Luxo LogoThe world’s most innovative animation and game companies have just put their video software in your hands.

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Valve Handbook  02If you worked at Valve, the videogame company that brought you Half-Life and Portal, you wouldn’t get a title, a boss, or a pre-defined department (or even team). What you would get is a job with perhaps the most innovative company in the industry today.

Studies suggest 3 million jobs are still open if you have the skills, and some companies are even willing to train you on the job. This sneak peak at Valve’s employee handbook tells you what they expect of their employees, from peer reviews to T-shaped people.

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Angry BirdsIt’s easy for the old guard to put their foot in their mouths where technology’s concerned, whether you’re a lawyer suing your own Web site, a publisher accidentally rewriting War and Peace, or a Fox News reporter tying Angry Birds to cyberwar.

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Hollywood’s resort to draconian tactics like SOPA may have cost them the moral high ground.

Venture capitalist Paul Graham is already looking to fund Hollywood’s successors.

Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.

That’s one reason we want to fund startups that will compete with movies and TV….

http://ycombinator.com/rfs9.html

Fortunately those successors can take advantage of technical infrastructure like the Cloud, as the chief creative officer of a small digital arts company attests.

After turning to Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Computing service for the first time to finish animation under tight deadline, [John McNeil] was impressed by how it would let him compete with bigger studios. He said, ‘Cloud computing is the first truly democratic, accessible technology that potentially gives everyone a supercomputer…it’s a game changer. I could never compete or be able to deliver something at the level of a Pixar or a Disney, given what I have at my disposal inside the walls of the studio,’ McNeil said. ‘But if I factor in the cloud, all of a sudden I can go there. And then the limitations of whether or not I can deliver something great will be on my own talent and the talent of the people that are part of the studio.’”

Meanwhile, an admission from the horse’s mouth: the movie industry’s real worry is not piracy but the loss of control.

“Miramax CEO Mike Lang has admitted to what we all suspected. The biggest worry is a distribution monopoly, not piracy. They saw what happened to the music industry with iTunes, and vowed to not lose control and be at the mercy of Apple or whoever becomes the dominant distributor. From the article: ‘Lang, whose company today debuts the Blu-Ray version of the cult classic Pulp Fiction, emphasized that people don’t necessarily want to pirate, as long as they get what they want. “Innovate or die,” should be the motive of entertainment industry companies, where it’s key to listen to customers.’”

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/10/07/0032233/Movie-Industry-Loss-of-Control-Worse-Than-Piracy.

Gabe Newell, chief of the company that brought you Half Life and Portal (and former classmate of mine, hi Gabe!), finds a comparable misunderstanding in gaming:

“In general, we [at Valve] think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the U.S. release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate’s service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.”

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/11/25/2217247/valves-gabe-newell-on-piracy-its-not-a-pricing-problem

One game company is taking control of this…loss of control?

“Indie game company tinyBuild Games, who released a platformer called No Time To Explain recently, uploaded their own game to the Pirate Bay. However, there’s a key difference between the game they uploaded and the version you can purchase: the game characters wear pirate hats, and everything else has a pirate theme. One of the company’s founders, Alex Nichiporchik, said, ‘[S]ome people are going to torrent it either way, we might as well make something funny out of it. … You can’t really stop piracy, all you can do is make it work for you and/or provide something that people actually want to pay for. For us this is humor, we like making people laugh.’”

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/09/14/0517245/Indie-Devs-Upload-Their-Own-Game-To-The-Pirate-Bay

The FDA is considering whether to recognize a game aimed at schizophrenics as a “therapeutic drug.” Does that mean you can overdose on GTA? In any case, it’s interesting finally to see a convergence between the two industries that refer to their audience as “users.”

“In what’s believed to be an industry first, a developer has begun talks with the American Food and Drug Administration to get its game recognized as a therapeutic drug. ‘Brain Plasticity has been fine-tuning a game to help people with schizophrenia improve the deficits in attention and memory that are often associated with the disorder. Early next year, they will conduct a study with 150 participants at 15 sites across the country. Participants will play the game for one hour, five times a week over a period of six months. If participants’ quality of life improves at that “dosage,” Brain Plasticity will push ahead with the FDA approval process.’”

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/09/27/060223/Developer-Seeks-FDA-Approval-For-Therapeutic-Game

Meanwhile, in other virtual health news:

“Rite Aid today announced it is offering virtual face-to-face physician consultations through an in-store kiosk. The virtual consultation services are currently being tested in the Detroit area, but the company expects they will do well and the virtual consults will expand to other regions. The service costs $45 for a 10-minute physician consultation. Consultations with nurses are free.”

