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Graduation season is well underway, with kindergartners, high schoolers, college seniors and graduate students alike donning caps and gowns to celebrate their achievement. With their diplomas, graduates also get words of wisdom from a commencement speakers and a good excuse to celebrate. -- Lloyd Young ( 31 photos total)
US Naval Academy graduates throw their hats at the conclusion of their commencement and commission ceremony, attended by President Barack Obama at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on May 24 in Annapolis, Md. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)     

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Ken Lyons

A tornado touches down near El Reno, Okla., Friday, May 31, 2013, causing damage to structures and injuring travelers on Interstate 40. Another series of deadly tornados swept across Oklahoma injuring hundreds and causing multiple fatalities including a team of storm chasers. Smoke rises from the International Red Cross building after a gun battle between [...]

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There have been numerous commercial attempts at "games" that are controlled with biometrics, particularly brain waves. There's Mattel's Mindflex, for example, as well as the Star Wars Force Trainer. They're almost purely novelty items, and don't particularly work that well.

Crooked Tree Studios founder Lat Ware (who's programmed games at studios including Realtime Worlds and Crytpic) wants to add some real competitive gameplay to the novelty of brainwave-controlled applications. He's using Kickstarter to try to fund Throw Trucks with Your Mind, a competitive multiplayer game in which players put on a commercially-available brainwave sensor and essentially focus their thoughts to toss vehicles and pieces of the environment at other players to win. Movement is done via mouse and keyboard but attacks are pure thought.

We caught up with Ware to talk about Throw Trucks and pick his brain about the future of biometrics-controlled games.

How does it work?

The headset is an EEG, which is basically a really sensitive volt-meter. It looks at surface voltages in the brain, which decades of research have mapped to specific thought patterns. NeuroSky's MindWave is processing the data for me to extract how calm and focused you are. I do not know the details of the algorithm that they're using, but it does work.

You don't have to think a specific thought to raise your focus, though it is different for different people. In my case, I stare at the dot in the center of the screen and tune out everything else. Some people focus on a specific word on the screen. Some people listen to a specific sound, like the laptop fan. I have one friend who computes prime numbers in his head. The headset doesn't care what you focus on, only that you are focused. Calm is more subject and interesting.

In my case, I have to believe in myself and if I doubt myself, I can't do it. I have one friend that imagines the effect that he wants and trusts that it will happen, and that raises his calm. Focusing on your breathing helps. Thinking about something that makes you happy helps. People in happy, committed relationships often have their calm jump by 30 percent when they think about their significant other. It's fundamentally about mental relaxation, but what makes you relaxed is a complex beast.

What's the difference between this and other biometrics-controlled games? Why is it more responsive?

The biggest difference between this and other biometric games is that this is a fully fleshed out game. Levitating a ball with your focus is not a game. Unlocking doors with your calm is not a game. Filling up a meter is not a game. Those are elaborate meters. Throw Trucks With Your Mind is an actual game, as competitive as the Modern Warfare games, but with a completely new style of play that uses the features of the headset. I have a general rule about games: If you can't win and you can't lose, it's not a game. There are a couple exceptions, but it has served me well.

Where do you see biometrics-controlled games going in the future?

Well, in the next 15 years, a game like Throw Trucks With Your Mind will come out. If my Kickstarter succeeds, it will happen right now. If that is a success, then we can expect a wave of EEG-based games about 10 years afterwards. That would drive not so much innovation, but a reduction in price. Right now, purely brain-controlled interfaces just aren't there yet. We're getting better, and I feel like we might have a good, affordable brain-controlled interface in 15 years, depending on how much is invested in this technology. That said, I don't see the controller going away from mainstream gaming.

Why Kickstarter? Are venture capitalists unconvinced?

I actually spoke to eight venture capitalists and a number of investors about the game and the feedback I kept getting was to prove user traction, then come back. So, I had a conundrum because I needed user traction to get funding, I needed a product to get user traction, and I need funding to get a product. The minimum viable product doesn't work so well when it requires an $80 piece of hardware. Kickstarter broke me out of that loop.

