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If you don't like my lectures you can also take the Stanford Game Theory class offered free by Coursera and taught by some of the same guys that wrote the other Multiagent Systems textbook, Shoham and Leyton-Brown. I have watched many of their video lectures and they seem to cover pretty much the same material we will be covering in this section of the class.

I also found this youtube playlist which has all the videos from the class.

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In today's class I will finish explaining how distributed breakout works, and we will probably also cover Distributed Constraint Optimization (DCOP)

Most of the DCOP algorithms are improvements (or parallelizations, if that's a word) on the basic branch-and-bound search algorithm, which I implement below:

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Our first meeting is on Monday. On that day we I will be talking about the class, the history of multiagent systems, and getting started on the first chapter of our textbook.

The first chapter talks about utility functions:

Markov Decision Processes

and Value Iteration

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After posting my Screensaver Culture presentation yesterday it was blogged on Creative Applications by Greg Smith and I’ve gotten quite a few responses on Twitter. Some of the comments are on point and some are just funny.

Below is a more or less complete list. In summary, the arguments are roughly as follows:

  • “Screensavers are outdated / unnecessary.” Well, yes. But that has never meant much in terms of deciding whether a cultural phenomenom succeeds or is banished to the Wasteland of Forgotten Memes. Tamagotchis or animated GIFs, anyone? 90% of all iPhone / Android apps are unnecessary for everyday living, yet the smartphone app culture is a runaway train.
  • “Developing screensavers is currently way too hard.” I share this sentiment and suspect it to the main culprit along with its corollary: “Installing screensavers is too hard / scary / likely to mess with the rest of my computer.”
  • “It’s impossible to improve on flying toasters.” This terrifying thought is exactly why I would suggest screensavers need revisiting.

In conclusion: Between being tricky to develop and just as tricky to install and successfully use, screensavers stand no chance of recovering ground as a cultural phenomenom. Despite their close link to the app culture that is currently dominating our lives, screensavers (aka “ambient software”) will get no love.

This might not seem like such a terrible loss, but I still posit that ambient data gadgets with possible integration to web / mobile apps would’ve been a great usage scenario. There are some ways this could still happen:

  • Microsoft and Apple realize the lost potential and relaunch their screensaver frameworks complete with app stores for screensavers. (Unlikely.)
  • Google develops a screensaver mode for Chrome as part of their Chrome apps initiative and allows sales of screensavers through the Chrome app store. (Entirely possible if a little optimistic. My favorite option by far, though. Google, are you listening?)
  • In both these scenarios, new screensavers would be based on HTML5 with WebGL, allowing them to be cross-platform and based on open standards. Because you all understand that proprietary is stupid, right?

A sad footnote: I had to uninstall the brilliant Briblo screensaver after realizing it was interfering with the taskbar on Windows 7. So I’m back to the ever popular blank screen, like so much of the world population.

The Tweets

@mariuswatz Screensavers tie us to nuclear power!

— Dragan Espenschied (@despens) January 16, 2012

@mariuswatz I thought screensavers were obsolete. I guess that makes them a good platform for art.

— Jesse L Rosenberg (@nervous_jesse) January 16, 2012

@mariuswatz computers are no longer unused long enough to trigger the screen saver

— noisia (@noisia) January 16, 2012

@mariuswatz who has screensavers these days? LCD screens just go to black on powersave.

— Danny Birchall (@dannybirchall) January 16, 2012

@mariuswatz I’m not sure it’s possible to improve on flying toasters…

— Rob Myers (@robmyers) January 16, 2012

@mariuswatz would love to make screensavers. But they are really hard to create on the Mac using Cinder or openFrameworks.

— Jan Vantomme (@vormplus) January 16, 2012

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This week we start our study of game theory as used for building multiagent systems.


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We start the semester with a quick historical overview of the field and move on to multiagents models. We use the word model in its scientific sense to mean a mathematical abstraction that captures some aspects of real-world phenomena. You should read the first chapter (Models) of the textbook.

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