Thursday, January 12, 2006

New Semester Notes

A new semester has started. We have moved to a new building and I like my new office (will get a pic and post it here soon). It is good to have all of my classes in the same building for a change.

This semester quite unlike many others during my PhD, is going to be pretty hectic.

I am taking two courses this semester:

CSC707: Automata, Languages, Computability and Complexity Theory

This is an advanced course on this topic and satisfies the last remaining course requirement that I need to meet for my curriculum.

CSC720: Artificial Intelligence II (Rationality and Reasoning)

This course is taught by Dr. Jon Doyle and is mainly focused on Rationality and Reasoning in AI.

Apart from these, I am teaching Unreal Engine Programming in the Game Design and Development course for which I am the TA.

Two conference deadlines are also coming up so working away to get the papers finished:
AIIDE: Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Interactive Digital Entertainment (25 Jan) and
AAAI: Conference of National Association for Artificial Intelligence(21 Feb).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Summer Placement

I recently got an offer for a summer position at Virtual Heroes Virtual Heores is a game studio best known for the game America's Army multiplayer FPS.

I visited their studio which is located (conveniently) only about 10 miles from my apartment. I met some really cool young game programmers, designers and artists chugging away on their high-end machines. I am really excited about this opportunity. I am gearing up to get my hands dirty with some real game code (rather than mods and research systems that I have worked on so far).

Friday, November 18, 2005

Introducing Darshak

Darshak is the name of a Virtual Movie Director (yea, technically it should be DigDarshak or something, but it is complicated when converted to English) that I am writing as part of my dissertaion. Darshak will feature an AI planning algorithm with operators based on Cinematic Idioms. It will soon be tied to a modified Half-Life 2 game engine for execution of these camera plans that it will generate.

Here's the logo:


Shoonya is a new desktop I got yesterday. I set it up as a server at home. It runs Fedora Core operating system and is powered by Apache.

I plan to use it for accessible online data storage purposes and also for doing little web-based projects. This also gives me a chance to run my own customized blogging software, rss reader software etc.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chill sets in

We are almost at freezing temperature today. Yesterday though was about 20 degrees higher. Weather here has been getting more unpredictable by the year. In 2001 I clearly remember the Fall season with bright colors (red, yellow, purple) replacing the thick green around the campus. Walkways full of dry yellow leaves with pearls of water on them shining in soft sunlight and a light comfortable breeze blowing. Gone are those days, we completely skipped fall last year. This year has not been better either. Due to the record number of hurricanes due south of us, the cold wave from the north west that usually brings rains probably got pushed back. So now we are in a near drought condition with water levels way below par. We did have very nice weather last week, but my plans of going around the campus with a camera to catch the fall colors are now frozen until(hopefully) the chill goes away.

Book Sale

For all those in and around the Raleigh area. The Wake County libraries is holding their annual Book Sale this weekend. Last year I bought about 4 boxes full of books (mostly fiction - complete serieses of Robin Cook, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Frederick Forsyth, Douglas Adams, Issac Asimov, Mario Puzo, some management books, a couple of books on Hitler and the world war, some biographies, a couple of science books, one asterix comic book and a Dilbert book). In short, they have a great collection of books and they sell them for $5 a box!!

For more information visit:

Cricket, GarageBand etc.

I am really enjoying the audio commentary of the cricket matches going on in India. After gaining a lot of confidence from their 6-1 series win against Sri-Lanka, India now face a much stronger opposition in SAF. It will be interesting to see how the 'new' team copes with this challenge. I am impressed by the way the tailenders played in the last match, but a little disappointed with the bowling in the opening overs of the SAF innings.

The England Pakistan test was the perfect example of why I love test cricket. The match was quite evenly poised at the beginning of Day 4 with england needing about 175 with 9 wkts in hand. Thanks to some aggressive and accurate bowling, Pakistan crawled in to the match and by lunch they were on top. At some point Geraint Jones with Giles and Udal did give a scare of running away with it, he eventually fell and Pakistan won.

On the other side of the globe, Australia are (as usual) on a killing spree as they bowled out West Indies on the first day (with no signs of giving away any wickets when they came to bat). All I have to say is 'tap tap tap... these kangaroos are crazy-and awesome'.

I am also playing with this software called 'GarageBand' - a software for creating musical compositions, only because I have so much time (yea, if you don't sleep you gain 7 hours for satisfying all your hobbies). Well, here is the result of using GarageBand for recordings. (well, these are some of my great flute recitals... okay, this is the only way I sucker someone in to listen to what I play)

Notes of Des

Fusion Music

Aarti Dhun

These are aif files so you probably need a QuickTime plugin to listen to these.

Okay, so we have talked about Cricket and GarageBand and here is the third topic ...


Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Meeting and Bowman/Crossbow Demo

We have our research group meetings on Mondays. This monday being the
Halloween day(ref. previous post) some of the lab members were dressed
up in their costumes. I was not brave enough to dress up weird, but I
managed to hang on to a Longbow (which is the name of the planner we
work on) and I was Bowman (which is the user interface to the planner
web-service Fletcher). Dr. Young came in a Steelers Hockey(Ice) outfit (he is from Pitt), Joe was dressed up as an XBox, Yuna was a raccoon, Leo had a bear hat on and Jim came with a crazy devil mask. Jim's kids, Lincoln (Ninja) and Ben (Pirate) looked very cute in their outfits.

We were also supposed to demo Bowman and Crossbow (Partial Order
Planner implemented in C#). I was incharge of implementing the modal
literal support into the planner and the user interface for specifying
the inputs to the planner. The demo did not go well :(. We could not
get Bowman to talk to Crossbow with modal ops. The UI was mostly
implmented and working. Oliver showed a working single player
modification for Half-Life2 (source engine) that could execute the
action classes sent by the planner through an execution manager.

More about these systems: Zocalo Project

Saturday, October 29, 2005

css revamp

Just started modifying the css template for this blog. Figured I'd get a different theme from the usual ones. Also, this one agrees more with my new:


Friday, October 28, 2005

Tale of Two Celebrations (A Festival of Lights and A Festival of Darkness)

Diwali and Halloween. Two festivals, same week, contrasting origins.

Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights. People decorate the exteriors of houses and apartments with little earthen oil lamps (and nowadays with electric lights). Sweets and festivities abound amid the din of firecrackers.

Halloween on the other hand is the Day of the Dead, when dead spirits come looking for bodies to possess. In order to protect themselves from these spirits, people dress in different types of ghoulish costumes. Children go about the neighborhoods dressed as little evil things asking for tricks or treats (candy!).

On Google:

More about Diwali.

More about Halloween.

TVS ( Transit Visualization System)

NC State's Transportation division released a very cool real-time GPS based Online Visualization System.

This is developed by a group of recent graduates from NCState who founded their company with assistance from the university's Technology Incubator. The technology incubator provides start-ups with funding in the form of various resources (like office space on centennial campus).

The NCState campus is a collection of campuses spread across a very big area, students have to frequently travel back and forth between the historical campus (main campus) to the other campuses (centennial or vet school) for classes. I used to head to the bus stop atleast 5-10 minutes before the' scheduled arrival and buses usually (but not all the time) run 5-10 minutes late. Now with TVS you can just glance at the current location of the bus and make a run for it when it gets close by. Even if the bus is not late you can save atleast 5 minutes per trip.

This is a great application of the almost affordable GPS hardware (GPS software and maps etc. are still fairly expensive).

Doom - Review (no spoilers)

Doom is a movie based on a series of games (Doom 1, 2, 3) developed by id software.


In the Doom universe, there is a genetic engineering lab (belonging to UAC corporation) on Mars accessible through a portal from earth. For some unknown reasons all hell breaks loose on the Mars facility and a team of soldiers from earth is called to investigate the situation on Mars. I will not spoil the rest of the story for you. For the gamers out there who havent already seen the movie --- Yeah there is a BOSS fight at the end :)

The sets bore a faithful resemblance to the maps on the Doom 3 game environments. Mainly dark corridors and futuristic research labs.

The standard weapons - pistol, shotgun and chaingun were all there. One major difference between the movie and the game was that in the movie characters had a flashlight embedded into their weapons. Now anyone who had played Doom 3 would raise an eyebrow here since a key element of gameplay in these dark environments was switching between your weapon and your flashlight (yea you were not allowed to hold both at the same time).

Monsters looked good. They did not throw out fireballs though and I have mixed feelings about that (in the game some monsters fling fireballs at you). Some fights were particularly good, especially the one in the containment cell and one with the first person view.

Special effects were routine and not very special. The game Doom 3 raised the bar higher in terms of dynamic lighting and graphics when it came out but the movie ended up just like any other sci-fi movie in terms of sfx. Sounds were good but not nearly so terrifying as the original game itself.

First Person View and other Game idioms:

What intrigued me about the movie before watching it was how game idioms would be translated into passive movie experiences. Now I could relate to different situations in the game as I was watching the movie. Here are the ones that I found in the movie:

1. Going around the labs to find access keys (or fingerprints) to gain access to protected labs/storage rooms for supplies.
2. Finding new (cooler) weapons as you progress through levels.
3. First person view - I really liked it on the big screen, non-gamers get an idea of what it is like to actually control a character against a huge monster :) What I feared was whether they had overdone it, but fortunately they didn't and the result was good.
4. BOSS fights. Every level usually contains a seemingly difficult boss fight after which you get refreshed for the next level.

Any others....?

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