BCU Global Game Jam 20-22 Jan 2017 – Event Summary

Over the weekend of Friday 20th Jan to Sunday 22nd Jan 2017 the Global Game Jam 2017 (online) took place. Tens of thousands took part at locations all around the globe, with Hawaii being the last to kick off. An embargo was in place on the theme until Hawaii had begun, the idea being not to talk about the theme online until Hawaii had joined in the fun. The theme for this year was “waves” which provided quite a deal of scope and direction for idea generation.

One of the locations for the Global Game Jam in the UK was BCU in Birmingham which was organised by Liam Sorta @LiamSorta and Andrew Wilson – Programme Leader for the BSc in Computer Games Technology @BCUGAMESTECH. The event had a great turnout of over 100 people, many from Birmingham, but others from Warwick, Southampton, Newcastle & as far afield as Australia (though had been in the UK since the first semester). It wasn’t just University students either, but also a good few graduates whom work in the games industry. Once the theme for this years jam was announced everybody broke up into teams (a little over 20 in total) and headed to the labs to do a quick brainstorm of ideas and routes to take, before getting down to making those ideas a reality. A large number of the teams made use of the Unity Games Engine, though one or two teams developed their games in Python.

One can see all the games that were uploaded to the Global Game Jam site from Birmingham (online). One of the great things about this is that you can download both the source code and executable, hence can play the game yourself and also learn how it was developed.

The Game that won the BCU “Innovation” prize was produced by a group called “Signal” (online) which was based on one having to navigate around a 3D environment that was pitch dark. One could emit sound waves to help see the outline of the environment & thereby navigate around the environment. This was very much akin to how Daredevil (2003) (IMDB) perceives the world and also similar to how Batman used “sonar” to see his way around a building in the dead of night – The Dark Knight (2008) (IMDB). The winning team for this prize had been selected by myself (online) and Mak Shama (online) having viewed all the presentations on the Sunday afternoon.

Representatives from two companies were also present at the Sunday presentations @VERYGOODFRIEND and @fishinabottle whom also selected teams to win prizes. Zen(x) (online) was particularly creative in developing a unique idea in the form of using a combination of a dozen sine wave calculations to control an onscreen icon, requiring the user to interact when it reached the centre line & therein changing the trajectory of the sine wave. The graphics had very clean lines and very much mirrored the “Zen” concept whereby the user could just relax and enjoy the game. Ooodle Showdown (online) was also another unique game for two players. It featured some very nice graphics and required players to navigate through a sea of characters something akin to a cross between the Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters and the Michelin Man. Each player (blue or red) could send out a sort of sonar wave and would turn the character that colour for a short while. The best thing to probably do is to download and play the game yourself to see how it works.

I had spent a good few hours each day at the game jam. It was really great to see the initial ideas dreamed up on the Friday evening evolve into quite functional games by Saturday and then on to more refined games by the time they needed to be uploaded on the Sunday prior to the afternoons presentations. All in all it was really great to see such a variety of fantastic games grow from an initial idea into a working game in just a matter of 48 hours. The well know phrase “two heads are better than one” certainly holds true whereby the key strengths and talents of teach team member could be harnessed towards one definitive goal and deadline.

Key Web Links
Global Game Jam Site (online)
BCU 2017 Game Uploads (online)
Twitter Hashtag #BCUGGJ17 (online)

Social Media Selection
The following selection of embedded tweets and instagram images from a number of those present during the event should help to give a good sense of what occurred over the 48 hour period.

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#bcuggj17 #afishysituation #gamedev

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#bcuggj17 #seewaves

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#bcuggj17 presentations

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#bcuggj17 #allhandsondeck

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#kingbooty #bcuggj17 #gamedev

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#bcuggj17 #oodleshowdown #gamedev

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#bcuggj17 #teammiodsnowstorm #omni amazing game idea!

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#necrodeulists #indiegamedev #gamedev #bcuggj17 #globalgamejam

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#wanishingwaves #bcuggj17 #gamedev

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#globalgamejam #bcuggj17 #indiegamedev #gamedev

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Dawn.

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Essential Viewing – Schwarzenegger Interview: Vision, Goals, Confidence and Time Management

In a previous post (Online) I highlighted many of the key points from Randy Pausch’s lectures on “Time Management” and “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. The video below is of an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger that is very much focused on achieving ones vision, time management and the ineffable fear that most people have of public speaking. Many of his comments can not only be applied to bodybuilding but to all facets of life. The video was published in March 2015 and at the time of writing had 1.86 million views. The interview is divided into two segments, commencing with a focus on bodybuilding, then around the half way mark moving on towards having a Vision.

00:25:54 Have a Deadline, the day of the competition he had to be in the best shape possible. Should focus on the diet, training and to not slack off. If he lost because he didn’t schedule the training in the proper way, didn’t have the right frame of mind, or didn’t give everything he would be so angry, so he never wanted to be in that situation.  It  is therefore essential to set a deadline and work towards it (go to).

00:27:29 Have a Specific Plan, if you don’t have a specific plan then you just wonder around. You could have the best ship or plane in the world, but if you haven’t a specific goal of where you want to go and when you want to get there, you will just drift around and never get anywhere. Creating a sense of urgency is therefore very important (go to).

00:28:04 Have a Vision, The most important thing is to have a Vision, have a Goal, because without such one is just drifting around and never end up getting anywhere. People don’t become successful by accident. One has to have a Goal, it can be anything, having a goal motivates. Put pictures of your goal all over your bedroom wall so every day when you go to sleep or wake up one can see the end goal , which acts as a form of motivation. You therefore know exactly what you are after. He looked forward to working-out as every Set and every Rep that he did, because it brought him one step closer to transforming his  Vision/Goal into reality. Have a clear Vision /Goal of what you wish to accomplish (go to).

00:33:50 Have a Training Partner, Have somebody to train with, if you are feeling down then it’s the responsibility of the training partner encourage you (go to).

