Friday, October 05, 2018

A feast of entertainment for VR fans at TOMTech’s 2018 VRLab

Dance fans – and people who like things that go whoooooosh – are going to absolutely love Wave VR at this year’s TOMTech. Grammy award-winning singer and technologist Imogen Heap has been grabbing the headlines with her mesmerizing VR music performance however the experience that literally had me raving was The Glitch Mob's "See Without Eyes". 

 This fab work is fully interactive and more immersive than scuba diving. Soar and zoom through space, sci fi landscapes and other trippy dreamscapes while being aurally dazzled to a 20-minute custom mix of great dance music. For one track, I was able to use my hands to magically transform passing rocks and mountains into pulsating mushrooms of psychedelic colour; in another, I was flying through asteroid fields in an endless galaxy while zapping planets with an arc of rainbow sprinkles. It’s quite a trip – and you’re dancing throughout because, well, it’s just that kind of music.

If you want the same kind of experience but sitting down, then Fantasynth should be your next port of call. Here it’s your chair that’s doing all the dancing as a padded back pulses forcefully against your back and you visually traverse yet more trippy landscapes, all set to the sound of N'to’s beat-heavy Chez Nous.

On a much quieter note, the talented, innovative and very modest artist Rachel Henson takes you on small but beautiful journeys in Outshift. Her small stand in the main room is a little oasis of tranquility. I was intrigued by her flickbooks (remember those??) which take you on charming Super8-style walks round the lamp-lit city wall of Chester or down a leafy country lane at Stanmer Park. A more immersive project are her lovely films – tiny scenes where filmed real-life characters are augmented onto static backdrops such as a photograph of a hospital corridor or a cartoon drawing. Peering through the eyepiece, you control the movement of the figures yourself using a touchpad on the side of the tiny, custom-designed monocular. Despite the small scale, this is awe-inspiring work and I would love to see more of her pieces.

In the bar, there’s a very intriguing and dynamic Augmented Reality dance production to enjoy from AΦE, the people who last year gave us Whist, a creepy and disturbing take on the imagined unconscious. This year’s production is truly lovely with sculpted avatars dancing sinuously around the bar area, superimposed on whoever happens to be standing there. There are several variations during the work – in one piece, two dancers merge on the floor; in another, dozens of tiny, tiny dancers are trapped in a outsized, transparent Rubik’s cube and you can flick them all around in a bid to solve the puzzle.

In the Waterloo Room, The Female Planet takes you back down to earth. This is a series of films which each feature an inspiring female role model talking about their life experiences. I only had time to watch one of the works – actress Gina Rodriguez urging youngsters to follow their dreams whatever their gender or colour. There a real sense of intimacy as Gina, a persuasive and engaging personality, shares with you one-to-one. I will be definitely be back at the Old Market before the weekend is out to watch the other stories from women such as aeronautical engineer (aka rocket designer) Tiera Fletcher, American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was first the Muslim American athlete to wear a hijab at the Olympics, and Indian-born YouTube star Vidya Vox.  

There are many, many other treats are in store at this year’s VR Lab. I was dying to have another go on Loco Dojo, the bonkers “It’s a Knockout”-style cartoon game that has you milking pigs, boxing eggs, stacking moles and whacking urchins. I also enjoyed another visit to the Plankton World of artist Iona Scott, and a first trip underwater with Living Coast. This is an interactive exploration of the chalk reef just off the coast, between Brighton Marina & Beachy Head.

This unique marine environment is home to abundant wildlife, including threatened species such as short-snouted seahorses, blue mussels & native oysters
. In real life, the chalk creates so much stirred-up sediment that’s it impossible to see a thing but Virtual Reality gives you an insight into just how many underwater riches lie beneath us as we bob around in the Sussex sea.

One session at VRLab probably isn’t enough time to try out everything on offer so I recommend … going twice. I’m certainly heading back there before the weekend is out, ready for another full immersion in the myriad wonders of Virtual and Augmented Reality. TOMTech is on until Sunday – don’t miss it.


