Monthly Archives: March 2013


31 Mar 2013

As a mechanical engineer, I really really want to work with hardware for this final project. I really want to get my hands dirty and machine something. Now that I am a little more familiar with Max/MSP, I am excited to use it for my final project. As someone who loves to explore new places, I was amazed to recently find out that my friend has never been to a lot of places in Pittsburgh even though he’s about to graduate in less than two months. It has never occurred to me that a good number of CMU students live in ‘CMU’ but not in ‘Pittsburgh’. I think Pittsburgh has a lot of potential, definitely a perfect city for college students. I have grown to love this city more and more every year, and I want people to feel the same way.

For this final project, I want to make something that maps the different places you go to in this city. I am thinking about making a wall map or a box, carved out a ‘map’ of Pittsburgh (does not have to be the exact map of the city, but shows different places like restaurants/museums/tourist attractions), and install LED lights. A GPS will track a place you have been, and lights will go off at that specific place.

The layout and the details of the map might change, but this is just a general idea of what I want to do. Here are some projects that will help me get started.



31 Mar 2013

Solar2 –

This game was recommended to us by Nathan during our critique. It’s a very interesting game with a really unique mechanic. You play as an asteroid that gains mass over time, although no specific instructions are ever given to you. The idea of learning through playing and acting really appeals to me and I hope that it’s something we can pull off in Small Bones. While our game will certainly not be as elegant as Solar2, I hope that we can emulate the same learning techniques that it employs so well.


Along the same vein of instructionless games, LIMBO is a very unique puzzle game with simple mechanics used in interesting ways. The game only allows for movement and an all-purpose interaction button. Done entirely in monochrome silhouettes, LIMBO is a very dark game that does a very good job of making you feel alone. While I don’t necessarily want Small Bones to reflect the same darkness that LIMBO does, I’d very much like to emulate its wordless teaching and ingenious use of a simple mechanic for extremely varied gameplay.

Canabalt –

This was one of the games mentioned in the comments during our critique. While it’s similar to Small Bones in that it’s a runner, it’s quite fast-paced and much more reaction based than I think Small Bones will ever be. However, I really liked the two-player aspect to this game, and how it became somewhat of a race between the players. It seems like the terrain is randomly generated so that the track is infinite, and I wonder if someday we could implement two-player in Small Bones. We’d have to work on the mechanic a bit, since right now it definitely wouldn’t work for two players, but I think having to race/cooperate with only a finite number of skeletons could be really interesting.


31 Mar 2013

Robb and I were talking about generating fractalish heat sinks which seems like a neat idea in situations the heat sink is to be passive (no fans are used to create flow over the heat sink). There are a ton of gorgeous branching phenomena in nature: diffusion limited-aggregation, vasculogenesis and angiogenesis (blood vessesl growth), plant growth, hele-shaw flow, dielectric breakdown, watershed formation, coral growth, etc.

Some of these systems actually solve engineering problems similar to that of transferring heat effectively. Coral colonies, for example, must balance various factors like fluid flow, particle capture and light exposure. Blood vessels networks allow oxygen to diffuse to every cell in a tissue while also not requiring too much resistance to blood flow.  These competing factors are solved by systems that grow rather algorithmically: there is no intelligent controller directing the growth process. Instead many simple agents following simple algorithms which interact to create complex adaptive forms.

There are many researchers in the field of computational biology and physics who are simulating these behaviors in order to understand the systems better.  In doing so they are actually solving engineering problems and creating rather aesthetic visualizations/models.  I think some of these projects could be imitated to make some neat art/engineering stuff. Like fractal heat sinks.

Angiogenesis: An Adaptive Dynamic Biological Patterning Problem 

check out the video here

This paper describes how a simulation of angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessel networks from already existing blood vessles) was built to mimic the growth and adaptation of real systems.  Basically a diffusing chemical dubbed vascular endothelial growth factor, VEGF, is released by tissue that is starved of oxygen (called hypoxic tissue).  When the concentration of VEGF around an existing vessels exceeds a critical value a new vessels sprouts and wiggles about randomly searching for a vessel with a little feeler.  When it finds one it fuses and blood begins to flow.  Vessels change there diameter according to internal pressure, viscous stresses and chemical signals released by other vessels. Vessels are also allowed to migrate in space due to forces exerted by other vessels.  The entire simulation is pretty impressive and combines many different details of blood vessel growth and operation.  The overall idea, however, is pretty simple: vessels grow randomly in areas of low oxygen and update there positions and sizes based on physical forces.  The result is surprisingly blood-vessel like.  It would be awesome, but a little daunting, to try to simplify this simulation and run it in three dimensions.  The basic idea could be modified for the case of heat transfer.  Perhaps the blood could be hot, and the goal would be to supply heat to all parts of a given area or volume. Really cold regions would release a diffusing growth factor. Of course the way heat transfer occurs is not the same as oxygen gas.

Nervous System Hyphae Lamps

So maybe combine nervous-system’s approach with the angiogenesis simulation? This is probably way to complex for a month’s worth of work…

Frac Therm

These guys realized that making a hierarchical fractal-like structure for a network of tubes causes a more even pressure distribution in the longer tubes and requires less pressure despite its increased surface area.  This is ideal for solar panels for heating fluid.  In a way, there approach is exactly what I was imagining a combination of the above two simulations.  Maybe this could be used in situations where the aesthetic properties of fractal-like networks could be appreciated by humans.  Maybe refrigerators could have visible heat sinks, or radiators would escape the confines of perforated sheet-metal enclosures.  Anyway I think this approach could be applied to heat-sinks and 3D printed/cast.  Perhaps the best direction for this project would be a 3D diffusion-limited algorithm with a post-processing algorithm to thicken branches for structural reasons.  Heat sinks, however do not just want lots of surface area.  They also need to ‘breath;’ air needs to be able to flow around them. Maybe imitating corals would be good? Or perhaps lungs (except the flow is inverted; outside the structure instead of within).


