Adventures of a Multimedia Pioneer in the Making


FileMobile
April 9, 2007, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Interactive Multimedia

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of having Greg Prince speak to our IMM class, about Filemobile (www.filemobile.com). The site is a great tool for sharing all kinds of multimedia, from Photos and Videos, to Audio Files. The site helps to resolve some common problems with disorganized media files. This is accomplished mainly through the use of FileMobile’s MediaStudio–a tool that allows user to   search, sort, view, edit and record their User-Generated Content (UGC).

FM also provides an easier way to add multimedia content to existing blogs.  This feature will help bring otherwise, text-heavy blogs to life with more rich media content. Users can easily record and upload video to vlogs for example and the site automatically converts most video formats to the FLV format for optimal storage and sharing.

The site also makes it easier for users to capture and post their video/audio/photos on the FM accounts, directly from their mobile phones. That’s a great feature since more and more people are using such devices and FM is making it that much easier to share content while on-the-go. Users can even upload content directly from a mobile device to their blog–a term Greg refered to as “MOBLOGGING”or MOBile WeBLOGging. See Wikipedia Definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moblog . It probably still hasn’t caught on full force just yet, but it will only be a matter of time before this becomes a mainstream practice. I found another site that offers similar features: http://www.textamerica.com/. This growing Moblog phenomenon has also has become the subject of an online art exhibition at http://www.mobilelog.ca/main.shtml. Here is an excerpt of the insightful and academic perspective about moblogs given by the Curator Susan Douglas: “Like diaries, moblogs connote raw emotionalism, sincerity, and truthfulness; these are values associated with notions of authenticity that are interesting to us in the context of this exhibition. ” This partly explains our fascination with reality TV! I digress…

FileMobile also makes it easier organize audio files and mp3s for sharing and podcasting. Not only does the site make it easier to manage these various media but it also acts as a networking and social media tool.

FileMobile has partnered with various companies looking to  add further value by implementing social media/networking into their mix. MuchMusic has even tied FM into some of their events and concerts allowing fans and event-goers to capture and post their content on a live big-screen display during the event. Much also uses FM tools as part of their SHOW ME YOURS feature, on their website http://www.muchmusic.com/tv/mod/
 
While companies like FM are giving us the tools to make it easier for us to generate content, we as budding multimedia pioneers and developers have a responsibility to go out there and create new content. According to Greg, a lot of people are uploading pre-existing content (videos/photos/audios) or content that already exists on other file sharing sites (such as YouTube).   So that being said…time to go tackle my Vlog and AV assignments now!

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The Future of Mobile Technologies
February 9, 2007, 4:54 am
Filed under: Interactive Multimedia

 

 

We had the pleasure of having James Eberhardt come in to talk to our class about the future of Mobile Technologies.

James Eberhardt (http://www.eberhardt.ca/) is Director of Technology at Marblemedia (http://www.marblemedia.com ), a new media content creation company that spans across various mediums such as TV, internet, and mobile. He is also a Flash Lite 2.0 instructor at George Brown.

He started with a great overview of the current mobile landscape and its various technologies such as SMS (short messaging service) and MMS (multimedia message service). SMS has reached widespread acceptance with 85 million text messaging subscribers globally. I personally am just getting into the habit of using SMS to communicate with friends—I am one one slooow text-typist. I’ll save myself a few minutes by simply calling and avoid the back and forth that usually comes from ambiguous text messages, written in short form. But that’s just me…I digress.

You’ve all probably seen countless ads by now from companies asking you to send a text to XYZ company to try and win some contest, or to vote for your favourite American Idol or what not. I personally haven’t done that yet…but millions of people are. They’re shelling out their dime too to lock in their text votes; an additional alternative to simply dialing in your votes.

This day and age is all about information on demand…and its extending itself into mobile technologies a frenzied pace. I can now check the weather for free by texting TOR to 93284 (WEATH). Cool…and after seeing that we have frigid below 0 temperatures, at the bottom of my weather text, I am invited to “FIND RELIEF—TYLENOL COLD”. Free weather information, sponsored by advertisers.

