Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Spirals: Geometry Of Awareness

If you have visited my website you may have noticed that I am fond of spirals. What is it about spirals that evokes the imagination? The Golden Spiral has inspired philosophers, poets, architects, physicists, astronomers and biologists. We see spirals in nature; from the recorded trails of exotic subatomic particles, to flowers and galaxies. Spirals are everywhere.

Recently, I have been exploring spirals on the surface of spheres. I have published a study on generating these spirals on my website. See Spheriphor Study 03 for details and images. As far as I know this is the only spiral of its kind. There must be other people who have created a geometric design where spirals symmetrically cover the surface of a sphere - so if the reader knows of any, please comment here and let me know where they can be found.

I do a lot of my work in POV-Ray. I have provided sample code on my website for generating some of the images. I even provide information on how to run the code. If the reader is willing to follow a few step-by-step instructions, then it should be fairly simple to reproduce the images.

The image shown in the beginning of this post is titled Golden Spiral Sunset Sailing. It is a 3D rendering of a series of rectangles arranged whimsically in the space above a tranquil body of water. A spiral reminiscent of the Golden Spiral flows through the rectangular structure like the sails of a fanciful sailboat. More spiral digital art to come in future posts ...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Serious Games At Sauce Nightclub

The IGDA (International Game Developers Association) meeting Thursday night (12-13-2007) at the SauceRaw nightclub in downtown Albuquerque was fun! It was a great turn out and there were some great Pecha Kucha presentations.

Thanks go out to everyone who made this a successful event. Special thanks to Eric Renz-Whitmore (UNM ARTS Lab) and Mike Wallace (Global Haptics).

I found the Pecha Kucha speed presentation style to be a challenge to present, but it is exciting, informational and entertaining; especially with the occaisional flubs that occur when the presenter tries to keep up with the fast-moving Powerpoint slides.

It was good to see a lot of young entrepeneurs with fresh ideas. The future of America is in the hands of young people like those in attendance. Taking informed risks and passionately pursuing innovative ideas with new technologies is what the IGDA is all about.

Several presentations had the theme of Serious Games. My feeling is that this is a very good thing. I believe that the world is just beginning to see the benefit of the positive application of game technology.

My own presentation "Serious Games With Google Earth" is published in my previous blog posting. It was well received and I had a lot of good discussion later as we enjoyed wine, food and music in the "Raw" side of the nightclub.

Coincidentally, Frank Miller is making a film in downtown Albuquerque called "Game." Imagine that! So while we were discussing game technology, the film crew of Frank Miller's "Game" walks in. I struck up a conversation with a key grip on the film who just finished filming a live 3D film with the latest Red Cameras. We also shared an intense interest in the works of Buckminster Fuller.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Serious Games With Google Earth

Serious Game - Definition

The current Wikipedia definition (as Wikipedia content is constantly in flux): "A serious game is a software application developed with game technology and game design principles for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment." This is fairly non-specific. For example, "game technology" can be practically any technology that humans interact with. In this competition we make use of Google Earth technology as a "game engine" platform on which we develop a multi-player, serious game environment.


The goal of the Serious Games Competition utilizing Google Earth technology is to create a competitive situation where several development teams apply their skills and creativity to ultra-rapidly develop innovative and novel applications that will immerse the end-user in educational and problem-solving gaming situations.


For The Duke City Shootout

Note: I presented this at the 2007 Duke City Shootout which was running a "Gamelan" serious games competition at their "Insomnia Lounge."

Demonstrate that the Duke City Shootout is an extensible, revolutionary forum that supports and encourages innovative and breakthrough approaches to ultra-rapid development of new media applications and content.

For The Teams

Achieve ultra-rapid development of a Serious Game using Google Earth technology while realizing the rewards, recognition, learning and fun that comes from a competitive, highly-spirited team-based forum.

For The Public

Enable end-users to immerse and involve themselves in totally novel Serious Game environments that educate, inform and possibly solve community to global scale problems, while simultaneously, on the meta-level learn about the opportunity for themselves to contribute a Serious Game of their own design using Google Earth.


