Archive: Greg Povey

Half The Sky Mobile Games finalists for INDEX: Award

We are delighted to announce that our suite of mobile games for Half the Sky Movement/Games for Change have been selected as finalists for the 2013 INDEX: Award.



A film about the development of Half the Sky.

INDEX: Award is a prestigious biennial design award, set up in 2005 by INDEX: Design To Improve Life to acknowledge and reward companies developing creative solutions to global and local challenges. Spread across five different categories - Body, Home, Work, Play, and Community – previous winners include groundbreaking social housing projects, One Laptop Per Child, an airbag for cyclists and the Tesla roadster.

Mudlark worked tirelessly with  to design the three games - Worm Attack9 Minutes and Family Values - in a way which would have a genuinely positive effect in India and East Africa, especially amongst women and girls. We are particularly pleased our work, blending social impact content with compelling gameplay, has been recognised in the Play & Learning category.

Downloaded over 25,000 times to date, the Half The Sky Movement games were designed for target audiences on non-smart, low-end, widely-available mobile handsets and built in J2ME – a platform for older “feature phones”, still dominant in the developing world.

Winners of the INDEX: Awards will be announced on 29th August at the home of Hamlet, Kronborg Castle, Helsingør (Elsinore), Denmark before a public exhibition opens across Copenhagen on the 30th August.

We will be sporting our black ties and crossed fingers.

Month Links: May 2013

May has been a fun month. We”ve been into a two-way mirror room testing the CBeebies project, published the Perceptive Radio (our BBC R&D project) and work has continued apace on and several other – as yet untitled – projects. I also left the country for a week, enjoying a wonderful Saga of my own up in Iceland.

“As a user, I would like to click on some URLs with interesting content behind them.”


Quantum Break teaser trailer, Remedy Games for XBone.

In the future, . We”re not sure about Quantum Break, the flagship new XBox Tv/Game thingy. We”re curious though, don”t get us wrong.

- A good post by Jeremy Ettinghausen of BBH Labs about “accentuating the negative” to encourage positive behaviour, the value of failure in play and the need for different approaches to get the best result.

- Our friend Zoewi has started a very good . It should work as a go-to-guide for all significant gaming and play-related events/conferences across the world. It”s really heart-warming just to see the breadth of stuff out there already.

- London is getting its own E3 fringe this year with EToo. Organised by Guardian games correspondent Keith Stuart and veteran game designer Georg Backer, EToo should help keep you from feeling lonely when everyone has sacked off to LA.

- Fascinating, long post on Polygon about , and using game design/play as a medium to explore many of the ideas around gender, roles and society.

- Some interesting things are starting to come out of the BBC”s Connected Studio process. From the Sports studio is the Virtual Crowds prototype by MadeByPi which looks to create a web-native version of the conversations in pubs and stands.

- James wrote a lovely post about being Playful by Design, and the opportunity to play about with the web”s visual form.

- NYT”s Snowfall has definitely created a nice bit of a trend, with The Guardian having done their own version this month, using the opposite element, fire; UsVsTh3m have done Icefail – a nerd link-bait version – and scrollkit wrote their own code so that anyone can create immersive articles.

- But actually, everyone secretly hates Snowfall.


Two week UX cycle at GDS, via @kalsop

- A good and interesting post by Tracie Lee twinning a couple of my favourite things: UX design and restaurants. I”ve briefly written in the past about what web design can learn about high-end restaurant experiences, but it”s good to see the other approach being taken too.

- Typically excellent article from Kill Screen discussing the , and talking to one of our favourites – Rex Crowle of MediaMolecule. The tactility of physical materials used in digital forms in something we are very interested in, and is informing a lot of thinking around .

- Pitchfork continue to spit-roast trends with both a parallax scroll and full-screen/full-attention experiences for the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories. Sidenote: RAM is a tiny bit shit, but James and Richard seem to like it.

- Matt Locke wrote up “After The Spike and After The Like” – his talk at Digital Shoreditch – and it”s as essential a piece on the new forms of attention and the behaviour of “audiences” as you”re likely to read for while. Particularly useful for storytellers.

