Dorkbot London

26.10.2007 20:00

Yesterday Boštjan and I went to see Dorkbot London. The place (called "01" in Soho) reminded us of Kiberpipa and the event was surprisingly like a couple of POT talks in a row. There were somewhere around 50 or 60 people in the audience, more than there were chairs available.


The event consisted of three talks: first was James Larsson who presented a scary modification of the original Pong video game: he replaced two joystick controllers with a pair of pressure sensitive leather boots on a table. The players controlled their pads by squeezing the boots and a motorized whip hit the unfortunate looser.

Modified Pong console

The part of his contraption I found the most interesting was how he controlled the whip. The AY 3 8500 chip on which the Pong game runs doesn't have any digital outputs that would indicate which player lost. So in order for his machine to know which player to punish he made a circuit that figured out the last position of the ball from the analogue video signal produced by the chip. This seemed very impressive to me at first (especially since only a couple of simple logic chips seemed to be enough - see picture above). However if you read the description of the chip you see that the chip produces separate video signals for each object - ball, pads, background, etc. This makes this feat much more credible.

Matthew Garrett on OLPC

The second talk was by Matthew Garrett about the OLPC project. Nothing new here, I only got the impression that maybe they set the goals of the project a bit too optimistically. It's been 2 years since the announcement of the project and according to the presentation they still have a lot of problems with software.

The final talk was by Tim Hunkin, creator of some very interesting arcade machines. Judging by video presentations of his machines he has shown us his creations are incredibly low tech (he said they are controlled by nothing more complicated than some industrial PLCs) and incredibly funny / interesting. For example Mobility Masterclass game uses a camera moving on a robotic arm through a model of a street to produce the video that the player sees on her screen. There's also Rent-a-dog where he recorded the video on a scale replica of the nearby street he constructed out of photographs, glued to cardboard.

His machines are great examples how games can immersive even if the technical background is simple and display isn't pixel-perfect. I would love to go see his arcade (most machines are on display in a pier pavillion over the sea), but as far as I know it's not very easy to get there with public transportation.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life

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