Rome

Let's build an immersive storytelling - Interview with Serena Zonca (November 12th, 2014)

(This post is part of a serie on GDG Rome DevFest 2014, Italian translation available here)
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Agatino Grillo: Hi, Serena. Do you want to introduce yourself quickly?

Serena Zonca: Hello everyone. My name is Serena Zonca. I was born in Bergamo, Italy, on 1967. A degree in Foreign Languages and Literature, journalist. My job is on paper and digital publishing. I am founder of www.autopubblicarsi.it  a web site dedicated to new forms of publishing, and in particular to self-publishing. I like to experiment and I think ebooks are the starting point of the new publishing universe. More information about me can be found on my blog. Obviously I can be contacted via Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter  or directly through my website.

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Agatino Grillo: What were you doing at Google DevFest Rome last November 8, 2014 among programmers, engineers and various nerds?

Serena Zonca: Rome Google Developer Group asked me for a contribution to the general conference of the morning on how new technologies are transforming the way people work and so I gave a speech on the subject of virtual reality and the “virtual storytelling”.

Agatino Grillo:  Let’s begin with virtual reality. For many years VR has promised to revolutionize our lives and our way of interacting with digital universes but actually isn’t it is a big disappointment? Are there significant results yet or not?

Serena Zonca: VR has moved a long way since it debuted. As I said in my speech at Google conference, I experienced for the first time virtual reality in 1992 in an event titled “Virtual Workshops” organized by the Triennale in Milan. I had to wear a helmet and a huge belt, connected by a bunch of cables to a computer which at the time seemed monstrous and today would evoke tenderness to tell the truth. I was ashamed not just at the idea of winding myself in that way, also because a small crowd laughed watching the volunteers so masked. But, once connected, I found myself in a new virtual universe: a white room, bare, some little airplanes were suspended in the air, a handful of polygons. The pixels were as big as pancakes and the frame rate of 4-5 fps. But ... I was there. The room existed, it was true! Since then I am always interested in virtual reality.

Agatino Grillo: Can you explain what “virtual storytelling” is?

Serena Zonca: Telling stories is part of the nature of human beings and therefore storytelling is a proven and powerful mechanism to capture attention, communicate and generate emotions, as advertising well knows! Despite being an anthropological constant, even the narrative evolved over time. It is passed from oral form of primordial stories to writing form taking the forms of theater, novel, screenplay film and television, the track of a video game. It has been constantly adapting  to the technical means from time to time available.
The challenge of “virtual storytelling” is to merge the narrative with current technology, including virtual reality, to create a new narrative means that you will no longer receive passively as the current books or movies, but in an interactive way: the stories will not be limited as now by a beginning and an end but propose multiple junctions and endings. To realize this “virtual storytelling” writers would work with software developers, digital graphics, 3D modelers ...

Agatino Grillo: What is the connection between “virtual storytelling” and virtual reality?

Serena Zonca: The connection is the immersion, which is another constant of the cultural history. Human beings have always tried to recreate the illusion of worlds and be part of them, to be surrounded by 360 °. The earliest examples date back to classical antiquity: I refer to the frescoes of the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, in Rome, the trompe l'oeil of the Room of the Villa Farnesina in Rome and ever so many other examples up to the Cinerama and Sensorama in sixties of 1900.
Thus we come to 1992 mentioned earlier. Virtual reality promised an immersive revolution which hasn’t been realized yet. The computers were too slow; the display, the position detectors, the gloves too expensive and cumbersome. The princely progress  of VR has suffered a setback before that the apocalyptic predictions of detractors had time to occur.
Today, however, the context returns to appear favorable. On one hand we assist to the advancement of technology and on the other hand the user interfaces are today more friendly and people easily deal with computers and the network.
Today a VR platform is available and it costs more or less one thousand of euros:Oculus Rift, Microsoft Kinect and Virtuix Omni. It permits everyone to enter into an artificial world moving and interacting naturally with its components.

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Agatino Grillo: How do you think the publishing industry will evolve in the coming years? Many fear that new technologies can wipe out the world we know now, and have justified fears. In 10 years will there still books? Or will they die out as vinyl records did?

Serena Zonca: The world does not stop for our fears. The real challenge is managing this change not to oppose it. I'm sure that paper books will continue to exist for decades. What we need to work is to build new languages and new tools that allow us to exploit the opportunities that technology offers us today and to meet the needs of a new audience. For this I was very pleased to attend the Google meeting and to confront with Google engineers who design digital tools essential to the cultural development of mankind.

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Agatino Grillo: Is there any specific project you're working at on this front?

