31st March 2011

Canadian Production Sold to Belgium

distribution360Distribution360 has announced the sale of the award-winning comedy cross-platform property TAC.tv to Belgian broadcaster RTBF (Radio télévision belge de la communauté française). The broadcaster will air the Québec-based Salambo Productions original French shorts (181 x 3 minutes), known in French as tetesaclaques.tv, over the next three years.

The series of shorts features a cast of hilarious characters such as The Googoos, The Secretary, and The Pilot, to name a few. The off-the-wall characters featured in the series are sculpted from modeling clay by the creator himself, Michel Beaudet. While in post-production, he superimposes his own moving eyes, mouth, and nose, creating unique characters with over-the-top personalities.tactv-characters

TAC.tv’s witty and humourous animated shorts are wildly popular and have proven very successful across all media, especially in French-speaking Canada and France. Originally in French, the series has expanded to add English shorts to its slate.

“We’re thrilled that Belgium’s French-speaking population will be able to enjoy TAC.tv’s crazy antics on RTBF,” says Stéphanie Röckmann-Portier, Managing Director/Head of Sales, Distribution360. “Our goal has always been to showcase our dynamic lineup of cross-platform projects to international audiences,” adds Stephanie. “TAC.tv has already proven to be a highly successful and hilariously entertaining brand in many markets, and we’re excited to be able to share it with audiences in Belgium.”

D-BoxD-BOX Technologies Inc. has announced that it has received approval from the TSX Venture Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange for its graduation and the listing of its common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of market opening on Friday, April 1, 2011.  D-Box’s common shares will trade under the stock symbol “DBO” as opposed to “DBO.a”.

“The graduation to the Toronto Stock Exchange is part of a normal evolution reflecting our growth and the execution of our business plan,” said Claude Mc Master, President and Chief Executive Officer of D-BOX Technologies. “It’s a great achievement for the entire D-BOX team.”

BCICFounders and CEOs of technology ventures wanting to improve their chances of building a successful company can now participate in the BCIC Mentor Program and benefit from the experience of seasoned technology entrepreneurs. The Program (in partnership with ACETECH) is a province-wide development program for early-stage entrepreneurs with the goal of improving the success of technology companies in BC.

“The BCIC Mentor Program matches mentors with ventures in a way that recognizes the needs of the entrepreneur and the interests of the mentor,” said Paulin Laberge, BCIC Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of the BCIC Mentor Program. “The focus of the mentoring is on entrepreneurial education in the context of building a real venture. Once an entrepreneur is accepted into the Program, we expect that the mentoring relationship will span multiple years.”

In order to be accepted into the BCIC Mentor Program, the CEO or founder must be referred by one of the Program’s Participating Organizations. The first four organizations to come on board with the BCIC Mentor Program are: ACETECH, BC Technology Industry Association, BCIC-New Ventures Competition and Accelerate Okanagan. With the addition of Accelerate Okanagan as a Participating Organization, the BCIC Mentor Program is available to entrepreneurs in the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan region. The program will expand into other regions, including Victoria, later this year.

While each Participating Organization has its own set of criteria under which entrepreneurs can access the BCIC Mentor Program, the criteria typically includes participation in current or recent entrepreneurial development programs offered by that organization.

“Through this Program, Accelerate Okanagan is able to expand the breadth of our current offerings to include long-term mentorship,” says Jeff Keen, Director of Acceleration Programs at Accelerate Okanagan.

Since the program launched last fall in the Lower Mainland, over 40 mentors have been accepted into the program and they are eager to begin working with the founders and CEOs of local technology ventures. Mentorship through the BCIC Mentor Program is provided to entrepreneurs at no cost. Stay tuned for additional Participating Organization announcements.

Microsoft CanadaA large majority of Canadians and Americans believe business leaders need to be open to take more intelligent risks in order to create innovation, a Microsoft Canada survey conducted by Harris/Decima has revealed. The majority of office workers in both Canada (97 per cent) and the U.S. (96 per cent) also agreed that companies must embrace new technologies in order to remain competitive. Both Canadians (96 per cent) and Americans (99 per cent) agree that technology is shaping the future of how they work.

The survey, which ran from January 5th to January 14th 2011, polled senior and junior/mid-level Canadian and U.S. office workers to better understand their views about technology and innovation in the workplace. Of the 504 surveys that were completed among a random sample of Canadian office workers and 501 surveys among a random sample of American office workers,  the results were clear: 84 per cent of Canadians and 77 per cent of Americans believe business leaders need to take more risks to create innovation, while only 53 per cent of Canadians and 55% of Americans feel the company they work for is already driving innovation.

“Canadian business leaders must embrace an appetite for intelligent risk instead of shying away from it to stay within the comfort of status quo,” says Eric Gales, President of Microsoft Canada. “Now is the time to createorganizational cultures where risk is not a dirty four-letter word, but is encouraged as a valuable ingredient in fueling learning, creativity and inspiring innovation.”

“The business world is in the midst of an exciting period of change driven by technology,” said Peter Aceto, Chief Executive Officer, ING DIRECT, commenting on the survey results. “For businesses to be successful in this environment, leaders need to promote a culture where employees at all levels not only understand their business but feel safe to experiment in it- to reach far across the divide – with no danger of the repercussions of failure.”

Added Gales: “What we need to do is overcome the misconception that risk automatically equates to danger. We need to transform the idea of risk into a true opportunity – whether in business, skiing down a mountain, or in improving Canada’s healthcare system. Business leaders need to empower their teamsand drive forward innovation to strengthen our economy and put Canada on the map.”

“Understanding the intersection of technology and innovation is critical to the future success of firms. It is particularly critical for larger organizations, that must not only embrace change and creativity, but most also “scale up” in order to survive global competition. This report is an excellent start toward understanding and infusing Canada’s corporate culture with the need to innovate and accept change,” commented Dr. Benson Honig, McMaster University, DeGroote School of Business, TeresaCascioli Chair in Entrepreneurial Leadership.

The survey also found that:

  • The younger generation of corporate/business workers entering the workforce are considered to be just as innovative (Canada 47%; US 46%) or more innovative (Canada 41%; US 39%) than today’s current leaders
  • The top reason for indicating the younger generation is more innovative than today’s current leaders is their experience, comfort, and understanding of technology (Canada 68%; US 80%)
  • Americans are more likely than Canadians to believe the younger generation is more innovative due to their experience with technology (80% vs. 68%), while Canadians are more likely than Americans to think the younger generation is more innovative because of their ability to learn and adapt (27% vs. 15) and their fresh approach (10% vs. 5%)

SimplyCastSimplyCast.com has released Version 6.2 of its SaaS all-in-one marketing application. The latest software release further enhances the multi-channel marketing process by adding powerful features throughout the application to help beginners and advanced online marketers get the results they want.

All users will immediately benefit from an improved reporting framework, faster image serving for newsletters, a list segmentation option for fax marketing and a manage subscription feature that allows recipients to decide what lists they want to remain on.

“Our product development has always been driven by customer feedback and what small business owners need to get the job done,” said Saeed El-Darahali, president and CEO of SimplyCast. “This release represents another important milestone for our company as we continue to provide the most competitively priced all-in-one marketing product to users worldwide.”

Other new features of Version 6.2 include the latest version of SimplyCast’s one-of-a-kind Visual Editor, a revamp of the autoresponder marketing tool and key additions to the free Twitter Marketing service, including a RSS feed to Twitter option.

SimplyCast’s 11-in-1 multi-channel marketing platform is a web-based solution designed to create, track and deliver targeted online marketing campaigns such as email, survey, event, autoresponder, Twitter, fax, SMS and link tracking services.

Future ShopFuture Shop has introduced a new trade-in program which gives Canadians a chance to responsibly recycle their old DVDs and grow their Blu-ray collections with a special offer. Trade & Save will officially launch tomorrow, April 1st, and run until May 5th. Future Shop customers will be able to bring in their old DVDs in exchange for a $5 coupon to use towards purchasing a new Blu-ray movie from a massive selection of over 150 titles to choose from.

“Future Shop is excited to launch the new Trade & Save program that allows customers to upgrade their movie collections with Blu-ray movies at a discount,” said Nikki Hellyer, Director of Marketing, Future Shop. “This program provides a win-win scenario where customers can recycle old DVDs and receive a coupon geared towards helping them build their Blu-ray collections.”

To participate, customers can bring any DVD movies to their nearest Future Shop and exchange them for $5 coupons for select new Blu-ray movies at the Customer Service desk. Eligible Blu-ray titles are clearly marked with in-store with a Trade & Save sticker on the case. A $5 coupon will be provided per returned DVD to a maximum of 20 per customer per day. Customers can redeem one $5 coupon per select Blu-ray title.

The $5 coupon applies to a wide selection of Blu-ray titles from the industry’s top studios* in all genres: action and adventure, family, female favourites, comedies, dramas and musicals. Select new releases in the Trade & Save program, include The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (April 8) and Gulliver’s Travels (April 19).

Here are a few examples of after trade-in pricing:

* $4.99: Heat, Speed and James Bond movies.
* $9.99: Alien vs. Predator, 300 and Ice Age movies.
* $11.99: The Dark Night, Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary, The Hangover.
* $14.99: Inception, The Sound of Music, A-Team, Faster, Robin Hood.

All DVDs collected will be responsibly recycled in Canada.

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10th March 2011

March 10th Noon News Round-up

Register Now: The Great Canadian Appathon happens this weekend, don’t miss out on this opportunity for some collaborative learning and great prizes.

Congratulations to our friends over at Greedy Productions – the studio announced this morning that Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run now have an additional slot on CityTV Vancouver and will begin airing from 6-7pm nightly in addition to the 12-1pm & 11pm-12am time slots.

footloose gamesFootloose Games has launched Munchies Lunch, a game that the Cavechild took a look at back Munchies Lunchin December. Munchies Lunch is a puzzle game that involves some quick and clever maneuvering of your characters in order to avoid becoming a monstrous lunch entree for the Hungries, the story’s bad guys. The game’s premise is that you must lead your family away from the dangerous Hungries who are invading your forest dwelling. Travel the world to find safety in the far-away jungles, gathering food and power-ups for your family while eluding those nasty Hungries. Available now for Windows XP,  Vista and Windows 7, you can try the family-friendly Munchies Lunch before you buy it. With the low price tag of only $5.99 and a high replayability factor, Munchies Lunch offers good value for its price.

