive Technology and Augmentative Communication? AbilityNet GATE - Global Assistive Technology Encyclopedia - Shows it All

If you don't have a burning desire to learn more about assistive technology, visit the site anyway. Most people have a relative, friend, or colleague that has some sort of disability or impairment, and it is good to know what is available.

The site is also a great source for interesting ideas regarding input and output!

Aug 22, 2009

Interactive Music on the Web: Part One - Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

I'm updating my resources about interactive music on the web, and thought I'd devote a post or two to the subject from time-to-time. Many of the links I've collected over the years no longer exist, so I thought I'd start from the beginning of my quest:

In 1998?, I was taking a kickboxing class and couldn't stand the electronic dance music that blasted us through our moves. I knew there had to be something better, but I wasn't sure exactly how to find it.

As working mom, living in suburbia, I wasn't living a lifestyle that was suited to clubbing until dawn. I knew about Air, Boards of Canada, Moby, and older groups such as Tangerine Dream, but that was about it.

What to do? I searched the Web, and stumbled upon
Ishtur's Guide to Electronic Music.

I was overwhelmed at the complexity reflected in the guide. Ishkur provides a sample of the roots of today's electronic music, with examples of Musique Concrete and the avant-garde music of the 50's. Some of the music is...awful, but if you search around, you might find some gems.

If you visit Ishtur's Guide, visit the tutorial first.

Be forewarned that this guide is NOT scholarly. Ishkur has strong opinions, and uses strong language that corresponds to his views... often tongue-in-cheek.

(To put Ishkur's Guide in perspective, read "The Truth Behind Ishkur's Guide : "
For those who like epic/anthem and uplifting trance, don’t be misled by what Ishkur has to say. Again, he states his own bias– his word is not fact. Don’t be afraid to form your own opinion on things, based on what you observe.")

Below are a couple screenshots from his guide:



If you click a node, it will play an example of the music, and the description of the sub-genre displays in the text box, along with a few other examples, in a row of numbers at the bottom of the text box:

Ishtur's Guide to Electronic Music will keep you entertained and amused for hours, if you have them to spare. Even if you don't like electronic music!


Version 3 is coming soon. For a video-montage preview, with music, take a look at

Aug 21, 2009

Interactive Marketing, Retail, and Multi-touch: Here's Lots of Video Clips from EyeClick

A reader brought to my attention the work of EyeClick, an interactive multimedia advertising company that has been around for a few years. They create interactive floors, and use "intuitive body motion with floors and surface areas".


I've included several videos below, but for more information and related details, check out EyeClick's product page, which has a nice showreel, and information about the benefits of interactive marketing.

EyeClick appears to be similar to lm3labs, a company I've posted about previously.

Thanks, Paul Glen for the link!

Aug 19, 2009

Tabula Digita, creators of the engaging 3D math games (DimensionX, Evolver), highlighted in an an article in Forbes

I really like Tabula Digita's immersive 3D games for math, especially DimensionM for algebra. I recently learned that this company was the focus of an article in Forbes magazine. You can read the article online:

The Long Road to Edutainment: An entrepreneur's arduous journey to build educational games company Tabula Digita. Sramana Mitra, Forbes 8/14/09

I first came across the people behind Tabula Digita at the 2005 Serious Games Summit, and I was impressed. Students really learn a great deal about math by playing these games, and it is more exciting than completing worksheets.

Here is a link to a TV news clip about middle school students in North Carolina who are participating in a research study under the direction of Dr. Albert Ritzhoupt, of UNCW's instructional technology program:

Previous post:
Dimension M, a 3D Multi-Player Algebra Game

Aug 18, 2009

CRISTAL: One Giant Remote Control Multi-Touch Coffee Table; ACM Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces 2009 in Banff, Canada

Via Wired Gadget Lab Priya Ganapati 8/14/09

What is CRISTAL ? Control of Remotely Interfaced Systems using Touch-based Actions in Living Spaces and acronym for a project at the Media Interaction Lab at the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences, Digital Media.

