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Category: Ideas

Off-the-shelf electronic warfare

Off-the-shelf electronic warfare

LoRa (Long Range) radio uses little power and can communicate at up to three miles in urban areas and five miles or more in the open. Many drone operators now use a repeater, carried on another drone, to extend the reach

First-person view (FPV) drones are quickly becoming a key weapon in the Ukraine conflict. There is rapidly developing drone warfare involving thousands of drones every month. Both Russia and Ukraine have fielded jammers and drone guns firing radio waves to knock out drone communications.

Most recently a Russian group claims to have developed a ‘magic radio’ for FPVs which is highly resistant to jamming. A physicist with the handle DanielR evaluated the device minutely in a detailed Twitter thread. While the technology is not astounding, what is interesting is that the device uses cheap, off-the-shelf components.

Would you pay $48,000 for in-game content?

Would you pay $48,000 for in-game content?

It’s no secret that Star Citizen is a cash cow who’s development and loyal following has been nothing short of astounding. Driven by fans and that success, they’re now introduced an in-game content pack that’s even more mind boggling.

The Legatus Pack is the Cadillac of all Star Citizen ship packages; it includes every single ship in the game as well as all of their associated paint schemes. It also includes all of Star Citizen’s limited edition/special edition ships that are virtually impossible to buy otherwise. And it costs a whopping $48,000.

This seems like a brazen cash grab by the developers – but ironically the Legatus pack was inspired by the Star Citizen community itself. There was high demand for a package like this from several Star Citizen backers, many of whom utilize their ships across corporations (a guild) which include hundreds, if not thousands, of players. And these players spend money. LOTS of money.

The studio is a cash cow. It brought in $113 million in 2022 and $104 million in 2023. Most of this revenue comes from ship sales and from their ‘Intergalactic Aerospace’ event put on each year. The virtual convention held in game allows everyone to play the game for free and to fly most of the ships in the game for no additional cost. Star Citizen also features ship sales during the event, further incentivizing gamers to buy ships.

This brings up an amazing set of ideas. You now have conventions selling ships. In-game whales that have corporations/clans that might all pitch together to buy packages like this. It reminds me of the same real-world economics of vehicle fleets from rental cars to delivery services use. Could a person create a monthly subscription and ‘rent’ these ships out to their – or even other – guilds/guild members? It could be a fascinating way to make some side money running your own version of Hertz Rent-A-Ship for those that need some extra horsepower for particularly big cargo deal or big battle. Just don’t forget to buy the insurance – space ship windshields are expensive. 😀


Humane Pin launched

Humane Pin launched

It looks like the Humane pin has finally launched at a relatively reasonable cost of $699. We finally have some details. I’m pretty sure it’s not a smartphone killer – Humane has definitely backed off from that original stance.

The translation feature is a really excellent usage and having a simple assistant that can let you check flight times and send text messages without pulling out your phone is pretty slick. But I’m not sure about a lot of the rest. Needing a $20 monthly subscription and not tethering with your existing phone plan is a troubling extra expense.

Having to interact with it with talking will definitely make it a bit awkward in social and public situations. I bet it would have problems at a dinner party or louder venue. Gesture recognition is a finicky technology (especially in strange lighting conditions, if you’re wearing gloves, etc), so if there are any issues there it could be very frustrating and you can only do so much with simple gestures.

The screen projection looks limited to high contrast basic information. You certainly won’t be reading lots of text – which is problematic if you want to read text messages instead of having them read aloud to you (and everyone else around you). I certainly wouldn’t want everyone to hear what people are texting me; but maybe they’ll allow blue tooth headphone tethering.

I think the biggest issue is that it didn’t live up to the hype. Almost all of these things can be done with your average smart phone – albeit with a little more fiddling. The AI just isn’t really delivering a unique enough set of features to live up to the promise of the device. It really seems to just be giving you a more vocal interface – which I’m not sure is enough of a selling point. The reality is people likely do not want to be talking to their devices in public. I could easily see the iWatch or smart phones integrating some of these features though.

The one thing is does do is make me start thinking of how we interact with our technology very differently. How would a truly smart AI assistant be like to interact with? What would a really functional assistant like this operate like? I’m glad someone is trying this out. Even if it’s not successful, it’s going to breed a lot of new ideas.

The reddit chat on the device seems to mirror a lot of the concerns. Also, it seems they only have about 100,000 interested folks sign up to purchase one. I’m one of those people who signed up, but it required no deposit/etc so it’s uncertain how many actual buyers there will be.

Final thought: The way you tap it makes me think immediately of Star Trek communicator badges. I bet it’s not long before someone mods one.


Creating really cool camp stove fire

Creating really cool camp stove fire

Hoshizora Camping demonstrates a cool way of making your camp stove super cool. He first angles the holes in the secondary combustion layer and then adds a fire ring to an ordinary, boring camp stove. With some tweaking, the flame coming out of your stove will be tornadoed into a cool braid-like effect. I like how he shows how he experiments with different configurations to get the best effects.

