Kagura, making music with your body

Brian Eno once said, “The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them.” The interfaces we use to interact with computers are too digital, not fuzzy enough to sense analog inputs. We’re stuck with mouse and keyboard.

Kagura is a game that runs on a laptop and uses the camera to detect movement of the players as they interact with musical instruments projected on the screen in front of them to play along or riff on a musical track.

Part Dance Dance Revolution and part Guitar Hero, the UI is intuitive and easy and fun to pick up. All that’s required is a Windows laptop (Mac coming later) and they launched a Kickstarter today to fund the final development and release in August.

Shunsuke Nakamura, the inventor of the game, stopped by the SmartNews offices on Friday to show us how the game works. He’s been working on the concept of using your body to make music for 14 years but only now has technology reached a point where his dream could be realized.

We truly live in amazing times.

Excellence In Advertising

I was asked the other day to name my favorite advertisement. In terms of effective engagement, I think branded apps are the best combination of free-to-the-consumer utility and on-going engagement for the brand. I recently downloaded an app to help me find the closest Chevron gas station because my dealer said that their special gasoline is best for my car. It’s a single purpose app (shows you the nearest Chevron based on your phone’s location) but Chevron took to the time to add information about the gasoline and also insert a feed of online coupons that can be redeemed at their gas station.

While I was a Yahoo, I kept a running feed of links pointing to clever advertising campaigns and used those as case studies when speaking with advertisers and agencies that were always coming to Yahoo for advice and collaboration. Today I ran across this clever idea using your mobile phone to control a giant game of Pong! on a billboard in Sweden. What is unique is that it uses your phone’s web browser to find your physical location and as long as it determined that you were in the proximity of the billboard, it would let you enter a code to on the web browser to control the game.

No app. No downloads.

Engagement is measured by those that click through to the coupon screen where they get a free drink or snack at the local McDonalds. It’s not clear from the video if this coupon was just on your browser’s screen or if it get’s sent to you via SMS or email. If it’s the latter, then not only are they able to measure conversions, they are also capturing phone or email addresses for future campaigns.

Oh, if you want to browse the archive of other clever advertising campaigns of note, I have a list on my Pinboard link feed.

Life 2.0, a movie about Second Life

It’s been years since I have written about Second Life, the virtual reality platform which captured everyone’s attention back in 2006-2007. Lately Second Life has come up again in conversations with colleagues when we talk about the popularity of the 8-bit version of alternative reality games where you build things such as Minecraft. Second Life was also the topic of a conversation I had recently which mentioned the fate of Michael Donelly, the Coca-Cola CMO who was famously ridiculed for his over-exuberance for Second Life as a marketing platform. How soon we forget our earlier trespass.

You’re about to be reminded of Second Life once again as documentary filmmaker Jason Spingarn-Koff is about to premier a new documentary about Second Life in Brooklyn on May 20th.

As you can see from the trailer, Second Life is just part of the film which explores the larger question of our addiction to alternative realities. We all are experiencing how electronics are both pulling our families apart and together at the same time. With the click of a mouse we can all be talking with relatives on the other side of the world via Skype. But, these same tools pull us apart as each of us excuse ourselves after dinner and wander off in to a corner of the house to settle down for a session with our glass display of choice (iPad, phone, desktop, laptop or TV). These are important societal shifts and I look forward to the debate that such a film will raise. The Village Voice calls Life 2.0,

At once a disturbing vision of escape, a cautious portrait of liberation, and an exploration of authenticity and artificiality

Linden Labs, the company behind Second Life, is alive and well but a very different company. A glance at the recent press about the company shows that it’s focused more on using it’s software for training and their Press Release archive reveals they have a new CEO from Electronic Arts and are coming off two-year restructuring process. We shall see if people come back, after watching Life 2.0, for another look-n-see.

Pokémon Breeding and the Masuda Method

The depths of Pokémon gamer knowledge are beyond my reach. My kids, on the other hand, have gone deep and are using the internet to expand their learning further. I helped connect their Nintendo DS to Wifi so they can explore virtual worlds. Now they are connecting with other players around the world to trade characters. We have conversations around their gaming world but I am totally lost at sea.

Today, my son pointed me to Serebii.net which is, as far as I can tell, the wikipedia for the Pokémon fan. Here’s an entry for Shiny Pokémon and how one might obtain one.

You have probably heard or seen a picture of them. Pokémon that are different colors than normally seen with. An example of that could be a Metagross with a silver coating and a golden X on it, a dark green Zubat, or a black Rayquaza. The Torchic you may have obtained from Professor Birch may be a lighter colored orange and you may think the game is glitched up, but it isn’t. As you can imagine, these occurences are very, very rare. Not very many people even have a shiny Pokémon to begin with. So how do you get them?

It depends on very, very good luck to get a shiny Pokémon. You can find shiny Pokémon in the wild, in eggs, and in the battle tower, which is basically everyplace you can catch a Pokémon save for the Battle Tower in which you won’t be able to catch the shinys there. Needless to say, you wont be very lucky if a shiny ends up there. People have said that you can also meet a shiny when in your first battle against the wild Poochyena and Wally’s Ralts as well. Basically, like I said, it revolves around how lucky you are. Now the bad thing is that the odds of finding a shiny Pokémon in the wild are 1 in 8,192 battles…all the time, meaning after 8,191 battles it’ll still be 1 in 8,192 and not a dead cert that you will get one i.e. not 1 in 1 battles. If you already have a shiny Pokémon and think you’ll have a higher chance of getting another shiny if you breed with it, think again. It’s still going to have the same odds.

