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  ‘Second Life Relay for Life’ Raises 2.2M Linden Dollars in 3 Weeks  
Posted 2007-03-03 by Tony Walsh
"Second Life Relay For Life" (SLRFL), an annual event supporting the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life campaign, has raised over $2.2M Linden Dollars in the virtual world Second Life over the past three weeks. That's roughly $7,700 USD in virtual currency which will be cashed out to fight cancer. Teams of charitable avatars are busy raising funds--even accused griefer group W-Hat. Nice to see that even the most notorious scallywags have joined this noble effort.

Several fund-raising events are scheduled today. One of the largest SLRFL teams, known as Spirit Chasers, is holding a date auction tonight at 7pm Pacific Time on Raziel Vesperia island [direct teleport]. Launched in 2005, Second Life Relay For Life raised over $40k USD last year, attracting over 1,000 participants in its 24-hour walkathon.
  Commercial Bias in ‘Why Do They Play’ Game Studies?  
Posted 2007-01-07 by Tony Walsh
Summary results from a series of studies indicate that "fun" is only the basest of reasons players enjoy games, the CBC reported last month. The studies, published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, were co-authored by a University of Rochester grad student and the president of gamer-experience research firm Immersyve. According to Immersyve, the studies "show that players are most attracted to games that give them positive experiences that are akin to 'real world' challenges, rather than merely a shallow sense of fun." Note to self: Is fun shallow?

I brought the summary results to the attention of my father, Dr. Richard Walsh-Bowers, Professor of Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Pops pointed out that Dr. Scott Rigby, co-author of the studies, sells that which he promotes as a research psychologist.

I don't happen to have access to the full studies, but I feel their value (as described in news reports and by Immersyve) is undermined by Dr. Rigby's corporate position. Being president of a commercial research firm, it is in his interest to develop a "model" attractive to the game industry. As Dr. Rigby says on his own web site: "...when games meet the underlying needs in our model, they not only predict better psychological outcomes for players, but better commercial success for games." Translation: Buy into our model, increase profits. For me, this calls into question the science behind the (foregone?) conclusions.
  UK Invisibility-Ray Is So Last Year  
Posted 2006-07-09 by Tony Walsh
British scientists have demonstrated a prototype invisibility-ray, according to the Telegraph Group. The quantum beam stops light absorption, effectively making something invisible "albeit just a fraction of a millimetre square of a special material and only for a one ten thousandth of a millionth of a second." Sounds dreadfully limited.

I'd much rather be armed with Canadian inventor Troy Hurtubise's Angel Light, which reportedly renders surfaces invisible with few apparent limitations, as well as stops machines from working, kills goldfish, and numbs human flesh. No word yet if it also opens portals to other dimensions, but I've got my fingers crossed.
  Robot Controlled Via Human Brain Interface  
Posted 2006-05-25 by Tony Walsh
Wired News relays an AP story claiming that Honda has harnessed human brain-juice to facilitate control of a robot: "A person in the MRI machine made a fist, spread his fingers and then made a V sign. Several seconds later, the robotic hand made the same movements. Further research would be needed to decode more complex movements." I'm imagining complex movements would entail crushing someone's ribcage with a spiked titanium claw, but I'm funny that way.

Brain-controlled technology isn't new, but it is cool, in a scary kind of way. In 2006, "subvocalization" technology was used to map brain to jaw to electrodes. In 2004, a man wired to a PC was able to "operate a TV, open e-mail and play Pong with 70% accuracy." In 2003, research monkeys were hard-wired to control a robot and play games. I think it's safe to say that brain-controlled technology is the Holy Grail of the human-computer interaction industry.
  Game-Like Interface Shows Soldier Hit-Points  
Posted 2006-04-07 by Tony Walsh
Next month, the U.S. Army will roll out a major test of an electronic health-monitoring system, according to Technology Review contributor Katherine Bourzac. The system reportedly uses a network of sensors to collect biological and positional data from active soldiers, relaying the information to battlefield medics and commanders. In other words, it layers a videogame metaphor atop field operations.

From the Technology Review article: "A medic or commander can also view the information on a battlefield map that shows the location of each soldier and his or her health status: green (okay), yellow (look), red (look now), blue (unknown), or grey (absence of life signs for over five minutes). Or he could zero in on individual soldiers and get information about their vital signs, position, and how much they've slept or had to drink...The core of the sensing system is the chest belt, which reads pulse, respiration, skin temperature, body orientation, and ambulation...Data from an accelerometer in the belt can be used to determine body position...An optional acoustic sensor is designed to pick up vibrations resulting from a ballistic wound..."

Continue reading: Game-Like Interface Shows Soldier Hit-Points
  Social ‘Second Life’ Survey Seeks Subjects  
Posted 2006-04-04 by Tony Walsh
Author, academic, and admirable action-hero Aleks Krotoski has launched the survey portion of her inquiry into the social structure of the virtual world Second Life as part of her PhD work at the University of Surrey: "The goals of the research are to understand who talks with whom, to follow information as it spreads around the virtual world, and to uncover which groups and cliques are most integral to the social life of Second Life." Krotoski is hoping to hear from as many residents of Second Life as possible to get the best possible representation of the virtual world's communication patterns.