I think this would be a great way to add a luxury touch to your camp stove and give you something cool to watch at the end of a long day of hiking or climbing.

Listening to the ancient past

Listening to the ancient past

Equator AI created a video series that answers the question of what ancient languages sounded like. They even tackle some purely reconstructed proto-languages like Indo-European that was re-built from later derived (but documented) Indo-European languages.

The first video demonstrates Old Norse, Latin, Old English, Proto-Celtic, Phoenician, Hittite, and Akkadian. I can affirm the Latin is understandable but has an interesting accent. We do actually have some idea of how things were pronounced in Latin, because ancient documents exist that gave pronunciation guides or even (in a mirror of modern grammar Nazi’s) complained about common pronunciation errors.

This second video shows off Proto-Indo-European, Sabaic, Sanskrit, Aramaic (bonus points for the video character looking like Jesus), Sumerian, Old Chinese, Ge’ez, and Gothic.

Since it is all AI generated, it seems like it would be an interesting way of adding authentic language pronunciation to games about the past. Imagine playing Civilization and having each of the ancient leaders speaking their actual languages.

If you like this, maybe give learning Latin a try.


Mondo Croquet and Mad Hatter Party

Mondo Croquet and Mad Hatter Party

I ran across these guys in the park when I moved here 20 years ago. It looked like a Mad Hatter dinner party, so I pulled over. There were all these strange folks dressed in wacky clothes and playing croquet with bowling balls and sledgehammers. I watched for a bit and enjoyed talking and learning about these folks playing something they called Mondo Croquet.

Mondo Croquet is regular croquet, but with bowling balls and sledgehammers. I noticed that they had a small pile of cracked open bowling balls, so it’s definitely a contact sport. It is also carried out with players wearing costumes and stylings of a late 1800’s English lawn or mad hatter style party.

It was started by Stephen Peters in 1997. Read more here in The Oregonian.

Anyway, they’ll be having their FREE annual 2023 Mondo Croquet World Championships and Mad Hatter Picnic this Sunday, July 30, 2023 from noon–4pm in the north park blocks.

Pull on your British Lawn Whites, your Ham Sammmich costume, your Spock ears or perhaps just your sunglasses and get ready to smack some balls.

What to bring?

  • something cold to drink
  • a chair to set a spell
  • a snack to share with the Mad Hatter Picnic

If you have one, a sledgehammer is handy, but we come equipped with enough hammers and bowling balls so no worries. In fact, you can just come and watch if you’d like.

We do suggest you can turbo-up your fun by dressing appropriately, or appropriately inappropriate. Need some suggestions? Check out past photos:

Retro games with modern graphics – using AI

Retro games with modern graphics – using AI

We’re already seeing a real revolutions in retro gaming via emulation. Preservation of old hardware is important, but it’s also seen as almost impossible task as devices mass produced to only last 5-10 years in the consumer market reach decades of age. Failure rates will eventually reach 100% over enough time (unless people re-create the hardware). But with modern emulators, you can still play all the different games on modern hardware.

On a separate development note, we’ve also seen graphics effects like anti-aliasing and upscaling get the AI treatment. Instead of hand-coded anti-aliasing kernels, they can be generated automatically by AI and the results are now included in all major hardware vendors.

But what about the very graphics content itself? Retro game art has it’s own charm, but what if we gave it the AI treatment too?

Jay Alammar wanted to see what he could achieve by pumping in some retro game graphics from the MSX game Nemesis 2 (Gradius) into Stable Diffusion, Dall-E, and Midjourney art generators. He presents a lot of interesting experiments and conclusions. He used various features like in-painting, out-painting, Dream Studio and all kinds of other ideas to see what he could come up with.

The hand-picked results were pretty great:

He even went so far as to convert the original opening sequence to use the new opening graphics here:

I think this opens up a whole new idea. What if you replaced the entire game graphics elements with updated AI graphics? The results would essentially just become a themed re-skinning with no gameplay (or even level changes), but this definitely brings up the idea of starting your re-theming for new levels (fire levels, ice levels, space levels, etc) by auto-generating the graphics.

Then it brings up the non-art idea of re-theming the gameplay itself – possibly using AI generated movement or gameplay rules. Friction, gravity, jump height, etc – could all be given different models (Mario style physics, Super Meat Boy physics, slidy ice-level physics) and then let the AI come up with the gravity, bounce, jump parameters.

Interesting times…


Using round displays

Using round displays

Penk Chen created a nifty little computer with a round display. Even more cool, he made the project completely open source – including the 3D printable parts . Just gather up the right parts and give it a go:

I was always a big fan of Manny Calavera’s computer in Grim Fandango. Maybe this is an opportunity for me to make one.