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/09/27/0541231/Rite-Aid-Drug-Stores-Offer-Virtual-Doc-Visits

But wait, there’s more:

They are the two big tech buzzwords of the moment. Now a combination of 3D printing and augmented reality can help researchers design more effective drugs.

At Arthur Olsen’s Molecular Graphics Lab at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, research teams model biological viruses – including HIV – and attempt to work out what kind of proteins and ligand molecules can latch onto them, to see which might inhibit or disable them.

As Olsen shows in this video, 3D printing allows them to create accurate plastic models of virus segments and the potential drug molecules. With smart use of magnets they can be made to self-assemble, too.

But for calculating which drug will likely connect with a receptor area using the least energy, augmented reality comes into play: using small webcam targets on the model virus, they can map it to a computerised model of itself so the researcher can see it move on screen.

(Via Bruce Sterling)

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/10/3d-printed-viruses-meet-their.html

And then there’s Deepak Chopra.

Leela, Deepak Chopra’s debut game for Xbox 360 Kinect and Wii, is part relaxation mechanism, part new age stoner candy.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/vu3zE2BRepc/

Not be outdone, AT&T wants to wire health care into diapers for the young and old. (Shades of Mike Scott’s wearable computing Friend Finder…)

a growing list of people could benefit from connected clothing, says AT&T, which claims ‘the stars have aligned’ for this technology. Prices of clothing sensors have come down; Wi-Fi and wireless networks have become ubiquitous; and mobile apps have become easier to design and simpler to use. ‘For example, parents of babies could cover them in connected clothing to check on their children when they were out of the house … And relatives of elderly people who are “aging in place” in their homes could check on their vital signs and make sure their loved ones haven’t fallen. This could help the elderly stay out of assisted living facilities, as most prefer to do.’”

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/11/04/2119205/att-pushes-connected-clothing-for-healthcare

Lay down some trippy tunes with a $1 Moog while the offer lasts. Plus, Sim City meets music looper in the addictive Isle of Tune.

This vintage-looking virtual instrument resembles Zoran Djuranovic’s New Media capstone from last year.

The Animoog takes the familiar, spaced-out sound profile Moog is famous for and warps it, using the iPad’s multi-touch interface and some very cool animated visualizations to create a unique instrument. It’s simple enough for anyone to play, but also deep enough to encourage extended experimentation. On top of that accomplishment, the Animoog is just about the trippiest sound-thing available for the iPad.

The app debuts in the App Store this week for an introductory price of $1. After a short while, it will go up to $30. If you’re at all interested in making music on your iPad, you should download this and start playing with it….

The musical instruments company, founded by electronics pioneer Bob Moog in the 1950s, makes keyboards that sell for thousands of dollars and are used in studios and on stages by the biggest names in rock and pop. Radiohead, Rush, Air, Stevie Wonder — they’re all Moog devotees.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/sRCqMKQKiYE/

Back in the 1990s there was a grid-based looper called Absolut DJ. Musicians like DJ Spooky would add arrows and other symbols to the matrix, steering the music around like virtual traffic cops. That site is long gone, but this sounds like a worthy successor.

We haven’t seen anything remotely like Isle of Tune for iPad, which was released Friday, with the exception of the web-based Isle of Tune, which impressed us late last year with its utterly unique approach to songsmithery.

Both apps let you draw roads, populate them with houses and trees to indicate beats and notes, and then activate the whole thing with cars that drive down the streets in predictable patterns, “playing” each thing they drive past.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/0aCzKJ7PAcg/

And speaking of New Media capstones, this throwable camera is reminiscent of Jesse Melanson’s Club Ball capstone.

Jonas Pfeil, a student from the Technical University of Berlin, has created a rugged, grapefruit-sized ball that has 36 fixed-focus, 2-megapixel digital camera sensors built in. The user simply throws the ball into the air and photos are simultaneously taken with all 36 cameras to create a full, spherical panorama of the surrounding scene. The ball itself is made with a 3D printer, and the innards (which includes 36 STM VS6724 CMOS camera sensors, an accelerometer, and two microcontrollers to control the cameras) are adequately padded, so presumably it doesn’t matter if you’re bad at throwing and catching.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/10/14/1840224/throwable-36-camera-ball-takes-spherical-panoramas

JavaScript’s seemingly inexorable march toward becoming the universal language of new media recently opened a new beachhead on the Web server. With an effusion of excitement about, and profusion of frameworks for, using JavaScript for such server-side tasks as accessing databases, the homely script that started out as a love child of Netscape and Internet Explorer could end up displacing such respected languages as PHP, Python, and Ruby.

