From Smartphones to (Playful) Smart Devices?

Casio Databank

Casio Databank

If you were a techie nerd in the 80s, you might have used a Casio Databank wristwatch: a bulky device that had a small LCD screen, capable of acting as a calculator, address book, as well as a simple gaming device, while also providing advanced clock features. Those watches were (and still do) dividing user opinions, some enjoying their technically advanced, engineer-oriented pleasures, some staying as far as possible from such gadgets. With today’s focus on “smart watches” and “fitness bands”, such bulky appendices may be making a return to thousands of wrists this Christmas.

Another way of looking at these things is to consider them as the coming of the “wristwatch computer”, or manifestations of wearable, pervasive or ubiquitous computing, depending on the more general concept to adopt. As such small, “smart things” start to network and communicate with each other, they are also parts of “Internet of Things”, or “Web of Things” developments. The overall promise is of better services, which are more contextually aware, that provide information and interaction affordances in more convenient ways than the old, “PC-centric” computing paradigm has allowed. Such technologies are on the one hand inherently personal, as they connect with a trusted device (typically your mobile phone), which also may include your calendars, contact information, various social media accounts and other personalization information. On the other, they tap into new types of sensors, location-aware services and proximity beacons to provide novel services and experiences.

The futuristic promises are great, but the reality is still in the making. The current generation of smartwatches are limited in many ways, including unwieldy form factor, limited functionalities, occasional bugs, and typically rather short battery lives. The promise is nevertheless there, and many people appear to be drawn to experiment with such devices on the basis of two key functionalities: accessing smartphone alerts and information from a wristwatch, and for fitness or health information captured by the smartwatch sensors. The more advanced functionalities such as universal NFC payments, or location-based games are still waiting in the future.

My recent experiences on smartwatches are based on setting up the Samsung Galaxy Gear S (apparently a good exercise for your faculties also while lying down with a nasty flu in bed). There are multiple hoops that an early adopter seems to need to hop through: for example, you need to have a particular type of Samsung smartphone in order to use it. Having a custom rom in the phone was also a no-go, so in my case for example, I first had to uninstall the Cyanogenmod 11 I had been using in my Galaxy S4, wipe the phone, install the stock Samsung TouchWiz rom, and after that to proceed to reinstall all my applications, set up all the user accounts and re-authenticate e.g. all two-factor authentication-enabled services – a process that can easily take several hours, and is probably btw enough to turn away few interested testers.

Galaxy Gear S

Galaxy Gear S

After inserting a nano-SIM card (this device can also double as a stand-alone gsm phone), and charging the Gear S, it is time to install the necessary Galaxy Gear Manager application into Galaxy S4 from Galaxy Store (this is not available from the Google Play store, even if it is an Android app), which makes it possible to install applications and customize the Gear S. The limited selection of Gear apps is one indication of the somewhat problematic, fragmented character of current wearable ecosystems. Rather than supporting Android Wear, the Google ecosystem for wearables, Gear S is based on Tizen, a different Linux based mobile OS, developed by an association of companies, led by Samsung. Next year, the Apple Watch will arrive, opening up yet another key competing ecosystem. Getting support of e.g. your Google Maps favourites and navigation to Gear S soon does not seem likely in this competitive situation, and if you are having your calendar in Microsoft Exchange 365 server, or iCloud, for example, you first need to figure out how to get that information synchronized to the smartphone that acts as the “base station” for the particular smart device you got your eyes on. Everyone is obviously adopting a gold rush tactic, and try to grab as much land in the emerging user base as possible, trying to lock the users to their own, proprietary wearable ecosystem. From the user perspective, the situation is not optimal.