Additional System Requirements for Munchies Lunch:

CPU: 1 Ghz
Ram: 512 MB
Hard-Drive Space: 150 MB
Video Card: Must support Pixel/Vertex Shader 1.1

Siggraph 2011Most of you already know this, but I’m going to share it anyway. Science fiction novelist, blogger, and technology activist Cory Doctorow has been selected to present one of the keynote presentations at SIGGRAPH 2011, the 38th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques taking place this August 7th-11th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

diomaticDi-o-matic is offering a free 85+ minutes masterclass, where viewers will learn many key techniques from modeling to rigging as well as animation using Autodesk 3ds max, MotionBuilder, FBX, Mudbox and Softimage FaceRobot as well as Di-O-Matic Facial Studio, Morph-O-Matic and Maskarad. As an Autodesk Authorized Developer, Di-O-Matic earlier announced that new versions of all Di-O-Matic plugins will be made available shortly after the release of Autodesk’s 3ds max 2012, Maya 2012 and Softimage 2012.

comscorecomScore is pleased to announce the release of the 2010 Canada Digital Year in Review, its annual report on the prevailing digital trends of the past year and their implications for navigating the uncertainties in the year ahead. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the digital landscape in Canada including overall Internet usage, high-growth categories, online advertising, video and search.

* How are Canadians consuming digital media, and how does this compare to other countries?
* Which trends dominated the digital landscape in 2010?
* How does media consumption differ across age and gender segments?
* What trends are we seeing in the social networking space, and what impact does that have on email activity?
* How has digital advertising shifted in the last year, and how has social media played a part?
* Which content categories are serving up the most videos? Who’s watching online video in Canada?
* What is the current state of the search market?
* How will mobile media consumption in Canada stack up against other markets?

pwcNot surprisingly, the key motivator for consumers to pirate films and television programs is the reward of free content. But aside from the traditional reason of price, leading factors also include consumers’ desire for earlier access, a perception that “everyone is doing it” and the explosion of free content available online. This is according to PwC’s new piracy study from its US consumer research program measuring consumer attitudes towards piracy and related behaviours.

At the same time, consumers in Canada are being faced with escalating access fees and the usage based billing debate is ongoing. “Usage based billing if a reality will push consumers back to traditional and payment based methods of consuming content,” says Michael Paterson, a partner in PwC’s Canadian Entertainment & Media group.

Among key findings in the PwC study:

* 81% of the consumers who admit to pirating TV, movie and video content say they will likely continue to do so.
* 40% of those who report “pirating” content via traditional methods said they will probably also pirate on mobile devices within the next six months.
* US$3 for a movie and US$1 for a television show is the maximum amount consumers who admit to pirating are willing to pay to access content.

Combating piracy remains a struggle and a prime concern for entertainment companies – especially with the growing ease at which consumers can now access a variety of content on multiple platforms at their fingertips. Given the proliferation of smart phones, consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to access the Internet—on average, 35 times per week.

“Mobile piracy is poised to escalate with the proliferation of smartphones, says Paterson. “This will need to be addressed in anti-piracy efforts. There is some good news in sight as consumers expressed concern about potential piracy pitfalls, including poor quality of some content and the possibility of downloading a virus or facing legal trouble.”

funcomFuncom has unveiled a new site design for The Secret World, along with a brand new trailer that offers gamers a unique glimpse into the world, the monsters, the myths, and the gameplay of the much anticipated online game. In ‘The Secret World’ players get to play the character they want to play without being limited to classes or levels, as they adventure through modern-day, real-world locations. No release date has been announced. The game is being co-published together with EA Partners, a division of Electronic Arts Inc.

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“It is truly exciting for us to show gamers just how much freedom they will be able to enjoy in ‘The Secret World’,” says Director and Producer Ragnar Tørnquist. “The video perfectly encompasses the four important pillars of ‘The Secret World’: the modern-day setting, the freeform character progression, the dramatic storyline, and the unique secret society conflict. It feels great to reveal new details on the ‘The Secret World’ as we continue to make strides in the development of the game.”

scoremediaScore Media Inc. and WWE have expanded their partnership with a multi-year agreement that will bring more high-energy WWE entertainment than ever before to fans across Canada. The unprecedented deal builds on Score Media and WWE’s already successful, exclusive television relationship to include online, mobile and VOD rights. In addition, theScore and WWE will work together to bring new original WWE content to Canadians across all platforms.

Canadian Telecom SummitMore than 60 leaders who shape Canada’s ICT industry will speak at the 2011 Canadian Telecom Summit, being held this May 31st – June 2nd in Toronto. The event will include over 15 keynote addresses offering insights into the future of Canadian ICT, examining the services, technologies, consumer & business trends and regulatory & policy initiatives that drive the information economy. This year, in addition to its always popular Regulatory Blockbuster panel, the conference is featuring sessions devoted to:

* LTE: The future of mobile
* Connecting Canadians: Delivering broadband to all
* Wireless Broadband: Our insatiable thirst for spectrum
* Privacy & Security: Guarding information in a transparent world
* Unified Communications: The evolving future of business
* Evolution of Consumer Communications: Compete or collaborate
* Tablets, TVs and Smartphones, Oh My!: The explosion of the multiscreen universe
* Cloud Computing

fairplayFair-Play has launched its new website. An essential reference tool, the site allows both industry people and the public at large to find out more about Fair-Play’s many television products among which are Quebec’s current mega hits Les enfants de la télé and Peut contenir des Rachid. Headlining the company’s latest news and featuring an exhaustive production catalogue, video excerpts, and a Who’s Who of the Fair-Play team, the new site profiles a company founded in 1998 now firmly established in prime time and on the Web.

Television series, variety shows, documentaries, comedy, drama, live performance recordings, public affairs – their catalogue has grown over the years and will continue to expand. As the organization looks forward to producing more entertaining and provocative content, it remains proud of the creative environment it strives to foster for its writers, creators, performers and other colleagues.

canonCanon Canada Inc. has announced the availability of its Cloud Portal software for imageRUNNER ADVANCE software enabling a broad range of Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE office systems to access Google Docs and Microsoft SharePoint Online cloud-based services directly from the MFP panel. Using its MEAP technology, Cloud Portal for imageRUNNER ADVANCE software is available as a free application that allows users to scan and store paper-based documents directly to the cloud, as well as to print documents stored in the cloud to imageRUNNER ADVANCE office systems.

The Cloud Portal for imageRUNNER ADVANCE software is a server-less, driver-less application that requires no additional hardware to enable direct connection to the cloud via the MEAP application. By facilitating direct integration with leading cloud services, the new application increases end-user flexibility and helps to increase productivity by allowing users to access cloud-stored data from a PC, tablet device or smart phone, and print or share the data with multiple users across locations. To print from the cloud, the Canon Direct Print Kit or the PS Printer Kit needs to be installed on the imageRUNNER office system. Please see the Canon site for full information not covered here.

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9th March 2011

Revealing History With Museum Secrets

kensingtonBeginning this article has been somewhat like the production staff at Kensington Communications deciding which museums to feature in their first six episode run of Museum Secrets. As Series Producer Steve Gamester told me in a recent interview “choosing the museums was really like an embarrassment of riches, there Steve Gamesterwere so many to choose from.” The team knew that they wanted to include at least one Canadian museum along with other well-known historic icons. Like Kensington, I have a wealth of information for this article, and the challenge has not been in writing it, but in putting it all in context and conveying my impressions of the series without sounding like the avid series fan that I really am.

When I was granted an interview with Steve Gamester, I almost went into panic mode because there were so many things I wanted to ask, but one important lesson from journalism class all those years ago is always front and centre in my mind – be respectful of your interviewee’s time. So came the task of narrowing down the kazillion possible questions to a dozen or so that would result in uncovering the most information. What I wasn’t prepared for was re-enacting the jousting match of King Henry II that led to his deathSteve’s passion about not only the show, but about history in general, and if you are not already aware of this, people who have a passion talk really fast. My notes looked like hieroglyphic rabble once the telephone interview was done.

Steve completed his post-secondary education with a major in history, and he said that there as there were not many career options open to him at that time, he opted for film, where he has worked since graduation. I understand his passion for times past, as I spend a good portion of my free time either watching shows about ancient history on the  History TV Canada channel or surfing around the web visiting museums and historic sites – the internet, to me, is one enormous research facility.

Going back to the beginning of the series, I asked Steve where the show’s concept originated. He told me that History Television (Canada) had put out a call for proposals on shows about museums, and Kensington came up with the idea for Museum Secrets, a show that would be driven by the objects and characters one finds in a museum, following the thought that behind every object is a great story to tell – and “the objects on display in a museum are usually just a drop in the bucket of what the museum actually possesses.”

One of the most important considerations when choosing the museum locations was accessibility, as many museums are constantly undergoing some type of renovation, and there are some which do not allow camera crews at all. Also examined were the individual museum collections – which objects would offer not only a great story but also a new and interesting way to look at the artifacts, making them more than just a static object. It took six months to gain access to the archives in Vatican City, an area which is usually opened only to those who are Mummies inside Cairo's Egyptian Museumsponsored by a member of The Vatican, and only for “serious” research purposes. Other considerations which also dictate where the crews will go for future filming of episodes include language barriers, current events and of course, cost.

It was eerily ironic when the episode about the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities aired, as History Television (Canada) carried commercials from Tourism Egypt, with the tag line “Where It All Begins” – and the episode aired just as the recent civic uprisings began. I asked Steve what thoughts went through his head as news about the riots and protests was coming out of Egypt, and he said that first and foremost was “the safety of the people they had met and worked with.” He continued on, stating that “What many viewers may not have realized is that the street where protesters were throwing molotov cocktails was the most vulnerable part of the building, as the museum’s wall is so close to the street, and behind that wall is the Royal Mummy Room.”

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The Egyptian Museum was also Steve’s favourite site to visit. He said that the people who worked there were very charming and helpful, and the museum itself is an historic experience all on its own. The architecture of the Zahi Hawass and Ramesses IIcurrent building is original, complete with antique display cases and peeling paint on the walls. The artifacts have inhabited this site on Tahrir Square since 1902, in a building which was designed in 1896 by the French Architect Marcel Dourgnon.

In deciding which artifacts would be featured in the six episodes, Steve said that there was an intensive amount of research done which preceded any decisions. Their teams looked at museum backgrounds and consulted with individual curators. They started with a huge slate of possible features, and then began the process of narrowing down their focus, looking for a balance between those items which were famous and those which were not. Of central importance, as he said earlier, was the story behind the artifact, and any emotional connection the item may have with people still living.

