Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Rise of "eSports"

The Rise of "eSports"

When you ask yourself "What is a sport?" you would usually picture burly men playing football or people running around throwing a ball into a hoop, but the recent and extreme explosion in the popularity of video games has brought about a whole new phenomena, eSports. (Around 1.2 billion people or around 1/7 of the world's population play video games with 700 million people that play online games).

So what is an eSport?
An eSport is short for "electronic sport" which in other words means competitive video gaming. Typically the competitions are for multiplayer games that can range from first-person shooter games to 3rd person real-time strategy games (MOBAS).

Image result for league of legends
(League of Legends a popular 3rd person real-time strategy game)
Image result for csgo
(CSGO a popular multiplayer first-person shooter game)

What makes video games a sport?
This topic for many online is a controversial one, but in many ways eSports are very similar to regular sports. Each game has professionals and teams owned by organizations which are sponsored by companies such as Intel or Nvidia etc.
Image result for csgo teams
These professionals then perform in front of an audience/crowd to win a competition for money and a trophy. Sound similar yet? There are even casters and analysts for the competitions. Players owned by teams have contracts and can be traded around for money like drafting in hockey. Professionals train just like athletes, up to 7-8 hours a day everyday.

What makes it different?

Well first off, sports such as baseball and such have been around for centuries/decades while games such as the Counter Strike series have been around for at most a decade which means that most professionals are relatively young with the oldest being around 30 and the youngest being around even 14 years old with most staying around the late teens to early 20's. These players can have up to 14,000 hours spent training/playing this game which is a lot considering the age of these players.
Most of the views from eSports are mostly from online streams and videos rather than the television.
While this "sport" is not physically strenuous or challenging compared to most other sports, this activity requires an extreme amount of quick-thinking, strategy, reflexes etc.

Image result for esports

eSports and its exponentially growing industry

-eSports is of such importance in South Korea that they even have an opening ceremony for a championship ( and the players are treated as celebrities

-The prize pools for a "sport" such as video gaming are massive, with the largest being ~21 million dollars at The International 2016 for Dota 2

-eSports have become so popular that online viewership for an event like League of Legends Championship series reached 32 million viewers which was more than the final game in the NBA finals of 2016 (surprising right?)

(Even I myself watch more eSports than I do TV)


-The industry generated a revenue of $400 million in 2015 which is expected to increase to $500 million in 2016

-Here's a video to get a sense of the crowds (

The Future
The NBA 76'ers, seeing the potential of eSports, has picked up two eSports teams themselves: Dignitas and Apex. They are currently working to have professional gamers be considered as "athletes" and even have eSports be part of the Olympics. Even people like Shaq have their own teams/orgs in eSports (NRG eSports) showing the presence eSports now have. The game CSGO is even broadcast on television on PBS now. Video games are only getting more popular and so are eSports which leaves you to wonder whether in the next few decades we could see the finals of an eSport as important as the Super Bowl or even more.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Home is Where the Heart (On a Chip) Is

The world of technology never fails to amaze me every single day. We're constantly creating things, and advancing the world and it's changing rapidly. As a senior, I'm looking at universities, hoping to eventually pursue the field of biomedical engineering. I know that I don't want to be a doctor, mostly because I don't have the patience for eight more years of schooling. I still want to be involved in the medical field, so BME is the perfect balance of technology, biology and medicine.

Image result for heart on a chip harvard
I'd rather be in a lab, designing systems and products, such as artificial organs, artificial devices that replace body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems. So obviously, with these interests in mind, Harvard has done something that has peaked my interest. Harvard researchers just developed a small, transparent "chip" that pulses like a heart and may one day replace animals in cardiac drug tests.

Called a "heart-on-a-chip," the 3D-printable medical device holds heart tissue and reads its reactions to cardiac drugs. One side of the chip is covered in lab-grown heart muscle cells, which contract and relax like they do in one's heart, giving the chip a "beat." Then a built-in sensor measures the pulse rate and strength, so researchers can record how the "heartbeat" fluctuates when the chip comes in contact with various drugs.

The researchers believe that the chips storing human cells can potentially be more accurate than animals in drug tests, aside from being more humane. They hope that the research will one day lead to rapid production of customized chips with specific patient cells, which will allow doctors to study how an individual patient responds to certain drugs.
Image result for heart on a chip harvard

We most likely wouldn't be able to make hearts on a chip here in the Hack Shack, but it's crazy to think that our little 3D printer has the potential to do that. We just don't have the skill set yet, and I don't know how innovative we can be with filament made out of corn. I hope one day that I can be a part of creating devices like the Harvard researchers, and take my knowledge from in here and take it with me as I go off to college and start working in the real world.

