Wednesday, 28 December 2011

iPad Creativity Learning Tool

In researching under 5's, kids' iPad apps, I discovered a lack of creativity at the design stage; learning and creativity being separated by the creators' perception of what a child can learn. Under 5's apps were sometimes limited to simple mimicry, ignoring imagination or the creative process whilst other creative apps were made specific to drawing and coloring-in when they could have included numeracy and literacy to support education and learning.

I was really inspired when I taught my best friend's 4 year old daughter to draw using a simple hand to eye observation and coordination exercise. She picked this up so quickly that I showed her an abstract painting by Pollock with squiggles and lines. In a moment of inspiration she picked up all the colored pencils and at once started to recreate a copy. I realised that the creative technique that she had learned, one normally reserved for teenagers far beyond her age group, had changed her perception and excelled her learning ability.  

It seems to me that children learn through creativity because of their ability to mimic the world around them and that we could use creative techniques to aid the education process. In fact every child from a very early age, could theoretically learn complex creative processes to better understand and excel learning. Potentially, every child could have the opportunity to become an artist with the capability to learn more effectively through engaging with creative processes. I know from my own experience as a child with early learning difficulties, that it wasn't until I was taught using imagery that I really began to understand words, letters and numbers. 

I felt that the answer was to create an early learning app with a holistic approach to education with fewer assumptions about a child's capabilities by offering higher levels of imagination and creativity. iPad is perfect for this because it offers the possibility to create innovative and engaging interactive multi-sensory learning with gamification levels, which could foster learning independence and lead to higher levels of ability with perceived intelligence from an earlier age.
Stage1. pre determined learning [pedagogy]
Stage2. task and problem centered learning [andragogy]
Stage3. independent learning through creativity [heutagogy]

See: 'Facilitating the development of a content-based model for learning' -

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Live Roulette iPad

The Evolution of Live Roulette leads to live streaming iPad interfaces. Previous product development required only a download play along version [see Blog post Live Interactive iPad].  Version2 above shows the arrival of an IPTV interface making the TV only version redundant. The HTML back end remains server based taking live bets, credit card banking and results sent too and from the device.

What changes is the back end functionality which can be administered to switch to a private game that can travel on planes trains and automobiles using a secure RNG gaming system when out of reach of the web. A hostess can take credit card payment, update the iPad bank and hand over the device to the player. Player and device can go on any journey then hand the iPad back in for an HTML CSV file to be sent to the server. The live game is replaced with pre recorded video clips to emulate the live version.

This plays to the Asian market which requires a live game, based on junkets with all bets taken in cash through middle men. The iPad device can be handed to a player after payment then returned to settle accounts. Most notably, this also allows hotel and private gaming rooms to give high roller VIP players an iPad to continue playing around the world when they leave the gaming room. Previously players and house would have to end the relationship when they left the location.

Following the completion of the iPad the next phase was to design and build a mobile application. This required decisions based on priority settings as the device is smaller but still needs to offer the same exciting interactive gaming experience. With no live TV stream included the mobile version becomes a live interactive handset whilst watching the TV version on location OR with trust established an opportunity to play Live Roulette on the move but blind with results.

Client: - Contact Oliver Ashton Producer, Project Manager, David Wainwright CEO

Monday, 17 January 2011

Visual Mapping Strategy

The Joy of Mapping by Oliver Ashton

The first mind maps I used were to visualise scripts  in story boards which allowed me to translate concepts, scenes, shots, costume and make-up into pictures that could be understood in multi departmental environments, through different production processes, across entire project life cycles. When I moved over to interactive gaming it was second nature to interpret interactive TV WEB gaming projects through visual methodology to understand the IT, to create the customer experience and to develop the brand and marketing from concept stage. I started brainstorming visual networks which allowed me to focus on the planning  as well as the creative aspects of the project across everything from the studio and user interfaces design to the  IT development and integration  in one a single vision. 

I discovered that you can map any concept across any channel, including Digital, Interactive, Social, Marketing, Engagement, Banking, TV, WEB, MOB and any sub heading that these headings network too, including budgets, stats and commerce. Where pictorial representations become useful is in understanding virtual spaces which exist outside our immediate vision, but which are firmly integrated into our digital business practices. Once I understood this concept then I could map any environment to better understand how technology, business, content, media, IT and marketing interact.

Visual maps enhance idea processes and brainstorming exercises and are a wonderful approach to project planning  from concept. They demystify unknown spaces and allow every department to be involved and locate themselves on complex shared projects. I would also argue that visual mapping is essential to help clients understand digital spaces such as social, buzz monitoring, traffic flow and how digital then integrates with offline business models to create homogenised, symbiotic strategy. In this way mapping acts as an educational tool, opens up more inclusive practices and pushes the boundaries to transcend traditional marketing and business practices.

