Category: Previews (page 1 of 17)

MIT Media Lab Experiments with Remote Controlled People for Halloween

This Halloween, the MIT Media Lab is launching BeeMe, a dystopic tale about an evil artificial intelligence named “Zookd”. Starting at 11pm EST on October 31st, the story’s protagonist will be tasked with stopping Zookd in real time. There’s just one twist: in order to face off against Zookd, the protagonist will relinquish all free will, leaving their every action over the course of the story up for popular vote.

According to BeeMe’s project page, the game is designed to “push crowdsourcing and collective intelligence to the extreme to see where it breaks down”. The system itself is relatively straightforward: viewers can log on to the website and submit recommended actions for the protagonist to do, as well as voting alternate proposals up or down. After a certain amount of time has passed, the remote controlled human is charged with carrying out the most popular choice. In a lighthearted example, BeeMe’s Twitter account shared an example of BeeMe volunteer Evan staring intently at a stuffed giraffe as a direct result of the dubious wisdom of the crowd during a focus group leading up to the official release.

Cognizant that not all requests would involve staring at stuffed animals, project lead Niccolo Pescetelli explained to Business Insider that “anything that violates the law or puts the actor, their privacy, or their image in danger is strictly forbidden…anything else is allowed.” The experience’s trailer doubles down on this ominous spin on things, with the “Wisdom Program Communications” program seeking verbal assent from the “Agent” before handing over bodily autonomy to the collective BEEs (Behavioural Enhancement Entitites).

Handing over individual control to collective forces has been a subject of fascination for some time, with Twitch Plays Pokémon seeing if the comments section of a Twitch channel could be capable of beating Pokémon Red one move at a time. While the game’s initial “Anarchy” mode treated all commands sequentially, the game’s eventual introduction of “Democracy” mode subjected all decisions to a public vote. BeeMe‘s structure bears a close resemblance to Twitch Plays Pokémon‘s Democracy mode. While the Twitch incarnation of this idea took collective commands and input them into a Nintendo controller, BeeMe will be feeding those commands into a trained actor.

This past year’s MIT Mystery Hunt also explored different variations of this idea with their Inside Out-themed puzzle hunt. For Twitch Plays Mystery Hunt, puzzle hunters collectively played a single player game in Anarchy mode. Completing that puzzle unlocked Under Control, where one player on each team was sent as tribute to give up their free will and follow instructions sent via YouTube Live comments to navigate an augmented reality world that was only visible to people watching the stream. The Hunt’s grand finale required players to follow a series of intentionally convoluted instructions to remotely control “Terry” as she navigates the halls of MIT while livestreaming her progress via camera rig.

BeeMe takes things a step further, challenging viewers with an open-ended playground to navigate, with almost no limits in place to curb the crowd’s impulses, for better or for worse. The question here isn’t merely one of seeing whether collective intelligence can identify the optimal courses of action, but whether they can impose enough structure to act upon those courses while resisting the temptation to stare at stuffed giraffes, or worse. As the game’s promotional materials repeatedly asks, “How does it feel to be the Internet?”

Pescetelli estimates that the Halloween hijinks should take around two hours to play out, although the full length is ultimately up to the choices made by the project’s viewers. But the real question remains: will viewers be able to Twitch Plays Pokémon their way into saving the world from an evil AI, or will their capricious choices cast viewers as the real villain of the story?

Go to BeeMe.online to join in the experiment at 11pm on October 31st, and follow @Beeme_MIT on Twitter. But try to behave – there’s a lot at stake.

#NOFILTER Imagines an Even More Dismal Social Media Hellscape for Us

Social media can be an absolute trashfire. But don’t worry, starting on October 2nd, it’s about to get a whole lot worse – that’s when pseudonym productions is launching out #NOFILTER, a “horrifyingly satirical, totally narcissistic thriller starring YOU.” For as little as $14, players can sign up to participate in a six-week long experience that invites players to enter an alternate world where the United States government created Connections™ as a mandatory social media platform designed to solve all our problems.

Sarah Elgar, pseudonym productions’ president and creative director, explains that the game is designed “to satirize the sad state of social networks…in the most absurdly over the top ways possible”, and the skewering of social media starts before the game even begins, with the registration process. For $14, players can sign up for the “Follower” level, which provides access to the main game experience that takes place on the Connections™ platform, with the ability to score coveted invitations to the games’ weekly live  “physical happenings”, centered around at least four major cities in California, Florida, and New York. Paying a premium for “Verified” or “influencer” status opens up more personalized character interactions, as well as in-game recognition for their elevated status as a reminder that some people are just better than others.

Once players are registered, they become drafted onto the Connections™ platform, where they are encouraged to perform compulsory life-affirming tasks like completing daily wellness routines and selfie duties. In parallel, players are encouraged to explore the stories of prominent users like the platform’s creator Nolan Stauf, yoga instructor Taylor Hill, and internet provocateur Vokorev with a story that might just verge into the supernatural.

