Human & AI Powered Creativity in Storytelling from TOA Berlin 2017

I already wrote about TOA Berlin and the different satellite events I also took part in. I remember how tired I was getting to Berlin late and then being on stage early doors with the multiple changes on public transport, I should have just taken a cab really.

No idea what was up with my voice, but it certainly sounds a little odd.

Anyhow lots of interesting ideas were bunched into the slide deck, and certainly caused a number of long conversations afterwards.

Perceptive Media presentation slides

Its been less than 14 days since we launched our Perceptive Media prototype to the world and the feedback has been coming back thick and fast. As usual please keep it going and do pass it on to others who may have not heard it yet, even if they have no interest in the technology. Were as much interested in the general public view as technologists.
One of the unnoticed pieces which went up during the launch was our smc presentation for perceptive media.
Like most presentations I do, its low on text and you end up listening to what I say rather than reading the slides. This is great but not so good when you’ve not heard me (and Tony) talking.
So here’s a rough idea of what we talk about over the presentation…
  1. This presentation is for the concept of perceptive media
  2. You may not know but the BBC has a R&D department and they have been with the BBC right from the start. Actually a engineer was hired within the first 10 people to join the BBC. We do a whole load of research and development on questions the BBC faces in the near to long term future. We also feed into standard bodies such as W3C
  3. We use broadcast technology and broadcast to everyone in the UK. We do this because its in our remit and we must reach everyone who pays the license fee. It also provides the best value for the license fee
  4. Unfortunately Broadcast is one way communication and it can feel like your banging your head on a brick wall trying to reply or communicate back.
  5. The best stories are enchanting and engaging but how does this tally up with broadcast communication?
  6. I’ll like to take you back to the original story telling medium, before broadcast changed things… something like sitting around a campfire telling a ghost story. When telling that story, you would look at peoples faces and subconsciously change elements of the story.
  7. What happened? Broadcast happened, and the ability to tell many more people the same story became the default
  8. But in the move to broadcast (that one way medium) we forgot about context, body language, etc. These implicit actions and triggers which once would help form the narrative are no longer included.
  9. Take the comedy conundrum, every comedian has to face
  10. They choose to customise there sets with jokes and references to the local area
  11. Note the word customise rather than personise. The comedian is still in control and fit it in when he or she feels it approbate. They will also work against the typical view of the location if it works with material in there mind
  12. Variables are things which can change depending on other things in this case. But they each have rules, like maximum length. This is the same for narrative but the human mind can do the calculation so quickly on the fly
  13. Currently the state of the art in perceptive like media is centres around internet virals like Take this Lollipop. But we feel there unsubtle and frankly bit simple with the two way pipe of the internet. Now if you could do this on a one way pipe, wouldn’t that be interesting
  14. It needs to scale in a way which rivals Broadcast otherwise no one will take it seriously
  15. We this is possible with the incredible power the client side now has compared to previously.
  16. The power has been shifting to the user for many years with on-demand and other technologies
  17. We created with a bunch of other peoples help a prototype called “Breaking Out” to prove it can be done
  18. As you can see its not interactive, there is no feedback loops or anything like that. Its a customised experience
  19. Because there is clear difference between explicit and implicit feedback. We feel storytellers would love to work off the implicit feedback rather than the explicit stuff. Thats the stuff which drives your ghost story
  20. How? Well there is a ton of work and money going into adding sensors to your living room. From 3D cameras which see all to simple light sensors to adjust the picture brightness. We’re just talking about using that same data generated to customise a narrative
  21. Of course this all fits with the trend around big data sets, something the BBC has a lot experience in with BBC Backstage
  22. Back to the audience and narrative. Broadcasters have been losing the connection with the audiences. Lots of people have the TV on like the Radio. Its just on and if something picks up their ears, they will tune in or listen.
  23. There is a concept called the attention economy which you may know about and it gets talked about a lot. One of my favor quotes related to the concept is from John Doe on the film Se7en. Most of the examples fit in the sledgehammer category while…
  24. We feel we can achieve the same effect with little tickles here and there.
  25. Were talking about highly relevant customisation of narrative
  26. Which fit and run on the narrative rails setup by the author/storyteller
  27. When I watched Vanilla Sky first time, there was a scene which stuck a cord with me. I couldn’t work out what it was till the end when it was revealed they had re-imagined points of Tom Cruises memories (I won’t spoil it further)
  28. We feel we can strike a cord and reestablish that connection with our audiences which has been so badly missing
  29. Thank you!

