Kell's Wonderful Life: Exoskeletal

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Podcasts

''In 1890  Nicholas Yagn, a Russian inventor, received a patent for an assisted device to aid a user walking and running using pneumatically powered gas bags.'' As Dr. Kell explains, the history of human augmentation via exoskeleton stretches further back than you might think - and the future of exoskeletons is tantalisingly close.


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Article photo by bluemoose. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Kell's Wonderful Life: Whirlygigs

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Podcasts

''Telling the pilot I was a helicopter engineer, I challenged him to make the helicopter do something I wouldn't think was possible.'' This show comes from a time when Dr. Kell was working in the USA and he had the opportunity to see military helicopters at MIT in Boston, New York and was introduced to some of the biggest, baddest whirlygigs that the United State of America has to offer.


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Article photo by Clubber Lang. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Breath in, breathe out and Expand

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Features

Expand was one of the six games featured at PAX Australia as part of the indie showcase and it's easy to see why. It has a clean, appealing graphic design, serene music and it's a fresh twist on the simple platformer. Not to mention it's home grown in Adelaide by developer Chris Johnson and composer/collaborator Chris Larkin. The controls are simple: you just gently push the thumbstick and navigate an expanding, changing concentric maze.

So it's essentially a platform game where you're shifting from spot to spot, dodging moving hazards and ducking through closing doors while trying to find the exit point. But in abstracting out the platform jumping genre, the experience feels new. Pushing further into the unexplored blackness reveals new surprises, with the walls pulsing out, sucking in or spiraling out of existence. Expand generally does a good job of mixing things up as you go from exploring, to running away to being pushed along. At one point the music synced up with the pulsing movements of the map and the game suddenly took on the feel of a rhythm game. At other times your focus narrows on the shifting shapes to the point of it feeling hypnotic.

Kell's Wonderful Life: Legal Technicalities

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Podcasts

Anyone who has tried to fill out the ballot papers below the line knows that legal and political systems can be complicated. Dr. Kell attempts to explain some of the peculiar legislative curiosities in the United States, Australia. "In order for a product to be labelled a pickle, it must be able to bounce."


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Article photo by Vikas Namblar. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Kell's Wonderful Life: A Fairy Tale

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Podcasts

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom filled with all manner of magical creatures. Dragons, tolls, fairies and more! But there was trouble in the kingdom when...ok, this is a story about marriage equality. Just listen, OK?

This episode was recorded a while ago as indicated by the reference to the overturning of Proposition 8. But this thinly veiled story of thinly veiled homophobia is still relevant today.

For those wanting more on the history of the legal battle over Prop 8, I highly recommend Joy 94.9 radio play on the subject for a reading of some of the legal poetry Kell mentions.


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Article painting by Hilda Miller. Posted by Sofi. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Bringing Iñupiat culture to video games

Written by Kyle Evans. Posted in Features

In a warm corner of the crowded gaming expo floor at PAX Aus, Upper One Games invited players to step into the cold and experience Never Alone. In this game you play as an Inuit girl and her friend, fox, as they traverse the harsh Alaskan landscape.
 
We spoke to the developers at PAX Aus about how this game is being developed in partnership with Iñupiat elders based in Anchorage, Alaska. The story goes that they were contacted by the tribe and asked if they wanted to make a video game based on who they are as a people. Upper One saw an opportunity here to positively and appropriately show who these people are.
 
This partnership went beyond an advisor role and became a cross-cultural collaboration. They conferred with Iñupiat elders on the script and game mechanics to make sure they resonated truthfully. For instance, the game is a co-op game whereby a young girl and her fox combine their different skills in order to survive, which reinforces the cultural importance of interdependence. "They live in Alaska. It's freezing cold and finding food is one of the most dangerous and hardest things to do."