Microsoft Vice President Julie Larson-Green didn’t help matters during a demo of Windows 8, when she called HTML5 / JavaScript “our new developer platform“–freaking out legions of developers who’ve diligently learned Microsoft-only platforms from Visual Basic to C#. Will Microsoft say nyet to .NET?

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Portal 2 lets players warp the space-time continuum, and physics education may never be the same.

Heck, it even made the New York Times go ga-ga. Perhaps more astonishing, it made the New York Times write a video-game review.

Physics — the basic behavior of this particular reality —can be beautiful. Read Newton or Einstein. Or you could play Portal 2, the achingly brilliant new game from the Valve Corporation that wrings more fun out of physics than all of the shoot-’em-ups in the world….

The problem with physics for many people is that it has always been explained in the language of mathematics. [Yet] we all know physics, even if we don’t know we know it. But how can it be made elegant and enjoyable without the math?

Enter Portal 2….

One portal by itself does nothing; it is merely a swirling oval about the height and width of an adult. But when you create the other portal, the two ovals become linked. When you pass through one, you emerge from the other, no matter how far away it is. It is as if the portals formed opposite sides of a trans-dimensional hole.

Let’s say you are in a rectangular test chamber, standing on a platform separated from the exit by a deep pit that you cannot possibly leap over. All you have to do is create one portal on a wall next to you, then fire the gun across the chasm to create the corresponding portal on a wall next to the exit. You walk through the hole beside you and pop out by your destination. Voilà.

That’s easy, and that’s pretty much where you start in Portal 2. The game then begins to layer on more mind-bending situations that both elucidate, and take advantage of, basic physics. For example, an important concept is the conservation of momentum. When you enter one portal, you emerge from the corresponding portal at exactly the same speed. This means that gravity becomes your personal propulsion system.

Picture the same test chamber, but with one difference: the walls, floors and ceiling by the exit are not “portal-able.” Certain surfaces are designed to be impervious to the portal effect. How will you cross?

First you open a portal that’s above and behind you on the wall. Against all intuition, you then leap into the pit. As you fall, accelerating, you aim at the floor and open a portal where you are about to land and plummet through, only to be launched horizontally out of the portal you originally created. Your speed propels you across the pit to land by the exit.

http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=090b5d1337717b8b217580f4fb6d1037

As Slashdot reports, you can even make your own Portal playground thanks to Valve, which is no stranger to open-sourcing game guts.

Portal 2 Authoring Tools Beta Released

Valve has announced the beta release of a set of authoring tools for Portal 2, allowing users to create their own puzzles and challenges in the name of science. “The Portal 2 Authoring Tools include versions of the same tools we used to make Portal 2. They’ll allow you to create your own singleplayer and co-op maps, new character skins, 3D models, sound effects, and music.” The tools are available for free to anyone who owns the PC version of the game.

Of course, if you want your physics straight from the horse’s mouth–er, voice synthesizer–there is this rare recent interview with Stephen Hawking:

http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f0748904214614b00443248bced49899

If the founder of console powerhouse Electronic Arts is right when he says “the browser is the platform of the future,” then here are some inventive takes on what that future might look like–from rolling up your favorite Web page Katamari Damacy-style to playing a game entirely in the URL bar.

http://kathack.com/

This is a “bookmarklet” that turns any page into Katamari Damacy. Try clicking the Katamari! link above.

This was the winner of the 2011 Yahoo HackU contest at University of Washington.

How does it work?

Short version: css transforms (for things stuck to the katamari), canvas (drawing the katamari), and z-index (illusion of depth).

This minimalist gem crams an entire game into a single URL.

http://idle.slashdot.org/story/11/03/13/1537230/A-Game-Played-In-the-URL-Bar?from=rss via Byline

“Whether you think it is useful or useless, you can’t ignored the sheer cool geekiness of a game played entirely in the URL bar. From the article: ‘… While getting lost in a three dimensional virtual world amongst increasingly thoughtful plot and character development may be an adequate pastime for some, the only new title the gaming world should be talking about is URL Hunter, an experimental keyboard-character based game played entirely in your browser’s URL bar.’”

Trip breaks it down for us.

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/03/08/199212/Browsers-mdash-the-Gaming-Platform-of-the-Future?from=rss via Byline

Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts, spoke at the recent Game Developers Conference about how he expects game platforms to evolve in the future. Hawkins thinks the role of web browsers as a platform will greatly increase as the explosion of mobile device adoption continues. “For all of the big media companies, this phase of disruption is dramatic and happening fast. Where it’s really going to lead is where the function of the browser is going. … The browser has taken over 2 billion PCs — it’s going to be taking over a billion tablets over the next few years, billions of mobile devices. It will end up in my opinion very strong on the television. The browser is the platform of the future.”