This is something I could relate to, as my family has lived in this area for over thresher in the museuma century and has many historic ties to the town, including an old thresher which is in the BC Farm Machinery and Agricultural Museum in Fort Langley. The thresher belonged to my great-great-grandfather, and was involved in some cross-border shenanigans with farmers and the sheriff’s department just across the border in Washington state. I wasn’t aware of the story until our historic society included it in one of their published area histories, and we’ve since been down to visit the thresher at the museum.

As a first example,  Ernie La Pointe, great-grandson of Sioux chief Sitting Bull, was interviewed about his famous ancestor and the beautiful antique headdress in possession of the Royal Ontario Museum. The Royal Ontario Museum episode was the first of the series to be filmed, and it was here that the crew fully realized the personal attachments curators can develop with the artifacts. Egyptologist Gayle Gibson is emphatically passionate about headdressher work with the ROM’s Egyptian Collection, and it is obvious in the segments examining the Egyptian mummy babies that every artifact carries with it some essence of humanity, and the curators echo that humanity in their treatment and care of the artifacts.

Every episode of this first series has thus far succeeded in showing how these moments in our history still have some type of impact on those living in modern times. One such interview was with Charles Napoleon, descendant of the youngest brother of that famous little tyrant, Napoleon Bonaparte. A new level of interest was definitely added to the Louvre episode when the story of the propagandic Jacques-Louis David painting of Napoleon’s coronation is told by the man who could have been the current monarch of France, had history played out differently.

Another segment aired during the episode on England’s Natural History Museum. Who doesn’t love a story about a Cursed amethyst in the Natural History Museum's collectioncursed, priceless gem? Apparently the descendants of Edward Heron-Allen don’t. The Blasted Amethyst was gifted to the museum after decades of mysterious and nefarious events seemed to surround anyone who owned or touched the gem, which had been looted from the Temple of Indra during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Most interesting during this segment was the skepticism of Mineralogist Alan Hart, who does not believe in the curse, and the opposite opinion of Curator Richard Savin, who firmly believes the gem has exerted it cursatory power on his life. Ira Jones, the son of Edward Heron-Allen, was offered the opportunity to handle the purple treasure before it was replaced in its display case. He declined. While he did have the opportunity to handle some of the Chris Warrilow and Corey Keeble discuss crossbowsartifacts at the Egyptian Museum, series producer Steve Gamester did not lay hands on the gem either, but he did note that one of the show’s cameramen fell ill the day after the segment on the gem was shot. Coincidence or Curse?

Museum Secrets also takes the science behind some of the artifacts out of the museum and into the real world. Two segments which immediately stand out are the ones where the crossbow and musket go shot for shot in power comparisons and the top secret weaponry employed by Britain’s Special Operations Executive. Who knew that rats could be so explosively deadly?

What made the crossbow segment of the ROM episode so special was the opportunity for Curator Cory Keeble to actually shoot a replica crossbow which had been built to medieval specifications by prop master Chris Warrilow – and his delight in doing so.

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During World War II, there was a very real threat that many of the treasures housed in the Natural History Museum could be forever lost should any German bombs fall on the building, so the building was emptied of its treasure hoard, and the spies moved in. The Special Operations Executive, of which author Ian Flemming was a member, were responsible for gathering intelligence on the Nazis and coming up with ways to put serious dents in their activities. The Museum Secrets team and explosives engineer Sidney Alford took a closer look at some of the blueprints for explosive devices used by the SOE to combat Hitler’s armies. Thankfully they took their experiments outside.

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I have purposely left two episodes of the Museum Secrets series until last, because the Vatican Museum is one archive I would love be to turned loose in, and The Met has ties to secrets the Vatican would like to keep. No, I’m not a Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons fanatic – I’ve spent decades wondering what secrets are hidden away behind the thick walls of the Vatican. The Met was recently featured as a backdrop location to another Inside the Vatican Museumconspiracy-based movie, The Last Templar, so I found some of the artifact choices by the Museum Secrets team intriguing simply because of the tie-ins to the whole Templar-Vatican story.

During my interview with Steve Gamester, he said that even with all of the preparatory research done before going on location, there is still the possibility of stumbling upon one special gem, the impact of which you don’t fully realize until you are on location. As he noted elsewhere in our conversation, many of today’s museums did not start life as a museum, and thus have additional stories aside from the ones on display. One of Steve’s favourite segments was the graffiti left behind in the Vatican by the looting army of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, when it sacked Rome in 1527. The graffiti was particularly intriguing, because members of the army had actually taken the time to scratch in the name of their leader, defacing frescoes which had been created by master artist Raphael.

antioch chaliceConspiracy theories and tall tales aside, I have always felt that history and its artifacts belong to the people, and we as members of the human race should have right of access if not to the real thing (in protective cases and covers, of course), then as digitized files – and this doesn’t go for just the Vatican’s treasures, but for all museums. I think that what Kensington and History Television (Canada) are doing, and promoting, with the Museum Secrets series is very commendable – they give viewers a taste of the real history behind the objects, and through the series website, invite you to learn more.

When we were discussing the Vatican Museum, I asked Steve which museum he would like to have unfettered access to, and he replied that one of his top choices would be The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, which is another museum I would love to visit one day, as part of my family came from Russia, escaping soon after the deaths of the Romanovs. Steve mentioned that he has also been researching Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, as he also has an A display of armour at the Metropolitan Museum of Artinterest in the Ottoman Empire.  This conversational line led to my asking Steve which period in history was his favourite, to which he replied Ancient Greek, and lucky for him, the crew is currently filming a new Museum Secrets episode at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. I asked him if they would be filming any segments at Santorini, and to my disappointment, he didn’t think so – but they would be taking a look at the legend of the Minotaur and the mysterious labyrinth.

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to visit the Museum Secrets web site, because it is full of interesting things to learn and things to do. The interactive designers at Kensington have given viewers the chance to play with digitized versions of crossbows. There is also a feature called the Object Navigator, which allows you to look at the museum objects in detail and learn more about them. There are also non-featured artifacts sprinkled among them, and you can even save the objects to be looked at later. While the Object Navigator and My Discoveries features do require that you register on the site (if you want Archival photo of the Special Operation Executives Galleries inside the Natural History Museumto save your lists), once you do, you can also make notes to go with the objects, and you can share them with others. There are many interactive components to be found on the web site, and while I could tell you where they all are, I think it would be more engaging for you to explore the site and find them as you go along.

Every segment also has its own short feature video to also give you a closer look at areas of interest to you, complete with the distinct animated segments used to describe historical events. I asked Steve about those segments, because to me they look reminiscent of the Monty Python shows, and I wondered if this was a kind of homage to those comedic creators of other …historic films. Steve answered that the team wanted a graphic novel feel, somewhat “Frank Miller-ish” to the animations, and that they were simply trying to find a signature way to portray historic episodes without using full CG, as well as stay within the budget. There was no resemblance to Monty Python intended in either the crossbow game or the show’s animated segments.

The Museum Secrets blog offers a behind-the-scenes looks at every episode, and a chance to hear from that episode’s director about the various locations. Speaking for myself, whose interest in history is probably only Shooting Museum Secrets: Inside the ROMequaled by my interest in video games, Museum Secrets is one of the most original and educational series to grace the airwaves, and I enjoy it all the more because it’s made in Canada. These are the types of programs I am happy to see my tax dollars support, and I hope that we are given the opportunity to see many more episodes  in the future.

Museum Secrets, produced by KensingtonTV with the participation and support of the Bell Fund, History Television, and the Canada Media Fund, currently airs on History Television (Canada), and will be airing in the near future in both the United States and Europe. The Museum Secrets team also welcomes input and feedback from fans on both its Facebook page and Twitter. Aside from the video on the site, you can also check out video on the Museum Secrets’ YouTube channel and see location stills on Flickr.

In addition,  Kensington’s founder Robert Lang and Interactive Producer, David Oppenheim, will be presenting a talk on creating films for multiple-platforms, including mobile devices at NXNE’s Interactive Festival.

All images and film in this article are used with the permission of KensingtonTV.

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7th March 2011

Big Sandwich Games Announces Next Round Of Release Dates

Upcoming Event: Toronto Twestival on March 24th.

Great Canadian Appathon 2011Competition: Student App Coders, don’t forget that the Great Canadian Appathon, presented by XMG Studio and the National Post, is THIS weekend. Register before noon on Wednesday, March 9th for a chance to win an Xbox 360 Kinect package! This is an awesome opportunity to learn more about app coding from the professionals, as well as a chance to win some major cash and other prizes, not to mention getting your app published. Please see the web site for complete details.

Meetup: The Vancouver Indie Dev Meetup is tomorrow night at The Helm.

RatRod StudioFormer Playdom veteran Shohag Al-Mamun has joined Ratrod Studio Inc. as Chief Technology Officer. Shohag has several years of experience in video game development and held important roles for well established companies.

“With Shohag`s experience in various fields including games that launched on the social and mobile platforms, Shohag will be an important asset for Ratrod which will allow us to tap into a different type of market,” says Pat Toulouse, Ratrod Studio Inc. President.

After completing a bachelor degree in computer science and engineering, Shohag started his career at Deep Red Studio Ltd. where he was hired to develop triple-A social themed simulation games. He then worked at Playdom as lead developer where he was managing his team during the production of popular Facebook and iPhone social games such as TikiFarm, Verdonia, High School and MobAir, to name a few.

With a solid technical background, senior programming skills and plenty of experience in the gaming field, Shohag will be responsible for managing our day-to-day game development operations. His dedication, passion and knowledge of the industry will allow us to develop high quality content dedicated to the social and mobile space.

Big Sandwich GamesBig Sandwich Games has announced the release dates for upcoming versions of their critically acclaimed strategy arcade game HOARD™, which puts players in control of an ambitious dragon bent on gathering large mounds of gold while burning medieval villages, kidnapping princesses and roasting thieves.Hoard-Screenshot

HOARD™ will release on PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system in North America on March 22, retailing for $9.99.  It will follow on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PSP system in Europe in early April.  Pricing is yet to be announced.  The PlayStation®3 system version is already available for purchase in North America for $14.99.  All versions feature over 35 levels and 100+ badges to earn.

The game’s innovative design and addictive combination of action and strategy earned it a “Best Quick Fix” award and a nomination for “Best Competitive Multiplayer” in IGN’s Best of 2010 Awards.  We haven’t had a look at the game yet, but Joystiq says “HOARD’s gameplay shines,” and 1UP reports “the game hides a surprising layer of complexity and strategy.”  Ars Technica quips it “will keep you scorching villages for hours on end.”