What happens to the game if the Kickstarter fails?

If Kickstarter fails, I don't know. Maybe the project will be salvageable as I will have shown that I was able to raise $27,000 (at the time of this writing), even though I didn't get it because of Kickstarter's rules. Maybe that would still show solid demand for the product, since it was raised entirely from customers. Maybe that would be enough to convince an incubator or investor to pick me up. I am unsure. I haven't given it any thought, because all of my energy and time has gone to campaigning for the Kickstarter as hard as I possibly can. I haven't given myself any time off.

[Kris Graft wrote this article originally on sister site Gamasutra.]

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In a Berlin courtroom earlier today, the Technoviking met his maker. The star of one of the most emblematic Internet cultural phenomenons of the past decade issuing the artist who surreptitiously filmed him, claiming he stole his image and profited from the results. Fritsch let the video collect dust on his personal website for six years, until he finally uploaded it to YouTube in 2006, where it continued to exist in obscurity for months. It took until 2007 for it to really take off. Fritsch has traced the origins of its viral path to an obscure Central American porn site. From there it jumped to Web communities and humor blogs, and at one point racked up 2 million views in a single night. In 2009, the star of the video, whose real identity is still a mystery, hit Fritsch with a legal notice asking him to stop using the video and all derivations of it.

http://www.dailydot.com/news/technoviking-german-lawsuit-matthias-fritsch/

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Beautiful? Yes. Playable? Somewhat...

Sony

I've never taken hallucinogenic drugs. I've always kind of wanted to experience the type of transcendent, out-of-body experience I've heard other people describe when on them, but I've always been a little too concerned with the potential long-term effects on my brain chemistry. But now I've played Dyad, so I'm no longer so concerned about what I'm missing out on.

Playing Dyad is like diving to an interactive version of the Star Gate sequence from near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. An ethereal avatar sits at the bottom of a long tunnel of neon-colored enemies that are constantly flying out toward the screen. The avatar can rotate around the edges of the tunnel to avoid those colored enemies, or "hook" herself onto them to pull herself down the tunnel more quickly. While the first few levels are sparsely populated with just a few well-spaced colored dots, the tunnels quickly fill up with new, more threatening enemies and features like speed-boosting zip lines and invincibility spheres.

The levels each have varied goals—racing through a tunnel as quickly as possible, staying alive as long as possible, killing as many enemies as possible while invincible—but they all rely on carefully riding a razor's edge line between risk and reward. Crashing into enemies will cause a momentum-killing collision, but sliding by just to the side can give you energy for a dashing lance attack. Riding a speed-boosting zipline will get you to the next checkpoint faster, but limit your movement and make it that much harder to interpret what's coming quickly.

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Last year I wrote a post titled “Explaining Decompression in Comics” in response to what I felt to be persistent misconceptions concerning decompression in comics storytelling. “Decompression” is characterized in these instances as using multiple panels to do what can be done in just one panel, and the gist of my argument was that decompression is less about total page count or delaying the rate at which a story is told and more about defining content in terms of plot points and more about how information unfolds. It was quite a popular post, and it seems to have helped people get a better understanding of some of the particulars of decompression, especially in terms of manga paneling. However, even before I wrote that post, I was well aware that the opposite problem exists, where some readers of comics, particularly manga readers, can have trouble with the way “compression” works, especially in superhero comics of the Jack Kirby tradition. That is why I am writing this followup, to point out different ways as to how content can be conveyed.

Before I begin, I want to make something of a correction to my previous post that also applies to this one. In using titles like “Explaining Decompression” and “Explaining Compression,” I may give the impression that decompression and compression are simply things which comics “do.” This is not exactly true. Rather, decompression and compression are best thought of as descriptions of a variety of elements and how they interact within a comic, words which help to summarize an overall effect achieved by the relationships of many constituent parts such as panel layout, density of information, and the arrangement of elements within a panel. Also, I’m associating “decompression” with manga and “compression” with American comics due to their respective histories, but I’m well aware that the line has never been rigidly defined.


