Website Navigation Via Camera Tracking


The website of Publicis & Hal Riney uses camera-tracking in Flash for the navigation – the first website to use it as far as I know.

Although described by a Twitterer as “Minority Report-like controls” (can we stop using that as the yardstick please!), it’s really more like the method used in the EyeToy Play.

I want to tell you it’s great and I’ll never want to navigate an old-skool website with a mouse again, but it isn’t and I don’t. The disconnect between my image (there in the bottom right) and the things I’m controlling (the arrows in the main part of the screen – you can see one on the right) destroys the most important part of any camera-tracking/multi-touch navigation: Because I’m having to mentally re-map the spacial relationships, the body as the affordance and direct manipulation of camera-based interaction is lost.

Besides, the mouse-based menu is a lot nicer to use and better designed.

They deserve kudos for giving it a go – and probably being the first – and the site itself uses the old ink-in-a-tank technique to great effect. It’s a nice job in Flash, but sadly the camera part is a novelty rather than ground-breaking – I soon went back to the mouse version.

The video loops of the head honchos talking on their mobiles is very cheesy agency style though. I’m pretty sure we’re beyond the time when talking on a mobile signifies you are important. Either that or my 13-year old nephew is running a multi-million dollar business.

[tags]camera tracking, navigation, Flash, Hal Riney, Publicis[/tags]

No Agencies Please, You’re Not Nice


Wandering off from a post by John Hicks about staff photos I ended up on the jobs page of my mates at Poke. They have a good tip for recruitment agencies (I’ve had similar experiences):

Please no agencies.

You’re too expensive. And some of you are really horrible too. We do work with a couple of recruiters, but they’re ones that we’ve grown to like. Not cold-calling, staff-nicking, lying, cheating thugs.

There probably are ways to make us your friends. But if you were any good you’d have figured them out anyway.

Very true.

By the way, I really can recommend working at Poke – I spent a very entertaining couple of weeks there on a project for Yahoo! and they’re lovely folks. If I were to move back to the UK and put up with the wreckage of lifestyle that is living in London, they’d be one of the two places I’d want to work at.

They’re looking for a Senior Project Manager and a Frontend Web Developer at the moment.

[tags]poke, london, agencies, recruitment[/tags]

Parents to be educated about the Interweb


There’s a well-balanced piece from Patrick Wintourin the Guardian today about parents being shown how to protect their children online.

It reports of a government initiative based on a review by Dr Tanya Byron (she works as a consultant in child and adolescent mental health and also presented quite a few programmes for the BBC on the subject).

I’ve only skim-read the main points of the report (which is available for download in full), but it makes interesting reading. The most important aspect is that she goes quite thoroughly through the pros and cons of the use of technologies – from social networks and general internet use to online videogames. It also draws upon a lot of evidence from children themselves.

It’s nice to see Byron is not pedalling the old ‘it rots young minds and they’re all being groomed by pedophiles’ line, by rather she looks at the complexities of the interactions between parents, children, society and technology:

“Ironically parents’ concerns about risk and safety of their children in the streets and outside has driven a generation of children indoors, where it could be argued they are being exposed to a whole new set of risks.”

It’s good to see some of the onus being put back on parents too. The use of these technologies is not inherently better or worse than what children used in previous generations and I’ve lost count of the amount of conversations I’ve had about videogames.

Arguably the use of these technologies are mostly beneficial, especially in the future that children will be growing into. The real problem is that many parents have no idea about how the internet functions, about social spaces online or the culture of videogames and that really needs to change.

It’s good to see this kind of research and well worth a read – it’s well-written too. (There are also quite a few annexed documents about the methodology and brain development research that background the report).

Photo: uncleboatshoes on Flickr

[tags]Tanya Byron, child development, videogames, parenting[/tags]

Playful Measuring Jug


Metric is so passé. Just how much is a hill of beans? I’m not sure, but I know the problems of three little people don’t amount to one.

On the other hand, this very amusing “Domestic Science” measuring jug from Harry White Design will at least measure 100 penne pasta, ten billion grains of icing sugar or half a human brain.

I like things like this that make everyday tasks a bit more playful and pleasurable. Maybe car speedometers should have a scale from zero to “enough CO2 to melt the ice-caps”.

You can buy the jug on Amazon from Fred.

