[rwet week 7] midterm: please visit the forum

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For my midterm, I made a “new” poetic form I’m calling “Please Visit The Forum.”

There are a lot of forums on the internet, covering pretty much all imaginable subjects for all sorts of niche interests and communities. I wanted to generate new weirdo community forums, each including a URL, moderator name, contact info and some popular topics.

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I downloaded a bunch of JSON files from Corpora, and then picked two of those files each time. I then mashed the words together in different ways for each of the categories.

While I found Corpora delightful and very useful, I could only figure out how to make this work for a limited group of lists that were formatted in the same way (so that I could consistently grab the values from a specific key in each list).

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My goal was to capture the feeling of surprise and intrigue that you get from discovering a niche community on the internet that you didn’t know about before, and some of the results of my program I thought were pretty effective.

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I think this is this could be more effective and interesting with a larger data set, perhaps with more live data or something more generative. Hopefully I can explore that with later projects.

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[arcade week 7] Out Run

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I went to Barcade on St. Marks and played a few games. I was actually pretty surprised at how many games they had, but I guess these things are coming back in full force (in bar settings).

One game I really liked that I had never played before was Out Run. It’s a driving game with a steering wheel, pedels and stick shift. Immediately, it felt different from other racing games I’ve played in arcades: for one, there are two people in the convertible, which makes it feel more like a leisurely drive and and less like NASCAR. The camera angles are also interesting, because it’s low to the ground, which doesn’t allow for a far view of the road, especially when you’re going up a hill.

The tactile feedback was also a draw – the steering wheel shakes when you run into obstacles or crash, but in a way that feels very different from controller vibrations I’m used to with modern consoles.  You can also pick your music, and go down a number of different paths when driving.

All these little details add up to a game that looks predictable from the outside, but feels very different from the kind of frenetic, competitive car racing games that I’m used to. It makes you feel like driving can be a fun and enjoyable activity in itself, not just because you’re trying to win some big race.

[pcomp week 7] Space Laser! (midterm)


For our Physical Computing midterm project, Yiting and I made a game called Space Laser!. (The critical exclamation point was added at the suggestion of Tom.)


You have 30 seconds to hit all five aliens using your laser. When you successfully hit one, their eyes will dim and they’ll make a dying sound. When you only have 10 seconds left, the eyes will start to blink so that you know you’re running out of time.


We originally came up with an entirely different idea for a game, but after some experimentation, decided that we wanted to do something with two servos on top of each other. This formed the basis for our laser pointer. But what good is a laser if you don’t have something to shoot at?

Everyone knows that aliens are the natural enemy of lasers, so we decided to make a space-themed game where you’d shoot a laser at aliens, who would react in various ways when they got hit.

There were two main parts of the project: the laser and the target board. We prototyped both pieces before we made the final versions.


One of the first things we did was attach a laser diode to a servo on top of another servo. One servo moved in the x-axis and the other moved in the y-axis, so when combined, they allowed a wide range of movement for the laser on top. We then connected it to a toggle switch to turn it on and off, and a joystick that mapped to the axes of the servos. We put them all together in a cardboard box for prototyping, which was simple enough.




Here’s where it got a bit more complicated. Neither Yiting nor I have any experience with fabrication, which was one of the biggest challenges in this project. We knew we wanted to make a more solid enclosure, but weren’t really sure how. When we found a piece of acrylic in the junk shelf, we thought hey, why not try to make something out of this?

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We took some measurements, and Yiting lasercut the acrylic into rectangles, as well as the holes on top for the joystick and switch. I rather haphazardly glued the pieces together with acrylic cement.

It worked for this project, but I learned that going forward with future projects, I should use a different material or buy a pre-made enclosure.




As with the box, we began with a cardboard prototype of a target.


After some testing, we confirmed that a laser could reliably make a spike in the photocell’s sensor reading, so it could easily be used as a target on each alien. We figured that having two types of feedback together for successfully hitting the target — audio and visual — would create a nice effect, so we used LEDs for the eyes, and decided to add a speaker as well. The eyes would dim and the speaker would make the “dying” sound once you hit an alien.

I found a large black foam board in the junk shelf in the back. (Who knew that it could be such a treasure trove?) This became the backdrop of our space fight.

We found some free assets online, and Yiting used her amazing Illustrator skills to mock up a design. We print the images out and cut them up.

Then the tedious part began!


It’s funny how the unexpected things can take up the most time. For example, it took us an excruciatingly long time to successfully poke the legs of the photocells and LEDs through a piece of paper, a layer of cardboard, and a foamboard. We had 30 legs in total to poke through, and often each one took multiple attempts, even with the help of a sewing needle.