- Entertaining three-way interview with Molly Soda on the new Tumblr persona brands and the performance of personality with a hefty dose of feminist reading.

- John Tolva wrote about his ideal for people”s relationship with public spaces, taking in architecture, city design, networked spaces and human behaviour.

AND FINALLY.

QR Sushi, S&S

- Saatchi & Saatchi used squid ink to make edible QR codes for sushi, and lasercut logos into nori. Because why not, eh? Why not?

- The . This is huge news in itself, but extra significant that it”s a 22-year-old recent graduate, who has already won a BAFTA and set up their own company. Oh, and is female. That”s good.

- All the memes.

- Who”s changing what and where and oh my god it”s so busy in Wikipedia.

- The future of advertising is in beards.

- Soundtrack to May: , ,

The Perceptive Radio: a project for BBC R&D

In late 2012, Ian Forrester of BBC R&D approached us with an idea he had about taking the Perceptive Media experiment in new editorial formats prototype into a next stage.

Earlier in the year, we”d proposed a “perceptive” experience for the CBBC homepage, taking in data feeds to change how it was presented and incorporating playful elements (eg blowing away clouds if it was a rainy day near you), so Perceptive Media was a natural fit.

Breaking Out, BBC R&D”s original Perceptive Media experiment involved a two-character radioplay – one of whom was acted by a text-to-voice synthesiser – which uses data to adapt the content to the user”s context. eg using location data to fill in dialogue gaps such as weather or place names (“you can do anything, you can go to the Imperial War Museum” – if you”re in Salford/Manchester).

Breaking Out, an experiment in Perceptive Media; BBC R&D

One of the main issues BBC R&D faced when they have tested the Perceptive Media radioplay is that the audiences could not separate the web-based content from the shiny screen – users would be waiting for something to happen on screen, rather than listening to the audio content.

Ian wanted to free the content from the screen, to see how audiences really reacted to Perceptive Media.

The Brief

The possibilities of networked things and Perceptive Media are vast, opening up content to be ‘remixed’ live or contextualised for an audiences’ environment and context.

Ian”s brief to us was to create a domestic radio-style object that would playback the radioplay and pull in data to adapt it to the user”s context. This would enable audiences to act naturally around the radioplay content, and for BBC R&D to understand more about Perceptive Media and audience behaviour.

We decided that the object itself would provide further data feeds – using analogue electronics and sensors – in addition to the web-based data already being collected.

The Domestic Environment

Influenced by networked objects that fit seamlessly into the domestic environment and serve a natural function – such as Voy”s UgleRussell”s Bikemap, the Good Night Lamp and Skrekkøgle”s own radio object, Plugg - we wanted to ensure that the object was a part of the home, not an intervention. The Perceptive Radio is a behaviourally-driven design.

To do this, we spent time role-playing, listening to the radio, and documenting how we behaved around them – as well as what else was going on around the home. There were three key scenarios that most frequently played out:

  • Pottering and moving about in one room
    (eg making a cup of tea, walking to and from cupboards)
  • Pottering and moving in and out of many rooms
    (eg housework, gardening)
  • Settled down to properly listen to the radio
    (eg armchair with a cup of tea and pet)

The first two scenarios point at partial attention – with radio as an accompaniment – whilst the third is a clear, focused attention scenario.

The environmental/behavioural elements that were most frequently documented:

  • Movement
  • Time of day
  • Spikes in ambient noise
    (eg a telephone call, washing machine spin cycle)

Designing The Perceptive Radio

The design challenge was to demonstrate how a networked object could deliver tailored media experiences that are sympathetic to domestic environments, without being disruptive or jarring.

Marrying the contexts with environmental behaviours was the next stage in domestic design:

  • What would a user want a radio to do when they are moving around a room frequently?
  • What would a user want a radio to do when someone calls them up?
  • What would a user want a radio to do when they are settling down to relax?

In order to avoid any unnecessary diversions or wrong routes, we settled on four key design rules:

  1. Behaviour of the audience as control input

The Perceptive Radio is to be designed as an object that is sympathetic to the domestic environment – something that sits comfortably and naturally in a home – and the behaviour of the listener affects the output. Passive, not active, inputs.