Saturday, June 13, 2015


That's it. Don't leave the sofa. You will eventually lose weight.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


After a night on the tiles at Brighton's premier gay disco "Revenge" (Jägerbombs £2 a shot, very classy), I was up early this morning for another LGBT/alternative wedding fair, my second in four months. Officially I was representing Pip Wyatt and but Robbie came along too in case there were any hot men around (there were).

As a now seasoned gay wedding fair delegate, I was actually expecting Quaint Queer Weird to be wackier than it was: more camp men, more funeral directors (there were two at the Gay Wedding Fair including the Co-op), more drag queens and at least a smattering of bondage. Quaint Queer Weird was rated 18+ by the organisers and I had high hopes that the Corn Exchange (which normally hosts jazz quartets and the like) would be magically converted into a scene of wild bondage-themed abandon, oozing sexuality and awash with scantily-clad, body-painted wood nymphs. There was also talk of a "fetish duo" plus the Mayor cutting a ribbon, in a non-fetishistic way, clad in a revealing crimson cloak and tricorn hat with feathers in it.

Sadly we missed the Mayor and couldn't find the fetish duo but Robbie practically passed out with joy when we saw a shirtless Ryan Gosling lookalike stretched out semi-naked having his arm tattooed and we both had to be forcibly restrained from jumping on the PolarSnap guy.

Olly Dall (aka Mr PolarSnap) is a sort of one-man, mobile Polaroid photo booth who will not only take snaps of people with a range of props, but also load the pics up to facebook. Olly is considerably cheaper than a stationary photo kiosk or taxi photo booth and I imagine it's also easier to get people posing if you're wandering around interacting with them (especially if you look like Olly).

Hats off to Feathered Fantasy who make ravishing headwear concocted out of feathers, fur, bone and other bits and pieces hand-foraged in woodland mainly inhabited by elves, fairies and centaurs. Beautiful.

Also stunning was Freya von Bulow’s paper couture wedding dress - although maybe a bit impractical and I'm not sure what the flammability rating would be.

Fat Cakes Design’s tiered wedding cakes were amazing, super gothic and looking like something Tim Burton might have thrown together. The skull one was fantastic but I couldn’t discuss it with the owner because she was busy having a tatoo done.

Thanks to the organisers, especially Lesley Taylor, for a thoroughly entertaining morning and a lot of pretty inspiring suppliers. The best are above but honorable mentions to the following:
  • - nice couple with a cute vintage-styled VW camper van.
  • Jaunty Twig, an app which allows guests to take and share photos during the event – and view all the pics live at the venue.
  • Antoinette Hoogstrate who makes photographic prints on wood

  • Pauline Moore De-Lights – cool “MR & MR” Hollywood lights, and their facebook page also has one saying LOVE

Hotel Pelirocco - Brighton's original rock'n'roll boutique hotel. Amy and Cecily were the lovely girls running the hotel's stand and got us plastered in about a minute flat with something called Cheeky Milkshake (Bols, yoghurt liqueur, Stoli Chocolate Raspberry, lime guide, vanilla).

Things I’m gutted I missed:

  • Louise Tyler’s “bespoke crochet table centres” (I googled one of her crochet mushrooms – staggering!)
  • Death & Glory Taxidermy - as I can’t think of anything much nicer to wear to a wedding than a dead, stuffed animal (only these morning I was wondering I could get away with wearing stuffed zebra finches)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The Fairmont has had such wild success with its €5 "corkage" rule on food and beverages that it's extending its policy to cover a wide range of other items that guests might try to sneak in to their room.

At present, guests are charged €5 for any item of food or drink that they bring in to the room themselves (this includes water, or any life-saving medicine that you might have brought with you, decanted into plastic water bottles).

Fairmont cleaning ladies are briefed to check dustbins for evidence of "introduced items" and this is then added to guests' bills.

The policy has gone so well that the Fairmont has now decided to charge corkage for ANY item which could conceivably be obtained from the hotel. So any guest now found bringing their own shampoo, conditioner or bath gel, cotton wool ear buds, shower cap, shoe cleaning equipment, flannel, towel or loo roll will now be charged €5 per item.

