Rock around the clock…

31 October 2007 at 11:24 pm (Circuit Bending Workshop, Mechatronics, School of Art)

Today, we started the day rocking some toys’ circuit’s clocks. Electronic circuits have clocks inside in order to have a time base for the rest of the circuit to work. If you change this time base, the other components of the circuit will run faster or slow down. There are two ways to build a clock in electronics (in fact there are more ways but this two are the most common and simple ones): you can use a crystal or you can use a resistor and a capacitor. The resistor and the capacitor is a really cheap solution and we can find theme in many cheap games; the good thing is that they are easy to find and to change. To find theme we only need to use wet fingers and patience: you touch the components and you listen to see if you get some slow motion effects. Then we have to change the resistor into some other kinds of variable resistors (photo resistor, variable resistor, pressure resistor, etc.). Each kind of variable resistor can be seen as a single interface with its own characteristics, a little like instruments: a saxophone and a guitar can play the same notes but the musicians don’t play a guitar like he plays a saxophone. A little anecdote about the title of this post, the first time I understood that the speed reading a record can change its pitch was with the song Rock around the clock, I played it in a 45 rotation mode and the record was in 33, something like this… And since we are playing with clocks and pitch, I remembered this funny experience.

After the interface exploration, we started to learn something really technical: building oscillators. Building an oscillator starts with some basic logics. Using NOT doors (that is a logical function), we generate a signal that is the opposite of the entry: when the entry is low the output is high, when the input is high the output is low. So if you take the output and plug it back to the input, the signal oscillate from low to high and low and high, and so on…This generates a square shape wave.

Circuit Bending - Atelier Mecatronique - Day 2

But the problem is that the oscillation happens really fast and we don’t have a way to control its frequency. So we have to put something to slow down the signal changes. We do it simply with a capacitor and a resistor. The capacitor loads itself slowly and unloads fast; the speed that the capacitor does this is linked to its capacity and the resistance of the resistor.
Circuit Bending - Atelier Mecatronique - Day 2

When we plug this to the NOT door, we build an oscillator. If we use a variable resistor we can control oscillation frequency. That’s how we build a square signal generator. This square signal has amplitude set between 0V and the battery voltage (in our case 9V), so we can control a speaker or LEDs, fans, etc. When the signal is low the component controlled is off, when its high the component switches on.

Circuit Bending - Atelier Mecatronique - Day 2

Since the chip has 6 NOT doors, we can build a system that generates six different signals, with six capacitors and resistors. The problem is, if you add all six signals you will have a gain too high, so when you link the signals, you do it in parallel and you add a resistance to control the signal gain. The resulting sound is an addition of all signals together. Each “channel” can have its own indepedent interface.

Circuit Bending - Atelier Mecatronique - Day 2

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First day, first experiences…

30 October 2007 at 9:36 pm (Circuit Bending Workshop, Mechatronics, School of Art)

We started the workshop making simple experiences with sound.

Workshop Bending - Day 1

The first experience was to use a speaker, wires and a 9V battery to generate sound, thanks to feedback. We take two wires, we put one of theme on the speaker’s membrane and we approach the second wire in order to make contact. Surprise: we generate a sound that is specific to that particular speaker (it works on all speakers). What happens is that the speaker’s membrane vibrates making the contact go on and off witch produces the frequency we can hear.

Workshop Bending - Day 1

Ok… This was sweet and easy… And what if we take the two wires and we “taste” the materials around us? So we started to play with materials fixing one wire and scratching the second on it. The result is some strange sounds. The material’s asperity (more or less visible) makes the scratched wire to close and open the circuit, generating frequencies that we can hear.

