Dean Putney

Software developer and GIF archivist in San Francisco. Follow me on Twitter.

Oculus was the future of gaming. Now it’s the future of Facebook.

Photo Illustration: Jason Foral

Facebook is buying VR headset company Oculus for $2 billion. The paycheck gets the founders a massive payday, but leaves a bitter taste for its Kickstarter backers, not least the indie game developers who thought they could be a bigger part of that future.

For decades, the idea of living inside a virtual reality has captivated developers' imaginations. People inspired by the dream have literally devoted their lives to making virtual reality a reality. It's a simple pursuit with a glorious promise: escape from this world, and into another designed just for you. But there's always been a dark cloud over that endeavor: The possibility that these virtual worlds might become tainted or be misused. It's a major concern, a warning regularly beaten into the minds of those who believed.

At long last, a hero emerged. Oculus made it possible to dip your head into the simplest of these worlds, to really feel like you had escaped our shared reality into another. The poetry written about its promise flowed deep and strong. Rabid fans clamored to throw their support and money at the project. They crowded around booths at trade shows to catch a glimpse, and built complicated software programs for the new platform-- sometimes without even being able to try it out themselves. Suddenly, users were booting up and creating any virtual world they wanted, and that power made them think they might be able to influence the real world a bit. Hopes were high! Oculus seemed untouchable; the white knight of VR.

Well, fuck it. Facebook just bought the thing.

Read the rest

Winter Olympics wipeout GIFs

The Winter Olympics offer us a great lesson in GIFs--specifically, the power of a well-made GIF to condense much longer-form content into its highest-impact few seconds. Where you've got weeks of serious content and coverage, the GIF has to focus on what brings you the most oomph. Wipeouts.

4chan's worksafe GIF section has been collecting the best of the wipeouts from the 2014 Winter Olympics for the last week. It's an impressive thread. Not only is it emotionally wrenching to see these athletes try so hard and fail, but the wipeouts highlight the magnitude of what they're trying to do. One big crash puts all the perfect runs and tenths-of-a-second into perspective. Here are some of my favorites.

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Best-selling Kickstarter Robot Turtles now available on Amazon

Robot Turtles– the board game for little programmers –is the most-sold board game on Kickstarter, and it's still going crazy as it nears 25,000 sales! All the backer copies have been sent out and the last thousand or so copies are available on Amazon, with just enough time to snag one for Christmas. I'm a huge fan of the game: the first backer on Kickstarter and an advisor on the project, grab it while you still can.

Robot Turtles

Menorah in Kerbal Space Program

For those unfamiliar, Kerbal Space Program is a realistic spaceship building and flight simulator game based closely on real rocket engines and physics. It's an open-ended game with lots of asteroids and planets to explore, and some people develop a Minecraft-esque obsession to accomplishing wilder and wilder feats. My rockets mostly just make the Hindenberg look like a damp sparkler.

In the spirit of Hanukkah, CupcakesLanders flew to another planet, built a custom menorah out of rocket engines and fuel tanks, then ferried in a collection of Kerbins to watch the lighting ceremony. Now that's some real chutzpah!

KSP Hanukkah Special, Oy Vey!

Tonight in SF: 8bitSF presents crashfaster, Trash80 and BitShifter

This evening San Francisco's DNA Lounge is hosting 8bitSF for crashfaster's new album release at 8PM. Chiptune legends Trash80 and BitShifter are flying in for the event, and it's shaping up to be a great show. I'll be performing computer visuals for BitShifter's set with my partner Steve Dekorte as Controlling Transmission. All our visualizations are written in HTML5 and Javascript, and the undocumented source is available on Github if you want a challenge. If you're coming to see the show, bookmark this link on your phone for our set. [Facebook event]

32,000 piece Keith Haring jigsaw puzzle for masochists

This puzzle– a whopping seventeen-foot-long, forty-two-pounder that comes with its own hand truck –is clearly meant to be used for some form of existential penance. If you carry deep-seated hatred for yourself or are planning on departing from your sanity, you might take on the "extra challenge" of a puzzle that only has six colors, not counting black and white. And it's only $194.

Keith Haring: Double Retrospect – 32,000 piece puzzle

Projection mapped animation on screens held by giant robot arms

This dramatic video from Bot and Dolly shows off their robotic camera systems by projection mapping a 3D animation onto two screens as they're waved around by one and a half ton robotic arms. In July, Boing Boing co-sponsored the Robot Film Festival held in their incredible studios. There I learned that while this film appears to be shot from a hand-held camera, it's probably made with a camera on a robot arm following a recorded path made by motion tracking a hand-held camera to a tenth-of-a-millimeter precision. Bot & Dolly had no comment on whether or not that's the case in this film.

