Crayon Physics Deluxe

This game looks like it has a lot of potential. I'd play it if I had a pc with a tablet. That is whenever it's done over at Kloonie Games.

Painting With Pollution

Alexandre Orion paints with pollution. He finds walls and tunnels that are encrusted with layers of black soot and selectively cleans the surfaces creating art. You can read about his angry encounters with police who think he's spray painting over at Wired.

His art process is called reverse graffiti. At first I wasn't sure that his work should be associated with graffiti because of the associated destructive connotations. Then I guess that's the point and why it is a true reversal.

Orion is a true artist. He's using a visual medium to create awareness. His message is unpopular with the government and is just washed away in the end, literally.

Halo 3D Views

Ghost Hop Stereo
Originally uploaded by Kato Katonian
I've actually taken 3D photos in other games. All you need 3 things: a way to stop time, access to move the camera, and a method for taking screen shots. Blamo, 3D pictures. It helps immensely if you have access to the game's code base. Kato describes the process of taking 3D pictures from Halo 3.

The red / cyan anaglyph can have problems. It is especially bad if you have objects that are all red or all cyan. So, you're going to have problems if you are doing a red vs. blue game. That's why I like the wiggle view for web display. No glasses or crazy eye tricks.

Free Fallin

or in concert

Makes me want to buy a DS.

LEDs are not the bomb

Boston is at it again. Now arresting MIT students for wearing flashing LEDs on the sweatshirts. "If she had not complied we would have used lethal force.", said some offical trigger happy jackass.

And the media bills the flashing t-shirt as a fake bomb. It says that the play-doh looked like explosives. Go look at the pic, there is no play-doh. Just an array of LEDs in the shape of a five pointed star. Probably because the student's name is Star. Star Simpson ( a maker ) was at the airport to pick up a fellow maker. She inquired about the status of his flight and the police were called. She was not trying to get past security into the boarding area but was in the ticketing area.

God of War Rampage

Real Life God of War Rampage - Watch more free videos

You can't go anywhere without running into a Thomas Miller. A Thomas Miller worked on God of War ( that'd be me. ) A Thomas Miller or actually Tommy Miller worked on this Real Life God of War Rampage video. A few weeks ago I was renting a car and ended up with the wrong rental contract because there were two Thomas Millers with reservations for renting a car in the same airport on the same day. That is why I go by TMIV.

More Maker Faire

These two video's explain the maker faire better than mine. I really love my video but it offers no explanation of the faire. It's kind of like you had to be at the maker faire to appreciate my video. These offer explanation:

part 2:

Note Detector

I am posting a new verison ( of Note Detector today. New features include Midi Echo and recognition of higher pitched notes.

As you can see in this screen shot the layout has gotten bigger:

Midi Echo is a new feature that will send a Midi Note on command to a Midi output device when a note is detected. The midi note has a start delay because of processing time. Also of course if you are playing the Midi note in a way that can be picked up by your mic it's going to cause a feedback loop where the note keeps detecting itself.

Even though the staff will only display up to A# in the fifth octave it detects and displays the the letter note up to the tenth octave.

If you want more information on Note Detector you can look back and see the history of Note Detector.

Known bugs in this version:
  • Help does not point to a Note Detector help page
  • The sensitivity setting does not carry over if you stop and restart

Experimentation with C#

I've been working on video game console programming for a while now, about 7 years. The entire life of the PS2 and now into the lifespan of the PS3. Working on consoles that long made me wonder what's going on with PC software. Every once in a while I like to experiment with the PC. Just to see what's up in the PC arena.

.NET is kind of all new to me. All the managed code and C# and Windows Forms. So I thought I'd play with it a bit and see what it's about. Turns out it's all very interesting.

I decided to explore both the musical and programming aspects of C# all at once. As a first project I built the Note Detector. It opens the sound card and if you have a mic it will tell you the musical note that it hears. It displays the note name C,D,E#,etc and it shows you the note's position on the staff.

Note Detector can be used as a guitar tuner or a singing voice pitch trainer. I use it as an educational device. I have a bamboo flute laying aroung the house and I always wondered what notes came out when I blew on it. I'm not musically inclined enough to determine that kind of stuff with my ear. With Note Detector I was able to map out where all the notes on the flute were and how hard to blow in order to get an A instead of an A#. Now I can play simple tunes.

Microsoft .NET development provides an automatic publishing solution. When you complete a project you can click publish and share it with the internet. If you are so inclined you can download Note Detector to use for yourself.

The project itself is a mixture of Native and Managed C++ code, some C# code and windows forms. The sound card is opened code and the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) is done in native C++. Then encapsulated by some Managed C++ which is accessed from the windows forms interface using C#.

Working with native and managed code together is difficult sometimes because the debugger will not work with both at the same time. The call stack gets a bit wonky. But I found the coding of the user interface way easier in C# than things I have made in the past using MFC.

