Amazon Prime available on Xbox!

Well this is certainly big news for Netflix’s biggest competitor. Amazon Prime, which is Amazon’s streaming movie service is now available via the Xbox. It was also recently announced that it was available on the PS3. I assume the Wii is next and maybe Apple TV? I am still bummed that I cannot watch it via my iPad or Android phone.

For those that do not know Amazon Prime is $79 a year. In addition to streaming video, you get free 2 day shipping on most amazon products (anything that is eligible for free $25 shipping you would get free 2 day), and you get one free Kindle book a month (to rent only). It actually a really good deal for those that use Amazon. And if you are a student or mother you even get a cheaper rate.

Amazon Prime: http://www.amazon.com/gp/prime

Microsoft giving away xbox 360 when you buy a windows machine for school

This is a pretty cool offer for students. Buy a laptop, get an xbox 360. Here are the details:

“Students. PCs. Free Xbox 360. The Redmond team’s at it yet again. Similar to last year’s deal, Microsoft’s hooking students up with a 4GB Xbox 360 if they drop some cash on one of its Windows machines. It’s simple: shell out over $699 on a PC, or $599 if you’re in Canada, and you’ll be walking out with a shiny new console free of charge — naturally, you’ll have to do so at participating shops such as Best Buy, Fry’s, Newegg, Staples, The Source and, of course, Microsoft’s own stores. The promo is set to kick off here in the States on May 20th, while those living in the True North can take advantage of it starting today. And before you ask — yes, you will need to show your scholar credentials to get in on the bargain.”

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/05/18/microsoft-buy-pc-free-xbox-360-promotion/

Kinect cameras being used to help detect autism in children

Very cool what gaming software and hardware can do. Kinect and Wii motion technologies are powerful and will be doing much more in the near future.

From the article:

“Detecting autism in children can be a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming process that requires the trained eye of a medical professional. But researchers Guillermo Sapiro and Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos believe that the Microsoft Kinect gaming sensor could assist in that task.

As part of an experiment at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, Sapiro and Papanikolopoulos set up a series of five Microsoft Kinect sensors in the playroom of a school. There, the motion-detecting cameras recorded the movements of the children, aged 3 to 5, and sent the collected data to a series of PCs. The computers then calculated what children were most at risk for autism based on their hand movements and activity levels. Children whose activity levels differed greatly from their peers were flagged for further study by medical professionals.

Researchers admit the cameras are no substitute for the opinion of a real doctor, but say they could still help determine which children require closer examination for signs of autism. “The same way a good teacher flags a problem child, the system will do automatic flagging and say, ‘Hey, this kid needs to see an expert,'” says Shapiro.”

More of the article here

Nintendo going digital with next gen console

Looks like Nintendo will be joining the club and offering their games online. While they currently have an online store for the wii, this will offer normal retail games that normally require a disk. This is a good move for us consumers for many reasons. It will:

– Provide us with cheaper games (maybe?). Packaging has to increase game cost so if there is not packaging one can assume games will decrease in price.

– Give us instant access to games when they are released

– Games may run faster on SSD drives rather than having to spin via dvd.

– A bad thing: no more used games

– A bad thing: Need for large hard drives which may cause us to buy more

Here is a link to an article on the topic

Free Educational Games at PBS

I really love PBS and not because I worked there while I was getting my Ph.D. They offer some great educational tools for educators. Last week in my courses we discussed gaming and gamification in K-12 Education. One of the sites my students were able to ‘play’ with during our game playing session was at PBS. This site offers tons of free educational games, so check it out and try to implement some into your lessons where you can. Keep in mind some are better than others so be sure to try out several:

pbskids.org/games/

Gamification: What is it and how does it apply to instructional design?

A new buzz term has been making its way around the instruction design world: Gamification. Like all buzz words, the idea is not new, however, acknowledging that it is an instructional strategy is very useful, especially for someone like myself who has a strong interest in gaming.

So what is gamification?

Gamification is the act of applying gaming techniques, strategies, and principles into any type of training and/or process. For instance, putting an achievement system into an LMS to reward learners for taking courses and gaining certain scores on the assessment. Essentially its the idea of taking anything gaming and putting it into regular training. Thus we take the ‘part’ of games that make them fun while giving us a sense of accomplishment and put this into regular training which then increases learner motivation. Instead of developing an actual game, we take pieces of the game.

At this point, the literature on gaming is growing large but is not very experimental. Having said that, the idea of gamification can be measured via quantitative research and I would expect to see quite a bit in the next few years as we develop best practices based on gaming strategies.