Now you’d think with a Pokémon this rare, it has to have good Individual Values and such. That’s no longer the case. Shiny Pokémon are always going to end up with the same odds of good stats as normal Pokémon. They used to have set IV’s in the Metal generation, but not in this one.

In the fourth generation, a variety of things have changed in order to allow for the obtaining of Shiny Pokémon. First is a method commonly known as the Masuda Method, named after the game developer and the person who revealed it; Junichi Masuda. This method has you breed two Pokémon. However, one of the Pokémon must be of a different nationality than your game (such as a Japanese Pokémon on an English game). This will lower the chances of hatching a shiny Pokémon from 1 in 8,192 to 1 in 2,048 cutting it by 75%.

The second method of obtaining shiny Pokémon is through the method called “chaining”. This method has you carry on a chain on the PokéRadar. As you battle the Pokémon and your chain increases, the chances of seeing a Shiny Pokémon also increases up until you’re on the 40th chain where it levels out. Continue the chain and you may see the grass glow instead of shaking. If this occurs, there is a shiny Pokémon there. To get this far, I suggest you use many Repels so your chains are less likely to be broken.

And that’s everything on Shiny Pokémon.

Got that? Good, ’cause you never know the next time an 11 year-old is going to quiz you.

Monetizing Games

Practical advice on game design from Disney Imagineer and Carnegie Mellon Professor, Jesse Schell in this recent talk at DICE 2010 conference.

It’s all about tapping into the desire to level up.

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Physical and Virtual Spaces

Outside Yodobashi Camera

I just returned from a year-end holiday in Tokyo. As always, the city never ceases to amaze me.

The people in the photo above are all standing outside Yodobashi Camera, an electronics store in Akihabara. The store offers free wifi for anyone with a Nintendo DS and on that network they can get access to free games and unique characters for games they already own.

In a similar type of cross-promition, my son walked into a McDonald’s and switched on his DS and downloaded a free Pokemon character for a new game he bought. In a clever cross promotion between Nintendo, Game Freak (the game publisher), and McDonald’s, the character was only available via wifi at McDonald’s. After giving your name, age, and email address, the character is downloaded to a specific location in the game.

Tyler has been spending the last week making his way through the game to reach the in-game location so he can interact with the character. Brilliant way to combine physical and virtual location around brands and maintain engagement.

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Spin the Bottle 2.0

Jan Chipchase is a research anthropologist at Nokia who travels the world and studies how people interact with technology. His blog (future perfect) is a fascinating stream of one off thoughts and observations which twist your mine to look at the everyday world around us with a new sense of wonder.

In the photo above he writes about how patrons at a bar in Tokyo use a cellphone’s timer to update an age-old drinking game:

A game of spin the bottle updated for the digital age – gather a crowd, take one digital camera, turn on the flash, wind the strap taut, set the timer and let unwind – as the camera spins, whomever is snapped when the timer runs out takes a shot

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Werewolves infect Webmasters

seomoz.org search spam deck

Werewolf (also known as Mafia) is a great parlor game in which players try and figure out the good guys from the bad guys relying on your ability to read the body language of other players to determine who is telling the truth and who is lying while keeping your role and identity hidden from others. Because the game inspires psychological tactics and gaming, it’s the perfect way for a room full of SEO experts and search engine engineers to unwind after a full day of conference sessions here at Webmaster World in Las Vegas.

seomoz.org did a great job setting the stage by printing up a set of cards specifically for the evening featuring notable personalities from the SEO industry. The titles on the cards were clever and the ultimate inside joke. In this version of the game, it was the Black Hats vs. the White Hats with Matt Cutts playing the role of the Seer and Danny Sullivan as the Doctor.

werewolf action at webmaster world

Everyone had a great time (more photos here) and I can see this becoming a regular fixture (and highlight) of future Pubcon conferences. Thank you seomoz.org for hosting!

Lumos Labs – brush away the cobwebs of your mind


Lumos Labs is a new site which, through a series of simple online games, excercise your brain. The site’s games are “scientifically proven to improve your attention, memory and processing speed.” Like doing situps for your mind, the site sends you through a series of short games that are fun, engaging and beautifully designed. Scores are tied to your account so you can push yourself to beat your high score or invite your friends to top you.

The screenshot above is from a game called Raindrops where you solve the problems in each bubble before the raindrop hits the lake. As you progress, the math gets harder and the raindrops become more frequent. The game ends when the lake fills up.

There are other games which require you to focus on pattern recognition, spacial memory, or attention and processing visual information. The approach here is similar to Brain Age (which runs on the Nintendo DS) but the appeal here is that all you need is an internet connection and a web browser with Flash to play.

A glance at the about us page shows there’s some serious science behind the fun and games and there are presentations that you can download to learn more.

And the best thing? Two of the founders are roommates of my sister! Way to go guys!

Lumos Labs is in beta and free of charge.

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