Saturday, 16 June 2007

Day163 Photosynth and Gapminder

Following some of the fun TED talk watching yesterday I followed up 2 of the techs shown.

Photosynth
This is where Microsoft are upto with Photosyth (http://labs.live.com/photosynth/) which has been slowly evolving from spectacular beginings not so long ago. The tech preview looks pretty much as I remember it, there are just the 5 collections still and things work as before. I wonder now if it has progressed much at all actually - even so it is still very clever. One improvement it should have is a way for me to navigate the 3D model without trying to click my way around the image-set. If I could navigate in 3D into the building first - then see the interior that would be great. Even so, the whole thing is a very clever idea...

[screengrab of photosyth in action]

One of the interesting things about this project is the system requirements (http://labs.live.com/photosynth/sysreq.htm?collection=sanmarco/index1.sxs) required to run the demo. With not only decent base system specs, but more particlularly the graphics. This trend to higher grahics needs (Vista, Google Earth, Second Life, Sketchup, Photosynth and many many more) is changing what all computer users will expect out of their hardware. Soon serious gaming level grunt will not be the domain of the 'gamer' but a basic expectation of all.

Gapminder
The gapminder site (http://www.gapminder.org/) shows off the wonderful interface they have built for us to see a whole raft the data and statistics of the world. And who should be behind the interface and bringing data to us all but the might of Google (http://tools.google.com/gapminder/).

The tools let us see over time in beautiful graphical ways relationships between countries in a range of stats. Seeing comparisons and trends like the examples below. The interface is lovely.

[screengrabs of gapminder in action]

Friday, 15 June 2007

Day162 TEDtalks and more

TED talks
I love this site (http://www.ted.com/index.php/themes) and there are so many inspirational pieces from some great thinkers. I visit the site from time to time and never cease to find somehting new, thought provoking and clever.
Some of the technology type talks I enjoyed today include:
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/131 (stacky paper computer interface)
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/129 (MS photosynth and more)
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/125 (brain theory and computing)

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Day161 Mac parallels and such

With my serious thinking about getting one of the nice new MacbookPro machines to help with my MDM it brings a host of other questions: what about Parallels, other VM solutions, bootcamp times, licensing and specs...


The ability to run Windows on a Mac burst upon the scene with the switch to the Intel platform. With Parallels came the ability to just switch between the 2 OSes but with a few shortcomings in early versions. I love this idea, the capacity to run all the software I love from either OS under the hood of the same sexy laptop is great.

Parallels version 3 has just arrived and now sports a host of new features. 3D (http://www.parallels.com/en/products/desktop/3d/) with directx 8.1 is one and gets past one of the main problems of previous versions where the graphics capability under parallels was poor. Now even some games can run, but things still needs some improvement so we can get full hardware grunt running through directx9 (even10). Coherence (http://www.parallels.com/en/products/desktop/coherence/) looks very interesting with parallels making windows apps run so they appear to simply be inside the Mac desktop. The site says that we can now boot up a bootcamp partition into Parallels rather than requiring three OSes to get the job done (this I like and I hope it works this nicely). I think with this I could run OsX, then grab an app through parallels if needs be - but if performance is required or some some applications not supported through it then a reboot into bootcamp will give me the same apps and files.
That said I was wondering if I could just hybernate/suspend the various OSes while I 'reboot' into the other. This page (http://blogs.zdnet.com/Apple/?p=591) says that is exactly what we 'were' going to get in leopard - but maybe not anymore. Well maybe not this nicely - but I would definately test a more manual process than this.
So how much RAM do I need to parallel a decent XP and OsX - 2GB seems to cope for most people I encountered in some Google searching.

Crossover (http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxmac/) is another player in all of this along with the VMware folk of course - interesting times.

Not that it covers this stuff particularly, but watching Steve Job's WWDC 2007 keynote (http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/d7625zs/event/) does show off where Apple stands (esp with Leopard). Sometime the way Steve and the Apple advertising works really rubs me the wrong way - putting MS down at every opportunity in a really skewed way. I would much rather they say MS as just healthy competition in the market rather than teasing them at every turn - its really childish. That said, Apple are doing great things and I am kinda looking forward to playing with their stuff more.

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Heroes
Episode 20, in the future and simply stunning. The plot now weaves elastically through time via so many characters and there are jaw-dropping moments at every turn. While answers to questions come, the mystery expands at the same time. The characters unfold in snippets giving us the little pieces of their individual puzzles to make all the little threads work. Super fun!

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Day160 UnrealEngine3

Unreal Engine 3
Yes, CryEngine2 may be going to amazing places - but lets not forget the amazing things that the mighty Unreal Engine can do as well. Even though little RoboBlitz doesnt show off the capabilities behind - these vids do! First off a couple of really short ones then some more extensive showing off.

