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Archive for July, 2007

Immersive tech

Monday, July 30th, 2007

More blogging catch-up:

Another O’Reilly Radar article, this time on a topic near and dear to many Americans: maintaining a young appearance.  Brady draws the point that games are great for training, but doesn’t dig very deeply.  This is a point that I feel is important and should be restated, but is hardly new.  However, the really interesting point that the article seems to highlight to me is this:

Tying a digital game to the physical world is still novel. As sensors become cheaper and more accurate I think it’s one of the things that we will see more often in games.

…and honestly, this link back to the physical world is something I’ve dreamed about ever since I read things like Gibson’s Neuromancer or Stephenson’s Snow Crash.  The idea that a game (or any computer interface, really) can rely on different types of inputs beyond button mashing is… thrilling.  Anything that relies on how I (meaning not my game avatar) am physically moving or (someday, maybe) thinking is ultimately going to be more immersive (and so probably more entertaining).

It’s a trend that’s been taking hold recently; the Wii and its wonderful controllers are probably the most notable (and successful) example of this.  Sure, there will probably be plenty of failed “me too” competitors along the way, but we really are going to see a lot more immersive technologies for games and for general computing.  We’re finally at a stage where it is economically feasible to put such sensors into consumer-level toys, games, and tech.  It just gets more fun from here.

I’ll muse on why I think this is fun, and more than just a gimmick next week…

-sean

“Are we magicians?” You bet we are!

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

I’ve been catching up on my blog reading recently, and was bemusedly struck by an article available via O’Reilly Radar. The article comments on the fact that Gates & Jobs (and others?) have been using the terms “magic” and “magical” to describe the new products coming out.

Jimmy Guterman, the author, guesses that it’s probably a marketing ploy to add some effervescent “wow” quality to software that is probably already useful. I think he’s probably right; it’s all marketing. However, from the user’s perspective, I think code-smiths are viewed as magicians. As the over-quoted Arthur C. Clarke saying goes: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Users, for whom the inner workings of a computer are as black-boxed as the inner workings of the Hubble Telescope, view what we do as magical.

From a direct-end-user-support viewpoint, users perceive problems in such a way that minute, digital gremlins could be as likely a cause of the problem as, say, an incorrect password. If it doesn’t work, it’s a nasty hex upon them. If it gets fixed, we are like unto some voodoo priest exorcising the demons. For them, it might as well be magic!

Just don’t get burned at the stake for it. :)

-sean