Let Machine Learning Code An Infinite Variety Of Pong Games

In a very real way, Pong started the video game revolution. You wouldn’t have thought so at the time, with its simple gameplay, rudimentary controls, some very low-end sounds, and a cannibalized TV for a display, but the legendarily stuffed coinboxes tell the tale. Fast forward 50 years or so, and Pong has been largely reduced to a programmer’s exercise to see how few lines of code can stand in for what [Ted Dabney] and [Allan Alcorn] accomplished. But now even that’s too much, as OpenAI Codex can generate a playable Pong from just a few prompts, at least most of the time. Continue reading “Let Machine Learning Code An Infinite Variety Of Pong Games”

Sight And Sound Combine In This Engaging Synthesizer Sculpture

We’ll always have a soft spot for circuit sculpture projects; anything with components supported on nice tidy rows of brass wires always captures our imagination. But add to that a little bit of light and a lot of sound, and you get something like this hybrid synthesizer sculpture that really commands attention.

[Eirik Brandal] calls his creation “corwin point,” and describes it as “a generative dual voice analog synthesizer.” It’s built with a wide-open architecture that invites exploration and serves to pull the eyes — and ears — into the piece. The lowest level of the sculpture has all the “boring” digital stuff — an ESP32, the LED drivers, and the digital-to-analog converters. The next level up has the more visually interesting analog circuits, built mainly “dead-bug” style on a framework of brass wires. The user interface, mainly a series of pots and switches, lives on this level, as does a SeeedStudio WIO terminal, which is used to display a spectrum analyzer of the sounds generated.

Moving up a bit, there’s a seemingly incongruous vacuum tube overdrive along with a power amp and speaker in an acrylic enclosure. A vertical element of thick acrylic towers over all and houses the synth’s delay line, and the light pipes that snake through the sculpture pulse in time with sequencer events. The video below shows the synth in action — the music that it generates never really sounds the same twice, and sounds like nothing we’ve heard before, except perhaps briefly when we heard something like the background music from Logan’s Run.

Hats off to [Eirik] for another great-looking and great-sounding build; you may remember that his “cwymriad” caught our attention earlier this year.

Continue reading “Sight And Sound Combine In This Engaging Synthesizer Sculpture”

Perlin Noise Helps Make Trippy Typographic Art

Perlin noise is best explained in visual terms: if a 2D slice of truly random noise looks like even and harsh static, then a random 2D slice of Perlin noise will have a natural-looking blotchy structure, with smooth gradients. [Jacob Stanton] used Perlin noise as the starting point for creating some interesting generative vector art that shows off all kinds of different visuals. [Jacob] found that his results often exhibited a natural quality, with the visuals evoking a sense of things like moss, scales, hills, fur, and “other things too strange to describe.”

The art project [Jacob] created from it all is a series of posters showcasing some of the more striking examples, each of which displays an “A” modified in a different way. A few are shown here, and a collection of other results is also available.

Perlin noise was created by Ken Perlin while working on the original Tron movie in the early 80s, and came from a frustration with the look of computer generated imagery of the time. His work had a tremendous and lasting impact, and was instrumental to artists creating more natural-looking textures. Processing has a Perlin noise function, which was in fact [Jacob]’s starting point for this whole project.

Noise, after all, is a wide and varied term. From making generative art to a cone of silence for smart speakers, it has many practical and artistic applications.

EP Composes A New Chiptune Each Time

[Captain Credible] is a chiptune music artist. He wanted to release an EP, but a regular old em-pee-three was too lame for him, so he made a tiny board with a coin cell, an ATtiny85, and a 3.5mm socket on it.

Rather than just writing some code to generate the tones for a pre-composed song, his “Dead Cats” EP generates the music itself. Using the arduino-tiny library, which adds the tone() function to the ATtiny, he has the chip pick its own time signature, key, subdivisions, and tempo. The melody and drum beat is randomly generated into an array. In addition to that, there are some code “one-liners” which insert unique sounds. After that the code just loops through the music.

If you don’t like the song, simply unplug the audio cable and plug it back in. The 3.5mm jack he chose has a built-in micro-switch, so the board is only powered up if someone is listening. If you’d like to see the circuit diagram, purchase the EP, or take a look at the code, all of that is available on his site.