Word Mage for Kinect

Kinect Games version 3

During my adventures with Microsoft in London a week ago, I created a Windows 8 app version of my Math Mage game using Microsoft’s new TouchDevelop platform and later on that week I created a new version of the game called Word Mage, which tests students’ knowledge of Verbs, Nouns, Adverbs and Adjectives. The new game was for a Hackathon competition and was hastily put together, but I thought the idea was a good one, so I’ve now created Word Mage for Kinect for Windows, based on my previous Math Mage for Kinect. As a programmer turned teacher Maths makes perfect sense to me, English on the other hand not so much, so this game is one that I could have done with growing up, if not present day :-). The new game is just like Math Mage in that it employees “Fruit Ninja” style gameplay in an educational game which consolidates learning in multi-sensory active way. Educational theorists say that multi-sensory active methodology is the best form of pedagogy :-).

With that in mind I bring you Kinect Games, which adds the all new Word Mage along with Math Mage, Kinect Angles, Kinect Time, Kinect Magic Cursor and Kinect Pong. Kinect Games v3 will run on Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktop mode and will work with an XBOX360 Kinect or the official Windows version of Kinect.

Word Mage for Kinect
Word Mage for Kinect for Windows v1

Click here to download the latest version of Kinect Games including Kinect SDK.

Click here to download the latest version of Kinect Games without Kinect SDK (for those who already have it installed).

Click here to download the source code for my Kinect Games.

The Kinect for Windows version of Word Mage adds a brand new feature which allows you can add your own words to the game by editing the word lists. It also includes two extra word lists for the special mode in the game, which will then use whatever words you put into the “correct.txt” file for correct answers and whatever words you put into the “words.txt” file as wrong answers. For an example the files that come with the installer have a list of countries in the correct.txt file and a list of cities in the wrong.txt file, so if you select the special mode, players will be trying to identify countries instead of cities. You can use this for mode for whatever you want, be creative with it please :). You can also edit the list of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs as you see fit.

Word Lists
Word Lists

The 3 difficulty levels in the game increase the speed at which the words come at you, but they also increase the range of words used. In easy mode it only uses the first one third of the word list, in medium it uses the half of the list and in hard mode it chooses words from the entire list. I tried to remove words from the lists that could be both verbs and nouns etc, but if I have left any in please send me a message and remove them from your own list. It’d be great to get an English teacher on the job of perfecting the lists, any volunteers?

In game it defaults to video mode off, if you want to allow the players to see themselves while playing press the S button during the game to turn the video feed on. If you want to turn it back off press the SPACE BAR. Some computers may lag with the video mode turned on, so try it out and see.

On the main menu you can adjust the angle of the Kinect sensor by using the UP and DOWN arrow keys on the keyboard. Adjust it so that the players’ heads are clearly visible in the small window in the top middle of the main menu screen.

Please download the games and use them with your students. I’d love feedback from teachers using the games around the world on their experiences with using the games in their classrooms. Please email me at david.renton@wcs.ac.uk with comments and feedback.

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Windows 8 Appathon and BETT Show 2013 (My week in London)

First off respect to all London workers who do the tube thing every day, it’s a very quick and efficient way of getting about London, but I couldn’t handle the rush and crush every day. I saw one women getting the door slammed shut on her and another few close calls, plus I experienced being crushed hard against the other commuters on the tube on the way home from BETT one evening, something I’ve not experienced since I was in Manchester to watch Rangers in the UEFA cup final a few years back. So respect to those who do that every day.

Before Christmas I took part in 3 virtual university sessions on TouchDevelop with Peli de Halleux from Microsoft Research in USA and was selected from the 50 or so educators from around Europe who took part, to go to London for a final 24 hour appathon.  TouchDevelop is an exciting new platform which allows you to create apps on any HTML5 enabled browser and therefore you can develop on pretty much any platform, including mobile devices such as tablets or even phones. The apps you create can also be tested in the browser, so this platform provides the opportunity for students to create apps on mobile devices for mobile devices and on pretty much any device they have and see it running on that device. The final apps can be published as Windows 8 RT apps or Win7/8 phone apps on the Windows marketplace.

