Charge your laptop with Omnicharge

I don’t like to work in the office. I prefere being outside where the sun shines. Also I go travelling a lot. Over the years I came up with quite much gear which helps my mobile working lifestyle. This is the first in a series about the stuff which makes travelling outside easier.

use omnicharge to charge your laptop mobile

Yes, you can plug in your Laptop!

Extend your battery life with Omnicharge

Working mobile we run out of battery way to early. While there are many power banks out there the Omnicharge is special. Additionally to standard USB plugs you can plug in your laptop (or other devices) as it features a normal AC/DC Power Outlet giving you juice for 5 extra hours or so.

I don’t own this yet, as it is still a indigogo campaign (only two days left!). But there are many reviews out there saying it is great of even the best gadget of the year.

Before backing I checked out all the options, so a short note on what I am getting.

  • You need the pro version, if you want to plug in „normal“ cables like for you laptop.
  • Before shipping they will ask you
    • if you want the US or EU version
    • if you want the barrel plug or USB-C version.

I will be voting for the USB-C version as I think it is the plug of the future. But the USB-C version has two drawbacks.

    • Loading the Omnicharge takes 4 instead of 2 hours (still quick) as USB-C only supports 15w. And the barrel plug can be updated with an additional perk (OmniPro Upgrade-DC Output) to support also loading Laptops, meaning you don’t need your heavy charger. But this means you will need special cables. I think the USB-C is more universal so I will vote for it.

The USB-C Version will ship in December 2016, while those with the original barrel plug will still ship in October 2016.
Update: It is May 2017 and the Omnicharge now finaly seems to be sent out soon. :-/. An available alterantive would be the Hyperjuice.

Special note: etIf you want to get your own omnicharge and you like me 🙂 you can use the links on this page and I will get some referral refund helping me a bit for my next trip.

Lightpainting und politische Kommunikation

2015 das Jahr des Lichts. Viele Konferenzen nehmen das Thema der Unesco auf. Auch die „International Conference on Communication and Light„.

International conference on Communication and Light

Ihr call for papers hat mich inspiriert Lightpainting unter dem Aspekt der (politischen) Kommunikation zu denken:

Lighting up the darkness, shooting energy balls, growing angel wings, leaving graffiti without trace … With the photo art technique „light painting“ you can create unbelievable images which you can use to communicate ideas in an exceptional way.
When you take a long exposure photo (10s+) in relative darkness you can paint with light like with a brush on canvas. In the session I discuss several topics connected to this technique which results in photos which look like computer generated while only using old photo tricks.
Already Picasso painted with light. Light painting is nothing new. But with the digital photo technology it has become much easier since you do not have to wait till the photos are developed giving you the possibly to correct the setup for your next picture.

Currently a second revolution shakes light painting scene. So far light painter were quite proud that their photos looked like they could only have been created with the use of computers (while actually modifying them in Photoshop and co. is actually frowned upon). But thanks to technical advances and Kickstarter campaigns, computer-controlled lights give the artists entirely new possibilities. With the www.thepixelstick.com you can simply „print“ any graphics in „real“ environments (samples). But do the additional opportunities weigh the loss of a part of the „analog“ touch of light painting?

Roughly 200 visitors of the re:publica 2015 set the light painting world record. www.1000lights.de/rp15

Another focus of the session is light painting and political communication. With the help of thousands of participants the speaker just set the light painting world record at the re:publica conference about digital society. Instantly after being taken the photo went trending on twitter, meaning it was the most talked on topic on twitter in Germany. With light painting you can involve people to paint their messages in thin air. You can draw a political message anywhere without leaving a physical trace. In guerilla lighting art performances this “jester’s license” is used to put a spotlight on neglected urban objects. Dark corners are “illuminated” giving evidence of a different reality.

During the session we discuss various techniques and applications for light painting. But additional to theoretical aspects we will go practical, dim the lights and make some photos ourselves. So bring lights (smart phones will also work). And if we are enough, we might even break the world record.

Update: My paper was accepted. Seems I am going to Portugal.

Meine Lightpaint Webseite: www.1000lights.de

Anti War Games?

There are great anti war films which leave you with the feeling „never again“. But how about games? In all ego shooters I know disabling enemies (by killing them) is the core element and therefore has to be fun. Otherwise the game would not be played and bought. So can anti war games (even ego shooter ones) work?