Colba.Net Telecom Inc., through its Quebec subsidiary Colba.Net Inc.,  is proceeding to launch and offer in 2011 colbaits new Internet Protocol Television (“IPTV”) service. This follows a recent decision by the CRTC th approve the application by Colba.Net for a broadcasting license to operate a Class 1 terrestrial broadcasting distribution undertaking to serve the Montreal Island. Colba.net footprint currently covers approximately 400,000 households over the Island of Montreal - and on visiting their site, I see the company offers internet with no throttling and no limits. I wish we had that option in our neighbourhood, but instead we have a choice of Telus or Shaw.

At launch, the new IPTV service will offer several high-definition channels, some international channels, some of the most popular American channels as well as unlimited Internet access to websites of movies and TV episodes from NetFlix, AppleTV and TOU.TV for example. The new service will be offered at $19.95 per month for a 12 month fully paid upfront subscription.

“Once again, we are thrilled and proud to launch a new service such as IPTV at such a competitive monthly price. Our whole business model, core corporate values and reputation are based upon offering the best possible products and services at unbeatable prices. We strongly believe that both the industry and consumers stand to greatly benefit from increasing competition in our fast growing industry sector.” Said Mr. Joseph Bassili, President and Chief Executive Officer of Colba.Net.

Kik Interactive has closed an $8 million round of Series A funding with RRE Ventures, Spark Capital, and Union kik interactiveSquare Ventures. Kik also announced that Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures) and Adam Ludwin (RRE Ventures) are joining the company’s Board of Directors.

The new funding positions the company for its next phase of development, which includes the launch of new group messaging and picture sharing features. Following its explosive launch in October 2010, Kik Messenger is being used by more than three million people due to its speed, reliability, and unique user experience.

“Kik is a fast, simple, and elegant solution to cross device mobile messaging which we think is one of the most exciting investment opportunities right now,” said Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures.  “We believe the Kik team has shown that they understand how to deliver the right set of features in the right package and we are excited about working with them to build the mobile messaging marketplace.”

Kik also released a new version of Kik Messenger today for iOS and Android devices that features real-time group chat and picture sharing. Kik’s group chat makes it extremely simple to add anyone to a conversation on the fly. Up to ten people can be included in a group.

Kik Messenger’s new picture sharing features allows users to share what they’re seeing with the click of a button.  Other picture sharing applications are essentially a file transfer, while Kik’s photo sharing capability is built around the idea of visually connecting people in real time. “It puts you right there with them, letting you see what they see as it happens,” Livingston added.

Kik will be a highly visible presence at the upcoming SXSW conference this week. Kik will be offering a free real-time concierge service for conference goers.  Users can add “SXSW” to their Kik contacts and ask any question they might have, from what time a panel is starting to how late Torchy’s Tacos will be open. A real person will respond with Kik and answer the question in real time.

voice mobilityVancouver-based developer and provider of carrier and enterprise messaging solutions Voice Mobility International, Inc. has closed the debenture financing that was previously announced on February 2nd and 15th, 2011, for proceeds of $580,000.

In connection with the closing of the financing, the Company is also pleased to announce that it has completed the acquisition of all of the assets of Tagline Communications Inc. for total consideration of $425,000 and the issuance of 1,000,000 common shares of the Company.

The debentures are secured, bear interest at 12% per annum, and have a term of four months. As consideration for the debenture financing, the Company issued 1,500,000 common shares to an arm’s length party. The Company has also settled $87,500 in outstanding debt through the issuance of 875,000 common shares at a deemed price of $0.10 per common share. The balance of the proceeds of the debenture financing are being used to settle existing indebtedness, and for working capital purposes.

“We are taking a step by step, methodical approach to executing on our stated strategy. With the strengthening of our balance sheet brought by the closing of the AVST transaction in February, 2011, we are now commencing our strategy of acquiring Cloud based unified communications (“UC”) service providers. Each acquisition will lead us further along the path to profitability and value for our shareholders,” commented Jay Hutton, CEO of VMI. “We are pleased that we were also able to take the opportunity to eliminate some of our debt in this transaction and will continue efforts to improve our financial position and grow our business through acquisition. The Tagline transaction is the first step in this acquisition strategy. We remain committed to the growth strategy that we communicated late last year.”

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23rd February 2011

To The Business of Getting Things Done

More Canadian studios have been named to Pocket Gamer’s Top 50 Mobile Developers List. Congratulations to Trainyard creator Matt Rix, Gamerizon and Get Set Games. Pocket Gamer will reveal the remaining Top 20 over the next two days.Best Buy Canada

Best Buy Canada is holding a random drawing with one of three new Asus eee Slates as the prize. The Contest runs from February 11 – 24, 2011 and is open to residents of Canada (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province.

An interesting development in the User Based Billing war in Canada is that Netflix has hired two former regulators to help smooth its first international expansion as an Internet billing debate grows. Please see the article over at Bloomberg for the full story.

New software has arrived on the market from several Canadian developers.

diomaticDi-O-Matic Inc. has released Maskarad, a new ground-breaking automatic markerless facial performance motion capture software. With Maskarad, 3D artists now only need a video file featuring an actor’s performance to get started creating lifelike facial animations. Using advanced computer recognition, Maskarad automatically locates and tracks facial expressions all the while using phonetic recognition to create accurate lip motion.

Maskarad is a markerless motion capture technology that literally puts motion capture on the animator’s desktop. You can shoot a video right at your workplace using a webcam or inexpensive digital camera and have it converted to 3D facial animation data in minutes.

“I’ve tested and used a lot of 3rd party software in my years of production on some of the best games of all-time like Bungie’s Halo3, Ubisoft’s Spinter Cell and Prince of Persia to name a few” revealed Jonathan Abenhaim, senior freelance character animator. He continues: “Maskarad is insanely simple, it outputs results in a fraction of the time it used to take me to produce facial animations and I can easily tweak its animation curves.”

No messy or cumbersome face marker setups and no expensive dedicated hardware is required. Maskarad quickly outputs facial animation data ready to be used in your favorite 3D applications. Before Maskarad, realistic 3D facial animation was limited to only a few high-end projects. This was due to the expensive motion capture hardware and laborious post-processing involved either directly or through outsourcing. Maskarad will provide an amazing first pass of animation done in minutes without any complicated setups. This is what Di-O-Matic solutions are about…giving you awesome results quicker than anyone else.

“Maskarad provides a remarkable solution for doing facial motion capture.” share Lee Dickholtz from Meta Motion. “Maskarad is the easiest powerful 3D animation tool that I have ever encountered during 25 years of working with 3D animation and motion capture. Di-O-Matic has done an excellent job creating character animation plugins and standalone programs that greatly simplify the life of character animators. Maskarad is another example of their splendid work!”

corelCorel has introduced Corel® VideoStudio® Pro X4, the new version of its powerful video editing software that lets anyone create and share professional-quality videos. The Cavechild has downloaded the trial version, and he is very pleased with it. He found it very easy to use and was mucking about with video and audio tracks in no time. VideoStudio Pro X4 gets two thumbs up from him.

With outstanding speed and easy ways to bring great-looking movies to the screen, VideoStudio Pro X4 combines power and simplicity to break down the barriers to video editing. Whether you’re a new user or have a long-time passion for video editing, VideoStudio Pro X4 is an ideal choice with its uncomplicated approach to movie making, impressive effects and outstanding speed-to-results.video studio Pro x4

This latest version includes all-new, creative features to enable anyone to add Hollywood-style effects to their movies. VideoStudio Pro X4 offers new Time-lapse tools that let you easily deliver the high-quality, photographic look of professional productions as your movie speeds your audience through time. The new Stop Motion feature automates this traditional, time-consuming animation process, taking away the complexity of bringing objects like toys or figures to life. In addition, there are new capabilities that make it easy to create a 3D look from your 2D video, emulating the immersive feel of 3D movies on the big screen.

Making the editing process faster than ever, VideoStudio Pro X4 delivers unprecedented performance with new optimization for 2nd generation Intel® Core™ (Sandy Bridge) and AMD Fusion processors. For users who may not have the latest hardware, VideoStudio Pro offers the unique Smart Proxy feature as well as support for CUDA, GPU acceleration and multi-core processing to provide quick and responsive editing.

New and Enhanced Features in Corel VideoStudio Pro X4

  • New! Stop Motion animation: Have fun making movies that bring inanimate objects to life. Capture images from webcams, camcorders and DSLR cameras and use the automated tools and settings to simplify the stop-motion animation process.
  • New! Speed/Time-lapse: Easily create time-lapse effects from a series of photos or video clips and give your movies the professional look of speeding up time. With the ability to handle full-resolution files and very large-size image sets, this is a perfect tool for HD-DSLR photographers.
  • New! Processor optimization: Offering exceptional power and speed, VideoStudio Pro X4 is optimized for the new 2nd generation Intel® Core™ and AMD Fusion processors.
  • Enhanced! Integrated HD authoring and burning: Ideal for upgrade customers, it’s easier than ever to author HD movies to DVD and Blu-ray™ Disc with tightly integrated disc creation tools.
  • New! 3D export: Convert 2D video clips into 3D files with presets for 3D output on DVD, Blu-ray™, and AVCHD discs, as well as WMV 3D formats for mobile. Box versions also include a pair of 3D glasses.
  • New! Customizable Workspace: Set up your workspace the way you want – including across dual monitors.
  • Enhanced! Web sharing: With presets for YouTube™, Vimeo®, Facebook® and Flickr® in both HD and SD formats, it’s easy to upload directly to your site of choice.
  • New! Import/Export Movie Templates: Make your own templates and effects that you can upload and share with other VideoStudio Pro X4 users.
  • Enhanced! Corel Guide: Get the tools you need to make great movies with free in-product training videos delivered through the Corel Guide. Click on the Corel Guide inside VideoStudio Pro X4 to access an array of useful information, Help, product updates and add-ons, downloadable media packs, and more.
  • Enhanced! Smart Package: Automatically gather your entire project – video, photo, and audio files – into one folder you can take with you while choosing a custom compression method and secure with password encryption, powered by newly integrated WinZip® technology.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 delivers a complete video editing package for less than $100, giving any business the power to add online video to their marketing mix. With simple drag and drop clips, effects and graphic placement, bloggers and business users can quickly create and share custom branded templates. The enhanced Smart Package, now using integrated WinZip encryption technology, gathers all video, photo, and audio files used in a project into one password protected folder – making it easy to share your work in progress with colleagues or take it to another PC. With presets for uploading directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and Flickr, it’s never been simpler to reach your audience.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 makes it simple for teachers to incorporate video into the classroom or digital storytelling projects. X4 offers a 3-step interface; outstanding stability and performance; custom template creation and sharing; and easy-to-use creative tools to help kids create something amazing.

