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Sex, Circuits and Deep House (bunniestudios.com)
309 points by etiam on Sept 28, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments

Wow, this is incredibly well-executed. I worked in a lab with Bunnie years ago; it's great to see he's still as thoughtful and thorough as he was then. I wish I had the dedication, time and aptitude to execute as well as he does.

A great tidbit:

I designed a very simple protocol which will only reveal if your friends are nearby, and nothing else. Every badge emits a broadcast ping every couple of seconds. Ideally, I’d use an RSSI (receive signal strength indicator) to figure out how far the ping is, but due to a quirk of the radio hardware I was unable to get a reliable RSSI reading. Instead, every badge would listen for the pings, and decrement the ping count at a slightly slower average rate than the ping broadcast. Thus, badges solidly within radio range would run up a ping count, and as people got farther and farther away, the ping count would decrease.

I didn't really understand this part:

decrement the ping count at a slightly slower average rate than the ping broadcast

Is he saying he's reducing the power of each subsequent transmitted ping, causing nearby units to see more pings than far away units, or something else entirely?

Here's what I think is happening (without actually looking at the code).

1. For each person, store an integer ("ping count").

2. Whenever you receive a ping from that person, increment the ping count.

3. Periodically decrement the ping count, stopping at zero.

4. When a person's ping count is zero, do not display them on the screen.

Let's say a ping is transmitted every second. "decrement the ping count at a slightly slower average rate than the ping broadcast" means that #3 should happen every 1.2 seconds.

The result of this is that, if somebody is solidly within broadcast range, their ping count constantly goes up.

If they are just past the edge of broadcast range, they'll start getting signal loss. The result is that some of their signals will be delivered and some won't. This will mean that their ping count will slowly drop. If someone is completely outside of broadcast range, their ping count will drop more quickly.

This is similar to how direct stream digital audio (SACD) encodes with a 1 bit dac at 2.8 MHz bitrate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_Stream_Digital

Cool tidbit: you can do the digital to analog for this with a low-pass filter.

I found it confusing too so I checked out the linked code [0]. Looks like when you're actively receiving pings from friends it slows down how fast that friends ping counter on your badge decreases so they accumulate a larger ping count and appear "stronger" or closer to you.

Then as you stop receiving pings (I assume, I'm at work, didn't delve too deep), the ping decrement rate goes back to normal and they get "weaker" or farther from you.

Absolutely a super neat way to solve the issue of not being able to account for signal strength.

[0] - https://github.com/bunnie/chibios-orchard/blob/orchard-r2/or...

In practice, you'd have some friends on your list even when you were down a couple of blocks (at C for the portas, for exmaple) and couldn't actually get through, or it was definitely at the edge of range and you might just have got a signal through if lucky (I tried down there and never did), so there is some lag involved, but some intelligence helps you figure that out.

reminds me of avalanche tracker beacons

I'd like to commend his propagating better-than-usual understanding of biological trait blending.

At school (in Israel) we learned that you have Dominant Genes and Recessive Genes, and Dominant trumps Recessive. Just a month ago I got to hear a more correct description from a biologist friend, which sounds much like Bunnie's implementation:

In order to capture the wonderful diversity offered by sex, I implement quantitative traits in the light genome. Instead of having a single bit for each trait, it’s a byte, and there’s an expression function that combines the values from each gene (alleles) to derive a final observed trait (phenotype).

By carefully picking expression functions, I can control how the average population looks. Let’s consider saturation (I used an HSV colorspace, instead of RGB, which makes it much easier to create aesthetically pleasing color combinations). A highly saturated color is vivid and bright. A less saturated color appears pastel, until finally it’s washed out and looks just white or gray (a condition analogous to albinism).

If I want albinism to be rare, and bright colors to be common, the expression function could be a saturating add. Thus, even if one allele (copy of the gene) has a low value, the other copy just needs to be a modest value to result in a bright, vivid coloration. Albinism only occurs when both copies have a fairly low value.

Also, Bunnie's blog has a great awesome to noise ratio. Check out his post about a tour in a zipper factory: http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4364

Edit: text formatting

I adore lots of the bunniestudios blog posts but "awesome to noise" is the exact opposite of how I'd describe that blog. There are dozens of "Name that ware" (and "Winner: name that ware...") posts and in recent history they vastly outnumber the good stuff.

I think you're being unfair: compare it with the noise on many other blogs, and he compares vey favourably. Also the density and quality of the information in his analytical posts is very very high indeed.

I enjoy the blog posts with substance, however the majority of the posts are "guess the mystery unlabeled circuit board" which isn't really my thing. Take a look at the last 12 posts:

- Sex, Circuits & Deep House

- Name that Ware, September 2015

- Winner, Name that Ware July 2015

- Name that Ware, July 2015

- Winner Name that Ware June 2015

- Name that Ware, June 2015

- Winner, Name that Ware May 2015

- Name that Ware, May 2015

- Winner, Name that Ware April 2015

- Name that Ware April 2015

- Winner, Name that Ware March 2015

- The Heirloom Laptop’s Custom Wood Composite

See what I mean?

I can't speak for bunnie, but to hazard a guess he's bloody busy right now.

I know and that is completely what I expected. I had typed out a "disclaimer: I know Bunnie and his team have a lot going on, I am not having a go" proviso but I figured HN was a place where we don't need to have be so defensive :-/

Yep, I think we're in agreement. My reply would have been better if I'd added a note that I've seen that kind of pattern on other blogs before. It's hard to keep a highly technical blog going while also doing the projects that give you material to blog about in the first place!

I think we're in agreement too. Not defensive, only that it seemed a churlish criticism! Anyway, onwards to constructive things!

that's a bit unfair: those are monthly things which you can easily skip. Yes, the UX could be better, but he has other priorities. IMNSHO it's worth the little extra effort.

Sorry, I should have added "as long as you skip everything with Name That Ware in the title".

In that case we're 100% on the same page :)

tldr: Light badges that breed patterns by communicating with each other. Worth skimming the illustrations are great.

"I wanted to make a bit of lighting that my campmates could use to stay safe – and optionally stay classy by offering a range of more subtle lighting effects. I also wanted the light patterns to be individually unique, allowing easy identification in dark, dusty nights. However, diddling with knobs and code isn’t a very social experience, and few people bring laptops to Burning Man. I wanted to come up with a way for people to craft an identity that was inherently social and interactive. In an act of shameless biomimicry, I copied nature’s most popular protocol for creating individuals – sex.

By adding a peer-to-peer radio in each badge, I was able to implement a protocol for the breeding of lighting patterns via sex."

I remember running into the Institute on Esplanade and asking "The Institute of What?". They had all kinds of interesting gadgets on their front lawn. I really love the concept and implementation of this, in particular the careful consideration of proximity detection instead of a chat client. Really lovely way to promote human interaction instead of drawing the user in to interacting with the device itself.

The village is called "The Institute for Higher Yearning".

Also worth checking out BattleBlimps, which was developed by False Profit Labs: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/battle-blimps. Hydrogen filled blimps, controlled by an xbox controller talking to an Arduino over a custom bluetooth protocol. When you collide two blimps together, one of them blows up, Hindenburg style.

Also, also, Horse Tornado, which was a persistence of vision art piece: https://www.tilt.com/tilts/horse-tornado-interactive-phantom....

Lastly, we had a revised art car this year too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0JzPgd9f9g. It was fun watching the muse dry-eeg light up the brain during the Thursday night party we attended.

Twas a good year.

if that was once a name (and I've not ever heard that from any of the original miscreants) it's not really used now. But it's definitely a place of science, art and curiosity.

I assumed The Institute is a nod to MIT. Can't let The Phage and the Hive take all the MIT folk ;)

> The new LED pattern replaces the current pattern on the egg donor’s badge

So there are some constraints here that point toward what a version 2 could look like. Under the current paradigm, every child has a unique set of parents - there are no full siblings. And there are no cousins through the egg donor side. Like real sex, there is no way to take an exceptionally fit egg donor and see what the child could look like with different sperm donors - you can do this with Electric Sheep though. Electric Sheep breeds randomly and has an upvote/downvote feedback mechanism, some kind of additional feedback mechanism could be added to these badges to hasten evolution.

It seems like the constraints to the badge are by virtue of it relying on physical hardware of which finite instances are available, whereas Electric Sheep is limited only by much more vast software resources. So maybe the badge creatures have a lifecycle, when they reproduce instead of replacing the egg donor immediately, the child enters a pool waiting to spawn in the next available deceased badge creature?

The idea is amazing. I just wonder if he had also implemented the Chromosomal Crossover in the "sex" function. From his description of the results it seems so, but he hadn't described it and it seems an interesting part to explain.

Amazing work.

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