While the game hasn’t launched yet, the #NOFILTER website provides a number of hints at the experience to come, sharing a sample chat log with Nikki as she goes about her daily selfie and NeoGa (Neo Yoga) quota in for the day that devolves into something else entirely. The FAQ is also peppered with more than a few bon mots, and the responses alone provide the best sales pitch for the experience available. Reminding prospective players that status is everything, the FAQ notes that “those who want to be all-in for 6 weeks and absolutely be part of everything they can and have us basically worship them should select the Influencer level, naturally. because Influencers are the most important people in the world. obviously.” The how to play section comes with its own ominous warning, noting that “#NOFILTER‘s story is a satire of social media, so it will help to be familiar with various social networks like facebook, instagram, and twitter – and the horrible trolling, doxxing, bullying, and narcissistic behavior that goes on there. but if that’s not your jam, you’ll still enjoy this experience. in fact, more power to you.” But as much as the game will explore peoples’ horrible behaviors online, it has a clearly stated zero-tolerance policy towards players directing that behavior towards each other – players caught harrassing, bullying, or violating the privacy of other players will receive instant bans, with no refund.

Validate my self worth by sharing this article. Then go back and like, share, retweet, hashtag, pin, upvote, toot, snap, and Insta-fave it whenever you see it online to fill the void in my life. Or better yet, sign up for #NOFILTER to find out how much worse things can get.  But remember, the game starts in earnest on October 2nd, so act quick or you’ll risk a serious case of #FOMO.

A Return for a New and Improved Emma Approved

Five years ago, Pemberley Digital released their first episode of Emma Approved, the Emmy-Award winning transmedia series that reimagined the character Jane Austen described as “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like” as a modern-day advice coach turned vlogger. Over the course of the show’s initial 72-episode run, Pemberley Digital painted a sympathetic and nuanced portrait of Emma Woodhouse that allows the viewers’ appreciation of Emma’s strength to grow in parallel with Emma’s own personal growth as the series progresses. And to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the show, Emma Approved is returning for a sequel, starting in October.

A Quick History Lesson: Pemberley Digital and the Birth of a Genre
When Hank Green and Bernie Su created The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in 2012, it was far from the first modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s works, nor was it even the first attempt at telling those stories on YouTube as a web series. What set The Lizzie Bennet Diaries apart was its expert use of the vlogging format to make Austen’s characters come alive, reinforced by the social platforms they inhabited as part of the show’s transmedia strategy. This format inspired the birth of a genre, leading to the creation of over a hundred literary web series and the formation of Pemberley Digital that fittingly existed simultaneously as a fictional company within the world of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and as a company focused on producing new literary web series.

When Pemberley Digital released a DVD box set of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, they reinvested a portion of those funds into the creation of Welcome to Sanditon, their second foray into Jane Austen adaptations. In order to flesh out a narrative around Austen’s unfinished novel, the production team turned to the audience to create the town of Sanditon together, with viewers virtually settling to live in the town as an exercise in co-creation, powered by social media and the video platform Theatrics. Welcome to Sanditon was still focused on character-driven storytelling – it just expanded to draw some of its B-plots from the characters its viewers were role-playing. Sanditon veteran Kyle Walters borrowed much of that co-creation framework for The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy, while Pemberley Digital opted for a more passive experience with their next project, Emma Approved.

Crafting a More Sympathetic Emma: This Review is Emma Approved
Like its predecessors, Emma Approved was set up as a character-driven show, allowing audiences to gradually come to know the show’s characters both through the video uploads and their online presences. But unlike Lizzie Bennet and fan-favorite Gigi Darcy, Emma Woodhouse doesn’t start off as endearing. “Emma Woodhouse…beautiful, clever, and brilliant. There are many intriguing female entrepreneurs in the love and lifestyle industry, but no one is more dynamic or has more potential than young Ms. Woodhouse.” Hearing Emma introduce herself by reciting that dose of hyperbolic prose to the camera doesn’t leave the best first impression. After seeing her systematically bully and lie to friends and coworkers to get her way in the next few videos, her second and third impressions could use some work as well.

And yet, in a series based in large part around Emma’s personal growth, Emma Approved is just as careful in highlighting how Emma’s greatest strengths are present throughout the series. When Annie Taylor is having doubts about her marriage to Ryan Weston, Emma is empathetic enough to identify what the underlying problem is, without being explicitly told. She just crosses the line by trying to fix everything behind everyone’s back, through subterfuge and deceit. After being confronted with her behavior, Emma internalizes the lesson so that when confronted by a similar situation with her sister, she takes a more reasoned tact. The lesson isn’t “don’t meddle in other peoples’ affairs” – that’s a core component of Emma’s personality and her business model. Instead, the lesson is to do so more directly.

