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SXSW: Game Perverts

Kevin Kelly

At first glance that panel title sounds like a very special episode of Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator," but the subtitle makes it a bit clearer ... for some: "A Robot, a DS, and a dot-matrix printer menage a trois." This panel was all about hacking and homebrewing, and we saw some pretty cool stuff.

  • Bob Sabiston's Nintendo DS animation project -- this is a homebrew kit that Bob began developing after sending Nintendo a letter explaining that he was a fairly decent programmer and engineer (he is - he wrote the rotoscoping software used for the animation in Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly) and they sent him a software development kit for the DS. His animation and painting program is one of the best apps we've ever seen on the DS, and even the artwork he's produced on it is very impressive.
  • Rich LeGrand got into game robotics with the Game Boy Advance, because there is a fairly limitless supply of hardware available on eBay at around $20 a pop. He reverse-engineered a robotics tool for the GBA called the Xport, which he sells through his company Charmed Labs, that lets you program and build a robot around your handheld (most people use Lego for the robot exoskeleton). He has also very successfully not been sued by Nintendo.
  • Paul Slocum took an old Epson LQ500 dot-matrix printer and reversed engineered a box that lets him program and play music through it by changing the speeds and strengths that the pins strike the paper. It really has to be heard to be believed (it's part of the song - former dot-matrix users will hear it right away). He also uses an Atari 2600 with a modified cartridge to generate drums and "bleep" sounds. Pretty impressive stuff.
We lovingly retitled this panel "How to hack up your precious hardware," but now we're thinking about cracking something open and giving it a whirl. We just wish we'd kept those old dot-matrix printers.

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