July 7, 2015

A Guy, a Zombie And a Dog Using Unity3D And Microsoft Kinect

I promised we would release another Kinect video this week, we just needed a lil more time to work on stuff. If you remember my previous post on the matter, I mentioned this is just a side-project whose potential we are actually still exploring.
It does look promising, and yes, it does look fun (as you probably already guessed, “fun” is a big part of our work routine, but not everything’s always as fun as this mind you!).

Ok I know what you’re about to say, “dude you’re kicking a poor dog :/ ” WELL, first of all, it’s a coyote not a dog – despite what the title of the post says. Second, come on it’s just a demo, no real coyotes (or dogs) were hurt in the making of this demo, I promise.

By now, the system can recognize 2 avatars without problems, and they can interact between each other (material for another video wink wink) and interact with stuff on the background, like our poor coyote. The second guy in the demo is actually a zombie because we felt like adding some spice to the whole thing.

I’ll leave it to you to imagine practical uses for this, even though I’ll be sure to provide ample examples when all this will get a lot more tuned and finalized.

Some due credits, on the left our CEO Francesco Marcantoni, on the right our CTO Francesco Gallorini.

6 Points To Make People Totally Interested In What You Do

6 Points To Make People Totally Interested In What You Do

Wow what a week!

Since last week’s post about our Kinect experiment with Unity3D it’s been a constant buzz about that video, and how we did that, and what are our plans for the future. I confess I expected a general interest to grow around that, but not this awesome feedback, so first of all I want to thank every person who took the time to take a look at our post/video, much appreciated!

This episode gave me inspiration to write this blog post, which is surely less aimed to make you go “wow” (I am sorry guys, but stay tuned next week, the 3D fairies might have whispered me about new incoming experiments coming out, who knows…) and more to make you aware of what – I think – is needed to interest people in what you do in first place.

From my very personal experience, it comes down to one simple rule:

Keep in the loop

What does it mean? Well, a lot of things, actually.

First of all, whatever is your niche of interest (new technologies, in our case):

1. Be Curious

Without curiosity, you have no reason to push through. You’ll be happy with what you have, with no desire to advance, to go one step forward.

2. Keep Yourself Up to Date

Especially if you are in technology as we are, you really have to take all the necessary steps to be always up to date with relevant breakthroughs and news. In our Kinect example, it was thanks to our CEO that we started to experiment with this kind of technology. He follows industry blogs (and mind you, we are also late in that!) and act accordingly if something strikes him.

3. Keep Yourself Knowledgeable

Being up to date doesn’t mean you’ll always know what the news are talking about. If you don’t, read more. Guides, tutorials, HowTo’s, anything that helps you understand something you have no – or very little – knowledge about. That’s the only way not to stay behind, and it’s true in any business.

4. Be Creative

Even if you’re the best at your job and you know everything coming out in your market, you can’t simply do what everyone does and hope you’ll be more successful.

You will have to think different (obvious cite). If you put your own personal touch in what you do, even if it’s something not entirely new, you have much better chances of success than if you just copy others and hope to have more luck. That won’t break through in 99% of the times, trust me.

5. Dare

Simply put, if you don’t dare, you won’t go far. Going back to our Kinect video, we knew it wasn’t mature enough to be totally cool, but we chose to dare, and post some news anyway. It paid back.

When you’re not sure if what you’re doing is ok or not, my personal suggestion is: just do it. Of course not if you have STRONG doubts, but if it’s just a feeling, well, risk it. Without risks, there’s no reward, remember.

6. Build An Awesome Team

I already wrote about this, and it’s something I strongly believe in. In my opinion you can’t realistically hope to be great alone. Sure, it happens, but it’s not the normal way, it’s something extraordinary. A team will help you achieve success, and will cheer with you when you reach it, so it’s a win-win situation.

Some of this will sound pretty “duh” to you, but I think it’s important to have a clear mind before even thinking how to realize something cool, to be part of something truly important, and this is what came to my mind when I really thought about what’s behind what we do, what each member of our team believes in.

What are you doing to make people totally interested in what you do?

Unity3D And Microsoft Kinect? Hell Yeah!

It all started with an email that I – naturally – ignored from my CEO, saying he was fiddling with unofficial MacOS X drivers for the Kinect ’cause he saw some post around and he was all hyped up.

Of course after a few minutes there was some photo on his Facebook page about him going to buy a Kinect (before even having the drivers up and running, I add).