The confidential survey, which takes about 30 minutes to complete, can be found on the web, and also inside Second Life at the Social Simulation Research Lab. Participants are advised to keep their in-world Calling Card list available, as part of the survey involves typing in names of friends and acquaintances--all names will be kept confidential, and no names will be used in forthcoming informal and formal results. Krotoski (known as Mynci Gorky in Second Life) will be holding an information session in-world at her Social Simulation Research Lab on Thursday 6th April 2006 at 2pm Linden Time (8pm GMT) to discuss the research, ask questions and collect a survey (presumably a second, informal survey). Krotoski's research effort is supported by Linden Lab, makers of Second Life, and is conducted in accordance with the Second Life Research Agreement.
  Subvocalize It  
Posted 2006-03-27 by Tony Walsh
Forbes Magazine contributor David Armstrong reports on NASA technology that uses subvocal speech recognition to control devices. Subvocal speech occurs when we intend to say something, but don't actually form the words--signals that are still sent to our mouth and jaw (even though we aren't making a sound) can be picked up by electrodes and interpreted. Roles where this technology might be useful include "astronauts, underwater Navy Seals, fighter pilots and emergency workers charging into loud, harsh environments."

I'm seeing some glaringly-obvious stealth applications here (cyborg ninjas), therapeutic applications (restoring speech to people injured or disabled later in life), the possibility of picking up subvocal signals with remote equipment (spying without needing microphones), monitoring prisoners' subvocalizations (planning an escape?), or monitoring employees (working hard or hardly working?).
  PopCap’s Healthy Games Research Needs Oxygen  
Posted 2006-03-24 by Tony Walsh
Only a few months following the announcement of a joint research project by PopCap Games and The Games For Health Project investigating the potential cognitive benefits of game play, the underwhelming summary results are now in. In a press release this week, Ben Sawyer, co-founder and director of the Games for Health Project said: "We have reviewed a large base of literature, and what we've found is that, while still in the early stages of scientific understanding, there is growing consensus that defined cognitive exercise can play a critical role in healthy aging. As part of that role, it seems clear that puzzle games, strategy games, and games which aren't as spatially oriented can play a significant role in that effort." Sawyer added that there is not "absolute consensus" on what types of games or mental exercises are ideal, and that it might be ten years before we find out which mental workouts are the best.

The joint research effort included review of "a wealth of research papers and major media stories covering the state of cognitive exercise," and doesn't seem to have involved any live subjects. Although there's value in compiling the research of others, there's far less value in using "major media stories" as serious pseudo-scientific research, and the absence of actual test subjects is unfortunate. When I originally heard about the research effort, I'd assumed the methods would be more rigorous and relevant.

Continue reading: PopCap’s Healthy Games Research Needs Oxygen
  If Vehicles Could Speak  
Posted 2006-03-20 by Tony Walsh
I have often wondered if electric cars could pose a safety hazard due to their whispering engines. Gary Richards says "Quiet hybrids pose an 'invisible' risk." Let's imagine, for the sake of argument, that electric cars are truly silent enough to encourage a significant number of accidental collisions. How would we fix this problem, and how would we design future systems to prevent this problem?

For the answer to making silent cars heard, I turn to science fiction movies. I was thoroughly disappointed as a child of the 1970s when I was told that in space no one can hear you scream. Suddenly, crushingly, Star Wars made no sense. I've spent the last twenty or thirty years with this bubbling on the furthest of my brain's back-burners: Why, in sci-fi movies, does the audience hear the rumble and screech of spaceships? Here's what I've come up with: What the audience hears is what the occupants of spaceships would hear if their on-board computer systems obeyed (future, fictional) universal standards of HCI design.

Continue reading: If Vehicles Could Speak
  Healing the Brain With Games  
Posted 2006-03-18 by Tony Walsh
Reuters (via brings us the story of Ethan Myers, a teenager who was once pronounced brain dead following a car accident, but is now able to function at near-normal levels. His recovery is attributed to CyberLearning's SMART BrainGames system, which involves controlling PlayStation or Xbox games wearing a helmet that monitors brain waves. According to Reuters, "Car racing games work best with the system, which rewards users by telling the controller to allow them to go fast and steer with control, doctors said. When patients' brain waves aren't in 'the zone' the controller makes it harder to accelerate and steer." The system costs $584 USD, and a 6-month supervised recovery program costs between $2,000 and $2,500.

Using games for therapeutic purposes isn't a new idea, nor is using games specifically for beefing up the brain. Casual-game maker PopCap, in conjunction with Games For Health, is currently looking into the cognitive benefits of its games and is expected to present its findings this spring.
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'

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in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

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in More iPhone Gestures, Please

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in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool

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in More iPhone Gestures, Please

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in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy? get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock

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