Ok, so with a battery, some wires, a cheap and old speaker, we can actually make sounds… Hum… Interesting… No amps, no expensive and complicated electronics… Ok… But let’s try to put some electronics on it…

The speakers and microphones are built the same way… The main difference is that they are originally built for a specific function (to generate sound from an analogical signal; to generate an analogical signal from a sound). “Normally” you put the speaker in the output of an amplifier and the microphone in the input. But, if you put a speaker in the output and another one in the input, you will find out that the speaker plugged in the input works like… a microphone! Oh what a surprise! The main difference between a microphone and a speaker used as a microphone, besides the visual aspect, is the sound signal generated. Using different speakers as a microphone modulates the sound in different ways… And if we put the speakers in front of each other, cool sounds come out…

Workshop Bending - Day 1

Another device used to generate sound is the buzzer… The buzzer is basically a crystal that vibrates when electricity goes thought it. But, if you vibrate the crystal, you have electricity production, therefore a sound signal. So, if we put a buzzer in the input of an amplifier and a speaker in the output we should hear something…. But the buzzer only generates sounds when the crystal vibrates, and the crystal is a solid, not a membrane, so it needs more energy to vibrate. So buzzers are able to record strong vibrations (like in solids). This makes us able to record cool sounds that are produced inside materials (like ice melting).

Workshop Bending - Day 1

Like the speaker used as a microphone, you can use the buzzer and the output speaker in a feedback mode, here is an example of what you can do, basically, we taped the buzzer to the plastic glass and connected it in the input of the amplifier. The sound produced makes the glass (and the buzzer) jump and produce sound witch makes them jump, etc.

After this we discovered a nice device that reproduces the electromagnetic waves to a sound signal. The cool thing is that you can copy a signal and amplify it with no electric contact. This device was used to spy phone calls (now the armies must have more high tech devices for that… I guess…) , but you can use theme to spy all kind of electromagnetic generator devices (like a computer, or a circuit)… This device can’t be used to produce sound, only to generate signals…

The last component we saw to produce sounds as a microphone was a magnetic head. The magnetic head is able to read data on magnetic tapes or cards. The head generates an electric signal that can be converted into sound.

Workshop Bending - Day 1

Finally, we used radios to generate some strange sounds by opening theme, licking our fingers and playing with the circuits.

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We have a new player…

29 October 2007 at 9:46 pm (Mechatronics, School of Art)

Here is the radio that is going to be used for the bending workshop this week :



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Let’s start, shall we?

29 October 2007 at 7:47 am (Circuit Bending Workshop, First ones, Mechatronics, School of Art)

Good morning (here it’s morning). Today we start the mechatronics workshop with Nicolas Collins, about circuit and toys bending. We had to buy some equipment: a simple radio, some simple electronic devise, a small flashlight, a 9V battery, a cutter.

I bought a tamagotshi and a talky-walk, here are the pictures before the operation.

Tous ensembles pour l'atelier mecatronique

Tamagotshi face

Tamagotshi dos


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Fake Wood, True end?

29 October 2007 at 7:30 am (Hybrid Workshop, School of Art)

This week we finished our project. We have installed the laine de roche in order to get the phonic isolation, we painted the volume in fake wood, we found a system to close the door and we varnished it.

Friday October the 26th morning, we installed all the electronics inside: amplifier, computer, speaker… We found out about a “small problem”: the heat inside the electronics’ space gets too high for the amp, and we had to change the amplifier.

This Friday was evaluation day too; we received some critics like the fact to use a recorded sound and to control the sound rhythm with the wiimote. We agree with the critics we had received, to be honest I really wanted to build system using the live sound record, but we had not the capacities and time to learn and understand perfectly the tools (pure data) used for this. Therefore, this project has a fake wood and a fake end. Now I guess we will improve some things, like the door , the sound system and we will find some solutions for the heat issue.

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Videos/Vidéos 5.0

23 October 2007 at 9:46 pm (Mechatronics, Videos)

Circuit Bent :

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Un PC pour les Plombiers… Et pour Nemo

23 October 2007 at 9:44 pm (Un-Usual Post)

Being a big Mario fan, I just loved the design of this computer!!!

 Really!! Look at that!