00:35:01 Lack of Confidence, Confidence builds by making small achievements that build on one another. When you have one little Victory it leads to the next, little Victories add up, which ultimately leads to confidence (go to).

00:37:50 Public Speaking, little Victories again help to build confidence. Speaking in public is the biggest fear factor for people than anything else (go to).

00:40:20 Time Management, Everybody has a problem with time. The day has 24 hours, and one can sleep 6 hours, therefore you have 18 hours remaining to do your work, family, hobbies and to do/learn something new. Therefore out of the 24 hours in the day, don’t waste one single hour, it’s too precious. Don’t say that you don’t have the time to do something, you make the time (go to).

To Conclude
These are all very good points, especially if you are working on something like an Honours / MSc or PhD Research Project. Having a mentor / supervisor that will push you is key towards achieving success. Certainly in academia – time in the most precious commodity, therefore one must carve out the time to do what’s important. Setting clear goals / plans / deadlines and building on little victories is one very good way to build confidence and to ultimately see ones vision transform into reality.

What Qualities Make a Game Popular?

I recently made a post about Dare to be Digital 2016 (online) highlighting a number of video pitches. What qualities make a game addictive & popular? To what degree does the gameplay, sound effects, music, graphics, playability, level of difficulty have a bearing on the overall popularity and addictiveness of a game. The following are just a few popular games.

Cooking Fever
Cooking Fever is all about cooking – anything from burgers and hot-dogs, to pizza, suchi and baking. One can upgrade kitchen appliances to make cooking faster, upgrade the restaurant to increase customer wait times and how generous they are with tips. The main interaction style consists of simple drag and drop. When a customer arrives at your kitchen, the ask via a graphic bubble representation of the items they are looking for, e.g. an icon representing a burger. You then need to get some burger buns set out on your work surface and start dragging the ingredients on to complete the burger. One of course needs the cooked burger meat, along with various combinations of extras such as lettuce, tomato, ketchup – dragging each component on to the burger bun. Once the burger is fully assembled one then drags the burger to the waiting customer. If you manage to do this quickly enough they will drop coins representative of the price of the burger along with a tip for good service on the counter and leave as happy customers. As the levels progress the number of customers and combinations of food items increase. At the time of writing the number of installs was between 10 & 50 Million, the game is available from the google play store (online).

Angry Birds
Angry Birds has become an extremely popular game with 100 to 500 Million installs of the app via the Google Play Store (online). What are the qualities of launching a bird at various targets to get them to topple over that makes the game so popular.

Candy Crush Jelly Saga
Having 10 to 50 Million downloads Candy Crush Jelly Saga is certainly another popular game (online).

Clash of Clans
Available from the Google Play store (online) has between 100 & 500 Million installs.

SimCity Buildit
With 10 to 50 Million Google Play installs SimCity Buildit is certainly another popular game (online). This game is all about creating a city and populating it with residences, so you can earn Simoleons through the construction of residences and earn tax from same as well. One can also earn cash through the Trade Depot whereby you can sell goods that you create. One can sell all manner of goods from the basic raw materials created by factories, to more complex items created by taking the raw materials and forming them into a new product such as: Doughnuts, Shoes, Watches, Nails, Vegetables, Tables & Chairs to name but a few.

As you level up through the game further opportunities for Trading become enabled such as the Port for shipping your goods overseas, or the Airport (available once you have a population of 120,000). The Airport allows you to gain special items allowing you to build new types of residences with higher population capacity, namely, Paris, London and Toyko zones. To keep the population happy one must supply them with basic services, provide them with places to relax (parks), and a whole host of other facilities from Schools and Universities, to Entertainment and Gambling.

Over time one can create a city of some 4 million inhabitants and stretch out the area of the city to encompass both the beach and mountains. These areas allow one to build special buildings that can greatly boost the population within a certain catchment area.

At the Vu Tower (available at a population of 90,000) one can unleash a number of different disasters, that allows you to gain valuable Golden Keys. The most basic disaster one can unleash is the Meteor Strike, followed by Earthquake, Alien Invasion and several more.

Questions
What makes a good game?
How important is the embedding of Social Media in a game?
Do you make use of in-app purchases, to buy credits, upgrade systems etc?
Is it easy to lose track of the amount you spend on in-app purchases?
How important is the time it takes to complete a level – especially for Mobile Games?
What are your favorite games and Why?
How often do you play games on your Mobile?

Dare to be Digital 2016 – Examples of Past Video Pitches

Just a few days ago I received an email from the Dare to be Digital (online) Program Manager that Applications for 2016 were open, with a deadline of 13th March 2016. Details of the various key dates, deadlines, eligibility and a link to the application form are available (online).

One can find out about last years teams (online) and see trailers of the completed games hosted on YouTube, that should give you some sense of what the final products are like. The teams who get to develop their games over the summer will also have the opportunity of taking part in Dare Protoplay – the UK’s largest indie games festival (online).

Its a great opportunity for a small team of students to get together and spend several weeks during the summer completely focused on developing a game. It also offers the opportunity to win a number of prizes, including the possibility of winning a BAFTA (online).

One of the key parts of the application process is to submit a link to a video no longer than five minutes that provides a clear overview of the team, the game concept / storyline, unique selling points, visuals and a number of other elements.

Doing a bit of exploration online one will find a large selection of pitches for entry to the Dare to be Digital Competition. A small selection of some past pitches are included below to give you some sense for how various teams have approached the process over the years. You will see some are very much focused on the team members, others focus more heavily on the visuals, project planning and other elements.

Further Links and Info

Competition Website http://www.daretobedigital.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/daretobedigital
Twitter https://twitter.com/daretobedigital
Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/DareToBeDigital/videos

2015 Video Pitches

Selection of Pitches that took part in Dare to be Digital 2015

Other Pitches submitted towards entry to the 2015 Competition

2014 Video Pitches

Selection of Pitches that took part in Dare to be Digital 2014

Other Pitches submitted towards entry to the 2014 Competition

2013 Video Pitches

Selection of Pitches that took part in Dare to be Digital 2013

Other Pitches submitted towards entry to the 2013 Competition

The Office of 2030 – What Does the Future Hold

Introduction & Context

Late in the afternoon of this past Friday – 22nd January 2016 – I received quite an unexpected email from a Media & Online Relations Specialist at searchlaboratory.com on behalf of the UK broadband provider Plusnet. To my surprise they had written to thank me for tweeting about an article I had read a few days before at siliconrepublic.com about the future office (online).