Serena Zonca: Just at Google Rome DevFest we launched the proposal to create a true “story immersive” ebook thanks to the power and wealth of the community that this type of event collects. Another goal would be to develop new tools to bring the authors to immersivity  and give them major autonomy in experimenting new languages. Immersive storytelling requires, I think, sharing cultural and technological experiences.

Agatino Grillo: Thanks Serena

Serena Zonca: Thank you all.

Slides of the presentation

  • Serena Zonca, “Virtual Storytelling”, Google DevFest 2014, Roma , 8 novembre 2014

How contact Serena Zonca

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Google DevFest Rome 2014 (University Roma TRE, November 8, 2014)

(This post is part of a serie on GDG Rome DevFest 2014, Italian translation available here)

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  • photos & images taken by Google+ and Twitter

On November 8, 2014 I participated to the Developer Fest hosted by the Department of Engineering at the University Roma TRE and organized by Rome Google Developer Group (GDG).
I would like to get an idea of what was cooking in the Big G the “best company in the world” according to Fortune 2014 and a “Great Place to Work” as many worldwide job classifications.
I only attended the conference in the morning which was more “philosophical” than technological and not the “code-labs” scheduled in the afternoon which proposed practical sessions focused on the various development environments and solutions offered by Google.
Entering the conference-room I expected a formal context (read: boring!) as usual in these slide-centered meetings but - surprise ! –instead it was a sort of mega cheerful and improvised assembly unlacking funny incidents (Murphy's Law!): a microphone that did not work, fire alarm siren that sounded at inopportune moments, and so on.
Here are my impressions and notes!

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The agenda

The program, strict and multicolored as the Google homepage, simply recited:

     9:30 Welcome - Paul Merialdo and Antonella Blasetti
     10:00 Serena Zonca - Virtual Storytelling
     10:45 Massimo Chiriatti - Work Games
     11:30 Darius Arya - Ancient (and Modern) Rome live
     12:15 Sergio Paolini - The Web and neurosurgery
     13:00 The Lab and the Group's activities
     14:30 The Lab
     17:00: Treasure Hunt

Paolo Merialdo and Antonella Blasetti: get the party started!

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The conference began with Paolo, professor at the University Roma TRE and starter-up, who gave the welcome to all present and Antonella (the “boss” of the event), which clarified the spirit of the conference: the Google DevFest is not a formal lecture-meeting but an interactive party where people meet to exchange experiences, strengthen motivation and plan joint activities to do together.

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“We are not here just to talk about new technologies” underlied Antonella “but primarily to share information, to understand how the world changes around us and imagine together how we can facilitate this change thanks to the tools provided by Google”.
“To accomplish this” continued Antonella “we begin with three different speakers linked by two elements in common:

  • the passion and excellence in their own professional activity,
  • the need to adopt innovative technologies to do better quality-work”.

Serena Zonca: Virtual Storytelling

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The first speaker was Serena, editor, journalist, editor and founder of www.autopubblicarsi.it .
She conducted an elegant and passionate presentation on virtual reality (VR) and in conclusion proposed to engage all of us in a collective project for the realization of an “immersive” electronic book that could allow the reader to enjoy and co-participate to the narrative using, for example, a VR platform already available and chipper: Oculus, Kinect and date-glove.

Massimo Chiriatti: Work Games

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Massimo is a technologist, blogger and contributor for “Il Sole 24 Ore” the most important Italian business newspaper.
He gave a ironic and nice presentation (here in pdf, 14 slides, 790 K) on the real “world of work”  illustrating risks & opportunities arising from new technologies.
According to Massimo we need to abandon the idea of working all our work-life with a single employer: the average life of the big US companies is decreasing while simultaneously human life expectancy, also working, is increasing.
The present (and the future) of work requires adopting a nomadic attitude that is the capability of rapidly moving between industries keeping in mind that the competition between those who aspire to be hired is based both on the specialization of his own skills and on his ability to “communicate” and sell his expertise especially through the new digital media.

Darius Arya: let’s develop immersive multimedia experiences about history

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Darius is a (multi-platform) archaeologist, TV documentarian and social media influencer.
His talk focused on how to tell Rome’s history through social and digital media like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and so on.
He presented a couple of videos: “Ancient Rome Live” (Youtube) and “Save Rome: Preserving the Eternal City in the 21st Century” (YouTube), to explain the idea that we can better preserve our common history and heritage through new media outlets.
According to Darius YouTube offers a great venue combined with other learning platforms and applications.