As much as I like crazy game reinterpretations, I find this one disturbing. It makes me wonder if all those times sitting in traffic in midtown Manhattan I was actually under the control of aliens playing a game of Find the Parking Place.

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/01/15/149225/Play-emPacmanem-emPinballem-and-emPongem-With-a-Paramecium?from=rss via Byline An anonymous reader writes “Science is rarely ever this cool! ‘Physicist Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and his team from Stanford University have done just that by creating versions of classic games that you can navigate by physically controlling living organisms. A game called PAC-mecium is Pacman with a twist: players use a console to change the polarity of an electrical field in a fluid chamber filled with paramecia, which makes the organisms move in different directions. A camera sends real-time images to a computer, where they are superimposed onto a game board (see video above). By looking at the screen, a player can guide the paramecia to eat virtual yeast cells and make them avoid Pacman-like fish. A microprocessor tracks the movement of the organisms to keep score.’ Also available are versions of Pinball, Pong, and soccer.”

Here’s your chance to repurpose those sketches from that game design class.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/Y5YevDpmfj0/ via Byline Want to make a game? You might have a hard time finding the money if you don’t have a multimillion dollar studio. Or a trust fund. Or a rich uncle. That’s why Geoff Gibson created 8-Bit Funding, a site that helps finance indie game developers.

Some people will do anything to pass NMD102. At least when Variable Media students recreated Pacman in the university parking lot, no one ended up in the hospital ;)

http://games.slashdot.org/story/10/12/29/2312254/Real-Life-emFroggerem-Ends-In-Hospital-Visit?from=rss

BigSes writes “A 23-year old man has been hospitalized after police in South Carolina say he was hit by an SUV while playing a real-life version of the video game Frogger. Authorities said the 23-year-old man was taken to a hospital in Anderson after he was struck Monday evening. Before he was hit, police say the man had been discussing the game with his friends. Chief Jimmy Dixon says the man yelled ‘go’ and darted into oncoming traffic in the four-lane highway. Has it come time to ban some of the classics before someone else goes out and breaks a few bricks with their heads after eating a large mushroom?”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

If I were thinking about a new media installation I’d try to get my hands on one of these.

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2010/11/another-kinect-hack-thats-vastly-more-interesting-than-the-games/

*I may have to start a whole category for these, because they’re coming thick and fast and it’s only been a week. Looks like Microsoft accidentally invented a primo piece of art-installation hardware.

For centuries, the Chinese have been treating disease as an imbalance in the body. The latest research into body-as-ecosystem reminds us that if bacteria outnumber native cells in the human body by 10 to 1, we’d better figure out how to get along with all those neighbors living under our skin.

http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/10/19/0126252/The-Effect-of-Internal-Bacteria-On-the-Human-Body?from=rss

meckdevil writes with this excerpt from the Miller-McCune magazine: “In a series of recent findings, researchers describe bacteria that communicate in sophisticated ways, take concerted action, influence human physiology, alter human thinking, bioengineer the environment and control their own evolution. … The abilities of bacteria are interesting to understand in their own right, and knowing how bacteria function in the biosphere may lead to new sources of energy or ways to degrade toxic chemicals, for example. But emerging evidence on the role of bacteria in human physiology brings the wonder and promise — and the hazards of misunderstanding them — up close and personal. … Because in a very real sense, bacteria are us. Recent research has shown that gut microbes control or influence nutrient supply to the human host, the development of mature intestinal cells and blood vessels, the stimulation and maturation of the immune system, and blood levels of lipids such as cholesterol. They are, therefore, intimately involved in the bodily functions that tend to be out of kilter in modern society: metabolism, cardiovascular processes and defense against disease. Many researchers are coming to view such diseases as manifestations of imbalance in the ecology of the microbes inhabiting the human body. If further evidence bears this out, medicine is about to undergo a profound paradigm shift, and medical treatment could regularly involve kindness to microbes.”