Yesterday I wrote about a leaked U.S. military video closely resembling the level „Death From Above“ from Call of Duty 4.
There is another game the leaked video reminded me of: It is the free flash game September 12th by newsgaming. In this game you can also bring death from above, in this case to „insurgent looking“ as well as unarmed inhabitants of a middle eastern town. But every time you kill a civilian, others gather to moan him and turn into insurgent themselves. The indirect controls are designed so you can’t only kill the gunners – so the longer you play the higher rises the rate of insurgents.
Coming back to the question „can anti war games work“? September 12th is anti war, but is it a game? You can’t win or loose. It is more an interactive caricature than a game.
September 12th is not fun to play – similar to an anti war movie which is usually not fun to watch. Big budged anti war movies can be commercially sucessfull in a free market, but I don’t see that happening for big budged anti war games.
I have heard a project to make an anti war (or a least war critic) ego shooter. I am thrilled to find out how it will achieve being anti war while being fun to play.

Virtual and real deaths

Wikileaks released a U.S. Military video showing the killing of 16 civilians including two Reuters Photographers. Please note that the video is very disturbing and graphic (link). Why I write on it here? It looks and sounds VERY similar to the Call of Duty level „Death From Above“ (game play video) which made it even more disturbing for me. I thought about why that might be the case.
I think the reason is that I felt guilty that I enjoyed playing the level. Back then I already had a bad feeling noticing the cold blooded commentaries and the unrealistic easy distinction between „good“ and „bad“ fighters as well as neutral civilians. But playing the level still was great fun. And that I felt that fun makes me feel sick now.
It might be interesting to use both videos when discussing media usage with young adults.

Interview on mobile storytelling

„Spielwiese“ is a new format on the German On-3-Radio on innovative digital media. For their second episode they interviewed me about the topic mobile storytelling.

During the interview we played a mission created by teenagers during my latest media education project at the Multikulturellen Jugendzentrum (more about the project).

You can listen to the episode online (its in German).
To play the file either use this direct link or do it the propper way by
  1. clicking here
  2. and then scrolling down to „Komm spiel mit uns“ and pressing „play“ there

The interview is between 29:20 and 35:40.

They also released filmed footage of the interview. But there is not much info in there. Just us playing GPS Mission and occasionally cracking bad jokes.

Amanita Design does it again with "Machinarium"


We at Neodelight were big fans of Samorost by Amanita Design and happy we could feature it on neodelight.com.
So I was excited about their latest game „Machinarium„. And I can say I really, really enjoyed playing it. Can’t remember feeling so moved by a game as during the last screens, when I had freed the robot girlfriend, knowing it would be over soon.
Kudos to for making the game so challenging (riddles) and accessible (one button design, included walk through, Flash) at the same time.
From what I hear sales of Machinarium here in Germany seem to be pretty good. It makes me very happy that Amanita therefore does not only get the critical reception they deserve.
If you are interested in the creation of Machinarium check out Machinarium Deconstructed or this little interview.
Amanita also did a little serious game for BBC called „Questionaut„. Feels good :-).
So guys, keep up the great work! You are an inspiration to many others out there.

Mobile Storytelling

Did you ever stumble on the term „Mobile Storytelling“? It basically refers to storytelling technology that incorporates awareness of locative, spatial and contextual factors in mobile interactive environments. GPS Mission, which I use in my latest project, is an app you can use for mobile storytelling.

If you are interested in the topic www.mobilestorytelling.net offers a comprehensive resource for all things (apps, companies…) connected to it.

Mr. X Mobile

Have you played the classic boardgame Scotland Yard/Mr. X.

A mobile game version is in development by the University of Bonn.
For more info (mostly in German) check out: http://qeevee.com/projects/misterx
The game sounds promising, hope I can test it soon.
Update: I had the possibility in several settings with teenagers and it worked very well. For me the best „spontaneous“ game yet. And it works with Android and on the iPhone.

Creating geotainment with teenagers

At the moment I am working on a pretty exciting project which I got funded by the City of Munich. Based on free www.gps-mission.com. I am enabling educationally disadvantaged teenagers to create, review and play geotainment.

During the two day course two groups of teenagers first scout the area to come up with riddles based on their surroundings. With these each group creates a „GPS Mission“which the other group tests and reviews.