This particular site provides quite a few interesting news stories each day about Science and Technology, many of these articles are focused towards news stories in Ireland, but many are also based much further afield; such as one pointing towards evidence of Planet in the outer reaches of our solar system (online).

The article in question that I had tweeted was “Your future office: Smart toilets, holograms, VR and a slide!” (online). I had been asked if I would feature the content on my blog and write some of my own thoughts about the general topic area. This sounded like a really interesting invitation as I had read quite a number of articles over the past few years about the use of office space and the ever increasing move towards open-plan. Such a request isn’t totally out of the ordinary either having in the past few months for example contributed material towards books & a BBC television documentary all down to having a presence on the likes of Flicker, Twitter and YouTube.

The Impact of Technology, Robots and AI

Just recently I had attended a BCS lecture titled “Impact of Robots – Where have all the good jobs gone?” One of many interesting elements of note from this talk was that within the next 10 to 15 years or so a very significant number of the jobs that exist today would be no more. These would be jobs of a repetitive nature including the likes of accountants, data entry clerks, telesales operators and bank clerks to name but a few. Positions requiring the analysis and understanding of x-rays, MRI Scans, biopsy slides and the like often require years and years of training, with persons working in the field for 15 or even 20 years before becoming an expert in the interpretation of same. Yet with the advances of Image Recognition technologies, such analysis can now be done by a machine (Robot) in a few seconds or less, yielding far greater levels of accuracy.

We are now reaching a point in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century where machines/software/algorithms are performing better than humans. Jobs of today that are still likely to be around in the near future would be positions that would have high levels of interaction with clients. Such positions would include Surgery, Dentistry, Choreography, Audiologists, Dieticians and Nutritionists. Technology, in particular advancements in Artificial Intelligence will allow for the automated processing, understanding and interpretation of large volumes of data at a rate that no human could ever match.

The following 72 page article “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” by Frey and Osborne, 2013 (online) provides a detailed analysis of the probability to which a particular occupation can be computerised. The Appendix commencing on page 57 provides a detailed list ranking 702 occupations – from those that are essentially a certainty to be replaced by machines to those still likely to be around in the future.

When considering what the Office of the Future will be like, one should start from the likelihood that many of todays jobs will not exist in the near future. The following BBC News article (online) titled “Will a robot take your job?” has a nice feature whereby one can type in an occupation to find out the “risk” of it being taken over by automation. Another BBC news article dated 20th Jan 2016 includes a short video segment highlighting the issue of “How robots are changing the way we work” (online). An example of a physical robot capable at present of carrying out many operations one would find on a factory production line is “Baxter”. The BBC Article suggests those “doing low-skilled, low paid jobs and those earning less than £30,000 are most likely to be replaced by a machine” (online).

A Desk & Internet Connection

A question recently posed was: “Would you rent out your home as an office workspace?” (online) 15th Jan 2016. Perhaps for many jobs all one needs today is a desk, Internet connection, a supply of tea/coffee and of course the kitchen sink. If you feel that your home could be put to better use while you are away at work, then why not let some strangers make use of your facilities? One website in particular – OfficeRiders.com offers such a service, with prices from the likes of €10 per day to work in a stranger’s home. This is certainly a different take on the concept of the “Home Office”.

The Office Desk

The office desk of the 1980’s and that of today are worlds apart. The physical clutter of books, notepads, calendars, fax machines, newspapers, phones, calculators, telephone books and the like have migrated their way to present themselves as a software representation of same on your computer. The team at the Harvard Innovation Lab (online), produced a nice video depicting the evolution of the Office Desk as can be seen below, some further detail can be seen (online). The original producer of the video was BestReviews with the original video available at (http://bestreviews.com).

Having a physically large desk real estate area allows one to readily organise and arrange things, the same holds true for a computer system. Having two or more Screens (Visual Display Units (VDU’s)) can greatly improve productivity (online). It’s not just about physical screen space but also resolution. The iMac 5K Retina display for example has a 5120×2880 native resolution. One can expect to see 8K broadcasts just around the corner, kicking off in time for the 2020 Olympics Games (online).

Sit, Stand, Move, Get Active

We are standing on the precipice of a health crisis with obesity expected to be the norm. According to the World Health Organisation for example it is estimated that 91% of Irish men will be overweight or obese by 2030 (online)(online). Given that such a large portion of the week is dedicated to our working lives, it will be in the best interest of all (employer & employee) to work in an environment that encourages a more active lifestyle.

As we move ever closer to 2030 the axiom of “Sitting is the new smoking” becomes ever more true (online). Prolonged sitting is being linked to a range of health problems, limited not just to obesity but also diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease and shorter life spans. As with everything in life one needs balance, sitting all day clearly leads to a sedentary lifestyle. Working at a standing desk all day is also not the answer due to cardiovascular issues, varicose veins and back pain. Standing does burn more calories than sitting however. One may find the following “Sitting vs Standing” calculator of interest (online).

According to a BBC article from 2013 (online) “Even if you exercise on a regular basis that may not be enough. There is mounting evidence that exercise will not undo the damage done by prolonged sitting. Our technology has made us the most sedentary humans in history”. The well known axiom that “variety is the spice of life” certainly holds true for how we should be interacting with desk based work. We should be combining sitting with segments of standing and moving about.

