For many 8-bit computing veterans, the original Prince of Persia game was our first exposure to fluid life-like animation on screen. This groundbreaking technical achievement earned the game’s place in nostalgia and history. Ars Technica invited its original creator [Jordan Mechner] to sit in front of a camera and talk through many technical and game design challenges he had to solve. (Video embedded below. Bonus: correct pronunciation of Karateka directly from the creator’s mouth.)
Enjoy the journey back in time as [Jordan] broke down the convoluted process behind Prince of Persia‘s rotoscope animation. Starting with VCR footage, to film negatives, to tracing out with black markers and white correction fluid to generate a high contrast reference suitable for the (then) state-of-the-art digitizer. But generating those frames was just the beginning! They consumed majority of an Apple II’s memory, thus fighting memory constraints was a persistent headache. Fortunately for us, that limitation also motivated memorable elements such as our “Shadow Man” alter ego.
This Prince of Persia feature is the latest episode of Ars Technica’s “War Stories” series, inviting people behind notable games to talk about their work behind the scenes. The creators of Myst put a lot of effort into minimizing the impact of CD-ROM seek times, an entirely theoretical endeavour as they had no CD burner for verification. The creators of Crash Bandicoot paged in game content from CD in 64kb chunks as a player progressed, allowing creation of levels too large to fit in a PlayStation’s memory all at once. Read over these and other short synopsis of episodes so far or go straight to their YouTube playlist.
If this talk of wrangling bits with 6502 assembly code has whet your appetite for more, the source code for Prince of Persia is available for digging into. Don’t worry if you have long since lost track of your Apple II (or never had one) as the code can run in an emulator.
Continue reading “Ingenious Hacks That Brought The Original Prince Of Persia To Life”
Drones (and by that we mean actual, self-flying quadcopters) have come a long way. Newer ones have cameras capable of detecting fast moving objects, but aren’t yet capable of getting out of the way of those objects. However, researchers at the University of Zurich have come up with a drone that can not only detect objects coming at them, but can quickly determine that they’re a danger and get out of the way.
The drone has cameras and accompanying algorithms to detect the movement in the span of a couple of milliseconds, rather than the 20-40 milliseconds that regular quad-copters would take to detect the movement. While regular cameras send the entire screens worth of image data to the copter’s processor, the cameras on the University’s drone are event cameras, which use pixels that detect change in light intensity and only they send their data to the processor, while those that don’t stay silent.
Since these event cameras are a new technology, the quadcopter processor required new algorithms to deal with the way the data is sent. After testing and tweaking, the algorithms are fast enough that the ‘copter can determine that an object is coming toward it and move out of the way.
It’s great to see the development of new techniques that will make drones better and more stable for the jobs they will do. It’s also nice that one day, we can fly a drone around without worrying about the neighborhood kids lobbing basketballs at them. While you’re waiting for your quadcopter delivered goods, check out this article on a quadcopter testbed for algorithm development.
[Sofia] spent a lot of time looking around for the perfect LEGO clock. Eventually, she realized that the perfect LEGO clock is, of course, the one you build yourself. So if you find yourself staring at the same old boring clock, contemplating time and the meaning of time itself, why not spend some time making a new timepiece?
You probably already had the LEGO out (no judgment here). This build doesn’t take a whole lot of building blocks — just a microcontroller, a real-time clock module, some LED matrices to display the digits, shift registers if they’re not already built into the matrices, and a pair of buttons for control. [Sofia] used an Arduino Nano, but any microcontroller with enough I/O ought to work. Everybody needs a colorful new way to block out their time.
We love the way this clock looks, especially the transparent panels in front of the LED panels. Given the countless custom pieces out there from all the special sets over the years, we bet you could come up with some really interesting builds.
If your kid is too young to tell time, try building a kid-friendly clock to give them segmented structure.
In many parts of the world the COVID-19 pandemic is causing shortages in hospital space, staff, medical supplies, and equipment. Severe cases may require breathing support, but there are only so many ventilators available. With that in mind, MIT is working on FDA approval of an emergency ventilator system (E-Vent). They have submitted the design to the FDA for fast track review. The project is open source, so once they have approval the team will release all the data needed to replicate it.
The design is actually made simple by using something that is very common: a manual resuscitator. You have doubtlessly seen these on your favorite medical show. It is the bag someone squeezes while the main character struggles valiantly to save their patient. Of course, having someone sit and squeeze the bag for days on end for thousands of people isn’t very practical and that’s where they’ve included an Arduino-controlled motor to automate the process.
Continue reading “MIT Ventilator Designed With Common Manual Resuscitator; Submitted For FDA Testing”
Making a hole in a piece of material is a straightforward process, after all most of us will have some form of drill. If we need a hole that isn’t round though, after the inevitable joke about bad drill control leading to oval holes, what do we do? Get busy with a file perhaps? Or shell out for a shaped punch? [Skunkworks] has taken a different tack, using LinuxCNC and a vertical mill to machine near-perfect hexagonal and other polygonal holes.
The tool path appears to be more star-shaped than polygon shaped, the reason for which becomes apparent on watching the videos below the break as the rotation of the tool puts its cutting edge in a polygonal path. Anyone who has laboured with a file on a round hole in the past will be impressed with this piece of work.
The latest in the saga takes the work from simple hexes into other shapes like stars, and even tapered polygonal holes. These in particular would be a significantly difficult task by other means, so we look forward to what other developments come from this direction.
Continue reading “A Boring Tale With Six Sides”
Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X, formerly known as Project Scarlet, is slated for release in the holiday period of 2020. Like any new console release, it promises better graphics, more immersive gameplay, and all manner of other superlatives in the press releases. In a sharp change from previous generations, however, suddenly everybody is talking about FLOPS. Let’s dive in and explore what this means, and what bearing it has on performance.
Continue reading “The New Xbox: Just How Fast Is 12 TeraFLOPS?”
Join us on Wednesday, March 25 at noon Pacific for the Side-Channel Attacks Hack Chat with Samy Kamkar!
In the world of computer security, the good news is that a lot of vendors are finally taking security seriously now, with the result that direct attacks are harder to pull off. The bad news is that in a lot of cases, they’re still leaving the side-door wide open. Side-channel attacks come in all sorts of flavors, but they all have something in common: they leak information about the state of a system through an unexpected vector. From monitoring the sounds that the keyboard makes as you type to watching the minute vibrations of a potato chip bag in response to a nearby conversation, side-channel attacks take advantage of these leaks to exfiltrate information.
Side-channel exploits can be the bread and butter of black hat hackers, but understanding them can be useful to those of us who are more interested in protecting systems, or perhaps to inform our reverse engineering efforts. Samy Kamkar knows quite a bit more than a thing or two about side-channel attacks, so much so that he gave a great talk at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference on just that topic. He’ll be dropping by the Hack Chat to “extend and enhance” that talk, and to answer your questions about side-channel exploits, and discuss the reverse engineering potential they offer. Join us and learn more about this fascinating world, where the complexity of systems leads to unintended consequences that could come back to bite you, or perhaps even help you.
Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, March 25 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.
Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
Continue reading “Side-Channel Attacks Hack Chat With Samy Kamkar”