Thus, while it is nice to see e.g. movement information automatically recorded by Gear S in its S Health app, I am already a user of the leading Runkeeper service, and there is no Runkeeper app in Galaxy Gear S, nor is there a way to integrate S Health data with Runkeeper that I know of. Another handy feature would be to have the daily navigational guidance right at your wrist, when you need it. I have already long adopted the habit of including location information to all my important calendar events, so that when I am on the run, one click on the smartphone calendar will automatically open maps, with navigation, helping to choose whether to walk, pick up public transport or a taxi, which is particularly handy in a foreign country or city. Google Maps is particularly good with the public transportation schedule integration, but also Here Maps (ex-Nokia) is pretty decent in this area, at least here in Finland. Gear S does not support Google Maps/navigation, but Here Maps is supported (in “Beta”). It features turn-by-turn navigation, which appears to work and is a very good service. However, while Gear S has a bright and sharp two-inch AMOLED touch screen, which makes it into a very large wristwatch, it is still painful to use for typing in an address, with the tiny QWERTY keys. It is possible to use “Send to Gear” action from the smartphone version of Here Maps, but this seems to work only for beaming the walking instructions, and the entire operation also somewhat negates what is the key idea of wearables – of not needing to dig up the smartphone in a busy situation, with the smartwatch ready in the wrist. Another way around this would be to use “S Voice” input in Gear, but as the Finnish language is not supported, there is currently no way to just speak the local address to the Gear S. While you can get your meetings’ location information displayed in Gear S by including it into the default calendar in your supported Galaxy smartphone, it does no good trying to tap that address line in Gear S, as it is not currently linked to any navigation action.

It finally boils down to practical things such as battery life and form factor of the device, as well as language and application/service support, which of the emerging smartwatches will be a real success among the users. Based on very limited, first experiences, Galaxy Gear S is a good attempt, but finally a borderline case. The plastic-covered wrist computer is so large that at least my skin gets a bit sweaty and irritated after wearing it for several hours; stylistically, the size alone might be a complete turn-off for many potential users. Getting the notifications from text messages, emails (I opted out of those), Facebook or Twitter messages, or occasional Google Now update into the wrist display are sometimes truly useful alarms, but often distracting interferences. If you already have a tendency to lose your concentration easily, the current wearables might not be for you. On the other hand, if your work life relies on following and responding to the flow of various messages and communications and calendar events quickly and efficiently, you might consider one. I have not yet used actively Gear S for a full working day, but I suspect it should make it through a day even with the clock display turned on (the default behaviour is that it is turned off to save battery, and reacts to the movement of your rising hand by lighting up – which it often did, but also failed to do often enough to become really irritating to me at least).

Our research group has been doing studies into the future user cultures of emerging game and media technologies for years, and the ethics and rationale of design is something that we try to pay special attention with. Wearable smart technology holds promise e.g. in health, social and gamification applications of various kinds, potentially communicating the social presence of our important people literally to “our skin” in real time. It can also be used to remind us to balance our lives better, or to help us achieve our important goals by supportive messages or incentives. Gear S did bring up the S Health Pedometer display every now and then while I was writing this thing, reminding me about my physical inactivity and encouraging me to get up and moving. In my case, that was not probably the most efficient rhetoric Samsung could have adopted, but maybe there will be also other, more playful and less efficiency-oriented apps available in the future. And if not in Galaxy Gear platform, then those interesting experiments will be arriving in some other. (There was one, exploration oriented “POI Nearby” style Gear app I could find, but I could not get it to understand Finnish language or place names, either.) In any case, the door for real-world pervasive computing and play applications is now starting to open.

Gear S intro video:

More information e.g. in:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartwatch
http://www.menstylefashion.com/retro-lcd-watches-bring-back-the-eightys-wrist-fashion/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casio_Databank
http://raredigitalwatches.com/digital/casio/cal1.html
http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/gears/
http://www.samsung.com/us/support/howtoguide/N0000895/21285/305957

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MEC 2015: Midnight Sun conference on media education, ICT and games

Spread the word of this interesting conference – I am one of the keynotes and the call for papers is now open:

Welcome to the MEC 2015!

Media Education Conference – MEC 2015 (former NBE) is an informal and friendly conference which participants attend to exchange ideas and information dealing with media education, educational use of ICTs and learning environments. MEC is organized on 15-17 June 2015 in Sallatunturi with the theme In the Light of the Midnight Sun. The event organizer is the Centre for Media Pedagogy at the University of Lapland (CMP).

