A Futuristic Plant To Inspire Bright Ideas

A good video game prop can really spruce up the decor — doubly so if it’s a glowing, futuristic potted plant transplanted(sorry!) straight from Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Since it’s a bit difficult to grow neon light vines, this project is more lamp than plant. The maker with the green thumb is [Phil], from [JumperOneTV], and he is using five meters of warm white strip LEDs cut to varying vine lengths. He’s also procured a store-bought flower pot that conveniently mirrors the in-game model. The vines are made of 16mm polyethylene tubing which he’s shaped using a heat gun — setting their shape by pumping water through it — and secured in the pot with insulation foam. Feeding the LED strips through and wiring them in parallel was simple compared to his next conundrum: supplying the power.

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Mechanical Build Lets You Jump Cacti in Real Life

Simple to learn, hard to master, a lifetime to kick the habit. This applies to a lot of computer games, but the T-rex Runner game for Chrome and its various online versions are particularly insidious. So much so that the game drove one couple to build a real-world version of the digital game.

For those not familiar with the game, it’s a simple side-scroller where the goal is to jump and duck a running dinosaur over and under obstacles — think Flappy Birds, but faster paced. When deciding on a weekend hackathon project, [Uri] thought a real-life version of the game would be a natural fit, since he was already a fan of the digital version. With his girlfriend [Ariella] on the team, [Uri] was able to come up with a minimally playable version of the game, with a stepper motor providing the dino jumps and a simple straight conveyor moving the obstacles. People enjoyed it enough that version 2.0 was planned for the Chrome Developer Summit. This version was much more playable, with an oval track for the obstacles and better scorekeeping. [Uri] and [Ariella] had to expand their skills to complete the build — PCB design, E-Paper displays, laser cutting, and even metal casting were all required. The video below shows the final version — but where are the pterosaurs to duck?

Real-world jumping dinos aren’t the first physical manifestation of a digital game. As in the cyber world, Pong was first — either as an arcade version or a supersized outdoor game.

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Mega Game & Watch: True Multiplayer Game

Today we’re used to handheld game consoles like the Nintendo Switch, that let you roam around in 3D worlds which include not only 3D players but more terrain than many people walk around in real life in a week. But back in the early 1980s Nintendo’s handheld offering was the Game & Watch, which used a segmented LCD display. An entire segment could be used to represent the player, with player segments spread throughout the display. To move the player, the previous player segment would be turned off while another adjacent one would be on. That also meant that a console could play only one game. Despite these limitations they were very popular for their time.

[Thomas Tilley] decided to improve on the old Game & Watch in a different way, by making it bigger, much bigger. So big in fact that even many teenage players can’t reach both the button to move left and the button to move right in time, turning it into a highly co-operative two-player game. Judging by the video below, that made playing it double the fun. The game he chose to tackle is the Game & Watch Octopus, or Mysteries of the Sea and Mysteries of the Deep in the UK.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: A Mess Of VGA On A Breadboard

Before all our video games came over the Intertubes, before they were on CDs, and before they were on cartridges, video games were all discrete logic. Pong was the first and you can build that out of several dozen logic chips. The great [Woz] famously built Breakout out of 44 simple chips.

For [Marcel]’s entry to the Hackaday Prize, he’s taking the single board microprocessor-less computer to the next level. He’s building a multi-Megahertz 64-color computer on a breadboard. What’s the capacitance of a breadboard? Just ask [Marcel].

The design of this disintegrated computer has just about everything you could want in a discrete CPU. There is no microcontroller or complex chips like the 74181 ALU, there’s pipelining with sometimes two instructions per clock, decoding with diodes, and a 60 Hz, 64 color VGA output and four sound channels. There’s only about 40 TTL chips on this board.

The project logs for this Hackaday Prize entry are a treat in themsleves, ranging from topics to the implementation of NES controllers to getting rid of the breadboard and turning this computer into something like a vintage game system, but with a custom CPU and instruction set. It’s an amazing build, and an awesome project for the Hackaday Prize.

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Artificial Intelligence at the Top of a Professional Sport

The lights dim and the music swells as an elite competitor in a silk robe passes through a cheering crowd to take the ring. It’s a blueprint familiar to boxing, only this pugilist won’t be throwing punches.

OpenAI created an AI bot that has beaten the best players in the world at this year’s International championship. The International is an esports competition held annually for Dota 2, one of the most competitive multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games.

Each match of the International consists of two 5-player teams competing against each other for 35-45 minutes. In layman’s terms, it is an online version of capture the flag. While the premise may sound simple, it is actually one of the most complicated and detailed competitive games out there. The top teams are required to practice together daily, but this level of play is nothing new to them. To reach a professional level, individual players would practice obscenely late, go to sleep, and then repeat the process. For years. So how long did the AI bot have to prepare for this competition compared to these seasoned pros? A couple of months.

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Keep Pedaling to Keep Playing

It’s been said that the best way to tackle the issue of childhood obesity would be to hook those children’s video game consoles up to a pedal-powered generator. Of course, this was said by [Alex], the creator of Cykill. Cykill interfaces an Xbox to an exercise bike, so to keep the video game going you’ll have to keep pedaling the bike.

While there is no generator involved in this project, it does mimic the effect of powering electronics from a one. The exercise bike has a set of communications wires, which are connected to a relay on the Xbox’s power plug. When the relay notices that the bike isn’t being pedaled enough, it automatically cuts power to the console. Of course, the risk of corrupting a hard drive is high with this method, but that only serves to increase the motivation to continue pedaling.

The project goes even further in order to eliminate temptation to bypass the bike. [Alex] super-glued the plug of the Xbox to the relay, making it extremely difficult to get around the exercise requirement. If you’re after usable energy instead of a daily workout, though, there are bikes out there that can power just about any piece of machinery you can imagine.

Arbitrary Code Execution is in Another Castle!

When one buys a computer, it should be expected that the owner can run any code on it that they want. Often this isn’t the case, though, as most modern devices are sold with locked bootloaders or worse. Older technology is a little bit easier to handle, however, but arbitrary code execution on something like an original Nintendo still involves quite a lot of legwork, as [Retro Game Mechanics Explained] shows with the inner workings of Super Mario Brothers 3.

While this hack doesn’t permanently modify the Nintendo itself, it does allow for arbitrary code execution within the game, which is used mostly by speedrunners to get to the end credits scene as fast as possible. To do this, values are written to memory by carefully manipulating on-screen objects. Once the correct values are entered, a glitch in the game involving a pipe is exploited to execute the manipulated memory as an instruction. The instruction planted is most often used to load the Princess’s chamber and complete the game, with the current record hovering around the three-minute mark.

If you feel like you’ve seen something like this before, you are likely thinking of the Super Mario World exploit for the SNES that allows for the same style of arbitrary code execution. The Mario 3 hack, however, is simpler to execute. It’s also worth checking out the video below, because [Retro Game Mechanics Explained] goes into great depth about which values are written to memory, how they are executed as an instruction, and all of the other inner workings of the game that allows for an exploit of this level.

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