Hard News by Russell Brown


At home with the art-hackers

Leo and I went out to Purple Spheres this week. It's an event sponsored by Orcon, in which a group of eight art-hacker types spend a week in a house at Huia playing with and creating (as it mostly turned out) user interface hacks.

I'm impressed to discover how home-brewable a lot of this stuff is. The gestural interface they built this week for Google Earth uses an open-source application created in Processing. A couple of LED mini-torches, two ping-pong balls and you're driving Google Earth by waving your hands around. Or, rather, Leo was. I discovered it was much harder than it looked, but he seemed to be able to work it better than any of the grown-ups. Kids, eh. We're going to do that one at home.

Even the multi-touch table they've put together isn't that hard to build. Code for that came from The Natural User Interface Group.

Maya McNichol and Leo bonded. Her bio says "She has a fascination with computers and doesn’t really like people much at all.," so that'll be it. He left with a programmable microcontroller and a bunch of LEDs and resistors. Feel free to have a look at the site: they have YouTube clips and this pretty time-wasting sand-trail thingy and they’ll be uploading software.

The visit was also a handy way of keeping Leo's mind off the impending release of Spore. Well, not much longer. We've downloaded the game already and it activates at noon today: at which point a boy in Pt Chevalier will be very happy indeed.

Dramfest is back for 09!

But before that there'll be the New Zealand Music Awards, this year stepping up to the Vector Arena (which will be the first time I've been there). I brought Alastair and Jim from Scoop Media (who are up here this week wooing the agencies) along to the announcement of the finalists, and I was quite impressed with the list.

MGMT fans (and what a diverse bunch you seem to be) will doubtless want to check out this rather winning cover of 'Kids' by British band The Kooks.

And oh lordy, I'm going to the Brian Jonestown Massacre tonight. My knowledge of the band doesn't extend far past having seen DiG! , but I'm fully expecting to enjoy myself. I gather they played an "epic" three hours in Dunedin.

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