James briefly discussed WML (Wireless Markup Language), the markup language used by WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)-enabled browsers. WMLScript is pretty similar to JavaScript and is quite strict. Most WAP browsers can read WML; while some are capable of reading HTML. For more info on WML, please see this link: (http://www.wirelessdevnet.com/channels/wap/training/wml.html)

Java Apps
The majority of wireless applications are written in Java. While these apps are widely distributed across cell phone networks, multiple apps are required for each target device. The model does provide some good potential for companies and developers to capitalize on this trend.

GPS
It is possible to get a GPS to talk to a java app on GPS device (such as a cellphone or PDA). This would allow you to do such things as have Google maps displaying your current location on your wireless device without doing any typing. It could also potentially lead to commercial exploitation. Imagine walking down the street and your GPS-enabled phone receives an SMS ad as you pass by a particular store. That’s just what we need…more SPAM. And what’s worse…it’s SPAM-To-Go.

Flash Lite (http://www.adobe.com/products/flashlite/)

One of the key areas James touched on was regarding Flash/Flash Lite—where it has been and where it is expected to be in the future.

He gave us a rundown on the evolution of FlashLite along with the improvements and limitations of each release. The more current release 2.x feature the ability to implement video playback, shared objects, XML, ActionScript 2.0 and is built on the Flash 7 codebase. On the downside, this version still does not support Flash components, FLV, it runs at 56kbps bandwidth, is limited to 176 x 208 pixels and only support 25 keys of input—as a result of the smaller size of wireless devices. Version 2.1 is still limited in availability at the moment however this newest release can be installed over-the-air, allowing people to view Flash content on their mobile devices such as Playstation Portables (http://www.pspflashgaming.com/) , PDAs, MP3 players, Jaguar Dashboard Interfaces (http://www.248am.com/mark/technology/jaguar-xk-uses-macromedia-flash/) and Chumbies (http://www.chumby.com/corporate ) .

James predicts Flash will overtake Java eventually as the development platform of choice for Mobile Content Developers. He cites the fact that the tool is a killer app that makes creation of interfaces so easy that people want to use it. There are also a lot of existing and budding flash designers in the market. He also cited the historical comparison of market usage/penetration of Java vs. Flash. Mobile processor speeds will eventually go up and prices will eventually fall, and Flash will be the frontrunner in the hands of millions of mobile users. James also says we should expect to see Opera Browser emerge as the mobile browser of choice as they are making a major play into the mobile arena, providing browsing capabilities for phones, PDAs, mp3 players, PSPs, Wii’s and even on Internet enabled in-flight entertainment systems.

James threw out some stats regarding the size of the mobile content market. Verizon alone is raking in about $10,000 a month in ring tones, games etc. I must have taken for granted how huge the market potential is for developing Flash apps for the mobile market. I was further reassured that I made the right choice to go back to school to expand my multimedia knowledge, particularly in the areas of Flash Development. Look for my hot Flash applications to hit your mobile devices in the near future!



Web 2.0
January 25, 2007, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Interactive Multimedia

We had the pleasure of listening to another guest speaker–Wayne McPhail, president of W8NC (http://www.w8nc.com), a Canadian marketing and communications company specializing in emerging technology. The discussion was centered around “Web 2.0”.

Web 1.0 was a transitional medium that dealt with static, brochureware, that provided little in terms of collaboration. Content providers were typically dumping content from one medium to another.

What is Web 2.0? Its actually a marketing term that refers to a recent trend in internet technologies that is characterized by:

-Encouraging communication and collaboration
-Shared content creation
-Clear interface
-Moving data and applications from the desktop to the Web

As great as these outcomes are, there is also a downside to Web 2.0. These include:

-cute applications with little depth/functionality
-new flavor of the month sites springing up all the time
-just plain stupid sites

Tagging is a method used by several websites  to help track content that might be of use to other people in an online community. Users can attach keywords to help index content and facilitate easier access to content by other users.  The ultimate outcome of social tagging is in the fact that one’s knowledge becomes part of a “shared-mind higher concept”.