In the end, we successfully gave each alien two LED eyes and a photocell target in its mouth.

Now, on to the wiring.

This next part was theoretically straightforward — each LED would need a resistor and a digital input, and each photocell would also need a photocell and an analog input. We taped an Arduino and a breadboard on the back, and after some testing with alligator clips, we began to solder.

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This also took a very long time even with the two of us soldering together.

Happily, we wired it all up correctly and it all worked, even if it’s not pretty. In the future, I’ll make an effort to tidy up and organize wires better.


The next part was both the easiest and probably the most rewarding. We thought it would be fun to add obstacles to the board to make the game harder, so we added three planets that moved back and forth automatically in front of the aliens, each controlled by a servo. This was simple but made the game immensely more dynamic and fun. It really confirmed for me what Tom said in class a few weeks ago, which was that servos really give us a lot of “bang for [our] buck.”


The last component was sound. We attached a speaker to the board and designed three different types of sound: a “game start” sound, an “alien died” sound, and a “game over” sound. This audio effects also really added a lot of how dynamic and interactive the game felt.



Yiting and I were both really pleased with how this little game turned out. It was a good lesson in making something from start to finish, and in collaboration.

Lessons learned for me:

  • Organize your wiring!
  • Prototyping before making a final version is necessary.
  • Learn more about fabricating enclosures, or just buy them.
  • Working with another person is extremely helpful.
  • The soldering irons in the ITP shop suck.
  • Giving a user more than one type of feedback makes the experience feel much more interactive.
  • Never try to poke the legs of photocells through foam board or cardboard, it is a terrible experience.

We used three Arduinos for this project, and the code for all three parts is below.

Continue reading “[pcomp week 7] Space Laser! (midterm)”

[video & sound week 7] How To Fly A Kite (final video)

Aaron, Melody and I had a great time filming and editing our little video about flying a kite. We went to Prospect Park on a lovely beginning-of-fall day a couple weeks ago with a camera, tripod, kite, and a heavy dose of optimism about wind conditions.




We set up the camera, and then decided that the two “characters” from our storyboard should be consistent throughout. It ended up being me as the main kite flyer, Aaron as the kite thrower, and Melody as the main person behind the camera.  IMG_0397

The park wasn’t too crowded and it was a beautiful day, so filming conditions were pretty good. We found that it wasn’t too hard to get the kite in the air, but the wind wasn’t strong enough to keep it up for more than a couple minutes. For our movie-making purposes, however, this was fine.

One of the challenges was that as the kite flyer, I generally had to run around to keep the kite up, which made it difficult for Melody to capture all the action in a smooth way on film. In order to get shots of the kite from below, Melody had to run around the park with me, all while craning her head and the camera up to get the footage.

After a successful afternoon of shooting, we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream floats.


When it came time to edit, we structured the video as we originally envisioned it: in three main steps, from set-up, to getting the kite in the air, to keeping the kite in the air. We figured we would add either voice over or more titles to explain some of the in between steps, like testing the wind, or throwing the kite.

After getting feedback on our rough cut, we decided that the video didn’t really need any text-based instruction because visually, the steps were pretty straightforward. We found two tracks we liked from freemusicarchive.org by the artist Podington Bear that matched well with the kind of cute and lighthearted feeling we were going for.


Matching the cuts to the beats brought it all together.

Overall, I found it to be a really helpful experience to make a video from start to finish. Watch it above!

[icm week 7] The Beautifying Mirror

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(See The Beautifying Mirror here.)

It was fun to move out of the canvas with DOM this week. All the HTML/CSS stuff really brought me back to my early days on the web, hand-coding Harry Potter fansites in middle school. (Back before we thought this might actually be a useful skill to pursue!)

That’s probably why the page I made this week is sort of early-2000’s nostalgic in style. I wanted to do something with the webcam feature, so I pulled a frame image off the googles and set the camera capture inside. My goal was to play with the idea of “improving” your appearance with the slightly disparaging encouragement of the text on the page. I hope it’s at least a tiny bit unsettling.

my friend Chris tests the mirror

I made my buttons and text in my sketch and created a separate CSS stylesheet.

In the future, I’d love to take this idea a little further with facial tracking software and the ability to screenshot your final image. (And probably better assets that weren’t just random things I found as quickly as possible.)

Check it out!

My sketch.js code is below, but it doesn’t include my stylesheet or index HTML.

Continue reading “[icm week 7] The Beautifying Mirror”