We also discuss basics of game design and storytelling. Goal is not to have bare riddles but to decide on a story which link the places and objectives together. Nice examples groups came up with till now are a suspense secret agent story and a voyage to Harry Potters Hogwarts (with a Bus Stop standing for Platform Nine and Three Quarters).
The kids love that they can use an iPhone to play the mission and are very motivated. The geotainment aspects makes it easier for the kids to be creative as we are working not only in virtual but also real space and they can basically „touch“ the riddles. One challenging aspect of the concept is that I only have a limited amount of iPhones and therefore don’t have a smart phone per kid. In a week I will try the project with 5 kids per iPhone which I think is the upper limit.
I would like to thank some people who helped to get the project to where it is now:
  • Mobile learning expert Chris Nash with whom I had an inspiring discussion in London
  • Marike Schlattmann from Lern-welten is working with me on the project.
  • and last but not least the City of Munich and Netzwerk Inter@ktiv which are open for innovative media education projects.

Update:

You can find a summary of the projekt results here:
http://ulrichtausend.com/2012/gpsmission

"Silver Gaming" in Germany

Videogames are more and more becoming a regular medium. Like older mediums (books, TV) they are increasingly being used by a variety of people (across gender and age barriers) for various different means (e.g. entertainment, learning). As part of this process different specialized markets emerge (this was one of the topics of my diploma thesis).
On the 25th of January 2010 the first congress about gamers exceeding the age of 50 took place in Germany. As project manager for the conference I was very happy we hit a nerve with the topic which we labelled „Silver Gaming“ (we were sold out 🙂 . The next conference will most likely be taking place end of April in Nuremberg.
I especially liked the presentation by Nintendo. They mentioned the pressure of the strong ageing in Japan as a main reason for the development of alternative input methods for their consoles.
Other presentations included:
  • Roland Weiniger (SpieleGilde (GamesGuild) Games Industry Association): Serious Games – A huge growth area for the cultural industry.
  • Prof. Dr. Karl-Werner Jäger (Committee of Standard Practice (ANP) in DIN registered association (e.V)): Standard framework for the development and organization of user interfaces of interactive systems and games
  • Guido Hunke (A.GE Bodensee agency for generational marketing, Ravensburg) and others: Games in the senior and generational marketing area
  • Hermann Beißer (Head of the Käthe-Reichert-Nursing Home Workers‘ Welfare Association (AWO) Nuremberg): Video games in assisted living and nursing homes
  • Prof. Dr. Helmut Herold, Prof. Ethelbert Hörmann, (Ohm-University Nuremberg): genesis – “nuts and bolts “ promotion/advancement with computer games
A first summary of the findings of the congress in German can be found in this press release. A more detailed documentation will be released on the website of the congress in the future.
If you are interested in the topic but Nuremberg is to far, you can meet many of the participants of the conference in the Xing (~German LinkedIn) Silver Gaming group.

Pädi 2009 winners announced

The winners of the 2009 „Pädi“ – the pedagogic interactive awardwere announced. The Website www.kindernetz.de/minitz won the award in gold in the kids category, „Line RiderFreestylefor teenagers.
Other winners includeRhythm Paradise„, „Maus DS – Der mausgeflippte Denkspaßand „Professor Layton and the Curious Village„.

I was happy to be part of thePädi Expert Team“ which took part in the decision making process of the award. There will be an award ceremony on November 12th 14-16 in the Munich Gasteig/Carl-Orff-Saal with approx. 600 guests.

More info on the award (in German)

Der pädagogische Interaktiv-Preis – bundesweit einzigartig in seiner Konzeption – basiert im Unterschied zu vielen anderen Preisen, die entweder auf die künstlerische Komponente, die technischen Details oder die curricularen Lerninhalte Bezug nehmen, zu einem wesentlichen Teil auf praktischen Erfahrungen im Einsatz der multimedialen Produkte.

Mit dem Pädi werden Lern– und Spielprogramme pädagogisch bewertet, die Kinder und Jugendliche in ihrer Freizeit nutzen.

