ICT news

Lots of interesting developments….HoloLens, Minecraft, Google & STEM, video games, the internet….


HoloLens by Microsoft

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in L.A. in June, Microsoft demonstrated its upcoming HoloLens, an Augmented Reality (AR) headset that allows players to visualise and manipulate digital images overlaid on the real world and to explore games in full 3D. Microsoft describes HoloLens as a “see-through holographic computer” that allows holograms to integrate with our world – an experience they call “mixed reality”. They believe it will unlock new ways to create, communicate, work and play.

In the demo, the player enters the world of Minecraft, playing first on a wall and then building a 3D world on a coffee table….awesome! He uses an Xbox controller and then voice commands and hand gestures. He can look around and through his creations by simply moving around in real space. HoloLens will probably be available in 2016, along with other Virtual Reality (VR) headsets – Sony’s Morpheus, Oculus Rift (owned by Facebook) and Valve.

Impressive 3 min. video – playing Minecraft with HoloLens: http://www.engadget.com/2015/06/15/microsoft-minecraft-hololens/

The possibilities of HoloLens – 2 min. video: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

More info: http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/hololens-release-date-news-and-price


Minecraft in education: can we change the way we learn?

The global phenomenon Minecraft, begun in 2009, has been owned by Microsoft since Sept 2014. More than 70 million copies have been sold across all platforms. Microsoft is now creating an online portal for teachers. “Minecraft in education is students visiting an ancient civilization and creating a setting for a story. It is exploring math concepts using Minecraft blocks. It is practicing collaboration, problem solving, digital citizenship and leadership skills while designing experiments and demonstrating mastery. Minecraft in education is teachers inspired by their students to explore and create, and students motivated to learn.”

Short video: http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/microsoft-launching-minecraft-program-for-teachers/0152049

http://education.minecraft.net (not fully running yet)


Minecon: the biggest Minecraft fan convention

10 000 players attended Minecon in London earlier in July. Whilst there are many younger players, the average age is 29. Guests included Stampy, a famous Minecraft YouTuber who now has Wonder Quest, an online animated Minecraft series, and Mindcrack, a community of online Minecraft players.




Google pledges $1 million to boost STEM in Aust.

Google will work with 3 Australian not-for-profits to inspire under-represented students to careers in science, technology, engineering and maths. Cash grants will deliver hands-on training and career programs. Aust. Indigenous Mentoring Experience will develop STEM content for Year 7 & 8 indigenous students; First Robotics Aust. will take robotics programs into 150 schools; Engineers Without Borders Aust. will give hands-on training to 5000 young people, focusing on young women.

Keep up with Google with their blog: http://google-au.blogspot.com.au/


Bond University Digital Australia report 2016 (DA16)

This report has been released annually since 2010 for the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association. Gaming is a massively popular activity for people of all ages and a growing industry. 68% of Australians play video games, with an average age of 33 years. 47% of gamers are female. Half of video game players are avid video game watchers as well. The International Defense of the Ancients 2 Championship (DotA2 – an online battle game) takes place next week in Seattle with many professional gamers and $22 million in prize money. Many will pay to watch the top players battle it out.




Gamers on Twitch.tv and YouTube

People are more than willing to watch others play video games – and will even pay to do it. Twitch.tv (owned by Amazon) has 100 million visitors per month who watch others play video games online and “e-sports” (the big video game competitions). Sarah Pike has a full-time job as a gamer on Twitch.tv. Viewers pay $6.70 a month to watch her play games like Call of Duty – she keeps half of that. She also gets donations and tips. Fans even order home delivered meals for her when she’s playing. 9 million viewers a month watch Elliott Watkins play Team Fortress on YouTube. He gets between 60c and $1 for every 1000 views…..$108 000p.a.




