Sunday, May 31, 2009

My video of MP3 Experiment 6

I spent most of my free time since MP3 Experiment 6 last weekend editing a video recap of the event. The official videos from Improv Everywhere probably won't be out for at least a few more weeks, so enjoy mine!

Monday, May 25, 2009

MP3 Experiment 6 in New York City

This past Saturday was Improv Everywhere's sixth MP3 Experiment. Just like last time I did this, I drove down from New Hampshire to Boston, Massachusetts and rode the BoltBus into New York City very early in the morning.

Before going to Roosevelt Island, the site of MP3 Experiment 6, a thin island between Manhattan and Queens, I met up with my friend Courtney and we explored some of downtown, went shopping, and took a walk in Central Park.

When we finally reached the east coast of Manhattan, after approximately 5 and a half miles of walking, we decided it was time to figure out how to get across the river to Roosevelt Island.

Deciding on the aerial tram that goes directly from out side of the river to the island, we followed the chords suspended next to the Queensboro bridge and walked another half mile to the lift station. Along with many other suspicious people dressed in red, blue, green, and yellow, we made our way over the river. I took this opportunity to take some great aerial pictures, as you can see below.

Upon arriving on the ground, we set off to find a good place to settle down and wait for 4:00 pm, the time when the MP3 Experiment was to begin. MP3 Experiments happen not just in New York City, or even in the United States, but all over the world. Typically, they go something like this:
  • Tens, hundreds, or thousands of people that for the most part do not know each other download an MP3 file off a website and load it on to their MP3 player. It is critical that you do not listen to this file until you are instructed to do so.
  • All these people meet up at a specified location at a specified time. With their clocks synchronized, all participants watch the time closely, and press play.
  • Listeners are verbally encouraged, via the voices on the MP3, to participate in individual and group activities, with fellow participants or occasionally nearby strangers, that most likely differ from the social norm one would expect.
  • Usually during such an event, many or all activities are photographed or recorded on digital video and uploaded to the internet for future viewing by anyone.
After going the wrong way off the tram, we eventually found out way to a landscaped courtyard between two buildings right outside the subway terminal. I had thought this was where most of the participants would end up, and I was right. After a few minutes, colorful people started pouring out of the subway in a non-stop line and settling down in the grass amoungst us.

As we waited around, watching the once sparsely populated courtyard fill up, we noticed a few people high up on the rooftops, most likely armed with video cameras.

As 4:00 rolled around, everyone began putting their headphones on, and we all pressed play. After a few minutes of catchy music, Steve (The Omnipotent Voice From Above) began speaking. He started us off with some simple exercises, such as stretching our necks and greeting our neighbors. There was this one guy in a green shirt participating from a wheelchair, which I thought was really awesome.

After playing some little games, dancing with eachother, following strangers around, and taking spontaneous naps on the ground, we set off on a rather long walk to the southernmost tip of the island. Here we were split into teams and given inflatable weapons. After pounding on eachother for a while, a big bad wolf appeared in the distance and we were questioned why we were fighting with eachother. We turned our army of up to 2,000 people on that one wolf, and he got taken down because I even got a whack.

The event lasted about 47 minutes, and was pretty hysterical. You really had to be there to understand how it all happens. Improv Everywhere seems to host one every year, so you should come down next time if you weren't planning on it already!
After it was over, many people took advantage of having weapons, and started beating eachother up once again. After a little while, I walked back to the little field we had started in.

There were so many people walking back that we completely clogged the road, and had cars driving amoungst us. If we had somehow turned into a bunch of zombies, we would have taken over the island. No question about it.Back at the start, there was a table set up selling Improv Everywhere's new book, Causing a Scene, written by Charlie Todd (the Founder of Improv Everywhere) and Alex Scordelis. I picked up a copy for myself and Charlie signed it. He remembered me from last year on Governor's Island when I had met him at a hotdog vendor waiting for MP3 Experiment 5.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Car Show Season Begins Again

A few updates: school has ended for the semester, I have a new job (software intern) at TYBRIN Corporation, and most importantly for the blog:

Car show season has begun again! I took some great panoramas today standing on the base of a few light poles. There were 231 show cars today in the parking lot of Target, which is on the high end of what we usually get. I also got more people walking around my car than usual too!

(click images for larger sizes)

On another note, I'm going to Yellowstone National Park for a week this summer, and I am getting a new SLR-like camera to bring with me! I'm looking forward to taking a series of wonderful shots, and I will definitely share them with all of you!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Boe-Bot Autonomous Navigation

Back after another month! I've been very, very busy with schoolwork this semester. It is that time of year when final exams and projects take over my life, but they're just about over!

Here is something neat I've been working on since January that I finally have finished:

It is a Boe-Bot robotics kit from Parallax Inc, a company that makes robot parts and such. I had a course this semester which required me to design and code software for this robot, which I also had to build using a pile of parts. Aside from the wheels on the sides and the chassis, I selected three "QTI" infrared sensors to take readings off the ground at the front of the robot, and a sonar on a rotating servo at the front which gathers distance readings of objects in its proximity. The robot was designed to be self-aware, so it ran the course based on rules and algorithms which I designed. Once I flipped it on, it ran completely by itself to the end of the obstacle course! I spent a few months testing out various hardware, including such things as light sensors and whiskers. The software was written in PBASIC, a custom version of BASIC that Parallax ships with its BASIC Stamp embedded microprocessor.

So now to get away from the technical words, the robot had just one requirement: start at point A and end up at point B. The real problem was what the robot had to do in between to get there. Starting off, it had to go inside a cardboard box (cave), seek the exit and find the road (black tape on a white table), follow it until it found the a curving pylon course (paper cups) that it had to navigate through, and finally solve a maze (cardboard bricks) to the exit!

Here is a video of my robot solving the course from start to finish in just two minutes!