Meanwhile scientists are beginning to look at bacteria as the appropriate model for complex human behavior rather than the artificial intelligence algorithms of game theory. Perhaps Jeremy Rifkin was right: the 20th century may have culminated in the computer, but the 21st century will focus on cytoplasm over silicon.

http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/10/12/1759234/Gambling-On-Bacteria

An anonymous reader writes “When it comes to gambling, many people rely on game theory, a branch of applied mathematics that attempts to measure the choices of others to inform their own decisions. It’s used in economics, politics, medicine — and, of course, Las Vegas. But recent findings from a Tel Aviv University researcher suggest that we may put ourselves on the winning side if we look to bacteria instead. According to Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, current game theory can’t account for bacteria’s natural decision-making abilities — it’s just too simplistic. Understanding bacteria’s reactions to stressful and hazardous conditions may improve decision-making processes in any human arena from everyday life to political elections.”

Defenders of realism in violent RPG videogames sometimes argue that the ability to play different roles helps stimulate understanding of cross-cultural conflicts and historical context, or even inspire empathy. So what happens when US military play the Taliban side in Medal of Honor? And how is that different from soldiers who act out the role of the “enemy” in Army-initiated training exercises?

http://games.slashdot.org/story/10/09/02/213220/GameStop-Pulls-emMedal-of-Honorem-From-Military-Bases?from=rss via Byline donniebaseball23 writes “EA’s Medal of Honor reboot doesn’t ship until October 12, but it’s already seen a fair amount of controversy thanks to the publisher’s decision to allow people to play as Taliban in multiplayer. The controversy just got escalated another notch, reports IndustryGamers, as the world’s biggest games retailer GameStop has decided it won’t sell the title at its stores located on US military bases. The new Medal of Honor won’t be advertised at these stores either. GameStop noted that they came to this decision ‘out of respect for our past and present men and women in uniform.’”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

So in the 1950s you could buy real products (air rifles) advertised alongside imaginary entertainments (comic book stories). But now you can buy imaginary entertainments (Farmville credits) advertised alongside real products (at Target). My brain hurts!

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/09/02/031223/Target-To-Sell-Facebook-Credits-As-Gift-Cards?from=rss via Byline Julie188 writes “Target will begin selling Facebook’s virtual currency as gift cards on September 5, becoming the first brick-and-mortar retailer to do so. Facebook Credit gift cards will be available in $15, $25 and $50 denominations at the retailer’s 1,750 stores. That’s right, you can now spend real dollars to get fake ones so you can buy imaginary items for games like FarmVille, Bejeweled and 150 other FB games or apps. If that interests you, please contact me. I have some swamp land in Florida I’d like to show you.”

Two bits of good news for anyone who wants to start a simple location-based game: 1) SCVNGR offers a readymade tool for creating one; and 2) you’ll have little competition, as all the games made so far sound moronic.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/_ved4fNYzJo/ via Byline SCVNGR is a location-based gaming platform for mobile phones that has been used in alternate-reality games for campaigns ranging from the New England Patriots to Dexter. They scored $4 million in venture capital late last year. In this article, Jane Doh takes an in-depth look at this helpful tool for puzzle designers looking for a more local flavor….

SCVNGR tasks might be a riddle, a dare, a question, or more, and they are customized precisely for the location. For example, I checked in to my nearby police precinct (No, I was not in handcuffs), and, in addition to the usual “Say something here” functionality common to the other geo-location smartphone games, SCVNGR offered me a few tasks related to law enforcement. It asked me what my favorite constitutional amendment was (Duh, the Fifth!), and in “The Swords & Scales” challenge I was asked to pose as Lady Justice and upload the picture. (Hm, yes well, the zip ties were a problem.)

Animator or game design wannabe? This equation is for you.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/q0mznEX_SNM/ via Byline Want your next animated short to look more real than a Bugs Bunny cartoon? Study up on the equation at the heart of every 3-D rendering package.

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http://rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/Fa3g3-h6mvA/Chinese-Internet-Addiction-Boot-Camp-Prison-Break

UgLyPuNk writes “A group of inmates at the Huai’an Internet Addiction Treatment Centre decided they’d had enough of the ‘monotonous work and intensive training.’ Working together, they tied their duty supervisor to his bed and made a run for it. The 14 patients, aged from 15 to 22, hailed a taxi to take them to a nearby town — but were uncovered when the driver took them to the police station instead, suspicious of the identically dressed young men who were unable to pay the fare.”

http://rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/Fa3g3-h6mvA/Chinese-Internet-Addiction-Boot-Camp-Prison-Break

UgLyPuNk writes “A group of inmates at the Huai’an Internet Addiction Treatment Centre decided they’d had enough of the ‘monotonous work and intensive training.’ Working together, they tied their duty supervisor to his bed and made a run for it. The 14 patients, aged from 15 to 22, hailed a taxi to take them to a nearby town — but were uncovered when the driver took them to the police station instead, suspicious of the identically dressed young men who were unable to pay the fare.”

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