Watch the videos:

"CRISTAL simplifies the control of our digital devices in and around the living room. The system provides a novel experience for controlling devices in a home environment by enabling users to directly interact with those devices on a live video image of their living room using multi-touch gestures on a digital tabletop." -mediainteractionlab, YouTube

The CRISTAL project is a collaboration between several people, spanning across a few universities, according to the Media Interaction Lab website:
Christian Rendl
Media Interaction Lab
Florian Perteneder
Media Interaction Lab
Thomas Seifried
Media Interaction Lab
Michael Haller
Media Interaction Lab
Daisuke Sakamoto
University of Tokyo
Jun Kato
University of Tokyo
Masahiko Inami
Keio University
Stacey D. Scott
University of Waterloo
CRISTAL received the Best Emerging Technology Award at the 36th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH 2009)

Below is a sample of the Interactive Media Lab's publications:

M. Haller, P. Brandl, C. Richter, T. Seifried, J. Leitner, and A. Gokcezade, 2009.
"Interactive Displays and Next-Generation Interfaces." Springer, 2009. [bibtex]

C. Köffel, W. Hochleitner, J. Leitner, M. Haller, A. Geven, and M. Tscheligi, 2009.
"Using Heuristics to Evaluate the Overall User Experience of Video Games and Advanced Interaction Games." Springer, 2009. [in press] [bibtex]

M. Haller, C. Forlines, C. Koeffel, J. Leitner, and C. Shen, 2009.
"Tabletop Games: Platforms, Experimental Games and Design Recommendations." Springer, 2009. in press [bibtex]

J. Leitner, C. Köffel, and M. Haller, 2009.
"Bridging the gap between real and virtual objects for tabletop games," International Journal of Virtual Reality, vol. 7, pp. 33-40, 2009. in press [bibtex]

J. Leitner, M. Haller, K. Yun, W. Woo, M. Sugimoto, M. Inami, A. D. Cheok, and H. D. Been-Lirn, 2009.
"Physical Interfaces For Tabletop Games," Computer Entertainment, vol. XX, p. XX, 2009. [bibtex]

M. Haller and M. Billinghurst, 2008.
"Interactive Tables: Requirements, Design Recommendations, and Implementation."

D. Leithinger and M. Haller, 2007.
"Improving Menu Interaction for Cluttered Tabletop Setups with User-Drawn Path Menus," Horizontal Interactive Human-Computer Systems, 2007. TABLETOP 07. Second Annual IEEE International Workshop on, pp. 121-128, 2007. [bibtex]

D. Regenbrecht, M. Haller, J. Hauber, and M. Billinghurst, 2006.
"Carpeno: interfacing remote collaborative virtual environments with table-top interaction," Virtual Reality, vol. 10, iss. 2, pp. 95-107, 2006. [bibtex]

One of the people involved in the CRISTAL project is Stacey D. Scott, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo. She is also the director of the Collaborative Systems Laboratory. The Collaborative Systems Laboratory focuses on fundamental interfaces and interaction techniques for shared large-screen displays, such as multi-display environments and social-supporting digital tabletop interfaces, and also collaborative and decision support interfaces for complex, time-critical team environments.

Dr. Scott is also one of the program co-chairs of the upcoming ACM Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces 2009 Conference will be held November 23-25 in Banff, Canada.

Mark your calendars!

The following topics, as they relate to interactive tabletops and surfaces, will be presented:

  • Applications
  • Gesture-based interfaces
  • Multi-modal interfaces
  • Tangible interfaces
  • Novel interaction techniques
  • Data handling/exchange on large interactive surfaces
  • Data presentation on large interactive surfaces
  • User-interface technology
  • Computer supported collaborative systems
  • Middleware and network support
  • Augmented reality
  • Social protocols
  • Information visualizations
  • Sensing and input technologies
  • Human-centered design & methodologies
Here is the "who's who" of interactive tabletops and surfaces- the Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces program committee:

Patrick Baudisch Hasso Plattner Institute Potsdam, Germany
Francois Berard University of Grenoble, France
Peter Brandl Media Interaction Lab, Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences, Austria
Andreas Butz University of Munich, Germany
Francois Coldefy Orange Labs, France
Morten Fjeld Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
Kentaro Fukuchi University of Electro-Communications, Japan
Tovi Grossman Autodesk Research, Canada
Mark Hancock University of Calgary, Canada
Petra Isenberg University of Calgary, Canada
Yuichi Itoh Osaka University, Japan
Karrie Karahalios University of Illinois, USA
Hiro Kato Osaka University, Japan
Hideki Koike University of Electro-Communications, Japan
Frank Maurer University of Calgary, Canada
Max Mühlhäuser TU Darmstadt, Germany
Christian Muller-Tomfelde CSIRO-ICT Centre, Australia
Miguel Nacenta University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Patrick Olivier Newcastle University, UK
Jun Rekimoto Sony / University of Tokyo, Japan
Meredith Ringel Morris Microsoft Research, USA
Daisuke Sakamoto Tokyo University, Japan
Yoichi Sato University of Tokyo, Japan
Chia Shen Harvard University, USA
Masahiro Takatsuka University of Sydney, Australia
Lucia Terrenghi Vodafone Group R&D, Germany
Bruce Thomas University of Southern Australia, Australia
Melanie Tory University of Victoria, Canada
Edward Tse SMART Technologies, Canada
Fred Vernier South-Paris University, France
Andy Wilson Microsoft Research, USA
Massimo Zancanaro Bruno Kessler Foundation (formerly ITC), Italy

If you are a university student researching interactive tabletops, multi-touch surfaces, and/or gesture interaction, I hope this post helps!

Aug 17, 2009

Chris Dannen's Complete Guide of Killer Apps for Microsoft Surface

To follow up on my last post about Microsoft and emerging technology, I thought I'd link to an article that will give you an idea of how far (or not) application development for the Microsoft Surface has come in the past two years:

Killer Apps for Microsoft Surface: The Complete Guide [updated]
(Chris Dannen, Fast Company, 8/11/09)

I'll watch them all and post my top three soon!

Microsoft's Project Natal & "Fun" Natural User Interfaces for the Office

This looks great!

I came across the picture below today, and discovered more about it in a CNET article:

"Gesture-recognition technology, such as that seen in Project Natal, has changed the face of gaming, but Microsoft's Craig Mundie (pictured) believes it will also transform the office." (Ina Fried, CNET)

This approach looks like it incorporates visual thinking and conceptualization in a nice and fluid way.


"Microsoft: Future desktop PC's will transform the office" (Ina Fried, CNET UK, 7/31/09).

According to Fried, author of the the linked CNET article, Craig Mundie, at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit this past July demonstrated the set-up in the above picture. The demonstration "...included hologram-like videoconferencing, a virtual digital assistant, and multiple surface computers, along with voice-, touch- and gesture-recognition technology. The desk in the demo was a multitouch surface computer, and the office's walls were also a display that could easily switch from being a virtual window or collection of digital photos to a corkboard of sticky notes or various workspaces. In one case, Mundie also used Project Natal-like depth cameras to put himself in the middle of an architectural demo, essentially putting himself inside a building that was not yet built."

Craig Mundie of Microsoft on the Future of Software: Digital Assistants, Natural User Interfaces, and Room Computing (Gregory T. Huang, Xconomy Seatle, 7/13/09)

The author of the above article was also at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit and touched on the concept of natural user interfaces:

“All the things we talk about as natural user interfaces have been largely used one at a time as enhancements to [graphical user interfaces],” Mundie said. Gesture recognition, expressive responses, immersive 3-D virtual environments, and understanding of context—these advances in computing algorithms will lead to software that is “better at anticipating what you might want.”

Xbox's Project Natal Revamped for Offices? (J. Nicholas Hoover, 7/30/09)

When I find a video of the Project Natal/Surface/Natural User Interface Office in action, I'll be sure to post it!