I didn’t give much importance to it until I came to work the next day to find our CTO dancing and jumping like he was on drugs.

Seeing a Kinect pointed directly to him made me realize he hadn’t just lost his mind.

So where’s Unity3D in all this?

Take a look at the video and tell me what do you think:

Of course the drivers-fiddling doesn’t make it a mainstream solution, but there are many uses for something like this, from motion capture to museums/installations/public exhibitions and whatnot. And drivers are getting better and better, and let’s not forget, it’s all completely legal (hey I wouldn’t be posting this otherwise).

The Big Videogames Shift: From Nerd to Cool

The Big Videogames Shift: From Nerd to Cool

I don’t watch much TV, but sometimes I do, and I can’t help but notice some of the latest videogames commercials floating around.

As an old gamer – been into videogames since like 25 years or so, when I was a small kid – I really can notice the big shift that has taken place, almost silently, in the videogames market.

A change so big that sometimes I am surprised by it myself, especially when poked by smart posts that make me aware of something my subconscious was very well aware of.

The past: a brief story

Not much of a story, rather a couple of thoughts.

If you remember the old videogames of the 80s, you have this classic image of the kid playing Super Wonder Boy in a bar or videogames saloon, with dozens and dozens of people around him playing other games, and perhaps some of his friends watching him and cheering at a boss kill or secretly wishing he’d be done soon.

Spending a whole day playing videogames wasn’t exactly a way to become popular at school. Videogaming was more like a nerd-ish activity.

This was worsened by the advent of home systems (my first one was the glorious Vic20, but I am divagating), namely Nintendo (with the classic 8-bit system) and Sega (with its Master System).

The classic stereotype of the kid/young adult spending hours home playing videogames alone rather than going out to hit on chicks started to take shape more and more firmly in the collective’s minds. You would get this idea of the 16 years old teenager, glasses, maybe a bit smelly as well, playing videogames alone or with his lame friends while the football captain mocked all of them as he was being hit on by a group of hot girls. Yeah you’ve seen lots of movies with this same scene, I am sure.

The “cool kids” didn’t play videogames, only the lame ones did. And admitting you were a player at all was kind of a bold statement.

Videogames = BAD

You don’t really have to go back in time a lot to find this kind of behavior though. Think about the birth of MMORPGs: since Ultima online onward, people spend hours and hours playing games rather than doing other, more “social” activities (I know MMORPGs can be social too, but follow me here).

It’s so bad it also hit the news about a possible discrimination cause in work places (can you believe it?).

Overall, the message they want to give out to us is: Videogames are BAD! They are violent, they inspire murderous intents and they can lead to violent acts.

At least, ’til now.

Err wait, Videogames = $$$

Scrap that. Videogames are GOOD!

Yes good for the pockets of their producers.

Took them quite a while to admit videogames are indeed a good thing uh? And this shift is in front of our eyes, every day.

Just take a quick look at this:

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What a nice group of good-looking friends having some harmless fun!

But hey this can be just accidental uh? Let’s see:

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Hah, twice in a row. Ok something’s happening.

What’s happening is, game developers/producers switched from the nerd model to the family model. The reasons are kinda obvious:

  • No one has to be ashamed of playing videogames anymore. It’s fun for the family, it’s fun for the friends, so you’re naturally encouraged to buy more games of this kind
  • The “nerd living in the basement” paradigm is shattered: look at those WIDE areas, full of light and joy: playing makes you happy!
  • You need 4 controllers. To be exact: you need to buy 4 controllers
  • Some of these games are even educational. Think about Wii Fit: every member of your family/group can have a profile and you can all train together. Wewt!

I am sure I could go on for a while, but you get the point, and I am actually am not even talking by advergames – those games used by brands for the specific purpose of getting you more aware of a particular product or service, while entertaining you and actively engaging with you.

For the first time, brands are encouraging you to come out and admit that “yes, I play videogames and I am happy with it!”. That’s an awesome achievement, despite videogames being so different from what they used to be.

I admit I am not a big fan of this new kind of “party games” (Metal Slug for the win), and since I am an avid World of Warcraft gamer I perfectly fall in the “sad nerd living in the basement and playing alone ’til 3am” stereotype, but I can’t fail to notice this HUGE shift that’s been happening in front of our eyes.

Are you a videogamer? And most importantly, does it make you happy?