My Maker Faire Experience

The Maker Faire (San Mateo, CA) was fantastic. All kinds of crazy experiences from electric super cars to a giant nose picker. Music from Kid Beyond to the Lil' Billies. Creations of all kinds, Power tool races, giant Tesla coils, baby Tesla coils, robots of all kinds, columns of fire : it was all there at the maker faire.

One of the exhibits that drew a large crowd was a giant replica of Mouse Trap the board game. On the surface the exhibit was a large replica of a iconic board game that I grew up playing. Which is cool. It's a larger than life, physical Rube Goldberg. Which is very cool. But at a deeper level it was even more interesting. The exhibit was really an experience in debugging. They set this mouse trap off once every couple of hours during the two days of the Maker Faire. Each time it got closer to completing it's task of dropping the two ton safe on the government cheese. Every iteration a bit further down the contraption until the final running of the Faire, it worked. Quick, ship it.

The other thing that really stood out in my mind was that Microsoft was there, embracing the maker spirit. Showing things from their labs and things from the students they sponsor. They have taken a step toward the maker community with their XNA Game Development giving people the tools to run their own creations on their XBox. Sony are you there?

Did I mention

Did I mention how much fun I had at the God of War II wrap party?
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Launch Party

The God of War II Launch party was last night. It was a great time!
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Mojave Wind Farm


The wind farm outside Mojave is amazing.
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The End

I'm calling it. It's done!

UPDATE: I was wrong. :(

Miss Dull and Miss Juicy

My sister is breaking new ground in public education in Florida. Her and her collegue are doing skits to increase vocabulary skills. I am very proud of her and her efforts.

Virtual Sculpting

Over at Make they posted an article about a new modeling package that allows you to build models with your hands. The package is very similar to a package my friend Dan Mapes developed in 1993 at the Institute for Simulation and Training. He called it virtual drafting board or something equally dry.

Of course back then it was running on a Sillicon Graphics hardware and it didn't look anywhere near as good as this product. We also didn't have those fancy hand trackers. We had polhmus nodes velcroed to the back of gloves. If your virtual hand stopped moving you had to check if your velcro was still attached before you got all in a panic that it was a code bug.

The pallete in the left hand is very similar to Dan's. Also, the scaling and zooming are similar. The interface seems to be buttons on the tracker knobs. The old interface was built into the gloves I mentioned earlier. The gloves had copper pads at each finger tip and would trigger bits on when two fingers came into contact.

I hope Dan is involved in this new project, it would be a shame for all his work to have to have been re-discovered from scratch.

Productive Games

Luis Von Ahn didn't really like the premise of the movie The Matrix. He thinks that machines using humans as a power source is just ridiculous. He offers an alternative plot. The machines would use us to solve problems that they couldn’t yet solve. Our silicon based masters would still use The Matrix to trick us with scenarios that would keep us believing everything we did was normal. Behind this veil of normalcy every decision we were presented with would actually solve problems for the machines. Problems that they were not yet optimized or capable of solving would be guised as everyday interactions. Better than a carbon based battery Luis Von Ahn’s Matrix would provide the machines with human calculation cycles.

That’s exactly what Von Ahn detailed in a talk entitled Human Computation he gave at the Google complex. He’s designing productive video games. Defined by him as video games that are fun to the player but do some real world work.

His objective is to transform time that is “wasted” playing video games into time that is productive. He claims that humanity spent 9 billion hours of 2003 playing solitaire. I believe him. I’ve explored this in past blog entries where I talked about how people have spent 28 million hours on Halo 2 X box Live and calculated that it took 7,000,000 Burger King Whoppers to power those people.

Von Ahn’s games take those hours and produce output that is useful. Data that are generated are not just work that could be performed by a computer either. His data provide information that can’t be computer generated yet. Given a picture his games will output proper labels to that picture. The kind of small tasks that you might find on an artificial artificial intelligence job board like Amazon’s MTurk.

Two months after the Human Computation talk Google opened it’s image labeler. It’s a version of Von Ahn’s ESP game. It’s got all the same elements but it’s presented in a little less of a game fashion and more in the “you can be a contributor” vein. PeekABoom, Phetch, and Image Labeler are still about as fun as solitaire, minesweeper, or Freecell.

In his News From the Future column in Make magazine Tim O’Reilly takes opposition to some of Von Ahn’s comments. Von Ahn claims that his games are, “games with a purpose.” O’Reilly takes the stand that all games have a purpose, that playing equals learning. His argument, although much less developed and technical, is similar to James Paul Gee’s. Gee claims that all videogames are learning experiences (even the violent ones) in his book: What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy and Learning.

I think that Gee and O’Reilly are talking about learning and exploring in the context of complex video games. I don’t think that a person is collecting all that much new information on her 4000th game of Solitaire. At that point is she just killing time? No. It has got to be beneficial to her brain health, but any more so than watching TV?