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Thursday, July 2, 1998

First, the New Stuff:

Hello from Origins! It's going on right now but I'm not going to even try to report on it until next week when it's all over. It's just too overwhelming right now. (Besides, I wrote this report ahead of time and left instructions for posting it on the proper day. Thanks Jeff! You rock!!)

Judging by all the stuff we've been doing to get ready, though, Origins is going to be one heck of a show for us. We've been working feverishly to get ready for it for a long time, and the final push this week has kept us busier than ever. Our booth has been designed using inspirations Kristin obtained at the Gathering of the Vibes, and we assembled a working model in our living room. It's going to be the coolest booth at the show!

For the past two weeks I've been frantically writing software inspired by Virtual Paul, and I'm happy to say that it's done. And it's pretty cool. It's the culmination of my various attempts at creating what I call Eye Candy, this being visual experiments intended to make the Television more of a canvas for artwork than a vortex for the brain.

My quest for neutral television began when we starting hosting a weekly gaming night and didn't like the way people would just stare at the TV instead of socializing. The obvious solution was to turn the TV off (or even get rid of it all together), but in today's TV-oriented world, these are not easy solutions. A TV that's off always begs to be on, and guys like me get bored at parties and turn the TV on when there's no one looking.

So if the TV must be on, then at least let's park it on a channel that isn't too captivating. The best choice for this used to be MTV, back in the days when they showed videos instead of game shows, real-life dramas, cartoons, and audience talk shows, but even then this wasn't optimal... leave the room and someone will find the remote and the next thing you know everyone's watching a movie that won't be over for an hour and a half and the evening's basically shot.

To make TV less interesting, I started to override the audio with music from the stereo. I find this works well with with the Cartoon Network, since the worst part about most cartoons is the audio. Without it, it's delightfully surreal... atlhough it's still too easy to get distracted and drawn into the talking picture box's powerful trance. Sadly, most other stations are either too boring and unattractive, like the preview and weather channels, or are too interesting, which just leads to those annoying words "Hey, turn that up!"

All of which is why I started making endless loop tapes. I went looking for neat 5 second sequences, things like Homer Simpson eating brownies or the Starship Enterprise firing phasers, something that could be repeated over and over to create an infinite moment, and then I'd copy those 5 seconds over and over again, building up to a ten minute videotape of a figure skater spinning, or twinkies moving along a production line, or the castaways operating one of the Professor's bamboo machines, and I'd put a tape of these things on during our gatherings. And they're just the thing. They turn the TV into an ever changing wall painting. People will look at it for a little while, but since it doesn't hold one's attention, they'll soon turn back to the conversation. But later, when they look again, it's different!

But videotape is an imperfect medium. So when I got the old 3DO equipment I'd developed Icebreaker on from Magnet, I went digital. The 3DO is dead as a game platform, but it's still great for creating my special brand of eye candy. Why, just last week I used it to create the credits for Right to the Bottom. I wonder... am I the last person still programming for the 3DO?

We applied Eye Candy technology to the design of our booth at Origins last year, and a surprising number of people asked about buying videotapes of the Televised Eye. So this year, we decided to turn the concept into a product. It's called Aquarius Girls and it features 2 hours of Lori and Gina simulations, each seen against six different colorful animated backgrounds. Each copy is digitally mastered directly from my 3DO development system, and since I use a lot of random numbers in my Eye Candy, no two are copies are alike. We think it's pretty cool... I'll let you know next week what people at Origins think of it.

Well, that's all I have to say about that. Happy July 4th!

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