Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Gadget Show Live

Firstly I should make one thing clear to readers, this is going to be a long post that will probably take you 5 minutes to read and much longer for me to type up. After thinking about how I should write this post I came to the conclusion that I want to make it as detailed and descriptive as possible. This is mainly for personal reasons, I like to think I have a good memory but I'm sure I will forget things unless I document it now.

I do advise you to skip parts of the story if they bore you, I completely can understand why however it will be worth hearing me rant about the gadgets that I got to see and test out. :)

Thursday 8th April 2010 - The Gadget Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham

The Journey There

Months ago my college arranged a trip for classes to go to the Gadget Show Live. I had seen the Gadget Show on channel 5 before and was aware of who the presenters were and what they got up to with gadgets. With this in mind I saw the opportunity for me to go to my first e3 type event which I had been dying to do for years. I paid the £30 for my ticket straight up, no questions asked I wanted to go.

The morning came and I woke up at 5:45 in order to get ready in time to arrive at Bedford for 8AM. I planned on getting the 6:28 bus but as it happened there isn't one scheduled for that time therefore I got the 6:58 instead (they come every half an hour) and was able to get to Bedford quickly thanks to minor traffic and met my two friends in McDonald's for some breakfast before our long journey to Birmingham. Upon arriving at the college we spoke to a few of the teachers and met one of their son's (she's so proud of him, it's funny) before departing on a 20+ seat orange minibus type vehicle which I wish I have a photo of as it looked hilarious.

Considering I only had 5 hours sleep the night before I was quite proud of myself for being able to stay awake on the 1 and a half hour journey to Birmingham, usually when I get up early for college I nap on the 45 minutes journey to Bedford. Today was different though as I was excited. I enjoyed speaking to my teacher (Karen) son (Bradley) as well as waving at all the men (and a couple of woman!) who were driving trucks in this early hour of the morning. We even got one guy to toot his horn for us, we were stoked on that.


We got off in the car parking area which still happened to be half a mile or so away from where we needed to be. Thankfully the NEC has shuttle buses running constantly so we hopped on one (free of charge) and got to the entrance in just a few minutes. After splitting up with the group Karen's son wanted to come with us as we were the closest people he knew, therefore the four of us entered and made our way through what reminds me of a terminal before arriving at the entrance.

First Impressions

It was roughly 10:15AM when we first got in which left us with 45 minutes to explore before the Live show took place in the theatre. The place was so big we just didn't know where to go first. If my memory serves me right the first place we went to was to check out some of the 3D TV's on display near the entrance. 3D TV's were a big thing at the event but it was only at this "stall" (I say stall but it's not, just the easiest way to describe it) that I really checked out what 3D was like. After a couple of minutes of watching others I was able to pick up the 360 Pad, put on some glasses and play Avatar in 3D. I've seen the film in 3D and that was great, playing the game in 3D is also great. Everytime I jumped in water it would splash up at my face, the recoiling bullets from my shotgun also did the same. I really did enjoy my few minutes on this (as well as actually playing the game) but I left wondering if 3D TV's are superior to high definition. I conclude that neither is superior to the other as they both are great in what they do, they're just different and both deserve a place in your household (if money permits). Sky 3D was being shown to the left of me which I took a few glances at whilst playing Avatar but didn't really see much as the angle I was sitting wasn't too great. There was a mini cinema near by which was showing off some kiddy pirate film in 3D which looked cool but nothing new that I hadn't seen before (although it would have been if I hadn't seen Avatar months ago).

Next we found a small gaming section where Band Hero, Tony Hawk Ride and Super Mario Brothers were being played. Me and two of my friends were able to get ourselves a grasp on the peripherals for Band Hero as I immediately changed the difficulty setting to Expert in an attempt to pump up the crowd (haha). I wasn't too keen on the guitar (it's the latest in the franchise I believe) as the strum bar was pretty stiff like the Rock Band guitar (which I dislike). This meant I was making mistakes and not keeping up a x4 combo like I really should have been. Unfortunately I forgot to try out the slide bar which is a shame but I'm sure it's nothing special. After my friend Conor was done on drums I nagged him to get off as I had not tried out the Guitar Hero drums peripheral yet and was excited to try it out. We played Dirty Little Secret by All American Rejects (my friend Olly's favourite band who he's seen numerous times and even been in pubs to have a drink with the lead singer Tyson!) and I was quite proud with how I did on Hard difficulty on the drums. It was a bit weird at first getting used to hitting the top cymbals but towards the end of the song I was rocking a x4 combo pretty consistently.