Suppli

In a recent article comparing the manga Suppli and 2011′s Batman #7, Forrest Helvie criticized Suppli for being overly compressed while praising  Batman for avoiding this problem, an odd opinion given manga’s notoriousness for being “too decompressed.” While this usage is somewhat erroneous, the nature of that mistake brings up some important points about the meaning of “compression.” Essentially, he associates visual conciseness with decompression and visual complexity with compression, when such distinctions are non-existent. A comic can be concise and compressed, just as one can be elaborate and decompressed, and in fact those two ideas better summarize the visuals of Batman #7 and Suppli respectively.

Even the seemingly easy-to-understand compression turns out to not be so simple, so it should come as no surprise that American comics and their tradition of compression can be a tough read for those unfamiliar with it, notably readers of manga. While the stereotype is that manga fans’ dissatisfaction has to do with the content itself, characterized by caped musclemen and good vs. evil dichotomies, I would say that it also has a lot to do with how those comics work visually.  More specifically, the problem is that a highly compressed comic can make a reader more accustomed to the decompressed nature of manga feel as if the story is dragging along, creating a sense of impatience.

This can seem rather peculiar, given that decompression is stereotyped as taking forever to get to anything significant, but the word impatience takes on a different meaning depending on whether we’re talking about decompression or compression. For decompression, a sense of impatience has to do with the feeling that a comic is taking forever to get to where it needs to be. Impatience towards compression, on the other hand, derives from a sense that the story being told is not moving as quickly as your eyes want to, and this can be a significant hurdle which the inexperienced must overcome if they are to derive greater enjoyment from such comics.

The above page, taken from a scene in Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics’ first mega-crossover, called the “Battle Around the World,” is a classic example of complex compression, a big fight scene with simply a lot of figures acting and participating, with the text boxes very thoroughly explaining the context in which the battle is occurring. Though there is a cohesiveness to the page as a whole, this comic places incredible importance on each individual panel, where even the smaller elements within each panel encapsulate some distinct meaning. Each panel tells its own dense, rich story, a glimpse at events in every corner of the planet, and each character is posed to show them performing an action which defines their character to some degree. In the first panel for instance, the Green Arrow shoots from his bow and Starman is firing a blast from his signature weapon, the Star Rod. The image composition of each individual panel is vivid, each of them related to each other through similarities in both form and content.

For someone more used to manga, the way in which this information is organized together can be overwhelming. Whereas a character may be placed and posed to influence the reading direction of the page in manga, here the characters and panels are more self-contained. As a result, the manga reader may start to feel as if the story comes in fits and starts, almost as if someone were slamming the breaks every time there was something interesting to see. Manga and other comics which are more decompressed present panels as fragments of a whole, but here, panels are whole ideas unto themselves.


Batman #7

If we look at Batman #7, we can see that the word bubbles are fairly precise. There is no deluge of visual information requiring the reader’s attention. However, each panel is still being presented as a whole nugget of information, communicating a clear and specific point in every instance. That is not to deny the overall relationship the panels have with each other or the page on which they sit, but if you then look at Suppli, while it has some panels which present information as dense exposition, each panel (as well as each visual element within the panel), appears to cascade into the next, with the reader collecting bits of information along the way. Keep in mind, however, that compression and decompression, though essentially operating on opposite philosophies, can co-exist in a story, and the dividing line between them is not absolute, though one is often more present than the other.

Decompression is increasingly a part of American comics, but the long-standing history of compression in American comics can be seen even in the ways a lot of more current comics have incorporated decompression. Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis, for instance, is known for his snappy, natural-sounding dialogues which occur over multiple panels and pages, and which lend his comics a sense of decompression, but different artists have use different ways to portray those extended conversations, some of which are more compressed than others. Similarly, Chris Ware’s work (something decidedly non-superhero) can be both sparse and minimalist or extremely detailed and elaborate, but the paneling used in his comics also shows signs of an American comics tradition, albeit transformed heavily. The panels are somewhere between existing for complete information while also trying to hold back and let themselves strongly present their relationships to the panels around them.

