At the recent GamesCom convention in Cologne, Germany, a startling new trends became apparent, writes game designer JADE MATHIESON.
Your typical gamer is no longer young, white and male. Nor are games strictly for entertainment. The principles behind game design are being applied in other areas, including education and training, public health, advocacy for social causes, and improving organisational productivity.
With South Africa’s high rates of smartphone adoption, games provide a new channel to engage customers, employees and the general public.
Those were some of my insights from GamesCom, Europe’s biggest gaming convention which took place recently in Cologne, Germany. It’s not quite as big as E3 in Los Angeles, but it still attracts all the best-known names in gaming. The Germans accommodated an estimated 350 000 visitors and over 900 companies.
A number of “games for a cause” made me sit up and take notice. Here are some of them:
1. Antura and the Letters
With hundreds of refugees fleeing the conflicts in Libya and Syria, many children are being denied the opportunity to learn. Antura and the Letters is a game designed to help such children become literate in Arabic. The game engine appears solid and could be re-skinned for other languages.
Created by Pyson Games, Antidote teaches children about stem cells and the immune system. Their aim is to challenge some of the unscientific beliefs that have become commonplace during the Trump presidency. But even though the game is based on scientific facts, it is a classic defense strategy game with nice graphics and engaging gameplay. The game shows that it is possible to take complex subjects like the immune system and dry facts, and turn them into fun learning experiences.
3. Across the Line
The decision to abort an embryo isn’t an easy one. Yet many women who should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies are subjected to ridicule and scorn by protestors outside abortion clinics. Across the Line, which I didn’t see but heard about at GamesCon, uses virtual reality to allow others to experience what it is like to live through the taunting and thereby can create empathy. Other possible applications of the concept can help bridge differences on other divisive topics by allowing people to immerse themselves in the experiences of others.
4. Lost Words
Expanding the vocabulary of children doesn’t have to be as boring as telling them to consult a thesaurus each time. In Lost Words, a player is tasked with choosing between words to explore a story. Each word choice leads down a different narrative arch, encouraging players to think about what the words mean. As the story unfolds, they can use more words to change their environment – illustrating nicely the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword.
* Jade Mathieson is a game designer and creative lead at Sea Monster. She headed up the team behind Old Mutual’s Moneyversity website, among other.
CES: Most useless gadgets of all
Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.
But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.
The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.
1. DUX voice-assisted bed
The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.
2. Smart Baby Dining Table
Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.
Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.
CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”
Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.
Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:
Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator
The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication.
It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.
It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.”
Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.