31 Mar 2013

Sketch your Game: Ideas/Research
“Sketch the levels for your game.”
My capstone project will be a continuation of my second project on interactivity. I am dropping the floor switches and wall projection in order to scale my project down to a size more appropriate to the act of sketching. My current goal is to create a game rig where an individual can sit, place a piece of paper on the table, sketch, and then have the characters projected directly onto the drawn image. I’m still trying to figure out a good method of character control, but at this point I am leaning toward a generic game controller.

I’m also tossing around different ideas. Perhaps certain symbols can be drawn that a character or the AI can interact with in special ways? I.E. death traps and portals. Also, I need to work on my AI. Being very new to programming (second semester of Processing), I’m not exactly sure where to start. The ghosts were programmed, admittedly, in a very stupid way. It would be nice to give them a bit more intelligence, I would prefer that their movements become more unexpected and challenging to interact with.

[edited April 02, 2013]


This is very similar to what I want to do. Basically you sketch something (in this case, a GUI), the computer recognizes the sketched forms, a projector maps additional information, and a camera reads your motions for interactivity and feedback.

An interesting project. You basically sketch your own game. Walls, death traps, goals etc. Then you play your game. It doesn’t have the physical sketching part, but the general idea is similar to what I am going for. Maybe I’ll have different icons you can sketch that perform different things, kind of like the buttons/checkboxes/scrollbars on SketchSynth. …..Death traps!

Augmented Reality Project using BuildAR and Sketchup

In this project the computer recognizes certain symbols and letters. It responds by generating objects which you see on the computer screen. Pretty much like Reactables, except the physical tokens have an obvious meaning (the letters C A R generate a car). This is going back to my idea of being able to sketch certain icons and have the computer respond.


30 Mar 2013

For my 2nd to last project, I built a somewhat crude drawing application using Synapse, a Kinect and OpenFrameworks. For my final project, I Intend to expand on this tool too make it (a) better and (b) more kick ass. I’m still piecing together the interaction and implementation details, but for now, here’s some nice prior art.


06 Mar 2013

Fuck You Asshole

Okay, Terminator is not really a piece of art utilizing computer vision, but I still think it’s relevant because film was/is one of the primary vectors through which people think about machines that see/comprehend/respond to their environments. The seminal machine here is probably HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Terminators 1 & 2, Robocop and others are heavy hitters in the collective consciousness vis-a-vis computer vision.  Basically, everything I know about computers and the millenium I learned from Hollywood.

Computer Vision for Personal Defense


Okay, again not art really, but nevertheless relevant to the discussion. The above video provides a demo about an automated water gun built with OpenCV and Python. What are the implications of technologies wrt the wholesale slaughter of humans by machines. First they came for the squirrels and I didn’t speak…

Minecraft Hack w/ Kinect 

Because awesome, that’s why.


06 Mar 2013

Idea 1
So for my project I want to create a game about smooshing and competition. What I am contemplating is a tanglible controller that consists of 2 buttons that you will hit when prompted. It is such a simple ‘button’ based game and I think the buttons will flank your computer (so you can hit with both hands and have to look back and forth). The game would be played in groups of people and the most fun part of the game is that there is a display (probs LCD or something) and will project your score based on speed and accuracy.

I love to encourage social interaction via games because I think we lost something with local gaming along the way.

Idea 2 (maybe 1?)
My original idea was an interactive board game. I had no real concept for the game other than the fact that I wanted to make a board game more “digital and interactive”. I have been making board games for about 5 years now and I really love the idea of building and making a place for people to interact. This game was going to be more Betrayal at House on the Hill or Level 7 in style where every person controls a certain character and you interact with an environment that is the game board.


06 Mar 2013

First thought: 3D Pepper Ghost

However, I this when the audience change his or her perspective it doesn’t work very well now..

Second thought: one 2D Pepper Ghost Map
Data visualization on multiple lays tangible maps


06 Mar 2013

I am interested in using the kinect to manipulate 3d meshes or surfaces in a program like rhinoceros or blender.  There are plenty of motion capture projects out there, but I am more interested in taking hand gestures and mapping them to various 3d modeling commands.  The leap motion might be much more suited to this, but because I have never done anything involving hand tracking, perhaps a good first step would be using the kinect.

I think it would be interesting to track fingertips in 3d space and connect them with a curve in the modeling environment.  As the hand moved around it would sweep out a surface.  I want to computationally alter that surface according to the velocity or even acceleration of the points.  The surface could become more convoluted, spikey or maybe perforated. A sculpture made from this 3d model would therefore contain not only visual information about the path of the fingertips, but also about the motion (velocity and accel.)

kind of like this (but hopefully smoother, and computationally altered):

Of course I also just want to continue working on the truss genetic algorithm.


06 Mar 2013


My idea is to project a game onto a wall (probably my version of PacMan). On the wall will be elements a user can rearrange to create different maze configurations. A camera (maybe a Kinect) would be used to sense the objects in space and generate a 2d collision map. Mat switches on the ground will be used to control the projected character and move it through the physical maze.