Tagging can been seen in various sites such as:
Flickr (http://www.flickr.com): a site that allows users to share, sort, store their photos online

Social bookmarking

Social bookmarking also contributes to the ‘shared mind’ concept by allowing individuals to contribute personal bookmarks to the public’s collective knowledge base. If one sees a topic that may be of interest to other people, they can simply add keyword tags along with the bookmarks and allow other users to access the potentially useful information. Collective editing takes place.   You can announce to others “Hey, here’s what I’m paying attention to. This might be of interest to you”.

Del.icio.us: (http://del.icio.us) is a social bookmarking website that allows you to store your bookmarks online. Not only can you grab your bookmarks from any computer, but you can also share your bookmarks with other people using tags to help organize them into categories.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(file_format))

This hot 2.0 technology brings the news you want, right to your desktop. Using a feed reader, users can subscribe to various feeds. The reader will then check to see if any new content has been added to the users’ subscribed feeds and the headers of the new content will be delivered directly to the user.

In summary, the above technologies: tags, social bookmarking, RSS Feeds all equate to creating collaborative content.

 

Here are a few more Web 2.0 sites:

YouTube (http://www.youtube.com) : Allows users to upload their own videos and share them with the rest of the world. Uses tagging to help organize videos.

MySpace (http://www.myspace.com): Social networking site  that allows users to blog, upload photos, music, videos and network with other users

Vox  (http://www.vox.com): Blog site that ties in with MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Amazon  to make it easier to tie in photos, videos, etc.

Twitter (http://www.twitter.com): A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?

Second Life (http://www.secondlife.com): A 3d virtual world where users can interact with other users, purchase property, create objects, create a new world togther.  Wayne McPhail and others are predicting this could be the next world wide web.



Tour of the Visualization Design Institute
October 26, 2006, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Interactive Multimedia

Today we took a tour of the Visualization Design Institute at
Sheridan. This department specializes in computer visualization and simulation with multidisciplinary applications in the fields of medicine, engineering, education and culture. It is a mixture between art, animation, physics, programming all rolled into one.
http://www.visualization.ca/

We spent the earlier part of the presentation looking at skid marks! The first simulation was we saw was created for a Justice Department. This gives potential and investigators an interactive lesson in skid mark analysis. The simulation allows you to create various road/weather conditions and thus various types of skid marks. Users could use a virtual measuring tape to measure various types of skid marks to determine the rate of speed. It was interesting to note that the straight skid marks were generated dynamically with ActionScript. This e-learning project came complete with customizable quizzes that tests knowledge of various concepts and even tracks the scores/test usage in a database.

A few simulations include 3d interactive simulations of a proposed Light Rail Transit system to be placed in the city of Ottawa. Users can ‘fly’ around the city above, alongside the trains and look around the 360 degree 3D environment. A similar visualization was created for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority. This game/simulator allows users to ‘drive’ around the airport terminal and attempt to park their car within a 2 minute time period. If you make it, it says “ Congratulations! You caught your flight on time!”

We also looked at virtual anatomy lessons including a virtual frog dissection and muscular-skeletal model complete with interactive moving joints.

With respect to technologies, much of their work was created in C+, Flash and Maya. Much of the Flashwork uses XML to import content dynamically. 3D visualizations are incorporated in some of their projects using the ViewPoint 3d plugin (http://www.viewpoint.com/technologies/technologies.shtml ).

It is also a leader in 3d visualization software, with applications largely in the “advergaming” sector. “Advergaming is the practice of using games, particularly computer games, to advertise or promote a product, organization or viewpoint. The term “advergames” was coined in Wired magazine’s “Jargon Watch” column in 2001, and has been applied to various free online games commissioned by major companies.” (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advergaming )

Exploring the back part of the VDI offices, we also came across the old motion capture studio. Special suits were worn with motion sensors that capture body movements that were intended to one day replace the tedious tasks of animation. These were also used to capture facial motions to animate complex facial expressions. Mo’ on Mo’Cap: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_capture

I found a link that covers a few technologies used in facial motion capture. It features various devices used to capture facial motion information. http://vizproto.prism.asu.edu/classes/sp03/brodar_r/f_m_r/index.htm

At the end of our tour we found ourselves in the old Immersion Studio theatre. The company is no longer around, however we were still able to test drive their immersive theatre systems that feature 3 large wrap around screens (unfortunately the centre screen was having timing issues). The cool feature is that viewers can interact with the movie through a type of video branching. Users are given a video screen console that will poll the audience at a given point in time to see what action or path the action should take. The winning path’s video branch will then be played, similar to choose your own adventure. I won’t give away the plotline, but you think with all that fancy robotic diagnostic equipment they have up in space, they’d have something as simple as a pregnancy test! If it turns blue…

No need to inhale or inject yourself with a robot!

