Category Archives: Convergence

Internet of Things begins with Ninjas

I wanted to connect two of my previous posts about electronic tinkering with Arduino and the fabulous Kickstarter project LIGHT by Moore’s Cloud (a web-enabled, interactive lamp so to say). NinjaBlocks come at AU $199 a pop and contain an Ubunta-operated mini computer (similar to the LIGHT). And you can control the Ninja’s LED eyes for extra geek appeal. Ninja Blocks hardware Ninja Blocks allow you to hook up any sensory input in an “If This – Then That” fashion. You can use Arduino’s microcontroller language or a ready made sensor, and operate everything from the NinjaBlocks dashboard.

NinjaBlocks dashboard

NinjaBlocks dashboard

Check out their little summary here:

A mate of mine, Nick Clark, who was also part of the ‘Snake The Planet‘ mobile projection, is helping to promote these Ninja blocks. And they are selling like hot cakes. Get amongst it.

Light by Moore’s cloud

This project is so obviously awesome: a colour-changing light, connected to the web, all open source and ready to plug into whatever trigger you want to throw at it. In geek terms, it’s a lamp connected to a LAMP stack (funny, huh?).

And here is where you need to pay attention: we all need to pledge to buy one. My colleague Troy and I have pledged one each already on Kickstarter. Possibly to light up our window at Reactive every time a developer breaks the build server. Or whenever someone opens the beer fridge.

So it’s pretty transparent that you need one as well. Heck, everyone needs a lamp connected to the web, right? So go, pledge a donation on their Kickstarter page.

Even if you don’t want the lamp, their ‘behind the scenes’ blog is a great read. You’ll learn about the Kickstarter funding model, their community, and how to communicate if you ever want to start some crowd funding project yourself. Have a read here:

Everything is a Remix

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to and chatting with Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker and author of the 4-parts “Everything Is A Remix“.

Kirby also appeared as a TED speaker on the subject with his talk ‘Embrace the Remix‘.

Kirby talked about his analysis of creative work, which falls into three categories of either copying, transforming or recombining existing elements. Many legends of music like Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin more or less admit to using existing songs and melodies in their work. It’s how they learned to find their own style. Stand up comedian Richard Pryor taxed the time it took him to find his own voice to about 30 years. Similarly scientific break throughs aren’t leaps of imagination but often a transformation or recombination of previous knowledge and tools. Kirby took Henry Ford as the example of combining conveyor belt and other elements of mass production and deploying it for the automobile (which he didn’t invent).

What resonated with me was that seemingly original ideas often reveal their influences, and that it is ok to work like that. If we can admit that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, we can relax and keep inventing by copying parts, transforming and recombining them. But preferably avoid the pure copying. I think too often discussions in advertising are about the copying bit (in the sense of plagiarism) and used as a sledgehammer to cristicise and put down any transformative and re-combinatory (if that’s a word) aspect of the idea.

When I caught up with Kirby afterwards he freely talked about the influences on his work like the CBC documentary ‘RIP – A Remix Manifesto‘, ‘This American Life‘ or work by BBC’s Adam Curtis.

Me and Kirby Ferguson

Kirby’s talk was organised by the resourceful guys from Portable as part of their Portable Talk series. I have already signed up for their next event with one of the makers behind ‘’, Yuri Lee.

In case you haven’t noticed this site yet, it must be one of the most influential in terms of online fashion and (what they call) ‘Collective Fashion Consciousness’. Think of it as a ‘Sartorialist’ times 1,000. Book your front row seat here.

Making / Hacking Films: Creative Social Sydney

The latest Antipodean Creative Social, organised by Publicis Mojo took place at Finch, a very progressive content production company down here in Sydney. We met with Emad Tahtouh, their Head of Technology, who presented how Finch works with e.g. the Eye Writer in order to explore new creative concepts, innovative production and augmentation of video. Here is a doco of the evening.

To me it is remarkable that Finch invests in emerging and experimental technologies as they relate to video production. And if you look at Emad’s soldering table you know he is a real tinkerer. I’d be curious to know if other production companies worlwide are offering similar approaches. Or is it still left to the digital agencies to bring these new impulses into the video space?