Keynote Speakers:
Professor Roger Säljö, Department of Education, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Associate Dean Sandi Feaster, School of Medicine, Standford University, USA
Professor Frans Mäyrä, School of Information Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland

Important Dates and Deadlines:
Deadline for abstract submissions: 2 February 2015
Notifications of acceptance sent to authors by 16 February 2015
Deadline for paper submission of accepted abstracts: 13 April 2015
Deadline for early-bird registration: 30 April 2015
Review results notified to authors by 11 May 2015
Deadline for camera-ready papers: 29 May 2015

Please check the conference website for full details of programme, keynotes, paper submission and registration: http://www.ulapland.fi/MEC2015

Please forward this message to all the persons and organizations you think will be interested in the conference.

Looking forward to seeing you in Salla in June!

MEC 2015 Organizers

Professor Heli Ruokamo, Director, Chair
Ph.D. Päivi Rasi, University lecturer, Title of Docent
Ph.D. Mari Maasilta, University lecturer
Ph.D. Hanna Vuojärvi, University lecturer
MA (Education) Tuulikki Keskitalo, Researcher
Marja-Leena Porsanger, Conference Coordinator, Rovaniemi-Lapland Congresses, University of Lapland

Ystävällisin terveisin / With best regards,

Marja-Leena Porsanger
Konferenssisuunnittelija / Conference Coordinator

Postiosoite / Mailing address:
Lapin yliopisto / University of Lapland
Rovaniemi-Lapland Congresses
PL 122 / PO Box 122
96101 Rovaniemi, Finland

Käyntiosoite / Visiting address:
Hallituskatu 20 A, 96100 Rovaniemi

Tel. +358 (0)40 721 8260
Fax +358 (0)16 362 940
Marja-Leena.Porsanger@ulapland.fi and congress@ulapland.fi
www.ulapland.fi/kongressipalvelu

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Kutsu: Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja 2015, uusi päätoimittaja

[Finnish Yearbook of Game Studies, call for 2015] Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja jatkaa toimintaansa edelleen myös ensi vuonna. Päätoimittaja vaihtuu: vuosikirjan perustamisesta vuodesta 2009 suuren työn tehnyt professori Jaakko Suominen luovuttaa valtikan Jyväskylän yliopiston nykykulttuurin professorille Raine Koskimaalle, joka aloittaa vuoden alusta vuosikirjan uutena päätoimittajana. Vertaisarvioitu, suomenkielinen tiedejulkaisu on edelleen kiinnostunut julkaisemaan mielenkiintoisia uusia tutkimusartikkeleita, katsauksia ja kirja-arvioita; ks. kutsu: http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja-2015

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Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja 2014

Tiedoksi, runsaasti uutta pelitutkimustietoa on jälleen ilmaiseksi tarjolla:

Pelitutkimuksen kenttä laajenee — uusi Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja
ilmestynyt

Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja 2014 on ilmestynyt sähköisenä osoitteessa
http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja-2014

Vuosikirjassa tarkastellaan niin pelaamisen historiaa, nykytilannetta
kuin tulevaisuuttakin.

Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja on vertaisarvioitu, avoin
tiedejulkaisu.Pelitutkimus on sekä monitieteinen tutkimusala että nuori
akateeminen oppiaine, jonka parissa toimivien tutkijoiden huomion
keskiössä on digitaalisten pelien erityisluonne. Nyt julkaistussa,
järjestyksessään kuudennessa vuosikirjassa, käsitellään varhaisen
suomalaisen tietokonepelin, Chesmacin (1979) historiaa ja löytämistä,
peliväkivallan suhdetta pelejä koskeviin moraalipaniikkeihin,
johtamiskäytäntöjä verkkopeleissä, uutispelejä, Macaon
rahapelikulttuureja, pelejä ja oppimista sekä pelivideoita.

Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirjan 2014 avaa Tero Pasasen artikkeli
väkivallasta pelikohujen arkkityyppinä. Pasanen käsittelee
artikkelissaan myös seksuaaliseen väkivaltaan, muukalaisvihaan ja
naisvihaan liittyviä pelikohuja ja toteaa, että pelikohujen
synnyttämillä moraalipaniikeilla on keskeinen merkitys interaktiivisen
median yhteiskunnallisessa kehityksessä.