Fluid effect first up - blimey:


And some physics including bending/deforming metal:


Here is a longer demo of some of the tech - the quality isnt so good - but at least we can see some of the great things the engine sports.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Plnh28ykavQ
Note that the gameplay trailers for this look like junk to me - the idea of just charging around fragging doesnt appeal to me. I hope this game isnt too tainted by that logic, HalfLife2 took the FPS to new places of cinematic emersion that were inspired. Lets hope Unreal keeps things going forward somewhat [crosses fingers]

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A little TombRaiding to finish up.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Day159 Crysis Splendour

Crysis Tech
What's not to love about the beauty that the CryEngine2 is bringing us. The tech demos and power of the editor are to a point where in a visualisation and experiencial sense 'we have arrived'. The detail, effects and atmospherics are all there to deliver an experience that will have us engage with the world and really 'feel' it rather than it being just a plasticy CG representation.
Ok here are a few samples that the Crysis folk have given us - oooh I cant wait:

First a short'n'sweet tech demo showing off things like interactive fauna, changing daytime and sunrays, lovely realtime soft shadows, smoke and volumetric clouds:


[tech demo from Crysis on youtube]

This second one takes off where the first one left off and shows off even more. We get realtime ambient maps, stunning long range vistas, 3D oceans, unbelievable facial and character animation including parametrics, motion blur and dof, breakable buildings and vegetation and the ending is just beyond belief !!!


[tech demo from Crysis on youtube]

This third one gives us the joys that are the new editor. It is hard to have enough great things to say about what we see here. First up we are in metric (this is worth alot to me anyhow) and we are pretty much editing inside the realtime engine live with all the shadows, textures, maps and ingame capabilities. The terrain and vegetation modelling are unparalleled and we get to see how the controls for the juicy bits in the other tech demos are controlled.


[tech demo from Crysis on youtube]

Finally for today (if you want more just hit youtube for gameplay vids etc) the flythrough demo which shows off just how large the environs are where the detail just doesnt stop and the open feel of the whole thing really hangs together - it is not a game with strict train-track type level logic.


[tech demo from Crysis on youtube]

Crysis Online
These guys (http://www.crysis-online.com/Articles/crysis-art-team-q&a.php) have some info from the Crysis team (go Europe) about the game engine and it mentions things like wind deformation of vegetation etc.

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Obsidian Edge 2
There are obviously folk who have licenced the CryEngine2 and are working away already. One of these sensible teams are the folk building Obsidian Edge 2 (http://www.obsidianedge.net/). The game is some way off yet, but these screenshots show how far the engine has let them come already as far as environments go - simply beautiful:

[during construction screenshots from Obsidian Edge 2 from their site]
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ConTEXT
Grabbed conTEXT from their site (http://www.context.cx/) for playing with Ruby, Lua and all those other juicy scripts we are starting to need...

Monday, 11 June 2007

Day158 Shrek 3

Shrek the Third
I saw part 3 of this super CG movie franchise today. There are always alot of things to admire and adore in the series dating right back to the first one all those years ago now. Number 3 doesnt take the story or the idea to anywhere exciting this time around, in a way it is just going through the motions on that front and has a slightly wishy-washy plot as apposed to the clarity of the first and second. There are hints that it could be an all out goodies vs the baddies affair - but it is much more about smaller personal battles and the bigger issues are just gravy.
That said there is some extended characterisation for a host of fairytale folk that fleshed out the world previously. My favourite is Sleeping Beauty who falls asleep all the time - awesome. Snow White has fun with her influence over nature and Merlin is a blast. Perhaps if they dove full into the King Arthur side then it may have made a better plot for us all.

[Promo image from Shrek 3]

There were plenty of refences to things made as is a feature of the series - my fave was the princesses and the bridge of Kazad Dum (though nobody around me laughed along with me - it doesnt even get a listing on Wikipedia :-)

Dreamworks manage to maintain a consistent look over the entire film from scenery to flames to creatures to the humans. The animation work is beautiful in almost all cases and is a real feature of the film. The believability of all the characters is all about this animation quality, from macro movements down to the subtle facial nuances or finger positions.
The graphical work had some showcase grassy environments filled with trees, water, wildlife and atmospherics. So even though some of it was gorgeous - that benchmark was set in the previous 2 films and this one just repeats the dose with some subtle niceties or impreovements.
Here are some examples that definately inspire:

[images from Shrek 3 from allmoviephoto.com]

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Fantastic Four Trailer
Trailers are always a treat when going to the movies - for me the standout this time around was without doubt Fantastic Four : Rise of the Silver Surfer. The trailer is just an amazing piece of animation and effecs work as Johnny tries to fly-down the newly arrived Surfer through the city. It is fast, emotive and filled with all the CG/effects work I lust for - we are in for a treat.


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Some sweet Tomb Raiding to finish up

Day157 Dr Who

Dr Who
Day 2 of the Dr Who Weekend on UKTV. This day was all of season two and I think the effects work went up a little notch this time round. The warewolf and a handful of other pieces are actually quite nifty - had a blast.