Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Weather Game

How do we understand complex data and comprehend uncertainty?  That's just the question that the UK Met Office are trying to solve with an attractive on-line casual game: The Weather Game, playable on their website for the next month.

The game present players with an imaginary (actually rather trite, but no matter) scenario and a variety of visualizations of weather predictions from which future actions need to be determined.  How well you do in deciding your future action is obviously, to some extent, a reflection on how clearly data is presented to you and how uncertainty in that data is mediated, so that it is possible to take into account in decision making.  Interesting resonances here for interrogation of climate change predictions. I wonder what a similar approach to comprehension of the UK Climate Impacts Programme UKCP09 models of future climate change based on different emission scenarios, might reveal, particularly in the ability of policy makers to comprehend and adapt.  Well, this is a long way from games based visualization of landscape and heritage, but it is visualization, and after all what we are about here is trying to better understand landscape scale data. Recommendation: take a break from Crysis2, play the Met Office game, explore different visualizations and make a contribution to a useful piece of research at the same time.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Scottish Ten

More from Technological Advances in Landscape and Heritage Management Recording.  The Scottish Ten is another fine example of a terrestrial laser scanning project of epic and imaginative scale producing beautifully visualized results.  In its own words "A groundbreaking international 3D scanning project to digitally document Scotland’s five World Heritage Sites and five international ones".  Work has employed a variety of scanning techniques to document sites as diverse as St Kilda, Neolithic Orkney and Mount Rushmore.

I'm particularly taken by the effectiveness of their translation of laser scanning from point cloud to photo-realistic models (viz the movie above) and crave more information on their methodology.  The impressive pre-rendered visualizations are a great example of what laser scanning is capable of - but I'd love to see the same data ported to a game-engine for real-time interactive exploration.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The City Beneath

As promised something on Dave Walker's Nottingham Cave Survey that so impressed me at Technological Advances in Landscape and Heritage Management Recording in Dublin last Friday.  Dave and his team have been working on producing a comprehensive digital record of Nottingham's unique and relatively little known systems of man-made rock cut caves, the earliest survivors of which date to the Middle Ages, but for which there are far earlier accounts.

Using a variety of terrestrial laser scanning kit the team have worked on the "cave a day" principle to produce a stunning primary record.  While there is little in time and resources to make too much of these data what Dave has done is produce some lovely, quite ethereal flythroughs using Pointools View Pro.  Nottingham is my home city, and I've wandered through a few of the caves over the years; these visualizations perfectly capture the sense of strangeness that descent from sunlit city street to subterranean space creates - I'm always reminded of something faintly Lovecraftian "the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries" but that's just me...

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Technological Advances in Landscape and Heritage Management Recording

Here, for the record, my presentation given at Technological Advances in Landscape and Heritage Management Recording in Dublin on Friday.  An excellent, useful and enjoyable day with some very interesting presentations, particularly focused on high resolution airborne and terrestrial lidar.  I was really taken by the work of Dr Dave Walker on the Nottingham caves (good enough to deserve its own post, so more later) and the Scottish Ten, mysterious name, but great work, again deserving its own post. Since I managed to give the wrong version of my presentation, anyone interested in what I had to say will get a fuller picture from the below...  

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Recounting the Landscape: Laxton Castle CryENGINE 2

Part of the aim of "Lasers, Landscapes and Muddy Boots" is to demonstrate the way in which game engines can place us as archaeologists physically within the landscape of our surveyed monuments, albeit virtually.  As a demonstration I've produced this short walkthrough of our survey of Laxton castle, based on field collected GPS data.

Produced using CryTek's CryENGINE 2, it lacks the ludic elements of earlier CryENGINE 1 models of the same site, but has a greater degree of visual fidelity - it looks more like the real thing.  Just the thing to get across the point that standing inside our survey data and rewalking the same fields, getting digital mud on our boots, may bring new insight. In the words of Tilley "To understand a landscape truly it must be felt, but to convey some of this feeling to others it has to be talked about, recounted, or written and depicted."

Friday, 5 August 2011

Narrative and Choice: The Stanley Parable

Really enjoying the Half-life 2 mod The Stanley Parable.  A great example of what is achievable using FP game engines when creativity breaks free of the predisposition to run and shoot things, this strange fractured narrative with its dominant narrator and meta narrator brings to mind Aldiss' Report on Probability A or the fracturing of narrative form and convention of some of John Fowles's novels (the ending of The Magus for example, when the a narrator suddenly appears to discuss choices and outcomes).

This is clever, intriguing stuff, done with flair but minimal fuss and with starkly simple visuals that point the player back to the experience of the unfolding narrative and the dominant voices of the narrators, confusing, commenting and instigating choice, while all the time undermining and questioning our freedom to really choose.  Great stuff!