Emad Tahtouh's work space

Emad Tahtouh's work space

Emad Tahtouh

Emad Tahtouh

CS Sydney donning the bipolar glasses

CS Sydney donning the bipolar glasses

Barcelona and AKQA have something in common: a Star Player

This weekend FC Barcelona demonstrated  how football should be played by convincingly beating Manchester United in the Champions League final. Simultaneously, AKQA and Heineken demonstrated with Star Player how a branded iPhone app should be played by convincingly fusing gaming with social one-upmanship and entertainment.

I had seen this hype video when it came out a few weeks ago but only played it for the first time last night.

Star Player mobile app

Heineken's Star Player mobile app

Both sides have a star player, Barcelona in Lionel Messi and AKQA/Heineken in this free iPhone app that will surely earn the agency some badges in the award finals (AKQA’s award page is here).

Here is the summary of my experience:

  • Star Player is a well crafted application with a clear interface, reacting timely and succinctly.
  • It contains good copy writing, egging you on while not being overladen with football mannerisms or brand-speak.
  • The global stats (“this is how the world predicted”) give a nice context to how clairvoyant you really were.
  • I could do without the quiz questions coming on intermittently, crucially the Barcelona’s first goal was scored while a quiz question was on the screen.
  • One has to be (excuse the pun) ‘on the ball’ throughout, literally with your finger on the phone’s screen in order to predict goals.
  • Playing ‘Star Player’ represents a great complimentary user experience to watching the game, especially when you are at home. Would groups of mates at the pub get a kick out of glancing at their phones during the game?
  • Had I connected with fellow football lovers online (including live chat, like on the facebook version), it would have become an even greater social experience.

To me this app is a milestone in the development of the often-cited ‘dual screening’ or ‘parallel viewing’. According to the agency it hits extremely fertile ground as:

  • 72% of UEFA Champions League fans around the globe watch the matches alone
  • 75% of US television viewers are dual screening at home
  • 50% of NFL viewers are watching the games in dual screen environments

In a local development, BBDO Melbourne launched Twelevision, an iPhone/iPad app to support TV viewers in their tweeting about the different shows. And their CEO Peter Biggs has ambitiously declared to create more useful apps and products (and consequently generate IP) as 10% part of their future offering. I wonder if AKQA managed to get some patent on the inherent game mechanics of Star Player? No reason why this app wouldn’t soon appear in other sporting codes, like Rugby Union where Heineken e.g. sponsor the World Cup.

I haven’t tested the corresponding facebook app (currently 125,000 users) yet and would be grateful if anyone can share an experience with it. The same goes for any information on other live sporting events (e.g. the NBA Play Offs) that might have rolled out similar apps.

In the category of voting & commenting reality TV show ‘Four Weddings’ had brides going to each others’ weddings and rate them – usually in a bitchy way – in different categories. Viewers where given the opportunity to rate the show online in real time. The results were screened in the end in comparison to the brides’ ratings.

Dream/Fantasy team competitions have been around for a while, e.g. our client Toyota sponsors AFL Dream Teamwhere your squad of 22 players take on an opponent. You’re competing against 15 other teams in your Dream league. So gather your mates and prepare to duke it out all season to see who has the sharpest football brain. Another example is the F1 Live Timings complementing the main TV broadcast – even keeping you ahead of the commentary, and overcoming the irritation of ad breaks during the race.



Lost at Sea lost an opportunity

Fashion retail has many opportunities to delight customers – many more than just the physical shop experience. Think of everything from events, shmick crowd-sourced catalogs, celebrity PR to pop-up stores. And why not have more connections between the clothing itself and other channels? It seems such an opportunity was lost in the case of The Astral Plane.

The Truth Was Lost At Sea - by The Astral Plane

I just purchased their shirt (shown above) at Scandinavian store and gallery somedays and discovered a “boarding pass”-styled tag attached to it. Its number  suggested to be some sort of individual code. It also carried an entertaining blurb on how The Astral Plane is a “tea-sipping, biscuit eating, moustache sculpting collective” that “brings fine art to life”.

