Invited to speak at Microsoft Healthcare event

On Tuesday August 9th, I was invited to talk about Personalised Medicine at Microsoft’s event “Empowering Health in a mobile first and cloud first world”, at Microsoft’s UK headquarters in Reading (UK).

There were very interesting sessions on Intelligent Cloud, Microsoft Research (with whom we are collaborating) work on radiology and genomics, Introduction to productivity in health, Revolutionising infection control, National Technology Officer’s Cloud Update, Transdermal Sensors in Paediatric Care, Introduction to personalised computing in health, Virtual care clinics in Sweden, Digital wellbeing, The venture programme for health, NHS…

As usual, the most interesting part was to network (in their awesome Minecraft experience centre, with videogames galore) with high level executives from many companies.

Japan Society and Forbidden Planet London

On Thursday , on my way from an event to a meeting, I made two stops. The first one in Forbidden Planet.

Forbidden Planet is a comic store that I enjoyed tremendously while living in New York. While not exactly Tokyo’s Mandarake, Forbidden Planet had enough variety to make it interesting. What I did not know is that they had such a large store in London! It is a fun place full of comic (and non-comic) books, manga, merchandise, figures, posters…

The second stop was at my “oasis” Japan Society, where I go to get delicious Japanese groceries (fresh organic tofu, excellent seafood, mochi, dorayaki, ramen, udon, seaweed, poki, sushi, calpis, etc) and freshly prepared takoyaki and buns.
^.^

Ultimate Father’s Day gift: building a Picade with my son

For Father’s Day (we live in London, so we celebrate it today, unlike in Spain which is March 19) my wife gave me the “Ultimate Father’s Day” gift, from TechCamp UK. [Thank you, love!]

It consisted of a workshop with other father-son / father-daughter “teams”, held at the Iron Yard (The Leathermarket – London), where we built a desktop arcade machine in 5 hours (including lunch break), following the directions from Tom and Tom, using the Picade set, setting up and using the Raspberry Pi, custom OS, emulators, ROMs, loudspeakers, power supply, LCD screen, etc:

Not only we had a lot of fun and bonded through the “hard” work (especially getting all those nuts and bolts and cables in their little places!) of putting together the mini arcade machine, but my son also learned a few very valuable lessons, like being patient, not being shy, following directions carefully, and the main one, overcoming adversity: our board had a loose connector, which had to be soldered, and when we finished setting up the arcade… the screen was upside down! It took some thinking and engineering to get it straight up.

To top it all off, we got to take the arcade home, so now, if you will excuse me, I NEED TO install the Super Mario Bros. ROM and mash some buttons old style 😉

Invited with my son to Intel Buzz videogame developer workshop

Today I was invited, along with my son, who at 14 has been a videogame developer for years, to attend the Intel Buzz videogame developer workshop. It was not only a lot of fun, but WONDERFUL to attend with him!

Although a small event, it ended up being extremely interesting, with an area to try indie games and new technologies, and a long list of talks and panels, including one-on-ones.

Almost all of the indie games showcased were really good. My favourite was Elise: Unpainted Memories:

The speakers were amazing, like:

  • Ed Fries, Co-founder of the Xbox Project and Microsoft Game Studios
  • Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
  • Oscar Clark, Evangelist for Everyplay & UnityAds, Unity Technologies
  • Penka Kouneva, Game Composer (Prince of Persia, Transformers), leader in Game Audio
    Will Eastcott, CEO and co-founder of PlayCanvas

The talks and technology were really interesting, and the games and technology we tried (like the Rovr) were super cool. But the two main conclusions are: VR is all the rage, and it’s going to be everywhere soon (coming to Chrome for Android in October!), and there were a lot of women attending (which is great, and hopefully a sign that gender equality is finally arriving to the tech industry).

Attending the presentation of a new videogame as investment opportunity

On Monday I attended the presentation of Project M, a new video-game as investment opportunity, in Google Campus, London.

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First of all, let me congratulate the savvy business and marketing team behind it. They put together a well though-out package, their idea is unique and very interesting: a videogame that will reward players by sending them real gold + investors buying “mines” in the game and participating in the profits.

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Unfortunately, that’s all the good things I have to say about it. On the other hand, there were many flaws with this “lure investors in” pitch. Here is a list, in no particular order, of the things I didn’t like:

  • Wild assumptions that nobody seemed to explain or question, like: “assuming every investor has 100,000 followers in Twitter” (Say what??!!) and that “those followers they all download and play the game for three years, making in-app purchases” (What’cha been smokin’ mate??!! This ain’t no WoW)
  • The fact that an accountant signed those projections does NOT mean they are “conservative”.
  • Talking about the three “success cases” in the industry (Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans), without giving any context to the numbers: how many games are there in app stores that do not make a profit, or that loose money?
  • Zero room for geekiness. When did we hand technology to the suits (wearing jeans now, so they seem less “suits” and more “cool hoody, bro”)?
  • Billions of dollars, time, and effort in the pursuit of the next speculative quick-buck with another app. Why don’t we put all that effort in, I don’t know, solving real problems or something? Nothing wrong with entertainment, except the fact that a lot of talent is being hired to create idiotic apps, instead of contributing to a common good and higher causes.