Jukka Jouhkin tutkimuskohteena on Kiinan erityistalousalueen Macaon
rahapelaaminen. Hän lähestyy aihetta erityisesti macaolaisten
moraalisten asenteiden kautta keskittyen alueella tapahtuneen
rahapelaamisen ja rahapeliturismin nopean kasvun vaikutuksiin.

Marko Siitonen ja Sanna-Kaisa Launonen tutkivat uutispeleihin eli
pelillistettyyn journalismiin liittyviä käyttäjäkokemuksia. Heidän
tutkimuksestaan käy ilmi, miten uutisten aiheet vaikuttavat siihen,
voiko niitä tukea pelillistämisellä lainkaan ja miten pelillistäminen
kannattaa tehdä.

Mikko Vesan ja J. Tuomas Harviaisen artikkelin tavoitteena on esittää
malleja, joiden avulla verkkopeliympäristöissä tapahtuvaa johtamista voi
tutkia. Vesa ja Harviainen tutkivat World of Warcraft -pelin niin
kutsuttuja raidiyhteisöjä ja niissä tapahtuvia johtamisen käytäntöjä.

Veli-Matti Nurkkalan ja tutkimusryhmän artikkeli pelaajien biometrisesta
testaamisesta soveltaa systeemisen psykologian näkökulmaa. Artikkeli on
herättänyt keskustelua jo ennen julkaisua ja kriittinen kommentti, sekä
kirjoittajien vastine kommenttiin on julkaistu Vuosikirjan osana.

Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirjan päätoimittaja on professori Jaakko Suominen
Turun yliopistosta. Toimituskuntaan kuuluvat lisäksi professorit Raine
Koskimaa (Jyväskylän yliopisto) sekä Frans Mäyrä (Tampereen yliopisto),
yliopistonlehtori Petri Saarikoski (Turun yliopisto) ja yliopistotutkija
Olli Sotamaa (Tampereen yliopisto).

Lisätietoja: Jaakko Suominen, jaakko.suominen@utu.fi, 02-333 8100

Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirjan 2014 sisällys

Johdanto

Toimituskunta: Pelimaailmoista maailman pelillistymiseen –
pelitutkimuksen ja pelikulttuurin muutoslinjoja
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-01.pdf>. 3-7.

Artikkelit

1. Tero Pasanen: Murhasimulaattoreista poliittiseen korrektiuteen:
Väkivalta pelikohujen arkkityyppinä
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-02.pdf>. 8-23.
2. Jukka Jouhki: Pelaamisen moraali Macaossa: Havaintoja
rahapeliteollisuuden nopean nousun kokeneiden macaolaisten
moraalisten näkemysten narratiivisesta rakentumisesta
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-03.pdf>. 24-40.
3. Marko Siitonen ja Sanna-Kaisa Launonen: Viihteen ja vakavuuden
rajoilla — käyttäjien kokemuksia uutispeleistä
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-04.pdf>. 41-50
4. Mikko Vesa ja J. Tuomas Harviainen: Strategiset käytännöt
verkkoroolipeliympäristöissä: Merkityksiä pelitutkimukselle.
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-05.pdf> 51-62.
5. Veli-Matti Nurkkala, Kyösti Koskela, Jonna Kalermo, Petri Ruuskanen,
Niina Karvinen ja Timo Järvilehto: Biometrinen testaaminen ja
pelikäyttäytymisen psykofysiologinen teoria: Systeemisen psykologian
näkökulma
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-06.pdf>. 63-71.
Kommentti artikkeliin (Simo Järvelä ja J. Matias Kivikangas). 72.
Kirjoittajien vastine kommenttiin. 73.

Katsaukset

1. Markku Reunanen ja Manu Pärssinen: Chesmac: ensimmäinen suomalainen
kaupallinen tietokonepeli — jälleen
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-07.pdf>. 76-80.
2. Tero Kerttula: Peli jota ei voi pelata — pelivideoiden kulttuuri
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-08.pdf>. 81-87.
3. Katri Kuusisto: Hyöty ja huvi — kaupallisten pelien anti
opetuspeleihin
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-09.pdf>. 88-96.