Okay….4 exams down…4 hours of sleep…I’m outta here…

See photos from our VDI Tour: http://www.zenpicture.com/zenpicture/vdi/



Field Trip to GestureTek Inc
October 26, 2006, 6:00 am
Filed under: Interactive Multimedia

On Oct 20, 2006, our IMM class ventured into downtown
Toronto for our first field trip. Our destination: GestureTek Inc. (
http://www.gesturetek.com/ ). This company has been at the forefront of Video Gesture Control since the mid 80’s.

They have created a variety of products such as GestureXtreme, that allow users to interact with on-screen computer content through gestures, captured by camera/sensors.

One of the coolest applications of this technology is in gaming. Standing in front of a green screen with a camera pointed at me, I then found myself standing in front of a soccer net (on the onscreen monitor in front of me), blocking shots. Some of the other games allowed users to ride on the backs of birds or jet powered glider thingy’s adjusting their speeds and altitudes by crouching or putting their hands up or down.

This technology was adopted commercially for home game systems by Sony for its Playstation in the form of the Eye-Toy: http://www.eyetoy.com/index.asp?pageID=18

On a practical note, the gesturing/immersion technology has even been adapted to the Rehabilitation market. G’Tek’s IREX uses the technology to create a fun, engaging therapy session while recording movement metrics. http://www.gesturetek.com/irex/introduction.php

Ground FX: A wonderful innovation that projects interactive images on the floor, with which users can interact using their feet or through casting shadows on the floor. One application is interactive advertising. There were some cool interactive ads where you can kick around Coke bottles or Dunkin Donuts, or kick around leaves to see a Home Depot Logo underneath. This is a neat way to engage a potential customer with your brand. We’ll probably see this technology being used on a wider scale in the near future. http://www.gesturetek.com/groundfx/introduction.php

See other applications of this technology here: http://news.com.com/Interactive+billboards+you+can+walk+around+in/2100-1024_3-5956657.html . A US-based company Reactrix is also providing mechanisms for interactive advertising through gesturing technology: http://www.reactrix.com/index.php

Gesturetek’s GestPoint technology provides a mechanism that can allow users to control any interface using their hand movements. The computer sensors track and convert hand movements into mouse controls. One of the applications was for interactive information kiosks/displays used to provide information in museums, exhibits, conferences etc. The display was composed of an interactive information program projected onto a glass, which users can then touch to navigate/interact with the information program. Camera sensors can pick up the movements from a distance. Another application allows an interactive information program to be projected through a store window, and users can then touch the window to navigate/interact with the program. This would be great for continued ‘browsing’ of a business’s offerings, even outside of business hours when customers cannot physically be inside the store/business. Here is an example of a real estate office using this technology: http://www.gesturetek.com/gestpoint/realestate/index.php . Here’s an example of a clothing retailer using the technology. Apparently you can even shop while outside the store as it includes a credit card reader!http://blog.brandexperiencelab.org/experience_manifesto/2006/08/ralph_lauren_in.html

We had a great time at GestureTek, particularly playing the games and interacting with the floor advertising. I’d love to explore creating Interactive Advertising content for the floor projection. It’s not only cool, but its an effective way to get users to remember your brand! The next frontier would probably be applying this technology to interact with 3D holograms…

In the meantime…I gotta get back to interacting with (studying) my AppDevelopment notes…

3 exams down…one to go!

 

 See photos from our tour at GestureTek: http://www.zenpicture.com/zenpicture/gesture/

 



BIG Interactivity
October 17, 2006, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Interactive Multimedia

Today we had guest speaker come in from Interaccess, an electronic media arts centre that explores the interactions between art and technology. (See www.interaccess.org)

She presented some rather interesting pieces that really opened my eyes to different ways of looking at technology and the cross over into art.

