Archive for April, 2011

Improviso B-Movie style poster from the GAMBIT MIT Lab

B-Movie Style Poster for Improviso - The Improvisational Research-Game

I have less than the recommended human quantity of fear – it’s a peculiar thing, but there it is – but what it means is that while other people are getting rightfully terrified about the inevitable AI uprising, I’m more fascinated than scared.  So imagine my excitement when I find that I can play B-Movie improvisational acting games FOR SCIENCE!

You play as either the Director or the Lead Actor (as Ted the Reporter) in a three act, alien invasion, B-Movie.  The scene is set with Ted tied up in the crashed alien spaceship, and Agent Smith has discovered him – beyond that, it’s up to the two players to ham it up as much as possible, and get their finest cheesy sci-fi movie cliches dusted off and used.

The GAMBIT Lab at MIT and MDA record these little works of art, and use them to educate their AI systems to better be able to play the individual characters – and while teaching an AI to properly overact doesn’t seem particularly helpful, it’s all baby steps on the road to creating artificial intelligence that can emulate human behavior in a constrained but unpredictable situations.

So what are you waiting for?  Download Improviso, fire up the tutorial, and start overacting!

(Seen at H+ Magazine.)

If you have half an hour, then I recommend the above video lecture – because it will open your eyes to some of the trickery and shenanigans of retail architecture.

No longer will you wonder why the mall is full of seven different clothing outlets, all mostly the same.  You will forget those feelings of confused bafflement at why THIS street is a shopper magnet, and THAT street serves only tumbleweed.  But most importantly; Ikea, that mysterious beast of a furniture cathedral, will open her secrets to you, and the veil will fall from your eyes.  You shall be its master, and the shortcuts will never hide from you again.  All the meatballs you can buy.

Oh, and if like me, you’re at all interested in video game level design, then you’ll find some fantastically parallel knowledge of great use to multi-player flow and single-player attractors.

Agnes Nutter Never Predicted This

In a fictional universe, the fantastic novel Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett, was made into a movie, and the closing credits are above.  The casting is a little peculiar in places, I grant you, but I love the style and I’d pay my ticket to watch it, in a heartbeat.

Thankfully, while that fictional universe is not ours, we are getting a TV series of Good Omens instead.  So that’s alright then.

Cyber-Monkeys Love Marshmallows

No really, they do.  If you’re at all squeemish about certain kinds of animal testing, then this isn’t for you.  For everyone else, there are several more videos of monkeys with microelectrode arrays implanted in their brains, able to feed themselves marshmallows, or do other tasks, with various different attached robotic arms.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Motorlab is the source, and according to someone on Reddit, they’ll be trying human trials very soon, offering spinal cord injury patients the hope of controlling robotic arms of their own.  Of course, human trials are always very cautious, delicate, things, so don’t go expecting anime style neuro-plugged mech suits quite yet.

From Dust, concept art

Concept Art of From Dust from Ubisoft

While the gaming universe is twisting itself into a POrTAl TwO pickle, for some reason I was reminded of From Dust, and upcoming game from Ubisoft in the style of Populous.  The videos look beautiful – globs and dollops of the very stuff of life, pliable in your hands.

I even get a strange feeling in my hands when I think of it – I like to imagine that it’s my mirror neurons longing to grasp, mold and smooth.

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GlaDos Commends and Commands You

Aperture Science Countdown

12 midday, EST, and Aperture Science will reveal a final puzzle

From the hidden countdown site at, at time of posting there were just 2 hrs (12 midday, EST) until whatever final puzzle that GlaDos has decided to inflict on her ARG following fans.  Portal 2 is close, and Valve’s Alternative Reality Game is making fans of us all.

3d Pie gif image from MPO

Animated GIF of the pie I made - converted from MPO

I apologise to the epileptics out there, but the above image is my first attempt at converting the 3d photographs from the Nintendo 3DS (in MPO) format, into a ‘web usable’ format – in this case, animated GIF.  Over on the IGN boards, user DarkDepths created a Java app that will do the converting from MPO to JPG to GIF, with a selectable delay between the two frames.

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How excited am I allowed to be about this, without getting sectioned?  Ah, who cares.  The video above shows the operation of a computer controlled bioreactor and integrated vending machine for spirulina – a form of blue-green algae and all round science celebrity!

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On Tuesday the 12th of April, it will be Yuri’s Night all across the world – celebrating Yuri Gagarin going into space, 50 years ago.

Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!

Then, I hear that the Russians intend to build a moon base in the next 20 years, and from there a manned mission to Mars! More power to them, I say!

But better than all that, is a video of a cat with a dream.  A cat with big ideas, and that won’t permit those daft dogs to get all the glory, the spectacle, or the adventure.  No – this is a cat after my own heart!!

Hanging string kokedamas, or moss ball bonsai

Suspended by string and bound with moss; kokedamas from Ponpom

Like an old storyteller spider, I’ll weave an idea in your mind, a dream round your heart, that you may be happily trapped thereafter.  Imagine, first, a solar system writ in miniature life; a botanical orrery suspended from your ceiling with spheres of moss and other plants, bound tight in brilliant white cordage.  This string garden of kokedamas (moss ball bonsai) rejects your puny attempts at gardening in two dimensions, and insists you think in three.

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