Microsoft Offices in London
Microsoft Offices in London

I flew down to London (courtesy of Microsoft) on the Sunday night before the event and due to Easyjet delays ended up getting to the hotel just before midnight. We began the event on Monday in Microsoft’s plush London offices and it was exciting to meet up with the other educators from around Europe who were taking part. Along with my English friends Jimmy Edwards and Ray Chambers who I knew from Microsoft Partners in Learning, I especially enjoyed talking to and sharing ideas with the 2 guys from Norway who are doing amazing stuff with Minecraft in the classroom. The appathon kicked off properly at 11am and we went hard at it, developing our app ideas into reality using TouchDevelop way into the small hours. I was creating a Windows Phone app version of my Kinect Math Mage game which I had just finished developing the previous week.

The guys from Norway
The guys from Norway
Appathon kicks off
Appathon kicks off

The competition went on late into the wee hours and I was last to leave at around 4am, but on the walk back to the hotel it dawned on me that I had a bug in the game and did a bit more in the hotel and finally went to bed around 5am. Luckily we didn’t need to be back to present our apps until 1pm.

End of the night
End of the night

We gathered together at 1pm and presented our apps to the judging panel and to our fellow educators. Math Mage was one of the fully completed apps, which made me feel pretty good about it, but there was some very stiff competition from Eastern Europe and from my friend Ray Chambers.

Presenting Math Mage at the Appathon
Presenting Math Mage at the Appathon

I must give a shout out here to Michael Philp a Scottish art student who created the amazing original art work for Math Mage, in my view anyway Math Mage was certainly the best looking app :-).

Math Mage for Windows Phone
Math Mage for Windows Phone

At the dinner later that night, the Ukraine pulled off the win for an amazing app which lets you construct and test electric circuits on your mobile phone. The winner received a brand new Surface RT Tablet courtesy of Microsoft. Despite not winning the big prize Microsoft UK were very impressed with the apps that myself and Ray Chambers produced and are going to publish them both in the Windows Marketplace.

Winning App from the Ukraine
Winning App from the Ukraine

On Wednesday I went to the BETT Show at the ExCeL Convention Centre where Vince Cable and Microsoft VP Anthony Salcito opened the show in the new Microsoft Arena in the middle of the massive ExCel conference centre. I bumped into Ollie Bray on the tube on the way to BETT and had a good chat with him and he shared some ideas for things I could do with Kinect, as well as catching me up on the exciting things he is involved with at present.

Anthony Salcito Microsoft VP
Anthony Salcito Microsoft VP
I enjoyed exploring the show on Wednesday and met up with the Northern Irish team from GameToLearn who I had done a Skype interview for last year, but never met in person. I recorded a new interview for them at the show and tried to be more positive this time when they asked for one word to sum up education (last time when they sprang it on me and I said “Challenging”). I also saw a company from Greece who are producing some nice educational Kinect games, not a million miles away from the Kinect Games I have created, but who are charging for their games (better grab my games for free while you can). Their system does have a whole backend reporting system to give feedback on how the students are performing which is a nice touch, but my games make better use of Kinect’s camera to give a more augmented reality aspect to my games. I couldn’t see an overall theme running through the show, but if I had to choose one I would say BYOD was the dominant message, which is Bring Your Own Device and the idea that in future students of all ages from Primary through to FE and HE should be allowed to take the amazing technology sitting in their bags out and use it in the classroom.
BETT Show 2013
BETT Show 2013
On Thursday Ray Chambers was back in town and after a morning of footering with our PowerPoint we headed to BETT to present on Kodu, Kinect, xGames and TouchDevelop. Before we presented we went to the NAACE stand for the launch of the Kodu Kup in conjunction with Microsoft. I bumped into Microsoft VP Anthony Salcito at the stand and had a chat with him about my Kinect Games and showed him pictures of how they were being used in Schools on my iPad mini (never have I wished for a surface tablet more). However he wasn’t totally put off as he came along to our K-Team presentation later on. On the NAACE stand Stuart Ball from Microsoft Partners in Learning along with Nicki Maddams from the K-Team launched the exciting new competition for all school kids aged 7 to 14, where they are challenged to work together in teams of 3 to produce a game which will be judged by Microsoft, with the top ten teams from around the country winning a trip to Microsoft HQ in July, where the top teams will be rewarded with XBOX360s and Kinects.
After that myself and Ray rushed over to Learn Live D where we were presenting as the K-Team on Kodu, Kinect, xGames and TouchDevelop and how these tools can and are being used to the classroom to engage and excite learners. We had some famous faces in the audience such as Anthony Salcito and Stuart Ball from Microsoft and the game developers behind the Fable game series. The presentation went very well and it seemed to be well received by everybody.
K Team Presentation
K Team Presentation
Math Mage live demo at BETT Show 2013
Math Mage live demo at BETT Show 2013
On the Friday myself and Ray had initally planned to take it easy and just take in the show and I had planned to go see Professor Brian Cox presenting, but Lee Stott from Microsoft managed to glently persuade myself and Ray to take part in another Appathon, this time it was the Stone Hackathon which was being judged by Johnny Ball of 80s kids tv fame. Ray made a french and maths version of his Spelling Bee app and I made an English version of my Math Mage called Word Mage which tests kids knowledge of Nouns, Verbs, Adverbs and Adjectives. Congratulations to Ray as he managed to grab second place for his Spelling Bee App and won a small portable printer for his efforts. It was another day spent on touchdevelop and it is a platform that I am getting very familar with in a short space of time, so much so that I have agreed to produce teaching materials for Microsoft on using TouchDevelop for games development and programming. The materials will cover basic programming concepts and how to use TouchDevelop to create classic arcade games like Pong, Breakout, Space Invaders etc.