Standing Desks

Standing desks could certainly help in making the workforce less sedentary, though given that standing all day isn’t the answer a suitable chair for same would also be called for. If you are interested in knowing more about the Standing desk option cnet.com has an article discussing five things one should consider before switching over (online). The “next step up” no pun intended would be the treadmill desk. A 2013 BBC article (online) discusses how practical they are. It would seem the author burnt 300 calories while writing the article. Treadmill desks certainly tick two boxes allowing one to move about e.g. walk at 1mph while working and also stand. The addition of a suitably designed chair that marries in well with the Treadmill desk could perhaps be the ultimate solution. The idea of the Standing desk isn’t new, with many well known figures dating back to Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and even Albert Einstein making use of them (online).

Is a Desk Always Needed?

We have seen how the office as we know it has transformed. Many Private offices have vanished in favour of Open-plan spaces. Some people are letting out their homes to complete strangers providing them with a space to work, Internet connection a the other life essential basics. It would seem the meaning of the term “office” today is much more fluid that what it was in decades past. Mobile technology, Wifi, 4G and the like means that many people can work from anywhere. For many who commute long distances by train for example, the train itself is their office for much of the working day. With the likes of tables and smart paper, one can take all the document you want with you where ever you want, therefore the office moves with you. This can lead to one working and having meetings anywhere from kitchen to a physical desk space, breakout area, park, shopping centre, coffee shop etc. These need not be meetings in person either, video conferencing tools such as Skype means on can have meetings with anybody in the world at any time. During the period of writing this article for example I’ve had several group calls in skype with colleagues across several European countries & have had meetings much farther afield as well. Skype combined with some form of file sharing service such a Google Drive, can make for a powerful combination whereby a group can contribute to the editing of a document and discuss progress / updates at the same time.

Deep Below, up Above, in Orbit and Beyond

The science fiction horror film “Resident Evil” released in 2002 was mainly set in an underground complex hidden deep below “Racoon City”. One of the first vistas the main characters come across upon entering “the Hive” underground facility is a scene not unlike anything you would expect to see in any modern day city when looking out the window. The advancement in display / television technology such as from 4K to 8K in recent years makes such a scenario all the more a reality.

The example of a “Video Wall” of some external environment isn’t just limited to the confines of our world either. Towards the beginning of the 1986 film “Aliens” directed by James Cameron we find the main character “Ripley” seated in what appears to be a nice outdoor space. It’s only when the camera pulls back does it reveal that the area she is sitting in is just a small cubicle with some potted plants and a video wall depicting a scenic snapshot of nature. One would have never guessed that she was orbiting high above in a space station.

Moving out and away from the confines of our Solar System, one cannot discuss the future of display technology without mentioning the “Holodeck” from “Star Trek”. It’s strange to think that much of what was seen in the original 1960’s TV series is now a modern day fact of life that is often taken for granted. Perhaps one example of “science fiction” from that era was that of wireless communications. Yet in the world of today the vast majority of the world’s seven billion inhabitants have a mobile at arm’s reach. The “Holodeck” may have seemed like pure science fiction just a few years ago, yet in the past year quite a few news articles reported about the development of 3D holograms that one can actually touch and feel with your fingers (online). Perhaps in a few years we could use such technology to sculpt objects by hand and then send for 3D Printing.

Life it seems is imitating fiction – or in this case science fiction. Aircraft in the near future are expected to no longer have windows, instead the cabin interior being replaced with the surrounding vista, or any other video content of one’s imagining. A conceptual video presenting this future change in aviation was presented and discussed back in 2014 (online) with the vision of developing flexible high definition OLED displays (online).

The Open-plan Office

Certainly for many occupations the following 2013 article “Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell” (online) sums up open-plan offices in a nutshell. It would seem that a “lack of sound privacy” is one of the main bones of contention for people working in such spaces.

The following 2014 article titled “Open-plan is Not Always From Hell” (online) highlights that open plan “has to suit the work processes and organisation cultures of the occupants” and points out that open-plan seemed to work well for a radio station, “similarly, trading rooms require an open-plan layout”. It is extremely interesting however that it also says “In contrast, enclosed offices work particularly well for research. Academics for instance need to concentrate for reading and writing tasks, but also require privacy to deal with student issues”.

It’s extremely interesting to see that an article titled “Open-Plan is Not Always From Hell” says that enclosed offices work particularly well for research and academia. Why is it then that many universities are herding large groups of academics into open-plan spaces that are not fit for purpose, when the very nature of the work necessitates private office space? One may argue that this is a cost saving measure, but it’s also one that that doesn’t lend itself to the concentrated work of academia and greatly limits accessibility of staff to discuss issues with students.

Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP’s) “tend to be conscientious, loyal, good at catching mistakes, and committed to high performance” (online). The typical open-plan office isn’t the most appropriate environment for such people, yet these are the people who are most valuable to a business. Noise is one of the key drawbacks of the open-plan environment. Research conducted almost 20 years ago “showed that open plan office noise reduces the productivity of knowledge workers by a staggering 66%” (online).

Some people who work in an open-plan environment often resort to headphones and music to drown out the noise. One should first consider that if many staff find it necessary to wear headphones to try and concentrate, then clearly a significant problem exists in the work environment “Headphones have become a necessary coping mechanism” (online). Working under such conditions could very well do damage to your hearing in the long term. The World Health Organisation (WHO) for example recommends limiting headphone time to at most one hour per day (online)(online).

Open-plan: Too Noisy to Work – Try an Airport Instead

During the process of writing this blog post I happened to be doing a bit of travelling and was sitting in a departure lounge restaurant of an airport that last year had over 25 million passengers pass through it. One thing that suddenly dawned on me having seen some open-plan environments was that the overall environment, level of lighting, decor, and more importantly noise levels were many orders of magnitude better than the open-plan office environments I had seen. How could it be that an airport departure area with thousands and thousands of people passing through could be a more serene environment than an open-plan office for one or two dozen people?

