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2016 September 23

Threadsteading: A Game for Quilting and Embroidery Machines

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:03
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I just found out about a cool game, but one that few people can play: Threadsteading.

Threadsteading is a two-player game for a modified quilting machine. The quilting machine is a computer-controlled longarm quilting machine, which moves a sewing head around a 12′ x 2.5′ area to stitch 2D paths.

Threadsteading-Image1Our custom input controller is attached to the sewing head, so it is always located just under the fabric surrounding the needle’s position. We’ve also reverse-engineered the control to the machine so we can send sewing paths directly to it. The game is thus played entirely on the quilting machine, and each round of the game results in a permanent physical artifact: a quilt.

full article at  Disney Research » Threadsteading: A Two-Player, Single-Line, Territory Control Game for Quilting and Embroidery Machines

They also have a version of the game that can be played on a smaller scale on a computer-controlled embroidery machine, which is something that is more likely to be found in a home.

I found out about the game because two of the designers are affiliated with UCSC (April Grow is a grad student who was a Disney Research intern, and Gillian Smith is a UCSC alumna), so the game was mentioned in a recent press release by Tim Stephens about student-designed games in the UCSC game-design program: UC Santa Cruz student games featured at IndieCade Festival.

Some of the other games mentioned in that press release also sound interesting, but none are quite as out-of-the-norm as a game on a quilting machine.

2016 January 8

Kern Type, the kerning game

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:09
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Over winter break I discovered a free on-line game that helps learn typesetting skills:

KERN TYPE a kerning game
To get started drag or use your ← → keysInstructions
Your mission is simple: achieve pleasant and readable text by distributing the space between letters. Typographers call this activity kerning. Your solution will be compared to a typographer’s solution, and you will be given a score depending on how close you nailed it. Good luck!

Source: Kern Type, the kerning game

It is actually rather fun, though sometimes I feel that they have given too much weight to a single typographer’s opinion of the best kerning—they should probably have taken 5 typographer’s kerning solutions for each problem, and scored based on which of the five was closest.  (Kerning solutions are aesthetic choices, and not everyone will have the same taste.)

My other major objection is that they only have 10 kerning problems in the game—they should have hundreds.

2015 January 17

Bridge Design Contest 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:07
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It looks like I won’t be playing with the bridge-design contest software this year.  I downloaded the software from https://bridgecontest.org/resources/download/, but was unable to run it.  They’ve made their software so that it only runs on Mac OS 10.7.3 or newer, but my MacBook Pro is running OS 10.6.8.  I suspect that there are a lot of schools out there running old Mac software also, so making the software run only on the new Macs is cutting out a lot of users (particularly in the less-wealthy school districts).  This is a common problem with software developers—because they invest in the latest hardware and software, they assume that everyone else is able and willing to do so.  More likely, they don’t even think about the number of people they cut out by writing programs that only run on recent computers, nor who those people are.

Note: there is a newer iMac in the household, and now that my son is in college I can get time on it, so I might install the bridge-design software there.

I know that I could also upgrade my 10.6.8 Mac (possibly even for free still), but I’ve heard from a number of students who did the upgrade last year or the year before, that the resulting laptop was far less reliable and much of their older software was broken by the “upgrade”.  I’m not willing to have to replace large swaths of my functioning software just to play one game. I’ll put up with the pain of major changes to the operating system the next time I replace the hardware.

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2014 January 18

Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:23
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Last year’s bridge design did not work well for the 2014 Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest (formerly the West Point Bridge Design Contest):

Bridge design costing about $169.9k in the 2013 contest.  Note: I've deliberately distorted the picture to make it difficult to blindly copy the design, as I had problems with middle-school students using my published designs to cheat on their homework.  The truss design I have here can be used as inspiration, but not copied directly.

Bridge design costing about $169.9k in the 2013 contest.

When I tried a similar design in the West Point Bridge Designer 2014, I couldn’t get the cost below about $172k, but a simpler design was cheaper:

$167.3k bridge design for West Point Bridge Designer 2014.

$167.3k bridge design for West Point Bridge Designer 2014.

This design is currently 12 of 41 in the open contest, so clearly one can do better. I don’t expect it to stay high on the leaderboard for long.  It would already be much worse than that on the consolidated board, since the top 10 on the open board only fall in the top 50 on the consolidated one.

I think that the contest would be more interesting to me if they had provided an API for testing bridges.  Then the challenge would be to write bridge optimization software that explored the design space much more thoroughly and tweaked the designs.  It might be possible to do that this year, as the source code is available from sourceforge.  I’m not interested enough in the optimization problem to try to interface to their Java code, but it might be a good way to make a college-level version of the Bridge Designer Contest.

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2013 January 16

West Point Bridge Design Contest 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:54
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I modified last year’s bridge to meet the constraints of this year’s West Point Bridge Design Challenge:

Bridge design costing about $169.9k in the 2013 contest.  Note: I've deliberately distorted the picture to make it difficult to blindly copy the design, as I had problems with middle-school students using my published designs to cheat on their homework.  The truss design I have here can be used as inspiration, but not copied directly.

Bridge design costing about $169.9k in the 2013 contest. Note: I’ve deliberately distorted the picture to make it difficult to blindly copy the design, as I had problems with middle-school students using my published designs to cheat on their homework. The truss design I have here can be used as inspiration, but not copied directly.
As of 2013 Jan 16, this design is number 3 in the “open competition”, but I’m sure it will slip a long way, as I don’t plan to do much (if any) tweaking.

I found it interesting that from this year’s version of the code they removed the options to change the viewpoint from which the bridge was viewed, though the included help system still describes the now-missing controls.

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