  1. No physical interactions

Whilst the box itself has many affordances that could be used as sensor inputs – such as orientation, angle, touch – it was key that the object itself would be secondary. A function, rather than a tool. So, beyond obvious controls (on/off, play, master volume), the user”s behaviour and environment would be the only control inputs.

Some workshop sketches about object affordances
  1. Meaningful inputs

As the user is the control input, the controls have to be meaningful. It is important that those controls are behaviours that already exist, and not attempt to create a new invisible control system. We focused on ambient sound and natural movement rather than forced gestures.

  1. Believable responses/effects

For the Perceptive Radio to fit comfortably into a domestic environment, the output (effects) from the interactions must be believable. There are many variables that could be mapped to interactions – such as pitch or dialogue pace – that would be jarring to the listening experience, rather than being sympathetic to the audience. All effects must be believable and beneficial to the user.

Four Design Scenarios

1. Pottering and moving about in one room: making a cup of tea.



Change in volume.

In this scenario, the user is moving around the kitchen, boiling the kettle, collecting mugs and milk whilst they listen to the radio. As they move away from the radio, the volume changes so that the user can hear a consistent volume level at all times.

2. Pottering and moving about in one room: large spike in ambient noise.



Altering the depth of the audio playback.

In this scenario, the user is moving around the kitchen and filling up the dishwasher whilst they listen to the radio. As the dishwasher kicks in and there is a large spike in ambient noise, the radio alters the depth of the audio playback to foreground the most important element (eg the actors voices).

3. Settled down to properly listen to the radio: lowered light levels.



Adjusting the EQ levels.

In this scenario, the user is settling down to a cosy evening listening to the radio. They stoke their fire and turn off bright lights in the room. The change in light levels in the room causes the radio to adjust the EQ levels, cutting most of the treble, to make a more relaxing listening experience.

4. Settled down to properly listen to the radio: large spike in ambient noise, movement.



Pause the playback.

In this scenario, the user is settled down to a cosy evening listening to the radio before being interrupted by phone call. The large spike in noise coupled with the user”s movement away from the radio, causes the radio to pause playback of the audio.

The Technical Approach

As an object, the Perceptive Radio is a bit of a trick on the user – it looks dumb, but is pretty powerful. The broad remit for the technical and object-design side was that it needed to be “small enough to fit in a box, fast enough to use Web Audio API” whilst processing data feeds from analogue electronics.

Working with Adrian McEwen from MCQN LTD in Liverpool to successfully put the internet into a thing, our first hope for running Breaking Out was a smartphone working with a Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Unfortunately, the Perceptive Media radioplay does quite a lot of heavy lifting – including Web Audio API and performing real-time object-based processing (putting a load of reverb on the text-to-voice synth) – which requires a good quality browser such as Chrome and a decent strength computer.

This kind of processing power is sadly not available in small things and – after testing Breaking Out on Android/iOS mobile devices, Netbooks, Chromebooks and an array of Raspberry Pi – we decided to build a compact Mini-ITX system (a 7″ PC) to power the Perceptive Radio. Using a Beaglebone board for the analogue electronics hub, we had a slightly larger than desired technical solution with enough power to process Breaking Out and analogue inputs comfortably.

The Object

The Radio object itself needed to accommodate a 7″ PC system, sensitive analogue electronics sensors and have capacity to add further sensors/functions later down the line and – crucially –  look natural in a home. Early thoughts around the box design included a classic boombox-style affair, a tall Cathedral design and a box.

Nintendo Gamecube, a design classic.

All had potential, but were never quite right – all either too bulky, odd or anachronistic. We brought Patrick Fenner on board – an “open source engineer” who makes 2D things 3D – to help “make the box”.

Patrick”s experience and speciality in rapid prototyping with lasercut materials took the direction towards a more Digital Radio design, using finger jointed edges, birch plywood and an acrylic fascia:

Patrick”s final design.

The addition of chrome suitcase corners and a carry handle are there for extra structure support and to enable Ian to carry the box comfortably on his travels to demonstrate it.

