Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ORD Camp 2012

This past weekend Roth Mobot was invited back for our third year to Google's and Inventables' annual technology / education / invention / creativity think tank, ORD Camp, at the University of Illinois' Innovation Center. This event, attended by hundreds, brainstorms in a supportive "unconference" style on how to improve the world with new tools for productivity, new attitudes towards information, and new approaches to education. Roth Mobot gave three presentations:

Circuit Bending 2.0 
So you've hacked a toy... what's next? Blamps!
Tommy Stephenson and the Circuit Bending & Blamps Installation
Roth Mobot has been hacking toys for over thirteen years. We have been teaching the craft since 1999. What we've discovered during that time is that "hacking" and "bending" usually involves opening a device and modifying its native behavior into something completely new. We have moved on to "combining" objects in a method we refer to as "blamping," named after our first experiments of creating novel lamps out of discarded lamps and blenders. Blamping expands the hacker universe and opens new doors for invention and education.

Xiang Qi - Chess's Grandmother An interactive exploration of a critical moment in gaming history
Dan Meyer and Marcin Wichary playing Xiang Qi
If you like Chess, you will love Xiang Qi. It is the ancient Chinese game that was one of a few games that was amalgamated into the modern game of Chess. The game is an engaging way of discussing history, exploring gaming theory, and teaching typical western minds to confidently embrace learning bits of eastern language and symbologies - in this case, Chinese characters.

Musical Cookware What happens when an electronics hacker is let loose in the kitchen?

Patrick McCarthy demonstrating his Musical Cookware
There was an email thread on the ORD Camp site about how to create music from the actions of a typical kitchen. Most responses centered around digitally "sampling" sounds from a kitchen and sequencing them on a laptop. Other approaches included organizing and orchestrating the cooking process itself -- i.e., synchronized chopping, choreographed scraping, and coordinated frying/sizzling. Roth Mobot's approach was to create musical instruments out of the cooking utensils themselves. We created an electronic percussion device by amplifying a cutting board, and an analog synthesizer by electrifying a knife and fork. We passed these signals through a multi-effects unit, an sk-1, and finally to an amplifier.

In addition, Tommy found himself the center of a spontaneous conversation about craft beers and the modern techniques of hops use; and Patrick found himself suddenly teaching a quick class on plastic encasements for homemade circuitry.
Patrick McCarthy demonstrating a method of homemade circuit encasement
Other presentations we attended included a Tequila Sunrise Bot (a device that autonomously mixes cocktails); an Arduino-based robot that plays Angry Birds on an iPad; an advance mathematical discussion on the concept of multiple infinities; a talk on the nature of happiness; a roundtable on how to improve/revolutionize the education system; the current state of 3-D printing; lock picking and security methodology; a Q&A on how to cook anything; the history of text-based games (surprisingly complex and interesting); digital print vs. analog print; appropriate visualization of data; how to tie a bow tie; the decline of certain aspects of human health due to agricultural decisions made thousands of years ago; the perils of digital information addiction; the PTDS underground (Personified Teeth Dental Signs); and, of course, how to play the psych-out game, Werewolf.

Patrick opened Saturday night's Ignite Talks with a demonstration of hacking a crowd of people into a Human Theremin.
Roth Mobot's Patrick McCarthy conducting the Human Theremin