 Some days ago, I’ve seen another computer for Find Nemo fans… The boards are in some kind of mineral oil liquid… Awsome! :p

Ordinateur – Aquarium
envoyé par copywriting

 But, ok… This is just an non usual post…

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Getting rhythm control…

22 October 2007 at 8:53 pm (Hybrid Workshop, School of Art)

Last week we had to start building our metronome, we divided the group in order to progress in every aspect on the project. Two students started to do the 3D animation, three students started to work the wood part (to build the piece) and I was doing a little of everything, but I mainly focus on finding a solution for the sound issue. I started working with pure data (very confusing to be honest), then we decided to record the metronome sound and to treat it on a computer. We had to find a way to play it and to set the rhythm. We first thought on electronic solutions, using a digital audio recorder. But the sound quality was really awful, and the rhythm setup was complicated.

EPROM Digital Audio Recorder

EPROM Digital Audio Recorder

Back home, I started to get bored and I decided to make a research about how to connect the wiimote with the computer. I discovered a programme called Glove PIE 0.29, and started to study its use. Basically, the program seems to be built with BASIC language, and it allows writing scripts using a wiimote object. I started learning the script language, which is pretty simple, and started to try to understand how it makes the wiimote and the computer interact. Studying the program possibilities, I saw it is possible to play sounds (only wav files) and it has some tools to measure time and pauses. I started to think on how I could use it for the Metronome project. I end up with a simple code, where thanks to the wiimote, the user could start and stop the metronome and change the rhythm (increasing it and decreasing it). After that, I decided to put some visual and sensorial measures of the beat speed. I use the four LEDs of the wiimote to show how distant is the current beat from the default rhythm value and some rumbling to show the current beat in real time.

You can download the source code of the script here.

PS : The script code is protected by creative commons licence, terms are presented here.

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Push Start, 30 ans de jeux vidéos – François Houste.

21 October 2007 at 12:22 pm (Books)

Ce weekend j’ai fini la lecture du livre Push Start, 30 ans de jeux vidéos de François Houste, qui parle de l’évolution de l’univers vidéo ludique depuis 1958 jusqu’au début des années 2000. Le livre traite les jeux des bornes d’arcade, des consoles de salon, des consoles portables et des jeux sur PC, mais aussi du passage des pixels et d’univers colorés simplistes à la 3D avec ses éditeurs de matériaux.

Même si le livre fait une rétrospective des principales genres et changements, il contient un grand nombre de lacunes. Par exemple, les simulations de courses ne sont pratiquement pas abordés, il ne parle pas tellement de jeux comme Myst , DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), the Sims ou GTA (Great Thief of Auto).. Cependant l’ouvrage montre bien la complexification de la création des jeux vidéos.

En effet, pour l’un premiers jeux, par exemple Pong! , nous avions une balle carrée, des sons purs (tons sinusoïdaux), une physique simplifiée et une quasi absence d’intelligence artificielle. L’évolution des capacités techniques, des supports et la miniaturisation des composants électroniques ont permis l’accès à de nouvelles fonctions et à des rendus de plus en plus spectaculaires.

Cette évolution va conduire l’univers vidéoludique vers une véritable industrie plus coûteuse que l’industrie du film, cela implique une difficulté croissante pour des petits studios de développeurs à exister dans le marché. Cette difficulté s’explique de façon assez simple. En plus des sociétés historiques, qui renferment tradition et savoir-faire, la quantité de matériel et la taille des équipes nécessaires pour développer un jeu accroit. Au début, une équipe de quatre personnes suffisait : un s’occupe de l’éventuelle histoire/scénario, l’autre de la composition musicale, un troisième des graphismes et un dernier pour la programmation (et ça en étant pessimiste). De nos jours, nous avons un directeur artistique, un animateur 3D pour les personnages, un animateur 3D pour les décors, un animateur 3D pour les effets spéciaux, un ingénieur pour l’intelligence artificielle, un ingénieur pour programmer la structure du jeu, un ingénieur pour la physique du monde, un infographiste pour les menus, un compositeur pour les mélodies, un compositeur pour les bruitages (de pas, des moteurs de voitures, etc.), un responsable marketing, et je dois en oublier plein d’autres (et ça en étant optimiste).

