Category Archives: Hardware

Anyone can write games for Kinect with Scratch

imageThat’s a bold statement but it’s true – any kid even can write games for Kinect with Scratch. Scratch is a programming language for kids out of the MIT Media Labs. Steven Howell saw the potential of combining this with the Kinect and connected them together. Kids all over the world can now write natural user interface games with the Kinect.

This project is not for you to write XBox games at the moment but rather it works with the Microsoft Kinect SDK BETA 2. There are a lot of awesome projects that are using Kinect for the PC. I talked about the stuff that Von Bismark is doing the other day. I’ll dig into that more in an upcoming post.

imageI love this because it captures the imagination as to what’s possible if you can quickly and easily create a natural user interface by dragging and dropping code snippets.

Scratch and Kinect from Stephen Howell on Vimeo.

Full instructions on how to set it all up and get started writing games is on Steven’s site at

For lots of information about the Scratch project:

Educators – Information for educators using Scratch

News – Stories about Scratch in the media

Research – Papers and presentations about Scratch

Donate – Support the Scratch project

Voice Control with Amulet Devices

logoOne of the things that gets me excited is working with new forms of user interaction. Or rather old forms of user interaction that humans use being used with our users.

Amulet devices are doing just that. They are a BizSpark startup based in Dublin, Ireland. They are a device and software company. The software does voice control of Windows Media Center which can be the hub of your home entertainment.

Amulet_Detail_0246[1]Their remote is a universal remote that has a very clever microphone that is activated by a gyroscope. When you tip up the remote, it activates and allows you to control your media center by voice. It means that the remote won’t accidently pick up your voice and start changing channels on you right before the winning goal or the bad guy gets the bad guy. It also means that it’s you can use it in a crowded and noisy room as the mic is right next to you.

They are, unfortunately not available for sale in Europe but they are available all over North America.

Rocking: Guitar Rising for Real Guitar Heroes

Transparent GuitarGuitar Hero for adults is coming!!! I really don’t want to knock Guitar Hero and Rock Band but they are just not for me. Honestly, (and this is not bragging, it’s just a fact) I’ve never played either one. If I’m going to spend the time to learn an instrument, it’s not going to be a plastic one that is only useful in the context of my living room. I completely get the social aspect to it and think it’s a great game in a party situation. I just don’t have the patience to devote to it to get decent enough to enjoy it in that party scenario.

I’m just really amazed at stories like this 9 year old kid on YouTube that is a Guitar Hero rock star. And his parents are proud enough of this fact to put this on YouTube. If only they could channel all that talent for good! If he had just started learning a real instrument – he could be the next Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Frank Iero! He’s definitely got dexterity and focus to do it – if he could be channeled correctly. Seriously, how does a 9 year old kid get to be that good at a video game? Oh yeah, I’m forgetting that it’s usually the 9-12 year olds that hand me my tail on a platter in Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4. Complete side note (which is weird as this whole post is a side note), I had a thought that we should have an “over 25” segment of the XBox live network, not for “Adult Entertainment” but rather as a way to even the playing field for us that have jobs, families and only a couple of hours a week to devote to gameplay… Thoughts?

When I was talking to Jason Follas and Dustin Campbell over beers just after Guitar Hero was coming out and all the hype had started up I had the idea that I’d really rather have a way to hook up a real guitar to the XBox and/or computer and “Play” to learn. We had talked through some of the hookup options, like pro audio cards that can take a real 1/4 in jack and all the sound you can pump at it or the 1/4 jack to USB options that are out there. Dustin is actually a good enough musician (Plays in a pro-band and the like) and programmer (tech lead on CodeRush) that I was hoping that I could talk him into doing it because he’s got the chops to do so. Didn’t work. He didn’t bite.

The fantastic news is that he doesn’t have to. Today, Jason pointed out that there’s a startup called Guitar Rising that is creating that “game” for us! They are planning to release sometime in 2008 – and I’ll be among the first to buy one. I’m really stoked! I’ve been wanting to learn guitar but with my fairly severe ADD I haven’t had the patience to do so. I really hope that they pick songs from all over the spectrum from rock to blues. Besides just being able to play, I’d really like to get to a point where I can play camp side and at sing-alongs. Obviously, that’s not all hair bands, there’s a lot of Jimmy Buffet and the like that’s needed. There’s already been twitter conversations about how the hookups are going to work, what type of guitars we’re going to hook up and more. According to the article, you can hook up via a USB hookup or even just a Mic. I’m assuming that they are looking for pitch and notes and that’s all they care about. That’s pretty slick.

Looking forward to playing Guitar Rising at the next CodeMash!

Rocking: Guitar Rising for Real Guitar Heroes


I’ve been listening to some of the old (January 2006) HanselMinutes ( and found a fantastic utility called SharpKeys ( It’s a key editor that will remap any of the keys on your keyboard.

I’ve had one HUGE issue with my new tablet (new as in December) which is a Fujitsu Lifebook T4020. That issue was that the End and Home keys are function keys! In other words, I have to hold down the function key and then press PageDown to get End. I use End all the time and in combination with other keys whereas I rarely use PageDown and only use it by itself so it’s not a big deal to hit a function key for that. It took just a quick moment to reverse those so that End is where PageDown used to be and PageDown is the function key.

Connecting VS.NET to Windows CE

My current contract is a Compact Framework application for a LXE device running Windows CE 4.2. I was having some issues connecting to it from VS.NET and so I asked my good friend Google what he knew about it with this query – Wouldn’t you know that it pops up with my good friend Doug Reilly when he posted about VS.NET Compact Framework Deployment Issues. It turns out that I didn’t have the exact same issue as Doug, but it did fix me because in the download that me pointed me to (Windows CE Utilities for Visual Studio .NET 2003 Add-on Pack 1.1). In there they mentioned that you have to configure VS.NET for the processor type that you are using with Windows CE with ActiveSync.

That’s a real pain, but it fixed me…

Left Handed Laptop

I went shopping for a new laptop for my brother this past weekend. It was nuts – Circuit City didn’t have the display model for the one that we wanted to buy and they would not open the box to let us look at the one that we were interested in. My brother didn’t care, but I was a touch perturbed by it all. It’s the little things that really make a difference to a real road warrior and they wouldn’t let us check those things. It turns out that I was right to want to check – it was set up as a left handed laptop. What I mean by that is that the power was on the right hand side where it’s in the way of the mouse and the USB ports and the like were on the left hand side where you have to run cables from the mouse all the way around the rest of the box to plug it in. This would be great if me or my brother were actually left handed but we are not.

I don’t know of other people think the same way that I do about that, but it drives me nuts when I see that type of setup. I think that laptop manufactures should put left handed or right handed on the box so we know when they put all of the ports on the sides of the box. The laptop that I’m using right now (Fujitsu T4020 Tablet) has a USB on the left and one on the back. The one on the back is obviously for the mouse. The power is also on the back. This means that it can be ambidextrous. I guess that’s one of the differences between a $550.00 laptop (what my brother bought) and a $2000 tablet (what I bought).

I wonder if the manufacturers consciously think about these issues…