[tags]playful, everyday[/tags].

Photographer’s Rights

Photography Prohibited

I’ve long been uncomfortable and unclear about the law when it comes to taking photos in public places and have read of several situations when ‘security’ or police have prevented or questioned photographers or downright threatened them or made them delete images (the old film cliché of opening the camera back and spooling out the film is no more).

Fortunately, Photojojo have published a guide to photographer’s rights and a link to a handy PDF version. Also links to similar PDFs for the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

During the six and a half years I lived in Sydney I noticed a considerable shift from the happy-go-lucky mythology of Australia to an increasingly controlled environment due to ‘security concerns’. Like many governments, fear was used as a control mechanism and one of the casualties of this was photography.

Sydney councils tried to ban photography on the beaches after a couple of incidents of people photography topless women with cameraphones. It all fed into the moral panic about phones with cameras (most of it completely illogical) and started to clash with the right to take photographs. (In the topless women-on-the-beach incident, the counter argument was that if you went topless on the beach, you could expect to be stared at, but in the case of the guy who took the photos, they were basically voyeuristic close-ups). Sydney beaches – and the people on them – are very photogenic and it’s a classic place to take photos, banning them is absurd and probably illegal.

But there are other odd cases too. Iain wrote about being banned from snapping a sandwich, Southgate just outside Melbourne (every bit as dull as Southgate in the UK) tried to ban tourists taking snaps on the grounds of ‘terrorist threats’. There’s also a blog called Strictly No Photography with photos of places where you’re not allowed to take photos.

For photographers like my friend Ray Lewis, whose particular eye on everyday life I wouldn’t want to see banned, it can be a problem. As it can also be for interactive installations in public places that use cameras.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that photographer’s rights are surprisingly wide-ranging – no wonder paparazzi rarely get arrested. Not that it would happen not being a celeb, but although I wouldn’t want people sticking a lens in my face all the time, I’d put up with it to preserve my right for a security goon not to be able to stick a fist in my face.

(The photo is one I took at Mumbai airport – I wasn’t really sure what I wasn’t allowed to photograph – outside, inside, the gardens, the sign?)

[tags]photography, rights, law, security[/tags]

R.I.P. Leo – 8.30AM, 22.3.2008

Double Leo

Our cat, Leo, who travelled with us all the way from Australia, died this morning having struggled with FIV (the feline version of HIV) for the last year.

For those of you who have never had a pet, this will probably sound ridiculously sentimental. Others will know how much they are loved and treated as much as one of the family as any human. And how heart-wrenching it is when they pass away.

Leo adopted us when we moved into our house in Sydney, having been abandoned by the previous neighbours, and quickly found his way into our hearts. I grew up with cats in the house and have known many, but rarely one with such character and never one that was so sociable. He was never aloof and always wanted to be around people. always sitting on our desks whilst we worked or on the sofa with us in the evening always chatty and purring. He even softened the hearts of even the most die-hard, anti-cat dog lovers.

He was truly one of a kind. For us he has been like a child over the past seven years. We both numb at the loss and sitting here swollen-eyed from all the tears. In some small way I hope that this little post secures his place and memory in the world.

Lastly, thank you to all the people who have cuddled him and looked after him whilst we were away. You all know what a lovely fella he was.

[tags]leo, rip[/tags]

Creative Play helps children’s self-control


There’s an interesting piece about Creative Play on NPR at the moment that looks at a school running the Tools of the Mind programme.

One of the findings of the research is that creative play helps regulate executive function:

Executive function has a number of elements, such as working memory and cognitive flexibility. But perhaps the most important is self-regulation — the ability for kids to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline. Executive function — and its self-regulation element — is important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child’s IQ.

The Tools of the Mind approach helps children move along a continuum “from being regulated by others to engaging in “shared” regulation to eventually becoming “masters of their own behavior.”” A large part of it is about not just going out to play, but rather writing out the plan and presenting what they’re going to do before then acting out the play part.

It’s one more pointer towards the importance and value of play, although it still gets tangled up in issues about media and videogames being ‘obviously bad’ and falls into the “play as progress” rhetoric that Brian Sutton-Smith cast so much doubt upon.

There’s also a related NPR story on play building serious skills that’s worth reading.

(Photo credit: wwworks on Flickr)