Why this is important:

Natural user interfaces might have the potential to support more efficient and effective collaboration among people in the workplace, and the visual display of information may also support better decision-making and problem solving.

Aug 15, 2009

Games to lift stress away: Flower, flOw, (and Cloud), from thatgamecompany

As I set out to revisit some of my early posts on this blog, I came across a link to a review the Flower game, created for the Playstation 3 by Jenova Chen, Kellee Santiago, and other members of thatgamecompany. It is good to know that this group continues to work towards the goal of creating innovative games that provide gaming experiences that are calming, pleasant to use, and are unlike most game genres.
(Credit: IGN)

"Supported HD Output: 720p, 1080i, 1080p- From the same developers that brought you the serene flOw comes Flower, whose gameplay has players guiding a flower petal across gorgeously rendered fields and plains, replete with individually modeled leaves of grass that blow and sway in the wind. Colorful, peaceful, and exhillerating, Flower is a difficult game to describe, and simply must be experienced in all it’s HD beauty to truly be appreciated. A real gem."

(Flower is played with the Sixaxis wireless game controller that can sense motions and provide precision in interactive game play. The Sixaxis was recently replaced by Duoalshock 3, which provides motion sensing and rumble. I'm not sure if the new controller works with Flower.)

The following video review by Pete Dorr won't give enough details about the game to spoil it for you. Go ahead and watch the review!

Since I don't have a PS3 (yet), I'm sharing a couple of reviews of Flower that I found on the IGN website:

"thatgamecompany's mellow, beautiful adventure through the dreams of plants starts out so disarmingly pleasant that one would be forgiven for assuming it's just a game about flying around and picking up flower petals. It's not until one experiences the couple-hour experience from beginning to end (preferably with 5.1 audio, the lights off and no human distractions) that the game really gets its emotional hooks into you. Without ever introducing a single line of dialogue, any characters (at least in the traditional sense) or clear goals, Flower takes you on a ride that's over far too soon, yet somehow seems just right for what it's trying to do: suck you into a world without the usual video game trappings while playing with your emotions in a way no amount of manufactured tear-jerk dialogue or surprise deaths ever could. It really is unlike anything else you'll ever play and stands as one of the best (if not the best) examples of SixAxis motion controls on the PS3."

"thatgamecompany has depicted something that I never once imagined: what would a flower's dream look like if we could see it? Flower, a PS3 downloadable that comes as a spiritual successor to flOw, is one of the most beautiful games that I've ever played. Not just because the visuals are entirely breathtaking, but also because the experience of playing it offers more enjoyment, emotion and enlightenment than any game I've tried in years."

"Before you read on, keep in mind that Flower isn't quite for everyone. There will be those that experiment with it but won't see the point, as it strays so far from the traditional spectrum of gameplay systems, but it's truly worth playing...Flower is a poem, where you as the player participate in the dreams of flowers confined to the ever-changing landscape of a colorless city. Each dream, or stage, revolves around a different theme and gameplay objective, but your method of control remains the same: tilt the controller to direct a series of flower petals through beautiful environments. Press any button to stir up a wind that will coax them along. As you begin with one flower petal, you'll soon touch other flowers and gather more petals, generally influencing the environment in a way that pleases the dreamer. This setup works amazingly well to create varying tasks for you to enjoy..."

Flower was listed as one one of the best games for the Playstation 3 for HDTV, along with a flOw, a 2006 game from the same company:

Best Playstation 3 Games For Showing Off Your New HDTV

"Supported HD Output: 720p, 1080i, 1080p- Calm, serene, and beautiful in it’s simplicity, flOw was one of the first PSN titles released when the Playstation 3 launched in November 2006, and it’s still a gorgeous work of art. From the calming music, to the simple gameplay, flOw proves that you don’t need high resolution textures and thousands of animations to produce a beautiful image."

"FlOw is a game about piloting an aquatic organism through a surreal biosphere where players consume other organisms, evolve, and advance their organisms to the abyss."