Throughout the series, Emma learns a series of painful lessons after letting down most of the people in her life. And while she learns and adapts, she does not do so at the expense of who she is – the Emma Woodhouse who closes out the series is just as assertive, empathetic, and confident as the Emma who started it. She just finds better mechanisms for channeling that passion. And speaking of passion, it’s almost impossible not to ship the budding romances that form during the show. Bobby Martin and Harriet Smith’s awkwardly adorable overt flirting serves as the perfect foil for Emma Woodhouse and Alex Knightley’s more tentative banter, and the characters’ romantic arcs are equal parts fulfilling and nail-biting every step of the way.

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Simulacra Games Masters Art of Puzzle Box Sales

Simulacra Games is selling a crate of 1930s era memorabilia from the early days of animation for a studio that never existed. It’s not an elaborate counterfeiting scheme, but rather an elaborate alternate reality game in a box called The Wilson Wolfe Affair. Using the diary of a studio animator as a guide, players are guided through the crate’s exquisitely crafted materials artifacts by the diary of a studio animator to uncover the mysteries behind the Wilson Wolfe cartoons.

The Kickstarter campaign for The Wilson Wolfe Affair ends December 21st at 10AM EST, and the team has already blown past all their stretch goals,  with almost a thousand backers raising over $210K in pre-orders for the experience. This level of support is particularly impressive for Simulacra Games’ first foray into the world of puzzle boxes, and can be a craftily executed promotional campaign designed to showcase the team’s skills without revealing any of the mysteries of the experience itself.

Wilson Wolfe and the Animated Series
Prior to launching their Kickstarter campaign, Simulacra Games released a series of videos that served as an introduction to Wilson Wolfe, Jinks Studio’s version of Felix the Cat. For the first two videos, Wilson Wolfe’s adventures are framed in actual animated shorts. Mad Scientist Wilson highlights a restrained Wilson Wolfe struggling against his bonds as a shadowy figure approaches, while The Spooky Salesman shows Wolfe chased down a hallway by a spectral gloved hand.

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The Tessera Promises a Spooky Primer to Computational Thinking

thetessera-header

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View has never been mentioned in a list of California’s Most Haunted Locations. Its exhibits may celebrate ghosts of computers past and the remnants of now-defunct websites, but the museum has remained resolutely apparition-free…but thanks to The Tessera, that’s about to change. Because starting January 17th, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California is launching an educational alternate reality game designed to teach computational thinking through a host of spectral guides.

thetessera-invite

Last December, I received a cryptic introduction to The Tessera from computational pioneer Ada Lovelace. In addition to a letter warning of the return of “S” and a punch card, the envelope contained dossiers detailing two other deceased computing pioneers, Steve Jobs and Charles Babbage. The reverse side of Ada’s note featured one of her more famous quotes:

They say that coming events cast their shadows before. May they not sometimes cast their lights before?

Pairing Ada’s quote with the punch card lead to the final destination, featuring a preview of the full Tessera experience.

thetessera-puzzle

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Finding the Future Again at the Franklin Institute

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Five years ago, Jane McGonigal locked me inside the New York Public Library overnight. I didn’t particularly mind…after all, it did give me the opportunity to thoroughly explore the library while waiting for the building to open for business the next day. Did you know Charles Dickens had his deceased cat’s paw taxidermied and affixed to an ivory letter opener? Or that a special run of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was bound with asbestos-lined covers? I even got to briefly explore the library’s underground stacks. The experience was part of the New York Public Library’s Find the Future event, a 500 person scavenger hunt through some of the library’s most fascinating artifacts on display to celebrate its 100th anniversary. I still have fond memories of that night under lockdown at the library,  and I was brought back to that moment last night at the Franklin Institute.

The Franklin Institute is a museum in Philadelphia that takes hands-on science seriously. Exhibits ask visitors to do everything from learning about Newton’s laws of motion by using pulleys to lift themselves off the ground, to showing the limits of short-term memory by seeing how many numbers visitors can remember in order to open an increasingly complex combination safe. The museum even holds monthly themed “Science After Hours” events to ensure learning about science remains exciting for people of all ages. Last night, the Franklin Institute’s after-hours event was themed around crime scene investigations, with special stations set up around the museum to teach visitors everything from cryptography to forensic science, through live demonstrations. Mixed into the schedule was a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum for the first 20 museum members to sign up.

The guided tour started off normally, highlighting the museum’s close relationships with the Wright Brothers and its collection of artifacts. The Franklin Air Show exhibit even features diagrams the brothers drew on strips of wallpaper…or at least it would have, if the wallpaper hadn’t gone missing. In its place? A clue, leading our group of 10 to areas of the museum typically not accessible to the public ranging from executive corridors to library stacks. It culminated with the recovery of the missing artifact, as well as the opportunity to see items from the museum archives not normally shown on display.

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