March 14, 2011

BOOM features student-developed computer games, robots

Poker playing perfected using artificial intelligence, music that changes with the way you dance, a hand-drawn picture that interacts based on the laws of physics, a smartphone app to force you to take a break, a glove that lets you control a machine with hand movements, automated submarines and aircraft, and, of course, computer games were among the 60 or so digital technology projects displayed at the annual Bits On Our Minds (BOOM) event, March 9 in Duffield Hall.

The event showcases student-created, cutting-edge innovations in projects from student researchers in engineering, computer science and materials science, veterinary science, art, biology, music, humanities and other disciplines.

The glove, called the SudoGlove Gesture-Based Controller, won the Bank of America sponsorship award. It uses gravity, pressure and movement sensors to translate hand movements into control signals. Its practical application? "The sky's the limit," said Jeremy Blum '12. "Anything you can turn a dial on or push a button on, there's no reason that dial or button can't be one of the sensors on [the glove]."

Among the computer games was an action-adventure game to steer an animated, angry bunny through outer space to save the battery planet of Voltaea from an evil raccoon menace. Other games involved surrealism and the dream world.

Many projects sought to solve a problem using technology. For example, when more than five or 10 people try to hold an online conference, it is difficult to know who is speaking. OpenComm allows users to determine which person is speaking based on their location on the screen and allows one-on-one side conversations within the group. Its team won the GE Imagination in IT Award and the Cisco Pioneer Award.

Winning the Google award for the project with the most potential for social impact and Yahoo's award for innovative use of social networking was Vera, a smartphone app that interrupts people when they're making important, often health-related decisions to encourage them to think about related past, present and future decisions.

GoSlow, another smartphone app, sounds a series of preset alarms throughout the day to remind people to slow down and take time to reflect.

Winning an award from Goldman Sachs was Fab@Home for its role in personal use 3-D printers. "We were looking for an innovative solution that was very cross-disciplinary because that's a lot of the business we do," said Goldman Sachs representative Mohammed Guza in presenting the award. "It combines computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, even food science and biology."

The People's Choice Award, voted upon by those attending BOOM, went to the Cornell Human Flight Project, a prototype aircraft that is a cross between a small plane and a helicopter with an oversized tail. It will be entered into the Green Flight Challenge this summer, which aims to create more efficient and affordable aircraft.

The Cornell computer science faculty presented its Where's the Boom Award to the Paper Popup Simulator, a computer program that allows users to create 3-D computer models based on cuts and folds made in a flat sheet of paper.

Elizabeth Simpson '14 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.