The Astral Plane clothing tag

Their online presence proves that they dig the music, the tweets and the blogging. Watch their “beautiful people pool party” music video below.

So I had high hopes for the website and myspace profile to deliver me some goodies in exchange for my “code”. With my imagination running wild (free moustache styling? biscuit session with the head designer?) I hit their sites, searched high and low. But nothing. Seems like it didn’t cross their mind to connect those dots. What I do know is that they are going to play a gig in The Cross on April 9 (details here).

Maybe I am supposed to blag my way into the venue, using my special tag? Or will the bouncer tell me “and the blog I rode in on” to get lost at sea?

Door policy at SXSW (Austin, TX) 2010

I just received a friendly email from Dan at Astral Plane, saying they are thinking about extending the tag experience (or something similar). And sending me a shirt from their new collection. It’s definitely a great label in the making. 😉

If I can dream, Green Eyed World and The Real World – real-time interactive docu soaps

If I can dream of a real-time worldwide and interactive audience…then I am Simon Fuller. Fuller’s new reality show “If I can dream” circumvents regular TV stations and gets a straight Hulu/MySpace release (worldwide). Which – given the heavyweights behind the project and the sponsoring brands Pepsi and Ford – does raise some eyebrows in the TV and marketing world. Apparently it will mark the beginning of Disney’s Hulu being available beyond the US market.

If I can dream

If I can dream Trailer

Its concept fuses shows like MTV’s “Real World” (currently in its 22nd iteration) together with a global real-time, interactive audience. Reminiscent of  Sprite-supported “Green-Eyed World” that cleverly integrated, emulated and (to a certain extent) faked real-time interaction with its viewers. Not being 100%  live naturally has advantages for footage, editing and story lining quality. Especially when you are so much on the road as Katie Vogel and the production team were in their show.

Green Eyed World

Green Eyed World with Katie Vogel

But participating as a real-time-interactive audience will have a strong appeal. Additionally, the attractiveness of “If I can dream” contestants, narrative and set will easily outshine the average hapless Big Brother cast and their demeaning challenges in their drab cage container.

Big Brother shenanigans

Big Brother shenanigans

I happen to have worked on the first “The Real World” in Germany, so I have a soft spot for any kind of “let’s stick some talented and aspirational kids under one roof and see what happens”. Our production under the title of “Das wahre Leben” (background in German) ran in 1994 and pretty much set the scene for Big Brother and the like. It employed one of the first large scale digital post productions with all Avid systems available in Germany at the time crammed into our editing rooms. Post Production on the 12 episodes happened on 4-5 episodes in parallel, and under the same roof as the set. We were only a couple of weeks behind the “reality” happening in the fancy loft next door in Berlin Mitte (Linienstrasse).

"Das wahre Leben" German TV series 1994

"Das wahre Leben" German TV series 1994

"Das wahre Leben" German TV series 1994

"Das wahre Leben" German TV series 1994

This episode shows (in German) the extraordinary circumstances and the frantic pace with which we produced the show at the time. Excuse the heavy compression, I did it at the time so my movies would all fit onto one CD-ROM.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It was extraordinary because hardly anyone knew exactly how to produce such a show. It was a process of rapid-prototyping with constant refinement loops over the course of the episodes. It was also extraordinary because in our 12 hour / 7 days a week style of production, we were rapidly feeling like we were living the lives of the cast, only with a delay of a week or so. Unbeknown to the cast, we were working next door in former rooms of the Nationale Volksarmee (the East German ‘National People’s Army’). Quite a clash of (at the time) cutting edge technology with socialist-style interior. Btw, I am the guy rocking it at the Apple Performa computer in the second shot.

Post production on "Das wahre Leben"

Post production on "Das wahre Leben"

Post production at "Das wahre Leben"

Post production at "Das wahre Leben"

I am sure that even though in the last 15 years the world has become very used to docu-soaps and real-time interactions with a cast through the web, it must still be a surreal experience for the production team on “If I can dream”. The result soon to be found here:


Hulu website