Building a Working Game of Tetris in Conway’s Game of Life

If you haven’t been following along with Conway’s Game of Life, it’s come a long way from the mathematical puzzle published in Scientific American in 1970. Over the years, mathematicians have discovered a wide array of constructs that operate within Life’s rules, including many that can be leveraged to perform programming functions — logic gates, latches, multiplexers, and so on. Some of these creations have gotten rather huge and complicated, at least in terms of Life cells. For instance, the OTCA metapixel is comprised of 64,691 cells and has the ability to mimic any cellular automata found in Life.

A group of hackers has used OTCA metapixels to create a Tetris game out of Life elements. The game features all 7 shapes as well as the the movement, rotation, and drops one would expect. You can even preview the next piece. The game is the creation of many people who worked on individual parts of the larger program. They built a RISC computer out of Game of Life elements, as well as am assembler and compiler for it, with the OTCA metapixels doing the heavy lifting. (The image at the top of the post is the program’s data synchronizer.

Check out the project’s source code on GitHub, and use this interpreter. Set the RAM to 3-32 and hit run.

For a couple of other examples of Life creations, check out the Game of Life clock and music synthesized from Life automata we published earlier.

Extremely Slick Game of Life Based Clock

[Matthews] needed a good present to give to his brother-in-law, who just so happens to be a mathematician and programmer. He wanted something functional but equally geeky at the same time, so he decided to try his hand at making a Game of Life style clock.

He was originally inspired by a Game of Life Clock we shared a few months ago, but with a few improvements. First, he wanted a much bigger playing field, so he found a 16×32 RGB LED matrix. Second, he wanted the time to always be visible so it actually works as a functional clock.

At the heart of the device is an Arduino UNO which utilizes a Chronodot RTC module for accurate time keeping. The entire clock is encased in acrylic sheets and it looks extremely good for a home-made project. He designed the case using a site called MakerCase, which is a super handy application for designing boxes.

At the beginning of every minute starts a new Game of Life which plays over top of the time displayed. Three buttons on the top allow for many adjustments including brightness, timezone, speed, colors, and even edge behavior! To see it in action, stick around after the break.

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Game of Life Clock


[Alex] wanted to make an LED clock. But simply making an LED array clock was far too easy — so he decided to make it follow some interesting rules…

Ever heard of John Conway’s Game of Life? It’s quite simple — there are four rules.

  1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by under-population.
  2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
  3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overcrowding.
  4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.
    [from Wikipedia]

So [Alex] decided to make his clock LED matrix follow these rules, with lit pixels representing life. Every minute, on the minute, the time is displayed. But as soon as it is displayed, the rules take over, and the display disintegrates, following the rules of the Game of Life. It makes for an very interesting display that’s just waiting to be scaled up to a larger size!

He’s done a great job writing it up on his blog, and has included his code as well — so if you’re so inclined, take a look! If not, stick around after the break to see the clock in action.

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Building a giant Game of Life spinner

We see a lot of projects related to Conway’s Game of Life, but this one is Hasbro’s Game of Life. The board game company recently commissioned a giant game spinner as part of a museum exhibit. Here’s the build log that shows how it was pulled off.

The first thing to note is that [Jzzsxm] does this for a living. His company was hired to build several exhibits related to board games for a children’s museum in Springfield, MA. But don’t let that stop you from offering to help at your own local museum. We know some hackers love doing that kind of work.

The scale of the project is what makes the build really interesting. It starts with a design which can be cut out with a CNC router. First the spinner frame and numbers are cut out of MDF to verify the code. From there the design is cut in two pieces out of HI-MACS, a durable solid-surface material. Pegs for spinning the dial are milled from more HI-MACS stock. The clicker mechanism uses a steel rod as a pivot point. On the underside of the table it has opposing springs to hold it in place no matter which way the thing is spun. [Jzzsxm] mentions that it sees a lot of abuse from the young patrons, but seems to be holding up just great!

[via Reddit]

Small life on a character LCD

[Duality] just finished programming Conway’s Game of Life on a character LCD. The game is a great programming exercise that everyone should undertake at one point or another. It uses a very simple set of rules to evolve the playing area from a given starting state. In this case the game grid is only 64 pixels, one for each of the positions on this 16×2 character LCD screen. This makes for very quick games as the cells tend to quickly reach an equilibrium as they arrive at the outer borders. See for yourself in the clip after the break.

We could have sworn we’ve seen this before, but with four times the playing space thanks to some custom characters. We couldn’t find an example of that, but the idea is to use a larger grid (something more like what’s seen on this graphic LCD) by generating a set of custom characters that slices each 5×8 pixel character into four smaller discrete areas. Something along the lines of what is being done with this spectrum analyzer.

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Large remote-controlled Game of Life display


Sometimes it’s just plain fun to over-engineer. [Stephanie] gets a warm fuzzy feeling when she successfully adds way more electronics components to a project than she really needs – just because she can. We can’t really argue with her if that is the intended goal, nor can we find fault with the sweet Game of Life display she put together.

She started off with six Game of Life kits from Adafruit, but she quickly caught the LED bug and her collection grew until she had 20 kits (that’s 320 LEDs for those of you keeping count). After piecing them all together, they were mounted in a wooden frame and placed behind a dark piece of acrylic. It looked great and worked just fine, but it wasn’t overdone enough for her tastes.

In the end, she added a small Arduino and Xbee module to the Game of Life display, which enables it to be controlled by her network-enabled thermostat we featured a few weeks back. The thermostat was fitted with an Xbee unit as well, which allows it to turn the Game of Life on and off at whatever times [Stephanie] specifies.

We’ll take two please.

[via Adafruit Blog]

Music synthesized from the Game of Life


[vtol] has built a very elaborate system of electronic sound machines, which can be patched together in various ways in order to create all sorts of sounds and sound effects. The modules range from simple noise synthesizers to pitch shifters, sequencers, and effects processors. The most recent addition to his synthesizer system is a matrix sequencer named 2112, which focuses on generating random sounds from a very familiar mechanism.

The sequencer simulates Conway’s Game of Life, representing the colony movements in beeps and buzzes, creating a nearly infinite array of random sound effects. Using firmware from the Game of Life board by Ladyada, the sequencer generates different sound patterns based upon the number of colonies on the board. The output varies according to the shapes and proximity of the organisms to one another. Since it is part of his already modular system, the 2112 board can be combined with any number of his other sound generators and effects machines to make all sorts of circuit bent music.

Keep reading to check out the trio of videos below demonstrating the Game of Life board in action.

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