Wednesday, February 19, 2014

City of Paradigm and Dr. Katherine Frase: How the Internet of Things Can Make Cities Smarter

city-of-paradigm-thumbnailI spoke with urban anthropologist Dr. Katherine Frase—also vested with the title of Chief Technology Officer, IBM Smarter Cities—about how the Internet of Things and sensor technology intersects with human efforts in metropolises and urban centers for my most recent article about smart cities at SiliconAngle.

You can go read the entire thing at “City of Paradigm: The Internet of Things.”

The article opens with an excerpt from a book that doesn’t exist (The City of Paradigm) but frames a narrative scene designed to show government officers and construction workers reacting to and acting on information from a sensor network and analysis of data therefrom.

Here’s some of what didn’t make it into the article but are still things we can all think about.

During our talk she spoke about some of the questions that arise from dealing with large groups of people who take part in a city infrastructure. One of the problems cities are facing is attempting to communicate information to people and doing so in a way that’s less likely to be misunderstood. Sensors can only go so far when attempting to manage traffic on the streets—they can tell us where the high congestion areas historically happen and help computer scientists model what happens when a particular core street is shut down.

However, getting traffic patterns to change is at its very crux a human communication problem. Telling people not to take a particular street (to reduce congestion) usually ends with a large number taking a specific side street, simply moving the congestion problem somewhere else. Actually easing congestion may take more than just modelling; but a communication solution that actively attempts to redirect humans to different traffic patterns. A radio broadcast or a simple message may not suffice.

Another interesting tidbit that she spoke about was how some utilities companies have been attempting to gamify their service to cause households to reduce costs. By allowing people to “compete” for better energy use they are hoping to pit house vs. house (or neighborhood vs. neighborhood) towards using less energy overall. By using gamification—comparison charts, badges, accolades, etc.—these utilities hope to use gamification theory to make better energy users out of customers.

If I have a chance, I might revisit these subjects in later editions of The City of Paradigm on SiliconAngle.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Star Trek Online: Solanae Dyson Science Destroyers

I noticed that a lot of people have been very interested in this new virtual items from Star Trek Online. These ships are a reward from participating in the 4th Anniversary Event in STO and bring a few new interesting mechanics into the game. As a result, the folks over at Vox Ex Machina sat down with a few players and looked at their Dyson science destroyers and wrote up a review.

Star Trek Online: Dyson Science Destroyer Review

Head over there and let them know what you think. There are two screenshots right now (from the Aves-class Romulan variant) but more screenshots are expected today.

I personally have an Aves-class and I’ve been slowing grinding up the Dyson reputation so that I can grab the Experimental Proton Weapon for its front arc. I know that there’s a dearth of consoles that buff proton damage, but I’m intrigued by a weapon that can act as both a cannon and a beam.

I’m not a very good Romulan player at this point--I’ve noticed I’m a cruiser captain who doesn’t deal well with warbirds—but the hit-and-run tactics needed by a battle-cloaking science vessel with some escort-upbringing do make for exciting space battles.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Star Trek Online: Hirogen Hunter Heavy Escort?

With Star Trek Online providing a surprising venue to talk about the nature of virtual items—and the fact that I have a job that lets me report on the goings-on in free-to-play MMO games—I decided to try an experiment by having a player in STO who flies one of these ships give me notes to review it by.

The result, this badass virtual item spotlight on GameOgre about the Hirogen Hunter Heavy Escort lockbox ship.

The game mechanics have generated a layered culture of thought about equipment, strategy, and button-press abilities. This means that reviews of these virtual items (the starships) includes a lot of jargon that to an outsider sounds and looks a lot like gibberish—but with a little bit of context quickly makes a lot of sense.

I am especially intrigued by the proliferation of the understanding of the Aux2Bat (referring to an ability called “Auxiliary to Battery”) starship build. A methodology that takes advantage of synergies between STO game mechanics that allow a single ship-equippable ability (on a bridge officer) to significantly lower skill cooldowns. Since the concept of A2B is so popular in starship building it was important not to leave it out of the review of the Hirogen Hunter.

Keeping in mind how STO players relate to ships, builds, and other players when referring to game mechanics will make for better, in-depth, audience-centric reviews. In the past I’ve covered the Catian Atrox Carrier, the Tholian Recluse Carrier, and the Romulan Dreadnought Warbird.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Star Trek Online: The Art of the Build

I know that the analysis from the Star Trek Online Winter Event survey is not done yet (and this might take a while) so this is a poor time to develop a new project, but I have a great idea for an essay and video series: STO: The Art of the Build.

I came up with this shortly after talking about the Dyson Solanae Hybrid-Technology Romulan science-destroyer warbird being released in STO Season 8.5. It comes with a set of consoles, weapons, and even different ship-costume effects that have sparked a lot of discussion on how to “build” it and its variants.

The premise is, that similar to many RPGs, STO has paper-dolls for players’ equipment--but players can also captain starships. A starship isn’t just another piece of equipment, it’s almost another character/class all on its own and players must spend time thinking of how to build them.

Not only does this come down to a choice in ship—based on specs, opportunity, and play-style—but there’s also a great deal of thought that goes into building up bridge officers, training them, equipment for the ship—from weapon layout to console choice to support weapons and abilities.

All of this collapses together alongside a large number of ships available to every faction, a huge amount of choice also exists in aesthetic effect as well as game mechanics.

To this end, the playerbase continually digests and spins out configurations, resources, and communicates on how to approach particular goals in game for PvE, PvP, and ship costuming.