PICNIC will be holding its fifth annual conference at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam from September 22-24 this year. PICNIC is a conference/festival in beautiful Amsterdam that started out as the “Cross Media Week Festival.” And while it is becoming harder to define every year, PICNIC describes itself as “a festival that blurs the lines between creativity, science, technology and business to explore new solutions in the spirit of co-creation.” ARGNet is pleased to announce that we will be a partner of PICNIC 2010, and are able to offer our readers a discount towards registration. Details on applying the discount can be found at the end of this article.
This year’s conference theme is Redesign the World, focusing on innovation in Life, Cities, Media and Design. Speakers include PICNIC veteran Charles Leadbeater (author and former advisor to Tony Blair), Cory Doctorow (co-editor of BoingBoing and author of the novel Little Brother), Jeff Jarvis (journalist and former creator and founder of Entertainment Weekly), and YouTube phenomenon Moldover (the “Godfather of Controllerism”). For further information on the program, check the conference’s Speakers or Program Highlights to learn more about this year’s PICNIC.
The conference attracts attendees from a wide variety of backgrounds, including “creative agencies, artists, scientists, designers, marketers, brand managers, content producers, (new) media experts, government leaders, programmers, investors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, freelancers, inventors, technology providers, games developers, services providers, students and teachers.” If you are looking for an idea of what to expect, take a look at ARGNet’s previous coverage of PICNIC.
There’s a lot to envy about Formula 1 driver and former World Champion Lewis Hamilton: competing in the fastest sport in the world, being surrounded by beautiful women and earning ridiculous amounts of money while doing so. It turns out however, that even this life isn’t exciting enough for Mr. Hamilton, and that is why he’s involved in a whole other “secret” life on the side. Courtesy of Reebok , the company Hamilton has been commercially involved with since 2008, we now get to have a look inside this Secret Life.
A few weeks ago, Reebok launched secretlewis.com, giving visitors a little sneak preview of Lewis Hamilton breaking into a big mansion utilizing high tech gear, with the help of a pretty girl with a headset and some Reebok sneakers. The site also sported a timer, counting down to March 10.
Since then, it has become clear that Mr. Hamilton spends his free time stealing back art and other artifacts that were previously stolen from their rightful owners. And the good news? You get to help him do so! Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life provides players with an opportunity to help Hamilton train and prepare for his endeavors, solve puzzles and retrieve artifacts. The game is available in nine languages and can be played on the web and via mobile phone.
According to the buzz, the game has been in production for over 12 months and going by the look, feel and production value, players should be in a for quite a ride. “Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life” is being produced by nDreams, a digital media/games company set up by Patrick O’Luanaigh, former Eidos Creative Director.
Follow Hamilton’s escapades via secretlewis.com and his Twitter account. Unfiction has a thread following the game here . You can also follow the game at Patmo.de (in German) and Fais Moi Jouer (in French).
The final day of PICNIC’s three day conference was themed “Rebuild” and focused on world-changing developments and the visionary people behind them. The day started with Start Breathing, a short presentation by independent writer and consultant Linda Stone. Stone told us about the importance of breathing and the dangers of a phenomenon called “E-mail apnea.”
E-mail apnea refers to when people hold their breath while reading and writing e-mails or text messages. Stone put a lot of research into this common condition, and was told by several medical specialists that irregular breathing can contribute heavily to stress-related diseases. Stone suggests that we do not suffer from information overload, but rather from information overconsumption. If you want to know more, check out her op-ed on the subject for the Huffington Post.
Next, Nicholas Negroponte delivered his keynote speech, which served as the highlight of the third day and possibly even of the entire conference. Negroponte is co-founder of the MIT Medialab and spearheads the One Laptop Per Child program. He’s considered a true visionary and, especially with OLPC, has been working on projects that literally change the world. Although it has been over 15 years since Negroponte asserted “computing is no longer about computers, it is about life,” the sentiment remains highly relevant today.
In our previous coverage of day 2 of the PICNIC conference, I skipped over Peter Molyneux’s session called Innovation in Entertainment because it warranted additional attention. In case you’re unfamiliar with his work, Molyneux is a computer/video games mogul who has been working in the games industry for over 20 years now. His work pioneered several genres of video games through projects like Populous, Theme Park and Syndicate for Bullfrog Production, now integrated into EA UK.
