Wednesday, January 31, 2007

HKU projects on parade

Last week I visited the HKU, a college, where they have a multimedia department of arts, media and technology (in Dutch abbreviated to KMT). It is in The Netherlands one of the oldest colleges where they started to teach new media. In fact it was the first college where you could get a master degree in multimedia. In order to set up this master, the college collaborated with the university of Southampton in the UK and the university of the Balearics in Spain. As the department is located in the Broadcast City NL, Hilversum, it has yielded an intimate relationship between the RTV industry and the department. This long tradition in multimedia has still its effect on the present generation.

Once a year the department has a show of projects presented by the graduates to be. The students of the fourth year show their (finished) projects to other students, parents, instructors, companies and Vips. I heard about the projects’ day by accident by Paul van Zoggel and as I like this kind of inspection, which looks very much like a judging multimedia entries in the, World Summit Award and the TTA. You look around and start comparing with what you have seen and try to distil trends.

The students can select an assignment from a company or institute or start a free assignment. The assignments come from foundations and associations, but also from television producers. So I saw an authoring package for radio plays, Soundsnacks; blind people can now make their own radio play with all kind of sound effects. Of course there are already many authoring packages for video, this authoring package for the blind is very sympathetic. And there was also an internet sequel site to a television program on healthy food with games and information. I would like to go into more detail about three projects. And I should make clear that I do not want to short-change the other projects; once KMT have been finished they are professional products.

The projects that struck me most were the surrogate cow for the Institute of Veterinary Research. This institute is looking for new ways of teaching students the inside of the pelvic cavity of a cow without the use of living animals. Veterinarians are trained to put their hand into the pelvic cavity of a cow (see photograph, copyright AD) and feel what the condition of the cow is, for example just before she is giving birth; from the outside it looks like fumbling. But by having a surrogate cow linked by sensors, one can show on screen what a student is doing. The main target of the project was to find a way to register tactile information, which can be unlocked at any time. It is a research project and a documented proof of concept. The project looks like an export product and a winner: it is practical; it is about cows, which are an icon for Holland, besides tulips.

Another project was Wearables about smart textile and shoes. A group of KMT students worked together with students of the fashion department. They experimented with smart textile using sensors, wifi and wearable computing. In the textile they used threads which could light up to any pattern; in this way someone wearing a jacket for example send his/her insignia to some friend, walking the same boulevard. For me it is first smart clothing application I have seen so far. Linked to this project was an interesting prototype of healthy kids’ shoes; not healthy in the sense of proper fitting, but in the sense of intended for health of the wearer. These days it is difficult to get kinds to walk. In order to stimulate kids to do so, on the shoes they wear led lights flash up and the further they walk the more colour leds are shown. So instant gratification for walking. This could be a nice concept to link to the Nokia game project Sneakers.

The third project is the Entertaible (see photographs, copyright Philips). The concept is a tabletop gaming platform that marries traditional multi-player board and computer games in a uniquely simple and intuitive way. Entertaible comprises a 32-inch horizontal LCD, sophisticated touch screen-based multi-object position detection, and all supporting control electronics. It allows the players to engage in a new class of electronic games which combines the features of computer gaming, such as dynamic playing fields and gaming levels, with the social interaction and tangible playing pieces, such as pawns and dies, of traditional board games. Initially targeting social gaming away from home in locations such as pubs, bars, hotels or restaurants, Entertaible has the potential to evolve into a gaming platform for the consumer market. The students developed a game for this device, Shadow Mansion that combines real-time gameplay with turn-based elements. Players have individual moments of exploration mixed with short action games that have multiple players. The concept of the Entertaible is not really new as I have seen precursors at Ars Electronica and at Red Bull bar in Salzburg, but now Philips domesticates the concept.

Tomorrow I will be in Norway and stay with a former student of the HKU, but not from the KMT department, Jet Steverink, and her friend. She landed a job with a Norwegian ad company and has been awarded the project Sailing Canvas for the program of the European Capital of Culture Stavanger 2008.

Blog Posting Number: 650

Tags: games, smart textile, simulation

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