The Plusnet Illustrated Vision of the Future Office in 2030

According to Plusnet “A great office is the foundation of a happy workforce” (online). Many open-plan offices of today are ill-designed with uninteresting finishes, little consideration to room acoustics and plane unimaginative desks adorned with the usual keyboard, mouse, screen, system unit and phone. Will the proliferation of open-plan continue to expand into the future, will we see a return to more conventional individual office spaces or perhaps a combination of the two. What will the office of 2030 look like. Plusnet with the assistance of a number of futurists and futurologists have come up with one possible interpretation / vision of the future office.

2030 Office Overview

The illustration below provides a general overview of how a multi-storey office building may be like in 2030. As can be clearly seen it has been broken down into six distinct areas: Chill Space, Office Space, Reception, Roof Garden, Meeting Room, Kitchen / Bathroom.

OfficeOfTheFutureRoomByRoom

Reception & Parking

Over the past year or two driverless cars have been attracting more and more headlines on the news. As illustrated below, car parks could make use of a stacking system, one could probably readily design this into a new build, though for existing structures may perhaps take the form of multilevel above ground parking. Perhaps car ownership could radically change, given that for the vast majority of a cars existence it just sits still not being used. Perhaps car-sharing could become a more popular option where cars are sitting in a parking space just to recharge. If one were to include an underground parking with a stacking system, then one would of course need to consider the cost/benefit of this weighed up with the carbon cost \ environmental impact of same.

Holographic receptionists could welcome you upon arrival, with personalised greetings enabled via biometric scanning technologies. Security of such biometric data would of course be of great importance & likely to reside in the companies private cloud. Holographic receptionists may sound like science fiction at present, but in the past couple of days it was announced that a Japanese phone carrier will be staffing an entire phone store with robots (online), the robot it question being called “Pepper” (online).

OfficeOfTheFuture-Reception

The Office

It looks like open-plan and flexible workspaces will be the future. It’s nice to see the inclusion of Standing Desks – especially considering that “Sitting is now the new Smoking”. Sitting or standing for any prolonged length of time isn’t good for ones wellbeing. Perhaps we may even see a few treadmill desks & standing desk seating too. Perhaps the desk as you know it will disappear and simply be an interactive surface. The Microsoft PixelSense (Samsung SUR 40) became available in 2012 for example supporting up to 52 simulations touches throughout its 40 inch table top display and weighed well over 30Kg. Advances in nanotechnology will mean any surface could potentially be a means of interacting with the companies files / data / cloud and weigh little to nothing.

OfficeOfTheFuture-OfficeSpace

Meeting Rooms

As illustrated below meeting rooms will likely have interactive tables able to bring up any files / data a user desires. They would also be able to seamlessly interact with ones devices. Perhaps some sense of this can be readily seen in the “Board Room” scene from the 2010 film “Tron Legacy”. Telepresence robots are also likely to be the norm along with holographic representations of persons anywhere in the world. Why sit when you can stand, why stand when you can walk – perhaps many meetings in the future can be held while walking around the office or outside. With a secure wireless connection you can take the office with you on the go.

OfficeOfTheFuture-MeetingRoom

The Kitchen & Bathroom

Those of you today who may have fitness trackers or an app for monitoring daily calorie intake/ expenditure will tomorrow be able to take care of all of this without having to constantly log everything. The world of tomorrow will be littered with Trillions of sensors all amassing and processing readings, data and information in real-time. The Internet of Things will mean everything can communicate with everything else. If you always take a break at 11:00 for your morning coffee, then the intelligent kitchen will know when to make it, so it’s at the correct individualised consistency and temperature for you once you arrive in the kitchen to grab your cup.

OfficeOfTheFuture-KitchenBathroom

The “Food Replicators” from Star Trek will likely exist in the form of 3D printers able to print out a number of predefined “patterns” of food items. In the world of Star Trek the computer needed to know the molecular pattern structure for a particular item or food to “replicate” it. In the world of 2030 we may not have yet reached the level of molecular manipulation as depicted in Star Trek, however 3D Printing technology should allow for a number of food patterns to be printed.

OfficeOfTheFuture-Kitchen

Facilities in the bathroom will become smarter and greener. Quite a deal can probably be gleaned from the technologies employed with the International Space Station and former Space Shuttle programme – in particular with water usage. Diagnoses of medical conditions could also be carried out. It’s likely you may perhaps have a complete profile of your medical status somewhere in the cloud. A cheap temperature sensor could easily detect if you were running a fever for example.

OfficeOfTheFuture-Bathroom

Chill Space

Issues around mental and physical wellbeing are becoming ever more present in the news. It’s likely that the future will place a greater emphasis on work-life balance. A fit and healthy workforce is a much more productive workforce. Areas to chill-out, play games and grab a bit of sleep during the day could very well improve wellbeing.

OfficeOfTheFuture-ChillSpace

The Garden Roof

Connecting with nature more may give us a better sense of the delicate biosphere in which we live. The more concrete buildings, streets and paving we create the less space for plant life exists in our busy towns and cities. Plant life is so important in filtering out carbon dioxide, providing us with oxygen and so much of the food we eat that we should take care of it every way we can.

OfficeOfTheFuture-RoofGarden

The Office and Environs

The final illustration depicting Plusnet’s vision of the future office, shows the office building, surrounding streets and buildings. Perhaps we may also see technology to facilitate renewable energy creating buildings that require little from the main power grid. One news article published in December 2015 looked at a low energy house that runs on as little as £15 per year (online). If such can be done for a house what can super-insulating, renewable energy, energy efficient windows, LED lighting and the likes do to create a low energy building design for business.

OfficeOfTheFuture-FullStreetView

Summary

To find out more about the Plusnet vision of the Office in 2030 you can read the 25 page report (online). Plusnet have also written about this in their own blog (online) with a room by room breakdown also available (online).

At the end of the day we will have to wait until 2030 to know for sure what the future office will be like. One thing for certain is that it will be quite different that the office we know today. In particular many of today’s jobs will no longer exist, perhaps as high as 50% of today’s jobs/occupations will have been taken over by AI/Machines/Robots within a mere 15 years. The Internet of Things (IoT) will create a world littered with trillions of sensing devices all gathering data/information about the environment and communicating that to help us make better decisions and work more effectively. Technology will become so ubiquitous that we will no longer even realise it is exists as it will permeate the very fabric of our lives. Computing, AI, Robots, Telecommunications will disappear into the background and become like Electricity, ever present yet invisible. Even the very process of turning on a light switch or turning on the heating upon entering the office will be completely obsolete as the office itself will take care of it automatically.

