Imagine a pad-like computer no larger than a notebook that weighs less than 4 pounds, works via a touchscreen with a floating keyboard, connects to the Internet, and costs about $500. Actually, no mental conjuring is necessary. But in 1968, when Alan Kay conceived those requirements for the Dynabook, those things seemed radical. Kay, who is partly responsible for both GUI and object-oriented programming, was working at technology incubator Xerox PARC when he set out the specifications for what he believed would be a powerful educational tool.
Disruptions: Where Apple and Dick Tracy May ConvergeBy NICK BILTON
Though such a device has been lost to science fiction comics and spy movies of the era before smartphones, the smart watch might soon become a reality, in the form of a curved glass device made by Apple.
In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company’s explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products. Such a watch would operate on Apple’s iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company’s understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.
Andrew “Zarf” Plotkin’s acclaimed Shade is an interactive fiction game that sticks with you like a distant fever dream, or a particularly poignant nightmare. The way it subverted the confines of traditional setting within interactive fiction through matter-of-fact surrealism made it revolutionary when it launched over 10 years ago. It has no “solution” in the sense one expects.
Just last week, a port of Shade arrived on the iOS App Store; Plotkin calls it his first “real attempt to show IF to a mass-paying audience.” Who knows what the masses will make of it?
“I picked Shade because it’s the one people talk about most,” he tells me simply. He’s already released The Dreamhold, intended to act as an IF tutorial, on the App Store for free.
While he’s investing most of his efforts on Kickstarter-funded Hadean Lands, a full-scale interactive fiction effort slated for iOS, proffering something much smaller and more brief, like Shade(priced at $.99), is a way of further testing the waters of paid IF content and offering potential readership an entry point. The more recent Hoist Sail For The Heliopause and Home is set to follow, currently in Apple’s queue for publishing consideration.
Reaching new audiences
“It’s certainly true it’s not a traditional game storyline, but that’s part of its appeal,” he says ofShade, which asks players to engage with a reality that starts falling away the more earnestly they try to anchor themselves therein.
“If there is actually an audience [on the App Store] outside of people who are gamers, then it will be people who are interested in interesting stories,” he continues. “You could say ‘everyone in the Angry Birds audience,’ but I’m not going to be reaching out in that mode. Not nearly as many people are in the storytelling adventure fandom.”
…Yet. The ebook and e-reader age presents writers of interactive fiction with increased opportunity to reach an unprecedentedly large audience of players interested in engaging with text on portable screens.
Shade adds something of an interface around its minimalist text experience, too: There’s now a pad to sketch notes, while the protagonist’s to-do — a crucial spine for the gameplay — benefits from being made visual, something the players can watch hauntingly evolve.
Feelies in the age of tablets
Usually interactive fiction games release with “feelies” — visuals, sound files or supplementary information like maps, in a throwback to the Infocom age when object touchstones helped tie the text experience together (or acted as copy protection). Having something of an interface around IF on iOS helps create the idea of “things” similarly present.
For The Dreamhold, it made sense to include a map within the interface, to keep the interactive experience centered on text when past fans would have needed a deskside pen and paper to draw their own.
Of course, in a genre that thrives on descriptive text, letting players use their imagination and sometimes deliberately withholding information from them, imagery needs a very careful hand. “It’s always a challenge thinking about what to put in,” Plotkin says. “In this case I’m re-releasing games that already exist and I’m not recompiling them… so I have to be careful that anything I ad to that is changing the presentation. I’m being very conservative about what goes out through that channel.”
Strip mining the App Store
Shade‘s premise: A person with a messy desk has decided to go on a trip to what sounds like a festive desert retreat, in the hopes of broadening his world and discovering something about himself. “The [App Store] gold rush was a couple of years ago; now it’s the steady strip mining,” Plotkin says. “I don’t necessarily have a marketing plan, here.
“There must be some notion of a critical mass,” he reasons. “Which is why I’m trying to do more than one app on the Store, and to be cross-pollinating with other kinds of story-based apps.”
One way for people working in niche game forms to gain visibility on the Store is to cultivate community. For example, by reviewing, writing and sharing one another’s work online, a genre forms and more new people are attracted to the community in general, versus the strategy of aggressively promoting original games.
“If there was a rising tide in, say, more famous novel authors paying attention to this stuff, and interacting with our community, and this sort of thing appearing on larger-scale reader discussion forums, that would indirectly and eventually change the landscape for selling the [IF] apps,” Plotkin suggests.
A bigger question, and one not so easy to answer, concerns what adaptations would make interactive fiction best suited for a mobile device — and for a wider audience. Accessible tools like Twine andInklewriter have greatly contributed to a rise in grassroots interest in developing text games, but that these hinge on hyperlinks and choices versus the traditional parser input gives some traditionalists pause.
