What does gaming have to do with Environmental technology?

Some people already know that I happily call myself a gamer.  A few people think that’s weird, but after my attendance at the recent EBExpo (http://www.ebexpo.com.au/) I thought I’d explain why.

I’m no longer a PC gamer, although that’s where my interest started.  Now I have a number of gaming consoles at home, although the Xbox 360 – mainly due to a bunch of mates who are also on that platform – is my primary gaming console nowdays.  For me, gaming is a bit of a stress relief, a place where I can do something creative, or just blow off some steam.  But it’s also more than that, and is often a source of inspiration and technology that brings new innovation into the fields I work in as well.

In my mind – and I’m sure that this has been espoused elsewhere already – new technology and innovation comes about from the creative industries and the one I see a lot of innovation from is the gaming industry.  You also see this from the general entertainment industry, but also from industries like defence and of course from individual companies that “do” innovation well, like Google.

So when my “boys weekend” to the Gold Coast for EBExpo was being planned, a small part of me was thinking “this is going to end up relating to work as well, I’m sure” and to some extent I was right.  Some of the things I saw that I think will change a lot of how we work were the immersive technologies (3D, “you as the controller”), and social media (as a means of feedback, communication and comparison). So here’s a little overview of what I saw…

Immersive technologies

Two big things were on show at EBExpo; 3D (with and without glasses), and the whole move towards removing controllers and you make gestures at the screen.  So, how will this affect us at work? Both of these are a further step towards augmented reality (AR).  For some time, I’ve been thinking about the possibilities of augmented reality in our work, such as to demonstrate to people using an AR platform what sort of biological organisms can be found in their area, using their smartphones and an app or two.

When I see things like the new versions of “without glasses” 3D on show for devices like the Nintendo DS, I can’t help but think we’re not that far away from that technology appearing in a number of devices (although after three Mario Kart races on it, my eyes were sore!). But the killer for me was the Sony Playstation Vita.  We got a demonstration and video (and saw the only one in the southern hemisphere) of the Vita which really showed some – pardon the pun – game changing ways to play.  You can get an idea of it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni–QnZkRnw.

Combine this with not needing controls, for things like the Xbox Kinect, and you open up some interesting possibilities (although the Kinect has a way to go yet; it failed quite publicly a couple of times at the show), and this is an area to really keep an eye on.

Social media

Peter Moore (Chief Operating Officer of EA Games, with his own blog here http://www.easports.com/blogs/itsinthegame) gave a great keynote about their upcoming titles, but underneath the product sell component was a few interesting insights.

Their big mantra for this show was “by popular demand”.  As he said, the gaming community is vocal on social media, and they really have been listening and working on incorporating that feedback – after all, why would you ignore your audience? Especially when your audience is 1.5 billion people, the figure he quoted as being the number of gamers online across the world.

I can’t help but see the crowdsourcing possibilities of this 1.5 billion people, and I’m not the only one.  A team of scientists recently enlisted help from gamers to ‘unfold’ proteins in an enzyme to reveal new and useful scientific insights.  You can even get the paper (for free!) from the journal “Nature Structural & Molecular Biology” here: http://www.nature.com/nsmb/journal/v18/n10/full/nsmb.2119.html

So to harness that, we heard from Peter Moore that a big range of social tools are being embedded in their next range of games – an idea that was also echoed by the team from DICE that gave an overview of Battlelog, the social component to their upcoming release, Battlefield 3 (which was the game of the show).

It’s clear to me that social media, social tools and the whole sense of community is how you build success into any on-line product or service, and hence it will be something I will be pressing for us to include in our upcoming online products and services.


Yes, definitely this was a fun weekend for me and a few mates on the Gold Coast, and no, Gaia Resources didn’t pay for it (so it wasn’t a junket).  But the insights I gathered above were a big part of what I’ll bring back to work and our general strategic direction and understanding of future trends in the longer term.  I guess you could say that I took Sohail Inayatullah’s presentation on the future to heart, but more on that in another blog post from Andrew and I about OZRI.

It also really connects with something I’ve been saying for a while about industries like the spatial industry – no real innovation comes from within that industry, but from other sources (best example: Google Maps?).  So if you’re not keeping an eye on the coming trends in technology, or society, then expect to be out-competed or made obsolete.

I did manage to catch up with the team from the Parrot AR Drones – http://ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/uk/ – and they are a great group of guys.  I ended up purchasing a few for some R&D work we want to do – stay tuned for a post on that later on in the year, when we crack open the screwdrivers and solder and see what we can do with these little beauties.

So was it worthwhile? I guess we’ll have to wait and see where Gaia Resources is at in a couple of years to find that out.


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