Meaningful Play: Getting Gamification Right

March 5th, 2011

A nice talk by Sebastian Deterding on game mechanics in non-gaming contexts. He doesn’t cover any new ground, but it’s nice to see updated examples. You can grab the slides here.

Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

February 21st, 2011

Swanson Pyramid of Greatness


2011 MIT Mystery Hunt!

December 12th, 2010

Sylvia and I just booked our flights to Boston for the MIT Mystery Hunt (aka puzzle hunt). This will be my third year and Sylvia’s sixth competing with the Simmons Hall team. I wouldn’t say we compete at the highest of levels (we came in 14th of 37 teams last year), but it’s tons of fun. Here are a few puzzles from 2010 that I liked:

Becoming hip to some hot tracks

March 15th, 2010

Let’s be honest here, if I didn’t have Sylvia to bring new music into my life I’d still be listening the Disco Biscuts [Fun Fact: Their sound man is also named Jon Lesser). My Schi filter works like this:

  1. Sylvia finds new music (Or it finds her? I don’t really know how this part works).
  2. Sylvia listens to music on our stereo, infiltrating my personal soundscape.
  3. About every three months I sort the iTunes by play count and copy the top ten or so albums to my computer.

Boom! I’m up to date with what the kids are listening to.

Peak Productivity

September 18th, 2009

My Future

September 14th, 2009

I’ve narrowed it down to one of these fields. Now I’m hunting for PhD programs opportunities accordingly.


  • Integrating robotics into daily life
  • Applying computer vision, AI techniques

Medical information systems

  • Electronic health records
  • Helping doctors provide better care

Energy information systems

  • Sensor networks to manage energy consumption
  • Visualize energy use to affect behavior

Democracy / e Governance

  • voting, public records, etc.

Brain computer interfaces (BCI)

  • EEG or EMG computing interfaces

New Media Conceptual Artist

  • Using all of the above to create art

Jay Leno’s Garage

August 28th, 2009

I came across Jay Leno’s Garage last night. It’s definitely the smartest, most entertaining car show I’ve ever seen. Jay tests amazing new and classic cars (and motorcycles), tells you what he thinks, and does some burnouts. The best part is that it’s not over produced like the nausea inducing MotorWeek on PBS or even the BBC’s TopGear.

SNL is Funny

August 28th, 2009

There is a lot of hating on SNL these days, but it’s really worth watching for the three or four gems in each episode. Be aware that it generally takes a few days of reflection to realize what was truly genius. Here are some winners from the last season you probably didn’t watch.

The 35th season starts in a few weeks (September 26th).

CPU video performance

June 15th, 2009

I have been trying to get a sense of how much video processing my computer can do. A 2.2Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo can capture 640 x 480 @ 30 fps from a Logitech Vision Pro webcam while simultaneously playing four previously captured clips encoded with H.264 and AAC mono audio. Capturing video while playing more than four videos results in dropped frames.

Video Stream Test

This plot shows a pretty linear falloff in captured framerate as the number of video files being played during capture is incremented.

framerate drop off while playing videos

LCD panel dimensions

June 14th, 2009

I needed to know the geometry of some common LCD panels for a project I’m working on. I couldn’t find a convenient chart, so I am contributing this one to the Internet. I worked out the X and Y values with some simple trig. An alternative estimation based on resolution multiplied by pixel pitch yields similar results ±0.125”.


H” X” Y” AR X res Y res
15 12.0 9.0 4:3 (1.33) 1024 768 53.13 36.87
17 13.27 10.62 5:4 (1.25) 1280 1024 51.34 38.66
19 14.84 11.87 5:4 (1.25) 1280 1024 51.34 38.66
18.5 16.13 9.07 16:9 (1.77) 1366 768 60.65 29.35
15.4 13.06 8.16 8:5 (1.6) 1440 900 57.99 32.01
17 14.42 9.01 8:5 (1.6) 1440 900 57.99 32.01
19 16.11 10.07 8:5 (1.6) 1440 900 57.99 32.01
20.1 16.08 12.06 4:3 (1.33) 1600 1200 53.13 36.87
19 16.11 10.07 8:5 (1.6) 1680 1050 57.99 32.01
20 16.96 10.60 8:5 (1.6) 1680 1050 57.99 32.01
22 18.66 11.66 8:5 (1.6) 1680 1050 57.99 32.01
21.5 18.74 10.54 16:9 (1.77) 1920 1080 60.64 29.36
23 20.05 11.28 16:9 (1.77) 1920 1080 60.64 29.36
24 20.35 12.72 8:5 (1.6) 1920 1200 57.99 32.01
25.5 21.62 13.52 8:5 (1.6) 1920 1200 57.99 32.01
30 25.44 15.90 8:5 (1.6) 2560 1600 57.99 32.01