Der Pädi ist einerseits eine Orientierungshilfe im schier undurchdringlichen Dschungel der online- und offline-Angebote für die Heranwachsenden und andererseits eine Auszeichnung für die Hersteller von pädagogisch wertvollen Multimedia-Produkten. Er ist ein Ansporn für ihre Bemühungen, sinnvolle Produkte für Kinder und Jugendliche anzubieten und damit einen Beitrag zur Förderung der Medienkompetenz zu leisten.

You can find more infos on the Pädi and a full list of the winners of this 12th here:
www.sin-net.de/paedi.htm

Gamescom

At the gamescom in Cologne especially the PSP gameInvizimalscaught my eye.
The game allows players to interact with their environment, using the PSP Camera to look for and interact withinvisiblecreatures. It is the most convincing augmented reality game I have seen so far, while they still have problems with the prototype camera they were using at the gamescom.

Remote Control here we go!

Since beginning of May I am working for remote control productions running their research department.

remote control productions is an independent, internationally active production house, with an emphasis on mediation, development and production of entertainment software and research services. With its extensive experience and far-reaching contacts, remote control productions acts as an important interface between developers, publishers, distributors and investors.

It feels great to be here. The general focus of the company is very interesting with projects which try to do something new and/or have an positive impact on society or the video games business in mind. On top of that the company is very much involved in education, the local IGDA chapter, contacts to political institutions and the Verein für Videospielekultur (club for video games culture) on which I blogged here.

One of my main projects is our weekly newsletter which goes like this:

Up-to-Date in 30 minutes
Keeping an eye on current trends and affairs is an imperative for anyone concerned with the video games industry.

With the RCP-Newsletter, remote control productions are offering a compact overview on the latest trends and news as well as concise figures. Whilst we are tracking the international market very closely, our special focus lies on Germany. This not only provides our readers with detailed information about international happenings but also with insights into the German industry and current political developments.

Our newsletter summarises news items from more than 40 different sources, relevant to the games industry, in a short and clearly arranged way, thus giving you the advantage of having all relevant news at hand in only 30 minutes a week.
The sections of the newsletter are covering the following areas:

  1. Current Market Data: Software-Charts with sales figures, global hardware sales and company reports
  2. PC and Videogames: announcements of new titles worldwide on all platforms
  3. Online: news about digital distribution, social networking platforms and online games
  4. Companies: fusions, takeovers, openings, closings and partnerships
  5. Technology and Hardware: firmware updates, new middleware versions, technical innovations, licensing of engines
  6. Politics, Culture, Events and Education: political decisions and amendments, cultural events, changes in education, conferences and events
  7. Feature Recommendations: articles and blogs concerning current topics and trends
  8. Event-Calendar: the most important conferences and events of the next three months

The RCP newsletter is released once per week (48 times per year) in English and German language.

What do you think about it? And if you are interested, please request a free sample copy at my new email address: utausend [) r-control.com 😉

Homework

I occasionally play games with the two nieces of my girlfriend. This got me thinking about how they are affected by playing them. In the case of the two little girls these were Wii Fitt, some horse game and Nintendogs.
I studied Sociology which helps me to self reflect on my gaming habits. But it is interesting how little we (who we design games) actually think what effect these games have on others. My diploma thesis showed that people have very different reasons why they play games and choose the games to play also depending on these reasons.
When I was a kid, I did not play games to learn. I also never played any specific learning game. But I think I still learned a lot from these games. In this post I don’t want to get into the question how the violence in these games might have affected me focus on two positive effects they might have had.
One of them was that I learned quite some English playing RPGs and Adventures. Playing them might also have been a great incentive for me to pay more attention to my English teacher.
Another type of game which aided my (basic) understanding about how the economy or society works were simulations like Railroad Tycoon or Civilization.

Today (as homework) I gave myself two topics I want to learn about in the future:

  • The two little girls are probably not old enough for all of the above games, but I will check out some games which they might like to play while additionally having a rather positive effect on them.
  • I want to learn more about how learning actually works.

In school the Math teacher told us that we would need this boring formulas our whole live and therefor should listen to him. He was right. While probably not everybody needs the formulas we all need the logical thinking we also learned on the way. Question is: Does a game like Crazy Machines help your logical ability in the same way as School Mathematic does. Neuropsychology should have something to say about it. What I know is that getting someone to play Crazy Machines is way easier than motivating him to attend a math class.

The million dollar question on learning programs and games is how much „learning“ these should be to actually being played.