Professor Brian Cox at BETT Show 2013
Professor Brian Cox at BETT Show 2013

Word Mage for Windows Phone 7/8
Word Mage for Windows Phone 7/8

Johnny Ball at the Hackathon
Johnny Ball at the Hackathon

Ray presenting Spelling Bee
Ray presenting Spelling Bee

Presenting Math Mage at the Appathon
Presenting Math Mage at the Appathon

Presenting Math Mage at the Hackathon
Presenting Math Mage at the Hackathon

Presenting Word Mage at the Stone Hackathon
Presenting Word Mage at the Stone Hackathon

Using technology to stay in touch with family
Keeping in touch with family

A final thank you goes out to Stuart Ball for inviting me down to the Appathon and to Microsoft for paying my flights and accommodation for the event. Also much say thanks to my Head of Section Bill Gallacher, Head of Department Anita Osborne and my Principal Audrey Cumberford for giving me the week off from my teaching duties at Reid Kerr College to attend these events.

It has been an inspiring and eventful week and something I have learned a lot from and with TouchDevelop I am taking back a great new tool to Scotland that I will hopefully be teaching to college and high school students in the coming year.

Kinect Games v2.6 featuring Math Mage

This release of Kinect Games includes the all new Math Mage. Math Mage is an educational game which helps students with numeracy, including ODD, EVEN and PRIME numbers as well as times tables from 3 through to 12. Math Mage has similar gameplay to fruit ninja, but you use your hand to swipe rather than doing a swipe with your finger on a touch device. The objective of the game is to swipe through pages with correct numbers, but not through pages with incorrect numbers. The pages of your magic book have been enchanted and are escaping, but they are numbered, which lets you know which ones are the correct pages to put back into your book. Everytime you swipe through a page with a correct number you gain 5 points, however when you swipe through a wrong number you lose one of your 5 lives. The game ends when you lose all your lives or when the timer runs out. You gain a bonus 5 points at the end of the game for each life you have remaining.

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Click here to download Kinect Games. Once you run the installer it will create shortcuts on your desktop for the different Kinect Games. Kinect Games v2.6 is for Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktop mode. It will work with both Kinect for Windows or a standard XBOX360 Kinect plugged into a Windows7/8 machine.

If you already have Kinect v1.6 installed and want a quicker download, click here for a version of the installer without Kinect SDK 1.6.

Math Mage has a couple of keyboard functions, which are not as yet documented in the game, one of these is the ability on the main menu to move the camera angle up and down by using the UP & DOWN arrow keys. The other feature is that you can take the background away during the game and display live video feed from Kinect instead. To do this press S for show video and to cancel the video stream press the SPACE BAR.


Video showing Math Mage in play

 

Another busy week using Games to Learn

Another interesting week at Reid Kerr College, on Monday afternoon myself and Cherry Briggs MBE met with Mark Ratter from East Renfrewshire Council. We spoke about and demonstrated the games based learning tools and the CPD training we can offer teachers in Games Development using tools like Scratch, Kodu etc. The funny thing was, when I met Mark we both thought we knew each other, but neither of us realised until after the meeting that we go to the same Church. This is the second time this has happened recently, so I’ve requested a Church directory with pictures from our Pastor to help me with this :).