Visual mapping is a ‘problem solving’ methodology that can simultaneously translate complex digit business models and offer an overview without extensive explanation.  I personally use visual mapping to show clients how to launch platforms as part of an integrated business strategy, to drive traffic to ecommerce and data collection solutions and to devise new online business ideas that reveal product access points into existing markets. Best of all I can finally reveal customer centric engagement models in interactive social spaces, based on content, supported by deep content links, in order to drive traffic to a variety of payment solution. 

Once you start visual mapping there is no limit to how one can condense ideas, solutions and links into memorable symbols. For me the best existing application of visual mapping is the iPhone interface which is leading innovative technology through simple pictorial signs that link seamlessly through to desired applications. My favourite historical mind map though, was produced by the electrical draughtsman, Harry Beck, who created a stunningly simple design back in 1933 to navigate the London tube network which was an unseen, underground space, viewed by travellers with suspicion until it was demystified by the Tube Map we still read today. 

 I was influenced by Harry Beck when I designed a roulette IVR system [ an ‘inbound calling system’ to you and I] as a gaming, call centre and banking solution which eventually covered over 100 operations in ten touch phone digits. The system had to be quick to play to get the bets on but the solution still existed in a sub electronic telephone server world which no one could see and would take weeks to learn. The answer was a simple visual Tube Map that could be read at a glance and which meant that players quickly learnt number combinations for quicker gaming.

Right: Live IPTV broadcast schematics
Below: IVR Games and depositing Map

I was recently asked to map the plan of a new safety feature for a Webster Bennett Core Boring machine, again I used a simple colour coding system to underline the design features and the architecture of the schematics for the engineer, the operator and the safety council to understand. I am not often asked to design 'heavy machine safety systems' but it was an interesting challenge offered to me by my father who is an engineer. This high lights the way visual  mapping can be used in logical schematics used in shared environments from design concept to end user. 

The brief stated that the drill operator had to stand outside of the machine area when the machine was in operation and that the machinery could not operate unless both a magnetic lock and a door sensor were shown to be in use. To guarantee these safety features the operator had to press a 'Sensor' and a 'Magnetic Lock' button in sequence before the green 'Start' button would light up, which once also pressed  allowed the hydraulic fluids to flow.

 The map above was created for Live Casino Technology to illustrate the live casino white label service on offer to B2B customers. The diagram shows the studio and live dealer services on the left and the integration  and business proposition on the right. Explanation of all three areas can be complicated as can the integration process but through visualisation I was able to show every aspect at a glance whilst underlining the fact that  the platform was reassuringly organised and simple to integrate with. 

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Interactive Bingo!

Created and produced by Oliver Ashton

TV Bingo was the first continuous 6 ball lottery show on daytime TV. Bingo was still an illegal TV format and Live Roulette had slipped through the net by way of a local licensing law. The show was a lot of fun and offered the chance to win £100,000 every 3 minutes and could be watched and played on Sky TV or in a Flash interface. My role had been to take the concept and create a 4 hour a day Live TV show across all branding, technical aspects and production.  Having designed the brand element and written the brief I set about creating the game format with my team of IT and Brainstorm designers. I then created the architecture for the IVR which I'd learnt by designing a far more complex solution for Live Roulette. Then the banking integration, pay out solutions, database architecture and finally the call centre logic and scripts.

My job as a participation TV producer was to create a successful business, a successful TV show and a successful brand. Looking back I would have done things differently because there were floors in the brand and the marketing from concept. Fore instance, calling the show TV Bingo when it was a Lottery was misleading and the first law of participation is transparency. We also marketed the product  from a mobile phone database via SMS established from a Call TV customer data base. This kind of customer enjoyed competitions and a small percentage might have enjoyed Bingo but not necessarily a day of repetitive gambling.

How ever, this was my first opportunity to create a product from concept across all IT using my Live Roulette experience and whilst the brand was askew it was a brilliant product and encapsulated the entrepreneurial spirit of the mid naughties. TV Bingo was cheap to create and broadcast, and proved that lottery and more importantly Live Bingo was possible in a TV format, if the right call to actions were put in place with access to the games across multiple touch points. It was also an interesting exploration into the possibilities of TV WEB MOB gaming innovation and a step forward for more complex interactive IT projects in the future. The front end of the show was on blue screen and did a great job. 5 years on it still holds up and could easily be translated into a live online Bingo format for 24hr broadcast with far more social and interactive aspects designed into the production process. 

Many of the late night revenue games such as Call TV and Live Roulette started in cupboards just like TV Bingo, with just one producer and two presenters on alternate 30 minute shifts. I now see the key to a successful participation game production as keeping your costs low until you know the customer life time value. I now always suggest that new formats start bottom up rather than top down. Create a cheap platform from where you can build visibility and a show that does what it says on the tin, which is quirky and has regular mass participation pay outs. If you can fill a data base with players who want to keep playing and depositing then the show can be scaled upwards. In this way new formats can be tested to measure and if the mud falls off the wall then its far less painful.