“Video is part of our kids’ language. The introduction of video editing into the classroom gives teachers a meaningful opportunity to bring literacy, conceptualization and creativity together in one engaging exercise,” said Piros. “Corel’s flexible and inexpensive academic licensing, in-product training videos and simplicity make VideoStudio Pro X4, hands down, the ideal choice for schools.”

netsecure technologiesRegina’s NetSecure Technologies, a provider of online transaction security solutions, has announced the availability of its complete product suite – SafeCheckout , PINCheckout and SmartSwipe – to provide security solutions for online transaction security for consumers, financial institutions, credit card companies, online merchants and other organizations under attack by cyber criminals.

The entire product suite leverages NetSecure’s patented Dynamic SSL core technology, an endpoint-to-endpoint online data security system that protects sensitive financial, strategic, or personal information from endpoint threats such as keylogging, keyjacking and man in the browser attacks. Unlike other tokenization solutions, Dynamic SSL can be used to transparently retrofit SSL equipped systems without changing the existing applications.

According to Homeland Security, “cyber threat has become one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face. America’s competitiveness and economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on effective cybersecurity,” cites Daniel McCann, president of NetSecure Technologies. “The government states that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, urging every Internet user to help secure cyberspace. We believe in this shared responsibility, having developed data security solutions for not only consumers, but the organizations that serve consumers, providing a safer online environment for all.”

The company’s award-winning SmartSwipe, an online purchase security system, enables consumers to swipe their credit cards at home while shopping online. Using the same level of encryption found in ATM’s, SmartSwipe encrypts the card information while being swiped, rendering it unreadable to hackers and malicious programs.

NetSecure’s newest endpoint security product PINCheckout, a chip and PIN technology solution, oversees transactions and enables card issuers and financial institutions to offer their customers a secure online shopping environment for their chip and PIN transactions. With PINCheckout, e-commerce transactions are secured by encrypting sensitive information through an external device and remains protected throughout the entire transaction.

SafeCheckout, which powers PINCheckout and SmartSwipe, is a true end-to-end encryption solution within a web browser session. It replaces consumers’ real information with fake information, while the entire transaction is protected with Secure Socket Layer (SSL). SafeCheckout protects users from endpoint threats, such as zero-day attacks.

NetSecure is now offering their products with or without hardware for licensing and cost effective deployment.

prairiefyreOttawa’s prairieFyre Software has released prairieFyre Contact Center for Microsoft© Lync™, a modular software suite that provides sophisticated multi-channel contact center functionality for the Lync unified communications (UC) platform. Developed on the Voice-over-IP and UC architecture of Microsoft Lync Server 2010, prairieFyre Contact Center is ideal for those organizations that wish to leverage the advanced enterprise voice features of the UC platform and require a comprehensive contact center solution.

Microsoft Corp.’s UC applications enable real-time collaboration and information flows by combining presence-aware telephony, conferencing, messaging, and mobility functionality in an easy-to-use Microsoft Lync 2010 interface. The prairieFyre Contact Center takes advantage of these capabilities and combines them with a full-featured Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), enabling agents to provide superior customer service through instant access to key subject matter experts, support teams, and business intelligence across the enterprise.

prairieFyre Ignite combines an ACD soft phone, enterprise presence and real-time contact center information in a familiar Lync 2010-based client. From Ignite, agents can login to queues and control their availability with user-defined reason codes. Agent states are fully synchronized with the enterprise presence capability of Lync Server 2010. prairieFyre Ignite also supports the headsets and desktop sets “optimized for” Lync.

prairieFyre Contact Center automates management reporting, forecasting and scheduling allowing supervisors to focus on their Key Performance Indicators and continually improve operational effectiveness. Reports can be run on-demand or scheduled to be automatically generated and emailed at specific times. Supervisors can chose from 120 report templates or use the Flexible Reporting module to create their own custom reports. Powerful Forecasting and Scheduling modules allow supervisors to create and publish agent shift schedules and ensure service levels are met through real-time adherence alarms. All reports and schedules are rendered from the Microsoft SQL Server database in preformatted Microsoft Excel or Adobe® PDF formats. The suite is designed to work on a single Microsoft server platform with Windows 7 on the user desktop.

With its broad functionality and modular design, prairieFyre Contact Center for Microsoft Lync can be tailored to businesses of any size or industry in departmental, standalone, or geographically dispersed deployments.

speakfeelSpeakFeel, a mobile marketing agency and product development firm based in Guelph, has secured two valuable assets: One of the industry’s top mobile-app developers and a new mobile analytics software that is already generating buzz in the industry.

Harry Scanlan joined SpeakFeel almost a year ago and quickly proved his credentials as one of the industry’s top mobile app developers. Now Scanlan has joined the SpeakFeel management team as a partner and has taken a seat on the Board of Directors of the fast-growing company.

The SpeakFeel partnership group also includes Kelly Brooks, who has over 13 years experience in managing web application projects and online branding strategy, Noel Webb, a nine-year veteran in the field of digital and social media, and Rudy Diemer, founder and President of RKD Web Studios Inc.Harry Scanlan

“Harry’s unique skill is developing bullet-proof blueprints for mobile apps and then leading a team of developers to bring apps to fruition quickly and effectively,” says Brooks, President of SpeakFeel. “A mobile app developer like Harry who works across all the platforms, including BlackBerry, is an extremely valuable asset and very difficult to find. Harry is key to our growth going forward.”

As the new Director of Mobile Technology, Scanlan will manage the team of developers as well as networks, hosting and security. He will also drive research and development with new devices. The SpeakFeel team works across all major platforms including BlackBerry, Android, iPhone and Windows Phone.

“At SpeakFeel we’ve aligned our business and technical expertise to position ourselves as leaders in both client and in-house product development for mobile,” says Scanlan. “I look forward to the exciting future we have together, not only with Noel and Kelly but also our talented development and management team.”

SpeakFeel has secured another important building block for the future. In joining the partnership team, Scanlan brings Devilytics to the mobile app agency too. SpeakFeel now has full ownership of the impressive and easy-to-implement online mobile application analytics tool. Devilytics enables mobile app developers and owners to track downloads, usage and other items such as errors, GPS and cell tower location from a beautifully simple online interface.

“Acquiring full ownership of Devilytics allows us to give our mobile-app development clients complete transparency into how customers use their apps,” says Webb, Vice-president/Chairman of SpeakFeel. “Now we deliver leading-edge apps backed by a tool that drills down and delivers data to determine return-on- investment.”

Canada's Walk of FameAnd finally today, after more than 12 years as the symbol of Canada’s Walk of Fame, the emblematic maple leaf “star” evolves to shine ever brighter with the introduction of a new icon commemorating Canadian excellence. The Board of Directors of Canada’s Walk of Fame has announced the launch of a redesigned logo to celebrate and symbolize a new era of Canadian excellence. The new mark was developed by recently appointed agency of record, TAXI 2.

“Never before has Canadian pride been so resonant across this great country and our new star becomes the heart and soul of a legacy that future generations can enjoy,” said Peter Soumalias, President and CEO of Canada’s Walk of Fame. “I’m particularly pleased with the new look as it represents the outcome of terrific creative work on behalf of our new ad agency, who truly embraced the brand and with their insight and understanding of the essence of Canada’s Walk of Fame, produced a truly distinctive graphic branding approach.”

The concept behind the new logo — connecting five maple leaves forming a singular star — is inspired by the bond of Canadian pride that we all share. The logo evokes the notion that as Canadians, we all contribute to the success of our country. Occasionally, Soumalias suggested, exceptional individuals rise to be recognized and our appreciation of their achievements as well as our celebration of their fame can make us all feel part of a greater whole.

“Before we started working with Canada’s Walk of Fame, we thought we knew what it meant to be ‘proud Canadians’,” said Dave Watson, Creative Director at TAXI. “But now our pride is at an all-time high. We wanted the new logo and visual identity to reflect the important work that Canada’s Walk of Fame does in shining the spotlight on Canadian excellence from all aspects of our culture.”

A 60-second video spot, also created by TAXI 2, will play nationally in Cineplex theatres starting March 1.  The new logo has been integrated across all Canada’s Walk of Fame branding initiatives and will be implemented for the 2011 inductions.

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22nd February 2011

Relic Names Intern and Open Media Turns Up The Heat

Reminder: IGDA Vancouver soft-launch and Global Game Jam Post-Mortem takes place tonight. More info on the event’s Facebook page.
Reminder: Ontario companies, get your submissions in for the INplay Ontario Show & Tell Kids Interactive Showcase, the deadline is April 1st. Also note that the INplay Kick Off registration rate for attendees will end tomorrow.
Reminder: There is one week left to get your nominations in for the Canadian Video Game Awards. I nominated at least a dozen, is your favourite Canadian-made-in-2010 game nominated? No? Make it so – nominate it today.

Congratulations to VFS Game Design graduate Zach Williams, who has been named as the very first recipient of the Zach and Jonathan Photo Credit: VFSBrian Wood Memorial Internship, an internship that will be awarded three times annually to celebrate the life of Relic employee Brian Wood, who was killed in a tragic car accident last year. Zach, who has previously worked in the local industry as a QA Tester, will begin a four-month internship at Relic Entertainment.

Relic’s General Manager Jonathan Dowdeswell stated on the VFS blog that “Zach’s personal drive to become a great game developer, his broad skill base across a number of the disciplines, as well as his passion for Relic and knowledge of the culture and practices that we maintain were the things that made him stand out as a clear choice for this internship, he even had a Relic shirt ready to put on when we announced the winner to the class!”

Unless you have absolutely no interest gaming, you will be well aware that today is the launch of the demo for Dragon Age 2, available on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.  Bioware will, as we told you last week, unlock two perks should the demo be dDragon Age 2ownloaded and played by 1 million gamers before March 1st. The key to answering this Call To Arms, as the demo phase has been dubbed, is that you must sign in to your EA account. So in our house, at least, that has been achieved by two of us on two separate Xboxes. I’ve played a few minutes of the demo, and thus far Dragon Age 2 looks awesome – the only part I’m concerned about is that the text is awfully small and sometimes difficult to read on a CRT television, even with a large screen.

