Friday, April 15, 2011

Seattle, Part the Second

Read Part 1 here.

Aside from all the super special eliteness of being flown to Seattle and taken to Nintendo headquarters, I gotta say that the folks from Brand About Town and Nintendo planned that thing to. the. hilt. The logistics were mind boggling. They booked flight information for over a hundred people from around the country, coordinated it so that several of us could catch the shuttle at the same time, each one of us had our own room at the Hyatt, offered two cocktail parties, a dinner out in Seattle, and breakfast buffets. 

Now I realize that 90% of you have stopped reading because I sounded like such a spoiled twit listing all that stuff. Who are we kidding? I am a spoiled twit! So spoiled that I even skipped out on the second day's cocktail hour because I was so stinking tired from flying coast-to-coast to be wined, dined, and video gamed.

But don't leave yet. I have lots of good info about the Nintendo 3DS. Trust me, you might think you don't care about handheld video game systems, but this thing does some pretty incredible, game-changing things for the world of technology.

When we entered the conference room after checking in at Nintendo HQ, we mingled and found places to relax on all the hip white-leather furniture, and after a few minutes people started picking up the shiny aqua and black devices scattered around the room on coffee tables.

I grabbed one and opened it up and saw that on the right side of the screen there was a little slide button labelled 3D. One hundred percent honesty here: I could not believe my eyes when I slid that button up. This thing not only moves seamlessly from 2D to 3D in real time, it does so without the need for any glasses and even allows you to customize the depth of the 3D.

I literally have never seen anything like it. It's one of the most remarkable bits of technology I've ever encountered. But it gets better.

Included with the 3DS is a pack of "AR Games," a set of yellow and black cards with various Nintendo characters on them. AR stands for Augmented Reality. I'll link to the official Nintendo description of AR Games, but it doesn't come close to describing what AR does. You take out a card and place it on a flat surface. You position the 3DS above the card, about 10 inches or so (the screen will indicate when you've hit the sweet spot), and the 3DS's cameras lock on to the image. What happens next is even more remarkable than the 3D technology.

The 3DS...I'm laboring to try and describe this, guys. It does more than capture the image of the card on the table. It takes that image and builds a new, interactive version of a virtual reality. Not only does the 3DS manipulate the real environment it sees through the lens—the environment you are physically standing in—it does so in complete multidimensionality. Holy cow, this description is not helping. I'll just tell you what happened.

I locked onto the AR Card with the 3DS, and while looking at the table through the 3DS screen, I watched as the center of the table expanded, collapsed, and from inside it sprung forth a set of boxes, sitting right there on the table in front of me. Only they weren't really there. They were only there when I looked through the 3DS cameras.

As I walked around the table, holding the 3DS cameras facing the AR Card, I could view the boxes from all angles. When I was standing in front of them, I saw the front. When I was standing behind them, I saw the back. When I selected one of them, out sprang a dragon that I then had to shoot, circling the table to hit him from all angles.

Short of actually being able to interact with the dragon using my own two hands, this was a true virtual reality experience, the kind you've only seen in sci-fi movies up until now. And that's just one of the AR Games.

In the same session, I also got to play Steel Diver, another game that showcases all the 3DS can do. In this game, you're situated as a submarine and the goal is to sink all the other ships and subs around you. You can choose missions, you can choose whether you're in a storm or calm weather. The trick is this: You have to either be sitting on a swivel chair or stool, or standing up, for many of the missions, because  the 3DS places you in the center of the action. As you turn while holding the 3DS, your view changes. The game simulates a 360-degree visual capability.

I actually bought Steel Diver. I consider it my small part in helping to prepare Noah for the Navy. It's also my kind of game: a bit more strategic, less frenetic, and engaging. The touchscreen on the lower portion of the 3DS also plays a more vital role in this game; it appears as a periscope would, and you can control your level of depth by "pulling" the lever on the side of the screen. Plus, whenever you're hit by an enemy torpedo, it springs leaks that you must repair by tapping the leak on the screen. Pretty cool stuff.

As far as the parental controls and child-safety recommendations go, the 3D slide can be rendered useless if a young child will be using the system. Nintendo has not commissioned its own studies of 3D images on child development, but based on the data they've reviewed from independent studies, they believe 3D images could negatively affect the ocular development of children under 7.

Incidentally, sitting at this computer for so long is negatively affecting my ocular development, so I'll quit for now. Stay tuned for the wrap-up!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seattle, Part the First (written on 4/1)

I'm sitting in the Seattle airport waiting for a delayed flight (oxymoron), and golly I'm just starting to process everything that happened these past couple of days. Off the bat I need to thank a few of my Princess Peach group/bus 1 buddies, who gave me a place to sit at lunch: Jenny, of She Likes Purple; Amy of Just a Titch; and Kate of La Petite Chic. Dolls, every single one of them.

There's a reason that penultimate sentence sounded something like a nerdy 7th grader wrote it; in some ways, the visit to Nintendo's headquarters was like a school field trip. There were over a hundred bloggers (which I heard one of my colleagues refer to as "a herd of cats"), the security was inscrutably tight, and we all had to be accounted for at all times and even escorted to the potty when the need arose. On the other hand, the wonders that we beheld while inside the Nintendo campus were made all the more alluring by their very elite-ness.

We weren't allowed to take any pictures, except in the conference room, where I took these photos:

That, friends, is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America. Let no one accuse me of name dropping, though. (Because I don't remember his name...okay, Google says Reggie Fils-Aime.)

Here are some of the Official (Sanctioned) Photos from the group flickr stream. Can you find me? Hint, I'm wearing a green jacket:

Reggie kicked off the day with some info about Nintendo's brand-new 3DS handheld system—which includes some truly stunning glasses-free 3D and "augmented reality" technology*—and a brief Q&A. I have to give him (and Nintendo) props: The president of Nintendo of America announced, unequivocally, that based on independent research they've studied, Nintendo recommends that children under the age of 7 should not view 3D images.

