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Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

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Home Automation
Two of tonight's Minnedemo presentations were home-automation startups.  Spark Devices makes a lightbulb socket (a shim!) that is wirelessly controllable, and Smart Things is building a whole platform for controlling such things.

The idea of home automation has been for a long time, but I'm not clear what the killer app for it is.  I know that home security services are moving in this direction a little bit in terms of turning on the lights for you, and I can see some benefit there.  And one of the founders talked about his deaf father needing signals about the phone ringing or other noises that could be translated into light toggles.  But both those are pretty crude examples.

The thing that seems "neat" to me, but perhaps not compelling enough, is to improve energy efficiency by controlling lights and heating based on your current location.  A home automation system could lower the heat when everybody is out of the house, but increase it back up the closer you got to home.  Following you from room to room and switching lights would also have some benefit (but requires much more fine-grain sensors--- can't just piggyback off your smart phone.)

Further-out ideas like fridge inventories (requiring RFID tags on all your food?) seem less appealing to me, and signals on door opening/closing can already be adequately handled by dedicated security systems.  There's a "do it yourself" market, of course, but it is small.
Multilevel games
I acquired Triple Town recently.  The PC version has both the game itself and a "metagame" of collecting items and building up your capitol city.  The base game itself is a pretty fun puzzle, but the reason I looked at it was because of the marketing (on Steam) as a play-and-build game.  The building is pretty limited, though.

Puzzle Pirates is the iconic version of this for me.  There's individual puzzles for low-level tasks.  But these fit together to provide fodder for the higher-level games of trade, shopkeeping, sea battles, flotillas, and even dress-up.  It succeeded at making the minigames both interesting and "matter".

Plenty of games have a PvE grind follwed by PvP endgame (or PvE resource-gathering for PvP battles) but these don't really feel like the same sort of thing.  KadoKado offers access to new games in exchange for coins earned in other games, but I wouldn't call that a "game" at the upper level.  In college we joked about having a game where you could play at the SimCity, the Civ, or the Master of Orion level of the same universe, with benefits flowing in both directions--- so Spore offers something like that but the levels are spread across time.  Deck-construction games come close, particularly when success in the lower game expands your deck.

What other examples of multi-level games can you provide?  (And are any of them worth playing?)

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