Robot Turtles: the board game that teaches preschoolers to program

Robot Turtles is "a board game you play with your favorite 3 to 8-year-old that sneakily teaches programming fundamentals." Created by entrepreneur Dan Shapiro and inspired by classic kids' programming language Logo, the board game lets kids ages 3-8 write programs with colorful playing cards. The game is brilliantly simple: kids play a row of action cards to control their turtle on the board, as moved by the adult game master.

Dan designed the game for his 4-year-old boy/girl twins, because "people who can program are going to be writing the future, and everybody else is going to be reading it." With 10,000 backers, Robot Turtles is nearly the most-backed board game on Kickstarter. It's available until Sept 27 for $29 and is scheduled to ship in time for Christmas.

Dan's a good friend of mine (I'm Robot Turtles' first backer), and we spent months discussing the strategy behind both Robot Turtles and my recent Kickstarter. If you're interested in some of the lessons Dan and I learned, he's got a great post up on the subject.

Unseen World War I photos: Destroyed Cathedrals

The following photos were taken from 1914-1918 by my great-grandfather Lt. Walter Koessler during his time as a German officer in the first World War. They're part of a collection of over a thousand photos, stereographs and their negatives that my family has been saving for a century. This is an unusually large and complete collection, and I've taken on the task of preserving it and printing it so other people can experience this history too.Read the rest

Unseen World War I photos: German Trenches

The following photos were taken from 1914-1918 by my great-grandfather Lt. Walter Koessler during his time as a German officer in the first World War. They're part of a collection of over a thousand photos, stereographs and their negatives that my family has been saving for a century. This is an unusually large and complete collection, and I've taken on the task of preserving it and sharing it with you as I believe it deserves.

These photos have never been published before.

Read the rest

Meltwater lake forms at North Pole

Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA's Arctic division maintains a couple of webcams at the North Pole, and one of them is showing a pretty impressive meltwater lake forming around it. Previous years show small ponds forming and refreezing throughout the summer, but this year nearly all the snow in view of the camera has melted into a lake-sized slush.

Check out this time lapse video of the lake forming. Much more photos and videos from this year and previous years at NOAA's website.

Ardent Industries to build raining voxel cloud on a forklift

Ardent Industries, the crazy people behind such large art installations as Dance Dance Immolation and SYZYGRYD, are building a giant 3D Mario cloud stuck to the top of a forklift so they can rain on people's parades. Their Kickstarter is fully funded and they're starting production and getting their forklift licenses! Rad!

Ardent Mobile Cloud Platform on Kickstarter

Tomorrow: Robot Film Festival in San Francisco, co-sponsored by Boing Boing

Chorebot, one of my favorite RFF submissions

Boing Boing is proud to be a media sponsor of the Robot Film Festival's premier in San Francisco this weekend. Join us tomorrow at Bot & Dolly for a series of three film screenings, live performances, and the Botskers Award Ceremony. It's an all-day event starting at 11:30 with lunch and dinner included, so prepare for a massive overdose of robots!

Today is your last chance to get tickets. Check out the full schedule of events on the Robot Film Festival website. See you there!

Boing Boing co-sponsoring the Robot Film Festival in SF!

The 3rd annual Robot Film Festival is coming to San Francisco this weekend and Boing Boing is proud to be a media sponsor! This Saturday and Sunday (July 20-21), come explore the relationship between humans and robots through a series of film showings, live performances, and a day-long film workshop.

Here's why Robot Film Festival is a must see:

• It takes place in Bot & Dolly's incredible robotic camera equipment workshop
• BeatBots, maker of the adorable Keepon robot, is organizing the event this year
Famed comedy robot Data is getting a new sidekick, Scotty
• Robots, people dressed as robots, people doing the robot, robots filming movies, robots robots robots!

Obviously it's bound to be a blast. Come welcome the Robot Film Festival to San Francisco with us!

Tickets available on Kickstarter
Robot Film Festival

UPDATE: Kickstarter finished successfully! You can still get tickets on EventBrite.

Crazy naked man attacks BART passengers, performs gymnastics

Video Link

On May 10th, a completely naked man entered the 16th street BART station in San Francisco and began attacking people, spitting, urinating and doing gymnastics moves on railings and turnstiles. BART police eventually shut down the station to arrest the man.

Yesterday, this NSFW video of the incident hit YouTube. Be warned that it's no joke: it's a naked man attacking vulnerable passers-by in public.