In particular, she spoke about “Big Interactivity”—a term that can be defined in a limited sense to work that is larger than a human being. The term can actually be interpreted differently depending on who you’re talking to. I will mention a few of the applications we were shown today.

Our speaker started off with examples of early 20th century electronic art from pioneers such as Marcel Duchamp and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy who used the electronics of their day to create interesting works of moving art and kaleidoscopic light play. (Ho-hum… Yaaaawn….zzzzzzzzzz)

And then it got more interesting…
We looked at pieces by David Rokeby (http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/home.html), considered a forefunner of installation art in Canada. His visionary mind created such techno-savy pieces such as

Taken” http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/taken.html , an installation piece exhibited in the Art Gallery of Hamilton that uses cameras to capture moments of time within the exhibit space, and loops them over each other every 30 seconds. The older moments start to fade more and more over time and eventually disappear. Beside it is a grid of zoomed in heads/faces that the cameras focus in on. Another interesting piece by Rokeby used a camera to convert body movements into musical pacemakers. The speed and mood of the music would change depending on the user’s gestures, “creating a visceral connection between body and mind and sound”. You can see the applications of this for therapeutic purposes—from soothing, calming music/gesturing, to creating a violent soundtrack for violent outbursts….

These pieces were largely made possible with a graphical programming developing environment–MAX MSP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max/Msp . I don’t know that much about it yet but from my initial exposure to it, it sounds as if this is one of the main developing environments for researches, artists, performers and interactive multimedia enthusiasts. This along with other graphical developing environments such as: PureData. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Data . I will probably look into this further to see what other cool applications people have created with this. I might even explore how to create applications with either of these programming environments once I get through learning ActionScript, C#, Java and all the other fun languages that every good IMM specialist needs.

Another Rokeby piece called “n-cha(n)t” http://homepage.mac.com/davidrokeby/nchant.html involved a series of networked computers that communicate with one another and the outside world. Computers can ‘hear’ auditory stimulation from conversations in the room and through an intelligent word-association program, the computers can then ‘speak’ back to one another and carry on ‘conversations’ based on this associative learning model. It is interesting how in the absence of outside stimuli, the computers will eventually chant in unison. It was kinda cool yet creepy at the same time!

Our speaker even touched on Robotics. Norman White created the “Helpless Robothttp://www.year01.com/helpless/ which has artificial intelligence, and can even speak, interact with others based on a emotions or temperaments. Now there is a question by some whether this counts as ‘BIG interactivity’ but it does fit the title, according to our speaker “since it is bigger than human.” I did notice the robot was BIG on whininess. Perhaps that temperament should be rewired! It’s C3PO all over again!

A few other examples of electronic art that may fit under the BIG interactivity umbrella are rather avant garde. Case in point: Ken Rinaldo hooked up motion sensors and locomotive devices to fish bowls, allowing the fish to move around the room in whatever direction they want. Giving back control to all them poor goldfish –What a concept! FREE AT LAST! http://www.lxxl.pt/bioart/rinaldo.html

And then there’s the non-ambiguous examples of BIG INTERACTIVITY…Blinkenlights brings Big Interactivity to public spaces by turning high rise windows into pixels that can display pictures and animations. What’s really cool is how people can even text a message that they want displayed on the BlinkenLights building. Big Interactive Billboards! Hmmm…what would I write on a BlinkenLights building. Blogs perhaps? Check it out: http://www.blinkenlights.de/

Telepresence and Telematics are a form of big interactivity that extend the reach of interactivity over wider distances, and to larger audiences. Into grafitti? Telematics/presence takes it to a whole new level. You can text/email messages to Bikes Against Bush who have internet-wired bikes ride that have ‘dot matrix” style bike printers connected to them. They will paint your messages on the street in chalk as you pedal around town. http://www.bikesagainstbush.com/blog/

Okay…I’ve seen and heard a lot…and I’m sure this is just scratching the surface of what’s already out there and what is yet to come… I’ll fill you in on more cool discoveries in another later blog….stay tuned!

(Wow…my first blog…it’s a long one..sorry!)