Its of course, a lot better when we present it together and add all the additional stuff you won’t get in the notes. Plus it usually throws up a million questions which we have answers for…

At last a cheap Negative film scanner which works with Linux

negative film scanner

I’ve done the research and finally I found a negative film scanner which works with gnu/Linux (ubuntu). Its the Maplins Film and Slide Digital Scanner. It works exactly how I would expect it to. You scan the slides into the memory of the machine or even on to a SD card then you connect the whole device to a pc via usb port to transfer the images out of the device.

The only issue I’ve seen is, you can’t scan while the device is connected to a pc, which is a pain because it charges/powers over USB (even ejecting the device doesn’t help). The device has a total of 30meg of on board storage is pretty shocking specially when your scanning photos at 5 mega pixel. Of course adding the SD card (it doesn’t support SDHC either) you can get loads more space.

The device is great, it did cost £50 but you can pretty much do most of the scanning while sitting on the sofa. Now if only there was a quicker way to scan through my long history of camera negatives. I got about 60 negatives to go.

Using Inkscape for presentations

For ages now I have been seeking a better way to do certain presentations. I tend to spend a lot of time in Inkscape mapping out ideas but I don’t really want to put slides on different layers.

I bought a copy of dan roam’s the back of a napkin a while ago and I’ve been influenced by the idea of using white boards, mood boards, etc to explain ideas. The problem is that once you put the effort in to putting down the idea on to the canvas, you then have to re-adapt it to a presentation with Open Office. Its why I kind of like the idea of the unlimited canvas.

Prezi was talked about and overused to death a while ago, now you hardly see it. I blogged about it a while ago and decided that there must be a better more open way to do the same.

I have been thinking maybe some enterprising group of people could take the SVG specification and build a tool which generates these exact same presentations. So first up you can use scripts on every element including the viewpoint attribute. There seems to be a load of things you can do with the Canvas coordinate system. SVG 1.1 has the ability to embed certain multimedia but SVG Foreign Object could be used to place a browser or a complete video within a SVG.

You could imagine a specially made tool which worked like Prezi but wouldn’t need to be propitery and locked in. They could even create and sell a player and editor backed with its online space, so the business model isn’t totally shattered. Even if a rival tried to create the same, OpenPrezi as I’m coining it would be first to the market and have a wealth of knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Even a track record might go down well. So in my mind, there’s no way I will be using Prezi till its a lot more open. I’m sure even I could with a bit of time construct something using the SVG methods I mentioned. I’m not questioning the method or even the concept, it actually reminds me of mood boards. Its the implementation which winds me up.

Well my questions have been answered by some enterprising group of people.

Jessyink is the answer…

JessyInk, an open-source extension to the open-source SVG editor InkScape.

Perfect, so once I’ve created my master piece, its hopefully going to take a few more moments to turn it into something presentable. I’m not the only person to realise the power of this setup. Prezi vs JessyInk

The first time I heard about Prezi, I started looking for a possible equivalent in SVG, and I discovered that JessyInk was a pretty good candidate: it combines a Javascript library that deals with enabling simple navigation through a SVG document according to some conventions, with an extension to the fantastic InkScape SVG editor to make it possible to integrate effects, transitions and views from the editor itself.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got confirmation that JessyInk now provides the tools needed to build Prezi-like effects, and so, when I was invited to talk on “W3C and the Social Web” at the 10th anniversary of the W3C Italian office I decided to give it a try to build my presentation.

The resulting “slides” were OK, but they clearly remain much more “slide-based” than what I would have done with Prezi.

A big reason for that is that JessyInk still uses slide as the basic unit for its operations – slides are based on Inkscape layers across which you can have transitions. This doesn’t encourage working on a completely 2D-based presentation, even though it allows fairly easily to zoom in and out in a particular slide.

So it looks like JessyInk might have a bright future in front of it. The presentations are not quite as free flowing as Prezi, but to be fair its a good compromise. Open source comes up with the goods, and what a true test of the power of Open source! Fantastic, where do I start!