My memory is hazy as to what we did next but I'm sure we just walked around with excited grins on our face like little school children being given sweets. We ended up finding where some cars were and I just had to get my photo taken in this Volkswagen that we stumbled across. I don't know much about my cars but I know when I see a sexy one that I'd love to own. There wasn't too many gadgets on it so I'm not quite sure why it was there but a car nearby could be transformed in to a mini living room and kitchen. The front seats could swivel around and the back seats be pushed back in to the boot so that a family could all sit around and talk to each other. With a microwave and cooker on the side there were no limits to what a family could do in this car. I did however think having what appeared to me as a shower head in the boot at the back was one step too far..... We didn't take a photo of this car, I wish my friend did :(

Time was ticking at this point so we knew we needed to start heading in the direction of the theatre and try not to get distracted. This was hard to do when we came across one of those people that perform by staying still and not speaking at all. We were able to make this guy move and played around with him for a minute as he begged for money to be placed in to his hat, it was rather amusing. We didn't really see much else afterwards except from my friend getting sidetracked by one stall which had real drum kit and guitars set up for anyone to go on and play when they feel like. Another attraction next to this was a big silver camper van type thing which had a recording studio inside for recording songs. A TV on the outside was on a continuous loop showing a band actually recording a song in there before. Finally there were real DJ decks set up to allow anyone to go and do a mix (or whatever it is you do). Prior to DJ Hero's release I'd have had little to no idea as to what to do however I now understand how it works. I don't think the general public do though as numerous people would ruin what was already being played and then go off on to something else, leaving the guy in charge having to re-do a good beat every time. We finally got to the theatre and queue jumped really badly in order to get in. I feel bad but it's a dog eat dog world so I led the way whilst my friends followed.

Live Performance

Upon sitting down inside the 4000 seated theatre my attention was quickly diverted towards the dolphin type things floating above us in the crowd. I naturally at first presumed they were attached by a wire from above but after a few minutes I realised why people were getting so impressed, it's because there was no wire. I still find it hard to fathom how these "creatures" were able to stay up in the air defying the laws of gravity. We were told later on that there were propellers on each wing to keep it up in the air but still, I'd have thought the weight would outweigh the up-force. Check out the picture below to see what they looked like. It's unbelievable to think they could be controlled via a remote controller too.

The show began with the best robot I have ever seen walk on to the stage and welcome us to the show. He made numerous appearances throughout the show (coming in to the audience by walking down the aisles once, spraying water at people which was funny) and continued to amaze me at how life like it was. There was no AI there (everything he said was pre-recorded and he didn't seem to be able to react to any human activity) but the precision of his movement has left me in awe. I'm not sure if this robot was being controlled via a remote but I am going to have to assume he was as he did at times get just inches away from some of the audience and was able to look at them face to face.

I was personally slightly let down by the performance but that is because I was believing it to be something that it isn't supposed to be. I was hoping to see breathtaking new technology being shown (nothing new being revealed but the appearance of Project Natal would have been AMAZING) but instead it was a very cliché performance from the Gadget Show presenters. There were numerous competitions going on throughout the hour (which did begin to frustrate me) and instead of being shown cool tech I was presented with staged entertainment where the outcome would have surely been pre-determined prior to show time. The first game we got to do was to play an app for Apple products but with a little twist. The way to get your teams motorbike to go faster and therefore jump a further distance was to shout as loud as you can and then raise your arms in to the air to make the bike jump. Now the presenters assured us the technology had been created to make this possible however I do have to doubt it. Sure I can believe that microphones may be able to detect a larger sound from one team over another but how could a camcorder recognise 2000 hands going up in to the air? There were 3 attempts for each team and it was only on each teams last attempt that the motorbike effectively jumped. I can't believe for one minute that 2000 people all changed the way they moved their arms up in the air on the last attempt in order to make the motorbike jump properly. I do think that it was a scam and really it was somebody playing the game behind the scenes (especially at it was a clichéd climax type ending to the game).

Other games were played throughout the show such as participants having to fold away a tent the fastest whilst being put off by the presenters. Another one was guests getting their heart beats monitored to see how they went up when put in to a simulation of a roller coaster (which was a fail as both the guys heart beat decreased instead of increased!). I have to admit I found these boring to watch and instead was more amused by watching races that went on between the presenters. Suzi and Jason strapped in to jetpacks as they launched in to the air over the crowd's heads and then turned around to get back to the stage as quickly as possible. Again this was staged as a wire was used to support them (so there wasn't really any jetpack being used :() and Jason's just so happened to break and go all smokey half way through which was predictable from the description on how he made it (coca cola with a mint put inside). The last race of the show was when three of them got on to different type of transport vehicles and had a race to see who could go down all the aisles first. I did enjoy seeing Jason on a skateboard type advice but yet again I got frustrated at the outcome of the standings (Jason was by far the quickest yet didn't win as he waited for Ortis to return to the stage first). Finally it's worth mentioning that a team of performers with a ridiculous name (something with the word Fish in) did some juggling with electronic changing lights which although wasn't amazing it was good enough to entertain me for the few minutes.