Même si le développement de jeux devient de plus en plus complexe, il existe un domaine qui cherche à maintenir un certain niveau de simplicité : le gameplay. En effet, les éditeurs de jeux vidéo cherchent toujours à simplifier au maximum l’utilisation des jeux. Une des recherches de gameplay les plus flagrantes aujourd’hui est la Wiimote, manette de la toute nouvelle Nintendo Wii. La Wiimote est une télécommande sans fil avec dix boutons (plus deux pour la gestion de la console), un haut parleur, un vibreur, quatre DELs, un capteur infrarouge et trois accéléromètres électroniques. Son principe d’utilisation est très simple : la manette devient une extension à part entière de la main du jouer. Pour jouer au tennis, il suffit de tenir la manette comme une raquette de tennis et de l’utiliser comme telle. Les boutons permettent d’augmenter le champ d’action. De plus, grâce au capteur infrarouge, viser se résume à pointer la manette vers l’écran. On a donc avec cette manette un gameplay plus simple et immergent.

Cependant, la gestion des paramètres mesurés par la wiimote reste assez complexe. Avant la wiimote, certaines bornes d’arcade avaient introduit l’utilisation du corps dans le gameplay, c’était le cas des DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), le principe était simple : quatre dalles placées sur le sol, un écran, de la musique et des pas de dance à reproduire.

Plus tard nous avons retrouvé le DDR sur des consoles comme la Playstation de Sony. Mais les tapis ou les dalles de DDR étaient souvent et simplement des boutons que l’on appuyait avec les pieds, ce qui n’empêchait pas de jouer avec une manette traditionnelle. D’autres titres du même style sont sortis, mais avec des batteries, des guitares, des skates, des snowboards, bref la liste est longue.

Un autre type de jeu oublié par le livre sont les jeux de simulation de la vie courante, comme les Sims, sûrement issus des Tamagotchis. Le principe du jeu est de faire la gestion d’un groupe de personnages en leur donnant du travail, en leurs construisant leur maison et en leur faisant faire des rencontres, tout ça en gérant le porte-feuil. Un jeu, qui n’était pas sorti au moment de la publication du livre, qui a sûrement des influences venues des Sims et des MMO (jeux Multi-joueurs Massivement Online – pour faire style) est Second Life. Dans Second Life, le joueur incarne un personnage 100% personnalisable qui vit dans un monde étrange où d’autres joueurs cohabitent (pas de bot, ni d’intelligence artificielle). En fait le jeu est un chat géant avec des avatars en 3D, où l’on peut construire des bâtiments, défier les lois de la physique (on peut voler et se téléporter) tout en essayant de maintenir un très grand réalisme, comme si le personnage était une seconde vie du joueur. Ce qui est intéressant dans ce jeu est le fait que les caractéristiques du jeu créent une sorte de société anarchique, sans pouvoir central, tout en maintenant un capitalisme actif (on peut gagner –beaucoup- d’argent en faisant du commerce et/ou de la publicité). Un autre aspect intéressant dans ce jeu, est l’influence et la liberté politique. Puisqu’il n’y a pas (soit disant) de pouvoir central, les partis politiques, mais aussi d’autre types d’organisation, voient second life comme un vaste terrain de chasse aux votes et aux fidèles. Cela nous montre que la portance de Second Life est beaucoup plus importante qu’un simple chat (je ne me rappelle pas d’avoir reçu de la publicité de partis politiques sur mIRC et je ne me rappelle pas d’avoir vu de sales de chat sur mIRC qui parlaient de politique faire un si grand succès).

En conclusion je dirais que le livre de François Houste donne un aperçu incomplet de l’histoire des jeux vidéo mais montre bien, de manière implicite lorsque l’on réfléchi un peu, les problématiques de l’industrie vidéoludique et de la complexification des jeux, mais que son livre est une bonne introduction dans le milieu.

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Videos/Vidéos 4.0

15 October 2007 at 9:13 pm (Videos)

Happiness Factory – Full Version :

Même les pigeons vont au paradis – Samuel Tourneux :

One Rat Short :

Fetch – Dana Dorian :

Eyes Wide Open :

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