Molyneux later moved on to Lionhead Studios, where he created ground-breaking games including Black & White and Fable. Molyneux is currently the head of Lionhead Studios, which was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios in 2006. Since June 2009, Molyneux has also been head of the European division of MS Game Studios.
Molyneux started his speech by showing his passion for games and the games industry. He declared that games are one of the most creative endeavours in existence because they take technology and use it to present a story in the most engaging and immersive way imaginable. For Populous, this involved using a 5×4 pixel grid for a characters face, making it rather hard to show emotions. Molyneux noted that the distance between the screen and the player is still huge: current resolutions are still far from reality. Moreover, games today mostly seem to be for one of only two categories: either for corporate use, or for the hardcore gamer. Games require a lot of manual dexterity, use complicated controllers and create other barriers that prevent players from having an enjoyable experience.
This is where Project NATAL comes in. You have probably heard of NATAL, the new technology allowing you to use your body as a controller, from Microsoft’s showcase of at the 2009 E3. NATAL is not just a motion detection technology, however. It also offers the possibility of facial and voice recognition. Molyneux and Lionhead have been working on taking these technologies and combining them with advanced versions of the AI and adaptive learning systems used in games like Black & White to create a whole new entertainment experience called Milo. Milo is a little boy that lives in your Xbox who interacts with the user in several very interesting ways. The best way to get an idea of what Milo can do is to watch Molyneux discuss the project.
This article resumes our PICNIC coverage on day two of the conference, which focused on the theme of “Exploding Media.” The second half of PICNIC’s Exploding Media coverage explores branding campaigns, location-based entertainment, and the development of special effects.
Jessica Greenwood, deputy editor of trendwatching magazine Contagious, took the audience on a tour of innovative branding and marketing campaigns that are all on the frontlines of the changing media landscape. One of the quotes she used in her introduction was one of Douglas Adams: “Anything invented before you were 18 has been there forever, anything that turns up before you’re 30 is new and exciting, and anything after that is a threat to the world and must be destroyed.” Adams’ quote raises an interesting notion, indicative of how innovations are often received. Greenwood elaborated on several innovations in the marketing field that did receive favorable receptions, and, probably more importantly, were also quite successful in reaching their goals.
The first case was Virgin Mobile’s Australian campaign Right Music Wrongs, which kicked off with a video of musician Vanilla Ice apologizing for his music, asking the public to vote on whether he was guilty or innocent of ‘music wrongs.’ The project had an initial budget of only $150k, launching an engaging campaign around the musician and the concert he was going to give in Sydney in March ’09. It ended up reaching 22 million people and getting hundreds of thousands of people engaged in several online activities.
It’s time for day two of PICNIC, and a new day means a new theme: Exploding Media. The theme brought with it an exciting schedule, filled with more on social media, but this time focusing on trying to find parallels between social media and brands and marketing strategies, as well as on games and interactivity.
The first speaker was movie director Chris Burke, who is also the creator of This Spartan Life, the world’s first and only “talkshow in game space”. I hadn’t previously heard of This Spartan Life and thus wasn’t familiar with the show’s format, where a host (Burke) interviews a guest (in this case, Gerri Sinclair, CEO of the Center for Digital Media), while playing Halo.
Apparently, This Spartan Life has been a big hit since 2004 and has gathered quite a bit of praise for its innovative presentation. I can see how the concept might work well with smoothly edited episodes showing Halo game play supplemented by added voiceovers. However, as a live concept, I thought it came off as a forced way of trying something new. The Halo backdrop compounded by the clumsiness of Sinclair trying to master the controls of the game were so distracting that I hardly followed the actual interview.
Sinclair, hailed by Burke as a “gaming professor who actually knows what she’s talking about” has a great track record when it comes digital media and narrative . Most of the times when the interview took an interesting turn, though, the conversation got interrupted by shrieks of “Oh no! I fell of a ledge!” and “someone is shooting at me!” or with Burke trying to keep track of where his interviewee went in the Halo level. It’s a shame, because I would have loved to hear more of what Sinclair had to say on gaming and the changing ways of delivering narratives.