I came across Cloud about four years ago, when I was looking for non-violent games that could support relaxation and stress-reduction. Cloud was created by some of the members of thatgamecompany when they were students at UCS.

I later posted about how I used the game in in my work as a school psychologist:

Cloud is a relaxing, nonviolent game, created by graduate students at USC. The character, a child, flies around, collecting clouds and putting them into puzzles in the sky. The music is very soothing. The game is free and can be downloaded through the website. This game could be used to help relax students with anxiety disorders, Asperger syndrome, etc., develop coping strategies. Here is the link to the Cloud video trailer.
(I use the Cloud Game as a form of crisis intervention with students undergoing high level of agitation and stress at the middle and high school level.)

Below is a video of the Cloud game, which was designed for use on a computer. It still appears to be available for free from the USC website.

FlOw was Jenova Chen's MFA Thesis, built upon Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi's Flow Theory:

"being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

The game went on to become an award-winning PS3 game.
The early web-based version of flOw is free, and some of the gameplay can be done using your finger on a touch screen. The music is relaxing, almost hypnotic.

Why this is important:

There is a need for games that can be used for relaxation, as most commercial games focus on action and thrills, often delivered through violence.

(Pictures and videos are from the IGN website, YouTube, and related websites.)

The Interdisciplinary World of Dance and Interactive Technology:

After I finished my post "What happens when engineers and musicians get together? They get Calvin Harris "Ready for the Weekend" with the Humanthesizer and Bare Ink", I thought I'd catch up on the world of dance and technology.

I took a look at an on-line community, Dance-Tech.NET which focuses on the "interdisciplinary explorations on the performance of motion". I was happy to find that two people I know are members of this vibrant group of people:

Celine Latulipe

Dr. Celine Latulipe is a Human-Computer Interaction researcher at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She is the lead in the Dance.Draw project, a collaboration between the Software and Information Systems department, the Department of Dance, and a digital artist.

A Mischief of Mus Musculus”

As Celine puts it, "You are more than your eyes and one hand. Why should you have to be less than you are when confronted with a digital device? Exquisite interaction is a collection of research projects...that aim to enrich your expressive creativity in the digital realm by allowing you and your collaborators to use more of your body in that digital interaction"

Visualization code was designed by Mike Wirth, using Processing, to create the art displayed on the Art from Dance page of the Dance.Draw project.

Doug Fox

Doug Fox
created and maintains the Great Dance and Kinetic Interface blogs. When he was 42, he decided to study dance - modern, ballet, and jazz. He is interested in the intersection of dance and technology, and more recently became involved in the study of animation related to dance and movement.

The following is from Doug's "About" page - the videos and links are worth exploring:

"As a starting point, I'd like to encourage readers to visit the
Movement Is at the Heart of Scientific and Technological Change background page. Here you will find 16 videos (plus links to more videos) that show in very concrete terms how new computer interfaces and digital devices being used in a range of fields are, in essence, body-centric and movement-centric..."

Here is a sample of Doug's topics:

Dance Theater Workshop's Twitter Community Choreography
Dance Vlogging, Will this Video Genre Increase in Popularity?
Shoot Dance Videos with the new iPhone 3GS
Prodigy Warrior's Dance Combines Stop-Motion Animation and Puppetry
Choreographing Gesture Controls for Interactive Devices (be sure to read the comments and link to Arizona State University: School of Arts, Media and Engineering)

Doug Fox writes about topics that are truly interdisciplinary:

Dance Your Ph.D. Contest - A Wonderful Merging of Dance and Science
This contest was funded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The objective of the contest? "Using no words or images, interpret your Ph.D. thesis in dance form".

Contest winners were paired with choreographers, who created a new dance work based on a peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal. (The Science Dance Match-Up Challenge)

I just had to post the videos here - you can read detailed descriptions about each video on YouTube:

The role of Vitamin D in beta-cell function

Cerebral activation patterns induced by inflection of regular and irregular verbs with positron emission tomography: A comparison between single subject and group analysis

A Molecular Dance in the Blood, Observed

Popular Choice: Physics Tango "Single Molecule Measurements of Protelomerase TelK-DNA Complexes."

