Nov 172008

Another selection of my items cross-posted from another of my original blogs, lamp watercooler.

The Ulitmate Mashup Launches – Sport, MMOG & Social Virtual World – 16 Oct 08

Football Superstars is the world’s first Virtual Football World. An entire online virtual world designed by football fans exclusively for football fans, where you can enjoy a massively multiplayer experience on your PC.

A service that I have been keeping an eye on because of it’s skill in combining passionate sporting fan behaviour with sticky gaming and persistent virtual worlds is Football Superstars. As well as the EA sports game type component there is the ubiquitous inworld micro-economy, buying virtual sporting goods ala Second Life and it has enormous potential for advergaming, cross branding, sponsorship and of course cross-reality (real footy alongside virtual – and combined leader boards etc:). I was one of the ones on the beta group and a few days after launch, there are 3000 registering every day with 100 000 already using it. This has been in the planning stages for 4 years and the team of 80 developers are about to make a big splash methinks! From the UK Telegraph

Football Superstars is a cross between Second Life, the virtual world game, and traditional football games such as Championship Manager and the Fifa football series.

Players can download the game and develop their football skills before participating in full 11-a-side games and, if they become sufficiently skilled, being picked for representative games and eventually international tournaments.

Off the pitch, players will be able to socialise and spend their wages in a virtual world of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops.

The Nottingham-based startup, has invested more than £5m over two years in creating Football Superstars with a team of 80 programmers.

Although the game is free to play, players will also be encouraged to spend real money on virtual clothes, boots and cars.

All the players on the pitch will be controlled by real players and they will be able to call to one another in real time using headsets and using 3D sound technology.

An unlimited number will be able to play at any one time.

The game will be another addition to the profitable Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) market. World of Warcraft, a fantasy virtual game, is the most popular and has almost 11 million paying players worldwide.

More than 100,000 people have registered and the company yesterday claimed that new registrations were running at more than 3,000 a day.

Games such as FIFA 09, produced by Electronic Arts, have recently introduced online elements that allow players on opposite sides of the world to compete against one another.

iPhone as Serious Musical Instrument? – 7 Nov 2008

There have been a few iPhone apps that suggest where things are heading, not necessarily with the iPhone as musical instrument (it is still a small toy) but with musical instruments of the future. The multi touch, inertia driven interface at larger scale is going to be very interesting as well as the proximity and connected element to those around you. I have been using toys like the realistic guitar and various drum machines and percussion effects for over a year now, but do like the new crop of instruments such as the free uFlute and the Ocarina from Smule. The video below shows the ocarina being used in ensemble mode, I am still learning the key combinations to get a decent range on it, but it is starting to feel, musical! Back to my ‘non virtual’ harp, soprano sax, guitars, aftertouch keyboard midi controllers, clarinet etc: yes the real ones!

I must say though one of the fantastic features of Ocarina though is the global view ‘lurk’ mode. When I activated this it started to feel a little like the opening of the film contact – a distant globe rotates and around it hovers music from individual players (in countries around the world) who are using the Ocarina in real time, and given the dreamy, reverberant sound it began to feel like humanities call out into the void…quite special. The video I did above captures a sense of it and it reminds me forcibly of Twittervision and the like.

Ocarina is the first true musical instrument created for the iPhone. Both experts and beginners will be amazed by this innovative player. Ocarina is sensitive to your breath, touch and movements, making it even more versatile than the original. Unlike other musical applications, there are no pre-compiled riffs so musicians will find unlimited opportunities for self-expression. Advanced options allow you to choose between diatonic, minor and harmonic scales. Or channel your favorite video game adventurer with Smule’s Zeldarian mode.

Also, like most Smule products, Ocarina is a social application. Tap on the globe icon and you will see and hear other Ocarina players throughout the world. The globe view will highlight the source of the music. Rate your favorite performances so that others may benefit from your judgment. Name your Ocarina if you want listeners around the world to identify your performances. With this robust application beautiful music is created, appreciated and shared.