The Final Prototype

 

The Perceptive Radio at home
The Perceptive Radio”s innards

Credits

UX Design & Production

Greg Povey, Richard Birkin, James Rice, Mudlark

JS, Analogue Electronics & Technical Approach

Adrian McEwen, MCQN

3D Design & Build

Patrick Fenner, Deferred Procrastination

Producer

Ian Forrester, BBC R&D

Object-Based Audio

Tony Churnside, BBC R&D

Design & Product Consultant

Jasmine Cox, BBC R&D

Fork the code on Github: the Perceptive Radio / Perceptive Media.

Credits
The Perceptive Radio: a project for BBC R&D

In late 2012, Ian Forrester of BBC R&D approached us with an idea he had about taking the Perceptive Media experiment in new editorial formats prototype into a next stage.

Earlier in the year, we”d proposed a “perceptive” experience for the CBBC homepage, taking in data feeds to change how it was presented and incorporating playful elements (eg blowing away clouds if it was a rainy day near you), so Perceptive Media was a natural fit.

Breaking Out, BBC R&D”s original Perceptive Media experiment involved a two-character radioplay – one of whom was acted by a text-to-voice synthesiser – which uses data to adapt the content to the user”s context. eg using location data to fill in dialogue gaps such as weather or place names (“you can do anything, you can go to the Imperial War Museum” – if you”re in Salford/Manchester).

Breaking Out, an experiment in Perceptive Media; BBC R&D

One of the main issues BBC R&D faced when they have tested the Perceptive Media radioplay is that the audiences could not separate the web-based content from the shiny screen – users would be waiting for something to happen on screen, rather than listening to the audio content.

Ian wanted to free the content from the screen, to see how audiences really reacted to Perceptive Media.

The Brief

The possibilities of networked things and Perceptive Media are vast, opening up content to be ‘remixed’ live or contextualised for an audiences’ environment and context.

Ian”s brief to us was to create a domestic radio-style object that would playback the radioplay and pull in data to adapt it to the user”s context. This would enable audiences to act naturally around the radioplay content, and for BBC R&D to understand more about Perceptive Media and audience behaviour.

We decided that the object itself would provide further data feeds – using analogue electronics and sensors – in addition to the web-based data already being collected.

The Domestic Environment

Influenced by networked objects that fit seamlessly into the domestic environment and serve a natural function – such as Voy”s UgleRussell”s Bikemap, the Good Night Lamp and Skrekkøgle”s own radio object, Plugg - we wanted to ensure that the object was a part of the home, not an intervention. The Perceptive Radio is a behaviourally-driven design.

To do this, we spent time role-playing, listening to the radio, and documenting how we behaved around them – as well as what else was going on around the home. There were three key scenarios that most frequently played out:

  • Pottering and moving about in one room
    (eg making a cup of tea, walking to and from cupboards)
  • Pottering and moving in and out of many rooms
    (eg housework, gardening)
  • Settled down to properly listen to the radio
    (eg armchair with a cup of tea and pet)

The first two scenarios point at partial attention – with radio as an accompaniment – whilst the third is a clear, focused attention scenario.

The environmental/behavioural elements that were most frequently documented:

  • Movement
  • Time of day
  • Spikes in ambient noise
    (eg a telephone call, washing machine spin cycle)

Designing The Perceptive Radio

The design challenge was to demonstrate how a networked object could deliver tailored media experiences that are sympathetic to domestic environments, without being disruptive or jarring.

Marrying the contexts with environmental behaviours was the next stage in domestic design:

  • What would a user want a radio to do when they are moving around a room frequently?
  • What would a user want a radio to do when someone calls them up?
  • What would a user want a radio to do when they are settling down to relax?

In order to avoid any unnecessary diversions or wrong routes, we settled on four key design rules:

  1. Behaviour of the audience as control input

The Perceptive Radio is to be designed as an object that is sympathetic to the domestic environment – something that sits comfortably and naturally in a home – and the behaviour of the listener affects the output. Passive, not active, inputs.

  1. No physical interactions

Whilst the box itself has many affordances that could be used as sensor inputs – such as orientation, angle, touch – it was key that the object itself would be secondary. A function, rather than a tool. So, beyond obvious controls (on/off, play, master volume), the user”s behaviour and environment would be the only control inputs.

