Monday, December 04, 2006

Brave New World

Mixed reality households and public spheres were the focus of the opening day of the Computer Games and Interactive Entertainment Conference in Fremantle, Australia. Elina M. I. Koivisto of Nokia discussed mobile gaming and how Finnish children were using their cell phones to play hide and seek, and those in Sweden were using them to swap images in a variation on popular card-trading games from Asia. As one audience member pointed out, there can be negative social interactions as well, such as “Happy Slapping” in Great Britain, where players hit someone with a mobile phone and then take a picture of their injured victim. Koivisto preferred to keep the focus on more benign mixed-reality games, such as Manhattan Story Mash-Up, and suggested that phones may soon become required equipment for the singles scene as users could be made aware of those with similar profiles in the same room.

Adrian David Cheok of the Mixed Reality Lab in Singapore argued that he was just developing forms of interaction intended to supplement social behavior not to replace it, but some of his projects were more kowai (frightening) than kawai (cute). They included systems in which one could stroke one’s pet from the office (a jacket-wearing chicken in the prototype, but a doggie device is in the works), hug a child virtually from work with the Internet Pajama that also changes color to indicate how far away a parent was from home, and the program Metazoa Ludens that allows users to play computer games remotely with their pets at home. The virtual giant hamster chasing its owner suggested a cheesy fifties horror movie. What is interesting is that some of Cheok’s ideas were designed specifically for three generation Asian households in which grandparents assist with child care. I certainly believe that it is important to play with your child, and I suppose the game Age Invaders is one way to do that.

Finally, in the morning line-up, Ryohei Nakatsu of Nirvana Technology in Japan talked about robotic pets that would do the now defunct AIBO one better. These “dogs” could be trained to check the security of the home or allow a mother to talk to her baby via mobile video phone.



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