*I'll get into more details about the Nintendo 3DS in another post

As a parent, there's almost nothing more Nintendo could do to win my loyalty than very publicly endorsing a child-safety recommendation that could potentially hurt its bottom line. With all the 3D movies out lately—particularly kids' movies—I had never heard any recommendations from the film industry against bringing children under the age of 7 to 3D movies. At any rate, the 3DS comes with a number of parental controls, including one that prohibits the 3D function if a young child will be playing with the system.

After the meet and greet, we broke into small groups to play a number of 3DS games throughout the day (including an unreleased Kid Icarus: Uprising, which was literally chained to the table). Finally, we were given a tour of the campus.

Guys, I'm not much of a photographer, but it really pains me that taking pictures was prohibited. The building is spectacular. It's LEED gold certified, includes a 75,000-square-foot living roof, beautiful interior design elements (they even have really cool modern furniture in the shape of the D pad, the plus-sign control on old-school controllers), a mini museum of arcade games and awards, and a fantastic mural tracking the development of four major Nintendo characters (SamusMarioDonkey Kong and Link) from inception to their present-day iterations.

Confession: Aside from the fact that I'm a Nintendo brand ambassador, I've never been big into video games. The Nintendo campus, however, compelled me to care about the industry and its history. Apparently Nintendo fosters a culture that makes people want to stick around; a surprisingly large percentage of employees has been there 10 years or more. The campus includes a soccer field, volleyball court and basketball court, and the cafe even offers a daily healthful option at a very low price, since the company subsidizes it.

Finally, we finished our tour with a stop at the employee gift shop, which is basically the mecca for 10-year-old boys and anyone who even occasionally thinks like a 10-year-old boy (I count myself among that group). With a $20 gift certificate we were all given, plus a little extra of my own cash, I bought three reusable Nintendo bags...

a keychain...

a t-shirt for Noah...

a cap for my brother...

and some Nintendo candy for Ethan (sorry, twas eaten long ago).

After refreshing ourselves on a deliciously stocked snack buffet, we fat and happy ambassadors were each given our very own Nintendo 3DS. Mine is aqua.


To be continued...

Monday, March 28, 2011

And the winner is...

Prickly Pinecone! Congratulations!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I know, cry me a river, right?

So I'm going to Seattle next Thursday. All by myself. Actually, not technically by myself. Nintendo is flying out a plethora of brand ambassadors something. I dunno, it's all very secretive. I know it has to do with the Nintendo 3DS, but I've compiled a list of tests for Noah to perform when I get back—like asking me questions I shouldn't know the answers to, such as "What's 7 times 8?" and "What's the capitol of South Dakota?"—to make sure that they haven't messed with my brain or experimented on me with new nanobot technology.

The point is, I'm pretty sure I don't know anybody else who's going, not even digitally. I know of plenty of them, because they're sort of Internet niche celebrities. As is my way, I will now proceed to view these people as Cooler Than Me, unapproachable, and consequently potentially trailed by a bodyguard ready to punch anyone in the neck who tries to approach and isn't on the Approved Approach List.

I don't think I'm a socially awkward person. I mean, it's normal to scratch your butt and pick your nose in public, right? And conversation wouldn't be genuine if I spoke through the filters of Tact and Social Grace.

Okay, so I definitely up my personal hygiene regimen and avoid words like "poo poo" and "tooter" when I'm around people older than 3, but I do become exhausted by mingling. (Also browsing, but I digress.) I guess I've just gotten used to Noah being my social crutch, Mr. I'm-a-Police-Officer-So-I-Know-How-to-Approach-Strangers-and-Talk-to-Them-Without-Feeling-Like-a-Twit. I'm certain these folks are perfectly nice and this Nintendo thing will be a blast and I can't believe my good fortune in being selected as a Brand Ambassador.

I guess the best thing to do to prepare for this is to practice smizing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fierce Beagle Giveaway: $60 to CSN Stores!

Okay guys, for realsies this time. I have in my possession the discount code for $60, to be applied to any purchase of the winner's choosing.

My current obsession is finding a fairly inexpensive but cool wall clock for our house (we currently have none, and so rely on the thermostat and the microwave, which don't happen to tell the same time). If I were the winner, I'd consider this "Too Cool for School Retro Modern Wall Clock"...

or maybe this George Nelson Sunburst Clock (which, it so happens, is my late grandfather's name!)...

But that's just me.

What are you waiting for?! Leave a comment to be entered! Just make sure you include an email address. I'll randomly select a winner on Friday, March 25.

And if you want to up your chances, go and sign up for CSN's Joss & Main private sales by clicking here. Each sale lasts only 72 hours, but the discounts are incredibly deep. Just come back here and leave another comment saying you signed up, and boom. Another entry.

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You, too, can benefit from my neuroses!

Apparently my recent and public spiral into the vortex of home decor has reached epic proportions, because Sean from CSN Stores contacted me about doing a giveaway.

In case you're not familiar, CSN Stores is basically the place where people like me go to unabashedly revel in our sickness. For instance, I could spend some serious time—serious. time.—combing my outdoor lighting options for sprucing up the back deck and adding some landscape lighting out front. Click on the link if you dare, folks. Click if you dare.

I'll be posting details of the giveaway soon—I can tell you the randomly selected winner will get a $60 gift certificate, though. Which, HOLLA. Am I right?

In the meantime, contact your support system and have an exit strategy in place, because I guarantee you'll all have mentally spent that sixty bucks and more after a few minutes of browsing.