For a look at the 2008 "Dance Your Ph.D." videos, and the the videos of the 2009 contest entries, visit the 2009 AAS/Science Dance Contest web page.

The four videos generated by the professional choreographers can be accessed on Vimeo.

Links to the scientific articles, the bios of the choreographers and scientists, and videos of the choreographer's renditions of the scientist's work can be found on the Science/AAAS website:

The Gonzo Scientist: The Science Dance Match-Up Challenge
John Bohannon, Science, 4/17/09

Usually I reserve this section for links and information from external sources, but this time, I thought I'd share a few of my opinions that are somewhat related to this topic.

Why do I think interdisciplinary pursuits are important?

In my opinion, to move forward, the arts and other disciplines need to embrace the interdisciplinary way of thinking. There is much that is mixing and converging as I type these words. There is less emphasis for young people to pick one little corner of a field of study and make it their life's obsession. I have always had an "interdisciplinary" approach to life, ever since I can remember. I attribute this to my parents, who nurtured me as a musical, dancing, artistic child to pursue my talents at a young age, and when faced with choosing a college major, to go for a double major.

My interdisciplinary nature has fueled my journey into the world of technology, and my early background in the arts probably explains why I'm excited about interactive multimedia, extending into the realms of emmersive games, multi-touch and gesture interaction, and technology-supported interaction that takes place in larger public spaces.


As many of my readers know, I work as a school psychologist in my "day job". I DO miss the time when I was working part-time and taking graduate classes at UNC-Charlotte, but when the economy went downhill, It was necessary for me to return to work full-time.

The upcoming academic year will be busy! With the recent budget cuts to school districts in the in the state of North Carolina, I will have another school added to my schedule. I'm excited that it is a high school for technology and the arts, and that the school has a strong dance program!

I've posted quite a bit recently, since I have plenty to share. Soon I will only have time to post about 3 times a week.

Aug 14, 2009

Tom Barrett, a teacher, demonstrates Durham University's SynergyNet Multi-touch Networked Tables

"It is about how children can work together and communicate and how the multi-touch technology can facilitate this."

In this video, Tom Barrett demonstrates multi-touch networked tables, which were designed to be part of an immersive classroom environment. The multi-touch tables are the result of a collaboration between the Technology Enhanced Learning research group at Durham University and colleagues from the Education and Psychology departments.

Tom is a teacher and edublogger. Like me, he has a passion for multi-touch technology.
He has been fortunate to have the chance to work with a SMARTTable in his classroom, and also compare the SMARTTable experience with the tables at Durham University, which were not from SMART Technologies.

Tom was one of the first teachers to have the opportunity to try out the SMART Table in his classroom
. He was a bit disappointed with the outcome. Even so, he believes that multi-touch technology will be important in education in the future.

From Tom's point of view, there is a need to have more in-depth content for the SMART Table, even at the earlier grades. The following quotes are taken from Tom's "SMART Table in my Classroom- My Conclusions" blog post:

"In my opinion there are three things that contribute to this: poor content; poor creation software and a straight jacketed approach to multi-touch functionality...There seems to be too much residual SMART Notebook thinking and not enough innovative software design. Maybe the product has preceded the necessary thinking behind it all."

"The one shining ray of light that emerges from amidst this all is the Media application. I have posted videos of some of my children working with this program in the past. It remains the only application that offers teachers and children an open environment to learn, and couples it with a unique interface with media. When you use this application you actually feel like you are using something innovative, multi-touch, gestural driven. As a teacher there is the capacity to use rich content of your choice (video) and then layer on top questions that engage the children in a much deeper way"


Flickr Group: Multi-touch Interactive Desk: Applications and Gesture Ideas

(Note: I have plenty of ideas for content and software design for multi-touch tables in education, and also cognitive and educational assessment.
I'm only missing a table or two!)