Esittelyt ja arviot

1. Juho Karvinen: Siltaa sosiologian ja leikin tutkimuksen välille –
Thomas S. Henricksin Play Reconsidered: Sociological Perspectives on
Human Expression
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-10.pdf>. 97-99.
2. Miikka Lehtonen, Miikka Junnila ja Elina Koivisto: Pelitutkimuksen
paikat, osa 2: Aalto-yliopiston pelitutkimuksen ja -opetuksen
nykytila
<http://www.pelitutkimus.fi/vuosikirja2014/ptvk2014-11.pdf>. 100-105.

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DiGRA 2016

Spreading the word: The School of Arts, Media and Computer Games at Abertay University is pleased to announce that it will be hosting the 2016 International DiGRA Conference in Dundee, Scotland, tentatively scheduled for August 3 – 6, 2016.

Abertay University is the home of the Europe’s oldest computer games program and the UK’s first university Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education, offering undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in games technology, game design and production management, and computer arts. The city of Dundee has been a major hub for game development since the release of Lemmings in 1991 by DMA – now known as Rockstar North.

Dundee is less than an hour away by train from the city centre of Edinburgh, and the 2016 conference will be held in the week immediately preceding the Edinburgh Festival (including the Fringe), the largest annual cultural festival in the world. Abertay also hosts the Dare Protoplay festival, one of the largest indie games festivals in the UK, and the Dare to be Digital game design competition, which will be held just before the conference.

As a reminder, DiGRA’s 2015 conference will take place 14-17 May 2015 at Lüneburg, Germany. The call for papers is currently open (deadline is January 22, 2015). Further information is available here: http://www.digra2015.org/

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Time Capsule

Airport Time Capsule

Airport Time Capsule

Continuing to troubleshoot our persistent home networking problems: while we have got a high pile of various routers, last several years the heart of the network has been Asus RT-N56U dual-band model, which was awarded as the fastest router available in 2011. It was a slim device, and after I updated the firmware to the Padawan version, there was also more than enough room for tweaking. However, the constant connection failures and speed dropping finally pointed towards the life-cycle of our router coming to an end. The router has been located in very narrow space, without cooling, so it should not have come as a surprise that its components have started failing after a few years.

The selection of a router for a home where there are a fair number of connected devices (smartphones, tablets and computers are just one part of them) is a tricky business. I wanted to have a  802.11ac model, but otherwise I kept on reading and comparing various options. According to specs, speed and configuration options, the current top model of Asus, RT-AC87U, was for a long time my number one choice. However, the actual user reports were a rather mixed bag: there seems to have been various bugs and issues with both the software and hardware of this, 4×4 antenna configuration, dual band ac model. And I have come to learn that I have less and less time and patience for tweaking tech — or at least, I want the router and network infrastructure to “just work”, so that I can use the Internet while tweaking, testing and playing with something more interesting.

The conclusion was to get yet another Apple product, this time AirPort Time Capsule (2 TB model). It does not reach quite as extreme speeds as the RT-AC87U, but then again, there is limited support for hardware that is capable of reaching its theoretical 1,3 Gbps top speeds. I am increasingly relying on my Macbook Pro Retina also when at home, and we are actively using several iPads and other Apple devices, so having the full Apple compatibility, while not a “must”, was a nice bonus. The user reports about the new AirPort Time Capsule have been overwhelmingly positive, emphasising its robust reliability, so I am interested to see whether this router lives up to its reputation also as the backbone of our household. So far, so good. All our devices have succesfully got online, and the speeds are close to the 100/10 Mbps maximum, also in Wifi, when close to the AirPort. And the Macbook is now making its automatic backups in the background, which is nice.

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New articles in Games and Culture

There are again some interesting, new research articles published in the Online First area of Games and Culture journal:

Shallow Gamification: Testing Psychological Effects of Framing an Activity as a Game

Andreas Lieberoth

 

The Role of Visual Design in Game Design

Asaf Friedman

 

Emitexts and Paratexts

Marcus Carter

 

Play and Productivity: The Constitution of Ageing Adults in Research on Digital Games

Sara Mosberg Iversen

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