Of course downloading two demo files also burned up 3.96gb of our new lower monthly cap of 100gb, and upon checking our nifty new Shaw Bandwidth Monitor we are now at 80gb with two weeks still to go on our billing cycle. Yes, we’ll be over – again. We are such bandwidth hogs – especially since Shaw decided we could do with 25gb less per month, but still pay them the same amount of money. Good thing that Shaw is holding off on charging for overages until after they hold their Customer Consultation sessions. I know there will be one in Langley next month, and Shaw has confirmed that my request to attend a session, but I have not yet been emailed about the exact location and time.  open media

Speaking of User Based Billing, Open Media is still fighting the good fight, and have issued their own call to arms as Rogers and the other obese telecoms meet to find ways to defeat the right of Canadian consumers to have access to fair and affordable internet services. In a post on their site, Open Media asks for the support of consumers in continuing the fight for our rights, and yes, this fight will require funding. We don’t have a huge amount of disposable income in our house, but honestly I would rather help Open Media with a $20.00 donation than pay it to any telecom for an already overpriced cable plan. If Open Media can raise $15 000.00 in the next 48 hours, indie ISP providers TekSavvy and Acanac will match those funds. Please help if you can.

What really, really irks me – besides the high prices for less service, that is – is that the telecoms are telling the CRTC how we internet hogs are clogging up the interwebs so steps must be taken to curb our overuse, yet they continually come up with new “limited special deals” to sign up new customers. If those of us already using the Net are clogging it up, stop trying to sign up more people, because they’re just going to clog it up even more!

While I want to direct you over to Open Media’s site to read their plan in full, here is a quick look at their initial plan of action:

1. Unleash the creativity and ingenuity of Canadians. People from all walks of life — innovators, educators, students, entrepreneurs, and everything in between — are getting together on February 26th for a Day Of Action to educate our fellow Canadians about Internet metering.

2. Put together a united front of public interest groups, creators, indie ISPs, online service providers and half a million Canadians to put forth a well-researched, evidence-based submission to the CRTC.

I would like to add to this plan of action by asking all of you to write your MP and Industry Canada – don’t just accept the bullying of the telecoms as a done deal. We can fight back – we’ve already shown that with the delay of User Based Billing – and we can make a difference. I found an old flyer the other day when I was making an attempt at cleaning up the clutter in my office. This flyer was from our local MP, Mark Warawa (Conservative) and the CIRAheadline phrase on this flyer is that the Conservatives stand up for Canadian consumers. Well? Let’s see some action behind that statement. Not sure how to contact your MP? Check here. And don’t forget – the CIRA-hosted Canadian Internet Forum being held in Ottawa on February 25th will be available via webcast (yup, burning up more of those gigabytes), so remember to tune in and watch the discussion about the future of Canada’s internet and digital economy. There is also an active discussion group on the CIF site, registration is required to view and post on it.

ubisoftUbisoft has finally confirmed a release date for the PC version of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Those of you who prefer to battle the Templars and Borgia on your computers will be able to do so beginning on March 22nd.  Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for PC will be available at retail stores and for digital download in two different versions:

Retail and Digital Standard Edition:

Main game + Abstergo Project Update 1.0 and 2.0 and The Da Vinci Disappearance

Digital Deluxe Edition:Assasins Creed Brotherhood for PC

·Main game + Abstergo Project Update 1.0 and 2.0 and The Da Vinci Disappearance

o Assassin’s Creed® Lineage: discover the story of Giovanni Auditore, Ezio’s father, by watching this three episodes short movie.

o Exclusive additional content featuring the Assassin’s Creed® Brotherhood original soundtrack, galleries, Making-of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood…

o Exclusive unlockable content:

* One Multiplayer Character: The Harlequin, a deadly assassin lying behind a gaudy costume and a twisted smiling mask
* One Multiplayer Character: The Officer, a stealthy assassin who can assassinate his targets with a swift and powerful attack
* One exclusive single player indoor map: The Trajan Market
* One exclusive single player outdoor map: The Aqueducts map
* Ezio “Drachen Armor”

Both the Standard Digital Edition and the Deluxe Digital Edition can be pre-ordered at the Ubiworkshop Store.

Microsoft CanadaMicrosoft has announced that it will release a non-commercial Kinect for Windows software development kit from Microsoft Research later this spring, followed by a full commercial version of the SDK later in the year. This “starter kit” for application developers is intended to make it easier for academic research and enthusiast communities to create even richer experiences using Kinect technology. Through its collaboration with the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), Microsoft Research is hoping to support a growing community of academic researchers and enthusiasts who are exploring potential applications built using Kinect.

The starter kit will give academic researchers and enthusiasts access to deep Kinect system capabilities such as audio, system APIs, and direct control of the sensor. Microsoft has deep investments in R&D in natural user interfaces (NUI), which is a part of the company’s long term vision of creating computers that are intuitive to use and able to do far more for us. The fruits of those investments manifesting across many of Microsoft’s products, including Kinect for Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7, Microsoft Surface 2.0, Bing for Mobile and Office 2010 Mini Translator.

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3rd February 2011

For Every Door That Closes

Reminder: Vancouver SIGGRAPH Convergence event TRON – Cult Favourite To Franchise is on February 8th – get your tickets now.

Our condolences to everyone at Frozen North Games, the latest Canadian studio to shut its doors. I have been criticized in the recent past for having a bias and not covering the news of studio lay-offs and closings. Perhaps its my innate desire Frozen North Gamesto try to focus on the positive events in our industry, or it’s the fact that bad news often travels much faster than good and in the midst of the negative, perhaps by accenting the good things going on we can all move past that “gutted” feeling and find more positive aspects on which to direct our focus and ambitions. It doesn’t mean that the recent closing of Propaganda and the lay-offs at other studios such as EA Canada, United Front Games and others don’t touch me, they do, because I have friends employed at those studios, it just means that I would rather find the news about who is hiring or announcing new projects, so that I can pass that information along to those who have been affected by downturns in the industry. If you know who’s hiring or of upcoming events that would be great for introductions and the passing along of career interests, please let me know and I’ll get the information out there. Our audience grows with each passing week, and we’re always getting fresh eyes on the site who just may be looking for that next opportunity.

Microsoft CanadaMicrosoft has updated the Windows Phone 7 Developer Training Kit. According to the Developer blog, this update includes a refresh to almost all the labs along with a bug cleanup and the ability for the labs to run on real phone devices as well as the emulator. Two new labs, Accessing Windows Phone 7 Devices and Multi-touch Game Development XNA Framework, have also been added to the Kit. The Using Push Notification lab has also been updated so that it uses the latest Windows Phone Push Notification Library.

Toronto Screenwriting ConferenceEarly Bird registration is now open for the second annual Toronto Screenwriting Conference, which will take place this coming April 9th and 10th at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto. Professional writers, producers, directors, and executives will benefit from this gathering of the best creative talent, authors and speakers in writing for screen-based media.

The Toronto Screenwriting Conference offers attendees extraordinary key-note sessions with high-profile show-runners and screenwriters along with breakout sessions lead by international screenwriting academics, book authors and industry execs as well as the opportunity to participate in a level of education and skills development unparalleled by any other screenwriting event.

Confirmed speakers thus far include Christopher Vogler, Pen Densham, Sheldon Bull, Dara Marks, Christine Zander and one writer whom I would really like to meet and hear speak, Kevin Shortt, scriptwriter and story designer at Ubisoft Montreal. The Toronto Screenwriting Conference is sponsored by Meridian Artists and the National Screen Institute. Early Bird tickets are priced at $279.00 (+HST) and are available until 5pm EST, February 28th.

CeLEA - ACEeLCanadian eLearning Enterprise Alliance executives Claude Martel Ph.D. (chairman) and Jay Bahlis Ph.D. (director) are co-chairing the Distributed Learning conference track at MODSIM World Canada 2011, being held this June 20th – 22nd in Ottawa.

In the Distributed Learning conference track, the CeLEA will be seeking to present a range of speakers who will describe the training and learning challenges they face, and discuss how they are applying new tools and technologies to meet the challenges in an increasingly digital world. A decade or so ago, computer and web-based learning technologies were limited in their scope and capabilities. Since then we have seen the emergence of social networks and collaboration tools, mobile learning, virtual worlds, Internet television, simulations and games, all enabled by increasingly available bandwidth, computers and mobile devices. Educators and trainers are adopting these solutions to create new, hybrid ways to distribute knowledge, both in the classroom and at a distance.

To that end, the CeLEA directors are seeking proposals for 8 session speakers for the CeLEA track. If you are interested please contact Claude Martel immediately and request the Speaker package. All proposal must be in by February 21st.

This stream will showcase innovative training solutions and blends that have lead to practical, adaptive and innovative learning environments and resolved specific challenges – including:

* E-Learning
* Collaborative learning
* Mobile learning
* Web television
* Serious gaming
* Virtual reality and
* Electronic performance support tools
* Hybrid programs

We urge you to participate, share your expertise and innovative solutions. MODSIM offers a unique opportunity to showcase Canadian innovation in learning technology and network with buyers and colleagues in the educational and training field in North America. MODSIM is also looking for speakers for other tracks, please see the conference web site for more information.

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28th January 2011

Canadians Like Hippos In Their Digital Media

koboKobo Wireless eReader is now available at Best Buy Canada, both in-store and online. You can pick up the Onyx, Pearlized Lilac or Metallic Silver eReaders for $149.00 each from Best Buy, Chapters-Indigo or Walmart stores across Canada.

Canada 3.0The 2011 Canada 3.0 conference has opened registration for this year’s event, which will take place in Stratford on May 2nd through 5th. The Early Bird rate of $495.00 + taxes and service charge will be available until midnight on March 3th, when ticket prices will go up to $695.00 + taxes and processing charge. There is a StartUp/Small Business/Non-Profit price available for $225.00 + taxes and service charge as well as ticketing options for students. If you register before February 18th you will automatically be entered for a draw to win a copy of MacroWikinomics, personally addressed and signed by author Anthony D. Williams. Please see the Canada 3.0 web site for this year’s confirmed speakers.

bug trackerMonde Media and Bug Tracker have made two personnel announcements this morning – Jean-Robert Michel, Monde Media’s former General Manager has moved into the dual role of Production Director for both Bug-Tracker and Monde Media, while Monde Media’s former COO has become the new Client Relationship Director for both entities.