Works Cited
Burrows, Leah. "3D-printed Heart-on-a-chip with Integrated Sensors." Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Peng, Jingnan. "These "pulsing" Chips Could Replace Animal Testing One Day." Quartz. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Citations for pictures:

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Temporary Tattoos Are Not Just For Kids

By: Owen Moore

Throughout the years many societies have used tattoos and body art for various purposes such as religious beliefs and rites of passage as one comes of age. Tattoos have existed for thousands of years, and date back to as early as the ancient Egyptians in 300 B.C. According to the Japan Times, during the 17th century the Japanese used tattoos as a form of punishment to mark their criminals (Mitchell). During the time of the ancient Greeks, they used tattoos to communicate among their spies. Tattoo markings helped in identifying and ranking the spies ("History & Future"). When tattoos evolved to Europe and the United States, electric tattooing was created. In 1891, Samuel O'Reilly patented the first tattoo machine. According to Joe Capobianco from the Huffington Post, "Tattooing was most popular in the ranks of the military where many a soldier, sailor, or pilot found themselves marking their skin to commemorate that time in their lives with a USMC badge, a battleship, a hula gal, or a nautical star" (Capobianco).  Related image
Nowadays, tattoos are not only used as a form of art, but they are used for fun. You can find temporary tattoos at places such as a birthday party or Fourth of July celebration. But what is really cool, is that now, with the advancements in technology over the years, you are able to create your own temporary tattoos. You can use things such as the Silhouette Printer (located in the Hack Shack) to print and design your very own tattoos.
Related image
On top of all this, students at a design school in France have successfully been able to re-engineer a Makerbot Replicator 3D printer into the first ever 3D printer tattoo machine! Students Pierre Emm, Piotr Widelka and Johan Da Silveira re-designed a MakerBot Replicator as part of competition run by France's Cultural Ministry. They hacked the 3D printer, replaced the filament with a ballpoint pen, and then designed an image which they had the printer trace onto an arm. Even after the challenge was complete they decided that they wanted to make it so that they could actually tattoo a permanent tattoo on one's forearm. So, they did just that (Hu).
To see a short clip of the printer tattooing a permanent tattoo on a "volunteer's" arm click the link shown here:
Works Cited
Capobianco, Joe. "The Evolution of Tattoo Art." The Huffington Post., 26 Mar. 2012. Web.
"History & Future - How Tattoo Evolved?" History & Future - How Tattoo Evolved? The Human Touch of Chemistry, n.d. Web.
Hu, Elise. "Weekly Innovation: Turn A 3-D Printer Into A Tattoo Machine." NPR. NPR, 2 Apr. 2014. Web.
Mitchell, Jon. "Japan Inked: Should the Country Reclaim Its Tattoo Culture? | The Japan Times." The Japan Times. N.p., n.d. Web.
Rainier, Chris. Maori Facial Moko. Digital image. Baxter's Blog. N.p., 08 Oct. 2010. Web.
SilhouetteAmericaInc. "Temporary Tattoo Paper 101." YouTube. YouTube, 03 May 2012. Web.

DIY Drone: Dealing With Sensor Noise

Recently I’ve run into trouble trying to build my quadrotor. While trying to implement a PID controller to help balance my quadrotor, I realized that the sensor I was using was generating a lot of noise when the motors were running. The angle measurements were reading plus or minus 180 degrees! Over the past week I have been experimenting with different methods of cleaning up sensor data with the goal of getting my project off the ground.

The Process of Finding Angles

To find the angle values in the first place, the measurements from a gyroscope and accelerometer are combined. An accelerometer measures acceleration and a gyroscope measures the speed at which the angles are changing. Using a little geometry, it is easy to find the orientation of the drone (using gravity) as long as it is not accelerating. Unfortunately the drone accelerates a lot! This is where the gyroscope comes in. By finding the amount of time that has passed since the last measurement and the measured distance per unit time that the gyroscope provides, a running summation of the angle can be found, approximating the current orientation of the drone. The longer this runs however, the more inaccurate it becomes because of something called drift. The secret to accurate angle measurements is the combination of these two values which you can read more about here. This combination of gyro and accelerometer is used in a lot of applications and is called an IMU or an inertial measurement unit.

Silencing the Noise

As mentioned earlier the measured angle values were sporadic when the motors were running. A good motto to follow in situations like this is: “Hardware before software”. If you can fix a problem physically it will likely be better in the long run than trying to fix it with a program. So to start, I tested different materials between the sensor board and the frame.

