Too bad the Kinect failed

I had lots of interesting conversations after my talk at the recent conference in Vienna, but one in particular sticks to mind. I was talking to an indie game developer who’s using the Kinect for a project on his college, who remarked:

Yeah, the Kinect is great. Too bad it failed

It’s an interesting sentiment because it’s a gamer or game-development one. On the home, as a game controller, the Kinect was definitely a failure. That is no surprise: I’m on the record as saying that game controlling and avateering are perhaps the two tasks that the Kinect is worst at (even though they are two tasks for which it keeps being pushed).

But there are all the areas where Kinect succeeds that have nothing to do with game development.

cljs-build configuration tip: prefer maps over a vector

If you look at the lein cljs-build sample project, you’ll see that it states:

; The :builds option should be set to a sequence of maps.  Each
; map will be treated as a separate, independent, ClojureScript
; compiler configuration.

If you look at the example right below that description, you’ll see that it is actually set as a map of configuration profiles with the configuration name as the key. So what gives?

Device overhype: the kiss of death

I participated on a fascinating panel yesterday at the (still ongoing and live-streamed) 2015 conference. One question asked by Richard Kogelnig, the moderator, was why have new input devices like Kinect and Leap Motion have failed to really penetrate the consumer market, and what sort of a device would really have a chance at making a difference.

I don’t think it’s a technical problem. I think it’s a message problem.

Simulating a starling murmuration


A recurrent question about UnitySteer is how to implement behavior like that of a flock of starlings (seems that Mr. Reynolds was right on the money when he chose flocking for his paper).

Usually the person who writes mentions that their implementation is “getting there”, but they’re not quite happy with the result yet. The main issue with the question is that if the results are right or not are all about perception - it’s not a problem where there is a single, provably optimal solution.

With that in mind, I’ll detail some of the aspects of the starlings from the video above, and mention how you can mimic them in UnitySteer.

Visualizing TVTropes - Concept exploration


Tropology is an experiment in visualizing conceptual networks from TVTropes. The initial idea was that, starting from a chosen concept, we could visualize the list of tropes and articles it referenced, along with the relationships between them.

Experimenting with the data, which even after some judicious pruning includes over 220 thousand nodes and 11 million relationships, led me to quickly conclude that the model was too widely connected. We couldn’t just visualize the raw data and needed to apply some sort of direction in order to make the visualizations sensible.

Let’s see how to go about that.

Tropology performance: PostgreSQL vs Neo4j

Or, apples vs. papaya salad.

Short version: I’ve moved Tropology to PostgreSQL for performance reasons, and because after some evaluation, Neo4j wasn’t as good a fit as it seemed at first blush.

You may want to start by catching up with the other Tropology articles.

All done?

Visualizing TVTropes - Part 4: Merges

Episode IV: A new approach

We got better performance with the last changes I made to the import process, at the cost of parallelization and a significantly less clean Clojure codebase.

As I was going about wrapping them up, I got a recommendation from Michael Hunger. Summarized:

  • Don’t use the batch REST API
  • The Cypher query endpoint is outdated
  • Try merges

Well then. So much for that feature branch.

Visualizing TVTropes - Part 3: Proper batching

The story so far

Yesterday we were discussing our (admittedly) somewhat ghetto, not-quite-batched Neo4j implementation.

The long and short of it is that I was initially attacking the import process as one would on a JDBC client for a relational database. Query for these values here, create those if some don’t exist, insert relationships here, etc.

That seems to be woefully inefficient in Neo4j.

Visualizing TVTropes - Part 2: Neo4j optimizations

Welcome. You may want to first catch up on Part 1 of this little experiment.

All done? OK then.

Visualizing TVTropes - Part 1


This is the first part of a series of articles on a small experiment I’m building. The intent is to crawl TVTropes, to find possible relationships between tropes and the material they appear in, as well as shared concepts.

I want to be able to not only visualize a concept and the tropes that it links to, but also how they relate to each other. A bonus would be being able to query how far away a concept is from another - for instance, how many steps we need to take before we can go from Cowboy Bebop to Macross Missile Massacre.