3 Hours of Checking Out the "Stalls"

After the live performance was finished we had 3 hours until we had to meet up with the rest of the group and then go back to the college, then home. I thought that 3 hours would be no way near long enough to see everything there was to see here and I was right. However it did get very tiring walking around with a bag on my back the whole day so I eventually was happy to go after 3 hours.

First thing we planned on doing was going to check out the glasses that were like mini TV's, I think it's called virtual reality? We had seen the stall previously and had a rough idea of how to get back to there so after 5 to 10 minutes of traversing through slow moving traffic we finally got there. They had a few machines set up to show off the technology (I saw a 360, PS3 and Wii) so I went over to play on the Wii as it had the least amount of people wanting a go on it (plus I fancied playing Mario Kart). After a few minutes I got my turn and was very impressed. They were nothing special but they did just what they were supposed to do as I was able to play the game with no problem and enjoyed my time wearing them. I don't think these should replace our traditional televisions however I would definitely love to have a pair myself that could wireless connect to my Xbox 360. I can get back ache at times in my desk chair, how cool would it be for me to lie down in my nice comfy bed and play my Xbox. If this technology is already available to be bought for the Xbox 360 then please let me know, I don't think it is but there's a chance.

Now to be honest there wasn't much else there that was too amazing and that you need to hear about. I'm getting typed of typing so much so I do plan on getting the few thoughts I still have in my head typed up as quickly as possible and posting this up for you to read. One stall were letting customers try a new type of cigarettes that are electronic and claim to be 99% healthier than traditional ones. My friend had a toke and found them effective however I personally believe that it was a scam and will never get mainstream to the point where that everyone knows about it. Around the same time we found a replica of a vehicle which has (or is attempting to) break the fastest speed done on ground. I viewed a stand which had a list of statistics on it which claimed it could do 0 to 1000MPH in 42 seconds, very impressive.

There was a long section dedicated to the history of computer games which seemed to attract a lot of attention from all ages. I went over to the Playstation 1 and played a racing game as well as seeing an original Gameboy in working condition. There were much older consoles in working display too however because I am in a younger generation I wasn't aware of what they were and therefore didn't give any of them a try. It was cool to see kids playing Pac-Man like it was originally intended for. There was a small booth where you could put your head in view of the camera and it would detect your face and turn you in to a Transformer. This isn't new technology I believe but still it was amusing for a couple of minutes to see it in action. There was a stall set up for Papershow, a program designed to enable you to draw on a piece of paper and have it input on to a computer. Stuff like this I believe has been done before however Papershow was different. It's possible to change colour and make corrections to errors all done with incredible ease (as my friend Conor discovered by drawing a dog). I personally don't have a need to get my art in to digital form (I do art?) however if you do go over to to see a demonstration of how the product works, it's quite fascinating.

I have to mention the Game Zone, a section which was purely dedicated to letting you try out some of the hot games right now. EA seemed to be representing as they had Battlefield Bad Company 2 set up on dozens of computers letting anyone join in at any time. I believe there were even competitions going down, that could explain why I saw kids sat there continuously playing the game seriously. 2010 FIFA World Cup was on display however I didn't bother to go check it out. I'm not sure if the full game was being shown however I can imagine it was instead the demo which happened to come out the same day on the Live Marketplace. Ultimately I found this section pretty boring as it was full of games I had either played or seen before. It was no e3 that's for sure and I ended up spending more time shopping in the PC World and GAME stalls than I did gaming. Finally the Test Track section gave everyone a chance to try out different type of transport devices around a test track. The queue for this was gigantic though so I never got a go however to be honest it would have got boring for me after 30 seconds.

And that's about all I can be bothered to include for now. There was so much more there which I haven't even mentioned (let alone everything I missed myself) and I had a fantastic time there and would love to go back again. I do recommend everyone to go (even your wife and kids) as it's a difference experience and you'll be sure to have fun. It does get very tiring however the nice field outside did enable us to relax for 45 minutes or so in the sun as we recuperated. I hope you've enjoyed reading about my day at The Gadget Show, there's a few more pictures below of me and my friends experiencing the army stall and me outside in the sun. Goodbye for now.

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