Some workshop sketches about object affordances
  1. Meaningful inputs

As the user is the control input, the controls have to be meaningful. It is important that those controls are behaviours that already exist, and not attempt to create a new invisible control system. We focused on ambient sound and natural movement rather than forced gestures.

  1. Believable responses/effects

For the Perceptive Radio to fit comfortably into a domestic environment, the output (effects) from the interactions must be believable. There are many variables that could be mapped to interactions – such as pitch or dialogue pace – that would be jarring to the listening experience, rather than being sympathetic to the audience. All effects must be believable and beneficial to the user.

Four Design Scenarios

1. Pottering and moving about in one room: making a cup of tea.



Change in volume.

In this scenario, the user is moving around the kitchen, boiling the kettle, collecting mugs and milk whilst they listen to the radio. As they move away from the radio, the volume changes so that the user can hear a consistent volume level at all times.

2. Pottering and moving about in one room: large spike in ambient noise.



Altering the depth of the audio playback.

In this scenario, the user is moving around the kitchen and filling up the dishwasher whilst they listen to the radio. As the dishwasher kicks in and there is a large spike in ambient noise, the radio alters the depth of the audio playback to foreground the most important element (eg the actors voices).

3. Settled down to properly listen to the radio: lowered light levels.



Adjusting the EQ levels.

In this scenario, the user is settling down to a cosy evening listening to the radio. They stoke their fire and turn off bright lights in the room. The change in light levels in the room causes the radio to adjust the EQ levels, cutting most of the treble, to make a more relaxing listening experience.

4. Settled down to properly listen to the radio: large spike in ambient noise, movement.



Pause the playback.

In this scenario, the user is settled down to a cosy evening listening to the radio before being interrupted by phone call. The large spike in noise coupled with the user”s movement away from the radio, causes the radio to pause playback of the audio.

The Technical Approach

As an object, the Perceptive Radio is a bit of a trick on the user – it looks dumb, but is pretty powerful. The broad remit for the technical and object-design side was that it needed to be “small enough to fit in a box, fast enough to use Web Audio API” whilst processing data feeds from analogue electronics.

Working with Adrian McEwen from MCQN LTD in Liverpool to successfully put the internet into a thing, our first hope for running Breaking Out was a smartphone working with a Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Unfortunately, the Perceptive Media radioplay does quite a lot of heavy lifting – including Web Audio API and performing real-time object-based processing (putting a load of reverb on the text-to-voice synth) – which requires a good quality browser such as Chrome and a decent strength computer.

This kind of processing power is sadly not available in small things and – after testing Breaking Out on Android/iOS mobile devices, Netbooks, Chromebooks and an array of Raspberry Pi – we decided to build a compact Mini-ITX system (a 7″ PC) to power the Perceptive Radio. Using a Beaglebone board for the analogue electronics hub, we had a slightly larger than desired technical solution with enough power to process Breaking Out and analogue inputs comfortably.

The Object

The Radio object itself needed to accommodate a 7″ PC system, sensitive analogue electronics sensors and have capacity to add further sensors/functions later down the line and – crucially –  look natural in a home. Early thoughts around the box design included a classic boombox-style affair, a tall Cathedral design and a box.

Nintendo Gamecube, a design classic.

All had potential, but were never quite right – all either too bulky, odd or anachronistic. We brought Patrick Fenner on board – an “open source engineer” who makes 2D things 3D – to help “make the box”.

Patrick”s experience and speciality in rapid prototyping with lasercut materials took the direction towards a more Digital Radio design, using finger jointed edges, birch plywood and an acrylic fascia:

Patrick”s final design.

The addition of chrome suitcase corners and a carry handle are there for extra structure support and to enable Ian to carry the box comfortably on his travels to demonstrate it.