In other comings and goings, the BC Technology Industry Association announced today that its President, Pascal BCTIASpothelfer will leave the organization June 30th to return to the corporate sector. Spothelfer was appointed President & CEO of the BC Technology Industry Association in November of 2007, and since that time has successfully raised the level of recognition of the organization and BC’s technology industry through his leadership, commitment to collaboration, and tireless advocacy efforts.

“My past three years at the BCTIA have allowed me to get to know our technology community on a very different level. It has been most rewarding both personally and professionally,” said Spothelfer. “I have met and worked with incredibly smart, engaged and inspiring people – experiences that will fuel my passion to assist in the further growth of BC’s technology industry not just until my departure from the BCTIA, but in whatever role I pursue in the future. “

Paul Gorton, Chair of the BCTIA commented, “We will greatly miss having Pascal’s passion and vision. On behalf of the Board, I thank Pascal for his commitment to the BCTIA, and we wish him the utmost success in the future.”

Pascal will continue to lead the BCTIA and work with the board on the leadership transition until his departure at the end of June. A formal search has been initiated by the BCTIA and will be facilitated by Odgers Berndtson. Please contact Caroline Jellinck at 604 602 2556 for more information.

Canadian developers seem to have a thing for hippos – here is some info from three Canadian enterprises which contain “hippo” in their names.

rock hippo productionsRock Hippo Productions Ltd has launched the second closed beta for its cartoon-style third person action shooter, MicroVolts. This second phase of testing will continue for approximately two weeks in preparation for the official release day. In addition, the company has released all-new screen shots of the game and is holding a special “Free-for-All” tournament which will kick off Saturday, February 5th. Winning players will be awarded their choice of any weapon they want to use with the launch of the Open Beta. Players who visit the game’s website will be able to learn more about the game and the events as well as register for a beta key.
microvolts
MicroVolts features fast paced, third person shooter action and pits players against each other in a secret battle that has been waged and going unnoticed right in our own backyard for years. No one knows for sure when or where the first toy declared war but rumor has it that the uprising began with four original limited edition figures, code named MicroVolts. Battle lines were drawn when Naomi, Knox, Pandora, and C.H.I.P.-the prototypes a-were soon joined by an endless number of modified versions. Now, toy figures around the world are engaged in an all-out war for valuable battery resources and supremacy of the Micro World. All we can do now is stay out of their way and wait for a champion to be declared!

With a ton of weapons, inventive character designs, and a huge list of customization features, MicroVolts is destined to invigorate and re-energize the Free2play space. Intuitive controls and a third person view make the game easy to play and fun for both newcomers and veterans of shooter games. Game modes include Free for All, Team Deathmatch, Item Match, Capture the Battery, and many more featuring various maps designed by toy concept.

tiny hipposTiny Hippos, a start-up based in Waterloo, has a product which will be of interest to all of you mobile developers out there. According to its site, this product, which is named Ripple Emulator, is a multi-platform mobile environment emulator that runs in a web browser and is custom-tailored to HTML5 mobile application testing. Ripple aims to reduce the challenges being faced by mobile developers caused by today’s platform fragmentation in the marketplace.

Ripple is built as a Chrome extension, running as part of the Chrome browser and takes advantage of our back-end services to perform some of the more complex operations. It offers the ability to look under the hood of your mobile applications, gaining full visibility into what your it is doing. It also allows for the use of existing tools to perform JavaScript debugging, HTML DOM inspection, automated testing, as well as multiple device and screen resolution emulation in real-time without having to redeploy the mobile application or restart the emulator.

mercury groveMeanwhile, just down the highway a bit from Tiny Hippos is Mercury Grove, an Ottawa-based developer who has an enterprise called Network Hippo, which according to network hippoMercury Grove’s site connects to users’ email, address books, and social networks to consolidate all of their professional contacts, remind them to stay in touch with important people, and makes it easy to connect online or through email. Mercury Grove also offers a service called Web Collaboration, which is an online workspaces for internal teams, partners, and clients. Unlike other team sharing services, Web Collaboration can be setup in minutes and requires no download, installation or administration.

JostleAnother collaboration-style service I stumbled across is Vancouver-developed Jostle. I found this site because the person behind Jostle’s Twitter account retweeted one of my Game Design Expo live tweets. According to the Jostle web site, a People Engagement Platform™ that glues enterprises together. This platform enables innovative companies to clarify their organization, reveal hidden expertise and engage their employees. Jostle is enterprise software that is accessible from any web-enabled device and works like a website, without the need to install software.

blue74Toronto’s Blue74 Labs has released a statement announcing that IIA, the studio’s critically acclaimed real-life massively multiplayer “outdoor” role-playing game sold tens of thousands of memberships in the first 48 hours of its release, making it the fastest-selling ARG game of all time. The IIA Spy Game is being compared to blockbuster hits “The Game”, “Spy Game”, and “Halting State”, a book by Charles Stross.

The IIA (International Intelligence Agency) is a real life multi-player game that gives players a real life, real feel, “off computer” role-playing game. Players don’t know about the actual game play until they are engaged in the game, which was made globally available on January 24th via a small posting on the popular “Ycombinator: Hacker News”, a web site for Internet start-ups. Expectations were less than 100 memberships to be sold the first day, Mike Curry noticed a very heavy load on his web server – realizing the game had gone viral. Registration for the game is $5.00, which interested players send via PayPal.

The company does have an official site for the game, however they are not releasing the information until its members exercise a critical classified mission. It’s believed that the mission entails a Remote Controlled UAV helicopter taking aerial photographs of the building that houses their website. It’s believed they are doing this to antic entertainmentensure the security of the building.

In an article released yesterday on Gamasutra, Nexon America VP of Business Development Won Il Sue spoke with reporter Chris Nutt about the million dollar Nexon iNitiative, during which the publisher asked for game dev submissions from studios around the world. Coming out at the top of heap with signed deals: One2Tribe from Poland, and Ontario studio Antic Entertainment. Nexon did not reveal exactly what type of game the London, ON Antic team is working on, other than to say one of the studios is working on a Facebook game and that both games, while somewhat of an unusual nature for Nexon, will be of the social media genre. In the meantime, check out Antic’s free to play Junk Battles, a teletoon retrobrowser-based free-to-play fast-paced vehicle combat game.

All’s fair in love and war in cartoon-land as TeleToon Retro couples pursue the love of fans and a spot in TeleToon Retro’s Hall of Fame as the Top 5 Sweethearts in honour of Valentine’s Day. Starting today and running until Sunday, February 6, viewers can vote online for their top 5 favourite cartoon love matches, for a place in TeleToon Retro history.

TeleToon Retro has narrowed the field to 18 classic animated admirers and is inviting fans to select which couples are the Top 5 Sweethearts of all-time. The list of nominees for the Top 5 Sweethearts is made up of the following cartoon couples:

  • Smurfette and Hefty Smurf
  • The Baroness and Destro (G.I. Joe)
  • He-Man and Frosta
  • Pepe Le Pew and Penelope cat
  • Fred and Wilma Flintstone
  • Batman and Catwoman
  • Barney and Betty Rubble
  • Alvin and Britney
  • George and Jane Jetson
  • Shaggy and Scooby-Doo
  • Clark Kent and Lois Lane
  • Granny and Tweety
  • Fred and Daphne (Scooby Doo)
  • Optimus Prime and Elita One
  • Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm Bamm Rubble
  • Josie and Alan M (Josie and the Pussycats)
  • Wonder Woman and Superman (Superfriends)
  • She-Ra and Pirate Sea Hawke

Following the voting period, the Top 5 Sweethearts will be announced on Friday, February 11 and a special programming marathon featuring all five couples will air as part of the “Retro Rewind” programming block on Sunday, February 13 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. These winners will be inducted into the TeleToon Retro Hall of Fame, joining the Top 5 favourite cartoon characters of all-time as chosen by the fans in December 2010.

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22nd December 2010

Serious Fun and Serious Learning Now And In The Future

games for changeTwo Canadian-made serious games have made the short list for the 2010 Games For Change favourite social impact games. The titles were nominated to the list via Twitter, Facebook and the Games For Change Google Group. Voting is now open to pick the top favourite. The Canadian titles named to the list are Inside Disaster – The Experience about the Haiti earthquake and Phylo – A Human Computing Framework for Comparative Genomics.

Inside Disaster – The Experience was produced by PTV Productions in association with TVO. Funding was supplied in part by the Canada Media Fund, Bell Fund, the Canadian International Development Agency and Ontario Media Development Corporation. Inside Disaster was created to challenge “assumptions made about relief work in disaster areas.” Inside Disaster is not a game in the traditional sense – there is no score; instead, this very graphic and to-the-point experience allows you to work within the parametres of a relief helper, and then experience the outcome of any decisions you commit to. Note – this is not a game for sensitive people. The images are graphic and can be disturbing. Please heed the warning on the game’s site.

Phylo – A Human Computing Framework for Comparative Genomics. Apparently the game isn’t as scary as the name implies. According to its site, the game is “just an interactive game that lets you contribute to science.” Phylo was made with the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, McGill School of Computer Science, McGill Centre for Bioinformatics and the McGill Computational Structural Biology Group.

Discovery Channel Canada has a series of six videos from Popular Science’s: The Future Of…  that looks at innovation in the field of Play. I believe that the videos on Discovery Channel Canada are only viewable via the web for those with a Canadian IP address, so my apologies to our international readers. Here is a link to the show on Discovery.com (US), and a link to Pop Sci’s videos on Discovery.com, which may or may not work for international viewers. These episodes of the show feature information about a mixed reality lets you reach into the computer game and control it with your hands, a smart football that teaches us all how to play sports like the pros, pervasive games take over entire cities and discover siftables: kids’ alphabet blocks on steroids.

Relic EntertainmentTHQ and Relic Entertainment have released a new trailer for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Retribution™, which is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011. In this latest chapter, which takes place years after the events in Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising™, Retribution allows players to choose their perspective with the first multiple-race single player campaign in the Dawn of War II series. The first race to be revealed is the savage Orks, but no matter which race is chosen players will be taken on an epic journey through each story arc, revealing the answers to many questions left open in previous Dawn of War titles.

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As well as the single player campaign, Retribution will feature new multiplayer units, maps and an entire new playable faction when it ships.

Get Set Games has released Mega Jump for the Android platform. Available free of charge, Mega Jump can be Mega Jump For Androiddownloaded to your Android phone by scanning the game’s QR Get Set Gamescode on the Get Set page.

Mega Jump on Android is compatible with all phones running Android OS 2.0 and up, and “features the same great graphics, hilarious sounds and action-packed gameplay. It also has the same leaderboards and achievements as the iPhone version – thanks to OpenFeint – so you can compete against your friends who have the iPhone version.”