Hue Test Fail

May 28th, 2009

These are our results from an online Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test that Sylvia found on the Internet. The test involves arranging color swatches into a continuous spectrum of hues. The bars indicate which hues we were unable to arrange correctly and I’m not sure what the height of a bar means.

Color Test

As you can see, we got very different results depending on the display used for the test. A proper FM100 test kit costs about $700 and has to be completed under controlled (D50) lighting conditions. Nonetheless, it’s fun to play with the pretty colors and create some order from the randomized initial state.

Related Links: Color Management Systems Lab at RIT where I was a labbie in 2002; Munsell Color Science Lab at RIT

I have a face

May 22nd, 2009

OpenCV confirms it!

Arthur Ganson

May 9th, 2009

Sylvia and I saw a Ganson exhibit at MIT a few years ago. I just came across his youtube page with some videos of his pieces.

If you can stand the opening crescendo, there is a nice TED talk in which Ganson talks about his work.

Valves, Sardines, and Diapers

April 2nd, 2009

How It’s Made is a TV show that I used to watch on the History Channel and a Mystery Hunt puzzle begging to be written. Each episode details the fabrication process of four different things. See if you can figure out how the topics for any given show are connected.

Episode 37

  • Car Radiators
  • Hatchery Chicks
  • Phyllo Dough
  • Cross-country Skis

Episode 66

  • Three Wheeled Vehicles
  • Baseball Bats
  • Artificial Bonsai
  • Trombones

Items requiring more than one segment to describe

  • Buttons
  • Carbon Fibre Cellos
  • Stamps
  • Goalie Masks
  • Optical Lenses
  • Giant Tires
  • Stetson Hats
  • Sugar

You can find lots of segments on YouTube and a complete episode list on Wikipedia.

Stepper motors

February 24th, 2009

I picked up these four Powermax II stepper motors (P21NSXC-LSS-NS-03) on eBay last week. They’re a lot heavier than I thought they would be and huge compared to my previous stepper motor. They have a holding torque of 116 oz-inch, which I learned is the number of ounces you could suspend from a 1 inch rod attached perpendicular to the motor shaft.

Powermax II Stepper Motors

Powermax II Stepper Motors

Seriously, what am I doing with my life?

February 16th, 2009

For the last 15 months I’ve been a programmer at the Center for History and New Media. It would be hard to find a smarter, more dedicated group of folks building new media projects in academia, however programming just isn’t the career I want. I started working part time this month and by March I’ll be down to around 12 hours a week.

Sylvia has two and half more semesters of law school, at which point we’ll most likely move out of Baltimore to greener pastures. Where, exactly, is an open question, but Berkeley and Boston are on top of the short list at the moment.

My plan for this year is to think about exactly what I want to study and then apply for PhD programs in December. Along the way, I have some goals:

  1. Build a non-trivial robot. I’m working on two very different designs, one is a gantry setup with an arm for manipulating items on a table and the other is a suspended rig that interacts with people from above.
  2. Read more. I spend a lot of time reading news and other articles on the internet, but it’s been a long time since I got all the way through a book. Sylvia and I recently founded a book club (we’re the only members) and started From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language.
  3. Blog it out more. I would like to write a post a week, which would surpass my previous best of a post every twenty six years.
  4. Publish something. One of my few regrets from my time at Berkeley is not contributing to any peer-reviewed publications. It would be lovely to have at least one peer-reviewed publication on my CV, even if it’s not a full paper. Part of this challenge will be to read broadly across journals and conference proceedings to find out where I can and want to fit in.

This is shaping up to be a real banner year. Check back for updates. I’ll be posting some robot sketches soon.

Navigational Hyperlinks:

Other areas of the internet to which I contribute on a semi-regular basis: