Hack24 V2 started :)

So, it may end up being called something else but I have now started writing a new (well kinda) game.  The last couple of weeks I have been bug fixing and improving the LibGDX framework / demo app that I made a few years ago.  Code can be found here: https://github.com/burf2000/BurfEngine

Yes, it has a terrible name!  Anyway it was my attempt at a simple game like Minecraft where you can place and remove cubes.  I added things like chunking, gravity, and culling.  It also has a database and network layer, custom collision code and works on iOS, Android, and Desktop.  It has been converted to Kotlin, which I am really liking 🙂

Now, after a few long nights of fixing, that code is being parked and anyone can use it!  I now plan to rip it apart and use the best bits to form the engine for Hack24 (v2).  Made aim is to make a 3D game that has the same look and feel as Hack24 that’s cross-platform and easy to develop further.

I will focus on a MVP first, which should not take too long, I will try and rewrite the server in NodeJS (Well KotlinJS).

So why am I doing this?  A few reasons:

I really liked Hack24 but it had some performance issues and really needs rewriting to use OpenGL VBO / VAO.  It also makes sense to make it cross-platform while I am at it.  I don’t fancy doing it in Unity and really want to learn Kotlin for work (which I can for LibGDX).  It would be nice if people enjoy playing it too, so I hope to make it bigger with more content 🙂

Watch this space!

 

 

VEX Worlds 2017 – Robotics Competition

Sorry for the late post about VEX Worlds, I thought I would have more time after worlds to catch up with stuff, sadly (well not really), the kids have been mega active.  My eldest son played his first football tournament, had a holiday, lots of family stuff!

So, VEX Worlds, what an amazing experience, I went along for the VEX EDR side of the competition (this year it was split EDR / IQ) as I was showing off the EDR Tank.  Sadly I had to leave the US early as my son, Max was ill.  Still a very cool experience!

So, the EDR tank, well it performed really really well in remote control mode.  I mean the thing was fairly slow but must have covered MILES!  The batteries never died on me, nor did any motors!  I did kill a few Omniwheels, however, that’s to be expected.   Even though I left early, the EDR tank did not and so others drove it around.  I have not received it back yet to see how bad it is now, but I am sure it will be fine.

The autonomous side was a bit of a failure, to be honest, and looking back I had set up myself to fail and I will explain why.  The autonomous side was using ROS (Robotic operating system) which is an industry standard.  I was using a Neato Lidar system which is awesome however it only had a range of 5 meters and SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to work out where I was, and where I needed to go via building up a map.  SLAM works by detecting features of the surrounding area to work out where it is.  When you’re in a hall that’s hundreds of meters wide with very little features, a sensor with a range of 5 meters is practically useless.  In the end, I just showed kids how it worked on my laptop using RVIZ.  If I had to do this properly I would need to invest in a proper LIDAR system with a much greater range.  Another aspect which makes this very hard is all the people moving around, how can SLAM pick up features if they are constantly moving!

Overall, the EDR tank was hugely popular, I gave tons of fist bumps, high fives, etc, people just thought it was cool, just a little slow.

Next year, if I did a vehicle again, I would have to make it a lot faster and forget about advance sensors etc!

Here are some videos of VEX World and the EDR TANK:

This weeks update : It’s a lie : Metabase, more VEX and some data science!

So, let’s get the lie out of the way, this week’s update could cover more or less than a week!  It is whatever I am thinking of at the time, that may or may not be happening.  So apologies for that bombshell.

Software

So, at work (O2’s Innovation Lab) I am currently learning data science stuff, for anyone who knows me, this is an extremely hard task as I have the focus of hamster on Redbull.  I am usually doing more than 1 thing (usually 5) and so it can be a struggle to learn a new skill, let alone one as difficult as data science.  This week, I would say I am starting to get somewhere.  I been using different classifiers across my data, checked its score and then looked at the confusion matrix.  What that told me was that my data sucked badly, however, the upside was I could prove that my data was terrible.

Another thing I am doing at work around data (oh look at my focus) needed me to take some data and put a GUI over the top for people to be able to easy “ask the data questions”, I found a really cool free tool called Metabase which worked really nicely.  All I needed to do was take an MS Access DB (oh boy who uses MS Access), convert it to CSV, and chuck it in a Postgres DB.  Would have taken 5 mins on a PC, a Mac took a little bit longer!

Robots

So what’s new on the robot front this week? well VEX Worlds is in less than 25 days and the software is erm…. still in development.  The EDR Tank should be on way to the US, so I made a mini version of it so that I can carry on with the development.  I have written some safety features into the software so that I don’t mow down innocent kids, mouthy kids, will, of course, run over!  The nex thing I need to do is finish the bridge between the VEX Cortex and the ROS software

ROS

I have a new friend on Facebook, (whoop whoop) who has been helping me with the ROS stuff, it’s useful to have a sounding board on learning new stuff, especially something as complex as ROS.  I have a fear that the VEX Tank may not work too well with all the people moving about.  Slam and autonomous driving works (very simple form) by identifying features in the environment to try and locate itself. when you have no real features (e.g a long corridor) or lots of things changing (e.g people moving about), it can get very confused.  I am sure robotics engineers have a good solution to this, but being a beginner and using Hector Slam for the first time,  I am not holding my breath.  My mini raspberry Pi / LEGO version got confused if I farted near it, let alone 10,000 kids running around!

Ending Notes

I started a statistics course as its the precursor to the Udacity Machine Learning Course.

I finished a Sentiment analysis course, pretty interesting, showed how to work out if a review to a film was positive or negative.

I watched Logan, was very good and rather violent and definitely not for the kids

I watched Kong, was pretty good but preferred the previous one, which to be fair is nothing like the new one.

I started printing the Inmoov project 🙂 THE BEST 3D Printed project in the world!

This weeks update :) Big Bang, VEX Worlds.

So, last week I was at the Big Bang Science Fair, I was asked to be a judge for the VEX Robotics National Championship 🙂


I also managed to get VEX the VEX Tank ready to ship it to the US for VEX WORLDS, build-wise, it’s complete, software wise, it’s not 🙁

My flights have been booked for VEX WORLD for next month, so full speed ahead to finish the software!  Anyone know ROS?

 

Big Bang Science Fair 2017 @ the NEC

Every year the VEX National Robotics Championship is held at the Big Bang Science Fair.  This takes place at the Birmingham NEC in March.  Last year I attended as a VEXIQ superuser showing off my VEXIQ Skateboard, this year I have been asked to be a VEXIQ Judge under O2 who I work for.  I have done judging a few times, and it is such a great experience, you get to meet some super cool kids who make the most impressive robots.  It is also brilliant that my work (O2) support this, they really have a mission to help out kids.

Anyway, I will do a full write-up of the event, once it happens 🙂  Please check out The Big Bang Fair.co.uk/

 

 

The Come Back : Bringing Robotics to Burf Development

So people, after some long thinking, and some random building. I have decided to shut down Burf.org.uk and move the content to here and focus my effects on making this site good again!

LEGO, Robots, Arduinos, anything crazy will be now featured on here.

I first want to do some posts on what I have been doing up until now etc, which should come shortly. Then fall speed ahead on new projects!

Hack24 new version coming

So, seems people liked it so I am going to start making a new version of Hack24 in Unity

Building it in Unity will allow me to get past a lot of my performance issues.

If you enjoyed the game, please let me know what you liked and what you want in the next version!

 

 

Getting to grips with Unity & VR

At work, I have been tasked with investigating Virtual Reality and what can be done with it.  The results went in to a Lab Report to that was sent to the rest of the business.  When thinking about building any VR proof of concept (POC), Unity just makes sense due to how easy they make it to enable it (a single tick box).  Out of the box, they support the main headsets (Rift, GearVR, Vive) to a useable level.  All of my POC’s where targeted at the Samsung GearVR as currently that’s the only commercial headset available.  This does give you some challenges due to the lack of user interaction possible and performance.  That’s been my major struggle recently, gett the FPS up.

Unity do offer some very nice and pretty VR samples in the Asset store, its recommended for anyone to take a look at how they are put together.  They also show you have to pickup taps / swipes etc on the GearVR touch pad.

Another challenge I have faced with being a programmer, and not a designer is making stuff look awesome, luckily in the Lab we have someone who knows Unity a lot better than I do and has a eye for detail, which most developers lack.

All in all I have enjoyed learning Unity and hope to use it with some proper VR hardware (Vive / Rift), I also hope that if I do get to do a larger project in it, that I have a more powerful machine.  Even my fairly new MacBook Pro struggles with Unity.

I have also learned a lot about good but mainly bad uses of VR,  the key message here is, don’t use VR for everything, use it for its strengths

 

VRUKFest : Judge and Panelist

So, I was very honoured to be invited to the VRUKFest in London last week as a panelist and judge due to me investigating Virtual Reality for O2.  People were very interested in how I thought O2 could use VR.  The event was amazing, I got to meet some of the industry leaders in VR (PlayStation, Rewind etc), hardware from HTC (Vive Pre), Wizdish (treadmill, Pacman in VR).  The VR Space is super exciting at the moment and is only going to get better!

vrfest