The start-up and investment world is quite similar to the art world in which nobody wants to criticize anyone else because you never know who will you be working with/for next, and because nobody wants to be subjected to criticism, even constructive criticism. Perhaps everyone feels it’s all “fake-it-’til-you-make-it”, and everyone suffers from the “Stanford Duck Syndrome”, so nobody wants criticism to be out in the public for fear of scaring clueless investors (don’t tell them that, because they’ve “been-there-done-that”) with boatloads of cash to throw at “the-next-big-thing” or the star-entrepreneur struck media.

Art, as start-ups, is an ongoing process, unfinished by definition, subjective and open to interpretation. It involves many aspects, it’s multifaceted, so even “experts” can not be truly “experts” at the whole subject. So when dealing with “price” and “value” and “market”, all that subjectivity and volatility has to be swept under the rug, and pretend like everyone knows what they are doing.

It’s all fine with me if everyone wants to play make-believe. But where I come from, they point fingers, and call things as they are (or seem). Call me ignorant, but not stupid.

NY ComicCon

Tons of merchandise... trembling with the advent of 3D printing
The Bionic Man
The Walking Dead booth
Crowds (and PowerRangers still going strong!!)
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Cosplay action all over
Somebody asked us if we were "Mr. & Mrs. Smith". No, thank you. I am "Agent 47" (Hitman - albeit with glasses) and she is... gorgeous
More crowds in the Artist Alley. SO much talent. Healthy envy.

After going the other day with Maker Faire with my parents, yesterday we went back to ComicCon. The usual: cosplay, crowds, swag… FUN!!

UPDATE: here is a list of interesting links (artists, publishing houses, software, etc) we collected there.

Artists/Comics:

Studios/Stores:

 

Software:

  • Amazing Plotagon (makes a movie from your script, from the text!)

Apparel:

Japanese:

Communities:

Reflections from NY Comic Con

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On Friday I went to NY Comic Con, like everyone else, I guess, with the idea of having fun, of experiencing first hand one of the “major events” that a true nerdy geek can attend. I also wanted to meet Cory Doctorow (although we actually ended up not meeting). It has been years since I last met him, and it was the perfect “excuse” to attend the conference.

When I arrived, I was really surprised to see the size of it. I knew the Jakowitz Center was big, I had been there before several times. But I was not expecting a Comic Con to have such size and be attended by so many people. The waves of attendees kept coming in hours after the doors opened.

Of course, the most readily noticeable aspect of the conference is the customs many people wear. I started taking photographs, only to understand it was a waste of time, since so many people were taking the same photographs, and they would be shared online.

But the phenomenological metaphysics philosopher / cultural anthropologist / developmental psychologist that I carry inside (oh, yeah, it does get crowded in my brain sometimes 🙂 could not just “let go and have fun”. Had I been socially sharing the event with someone with whom to “just enjoy”, I know I would have done just that. But she was not there. So I let my mind have all the fun.

Many were the traits and inter dynamics to be observed and analyzed. This post could turn into a large essay or a book if I went into detail. So I’ll just make a quick note and keep the longer analysis in my “to-do” list:

  • Unlike many cos players I spent hours observing at YoYoGi Park in Tokyo, who were expressing themselves, as a personal need to experience the union and self-identification with the chosen character, the American counterparts seemed a bit more interested in the attention, the show, the “cred”, the social aspect of it.
  • Those who were “capturing the odd images” as I first had the impulse to do, re-enforce the permeable boundaries of social spheres by doing so.
  • Pre-made identities are quite tempting, for they represent an effortless way to achieve a “persona” without the need to work on the issues and more importantly accept the responsibilities and pain that goes into actually choosing one’s own. Because, although somehow restricted by experiences, circumstances, and neurological structures, we DO have a choice. And over identification with fictional characters is the psychological equivalent of fast food: quick, effortless, filling…  but it keeps us from healthier choices if it is not balanced.
  • The naïveté with which some fans approach story lines, characters, and authors, starkly contrasts the ruthless business interest that go on behind the scenes most of the time.
  • Most characters and comics draw (no pun intended) from the very same sources Western cultural tradition has been doing over millennia: the classic Greek drama, full of linearity, polarization, violence, tension, determinism, simplification… On the other hand, there are many sketched Western influences in Japanese comic (manga/anime) works, but they are mainly exaggerated aesthetic clichés rather than an structural narrative influence.

Of course there are many more aspects to analyze, and a lot of fun to be had. So I guess it would be a good idea to return next year, but hopefully in good company 😉

Minecraft, derivative works, parodies…

Hugo sends me this amazing song/video made in Minecraft. Of course, that leads to 10 more, 14 more… there are so many!

When you make the tools available to the people, and allow them to create (in this case under the safe harbor of “parody”) wonderful things happen. It’s NOT all about the money, profit, control… It’s about imagination, art, creativity, culture. That’s how it happens: copying, re-using, mixing, adjusting, modifying… that’s what creativity is really about (or did you think it was about “inventing” and “making unheard of things out of thin air”?).