This competition makes use of Google Earth (GE) as a Serious Game engine. GE is obviously highly graphic and interactive. The ability to rapidly add rich 3D objects, ground overlays, layers, multi-media content and click-able icons (placemarks) enable foundational game elements. GE technology also enables sophisticated capabilities such as simulations, immersive environments, fly-through navigation, data filters and decision branching that Serious Games depend upon. Through the use of programmatical XML code generation, advanced features such as multi-player interaction and animation can be achieved. For example, GE Chess

Out-of-the-box (and a free one at that), GE contains an enormous amount of "real-life" and virtual Earth data. An already extensive database of 3D objects are available for download from the Google Earth 3D Warehouse ( The 3D Warehouse includes a large variety of vehicles, furniture, building products, architectural elements and characters.

Google "Geo-Stories"

Many organizations and individuals around the globe are taking advantage of GE to tell their "Geo-Story." By publishing the Geo-Story as a Google Earth layer anyone can become a hero by bringing important issues into the light. Some notable examples:

  • Crisis in Darfur "The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has joined with Google in an unprecedented online mapping initiative. Crisis in Darfur enables more than 200 million Google Earth users worldwide to visualize and better understand the genocide currently unfolding in Darfur, Sudan."
  • End Mountain Top Removal "You can view the National Memorial for the Mountains featured in the “Layers” menu of Google Earth."
  • Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council "The tribal leaders who run the YRITWC are celebrating their 10th year of the 50 year mission to drink from the Yukon River. Using Google Earth and GIS a council of many tribes map river contaminants. They bring together existing data, collect new data, and promote collaboration between native tribes and agencies for building these databases which are available for the protection and sustainability of the Yukon River ecosystem.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council "Zoom in: The Effects of Global Warming on Alaska" Click the link on the NRDC website and the "big blue marble" spins around in Google Earth and zoom in to a position above Alaska. Here you see a number of click-able icons representing major environmental impacts such as the rapidly melting McCall Glacier. Click the icon to view a striking photo of the glacier with a highly informative description that tells a compelling story.

Using Google Earth As A Game Engine

The previous examples are very serious uses of Google Earth. However, in this novel application of using GE as a game engine, the places and times can be imaginary; in the past or in the future. The real Earth is only a bare stage on which to place 3D objects and custom designed environments. The ability to add a custom ground overlay remakes any location on Earth to suite a story or game scenario.

Developers can create 3D objects that come close to game engines of the recent past. One may create materials and texture maps to cover the surface of these objects. Existing Earth terrain may be used or custom terrain may be created. Place objects on the ground or miles above the ground. Objects can be scaled realistically using precise dimensions in feet and inches, or create objects as big as mountains.

XML-Based Files

The GE technology utilizes open source files which are end-user editable. The files can be stored on Google's servers, practically any location on the Internet or even on a private server. These files are used to depict 3D objects, graphical features and click-able placemarks. Essentially there are two file formats; KML (Keyhole Markup Language) and DAE (Collada 3D description) files. Both KML and DAE files are based on XML schemas that are standardized and documented by published specifications.

SketchUp - 3D Object Creation

The novice can avoid coding tasks entirely by using the Google SketchUp application (free download). Rich 3D environments and a degree interactivity can be obtained using just the Google Earth and Google SketchUp applications alone.

Multiplayer Interaction and 3D Animation

With a little bit of programming full-featured, interactive games can be created. For example, GE Chess is an interactive chess game played on a chess board that hovers over New York Harbour. Online players compete by moving chess pieces the size of skyscrapers. The 3D animation is accomplished in Google Earth with minimum amount of PHP code. See

There are very good tutorials for using Google Earth and Google SketchUp. A beginner can download both applications and have their first 3D model created within an hour.