Demonstrating Kinect Angles to Mark Ratter

On Wednesday Dave Sharp from Binary Asylum came into the college and spoke with our Games Students about routes into the games industry and what to expect once you get into it. Dave has worked in the games industry for almost 30 years, for various companies including Virgin Media and has worked on games such as Fallout and NBA Jam. His work has taken him all over the world and he shared his experiences of working in the UK, Sweden, USA and Hong Kong. He was also one of the main people behind the successful train2game blended learning course on Games Development.

He shared experiences and offered some great advice. He also gave some invaluable tips about creating a portfolio of work and what employers expect from graduates. After the main lecture and Q&A session, he came up to our games lab and spoke to our 2nd year HND students and they got a chance to quiz him in a smaller group. Dave is hoping to arrange for some of our students to visit one of his games companies in Scotland, which will be an invaluable experience for them.

Dave Sharp speaking with RKC Games Students

On Friday I did another online web conference/chat about my xGames and Kinect educational games. This time with GameToLearn and this week the web conference tool of choice was Skype. The chat was recorded and they will be posting it on their fb page soon. They are interested in the Gamification of educational resources to engage children in their learning, which is right up my street and hopefully it will encourage more teachers to make use of my educational games.

I finished the week by adding the facility into my xGames to add wave sound files to questions, which should be useful especially for music teachers.  I will be posting this version of xGames very soon.

Busy week of Games Dev events

So far my blog posts have all been for software releases, but I guess that isn’t really what blogging is all about, so I thought I’d try doing a more standard blog since last week was quite an interesting one. On Monday I ran a whole day of staff CPD training for Kersland School in Paisley, which is a School for children with additional support needs. A few of their staff had been at a previous CPD event I had run and requested I do a whole staff training event for them. They were particularly interested in how they could use xGames and Kinect in the classroom, so I focused on my Kinect Games, xGames and also did some Kodu with them. Overall it went extremely well, although perhaps it could have been more tailored for their learners.

Kinect Angles being played by teachers from Kersland School

On Tuesday I was at a meeting with the Principal & Vice Principal of the college, along with other staff, about the future E-Learning strategy of the college. I think I was mainly there to give an update on the xGames project, however it was very interesting to hear the thoughts of the management on the way forward in regards to embedding IT more in the learner experience in the future and I hopefully managed to contribute a little as well.

On Wednesday I organised what I think was a very successful event, we had 3 graduates from UWS, along with a final year UWS Computer Animation student and a guy with 30 years experience working mostly freelance in the Games Industry. Two of the UWS guys were ex Reid Kerr College HNC Games Graduates and one of them recently graduated with a 1st class honours and has secured a job as a programmer in industry.

The big lecture theatre in Renfrew North was packed with standing room only left by the time the event kicked off and we had well over 100 students from the various Computer Games courses and from Creative Arts.

Packed out RN Lecture Theatre for talk about Jobs in the Games Industry

The main speaker was Lauren McKellan from One Thumb Mobile in Glasgow. Lauren graduated from UWS with a degree in Computer Animation and now works for a mobile games company as their Lead Artist, mainly working on 3D models and Animation. She spoke in detail with the students about how to get a job in the games industry and gave them some invaluable advice about online portfolios and the content they should put into them. Sean also gave some great advice on the business side of things for those that might want to work freelance in the industry.

In the Q&A session at the end, the 2 ex-RKC students (James & James) really came to the floor and answered a lot of questions about the progression from College to University and what would be expected of them. They hopefully demonstrated that FE students can go onto University and achieve and go on to great things, through hard work and dedication.

On Thursday I had to deliver an online webinar for JISC RSC TV on the xGames JISC funded project. In this I provided an overview of the project from initial concept to completion and I also went over the benefits of the games for learners of all ages. The session should be available soon to watch back by clicking here.
Later on the same day, I was taking part in the first Virtual University session for Microsoft Partners in Learning Appathon Competition. I am one of 50 educators from around Europe taking part in this event. 25 out of the 50 educators will be selected by Microsoft to join them in January for an all-expenses paid trip to London to take part in the first Microsoft 24 hour Appathon for educators, where we will work with an expert to create an educational app for Windows mobile 7/8 platforms. The winning app will be put out onto the Windows Store for educators’ world wide to make use of.

