Video Games

The Economist writes that “there’s no solid evidence that video games are bad for people, and they may be positively good.”

Are games good, rather than bad, for people? Good ones probably are. Games are widely used as educational tools, not just for pilots, soldiers and surgeons, but also in schools and businesses (see article). Every game has its own interface and controls, so that anyone who has learned to play a handful of games can generally figure out how to operate almost any high-tech device. Games require players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies, learn the rules of the in-game world through trial and error. Gamers must also be able to juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions. One game, set in 1930s Europe, requires the player to prevent the outbreak of the second world war; other games teach everything from algebra to derivatives trading. Playing games is, thus, an ideal form of preparation for the workplace of the 21st century, as some forward-thinking firms are already starting to realise.

Widgets

Jeff Jarvis writes in the aftermath of Yahoo’s purchase of Konfabulator:

Widgets should be available anywhere, anytime, on any device. I should be able to see my widgets on my phone and, in fact, thats supposed to be a benefit of the new version of Windows, Vista (nee Longhorn). Auxiliary displays will let you see your email or other current information on a small screen when your laptop is closed or on your phone screen. See how Make is creating these displays now using Konfabulator.

Widgets should also be collaborative. I should be able to share a current widget with you. Say I have a shopping list widget. My family should be able to update it from any device and we should all be able to see it on any device. Content is functionality, functionality is content, content is communication.

Its all part of feedthink.

Cellphone Future

[via Textually.org] USA Today writes:

No sane person at the time ever thought these things would become the most significant electronic consumer device in history. But that’s exactly what is happening.

Bigger than television. Bigger than the PC. Bigger than the telephone.

The cell phone’s impact will be so huge because unlike those previous technologies it’s so widespread. People in developing countries who a decade ago owned nothing more complicated than a water pump now have cell phones.

New businesses will pop up, new models for making money, new ways to be entertained, new definitions of privacy. The Internet was a grand creation. The Internet plus cell phones will be magnificent.

One amazing thought from 1985: At the time, no one even thought in terms of a personal cell phone. We could barely conceive of car phones. One expert waxed futuristic by saying that in 10 years, car phones will be as common as stereos and air conditioners in cars today. That’s as far as anyone’s mind could stretch.

We’re just as limited now when trying to predict the future of the cell phone universe

GoogleNet

Om Malik writes: “What if Google wanted to give Wi-Fi access to everyone in America? And what if it had technology capable of targeting advertising to a users precise location? The gatekeeper of the worlds information could become one of the globes biggest Internet providers and one of its most powerful ad sellers, basically supplanting telecoms in one fell swoop. Sounds crazy, but how might Google go about it?”

Bill Gurley Interview

Sadagopan points to an interview with Bill Gurley in FT. Excerpts:

The most amazing shift in free time usage is clearly the move to MMOGS [Massive Multiplayer Online Games].

People are spending hours and hours in the multi-player environments. The biggest bang has been in Asia, but World of Warcrafts success here in the US this past 9 months is nothing short of remarkable. For those that dont know WOW launched last December – $50 for the CDs and $14/month to subscribe. 3.5m users now. The top success before was Everquest – 400K.

the telecom sector is undergoing major disruption. You have the obvious erosion of price/minute voice. But there is way more than that. As has been highlighted in the Financial Times, cities have figured out you can use 802.11 across the entire city. The performance of these networks is better than EVDO by an order of magnitude! And they are cheaper to deploy. WE now see entire cities that aim to make wireless connect by Free as a public service. One of our investments, www.tropos.com, is at the centre of this storm as a leading provider of equipment.

Now thats disruptive and the incumbents dont like it one bit. So they have asked Congress to pass a law to make these networks illegal. But water runs downhill – the market will chose the cheapest solution. The world of video will see disruption as well.

TECH TALK: Next-Generation Networks: FolkTV

While there has been a lot of discussion and action around IPTV, if we were to project to a little ahead, then we can see a future where with the emergence of video-enabled mobile phones and broadband networks, video (rather than text) becomes the preferred mechanism to share experiences. (Already, some of us find it easy to created multimedia on our mobiles phones than write text!)

Ramesh Jain discusses IPTV and its limitations: IPTV is in simple terms video on internet. The major difference is that it is assumed that this video could be shown on any device including TV, PC, and phones. This is a bigger change than it appears at first. And this is rebirth of VoD but in a much broader scope. This in fact is the convergence of communication, computing, and content. People commonly talk about the convergence of communication and computing. In terms of content, people were used to thinking mostly in terms of text and blobs where a blob could be any media item but that was considered atomic entity for the information system. So a three hour video could be played as a three hour video but there was no indexing or content bases access possible. In the new world, that is not going to be acceptable. Content could also be stored and accessed at different levels of granularities based on its semantics.

Ramesh then goes ahead to discuss how IPTV wil morph into FolkTV:

Internet culture will result in people starting to produce lots of video content for many different applications. The long tail effect will dominate this area also. People will start producing and placing videos on Internet that they know will be used by only a very limited number of other people in some case may be only 5 other people. This will however happen only if the production tools for editing video will allow people to capture and prepare video to put on the Internet as easily as they author web pages. Current video editing tools are very difficult to use. The tools that are easy to use do not give enough control to author what an amateur producer may want. This is a interesting challenge to multimedia community and was correctly identified in the Berkeley retreat in 2003 as a grand challenge problem for multimedia.

The second and equally important problem is how to find videos of interest. Search engines have trained current generation of Internet users, even regular computer users, to search for information using easy tools like specifying some keywords. How will we search video on internet? Current search techniques on internet are direct extension of text based techniques and are definitely going to be very limiting in accessing video. Multimedia information retrieval research community and the practicing video retrieval community are poles apart. They are developing more or less disjoint approaches research community wants to use only visual characteristics because thats where interesting research challenges are and practicing people want to just apply text based approaches because thats what they know. Everybody recognizes that to be successful, one must use all knowledge sources and all possible techniques for accessing video information. Unfortunately, thats where most of the time it ends just talking that combining multiple sources is vital to solving this puzzle and then going to your workplace and keep doing what you have been doing. We require people who take this challenge seriously and start developing techniques to access video information using text processing, visual computing , audio recognition.

IPTV is a real transformation in the society. IPTV brings TV media to masses not only as a consumer but also as a producer. Common people start using TV medium to share their experiences and producing contents of interest to other people, not necessarily only with commercial interest in mind. People will use it to share family birthdays with other family members who could not be there to share the moment in person. And that could be done live or time displaced. If the last major revolution brought WWW and information revolution, this will be the next revolution and a major step in bringing experiences to people. IPTV is really FolkTV.

Tomorrows world will see us equipped with mobile phones which can not only take pictures but also record videos. With the next-generation networks giving us the ability to share these videos (which are really a mirror of our experiences) almost instantly, it will make the world an even smaller and more connected place.

Tomorrow: Mirror Worlds

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