Global Internet Report 2015

The second report by the Internet Society focuses on mobile networks and devices, because they “will be instrumental in bringing the next billion people online”(Brown). More than 90% of the world’s population is covered by at least one mobile network, with 3 billion internet users. The time spent using apps exceeds the time spent using browsers on mobile devices. 84% of tablets and 72% of mobile phones are Android. Tablet sales will exceed PC sales within a year. There is widespread concern about the mass sharing of personal data arising from location-sharing apps. Neutrality, copyright and low-cost access are also issues. Governments must ensure that enough spectrum is available nationally and internationally to support the growth of mobile usage. By 2019, 71% of the world’s population will be using mobile networks.


Good books and movies

Some good books and movies….


Inside out – movie

The latest animated Pixar film has had great reviews. Directed and co-written by Pete Docter (director of Up), the film is set in the mind of Riley, a young girl who is moving with her parents to a new city. Five personified emotions guide her – Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness. These animated “creatures” live in Headquarters, Riley’s conscious mind, where they influence her actions and memories via a console. As Riley’s life changes, different emotions become prevalent, affecting her personality and mood.  A year later, Riley has adapted and her emotions work together to help her lead a happy and emotionally complex life. Psychologists provided their expertise for the story, emphasising that human emotions are mirrored in interpersonal relationships and can be significantly moderated by them. The film has been praised for its concept and poignant subject matter. “Wise, witty and warm…” (T. Evans); “A fireworks display of fizzing ideas and bursts of imagination…” (J. Graham). I recently saw the film and its depiction of emotions was fun but also informative, opening discussions about mental health and memory. It would be useful in discussions about feelings and emotions with younger children, whilst older students could analyse features of emotions, the subconscious, neuropsychology and behaviour.






A monster calls by Patrick Ness – book and movie

This 2011 book is truly outstanding – winner of the Carnegie Medal, Kate Greenaway Medal and other awards. A film is currently in production, due for release in Oct. 2016, starring Liam Neeson as the monster, Felicity Jones as the mother and Sigourney Weaver as the grandmother. Author Patrick Ness was asked to write the book, based on an idea by YA author Siobhan Dowd, who died from cancer before she could write it. Thirteen year old Conor’s mother is being treated for cancer, when Conor is visited by an ancient monster who insists on telling him 3 tales. These tales ultimately help Conor face his mother’s imminent death and allow him to deal with the frequent nightmare that disturbs him. It is extraordinarily moving, even harrowing – and yet it offers real insight into what a child must cope with. The illustrations by Jim Kay are dark and frightening, adding great atmosphere to the story. “Realistic and magical, it is a fable about the complexity of our emotions, giving us permission to feel anger and illuminating the nature of loss.” (N. Jones). “Compelling, powerful and impressive.” (Philip Pullman). Ages 10 to 16 – but really for everyone. I loved it and definitely needed tissues.



Unwind by Neal Shusterman

This 2007 dystopian fiction book is on the ALA Best Young Adult Book list and consistently rates highly on Goodreads. It is the first of the Unwind Dystology series (4 books), set in the US in the near future. “The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child ‘unwound’, whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.” (Goodreads). Themes include free will, society, consciousness, law, trust, betrayal, hope. “Thought-provoking, terrifying and almost inconceivable.” (TeensReadToo). Book 5 in the series – Unbound – is expected in 2015. A film is currently in development.



Goosebumps – the movie

This 3D live action/computer-animated horror comedy film, based on the children’s book series by R. L. Stine, is due for release in Oct. 2015. In an unusual approach,  the film is also a fake biography about Stine the author (played by Jack Black), who keeps the ghosts and monsters in the series locked up in his manuscripts, until teenagers Zach and Hannah accidentally release them. They must then all work together to put the monsters back where they came from. A TV series has previously been made, but not a film. Jack Black said he plays R.L Stine as a darker, more brooding character than he is in real life. Stine will make a cameo appearance in the film. “More monsters than you imagined, in one incredible adventure” – includes the abominable snowman, the dummy, giant mantises, the clown, the mummy and  the scarecrow. Should be scarily crazy J