You must NOT use your own condoms because the Fairmont supplies plenty of these in the mini-bar. And if you want to have sex, you MUST use one of the many prostitutes available in the lobby. Even if you just want to talk all night or "cuddle up and spoon", you will be charged corkage if you try to do this with a woman that you brought yourself.

Obviously this will come as a relief to some people because they can now tell their wife or girlfriend that, although they would love to take them to Monaco, they can't afford the "corkage" costs. The Fairmont has also been considering ways to charge corkage for any photographs guests take as the hotel sells perfectly good postcards in the gift shop, but this idea is still in development.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Background info ... Oscar Chica Lucena appears to be a freelance Vueling consultant whose role is to answer awkward posts on Vueling's facebook pages in the guise of an independent third party. Here's my reply to Oscar!
Oscar... that's sweet of you to defend Vueling and their fantastic social media team. I am something of a fantastic social media team myself so I always appreciate fantastic work in others.

However if you look at all my posts on, you will see that their only reply - sometimes repeated three times in one post, was "Hello Mad, please send us your claim through, and our team will answer you as soon as possible. Regards". Also, in response to my emails, they have replied (three times) with a form letter which you can see at the bottom of my blog: It doesn't matter what I write to them, that's the answer I get.

Passengers are not obliged to know a thing about about "aeronautics culture" or "EUROCONTROL" in order to pursue their legal rights to compensation which is very clearly outlined in Have you read this? Extraordinary circumstances are situations "beyond the control of the airline", for example, "security risk, political instability or severe weather that makes flying dangerous". I'm sure it's "very hard" finding a specific slot between two airports, but as that is what airlines are supposed to do, I don't see this as "extraordinatry cicumstances". And, as nearly all the flights were running from Orly during the time period I was there (13.00 - 19.30), then we can certainly rule out "severe weather". I could see the weather out of the window and it was mainly drizzle plus the odd snowflake (and I do mean one or two!).

What I CAN tell from my brief foray into "aeronautics culture" is that it is verging on airline policy to ignore complaints from passengers who have been denied boarding in the hope that a wall of silence or repeated stock responses will cause them to give up. Airlines are clearly banking (and I don't mean this in the aeronautical sense) on the fact that not many people will continue to pursue their rights faced with this kind of response. This is what "aeronautics culture" actually amounts to.

However the law on compensation for cancelled flights is extremely clear - and is also referenced in section 7.2.1. of Vueling's own Conditions of Carriage The form letter that I have been sent repeatedly ignores 7.2.1. entirely, and quotes 7.2.3 of the Conditions of Carriage which refers to reimbursement and delays (a wholly different situation and not one relevant to me).

Saturday, February 16, 2013



The good ol' days... 

But all good things come to an end, Alex Cruz ...
Below is the kind of message I send you, which you DON"T read!

This is how you like to respond!!!
Or sometimes like this!! Three times in a row.

Below: attempt #3 to get Vueling to read the EU Denied Boarding Regulations - or maybe just their own facebook page..
You love this response! You've sent it six times already!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Sunday, February 10, I was booked on to Vueling flight VY8017 which was supposed to depart from Orly to Barcelona at 15.20 but was cancelled. I opted to take the re-routing option departing on flight VY8021 at 19.30.

Under EU Denied Boarding Regulation 261/2004, it is absolutely crystal clear that I am entitled to €250 compensation along with all my fellow passengers on cancelled VY8017. The re-routed flight left four hours, ten minutes after the one I was supposed to be on. However under the European Regulations, it states:

The (compensation) amounts stipulated are:-
  • 250 Euro (£217) for flights under 1500 kilometres (932 miles) (Short haul)
 However Vueling have replied to me three times saying I am not entitled to compensation EVEN THOUGH I provided them with a direct link to the European Regulations so they could read the legislation for themselves.

I was a very enthustiastic fan of Vueling until Sunday - and a member of the MyVueling/Punto loyalty scheme. I am VERY disappointed that Vueling think they can fob me off with emails and ignore their legal obligations.

If anyone else has similar Vueling stories, please let me know. I'm starting my campaign for justice right now!!!!