Live and Interactive Displays

An extensive amount of clever programming has already been done for weather displays in GE. For example, the guiWeather website has a large number of KML files that can be opened in GE that provide real-time weather displays such as lightning strikes, hurricanes and severe weather. The KML files demonstrate animated graphics and interactive, live data capabilities that can form the basis of a Serious Games interface and take advantage of the GE Network Link feature.

Utilities and Supporting Freeware

Scenario: Duke City Shootout Film Game

Each game team shadows a film crew and draws inspiration for their game from the film crew's experience. Using GE the gamers create an interactive, immersive environment that reflects the creative journey of the film crew. The goal is to develop the most compelling look into the life of a film crew during the Shootout. Examples of some games that might be developed:

  1. The Making Of... - similar to the special features of a DVD, but with added interactivity. Tour the set, follow the crew in the field, build 3D sets in GE, add links to photos and video clips of the film crew in action, capture on-the-set drama and struggles. Explore the challenges of ultra-rapid film development using the latest in digital film technology and how the team overcomes these challenges.
  2. Creative Inspirations... - get inside the head of the production team, examine their inspirations, use GE to fly to real and make-believe places to explore what influenced the creation and feeling of the film.
  3. Director's Cut... - examine the dynamic aspect of Shootout film-making, view choices that changed the course of the film, use click-able placemarks to allow the end-user to predict directorial decisions or examine "what-if" scenarios, what would the end-user have done in the Director's chair? In particular, how does the film original direction change during the week and how does the ultra-rapid film creation competitive situation impact the ability to make changes.

Scenario: Disaster Response Game

Teams simulate natural or man-made disasters, then provide mechanisms for developing responses. Teams can explore what-if scenarios such as:

  1. Terrorists Attack... - develop Red Team attack strategies against Homeland Security targets. Use GE to explore the success or failure of different strategies by emergency responders, police, rescue and military forces respond.
  2. Avian Flu... - the experts have their predictive models on how fast Avian Flu will spread and where, but how will each part of the world respond? Pick an urban environment and use GE to simulate the spread of the disease, then explore strategies that best contain the disease and minimize impact.
  3. Global Warming... - several predictions on the negative effects of Global Warming exist, but no one has looked in detail at impact on the local level. Pick a city close to the ocean and use GE to show the detailed impact. Choose a worst-case scenario and show the new coastline after oceans rise from polar ice cap melting. How is population displaced? Which industries, businesses, schools, hospitals, etc. will be under water? Explore strategies to determine the best location for people to move to. Where will the new ports and urban centers be? Which agricultural areas and fresh-water supplies will be intruded upon by salt water? What goods and services will be in biggest demand? Explore the possibility that Global Warming is an opportunity to master plan for future.
  4. To Bee Or Not To Bee... - an alarming number of bees have died over the last year. Some apiaries report 85%-95% of their hives have died with the bees completely missing. This is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Although there are several theories, no one knows the cause. CCD threatens the fruit and vegetable growers of the US and possibly the world. What if all the bees in the US die? What and where is the impact? What can be done about it?
  5. Global Conflict... - where are the hot spots where Global Conflict is occurring right now? Examine the current war zones, people, politics and resources. Are there predictable trends over history? Create a conflict simulator. Take one of the conflict zones and explore strategies for resolving the conflict in the shortest period of time, with the least cost of human suffering.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lost Blog Found!

Wow, it has been a really long time since I last blogged. It has been five years since I last posted. This is funny, since I totally forgot that I even had a blog.

Tonight I decided to start blogging for the "first" time. I discovered that this is very easy from my Google account. In the process of creating a blogger account from Google I attempted to use the obvious name Karmatetra and was told much too my surprise that the account already existed!

Yikes, how could there be another person on the planet using the name Karmatetra? I opened - - it was like staring in a mirror and seeing myself for the first time.

My last posting of December 3, 2002 is very eery. It is almost exactly 5 years since that post. The amazing thing is that it still exists. It is like bumping into an old friend that you haven't seen in a long time. All this time I have been resisting the temptation to start a blog when in fact I already had one. Very strange...