From foam to bubble wrap, any material I thought would absorb vibration I tried. For each test I ran two or three of the motors on high for two seconds, then cut the motors and collected data for another two seconds. I collected the raw readings for the gyroscope and accelerometer and judged the success of the noise damping on graphs of these values. After a few trials I realized that a lot of the noise was likely coming from the direct contact between the motors and the metal frame. I took a thin rubber material, folded it over four times, and attached it between the motors and the frame. After combining these two shock absorbers I got the noise down to a manageable level.

Combining the quieter data back together and averaging every thirty values results in the final product! (Right) It’s nowhere near perfect and will likely be difficult to reference during times like takeoff and landing, but overall it should be able to get the drone off the ground! When it does finally fly, I’ll make sure to let you all know.

      – Ethan F

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The IT Girl

The Hack Shack is a place where students can let their creativity flourish, and as staff, we have chosen to be the individuals that guide them through their learning process. However, to  this day, the staff members have been primarily male. I'm the currently the only female Hack Shack staff member, and only the second female in its first two years. I have been asked to share my experiences. We all know that there is a gender gap when it comes to women in technology.

The role of women in technology has significantly stalled and, in some cases, even declined. In 2008, women on average held 25% of IT-related jobs in the US, a drop from the 36% occupied in 1991. Also, women between 25 and 34 are reporting increasing dissatisfaction with their tech careers. 56% leave their jobs at the highlight of their career, which is twice the quit rate for men. According to a Reuters study, 30% of 450 technology executives stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions (Kvochko, 2016).

Women are becoming increasingly invisible in the thriving technology and computing sector, one of the top U.S industries and one of the fastest-growing professional occupations among U.S workers with an estimated 1.8 million jobs in computing by 2018, according to the U.S Department of Labor (Kvochko, 2016).

There are females out there that don't get the recognition that they deserve or the encouragement that they desire. Luckily, I get to work in an environment where I don't feel judged. So, no. I'm not going to concoct a sob story about how being a girl in the Hack Shack is difficult. There has never been a day in my many years of schooling, where someone has told me that I would never be good enough to work with technology.

Oyster River does a good job trying to motivate all of its students to pursue whatever they're passionate about, and providing them with opportunities to get there, especially in the STEM area. No one treats me differently for being a girl, and in fact, the males that come into the Hack Shack will even ask me to assist them with their projects. None of the other members hold me back and we all coexist seamlessly in that little room.

Well, I guess I will admit, it can be intimidating at times to be around people who have extensive knowledge of this technology. It can be weird to sit with them during our meetings, and hear them talk about things that I have no idea about. You can compare it to skateboarding as a kid. Because I'm a girl, I feel like I stand out as the odd ball, but any other guy at the skatepark wouldn't be given a second glance. Sometimes it can be frustrating to know that I'm doing at things at a much slower pace than the other guys are. However, this doesn't stop me from continuing to learn.

 I have taught myself how to use the Silhouette Cameo, which some members don't even know how to use. That machine can be used for artistic projects, which is my area of expertise. I've made various things, like temporary tattoos, and stickers. It gives the Makerspace a whole different perspective.  In the Hack Shack, we can all learn from each other. People can learn how to use the Silhouette Cameo from me, and I can learn how to use the MakerBot from the other members. We all aren't knowledgeable about everything, but that's the point of the class, to keep learning. Just because I'm a girl, doesn't mean I know any less, or any more than the people around me.  

So, we should keep encouraging women to join technology, because I'm having a wonderful time. One thing I can say though is this: The Hack Shack has been given some flair because of me (Obviously because of my awesome signage).

Kvochko, Elena. "Why There Are Still Few Women Leaders in Tech." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grow a Tree: Stay Focused on School

Grow a Tree Stay Focused on School
-James Kahn

It's common knowledge that cellphones have the side of effect of being distracting. Look around at any point during the day and people will be looking down at their phones instead of interacting with people. This distraction takes away from more than just social life. Cell phones constantly take away from the time and effort you put into work/school work.

How do you fix this though?

For me this wasn't easy, even if I wanted to leave my phone alone it would constantly vibrate, just calling to be used. A simple solution is airplane mode, but this means I can't listen to music while I work, making it a choice I would rather avoid. To solve this problem, a friend recommend an app called Forest Stay Focused. This is actually a really simple app; it's basically a timer. You set a timer on your phone and while the timer is running, you can't go play games or get distracted without a penalty. This penalty is that you kill a tree, not an actual tree but a virtual one. You see when you set the timer you start the growth of a virtual tree. Stop the timer early and it dies. Don't touch your phone and a trees grows. Another good part of the app is that each time a tree grows you are rewarded with leaves. When you gather 2,500 leaves you can donate them to have a tree planted in real life.