Sergio Paolini: the Web and neurosurgery

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Sergio, who is a neurosurgeon, gave a brilliant presentation on how the web has radically altered the field of surgery in the last 10 years both in the doctor-patient interaction and for training and also the clinical practice of doctors.
Sergio also highlighted the limits and delays of Italy in this field especially as concerns the public administration.
According to Sergio new technologies can play a key role in this field: the entry of the Internet in the operating room is producing significant improvements in medical practice by sharing information between operators; further progress can be expected thanks to the so-called wearable computing like Google Glass.

Conclusions

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The first part of GDG Rome DevFest 2014 ended with some quick conclusions by Antonella Blasetti:

  • we are here to establish a real community where everyone can contribute to;
  • this is a new world so we have to think in a new way: technology solutions must be built “from below” and realized by joint actions;
  • often the “users” of the new technologies are ahead in terms of knowledge compared to the technicians as demonstrated by the present speakers;
  • different skills enrich the solutions.

Concluding, Antonella proposed to work on the projects launched during the speeches: virtual storytelling, integrated communication, web-enriched cultural heritage; the idea is to merge all of these exciting proposals to realize for example a new rich experience web site following the model that Google already produced for the city of Marseille.

Rome DevFest 2014 code-labs

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“Let’s expose Rome” with a Cloud Cult Platform: a conversation with Camelia Boban and Simone Pulcini about semantic web (15th December 2014)

(This post is part of a serie on GDG Rome DevFest 2014)

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Agatino Grillo: Hi Camelia, hi Simone. Could you introduce yourselves?

Camelia Boban: My name is Camelia. I come from Romania where I graduated in Economics from Craiova University. I have been living in Italy since 1992. I am a freelance software developer, member of Google Developer Group L-Ab Lazio Abruzzo, contributor of Wikipedia, the collaborative and online free encyclopedia, affiliate with Wikimedia, the movement behind Wikipedia and promoter of “Wiki Loves Monuments” the international photo contest, organised by Wikipedia.

Simone Pulcini: Hi! My name is Simone. I’m engaged in software development for more than a decade. I specialized myself in enterprise architectures and modelling. I covered several business tasks for private firms as well as for public administration. I’m a certified UML developer (OCUP) and I'm obtaining the Java Enterprise Architect (OCMJEA 6) certification. I’m the Google Developers Group Rome chapter co-organizer together with Antonella Blasetti. I have a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from “La Sapienza” Rome University.

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Agatino Grillo: You were speakers to the Google Developer Group (GDG) Fest on 8th November in Rome in the code-lab dedicated to semantic web using Google technologies. What about it?

Camelia & Simone: The code-lab was titled «Roma non è mai stata così “Esposta”»: the title is a pun, a joke, that you can translate in English like “Let’s expose Rome” in the sense of permitting to explore Rome’s monuments and to run a risk. You can find the slides here http://www.slideshare.net/cameliaboban/cloud-cult-platform-roma-non-mai-stata-cos-esposta or here in pdf format or pptx format

Agatino Grillo: Why a code lab about semantic web?

Camelia & Simone: Nowadays there are a lot of semantic data available in the Web. Their potential is enormous but often it is very difficult to explore them. Using semantic Web technologies help users to easily explore large amounts of data and interact with them.

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Agatino Grillo: Could you explain in a nutshell what is “semantic web”?

Camelia & Simone: Using Wikipedia’s definition, the Semantic Web aims at converting the current web, dominated by unstructured and semi-structured documents into a “web of data”.
Semantic Web technology lets you push the web from a web of documents to a web of data using open and free “Linked Data” technologies like RFD, SPARQL, DBPedia which permit to access to information without creating a lot of custom code. In our codelab we also use Google’s solutions like “Google Cloud Endpoint” and “Google App Engine” to realize our application.

Agatino Grillo: What did you propose in your lab?

Camelia & Simone: We used data produced by DBpedia, a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make the information available on the web by exposing it with RDF a public standard for “linked data”.

Agatino Grillo: And what about Google Cloud Endpoints?

Camelia & Simone: Google Cloud Endpoints”  consists of tools, libraries and capabilities that allow easier to create a web backend for web clients and mobile clients such as Android or Apple’s iOS. For backend we use “App Engine app” to be freed from system admin work, load balancing, scaling, and server maintenance.

Agatino Grillo: Thanks Camelia, thanks Simone.

Camelia & Simone: Thanks to you

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Slides

Project’s code (codelab)

Links

Requirements for codelab: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ys7HpA_9vKT5fBGtQ1rj0Y2DdURaVXcbodQU...

How to contact Camelia

How to contact Simone

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