Quest for Knowledge

I’m going to try a little experiment.  I’m going to attempt to “learn” something every day of December.  By learn something I’m going for doing some type of training, reading, or other lessons related to programming, Flash or other software topics.  I’m kinda pissed at myself because AGAIN, I’ve been unable to commit.  And AGAIN, my problem is that I just get swayed by so much new shiny stuff coming down the pipe.

Example: I downloaded a copy of the Unreal Development Kit.  Why? Because the sample game looked cool.  UDK uses a scripting language (or so it appears at first glance) with a rendering engine and bloom effects.  It looks very cool.  I have absolutely no idea why I’m futzing around with it aside from the fact that it looks cool.

Whizzle

Whizzle, a sample game produced with the Unreal Development Kit

Aside from being just generally distracted, I keep finding job ads that are looking for skills that I just don’t currently have.  Rather than bemoan that fact I’m trying to improve my situation.  I don’t know whether web dev is for me but I figure I can make some ActionScript 3 skills out of my knowledge and work in that direction.  I just need to keep focused.  To that end I’m going to try and limit my other “recreation” time and really knuckle up and start working.

Thanksgiving was rather low key this year.  Often we hit both sides of the family but this year we only had to do one.  I hit my parents place where my aunt was using an iPad as a recipe lookup device.  It again cemented where the iPad’s market is for me: lightweight web browsing, appliance, utility, lightweight PDF reading, and games.  Using the device is a lot of fun– I know there’s rumor of the revised one coming out soon after January which sucks for the Holiday shoppers, but is probably the best thing for the folk waiting for the 2nd gen like me.  I’ve drawn some parallels to the Star Trek Tricorder in the past and I still think it is an early precursor to some future device like that.

Lastly, my time has lately been taken up with a new addition to our household: a Japanese Bob kitty named Suki.  She’s pretty badass;

Suki!

Suki!

playful, excited, active, and pretty chill when she wants to be.  I’d forgotten what it was like to have a cat, much less any living animal in the house.  She’s totally a part of the family now and reminds me that someone wants to hang out and watch while I attempt to code all day.

Kinnect Hacking: The Future of NUI

Kinnect Hacking: The Future of NUI

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently you’ll undoubtedly have seen the massive marketing push behind Microsoft’s latest offering, the Kinnect an add-on unit for its Xbox 360 console.  The Kinnect combines (in a very small package) an infrared camera, a VGA camera, a microphone array, and a pan-tilt motor assembly for creating image stabilization. All this to allow your Xbox to respond to gestural input, voice commands, and ushering in the new era of user interfaces: the buzzword NUI or Natural User Interface.

Kinnect Unit

Microsoft's Kinnect head-on

So why don’t I have one? I’m broke for one (ha ha).  But the idea of playing games using this format didn’t appeal to me– I owned a Nintendo Wii for 9 months before pitching it to my sister.  She gets way more use out of it then I ever did, and I’m what you’d call a “hardcore” gamer.  For $150 bones you can add this USB-device to your Xbox and impress your family and friends with its ability to surf your Netflix Watch Instantly queue using just the power of your arm muscles.

In the two weeks since its launch, a bounty was issued for an open-source compatible driver for the Kinnect.  One appeared within days and the explosion of development we’ve seen since then is a bit nuts.  I’m not entirely sure Microsoft cares how many units they sell that are attached to X360’s–I think they’ll continue to sell like hotcakes regardless of where they’re plugged in.  Yesterday I spotted an online guide as an intro to USB hacking using the Kinnect as an example.  It’s by far one of the nerdiest things I’ve seen online lately and it rubs two critical spots for me: teaching the masses, using brand-new shiny hardware for new and different things.

Trolling USB messages for relevant memory addresses...

Trolling USB messages for relevant memory addresses...

Be warned, the guide is not for the faint of heart but it goes into some critical detail for those of you who want to get your hands dirty.

Kinnect represent like all things Microsoft a veiled attempt to push their vision into your life.  15 years ago when Bill Gates was talking about WebTV (shudder) he wanted one in every living room.  While WebTV died, a lot of living rooms contain a gaming console of some type.

Star Trek Holodeck

Star Trek Holodeck

The X360 with Microsoft’s mighty weight behind it is morphing from a game console to a  living room media playback device, and now even more so.  By taking the traditional user interface off of a gamepad and turning it into gesture recognition, Microsoft is showing folks the way forward.  After all, isn’t this just pushing us closer to the Holodeck?