Now, you would be surprised by how much I resisted using my phone so as to not kill a tree. With the app on I, didn't want to even check my phone. Before you think, "Wait, this has no benefit over airplane mode," it does.  I have the ability to whitelist apps. What this means is that I can select apps like Pandora or Spotify and continue to listen music even with the block on the device.

I highly urge people to try out this app. There's no downside to the app. It allows you to stay focused and helps the environment. Plus for those that are really ambitious you can download onto Chrome for even more tree growing.
Stay Focused Logo. Digital image. Forest. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.

To download go to :

Unreal Engine 4 is Seriously Unreal

Unreal Engine 4 Overview

What is a game engine?
Image result for skyrim

All of our beloved games, whether nostalgic classics or new cutting-edge titles, are developed using a game engine, so what is it? A game engine is essentially a collection of organized software that would allow for easier game development which combines many parts to work with each other such as physics (movement), graphics(displaying on screen)  or audio (direction) each with a massive array of tools for you to customize and create with. By using a game engine you don't have to waste time writing code. If you are a company such as Bethesda Softworks(developer of Skyrim) that generally uses their own coded/designed game engine (Creation Engine) you can then reuse that same engine to develop other games which would save an incredible amount of work and time. (For example Fallout 4 which was made with the same engine as Skyrim).
Image result for fallout 4
(Fallout 4)

With these 2 games as an example we can see that they are totally different from each other, but if you have ever played both (which if you haven't, I HIGHLY suggest it) you may notice the similarities in the gameplay mechanics and designs such as Lock Picking which is almost identical in mechanics but re-skinned, given a different audio and animation to look different. This would be much simpler to do in a game engine since all you have to do is edit, not create and code all over again.

Image result for skyrim lockpicking
Image result for fallout lockpicking

What is Unreal Engine 4?
Image result for unreal engine 4

As they put it themselves, Unreal Engine 4 is an array of tools for game developers. Such games can range from 2D mobile side-scrollers to 3D first-person shooters. Functions include VR compatibility, blueprints and even a marketplace of community made assets and code. And best of all, it's FREE. Professionals working for corporations (Microsoft/Apple/etc) and even complete novices alike are able to use this engine. Heck, even I got the hang of it in a week of summer camp.

Some of the notable games developed using Unreal
Image result for gow 4
Image result for batman arkham knight

Brief beginner's rundown

This is what you would start off with when using a default first-person shooter map. As you can see, there are many different function all in one area which makes it confusing at first but will eventually become more of a convenience as you use it more. The topography, spawn points, textures/animations, even blast radius can be modified and changed all in one area. Essentially the best way to start learning is to test and play around like I did. Unreal even provides a character for you to play as to test your map (press play) by walking around/shooting/etc.

And eventually you become more familiar with this engine you can begin to design your first map like I did (I AM BY NO MEANS A PROFESSIONAL).

Here's me testing my map with the character I mentioned before UE4 provided for you (see the gun and icons?).

See the little wires on the table? Those are mesh placeholders for items such as the health pack and ammunition seen below.

Things to note
-I used nothing but what was provided in UE4 (including textures)
-Took me a couple hours to make
-Very much like a mix between Photoshop and a 3D print design program
-This is just barely scratching the surface of this engine's potential

While I could sit here and talk for hours about all the features this engine has to offer, I would recommend that you watch this video to fully grasp the sheer amount of things it can accomplish. If you don't have the time or are just lazy, here are a few screenshots.

The Future
As time progresses and each new triple-A game (highest quality, well known titles)  is released, the demand for more and more hyperrealism increases. Have you ever wondered how far video games could go? UE4 provides some of the best I have ever seen (some may blow your mind)
(Again a few screencaps for you lazy folks)

So you may be wondering, "If this can be done, why aren't games like this?" and the answer to that question is a good thing to think about. What makes a game a game like Skyrim or Fallout is not just the graphics, but the gameplay/content. The samples you see here or in the video are simply there only with animation and with the purpose of looking at. The processors/parts of computers/consoles wouldn't be able to handle this amount of detail along with gameplay. Which means that eventually in the future games will look like this but the technology has yet to catch up to what engines like UE4 can achieve.