One final suggestion of a film to watch would be “Iron Man”, as you will see the home of “Tony Stark” is fully automated and run by an AI called “Jarvis”. One of my favourite lines “commencing automated assembly” maps well to the topic at hand is said by the “Jarvis” AI, when the design of the Iron Man suit has been completed. This being a perfect example of machines building machines.

Will the open-plan office continue to be a cornerstone of many office environments, or will many businesses realise the reduction in productivity that results from same and therefore resort back to private individual office space. Perhaps the future will see a combination of the two. Whichever way it goes, careful consideration needs to be given to the overall environment, colour scheme, furniture & fittings and above all the acoustic signature of the environment.

What will the office of 2030 be like is a huge question. This post has briefly explored some of what exists today and what the future may hold.

What are Your Thoughts on the Workplace of 2030?

What will the Office of 2030 look like, and to what degree will technology be seamlessly embedded?

What sort of jobs do you think will exist in 2030?

Will the job your doing today no longer exist?

Will your profession be extinct by 2030?

Education more than ever before will be essential in securing a job in 2030, should we be investing more in STEM right now?

Should we be investing more in physical fitness & wellbeing education given the ever increasing upward trend of obesity?

Given we spend so much of our lives at work what can employers do to enhance the environment so that we are more active, thereby having less health issues in the future and being more productive?

Even in School, students can often be sitting in class for durations of 1.5 to 2 hours or so, for example from 09:00 to 10:45 or from 11:00 to 13:00. The creation of good habits of work begin at an early age, how could Schools break up a long period of sitting with some standing and cardio every 20 to 30 minutes?

Will you consider having a go at a Standing or Treadmill desk? Should employers provide the option?

Should we all be wearing Activity Trackers to remind us to get up and move around at least a few times each hour?

What can be done to counteract persons being overweight or obese – noting that by 2030 its predicted that over 90% of people in some countries could be this way?

Which is better for your health – to work in a job that requires moderate to high levels of activity, construction – for example – whilst smoking 20 a day OR to sit at desk for eight hours a day barely moving?

Given the World Health Organisation recommends limiting headphone use to an hour at most, would you be will to potentially damage your future hearing just to drown out the noise of an Open-plan office?

What other questions should be considered here?

Essential Viewing – Prof Randy Pausch Time Management & The Last Lecture

Professor Randy Pausch (Oct 1960 – July 2008) of Carnegie Mellon University is well know for delivering some lectures that have been viewed millions of times. The talk titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” was delivered about a year after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The recorded lecture hosted on CMU’s YouTube channel as been viewed over 17.5 million times at the time of writing this blog, in addition it can be found on several other locations on the web. Another very interesting talk that everybody should watch  on “Time Management” has been viewed almost 2 million times on CMU’s YouTube channel. Both of these lecture are essential viewing for everybody & not just those studying computing.

The reason I decided to write this blog post was that a colleague of mine recently queried me regarding email server settings. This lead to some discussion on the pro/cons of using Outlook vs Thunderbird which lead me into talking about Randy Pausch’s love of the “empty inbox” and his use of prioritized “to-do lists”.  During several courses I have taught in the past I got the students to watch these lectures to see what nuggets of gold they could learn regarding their approach to learning and being organised – specifically the lecture on time management. They always came back to say they found the lectures extremely interesting & made them reflect on how they work. So I thought it was now about that I mentioned these lectures in a blog post & thereby having them in one place for ease of reference in the future.

If you haven’t seen these talks before then I strongly suggest you watch both of them & I’m certain you will learn a lot and in so doing should reflect upon how you approach work/study/research & life in general. If you do some searching online then I’m sure you can find out lot’s more about Randy, his teaching, research and the founding of the Alice software project. The following are just a few links you can follow for more info.

Randy Pausch’s Homepage (online)
Randy Pausch on Wikipedia (online)
Randy Pausch – Last Lecture Transcript (online)
Randy Pausch – Time Management Transcript (online)

I have summarized the key points under each video to make that particular topic area readily accessible. Clicking on the “go to” hyperlinks will open up the video in a new tab at the associated time-stamp of the topic. If you have any other tips / useful strategies on effective time management / achieving you’re life goals (childhood dreams) then do leave a comment.

Time Management

00:05:56 Time = Money, how much is you’re time worth, should I just buy software or write it, try thinking of time and money almost as if they are the same thing  (go to)

00:07:54 Money not Important, its time – you can never get that back (go to)

00:10:13 The Time Famine, bad time management = stress, need to think long term, life advice happy wonderful life, why do it if its not fun, life is too short, don’t like you’re job then change, the overall goal is fun (go to)

00:12:25 Typical Office Worker Wastes 2 hours per day, desk messy, can’t find things (go to)

00:12:58 Managing your time well makes you successful (go to)

00:13:34 Goals, Priorities and Planning, why am I doing this, what will happen if I don’t do it, best thing in the world – just say no (go to)

00:15:04 Do the right things, rather than doing things right, doesn’t matter how well you polish the underside of the banister (go to)

00:15:45 The 80:20 Rule, A small number of things will contribute the most value, e.g. if in sales 80% of revenue will come from 20% of you’re clients (go to)

00:17:01 The Power of Inspiration, if you can dream it you can do it, Disneyland built in 366 days, a lot of hard work in anything you want to accomplish (go to)

00:18:24 Planning is very important, failing to plan is planning to fail (go to)

00:19:04 To Do Lists, break things down into small steps – how to clean a room, can you make the bed, can you tidy the clothes, do a few things then you get it done, do the ugliest thing first (go to)