The first sessions was very good, however I struggled to keep up as I was unaware that Microsoft’s TouchDevelop platform was HTML5 only and IE9 on my Windows7 laptop isn’t compatible. It must have pained the MS tutor to say it, but I was informed by him to install Google Chrome which is HTML5 compatible. Once I got Chrome installed it was all good. I also had the weird experience this weekend of playing about with Microsoft TouchDevelop on Google Chrome on my Apple Ipad.

At the end of the session we were set our first homework assignment, the second part of which was to use the Turtle library in TouchDevelop to come up with a script to draw something of our own choosing. In my vain attempt to court favour from my Microsoft tutor I came up with a script to get my turtle to draw the picture below. You think it will work?

USA Flag created using the Turtle Library in MS TouchDevelop

It doesn’t stop there, next week I have a meeting on Monday with someone from East Renfrewshire education department about using Games Dev in East Renfrewshire Schools and how we can assist with this; perhaps in the area of CPD for teachers. On Wednesday we have a guy called Dave Sharp coming in to speak to our students. He has 30 years experience in the games industry, including time spent working overseas, in places such as New York. He currently runs a video game company (Digital Asylum) and was one of the key guys behind the successful train2game online course. He will be speaking to them about the paths into the games industry.

Should be fun!


Video showing my USA Flag Turtle script running on Google Chrome on my Ipad.

Kinect Games v2.5 using Kinect SDK v1.6 including source code

This new release of Kinect Games fixes a couple of bugs from the last release which affected performance, the main thing being that I wasn’t correctly disposing of some unmanaged resources which slowed down the framerate. As well as fixing those bugs I have also used the new Kinect SDK v1.6 in this release which should also improve performance.

I have also added a new game to the installer called Kinect Pong, which is just a simple pong game which can be played 1 player against the computer or in 2 players mode. You simply use your right hand to control the bat; the game senses whether 1 or 2 players are standing in front of Kinect and automatically implements AI for the 2nd bat if only 1 person is playing.

There are a few keyboard controls for Kinect Pong:
F11 toggles full screen mode
UP and DOWN cursor keys move the Kinect camera angle up and down
SPACE BAR toggles the video feed on and off (turning it off will improve framerate on slow computers)
ENTER starts a new game when a game has ended
ESCAPE quits the game

Please click here to download the new all in one installer for Kinect Games, the installer includes Math Mage, Kinect Angles, Kinect Time, Kinect Magic Cursor, Kinect Pong, .net 4.0 framework, XNA4 runtime and Kinect SDK v1.6.

Kinect Pong v1.6
Picture of Kinect Pong in play

Source Code
Click here to download Kinect Angles v2.5 source code
Click here to download Kinect Time v1.6 source code
Click here to download Kinect Pong v1.6 source code
Click here to download Kinect Magic Cursor v1.6 source code

You might notice in the Kinect Pong source code that I haven’t used classes much, that was because I was writing the Pong game for a structured programming unit I teach which doesn’t go into classes but only structures. I simply added the Kinect stuff into the game I wrote for that class, so that is why it doesn’t use classes much. I suppose if you are a beginner to XNA/Kinect programming this may make the code easier to follow, or not as the case may be 🙂

Kinect Games v2.42

This will come as a shock to you all, but I made a mistake with the last release of Kinect Games :-(. In my haste to release the all in one installer of my Kinect Games, I failed to properly test it. I was told by a reliable source at MS that I didn’t need to package up the full Kinect SDK 1.5 with my games, just the 1.5 runtime; turns out that isn’t the case. I had tested my installer on my multiple PCs, however they were all mine and they all already had Kinect SDK 1.5 on them, so it worked fine. However I tested it today on a machine without the SDK and the games wouldn’t run. I have also changed all 3 applications so that an error message will appear and ask you to plug in Kinect if you haven’t done so; previously if you ran them without Kinect plugged in nothing would happen, they wouldn’t even launch.

So go ahead and download the new and improved Kinect Games all in one installer by clicking here.

Kinect Angles being played at ALT-C 2012 at Manchester University

Kinect Time being played at the High School of Glasgow – Junior School