Plotkin has a legacy of loyalty to the text parser, and says he considers Hadean Lands to be a traditional game without a focus on mobile-oriented adaptation, but admits that less typing in some games would help the genre leverage new platforms. “When I think about designing a game specifically for mobile, I have to think about, can I make games that are choice-based rather than parser-based?
“I’ve written a couple small examples of that, but I’m thinking about possibilities for a new one, because writing a small game is easier than writing a large game, and I would like to try more things [on the App Store] than just re-releasing my old IF,” he says.
“Possibly people in the community might think of it as a ‘design betrayal,’ but it is good that there is this tension,” he continues. “I would love to be the conservative old fogey and say, ‘No! Parser forever!’ But there are people interested in other kinds of games, and the kind of cross-pollination I talk about can’t happen if each community maintains its boundaries and insists on keeping the walls up.”
“I’ll continue to grumble about the gap between parser-based IF and other kinds of IF, and indeed whether ‘IF’ as a label should be used for them. But if you hold my butt to the fire, I can’t rule them out.”
Shade is the kind of game experience you might ruin by trying to grasp it too closely, or to explicate it too literally. This makes it challenging to market or to distill to a punchy blurb, but that’s its nature: “Absolutely intentional,” says Plotkin. Is it a personal story? “I have no reason to answer.”
mural tribute to oscar niemeyer in brazil by eduardo kobra
image © alan teixeira
brazilian street artist eduardo kobra has graced the entire side of a skyscraper on the bustling street of paulista avenue in sao paulo with a 52 meter
tall polychromatic portrait of renowned brazilian architect oscar niemeyer, who passed away in december of 2012 at the age of 104. kobra began work on
the mural on the 14th of january, 2013 and since then has solicited the help of four other artists from his team to complete the colossal artwork.
Aardman Animations has put its name in the record books once again as their Sumo Science directorial team (Will Studd and Ed Patterson) have created the World’s Largest Stop-Motion Animation Set with their new short film/commercialGulp for Nokia, according to Guinness World Records. The recognition comes on the heels of the studio’s Smallest Stop-Motion Animated Character record for their previous Nokia spot, Dot.
The short was created for Nokia’s N8 campaign which seeks to showcase real-world applications for mobile devices in the world of film. Conceptualized by Nokias ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, Gulp follows a lone fisherman who is swallowed by a huge sea monster but manages to escape—unfortunately, so does his catch. The film’s creatures and ocean vista are crafted in large-scale sand animation carved into a beach in South Wales by Jamie Wardly and his team of artists at Sand In Your Eye, along with 30 art student volunteers. The huge set was made up of nautical objects like seaweed, ropes and nets, and Aardman’s prop department crafted a life-size replica fishing boat and half-boat light enough to be carried around the set.
All spots for the campaign are shot entirely on the N8 smartphone. Gulp showcases the phone’s Carl Zeiss optics and 12-megapixel photography capabilities. Three phones elevated 36 meters above the ground on a cherry picker (mounted in a custom rig by Peli Box) shot the 42.71 x 24 meter (roughly 140 x 78 ½ feet) set.
“The film was a huge test of planning and coordination with Mother Nature, we were incredibly lucky with conditions and tide times, sometimes we got our final frame for the day just as the waves crashed in around our set!” director Will Studd explained, “Obviously the turnaround had to be so quick with such a short window, but working with the W + K team was fantastic as usual and we got everything we set out to achieve. The Nokia N8 stood up to the challenge and produced some outstanding images.”
luci’ – an inflatable solar powered lantern by mpowerd.
Developed in america by MPOWERD, ‘luci’, the inflatable solar powered lantern was conceived to empower the developing world, providing greater equity to those without access to electricity. weighing only 3.8 ounces, luci incorporates the functions of a task light,
flash light and diffused lantern and is equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery – most importantly, it retains its charge for
up to three months.
Shown at the 2013 CES in las vegas, the lamp was designed to be lightweight and collapsible for travel, becoming durable and reliable
in the most extreme weather conditions and can easily be attached to a wall or ceiling. independent from the power grid, the lantern
is ideal for situations where light is inaccessible or unaffordable, making it a clean, low-cost, sustainable energy provider.
first imagetaking a page from the book of polaroid, the japanese manufacturer takara tomy has unveiled
a digital camera with a built in printer. the device is named the ‘xiao’ and features a 5.0 mega pixel
camera. the camera prints out a borderless photo in less than a minute and holds 20 sheets of photo
paper. the device makes use of the zink printing technology, which uses no ink. it is slated for release
later this month in japan, and possibly elsewhere in the new year. perhaps the next step is a camera
phone with a built in printer. http://www.takaratomy.co.jp
Please watch this…
Watch and share “A Day Made of Glass 2,” Corning’s expanded vision for the future of glass technologies. This video continues the story of how highly engineered glass, with companion technologies, will help shape our world.