Best.Conference.Idea.EVER: hammock-like beds overlooking the lounge area, for quick disco naps in btwn events. WIN.

There’s a dutch word that defies English translation: gezellig – which implies something like a homey, friendly, comfortable vibe – ‘cool’ in a warm way. That’s what PICNIC has been; in addition to being just downright awesome and inspiring, it’s gezellig.
I write this as I sit under the TwitterTree, kicked back on green pillows and real grass in the middle of the conference common area.


I’ve described PICNIC before as “akin to the TED conference, but funkier and in Amsterdam” – and I think the thing that sticks with me is this playful vibe, as if the city’s culture is infused within the persona of a festival focused on innovation, curiosity and creativity. Fun, it’s FUN.

Our This Spartan Life @ PICNIC show this morning went really well. Some unexpected quirks occurred, like when our guest, Dr. Gerri Sinclair, fell off the back of a cliff and was lost in space while host Damian Lacedaemion (nee Chris Burke) and in-world cameraman RealMyOp searched for her amidst the alien hills, all the while continuing the conversation about literacy in virtual worlds and video games. But that’s the beauty of a live event – foibles make it more interesting. Add a dash of mixed reality and those layers of you and your virtual self juxtaposed against the terrain of game space and “real” space – makes for a fascinating metaphor. Damian and RealMyOp eventually found Gerri, where she was hanging out on an overlook with Peter Molyneux who we introduced in Halo before he walked onstage to start his talk. The audience seemed to be having fun as well, so, all in all, a great This Spartan Life show. Here are some pics (and yes, we’ll be editing the video into an episode soon). For more pics, check out our PICNIC ‘09 Flickr set:
By the way, the Best.Conference.Idea.EVER is here: hammock-like hanging beds overlooking the lounge area, for quick disco naps in between events. WIN.
I just woke up from a 3-hour disco nap, attended the rest of the afternoon events and am ready to dance now. Bring it.



prepping for This Spartan Life – LIVE @ #PICNIC09

We’re here at PICNIC, a 3-day festival for movers and shakers in the creative and innovation fields (it’s akin to the TED conference, but funkier and in Amsterdam) – full of ideas, fun and sensory stimulation in media, technology, entertainment, art and science.

We’ve been invited to do a live version of This Spartan Life, a talk show that happens inside the videogame Halo, as part of the festival. We’ll be interviewing video game expert Dr. Gerri Sinclair, with an appearance by Peter Molyneux, creative director of Microsoft Game Studios Europe. It’s a mixed reality experience, so the audience will be seeing the show live within the Halo game, as well as in the physical space at PICNIC. The interview happens while the game is being played, so the talk show host and guests are “under fire” – dodging virtual bullets and plasma rifle-wielding aliens, while chatting about talk show topics and being projected on the screen before the audience. Described by Wired Magazine as “a mash-up of The Charlie Rose Show and Doom,” This Spartan Life combines high-brow interviews with non-stop fragging, hilarious asides and slapstick comedy.
We go on today at 9:15am in the Conference Hall in Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, right before Peter Molyneux takes the stage. We’ve been setting up and rehearsing these last couple of days, and things have been going really well so we’re excited to bring it!

Following are some shots of prepping This Spartan Life – LIVE @ PICNIC, the festival surroundings and the Augmented City Lab which we participated in yesterday.
The Augmented City Lab focused on near-future scenarios for mobile location-aware services – great workshop hosted by Ronald Lenz. Our particular task was to figure out an “Augmented City” application that used laser tagging technology. We came up with the idea of “Augmented Branding” – adding your voice to advertisements.
Here’s how it would work:

A laser tagging station is set up in one city in front of a specific billboard. Users at the station are encouraged to tag on top of the billboard, sharing their comments on the brand, product or implications of the ad. The users’s graphic overlays are saved to an online database. This is done with a number of other billboard ads.

Other participants with cell phones download an augmented reality app. Using the app they find billboards that have been added to the database and which also exist in their city. They go to the billboard and point their cell phone camera at it. The software tracks the ad image and displays a selection of user-created overlays to view. This way users can share their thoughts on a range of advertising images in their environment.

For more workshop info, check out
…and here’s a cool augmented reality app by Lemonade, who facilitated our group during the workshop
…and when you want to chillax, you can put your feet up & tweet underneath the “TwitterTree”

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