Category: Things We Like (Page 2 of 5)

ToneMatrix Is The Best Thing Ever

ToneMatrixFor those of you who are like me and didn’t realize the greatest thing to ever happen to the internet was already out, I give you a link to the most addictive piece of music making technology that exists. No need for knowledge of theory or any practice with any musical instruments, all you need to be able to do is click on little light-up squares on a grid. Check this incredible audiotool out and screens or vids of the best combos you come up with. Winner will get their own blog shoutout!


Video Games & Teaching: Why they’re for Smart People

I thought I’d do a quick write up on a few of my favorite games that we have, Mass Effect 3 and Dishonored. Two articles that we have been posted on the media center blog suggest that most individuals may view gaming as simply “doing what you like” or “wasting time playing games”. There seems to be an inability to appreciate video games as an interactive medium which lets a user actively engage themselves in content where decision making, strategy, character development, and high end intellectual and literary themes are all present. The argument that learning done in an enjoyable way isn’t learning strikes me as one of the most baseless and idiotic arguments ever conceived, if anything, it’s a more evolved and high-powered form of learning that we should all strive for. There was once a time film was not a respected form of artistic expression, now it is viewed as one of the most. In the exact same way, video games can artfully and brilliantly present us with stories that move us to sympathy, compel us towards action, or force us into a state of bitter resentment. They have the added benefit, however, of allowing the designers to weave the elements together in a world that the user engages in, rather that just merely sitting and admiring. A good game presents challenges, and these challenges are overcome by the player identifying elements of the game they’re most proficient at, and then capitalizing by creating strategy that puts these elements in the forefront. Someone can call it senseless fun all they like, this is an advanced method of utilzing various cognitive schemas to problem solve.  When you add an entirely new dynamic such as multiple languages that a game can be played in, the power of games as a learning tool increases tenfold. In a game such as Super Mario, this may essentially be a moot point, as the game itself contains barely any dialogue. But throw in a game like Mass Effect or Dishonored and everything changes.


The power of games like Mass Effect or Dishonored lies in the depth the games have, both in terms of meaningful options offered, and the intensive story that’s created through rich dialogue and highly interactive storytelling devices. Take Mass Effect for example, you are given combat situations where you must defeat certain enemy AIs that attempt to adjust to strategies you use. To begin, you have an arsenal of customizable weapons, powers, and armor – each one offering certain advantages and disadvantages. Then you can customize your character by choosing different classes, each also with distinct advantages and disadvantages. This sort of customization leads players to evaluate what will create both the strongest setup in general, and the setup that most effectively lends itself to their playstyle. The same sort of in depth strategy is in place in Dishonored, where the player must constantly choose between stealth and combat. Certain traps that would prove fatal can be wholly circumvented if the player simply elects to craftily construct a strategy which employs the various stealth-based powers and methods the game allows Korvo, the protagonist, to use. This alone would present a basis for educators to promote video games as an educational tool, but throw in the rich storyline with dialogue in a foreign language and you have an entirely new kind of teaching device. Not only do games like Mass Effect and Dishonored have characters and plot elements which teach about things like existentlist ideals, religious zealotry, sacrifice, privileged birth, discrimination, racism/xenophobia, etc. but they are also filled with a rich, dialogue heavy script that in certain cases is completely interactive. Translate this script into another language, and suddenly you have a sort of immersive language teaching device. The ability of a game to draw a player in and keep them interested through the interactive elements gives games a distinctive advantage as a language teaching tool since other methods don’t always compel the learner to stay engaged for more than a short time. Not only are games enjoyable, but they force the learner to really engage in the dialogue in a natural sort of way, since failure to do so will lead to potential struggles with the game play, while making it forgiving enough and fluid enough to feel like a dialogue rather than a series of note cards with translated vocabulary words on the other side. This is the power that games like Mass Effect and Dishonored have, and it’s a power that sadly seems lost on a myriad of brilliant minds simply because pre-conceived biases about the nature of these powerful educational aids have clouded peoples’ ability to accurately judge the merits video games really possess. Hopefully people can immerse themselves in a world of decision making and storytelling, realize the value of some of these games, and incorporate them as a secondary tool in educational curriculum to give learners who prefer non-traditional approaches a different way to enlighten themselves regarding languages, plot structures, critical thinking, and much much more.

Sony Wins E3, and Possibly the Next Generation of Gaming

As the PS3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii reached the end of their life cycles, the big three video game companies were certainly scrambling to find what innovation would win the next generation of consoles. And who could have guessed that it might be, well, not really changing anything? While the Wii U was released  november last year, it has suffered from a small library of games, leaving Microsoft and Sony gearing up for a showdown this June at E3, one of the largest industry expositions, at which they were both expected to reveal their new consoles. (This technically makes the 8th generation of consoles, but we already just started saying “next-gen” last generation so I’m not sure where that leaves us.)


