Saturday, 7 September 2013

Going to Campus Party EU

'All sorts of synergies will take place. It is going to be the place to be – a Glastonbury for geeks'

Really, this is the first I'd heard about Campus Party. A statement from Boris Johnson reading it in the Metro. I think I'd heard some murmurs beforehand, but I really didn't know what it was or what I'd be expecting. In London, there are always tech meetups, so it's hard to really differentiate between the small groups and the substantial ones.

Glad I didn't have to stay in one of those tents..
Anyway! After finding out what it was and what would be there, I wanted in. I love those sort of events, playing with new types of tech or just meeting other people with similar interests. Usually, they're more business related with attractive people trying to sell you things, but the Xbox One was going to be there, so there wasn't really a choice in the matter.

Long story short, I managed to go! With my full time job at Marmalade, I don't have as much free time as I used to, but as Marmalade are now a Microsoft Partner and the Marmalade SDK can now deploy to Windows Phone, they needed some tech support at hand during the hackathon. Yipee!

The Event
Come Wednesday morning, I'm up and ready to play with some gadgets. I was contracted to be helping between 2 - 4, so I figured I would go a bit earlier to investigate the atmosphere. I got there at around 11 and made my way around the large venue. I couldn't make any of the talks unfortunately. Being at the O2, it was huge however. In my opinion, a benefit and a disadvantage.

Hackers. Hackers Everywhere
Even though the space was there, the lack of the O2's maximum limit of attendees made it look a bit empty when it really wasn't. It was just the illusion of the venue size. Regardless, wearing my pretty new name tag, I explored what was at hand.
Due to time constraints, I didn't get to check out every booth, but some things definitely stuck out. 

Oculus Rift
Just wow. I can't really explain it. The things people dreamed of in the 90's. Off the top of my head, I believe a similar venture was attempted by Nintendo with the Virtual Boy. Though a little before my time, I know that it was a failure, but the Oculus Rift.. just wow. First of all, it wasn't a helmet. It was a sort of circular device that went around my head over my eyes. For sound, a normal pair of over-ear headphones. 

Without wearing the device, you could only see what is on the laptop screen
Now, it's really hard to explain. You do have to try it to understand it. Essentially, I was seeing something like this, and so were the other people behind me on the available laptop screen:
Padding; for his pleasure
But when it was actually over my eyes. God damn. I was immersed:

Alright it's not absolutely perfect. I was on a roller coaster track and the graphics were very pixel like; to be expected with a tech demo and a product still being tweaked. Regardless, it was cool to look around physically and see the direction I was looking in represented in the virtual reality. I turned my head to the left; I'm looking left in this virtual reality world. I look up; I can see the blue sky. It was all very cool, but I could still tell what I was doing. It wasn't until that I saw myself looking vertically down at the first dip on the roller coaster track that my legs turned to this:

WOAH! Seriously, as I fell vertically towards what I thought would be my death, I thought I was actually there. My legs went weak and I was physically shaking. A similar effect to being on a real roller coaster.  I couldn't believe I was tilting left and right just as the roller coaster bent and twisted, but I was. It was a natural reaction. They saved the best until last when I was actually launched off the track to land on the other side (insert death joke here). I specifically remember exclaiming 'Jesus Christ' to some laughter behind me. I couldn't believe that I'd been able to feel all of that through a helmet. A device. It was so realistic.

My verdict? The frickin' future man. Immersive as hell and I can only imagine what could be done with the hardware. Horror games? Wear nappies. FPS shooters? Better actually look towards where you can hear the shots coming from. The things that can be done are amazing; endless possibilities in my opinion. Imagine trying something that you would never try in real life? I don't know. Bungee jumping. All you need is a powerful fan and as far as your brain is concerned, you are falling 100's of feet. 

I should write that one down..

Overall, it was a great experience, and I can't wait to see it advance. Though I am sure it will have it's fair share of privacy and health issues, we can leave the lawyers to deal with that. For now, we can just enjoy it for what it's going to be; the future.

Xbox One
One of the big releases this year I suppose. Me? I'm not phased too much. I'm longing for the time that I am part of the PC master race, but until then..

It was pretty nifty. A bit of a throwback to Killer Instinct which I strangely remember playing on the Super Nintendo (at that age, I probably shouldn't have). As I'm not really into fighting games, I wouldn't really be able to differentiate it between that of Street Fighter and Soul Calibur, but it definitely was beautiful. I loved the particle effects from every hit colliding with each other and bouncing all over the place. 

New haircut?
As far as my fingers were concerned, I was just trying to mash the buttons and destroy my new found friend.

Extreme selfie

I lost. Regardless, it was a lot of fun. Definitely not encouraged to get one yet, but maybe one day. 

Comfortable controller too.

Microsoft Surface
I'd seen an advert on these.  A lot of clicking:

Pretty snazzy. I must have seen this one a million times, so you can't blame Microsoft for their marketing team. Still, I'd never actually used one. James Croft was also there representing Microsoft, and I also bumped into my old lecturer Rob Miles!

First impressions? It's crazy light, and I love how sleek it is. Want a tablet? Disconnect the keyboard, or just wrap it to the back. Want a PC? Go to Desktop mode. I definitely see what Microsoft are going for, and funnily enough after being a bit of an Android nut, it surprises me that they're not doing more successfully  A quick portable Windows computer with the advantages of a tablet. Whats not to love? To be honest, I'd consider getting one. At least they aren't doing as bad as Blackberry. Ouch. That Halo game was pretty sweet too. Reminded me of the top down levels from the old Contra, but much prettier.

Kinect 3D Printing
Finally, the créme de la créme. I'd seen some reports of 3D printing, the more controversial ones anyway about people printing their own weapons. Apart from that, I'd never really explored them, but get me. I got my head printed in 3D by the Kinect! Charging £35 for an actual bust of my head, I was happy with just the model, but wow! 

3D print of a brain.. really
The Kinect has certainly come a long way since it's predecessor getting every nook and cranny of my silly mug. How about an Oculus rift horror game that changes as the Kinect measures the persons facial reflexes and heart rate. Can you even imagine.

I'm next gen
Apart from that (and because I have already written a ridiculous amount), it was your typical tech event. Start ups a plenty and people developing. I only got to go to one day of the week long event, but there were were a surprising amount of people playing League of Legends when I went, and we know my opinion on that.. Still, great fun. Even managed to fit in a game of fifa at the gaming section. 

Finally, this:

If you know what that is, please feel free to let me know.

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