00:21:01 Most Important Thing, 4 Quadrant To Do List, Important do soon, most important, everybody gets it wrong by going on to what’s not important and not due soon, things that are due soon and not important – just don’t do it – and magically you have time to work on what’s not due soon but important, so it never gets a chance to be due soon – thereby becoming one of those Zen like people who seem to have all the time in the world (go to)

00:23:24 Paperwork, clutter leads to thrashing (just like excessive paging on a HD!), keep you’re desk clear, have just one thing on you’re desk, touch each of paper once, especially email, you’re inbox is not you’re to-do list (go to)

00:24:33 Need to get the Inbox clear, sometimes means just filing things away, and putting something on the to-do list – sorted by importance (go to)

00:25:40 A Good File System is Essential, having a single place when looking for important receipts beats the hell out of running around for hours looking for it (go to)

00:27:11 Randy’s Desk, 3 Screens – screen space (on screen desktop real estate) is critical, compare working on a little tray in an airplane vs at an actual desk, cost of giving everybody 2 or 3 screens is trivial – so why wouldn’t you do it, will increase productivity having a second screen (go to)

00:29:05 Randy’s 3 Screens, left – to-do list (sorted by priority 0 to 9), middle – note the empty inbox – sleep better with an empty inbox, right – calendar  – essential you know where you’re supposed to be (go to)

00:30:25 The Desk Itself, the one and only thing that is being worked on, speaker phone – essential (best thing you can buy to counter stress) – having a timer is useful as when you get through having been waiting you can say how long you have been waiting (I presume you’re logging this kind of stuff), hence they feel really guilty (go to)

00:32:15 Telephones, a great time waster, if you stand during phone calls you can be much brisker, start by announcing goals for the call e.g. I have 3 things to discuss, do not put you’re feet up, having something on you’re desk that you want to do next is a great way to get off the phone quickly, chit chat is just a time-waster, to get off the phone quickly – just say I have some students waiting (there must be students waiting somewhere – as a professor) (go to)

00:34:02 Telemarketer, as you are talking just hang up on yourself – who does that!, or perhaps tell them that you would like to sell them something (go to)

00:35:05 Group You’re Phone Calls, do them right before lunch or just before the end of the day – that way they have something else they would rather do than just chit-chat with you, you are not more interesting than lunch (go to)

00:35:25 Have a Hands Free Set, one can exercise (cycle) at the same time as talking!, can fold laundry while on the phone (go to)

00:36:35 What Else is on the Desk, address stamper, tissues – essential as faculty (have the module code written on the box and turn it so they can see that its for the class), thank you cards – pen, ink, paper – really important – a tangible way to say that you appreciate somebody, have them on you desk always (go to)

00:39:30 Paper Recycling Bin, – acts as a trash can one can recover things from, notebook, post-it notes (go to)

00:41:30 Spreader Organization Strategy, everything just one arms radius away, from where one sits, do what works for you (go to)

00:42:05 Office Logistics, make the office comfortable for you – but not for others, have folding chair just in case next to the wall (if a longer detailed discussion is necessary), if somebody want’s to talk then they need to stand – makes for a fast discussion  (go to)

00:43:05 Scheduling Yourself, you make time by electing not to do something else, opportunity cost – the bad thing about doing something that isn’t very valuable is that if you spend an hour doing it – that’s an hour you can’t get back (go to)

00:43:37 Learn to Say No, to keep unimportant things from sucking into you’re life, gentle no’s – if nobody else steps forward I will do this for you, or I’ll be you’re fallback but you need to keep searching for somebody else – if they stop looking then they have abused you’re relationship (go to)

00:42:18 Find You’re Creative Time, defend it ruthlessly, spend it alone – at home if necessary, schedule phone calls, meetings, mundane stuff when you’re not at you’re best (go to)

00:45:54 Interruptions, studies show an interruption takes 6-9 minutes + a recovery of 4-5 minutes to get you head back into what you are doing – if doing something like software development you may never get you head back into what you were doing, 5 interruptions – blows a whole hour, must find ways to reduce the frequency and length of interruptions (go to)

00:46:28 Turn Phone Calls into Email, any time a new email makes a “ding” it creates an interruption – turn it off, go to the email when you are ready  (go to)

00:47:30 How to cut things Short, if somebody interrupts you and asks if you have a few minutes, tell them that you are in the middle of something right now, could say you only have 5 minutes – puts a clear deadline on the interaction, if somebody doesn’t get it walk to the door of you’re office – complement them, thank them, shake their hand, then if they still don’t leave – then you just keep going out the door (go to)

00:48:45 Have a Wall Clock, right behind any visitors to you’re office  (go to)

00:49:00 Time Journals, find out where you’re time is going, monitor yourself in 15 minutes increments for 3 days (go to)

00:50:20 Meeting with Students – What’s you’re time schedule?, gaps between classes – make up a fake class, go to the library & study (go to)

00:51:16 Time Journal Data, what are you doing that doesn’t need to be done, what can you delegate, what can I do more efficiently, how am I wasting other peoples time, you become more efficient at work so you can leave at 17:00 and go home – work life balance (go to)

00:53:16 What’s Important, What’s Not, don’t worry about things that don’t matter (go to)

00:54:04 Effective vs Efficient, best overall outcome (go to)

00:55:55 Procrastination, is the thief of time, doing things at the last minute is really expensive, that’s where stress comes, deadlines really important (make some fake deadlines), sometimes you have to ask – and wonderful things can happen (go to)

00:59:10 Delegation, you can achieve a lot more when you have help, grant authority with responsibility – give the resources, budget and time to get it done, do the dirtiest job yourself, treat you’re people well, people are the greatest resource, treat them with dignity, respect, and the kind of love that they should have from someone who cares about them and their professional development (go to)

01:00:55 If You Want to Get Something Done You Cannot be Vague, give a specific thing, date and time along with a specific penalty or reward if the deadline is or is not met (go to)