Japanese Street Ads Detect You – 26 Oct 2008

A bit Minority Report Advertising beta 0.9a – Using motion detection on the street in Tokyo to advertise a Swedish Reality TV program called Big in Japan. I love the idea that your motion past a full length ad hoarding causes the image to come to life (well it starts flashing cameras and makes you the star) but that incessant screaming – please! No! It wasn’t clear if actual pictures are taken of the unsuspecting pedestrians, but heh it doesn’t really matter – they were famous for 5 seconds at the local bus shelter.

These billboards are equipped with motion detectors and speakers. As people go by they set off crazy japanese fans, cheering and taking pictures of them.

Ad supported A-list Web Programming at NBC – 9 Oct 2008

NBC have taken a bold step in making it clear that it is ramping up quality programming exclusively for the web reported by AdAge. Although the episodes are in the 4-5 minute range they will have high production values as if made for prime time TV. The whole initiative is seeking key advertisers to be there at the outset to fund some of the costs. From the article…

Big-name talent
Brent Weinstein, CEO of 60 Frames Entertainment, said having more big-name talent attached to more web-based projects has enhanced the appeal of these shows to advertisers. “Given the choice between really good content and really bad or average content, more often than not, consumers are choosing the good. And advertisers are learning it’s a more important way to reach their intended consumers,” he said. Added Mr. Death ( VP, NBC Universal Digital Studio): “Perhaps 12 months ago, A-list talent wouldn’t jump into anything in terms of a web series. But now it’s OK, and in fact they’re coming to us with ideas and projects.”

and it seems like they are attracting big names in heritage media circles pulling top script writers into this new medium which can only be a good thing as in truth the further we move from wannabees or web designers writing stories for the web the better – now onto games 🙂

But unlike a lot of web-based TV shows,’s offerings use name actors and TV-quality production values. The lineup, co-produced with 60 Frames Entertainment, includes everything from reality competition series to scripted dramas from high-profile writers such as “The Bourne Ultimatum” scribe Scott Burns (comedic drama “Love at First Sight & Other Dangers”) “Oz” creator Tom Fontana (crime drama “Men With Guns: The Assassins”) and “Big Fish” screenwriter John August (quirky comedy “The Remnants”).

LOST Extends Virtually into Second Life – 24 Sept 2008


There have been a few TV shows that have offered new and immersive experiences into collaborative virtual worlds notably MTV with Laguna Beach, The Hills, Pimp My Ride and others into as well as CSI and BigBrother (that I wrote about 2 years ago) into Second Life – and lots more. The latest entrant looks far more suited as a match for Second Life, as it more naturally reflects the story environment – being a rather deserted, desert island.

As it says in the video about this more experiential extension to LOST – “explore the island by yourself” – “or with other fans” – “find secret places” – “live like a lostie” – “or help the dharma initiative” etc etc: Couldn’t see a lot of story in this build so I suspect created by a small peripheral team?

More info at SL Lost.

Apr 192007

A great 3rd day at Milia and a much broader spectrum of issues discussed around the many Milia halls. It started with the world’s most advanced broadband nation with Dr. Hyun-Oh Yoo giving us a rare insight into the worlds most culturally integrated social network – Cyworld in South Korea. This was the first time he had shared some of this information with a European audience (almost dwarfing the impact from and Asian perspective, Peter Li’s IPTV talk later in the day). Fighting through a hay fever Dr. Yoo talked in a gravelly voice about the ubiquitous infrastructure, and how it allows Cyworld to be accessible across the super-broadband fiber pipes and always-on wireless networks. The figures surrounding the service, particularly penetration make MySpace look like a niche activity, well not quite. But here goes:

20 million subscribers
40% of TOTAL population
96% of 20-29 year olds use Cyworld regularly
20 billion monthly page views and 22 mill monthly unique visitors
$300 000 in sales of digital items daily
100 000 video uploads daily
210 million songs sold, currently 6 mill per month


That last figure makes it second only to iTunes for volume of music sales – who says social networks don’t have business models. Dr Yoo also presented a slide that compared the service to some of our more recognisable web 2.0 brands – it is interesting how Second Life is up there with YouTube and flickr, more so as the Cyworld virtual reality is extremely Habbo in style vs true 3D.


A refreshing follow-up to this talk was an uncomfortably titled “The Future of Interactive TV”. Eloquently steered and captained by Brian Seth-Hurst (who is also the key enabler also for the International Interactive Emmy Awards of course– see later) it became apparent that labelling TV services that have an interactive component as Interactive TV is now too limiting and emphasises TV too much – perhaps if the service ‘€˜only’€™ appeared on the one (TV) screen and all interaction took place there fine, but these are really in the minority and most are via mobile sms, telephony, stretched out across many platforms (TV is a part of the mix) or synchronised with online. There were some great new kid on the block examples of iTV and ones that started to merge media . Kim Lindholm from Motion Avenue in Finland showed something on the edge of my “mixed reality” continuum (a soon to be published post) a game/quiz show from Vietnam that has viewers appear as avatars in a virtual audience who get knocked out if they get answers wrong – of course the audience pays per question. He was followed by the grandfather of iTV Robert Chua who presented a more philosophical view of iTV. He questioned the definition of iTV as a relevant term when the same type of services are controlled by or fed to PC, mobile and TV via broadband pipes. The second panel in this session looked at enablers like Microsoft and OpenTV who themselves appear to be struggling with the melding of broadcast and broadband, games and linear.

Then a day of pitching started. Top and tailed by commercial entities that sandwiched a swathe of public service BBC 360 panels. My LAMP friend and colleague Jackie Turnure was pitching in the most defined session being Cross-Platform Brand Marketing. The three propositions trying to fulful a tight brief from Ogilvy and American Express were in brief terms, 1) an amazing race clone, 2) a chroma key ‘card ride’ and 3) an Alternate Reality Game. Without showing any bias I personally thought the ARG from Jackie the much stronger in terms of reach and originality but more importantly having a story (we shall see tomorrow who won).


These and many of the pitches that followed from the BBC panels seemed very light on narrative and most were function over form, without clearly defined structure or focus. There is a sense that many ad agencies and traditional broadcasters (as I said in the last post) are seeing Emerged Media as a way to allow users to participate, sometimes I feel to the detriment of the actual integrity of the proposition. We may be creating too many empty shells for viewers to fill without really drawing them in first with a great story. Frank Boyd again led key BBC folk though some less than enticing pitches. I thought the first two panels one on 360 docs and the second on 360 participation actually seemed interchangeable. All the doc props involved viewer input and the community ones were themed around documentary topics like the environment. So more blurring of labels as form, function and genre meld.


By the afternoon I was suffering from conference fatique, that moment when panels and panellists start to blur into one another. Luckily the IPTV vs Internet TV was a great idea and Justin Hewlett and others showed off a great cross section of the new walled garden TV, data and telephony services. After a while though all the badly designed interfaces started to blur into each other too. It became apparent in these sessions that penetration for many pockets of services around the world in the 50-100 thousand audience range is still very low and not significant due to two key things:

1 You can get most of the IPTV offerings via traditional TV distribution channels, so nothing really new to entice viewers (it was cited that 50% of subs were actually for the telephony and data elements and not the TV!)
2 The topic of the panel, the wild west internet is now delivering a much broader and compelling range of audio, video content.

The panel topic echoed a talk I gave to an IPTV ‘hyped’ audience in Sydney nearly two years ago (and cited on a few IPTV info sites) – the main premise being, the cats out of the bag, Internet TV (or broadband TV as I called it), the wild west way to get your TV morsels means IPTV may only have another 12 months or so to deliver on its promise, or be gone for good. As mentioned earlier I found Peter Li, the VP from BesTV in China illuminating if only for the stats he presented as context to IPTV potential in China.

CNNIC report for China July 2006 Internet users 130m. 40% growth for past 6 years Broadband users 80m Youth: 18.5 hrs/wek online vs 6.7 hrs/wk on TV Over 220 online video portals, 500 000 clips uploaded daily Concurrancy of viewers watching video online 500 000. ADSL 2.0+ goes to over 10 million users

The keynote of the day, after I managed to rush out and get my glad rags from the dry cleaners, was Jana Bennett and Ashley Highfield. I would like to give this more time and the awards so will leave that until the next post. For now though a taster shot of the BBC keynoters.


I was lucky to be a judge again at the Interactive International Emmy Awards and invited to the splendid evening session at the Carlton Ballroom. Only three awards up for grabs (and a special prize this year to BskyB -€“ well done). The event was excellently organised in the tradition of all the A-list ceremonies and I was lucky to be on one of the front tables, with the interactive programme folk. Also managed to grab a chat with Phil Rosedale who leads Linden Lab (Second Life) in the pre-award cocktails, which was a treat for me 😉


To the awards. Great to see the BBC finally win for their BBCi all emcompassing eTV and 24/7 service (I remember the days when it was called Digital Text – but wont go there now!). Great to see my old cohorts Nick Cohen and Phil Jay with big grins on their faces for the rest of the evening. Canada took the second award, Interactive Channel, for BITE Television a slightly anarchistic, irrelevant channel. The most exciting award of the evening though for me was the interactive programme award and I was siting between two of the nominees on a distinctly Canadian table 8. Three of the four nominees were Canadian! But I had Aaron from the Zimmer Twins on one side and Patrick Crowe from Regenesis on the other (Zinc Roe Design and Xenophile respective companies) – and it was a surprise to all, that they both won! Yes a two-way tie and a table creaking later with the weight of two Emmys 😉 As one would expect both teams were delighted and it was wonderful both for Canada (and the Bell fund that partly helped Regenesis) but also for the interactive form as both services are innovative and pushing the envelope. But will write more later (congrats to Evan Jones and Tony Walsh also who were major parts of Regensis) – for now a picture I took of the double winners. A busy and even more exciting day tomorrow (well actually today now as I finish this).

© Gary Hayes 2007

Nov 132005

Against all other research it seems that Nielsen and Nickelodeon have managed to pull out of the bag some figures (noted by the Progress Report) that shows kids are actually watching ‘more‘, yes more TV now than at anytime in the last 20 years! Excuse me while I dip my index finger and thumb in some salt 😉

Sixty nine percent of kids 6-14 have TVs in their bedrooms, according to the network’s “U.S. Multicultural Kids Study 2005.” That’s compared to 49% who have videogame systems in their bedrooms, 46% who have VCRs, 37% who have DVD players, 35% who have cable or satellite TV service, 24% who have PCs and 18% who have Internet access.
“Kids rooms are becoming kind of like mini-media centers,” said Nick’s Senior VP of Audience Research Ron Geraci.
The high percentage of TVs in kids bedrooms comes at a time when Nielsen is reporting the highest levels of TV viewing among kids in more than 20 years. Through Oct. 9, 2005, kids aged 6-11 watched 23 hours and 3 minutes a week, according to Nielsen. That’s compared to 21 hours and 18 minutes in 1992.

OK so what we have here is kids coming into their rooms. First thing they do is switch on the TV and then go and do something else. The TV I suggest is the new radio, as ambient as an air-conditioner, and occassionally glanced at across the room then the teenagers get back to IM, SMS, blogging, broadband browsing and so on. Just a hunch. Now could this be the new way Nielsen are measuring TV watching, with the wonderful people meters? If the TV is on then of course people are staring intently at the screen absorbing all those ads. Wired reported back in April that there were big changes happening in TV measurement circles.

Nielsen plays a unique, but hugely important, role in the broadcast media business. Advertisers decide where to spend money by figuring out which groups of people are watching which shows. For example, beer companies and carmakers salivate over young men in their 20s and 30s. These advertisers use the Nielsen service to find the shows that attract this group. Likewise, TV programming executives get paid, promoted or fired based in large part on how their shows fare in the Nielsen ratings. The New York company holds tremendous power.

and we all know what power does to people don’t we.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005