Freshly Lately – Adventures In Multimedia Pioneering


User-Generated Content and Storage Solutions

Posted in Issues in Interactive Media,Web 2.0 by acmamak on March 23, 2007

With the emergence of web 2.0 applications and the ensuing influx of user-generated content, the issue has now become how to store and retrieve that content. Recently, I attended a presentation given by Greg Prince of FileMobile (www.filemobile.com), an online content management system, and he attempted to give us some insight into the storage and retrieval solutions that currently exist.

At present, many high-profile companies (i.e. mtv) are not hosting their own content although, by looking at their sites, you would never know it. Using online content management systems like FileMobile makes it possible to have a site which hosts user-created content without having to worry about the server space required. Not only do these online content management systems provide a means for storing content, but they also provide easy options for using this user-generated content in innovative ways, including:

– easy access to original footage or images from any location
– easy file conversion to .flv format for easier web/vlog posting
– easy access to uploaded content via an rss feed generated by a user-selected search term or tag
– posting content directly from your cellphone to a blog or to an online account

As user-generated content becomes more common, it is interesting to see what different solutions are evolving for hosting it. Other organizations that are attempting to address online content management and storage issues include:
www.facebook.com
www.flickr.com
www.youtube.com
www.netflix.com
www.dailymotion.com

It will be interesting to see if, with the increased availability of user-generated content, it will become the building blocks with which something greater is produced.

Mobile Applications- Going “Small”…

Posted in Flash Lite,iPhone,Issues in Interactive Media,Mobile Applications by acmamak on February 11, 2007

I recently started work on a project featuring the work of Bill Buxton, a Canadian New Media researcher, and one of the ideas that he puts forth is that we will see a lot of technologies and applications going to size extremes – “going big” or “going small”. If we design with human needs in mind, we start to realize that, while applications can be presented in multiple formats and multiple sizes, the size and the medium on which an application is presented can impact the user’s understanding and use of that application.

That said, earlier this week I had the opportunity to hear a presentation from James Eberhardt of Marble Media (www.marblemedia.com) about the current possibilities of “going small”: what mobile technologies are available and how we are currently developing and designing for them. At present, we are seeing “small” applications developed for mobile technologies including, but not limited to: cell phones, pdas, blackberries, psp, and mp3 players.

One of the points that James stressed was that it is important to know what platform or device you are designing for. Certainly, when designing applications that are specific to a particular platform, it is important to utilize the unique features of that platform. Considering the inherently unique qualities of mobile devices allows us to design relevant and engaging mobile applications. The question is, what are those qualities?

Currently, most mobile devices have most or all of the following characteristics:

  • portable and lightweight
  • small screen size
  • wireless network access
  • small bandwidth with slow network speeds (approx. the speed of 56K modem or less)
  • sms/mms message services
  • limited html support (most support WML, some support html-c)

and some mobile devices have support for or are starting to support the following:

  • GPS tracking
  • Video Playback (format is specific to the device)
  • Flash applications (games etc.)

One thing worth noting is the emerging ability of many mobile devices to play Flash applications. Flash shows the potential to dominate the mobile development realm since:

  1. Flash makes it easy to design visually-appealing interfaces (and isn’t it about time we started seeing the majority of these devices have something other than primary DOS-command prompt-style interfaces?)
  2. The versions of Flash Lite (the Flash development tool for mobile applications) are improving and getting easier for developers to work with
  3. Steve Jobbs promised that iPhone users will be able to browse youtube. Youtube videos are shown in .flv (Flash video) format, meaning the iPhone will have to support Flash

This is something we’ll have to keep an eye on. Development in the mobile world is rapidly evolving and it has the potential for great discovery and exploration. I just hope that we keep in mind why we are “going small” in the first place.

Links:

Flash Lite:
Product: http://www.adobe.com/products/flashlite/
Developer’s Site: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/devices/flashlite.html
In Action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRtzrVT5Xbo
Groups: http://www.flashmobilegroup.org/

WML:
General Information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Markup_Language
Developing for Wireless Browsers: http://www.w3schools.com/wap/

The IPhone:
http://www.apple.com/iphone/

Welcome to Web 2.0

Posted in Issues in Interactive Media,Web 2.0 by acmamak on January 30, 2007

Last week, we spent some time discussing web 2.0 with Wayne MacPhail (www.w8nc.com). The term “Web 2.0” is generally used to refer to a collection of web-based applications, sites, and technologies that enable the creation of shared content. Web 2.0 entities emphasize sharing and community involvement and tend to have the following characteristics:
1) Tags: Markers which users set to categorize their content
2) Social Bookmarking: A means for users to link their personal contacts
3) RSS Feeds: An automated way for users to obtain updated information

Several examples of web 2.0 applications include:
a) flickr
b) del.icio.us
c) youtube
d) vox
e) twitter

So, what impact will web 2.0 have? Web 2.0 applications facilitate networking based on existing real-life social structures and connections. This means that web 2.0 applications, and the resulting network restructuring, will be able to more quickly and accurately deliver information that is relevant to the individual.

One of the more interesting things about web 2.0, is that it will become, for each user, what they make of it. The more that the user invests in participating in social structures and communities online, the more they will take away from it. Web 2.0 allows users to listen and speak, and to share and create. Furthermore, it allows users to add to and revise information in real-time, creating a constantly updated, collective base of knowledge. The advantages are obvious, however, after being allowed to be static observers for so long, how readily will people get involved and how hard are old habits to break?