The Final Prototype

 

The Perceptive Radio at home
The Perceptive Radio”s innards

Credits

UX Design & Production

Greg Povey, Richard Birkin, James Rice, Mudlark

JS, Analogue Electronics & Technical Approach

Adrian McEwen, MCQN

3D Design & Build

Patrick Fenner, Deferred Procrastination

Producer

Ian Forrester, BBC R&D

Object-Based Audio

Tony Churnside, BBC R&D

Design & Product Consultant

Jasmine Cox, BBC R&D

Fork the code on Github: the Perceptive Radio / Perceptive Media.

Credits
Month Links: April 2013

I always find the introductory spiel to these Month Links posts to be the hardest bit, so I”m just going to leave it as introductory yadda yadda blah blah etc etc and just get on with the URLs that we”re all here for.

So let”s to start with my absolute favourite thing of April, and one of my favourite things so far this year: the News Machine, created by Fabrica for issue 86 of COLORS magazine.


News Machine, by Fabrica for COLORS #86.

- The News Machine is a Heath Robinson-esque communications machine that mangles, interprets and republishes tweets – mimicking the information/misinformation prevalent in the 24-hour churn of news and online speculation. It”s Chinese whispers in the Chinese room. Read Dan Hill”s good and typically long post about its genesis.

- More interpretations of “what the heck is going on?” come in the form of ambient beeps as Bitcoin transactions are made. Listen To BitCoin is going to be an incredible Merzbow piece when the crash comes.

- An enjoyable read on the absolutely, horrifically abysmal movie adaptation of Super Mario Bros. (1993), demonstrating Hollywood”s general contempt for audiences” intellect and failure to grasp the difference between game story and movie narrative. Via Dan Williams” tumblr which is full of brilliant things to read. Follow it.


Playful 2013

We interrupt this blog post for a quick word from our sponsors (us).

Tickets for – our annual shindig about games, design, interaction and everything that comes from playing about — and flying off the virtual shelves.

Come along, it”d be absolutely lovely to see you.

- Jenny Odell documented the manufacturing origin of every single item she used/wore in one day. The banality of globalisation is mind-boggling, fascinating and – especially in the light of the horrific Bangladeshi clothes factory collapse – so cheap.

- GDC”s final ever game design challenge was based on “the last game that humanity will ever play“. A pretty bold and borderline-nauseating brief that would send many people under, but Jason Rohrer – creator of Sleep Is Death – designed a game made of titanium and not to be played for another 2,000 years. Then buried it. You should read a quick but .

-  Russell wrote an excellent post – to join his tiny mountain of excellent posts – about what it actually means to work in the Government Digital Service (GDS). The story of GDS is hugely important, and based on a radical ambition to completely reshape how citizens access government services, how civil servants can communicate, and freeing people up to be better at what they do.


Adventure Time.

David O”Reilly“s episode of Adventure Time, “A Glitch Is A Glitch“, was absolutely head-buggeringly superb taking in a variety of animation styles, 3D and 8bit glitch graphics. It keeps popping up on the web, but Cartoon Network are good at whack-a-mole. Keep a watch out for it, but look at these beautiful stills from the episode in the meantime and read the AV Club review.

- At last week”s Do Lectures - an inspiration creative retreat in Wales that I”d love to attend one day – they set a new challenge. Instead of just hosting talks this year, they made attendees Do Something themselves, to make a quick start-up-able idea. John Willshire and chums created Doobox - “an outdoor adventure mission kit for kids aged 6 to 11 yrs” that”s delivered right to your door.

- In the spirit of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and Typing of the Dead, Notch has created Drop – a typing skills-based game. It feels a bit like Superhexagon, and is painfully compelling.

Hyperlapse

- Teehan Lax labs have created an interactive Google Street View-based timelapse movie. It”s fun and you can pretend that you are NRK1 by making your own.

- Campaigning through retro sports data visualisations of ice hockey, the culmination of a two or three year labour of love, that . John K. Sampson tries to get Reggie Leach inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

AND FINALLY

- Sims on Instagram

- Obligatory James Bridle things: Quietweet (mutes #, @, URLs) and Dragons (replaces Markets with Dragons in web text).

- to teach behavioural ecology and Game Theory – “to win at some games, cooperation is better than competition.

- No budget, a single blue room and a shedload of LARPing, How We Made Knightmare.

- .

- Soundtrack to April: , , .