Stuff to follow on from and slot into the Playmakers conversation here and here.

I originally named the Synapse the Synapse because I imagined the arduino-powered, instruction-delivering oojamaflip to be at the head of a chain of people, something a bit like a neuron.

synapse sketch


I’ve just now discovered courtesy of wikipedia that:

The word “synapse” comes from “synaptein”, which Sir Charles Scott Sherrington and colleagues coined from the Greek “syn-” (“together”) and “haptein” (“to clasp”).

Which is even more apt; so if anyone asks, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So right, the question is how to give as many members of the playmakers teams (usually about 15 people, I think) important jobs to do. (NB important does not necessarily equate to sensible.) Rather than thinking of the camera as a huge physical device, I see it more as a large mass of people having to move in unison. On the Ludocity forum I initially suggested remoting the power supply to the video camera so that several people had the responsibility to keep switches closed in order to keep the camera filming. This was an extreme example, and probably not one you’d actually want to do because the stakes are a bit high if someone breaks the circuit and the camera loses power. You’d have to stop play and get things set up to start recording again = too much of a handbrake.

So, back to the old staple of loud noises and flashy lights. Loud noises instantly draw attention to the players both from bystanders and from other teams they may be trying to sneak up on/away from. Flashy lights because if you’re watching playback on 3 screens simultaneously, you’re not going to be able to identify which camera the sound came from.

your players will look like criminals

At tonight’s fizzPOP I hacked together a bike light, an attack alarm and a couple of push-to-break switches to see if the approach looks like it’s got legs. Both switches have to be continuously held down or else lights will flash and noises will be noisy.

After the session the other hackers were kind enough to humour me and help give it a little test. It was raining, but fortunately we were in a building next to a railway viaduct, so we headed for that.

loud noises and flashy lights from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Can confirm lights are bright enough and noises loud enough.

Prior to going outside, we’d had a really good discussion about the Playmakers project, possible roles of technology and what were appropriate roles of technology.

A really interesting idea that bubbled up was what would the scoring be like if you could use augmented reality software to recognise the presence of players from other teams and therefore automate durational scoring? We imagined ridiculously big It’s a Knockout style marker images being carried around the streets.

Could have some interesting implications for superimposing graphics over the videos during the playback too…

Anyway, back to loud noises and flashy lights. From the test we learned:

  • Switches need to be more tricksy: maybe tilt switches or something that rely on the position of whatever you’re carrying – push buttons as they are are too easy to hold shut.
  • Things will get interesting with upwards of about 5 people in a chain.
  • The camera person needs to be quite a way back from the loud noise and flashy light device…
  • … but I like the way the video shows the team doing stuff, having the camera pointed down the line like this.
  • Croc clips can’t be relied upon if you’re running around!