Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Sketch Nation Shooter app for the iPhone

Engineous Games, an iPhone app developer, has announced that more than 800 games have been created using its Sketch Nation Shooter app. This has taken place in two weeks since the 99-cent application was uploaded on the iTunes store.

The app operates by allowing users to create their own shoot 'em ups by drawing enemies, backgrounds and ships on a piece of paper, then photographing them using their iPhone's camera. This are then imported and form the game. Moreover, the user-made gamess can be downloaded within the application (similar to LittleBigPlanet) and also uploaded on Facebook walls.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

New mobile application platform to be developed in Japan

It has recently been announced that a consortium of six Japanese mobile companies has been created with the aim of producing its own mobile application platform. This is scheduled for launch towards late 2012.

While this does not sound like exciting news, the partners, NTT DOCOMO, Renesas, Fujitsu, NEC, Panasonic and Sharp, are promising a very engaging platform which will be omptimsed to support high-quality video and 3D graphics processing. It is also promised to work across devices powered by either the Symbian or Linux OS. Android support is also under consideration. Finally, the platform will be made available outside of Japan too.

This is a very interesting initiative, which, while a long tima away could have a significant impact in the world of mobile app development. I will post more news on this in the coming months.

Project Natal for mobile devices?

According to Mobile Entertainment, researchers at the University of Tokyo have been working on a gesture-based mobile user interface that operartes in a very similar way to Microsoft's awaited Project Natal for Xbox 360.

This is based on traditional computer vision concepts, as developed by the Ishikawa-Komuro Lab. A camera attachment is employed to track the motion of a user's finger. This is then translated into on-screen commands.

While this is just a research project at the moment, it will be interesting to see whether the hype of Project Natal catches on in the mobile area as well. Evidence such as this definitely suggest it.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

1.5 million downloads for Layar, possible paid layers

The popular augmented reality app Layar has now been downloaded more than 1.5 million times for iPhone and Android, as was recently announced. At the moment more than 500 layers for the app have been published. Additionally 2,000 more are in development, with hints for paid layers to come.

Some of the interesting interesting examples demoed alongside these announcements were the Beatles AR tour of London, a game called Jewel Collector and a branded Ubisoft campaign for Splinter Cell. The latter involved chasing virtual characters round a real-world city.

It's great to see Layar, one of the best representations of AR on mobiles going from strength to strength, especially after a rocky 2010 start (where the application was pulled from the iTunes store for weeks in order for bugs to be fixed).

Monday, 12 April 2010

Neurophone, combining an EEG BCI with an iPhone

Researchers from Dartmouth College have created a new concept, aptly called Neurophone, which allows users to select and dial a contact's phone number just by thinking about it.

The device uses neural signals detected by the popular Emotiv brain-computer interface device (about which I have blogged before) to control an iPhone. At the moment, as evidenced in the video below, when the user sees the contact he/she want to call, a specific signature of brain activity triggers the system, which then automatically tells the iPhone to dial that person.

The researchers highlight how much more silent an approach like this is compared to voice calling or effortless compared to using traditional touchpad interaction. They also intend to extend this concept of using a BCI for interaction to other areas of mobile phone usage.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Physical gaming accessory for the iPhone

It appears Apple is planning to make a physical gaming accessory for the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. This is borne out of the news that a new patent application by the company has been made recently.

The patent shows several physical devices, which act as cases for portable electronic devices such as an iPhone for example. These have physical buttons and D-pads. There is even one design that looks just like a Nintendo DS where the iPhone acts as one of two screens.

As this is just a patent filing, it will be intriguing if these ideas ever see the light of day commercially. The explosion of mobile gaming the iPhone has finally brought on however appears to have created a new market and Apple seems to be keen on capitalizing on it.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Member of International Program Commitee for IADIS WEB3DW 2010

I have been invited to be a member of the International Program Committee for the IADIS WEB3DW 2010 conference (Web Virtual Reality and Three-Dimensional Worlds). The conference addresses important topics of today like education, health, corporate image and make customers feel at home at your internet site. Virtual reality already proved its superiority in involving the user. Indeed, medical, defense, architecture and even the car industry managed to increase learning effects and sensation.

It takes place in Freiburg, Germany in late July and is part of the larger IADIS MCCSIS conference (Multi-Conference in Computer Science Information Systems). For more information about the conference please check here.

TIGA outlines suggestions for games development education

I've recently had the chance to sit through a talk by Richard Wilson the CEO of TIGA at the Game-Based Learning 2010 event. TIGA is an association representing the UK games industry. Richard outlined a lot of the challenges faced by the domestic sector and welcomed a recent budget tax-relief for games industry by the current government (and backed by the other two major parties).

It is interesting to also read TIGA's thoughts on educational reforms to support the games development industry in the UK. These include the increase of expenditure in higher education, support of secondments for academics in games companies and the reduction of fees for priority undergrads.

You can read all of these in more detail here.

BBC creates Dr Who adventure game

It was recently announced that the BBC is in collaboration with UK studio Sumo Digital and famous adventure games auteur Charles Cecil (of Broken Sword fame). This is to create the Doctor Who: The Adventure Games title, a brand new, episodic PC/Mac title that will be available for free.

Screenshots have also been released (see one above) and they do indeed look amazing. This is a great concept (if they get it right!), particularly considering the adventure game format they've decided to go for. Charles Cecil has an impressive track record so I am eagerly awaiting these, the promise is that they will address a diverse audience with them, very much like the TV show.

3D Studio Max 2011 to ship with Cityscape

Autodesk has very recently announced the release of 3ds Max 2011. In terms of urban modelling, a very interesing development regarding the new version of the acclaimed modelling package is the fact that it will be bundled with a promo of PixelActive's Cityscape.

I've blogged about Cityscape before, which at the moment is one of the leading tools in automatic/semi-automatic virtual city creation. Interestingly, this is the first time Max comes out of the box with any scripts for automatic 3D city creation. This showcases the great need for 3D urban models today and the recognition that semi-automatic creation of these is a major task. Despite of the fact that the Cityscape tool will be a scaled down version of the professional one it will still be great to see it incorporated.

Read more about this here.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

New faster methods to automatically create 3D virtual cities

The growing demand for three-dimensional city models (virtual tours, urban developments, disaster planning amongst other areas) has urged Shi Pu and Sander Oude Elberink of the University of Twente to develop a method to largely automate this process, using topographic information in combination with laser measurement data.
This involves, to begin with, the intelligent use of terrestrial laser scanners which project laser beams onto buildings from the ground and make recordings of them. These have been matched with a databank containing the most important characteristics of a building, such as doors, walls and window bays allowing an application to compare the measurement data with the known characteristics of buildings and thus attempting to identify what each element is. Two-dimensional topographic information from the land registry was also thrown into the mix to create three-dimensional models. It should also be noted that the databank 'learns' more each time information is entered manually.

Sander Oude Elberink on the hand made use of plane laser data together with two-dimensional topographic information from the land registry in his research. This method is more accurate for images from above because of the nature of the data, while Pu's method is more accurate for images from street level. However these two models can be easily combined producing a very interesting take in solving a problem that has persisted for awhile now.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

iPhone 4G?

Rumours are starting to surface about Apple releasing the fourth version of their flagship mobile device sometime this summer. Stressing that these are merely rumours at the moment, the device is to be announced on June 22nd and is set to be named the iPhone HD.

This is due to its new display screen (some sources state a 960x640 display, a big change from the existing 320x480, which at the moment is very low compared to Windows Phone competitors). Another persisting rumour is a front facing camera for the device. As a big iPhone 3GS admirer it will be interesting to see if Apple has any more surpises in store for us with their new device...