Disney Infinity – Toy Box Mode Great For Imaginative Play

When I was a kid a good few years ago I remember being given a Space Invaders game. It was one of those clunky black plastic monstrosities that any child would happily have sold his sibling to obtain and provided many hours of entertainment late at night under the bed sheets when my parents thought I was asleep. One dimensional game-play and the simplest of objectives didn’t make the game any less compelling. Move over the early 1980s and take a look at what our kids have to look forward to now! I’m going to leave aside the discussion over whether or not kids should be playing video games as that’s a particular can of worms that it will take more than this blog post to cover.

Disney Infinity launches this August and you can see that it’s an idea that has the hallmarks of success stamped all over it. I’m pretty positive that my kids will want a copy, in fact I think I may pre-purchase a copy just so that I don’t have to look at those little imploring faces. So why will Disney Infinity be a hit?

  • Collectibles – There’s something absolutely inherent in a child’s psychological make up that drives them to collect things, whether it’s sea shells, interesting flowers or any manner of other objects. In fact humans just in general are natural collectors. I imagine there’s probably something in our evolutionary background that selected for this particular behaviour. Maybe cavemen who always had that useful object tucked away somewhere tended to have a better chance of survival. Disney Infinity follows in the footsteps of Skylanders in having real world objects that activate game play when placed on a peripheral figurine docking station.
  • It’s Disney – Kids love the films, heck, I love the films. I could spend hours listening to Edna talk in The Incredibles. The idea that kids can play in the worlds inhabited by these characters and share their adventures is always going to be a compelling one.
  • Social Play with Friends – You can’t build a major gaming title today, whether it’s a big AAA title or a little iPhone game, without having some form of social play. I know from watching my kids play Littlest Petshop that the social aspect of play is very important to them and is certainly a factor in determing both the longevity of the game and the amount of time children spend playing. Disney Infinity looks to have very strong social play building on the learning Disney has had from other social titles it’s released.
  • Toy Box Mode – Here is where I think that Disney will “hit the ball out of the park” to use and American maxim. Toy box mode allows kids to actually build there own worlds then play in them with their friends. Disney have obviously seen the popularity of sand box environments like Minecraft and equated that to children’s love for being able to create. This is a great feature and this alone would persuade me to purchase the game for my kids just to see what they’re going to create and the games they end up playing.

From the point of view of a parent another thing I like about Disney is that they spend a lot of time thinking about “safe guarding”. I’ve worked in the past with people that work at Disney and I know they spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to protect kids online. Disney Infinite should be a safe and creative environment for our kids imaginations to run riot.

The Pebble Smart Watch – Another Must Have Accessory.

Wearable tech is currently all the rage, Google Glass is probably the most talked about piece of tech since the iPhone and other exciting products like Recon Jet’s sports sunglasses are capturing our imagination. Into this exciting mix enter the Pebble Smart Watch. Marketed as an E-Paper watch for iPhone and Android the Pebble Smart Watch allows wireless access to your mobile phone to control music, get notifications, use as a sports device or answer calls. The watch face can be fully customized with a range of different displays and the device will run for seven days between charges.

Pebble ran a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign generating over $10 M in funds to get the project off the ground. The watch has an SDK allowing developers to create apps specifically for the Pebble. It can currently be purchased from Pebble on pre-order for $150.00.

Augmented Reality Car Repair – A Google Glass App?

Italian Technology company Inglobe has been featured on Mashable this week with a new tablet app that turns you into an expert car mechanic. Just point your tablet’s camera at your car engine and the picture is overlaid with all sorts of useful information to make car servicing easier.

This isn’t a new concept, BMW has been looking at this technology since 2008 and other car manufacturers have also flirted with AR.

As a technology this is almost screaming out for becoming a Google Glass application. It’s interesting because it’s one of those use-cases that helps us start to see just how useful augmented reality could be when combined with the right hardware. Holding up a smart phone or pad is unwieldy but this type of app integrated with a pair of glasses becomes really interesting as it could continuously be feeding us useful information whilst we tinker. It will be interesting to see whether the car manufacturers partner google to deliver Glass apps to support their products.

Let your imagination range a little all sorts of interesting augmented reality applications come to mind. In a recent article I featured Google’s project to bring wireless communication to Sub-Saharan Africa; imagine that you’re a doctor performing a new procedure in a field hospital somewhere in the middle of Rwanda. A daunting prospect. Now imagine that you have medical information overlaid across your field of vision by Glass and better still a more experienced colleague is watching what you’re doing through Glass and feeding you advice and instruction.

The potential of Augmented Reality Service Applications is fascinating and is set to revolutionize the way we look at technical services in the future.

I’ve Got A Tricorder and it’s Smaller Than Yours Spock

I remember watching Star Trek the original series as a slightly techno-nerdy kid and being in deep envy of Spock and his Tri-corder. A near magical device that could give him information on everything from someone’s health to how to find the local green grocers. Looking back on it the odd Bakelite black box with the press button controls was a very 1960’s idea of what future technology might look like but like so many things in Science Fiction we can look forward 50 years now and find some startling parallels.

I was intrigued to discover this week that a group at the University of Illinois has invented an iPhone cradle device that can be made for around $200  and turns your iPhone into the equivalent of a $50,000 spectrophotometer.  For those a little less dorky than myself, a spectrophotometer can be used to detect the presence of proteins in various samples of bodily fluid or water which is useful for detection of infection or contamination. As a simple field device for rapid sample analysis this has the potential to save lives and prevent hardship in places around the world where sophisticated medical analysis laboratories aren’t readily available. The whole device increases the size of the iPhone by about 25%.

Not impressed yet? Take a look at Lapka an iPhone device that can detect humidity, radiation, synthetic nitrates and electro magnetic frequencies. By all accounts this is just the start of the small revolution in hand held computing putting all sorts of new diagnostic devices in the palm of our hands. Whether in five years time we’ll be holding this technology or wearing it will depend largely on the success of new augmented reality technologies like Google Glass.  One things for sure though, the next five years will see us having more information about our surroundings than ever before, what we do with that information is still the province of science fiction!