After a lackluster announcement in February in which Sony told us almost nothing about the Playstation 4 – they didn’t even show the console itself – MIcrosoft seemed poised for the kill. But they decided to pre-empt E3, announcing the Xbox One in a press conference in late May, and was immediately panned by critics. While there are some neat features, like integration with Microsoft Smartglass, many fans balked at the new Xbox’s supposed restrictions on used games and game trading – there may or may not be fees associated, zealous digital rights management by requiring the Xbox One to connect to the internet every 24 hours, a high price point at 499$, and no apparent innovations except for a built in Kinect, which would always be on – leading some to voice privacy concerns over having an HD camera with a direct link to microsoft in their living rooms. All of which left the internets calling the thing the “Xbone” and wondering whether Microsoft took one step forward or 359 backwards. Then, yesterday at E3, Sony does this:

That’s one of what fans are calling Sony’s “FU Microsoft” slides. Apparently put together at the last minute in Powerpoint, this part of Sony’s press conference won cheers and thunderous applause – announcing no more than features that everyone had already had in the last generation. Meanwhile, Sony released a video on youtube called the “Official Playstation Used Game Instructional Video” bashing Microsoft’s restrictions by showing how to share games on playstation: hand the game to somebody. Plus, they talked about a few cool features like full integration with the PS Vita and the ability for indie developers to self-publish. And perhaps the best part? The PS4, while featuring basically the same hardware as the Xbox One (minus the Kinect), it’ll be exactly 100$ less at 399$.

Meanwhile, Microsoft brought a press conference to E3 that was “all about the games”. Now, if you’ve just announced a new console and you make your press conference “all about the games” something is clearly amiss. Announcing a new Halo (surprise, Master Chief is back… again) and a slew of other titles, they avoided talking about the new console – probably scared that they’d find some other way to alienate fans. Redditor lolmycat summed up his feelings about Microsoft and the Chief:

So the videogame press and nerds everywhere are hailing Sony as the winners of E3 and the leaders going into the next generation, mostly because they didn’t do anything but wait for their competition to shoot itself in the foot. Microsoft took away features from the Xbox One that gamers expect, Sony didn’t, and priced their console cheaper. More features + cheaper price is a pretty simple marketing win. To recap, as redditor Shadow8P put it: Microsoft has Halo, while Sony has offline play, used games, better hardware and a lower price. The final score? Xbox: one, Playstation: four.

Mind Controlled Flying Robots

Yeah, you read that right. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have unveiled their latest project: a non-invasive system which allows a user to pilot a small, commercially available UAV using their thoughts. A student researcher pilots the quadrocopter through seeming telekinesis in the video that the team released earlier today:

The team at University of Minnesota, which published their findings from this project in The Journal of Neural Engineering, have been working on computer-neural interfaces for some time and previously developed a  system for identifying what patterns of brain activity correspond to certain imaginary movements, like imagining making a fist with your right hand. An EEG (electroencephalogram) cap can detect and identify that thought. The next step was to develop a simple program to translate that to computer input  – at first, this meant moving the paddle in a version of “Pong” up and down. Now, they’ve developed a system that can be used to pilot a drone in 3D space. While of course there’s exciting potential for this technology to be used to help amputees and wheel chair bound persons, there’s tons of other interesting applications for drone technology, like, you know, delivering pizza.

Plan X: A Strange Fusion of Cyberwarfare & Gaming

Hearing that the pentagon is teaming up with DARPA to develop a cyber weapons platform that creates a well defined and polished cyber-warfare platform may not be surprising, but the idea that they’re comparing the graphical interface for this platform to World of Warcraft or Angry Birds should at the very least throw you for a loop. But that’s exactly what the new Plan X that DARPA is working on intends to do, it will blend Cyberwarfare and easy to use gaming interfaces to create a platform a non tech-savvy general could still use to carry out an advanced cyberattack. Underneath the GUI is a complex and well-coded system that should more efficiently enable the U.S. to map and deal out cyber-attacks when they deem appropriate against the networks of  hostile groups, but the actual interface that the commanding officer will use may remind you more of a Starcraft II interface than some complex Matrix-looking code screen. For more details check out this article or Google Plan X to get some of the details on this whacky new project.

Come Play!!!!!

We have two Makey Makeys, 3 Raspberry Pis, and a lot of old or broken electronics. For ideas check out this awesome video out or just come and experiment.

Movies About Computers?

This blog post has a bit of a silly title for the intents and purposes of what I’m actually talking about, but it’s close enough and straight to the point. Every once in a rare while we will see a movie come out about some interesting element of technological history; the most prominent example someone can probably think of in recent history would be “The Social Network” with Jesse Eisenberg starring as Mark Zuckerburg. This isn’t the only sort of example of a movie telling the story of some piece of technological history in regards to computer, media, etc. however, there are other older examples such as “Pirates of Silicon Valley” which tells the story of Apple and Microsoft as well as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Steve Wozniack’s personal sides that also received favorable critical acclaim. So my question on this blog post is what movies can YOU think of that are related to technology and more specifically probably computer/software/etc. side of technology that were worth a watch? Leave a comment on our Facebook page and chime in!

New paint could change the way we see college.

This new paint called IdeaPaint can transform almost any smooth surfaces into drawable boards!

It could drastically change the way we experience classes and campus life!
You could replace all the erasable boards in campus with just a couple gallons of this paint and even use it in dorms, hallways and public areas like the cafeteria.

Here is a note by “Gizmag”:

[button url=”″ ]Gizmag Note[/button]

Just think about the creative possibilities !

Everything you need to know about 3D Printing

Cube Hero created a great little post that brings everyone up to speed on everything related to 3D printing.  Even if you don’t have the slightest idea what this new technology is, you will be well versed after reading it.  Also, you will probably be fascinated by the possibilities and suddenly started seeing articles all around about 3D printing.

**side note: did you know that there is word to describe the phenomenon of seeing a word everywhere that you just learned?  I didn’t until recently.  It’s called Baader-MeinhofScreen shot 2013-03-26 at 11.49.10 AM. Now ya know!**

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