ParetoLogicParetoLogic’s staff has come together once again this holiday season to provide gifts and charity for those in need. The Salvation Army Christmas Angels campaign and the Mustard Seed food bank have both been long-time recipients of ParetoLogic charity activities. This year, staff managed to up their donation levels, to provide happier holidays for those in need.

The Mustard Seed collects non-perishable foodstuffs for the underprivileged, and feeds over 7000 people a month in the Victoria area. To collect food, an extra-large hamper has been a mainstay of the ParetoLogic offices for the holiday season. The 125-litre bin is full to the rim with donations from ParetoLogic employees and their families.

Marlee Wilson, ParetoLogic’s Office Manager and de facto co-ordinator of charities, was optimistic about donations. “I can tell you that we have a full bin and I’m going to drop this off and hopefully we can fill it again before Christmas.”

The Salvation Army Christmas Angels program collects donations of toys and distributes them to children in need. An estimated 6000 children will receive gifts through the Christmas Angels program this winter. Donators are provided a child’s age and gender, and then pick out an appropriate present. The gift is transferred to the child’s parents, so they may give their daughter or son a happy Christmas. ParetoLogic staff donated 33 gifts this year, for children aged between two and 18.

“Mustard Seed is a charity for life, but the Christmas Angels is a charity for the soul. All children deserve a merry Christmas, and we are delighted to help do that,” said Wilson.

Readers of Canada’s national current affairs magazine can now enjoy Maclean’s at their tech-savvy macleansfingertips with the Maclean’s App for iPad, now available on the App Store. The inaugural issue of Maclean’s magazine for iPad features content from Maclean’s Newsmakers 2010 special issue.

Each issue of Maclean’s comes complete with all the news, commentary, photography and columnists that have made the magazine the country’s most indispensable weekly read for more than a century. The content is beautifully rendered for iPad with an array of enhancements that bring the pages to life: embedded video, photo galleries, digital links, a live letters section, issue-at-a-glance and other navigation tools, and also gives readers the ability to save their favourite articles and share them with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

The inaugural Newsmakers 2010 issue features:

• an animated video cover
• dozens of beautiful photos/photo galleries
• video of Justin Bieber performing live
• video montage of newsmakers who passed away in 2010
• our regular columnists: Andrew Coyne, Scott Feschuk, Paul Wells and more

“Maclean’s is dedicated to bringing readers relevant and thought-provoking content on today’s latest technology,” says Maclean’s publisher and editor-in-chief Ken Whyte. “With the new Maclean’s App for iPad, our readers can now enjoy everything they love about Maclean’s from the convenience of iPad.”

While the Maclean’s App is available for free from the App Store on iPad, each downloadable issue is priced at $2.99. Maclean’s 6th annual and biggest-ever Newsmakers edition looks at the year’s winners and whiners, heroes and heartbreakers, sinners and saints. Among them: Newsmaker of the Year Sidney Crosby and other Canadian Olympic heroes; Justin Bieber and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford; the arrival of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the election of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president; and the exits of Michaëlle Jean, Simon Cowell, Lloyd Robertson and Cathy cartoons; the dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners, the many setbacks of Barack Obama, the comeback of Conrad Black—and the triumphant return of Betty White.

ABI researchDriven by North American, European and Asia Pacific markets, online gaming continues its steady growth and the latest purchasable study from American-based ABI Research forecasts revenues of slightly more than $20 billion in 2012. Technology developments will mean new opportunities for connected devices beyond the computer.

The Asia-Pac region, especially China, will be the engine behind much of this growth. However, in China, due to generally lower levels of personal PC ownership, the business models are evolving a little differently. According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, “World of Warcraft, for instance, generates significant revenue for Activision in Europe and North America on a subscription basis. But in China, despite a large ‘subscriber’ base, the revenues are far smaller: it’s more of a pay-as-you-go model (prepaid game cards). This also creates a greater reliance on ‘cloud’ or server-based games.”

Another difference in Asia is regulation. “In China, Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere the rules are more exacting in what they allow. Some games for instance, have had to alter their content: using WoW again as an example, the developers had to remove the virtual blood.”

The increasingly varied and range of connected devices will also permit gaming on more platforms. For example Free, a French broadband and IPTV provider, has partnered with Intel to develop a very advanced set-top box (Freebox Revolution). The STB includes an Intel Atom processor, controller with gyroscopic inputs, Blu-ray player, powerline adapters, Wi-Fi, and a game controller. While these games might be more locally- based for now, they point to the potential for opening this up to multiplayer and MMO gaming.

There are challenges, though. Mobile gaming (eg. on smartphones) could be disruptive. The market is fragmented, with proprietary platforms the rule, posing difficulties for developers trying to serve a number of smaller platforms rather than a few big ones. And the growth of cloud gaming demands more and bigger servers and data centers.

ABI Research’s “Gaming in the Cloud” study examines the casual and Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games markets and the potential role for connected consumer electronics. It contains regional revenue forecasts and discusses pressing technical issues and is part of the Digital Living Research Service.

ABI Research provides in-depth analysis and quantitative forecasting of trends in global connectivity and other emerging technologies. From offices in North America, Europe and Asia, ABI Research’s worldwide team of experts advises thousands of decision makers through 30+ research and advisory services.

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10th December 2010

Follow Friday

Today I want to share a few sites that I’ve found by following links and recommendations, usually from the Twittersphere. But first, thank you to womanzworld, Big Bad Brush, Cybele Negris, Roddie Kieley, Wojtek Kawczynski and Savant Games for the #FF today on Twitter.

Here is a reminder that Game Prototype Challenge v2 will be announcing the themes on Monday December 13th, as well as a teaser look at some of the games from version 1.

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If you are a professional, student or hobbyist, I recommend that you take part in the Game Prototype Challenge – because hey, you never know where that next great idea will come from.

disruptive publishersOne of my recent new followers on Twitter is Disruptive Publishers. Based in Vancouver, this Washington State University Shirtgroup creates licensed avatar gear for platforms such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. They have created themes and avatars for groups such as American universities, as well as partnered with companies such as Capcom, Sega, EA, Ubisoft, and the NBA for personalized gear that can be purchased in the respective console marketplaces. Creating user-customization gear for avatars is a great way to get your company’s image out into the main stream, broadening its presence to areas you may not have previously considered. According to their site, Disruptive Publishers is “an end-to-end solution for all production, licensing, approval, accounting and marketing disciplines throughout the entire process.”

Raw Sugar PRToronto-based Raw Sugar PR, owned and operated by Juli Strader, is a company whose philosophy is very similar to our own, to quote their site: “Raw Sugar PR is Juli Straderdedicated to developing and establishing a star system of directors, producers, screenwriters and actors so that Canadians across the country will proudly boast about our talent in the film & TV industry. Film & TV publicity opportunities abound from all stages, from development to casting to production to theatrical debut and to multi-platform distribution. Each stage offers new opportunities to build industry awareness and consumer recognition of your project.”

Blatant StudiosAnother Twitter-find is Vancouver’s Blatant Studio, whose specialty is animation and motion-graphics. They have done work for clients such as Piranha Games, MTV, MuchMusic, 20th Century Fox and many more. While watching their show reel, I saw something very disturbing. Scott Baio is 45? I feel really old now. Thanks, Blatant.

premium beatI followed a link posted by Toon Boom, which led me to their Christmas ecard application. A link on that page led me over to Premium Beat, a royalty free music provider founded in 2005 by father-son creatives Giles and Francois Arbour. Based in Quebec, Premium Beat offers high quality Royalty Free Music for all new and traditional media, including websites, online videos, slide shows, DVDs and CD-ROMs, television, radio and films. The company also offers a variety of Flash Media Players for websites: Flash mp3 Players, Flash Video Players and Flash Slideshow Players.moderation town

Moderation Town from Stitch Media had its premier yesterday. Airing as a web series on Showcase.ca, Moderation Town is a comedy series about a small Maritime town after the local factory folds and is replaced by an Internet moderation company. Local residents become not-so-internet-savvy content moderators, responsible for filtering the most offensive content off of the Internet.

situwareKelowna studio Situware has released Pigeon Drop, a kind-of-location-based game available now in the iTunes App Store for $2.99. According to the game’s Pigeon Dropinfo, Pigeon Drop is a revolution in interactive game play, physically integrating players into an online world where they command an army of pigeons capable of launching real-time attacks against other online players around the globe.

Pigeons have united in a worldwide effort to help humanity avoid total self-destruction. After years of practicing on statues and monuments around the world, pigeons have finally perfected the art of high altitude bombing and are ready to offer their services to humankind. It appears pigeon poop is a great alternative to weapons of mass destruction and pigeons are willing to partner with humans in an effort to avoid a worldwide disaster and offer a new way of achieving total global domination.

Complex GamesToday seems to be the day for finding out about games with questionable titles. New from Winnipeg’s Complex Games is Monkey Poo, available now in the iTunes store for 99 cents. This game, according tomonkey poo its store description, allows you to fling your way to victory by covering unwary zoo-goers with mounds and mounds of monkey poo, awarding bonus points for finishing off your targets with multiple hits, while nailing mystery celebrities brings massive rewards. Another game objective is to avoid the zookeeper, as he will apparently put your poonami to an early end.

Microsoft Game StudiosMicrosoft’s Vancouver game studio launched an online beta of their newest title last night. Neosaurs is an MMORPG free-to-play PC browser game, and it appears that there will be purchasable upgrades. I did find information about charges and charegbacks in on the game’s site, but could not find any mention of what could be purchased or any prices. Perhaps this feature will be enabled once the beta phase has concluded.neosaurs

The game’s description is as follows: “deep below Earth’s surface, Inner Earth is in trouble and needs your help! Raise your very own Neosaur to be protector for the forces of good. Play with your friends and explore the extensive lore and endless adventure in the magical land beneath. You can evolve your Neosaur into a ferocious Rex, strong Cera, or agile Ptera.”

behaviour gamesBehaviour Studios has a new title on XBLA – Doritos Crash Course is a fast-paced, funny, obstacle course game show for your Avatar to compete against your friends and family over XboxLive. Play through 15 exciting platformer levels across 3 different countries. Compete against your friends and family up to four players over XboxLive and local split-screen. Technically, this free game was developed by Wanako Studios in Chile – but – Wanako is a wholly-owned division of Quebec’s Behaviour Studio, which, in a round-about kind of way, gets it in through the Canadian Content Door.

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