Visualization and Getting Flash Involved

Posted in Issues in Interactive Media by acmamak on October 28, 2006

Yesterday we spent some time at the Visualization Design Institute at Sheridan College looking at how visualization, 3d modeling and gaming engines can be used to emulate real-life situations. When the average person hears the words “3D” or “gaming engine”, most likely the first things they think about are online games or video games, however, these tools also have significant practical applications.

Gaming engines and 3D modeling are extremely useful for training purposes. For example, the staff at VDI have used them to created applications like SkidSmart, a interactive program that generates hypothetical car accident scenes with which police officers can practice measuring skid marks and using these to calculate the speed and direction of a car. They can also be used to recreate existing environments which can then be used to test the integration of something being added to them, such as new buildings or new forms of transportation.

One noteworthy aspect of our tour was the fact that Flash was being used as an integral tool in developing much of VDI’s content. Although, at present it cannot be used as the only tool, it is apparent that Flash will become more useful for 3D and gaming applications in the near future. Related to this, I have listed some tutorials and articles below that will help us to get hands on:

  1. TUTORIALS: FlashKit -Working with basic 3d effects in Flash
    http://www.flashkit.com/tutorials/3D/
  2. ARTICLE: ExtremeTech – Game Engine Anatomy 101
    http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,3973,594,00.asp
  3. TUTORIALS: Outside of Society – Developing 3D Flash Games (tile-based)
    http://oos.moxiecode.com/

Related Information:

Taking Interactivity Off The Monitor

Posted in Issues in Interactive Media by acmamak on October 26, 2006

Last week we spent some time exploring the GestureTek studios and speaking with GestureTek’s president, Vincent John Vincent. GestureTek works with interactive wall and floor technologies available which manipulate content based on the user’s movements (see samples here). The thing that surprised me the most, upon interacting with these technologies firsthand, was just how engaging they were. In using your body to control what is happening onscreen you become so immersed in the created environment that you lose track of time and of physical space almost entirely.

A little while back, I read a good article on the Web Design From Scratch website (http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com/the_brains_strengths) that discussed how people tend to be good at problem solving and pattern matching, since these skills are necessary for basic survival. It makes me think that some of the reasons why GestureTek’s projects are so engaging are because of:

  • the newness of the technology and
  • the ever-changing outcomes generated by user motion-created content

But it goes beyond that. Many things are new to us, but not as many maintain their appeal, so it is interesting to note that these interactive wall and floor technologies have several other unique aspects:

  • The user requires some distance from the medium because of the scale
  • The user engages multiple sense simultaneously
  • By using larger screens controlled entirely by gestures, we are creating a physical language which is completely different from sitting at a computer typing on a keyboard and staring at a monitor

These technologies have very exciting implications in fields like athletic therapy where it is an advantage for the user to lose track of time and space since rehabilitation generally consist of the patient completing boring repetitive movements. It also has exciting implications for children’s educational tools. Hasboro has started to work with Gesturetek to develop children’s games based on the premise that physical activity and engagement with technology can be used in order to further learning. I personally love the idea of getting kids away from static video games and getting them moving. In the case of children’s games, however, I do have some reservations, since I believe that social interaction is a huge part of child development, and because of the limitations of the technologies available so far, they tend to single-user. I think that this may be one of the challenges that Gesturetek faces in upcoming projects – how get people engaged in collective and/or cooperative ways.

Further Reading:

Organic Light Emitting Diodes – An Emerging Technology that may be useful in interactive floors/walls:
http://komar.cs.stthomas.edu/qm425/01s/Tollefsrud2.htm
http://science.howstuffworks.com/oled.htm

CNET News – Is Tech Injuring Children?
http://news.com.com/Is+tech+injuring+children/2009-1041_3-6073730.html?tag=nl

Interactivity – Going “Big”

Posted in Issues in Interactive Media by acmamak on October 22, 2006

In terms of electronic mediums, there exist a huge range of not only physical sizes (think PDA vs. movie projection screens) but also communication spaces and geographical areas since mediums like the Internet and telecommunications networks have the potential to reach millions of locations and users simultaneously. The possibilities for what can be classified as “big interactivity” are growing rapidly, which means that this is a really exciting time to be working with interactive multimedia.

Earlier this week, in a session with Dorian Lebreux of InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre (http://www.interaccess.org/), we took a look at examples of electronic art. Although artistic explorations of electronic mediums existed as early as 1920, “big interactivity” is a more recent development. It began to gain momentum with the advent of the Internet and new telecommunications technologies since communication is a central component of participation. Some recent projects that demonstrate the potential of large-scale interactive technologies include:

  • The Blinkenlights Project – A project in which a team of computer programmers take control of the lighting systems in large buildings and use them to create graphical representations on the building’s facade
  • The Silophone Project – A project in which the user can upload a sound from their computer and have it played in a remote silo, then listen to a copy of the audio that ensues

Unfortunately, up to this point in time, the majority of the population hasn’t had much opportunity to experience “big interactivity” outside of an art context. This shows signs of changing in the near future since “big interactivity” is slowly working its way into our everyday environments and activities, with the emergence of new technologies like:

  • SmartWrap – a building material that allows the user to incorporate video feed into wall surfaces
  • Lumalive – a light-emiting fabric that allows articles of clothing to display video images

Although there are potential pitfalls, I look forward to days where our bodies aren’t limited by keyboards and monitors and I’m sure there are others who would agree…

Welcome to All!

Posted in Administrivia by acmamak on September 28, 2006

In this blog, I’ll be discussing my thoughts and sharing ideas about Multimedia Pioneering and innovative ways to use Interactive Multimedia. Each week I’ll update it with some of my thoughts on emerging projects/ideas/venues/technologies and do a little brainstorming about things that would be fun to work with. I hope they give you some ideas as well!

Let’s get into the good stuff…