So in the end, what can be done to help the reader for whom compression is a problem? In my opinion, the key is mainly awareness of how the panels operate. If you find yourself being weighed down by the comic, then just try to approach it one panel at a time. Think of the panel in a compressed comic as a lake or a pond. You dive in to examine its breadth and explore its depths, and then surface before moving on to the next one. Over time, your experiences will accumulate, but it’s important to let them build up.

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Mm200This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Village of the Giants (1965), by Peter Bebergal

[Video Link] My parents were pretty good about indulging my obsession with monster movies. My father would pick me up Famous Monsters Of Filmland when he saw it at the drugstore. Across the street from his clothing shop in Waltham was Mr. Big's, a toy store that stocked all the Aurora models. Being a business neighbor my father got to know "Mr. Big" pretty well, and a few times he sold us the window display version of one of the models, a perfectly painted and glued version given to him by the distributor. Monsters movies were my life. Every Sunday morning I woke early, got the newspaper from the front stoop, opened it up to the middle and dug through the flyers and other loose inserts to where the television guide was nestled. Then I flipped to end to see what the following Saturday's Creature Feature would run. The mid to late 70s was a golden age when the rights to old monster movies must have been dirt-cheap. In the span of a year or so I saw every great Universal, Toho, and Hammer film. But every so often there was a movie that didn't appear in the index of my movie books, whose stills never showed up in the pages of Famous Monsters.

One of these was Village of the Giants, released in 1965 from the weird imagination of director/producer Bert I. Gordon, and starring a very young Beau Bridges. Gordon had an obsession with normal sized things becoming unnaturally large: The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Colossal Beast, Earth vs. the Spider, and the weird and creepy Food of the Gods. (To be fair, he did have one movie about normal sized things becoming unnaturally small, Attack of the Puppet People.)

I had become used to monster movies pretty quickly. I was rarely spooked, and often rooted for the shambling undead creation or the giant radioactive lizard. The only storylines that got under my skin were those that involved pre-adolescents or teenagers where the kids were the threat, controlled in some way, or kidnapped. The Star Trek episode "Miri" has the crew beam down to an alternate Earth where the children rule and where a terrible disease strikes the moment you hit puberty would fill me with pre-sexual dread. Even in Gamera vs. Viras, where two boys are kidnapped and their heads are shaved by nefarious female aliens, made me feel anxious, no matter that the cosmic spinning turtle was on his way to save them.

In Village of the Giants, a gaggle of rebellious teenagers eat a strange substance that causes them to grow to a great height. I watched in terrible wonder as their clothes tear, the buttons of sweaters pop, and their arms cover their exposed "parts." They set about tormenting the town, and a group of unaffected teens fight back. There's even a scene where hot rods are used to pull one of the giants down like in a rodeo.

I never picked up that vampires were about sex, but I got right away that when the teenagers tormented the smaller residents of the town, they were lustfully sadistic. And the scene that blew my mind is the giant dance party shot in slow motion to psychedelic surf music. I was completely hypnotized. Everything that moved, even when not shown next to a normal sized person, just seemed bigger. The camera shoots them close up, taking time to focus in on bare bellies, swaying hips, and a tiny resident clings helplessly to the bikini top of one of the giant girls. I felt pity and envy, my poor pre-pubescent mind exploding. The teenagers have a look of ecstasy about them, as if the slime they ate also did something to their minds as well as their bodies.

I was about to become one of those teens bursting out of their childhood but I would never feel quite as empowered as the giants. I was afraid of them, and was pleased when the one kid with glasses is the only smart enough to come up the formula for the antidote to their largeness. But part of me, the part that always rooted for the monster, wanted them to crush that silly little town and walk on towards their next conquest, never afraid.

Peter Bebergal is the author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood (Soft Skull Press). He blogs at mysterytheater.blogspot.com and tweets @peterbebergal.

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