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Alt.GDC: Playing Tug of War… with Your Mind!

As brainwave-reading technology becomes more affordable, mind-controlled video games may one day be the next big thing, the motion-control of tomorrow.

MAKE readers have already been introduced to the Neurosky headset in previous projects (see below). Now, with the release of iOS and Android support, you can capture your brainwaves on the go (not that the subway would be conducive to concentration games, and imagine the funny looks you’d get wearing this kooky headset in public).

I got to demo MyndPlay, a game which presents you with a series of videos and prompts you to concentrate, meditate, or both (I couldn’t figure out the latter for the life of me). Your success or failure steers the progression of the story. It’s like Quick Time Events, but instead of pressing x to not die, you have to meditate to not die. There was even a 2- player tug of war game where the person with the higher attention score wins.

One of the most interesting applications is a game, called Focus Pocus, aimed at kids with ADD, to help strengthen their attention levels. I love to see technologies that are capable of both entertainment and helping to solve real-world problems.

Oh, and it can also be used for emotionally-reactive cat ears. (I think she likes me.)



Maker Startup Weekend at TechShop San Francisco

Photo of the Musical Tire Swing by Alasdair Allan.

Last weekend, Alasdair Allan, Kipp Bradford, and I attended Maker Startup Weekend as mentors; we taught the participants about Arduino, electronics, and other hackery, and generally had fun helping out and watching projects reach completion.

Our own Dale Dougherty kicked things off with a talk and some Q&A.

Sponsors including Inventables, Jameco, Sparkfun, and Maker Shed provided lots of components (and plenty of Arduinos) for makers to build with.

The organizer of Maker Startup Weekend, David Lang, will be familiar to many readers from his Zero to Maker column.

Jim Newton, TechShop founder, speaks just before the participants demoed their creations.

The Quiver team created removable pockets that could be stuck on the side of a tablet or laptop.

Cargo Stand carries your iPad and keyboard, but also keeps it at eye level when you are typing.

Relay Rabbits created some infrastructure and an Arduino-based hardware kit to make it easier to control devices (they demoed control of a lamp) over the Internet.

RoboRoasters prototyped a device that would roast your coffee for you, providing great coffee at a fraction of the price you’re probably used to paying.

The DIY Gel Doc system replaces hardware that costs $6,000 and up, for a fraction of the price (about $100).

Spinball, Jr. is a project to create a portable, modular, upgradeable pinball game.

Flink does one thing: it lets you push any button over the Internet.

Pictured at the top of this post: the Musical Tire Swing brings light and sound to a traditional way of playing and relaxing.

There’s plenty of information on the Maker Startup Weekend site. You can find more information on the teams, profiles of mentors, and a place where you can sign up to be notified of future Maker Startup Weekends: Maker Startup Weekend.


Simple Shop Vac to Hovercraft Mod

Hovercraft Shop Vac from MAKE Volume 29

Shop Vacs are essential in the workshop, but sometimes the casters seem to have a mind of their own. How about using the vacuum’s discharge air to make it obediently float behind you? That’s exactly what maker Bill Wells did, and his how-to appears on the pages of MAKE Volume 29. Bill essentially took off the wheels, attached the vacuum to a hover deck made of MDF, installed an additional hover hose to direct the discharge air, and added a hover skirt made from old exercise mat foam. Check out the full mod on Make: Projects. Build one and never be annoyed with those casters again.

Hovercraft Shop Vac Illustration: MAKE Volume 29

Hovercraft Shop Vac from MAKE Volume 29

From the pages of MAKE Volume 29:

We have the technology (to quote The Six Million Dollar Man), but commercial tools for exploring, assisting, and augmenting our bodies really can approach a price tag of $6 million. Medical and assistive tech manufacturers must pay not just for R&D, but for expensive clinical trials, regulatory compliance, and liability — and doesn’t help with low pricing that these devices are typically paid for through insurance, rather than purchased directly. But many gadgets that restore people’s abilities or enable new “superpowers” are surprisingly easy to make, and for tiny fractions of the costs of off-the-shelf equivalents. MAKE Volume 29, the “DIY Superhuman” issue, explains how.




News From The Future-8



Sky Sapience, an expert in autonomous hovering machine technology, announces the release of the HoverMast, tethered hovering platform specially designed for small vehicles. The HoverMast will be displayed at the upcoming AUVSI conference and exhibition in Tel-Aviv.

The HoverMast responds to the need for quick, mobile intelligence gathering. At the click of a button, the system autonomously deploys, rising to heights of up to 50 meters within 10-15 seconds. Secured by a cable, serving as a power supply and wideband data link, the highly stabilized HoverMast combines advanced flight algorithms and innovative materials to provide the highest payload-to-size ratio available today. Weighing only 10 kg, the platform is capable of hosting 9 kg payloads, such as electro-optic sensors, laser designators, radar, and sophisticated COMINT and ELINT systems. Its data link enables the transfer of critical data to selected recipients in real time.

The HoverMast is stored in a compact housing unit that can be mounted on any vehicle; small vehicles in particular: cars, pick-up trucks, unmanned ground or surface vehicles (UGV/USV), ATVs, and small naval craft; making the system especially suited for Special Forces, border and port protection, and infantry missions.

The challenge, you’re not allowed to make a SkyNet joke.


Alt.GDC: Jousting with Move Controllers

As GDC – Day 3 gears up, in the back corner of Expo Hall, you might notice a group of wand-wielding gamers pacing around each other, eager to strike. They’re playing Johann Sebastian Joust, which uses PlayStation Move controllers. Listening to variably paced classical music, players hold their controllers like delicate eggs while trying to set off the motion sensors of opponents’ wands by any means necessary. The speed of the music cues players into how careful they need to be, with slow strings eliciting a careful waltz while rapid tempo indicates time for all-out aggression. Jabs, grabs, and body checks are employed to take out your foes. Just be careful not to set off your own controller with over-aggressive maneuvers. And watch out for show-going bystanders, too!

Joust is not yet for sale. The developers are looking into how best to market it, as it’s such a unique product; an entirely screen-less game experience. They’re looking for innovative ideas of how best to release it, with Playstation Network and Steam being considered.

The PlayStation Move alpha version of the game was developed in C# and Unity Pro (on Mac OSX). It uses an open source, publicly-available plugin, called UniMove, that they developed.

Check out all of our alt.GDC coverage


Top 10: Natural Materials

When we say “natural materials,” the mind leaps immediately to wood, stone, leather, natural fibers. But there are lots of interesting and more “exotic” materials from the natural world that we don’t tend to think of, right away, and digging these up and showing them off is one of the things I’m most looking forward to in this month’s theme. To kick things off, here’s a sampler of some of my personal favorite unusual natural materials from our archives, arranged in highly unscientific how-much-does-Sean-like-it order. There’s cool stuff here made from antler, acorns, fish scales, insect parts—even shark’s teeth! Enjoy!


How-To: Mount a Knife Blade in an Antler Without Glue


Make a Survival Hand Vise


Plastic From Fish Scales


How-To: Classic Leather Water Bottle


How-To: Scrimshaw


Brilliant Red Dye Made From Insects


Beetle Shell Ceiling


Bamboo Bike Studio Expanding


How-To: Make Traditional Hawaiian Shark-Tooth Weapons


Jonathan Wolfe’s Puzzle Acorns


Adafruit’s Enclosures On Thingiverse

Adafruit Industries has uploaded their .SVGs to Thingiverse, so now you can take their Community Commons enclosure designs, mix them up, and laser them out! My favorite is the Ice Tube Clock enclosure designed by w0z.

Adafruit’s Things


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