01:01:30 Challenge People, delegate until they complain, under delegation is a problem, people want to show they are capable – let them, communication has to be clear, get it in writing, tell them what you want them to do, not how to do it, set objectives not procedures, sometimes their solutions can be mind-blowing – good or bad, tell people the importance of each task (go to)

01:03:37 Sociology, when people do things that you like – praise them and thank them (go to)

01:05:00 Meetings, should never last more than an hour, should be an agenda, if no agenda then don’t attend, write the minutes of the meeting in 1 minute or less – detailing who is responsible for what by when – and email it out to everybody  (go to)

01:06:12 Technology, only use technology that’s worth it – that makes you more efficient,  (go to)

01:07:25 Video – frustrated office worker destroys computer, only use technology that helps you (go to)

01:08:35 Email, don’t delete – save all of it, save/search, if you want something done send it to somebody who can do it, with a specific date/time/penalty, if you don’t get a response within 48 hrs try try again (go to)

01:10:38 Management from Beneath, write things down, what’s to be done by next meeting, who can help, its not a vacation if you’re reading email (go to)

01:12:56 Most Important Advice, kill you’re television, turn money into time, throw money at the problem – hire somebody else to mow you’re lawn, do whatever it takes to exchange money for time because you just don’t have enough time, eat, sleep and exercise, never break a promise,   (go to)

01:14:30 Most Things are Pass/Fail – reason we have the expression – good enough, get feedback loops, ask people in confidence,  (go to)

01:15:10 What Can You Do Today, get a PDA, sort tasks by priority, do a time journal/count the number of hours you watch TV in the week, revisit this take in 30 days and ask yourself – what have I changed, time is all we have (go to)

The Last Lecture

Key Segments
00:03:22 Childhood Dreams (go to)

00:04:54 Being in Zero Gravity (go to)

00:08:12 Football – All about fundamentals, critics are the ones who still love you, enthusiasm, perseverance (go to)

00:12:04 World Book Encyclopedia, paper, books (go to)

00:13:02 Meeting Captain Kirk, meeting you’re boyhood idol, leadership, science of Star Trek (go to)

00:15:12 Winning Stuffed Animals (go to)

00:16:50 Being an Imagineer – Walt Disney, job applications, brick walls, how badly you want something (go to)

00:18:35 VR, junior academic, Disney’s Aladdin project, give people time and they will impress you (go to)

00:26:32 The Aladdin VR project, Imagineering, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (go to)

00:30:30 Enabling the Childhood Dreams of Others, next Star Wars film (go to)

00:32:24 Course – Building Virtual Worlds, different teams every 2 weeks, great work, I know you can do better (go to)

00:37:20 VR Demo Example (go to)

00:40:10 An Unusual Course, brilliant creative students, class pictures, anything that pioneering – you will get arrows in the back, find somebody better than you to hand over to (go to)

00:45:30 The Dream Fulfillment Factory, Entertainment Technology Center, focus on people and learning to work in groups (go to)

00:52:38 The Alice Project (go to)

00:54:38 Lessons Learned, achieving you’re dreams (go to)

01:00:42 We Learn from our Students, having fun, help others, loyalty is a two-way street (go to)

01:06:09 Never Give Up (go to)

01:09:45 How do you get People to Help You, tell the truth, be earnest, apologize when you screw up, focus on others (go to)

01:13:00 When you do the Right Thing, good stuff has a way of happening, get a feedback loop and listen to it (go to)

01:13:28 Show Gratitude (go to)

01:13:57 Important Advice, be good at something, work hard, find the best in everybody, be prepared (go to)

01:14:30 Summary (go to)

24 Camera Raspberry Pi – Bullet Time Photography

In a recent post I mentioned about helping out some students developing a tutorial on Quadcopters as part of their coursework for a 3rd year module of mine called Interactive Multimedia.

This post is about another group of students who worked on building and coding a Raspberry Pi based Bullet Time rig – again for the same module. The idea for this came from Dr. Andrew Robinson who had built a 48 Camera system with a PiFace Control and Display (Online). It would have been great had it been possible to demonstrate the system at the recent 24 Hour Hackathon just a few days before but time and space didn’t really allow for that to happen, so here’s some info about the rig instead.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Initial development was carried out just on a single Raspberry Pi, once the image was successfully captured and transmitted it was then up-scaled to work with four Pi’s. The next phase of testing was with around ten Pi’s, and all seemed to work well. Some tweaking to the code was carried to speed up the capture / transfer process from the initial small scale tests. The afternoon of Wednesday 22nd April came the time to do a larger scale test of the system – with the submission date for the coursework just a few days away. Hence 24 Raspberry Pi’s were gathered together and configured for a larger scale test, as you see here.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

To allow space and plenty of power sockets to get the system running the 24 Camera Raspberry Pi – Bullet Time system was setup in our Green Room / Motion Capture Room. The following images run in reverse chronological order, firstly show the Bullet Time Rig in use, and works back to setting things up. The very first capture test conducted was flying a paper plane through the capture space. Followed by tossing ten empty power supply boxes for the Raspberry Pi’s into the capture space along with a few other ideas too.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Would be really great to try building a larger size version of the rig as the software is capturing from all 24 cameras and transferring to the Computer in just a few seconds. Perhaps something on the order of 75 cameras or more mounted on a laser cut stand with some 3D printed elements to secure the cameras and Raspberry Pi’s in place would be ideal with a diameter of around six meters. Such a rig should provide a good opportunity for capturing some really interesting shots. Its likely that the software developed will be placed on GitHub fairly soon, and may have another post or two showing some of the actual generated output. All one needs to build this rig is some Cameras, Raspberry Pi’s, network cables, a switch and the software.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Reviewing one of the very first video files generated by the system.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Checking that the Pi’s were connected up and in communication.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Making use of a 48 port switch to get things going.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

We had some visitors too, who popped by to take a look at the setup.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Initially the system was setup to make use of two 24 port switches, though with the choice of having to do some switch reconfiguration or just using a larger switch, the 48 port switch option was taken, and perhaps made for a more interesting cable layout scheme!
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig