Category Archives: Events

Dorkbot-SF Meeting Tuesday, 01/13/09

Dorkbot-SF is holding their next meeting at Monkeybrains next Tuesday, 1/13, at 7:30PM.

Here’s a summary of the talks for next week, hope to see you there!

Joe Grand – The Projects of Prototype This

Designing and building projects is hard. Designing and building projects of things that have never been done before is harder. Designing and building projects of things that have never been done before with the financial and time constraints of television is verging on ridiculous.

For 18 months, I was a co-host of Prototype This on Discovery Channel, an engineering entertainment program that followed the real-life design process of a unique prototype every episode. Comprised of an electrical engineer (that’s me), a roboticist, a material scientist, and special effects guy, we had the major bases covered and would often join forces with outside resources. We filmed thirteen episodes in very challenging conditions and that single season has almost finished airing.

In this mostly visual presentation, I’ll go through design details and show never-before-seen pictures and videos related to some of my favorite episodes, including the Traffic-Busting Truck, Fire Fighter PyroPack, and Virtual Sea Adventure, each of which had to be designed and built in a matter of weeks.

Joe Grand (aka Kingpin) is an electrical engineer, hardware hacker, and president of Grand Idea Studio, Inc., where he specializes in the invention, design, and licensing of consumer products, video game accessories, and modules for electronics hobbyists. He also spent many years as part of hacker collective L0pht Heavy Industries in Boston finding security flaws in hardware devices and educating engineers on how to increase security of their designs. He.s written a few books, holds a few patents, and is also the sole proprietor of Kingpin Empire, a project that gives back to the technology and health communities through charitable donations. His contributions to Prototype This can be found on his site at:

Michael Ang – Gigapixels: Practice and Aesthetics

Creating images with gigapixel (1 billion pixel) resolution is now within the reach of anyone with a digital camera and computer. Picture taking robots such as the GigaPan can automatically take many overlapping pictures of a given scene. The individual pictures can be automatically stitched together to create a large final image. What are the aesthetics of this newly accessible medium? How does stitching together many small images differ from taking one very large one?

Michael (aka “Mang”) first used the GigaPan in the summer of 2007, when he took a prototype unit from Moffett Field to Alaska by pickup truck. This talk presents some of his work with robotically assisted photography. Practical aspects of creating large panoramas will be presented as well less straightforward uses of the technology.

Mang holds a BASc in Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo in Canada and a Master’s Degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications program. His interests include the intersection of technology, art and physical experience.

Paul Cesewski (aka Paul da Plumber)- Fun is the Universal Language

Explore a carnival of interactive machines. People powered contraptions delight and amuse. New and used materials are used in a kind of contemporary alchemy. The re-animation of yesterdays dreams.

Paul’s work focuses on interactive sculptures. He has worked in general contracting work, fabrication, and high-end construction for the last twenty years and has built many commissioned public art projects in the context of his own work, on collaborations, and as part of San Francisco’s Bike Rodeo.

Some of Paul’s installations include: Bicycle Ferris Wheel and Bike to the Moon, Cyclefuge, Lotus Land, etc.

The Crucible’s Gifty Art Sale this Weekend

Crucible Holiday Gift Sale

The Crucible is having their annual Gifty Art Sale this weekend (December 13th -14th) from 10AM to 4PM.

The Crucible is an industrial arts school in West Oakland where you can take classes in welding, machine shop, neon sign construction, glassblowing, beads, and fire performance.  I took the machine shop class there last year and absolutely loved it.

The Crucible also puts on an event every year called the Fire Arts Festival which is part carnival, part outdoor theater, part Burning Man, and part fiery, burning chaos.  Check it out next year if you haven’t seen it before, it is definitely one of the Bay Area’s top ten events of the year.

Blip Festival 2008 Video

My good friend Mark in NYC shot this awesome video of the 2008 Blip Festival at The Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.  He used a Canon HV20 digital HD camcorder with very impressive low light abilities.

Blip Festival 2008 from Mark M on Vimeo.

I also shot some photos of the event, most are available on flickr.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Warning, MySpace links ahead.  Shields up!

Cheap Dinosaurs making his Gameboy sing:

Blip Festival 2008

Bit Shifter, one of the major forces behind the 8bitpeoples label:

Blip Festival 2008

USK, performing with Anamanaguchi:


Blip Festival 2008 was awesome and we’ll definitely be looking forward to 2009!

Blip Festival Schedule Posted

The full lineup and schedule for the 2008 Blip Festival is now available.  The festival takes place in NYC a little over a week from now, on December 4th-7th.

From the festival site:

Highlighting the chipmusic phenomenon and its related disciplines, the festival aims to showcase emerging creative niches involving the use of legacy video game & home computer hardware as modern artistic instrumentation. Devices such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Nintendo Game Boy and others are repurposed into the service of original, low-res, high-impact electronic music and visuals — sidestepping game culture and instead exploring the technology’s untapped potential and distinctive intrinsic character.

The Blip Festival assembles nearly 40 practitioners selected from the chip music movement’s expansive global underground, taking care to represent as many as possible of the genre’s surprisingly diverse styles, geographical and technical scenes, communities, and traditions. The festival’s concert program will be supplemented by daytime events to be announced, including workshops, presentations, and screenings. The Blip Festival’s intended result is to provide a cross-section of a movement currently in explosive flux, teeming with artistic exploration, and poised at the cusp of global awareness.

What is so cool about 8-bit music and the Blip Festival?

As a child of the 80s, I was exposed to the 8-bit sound first through video games on the Commodore 64 and the Nintendo Entertainment System, and much later through the vibrant chiptune scene that surrounded the Commodore Amiga computer.  I distinctly remember loading games on my C64 just to hear the music – it wasn’t unusual for a game to have music than graphics or gameplay.  Years later, I’m not sure if it’s because 8-bit music was ahead of it’s time or that electronic music today is embracing a more raw low-fidelity sound, but I still find the 8-bit sound fresh and interesting.  Certainly it does have something to do with the many talented chiptune artists that have chosen to exploit the 8-bit sound in ways that remind me of the old but are also completely original and new.

(By the way, the C64 is even now playing a hidden role in popular music – see the Timbalands controversy and the Sidstation, used most notably in Fischerspooner’s Emerge and Kernkraft 400’s Zombie Nation.)

If you can’t make it to the Blip Festival, one of the best introductions to 8-bit music is the 8-Bit Operators album.  The album features 15 covers of Kraftwerk by 8-bit artists and gives you a taste of a few very different approaches to the 8-bit sound.  Also check out the Gamewave Podcast, which often features artists that have performed at the Blip Festival in previous years, many of which will return in December.