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  • Weirdest Science

    This Great article Comes Via the nice Folks at ,1UP, Weirdest Science Showcases what the hardest of the hardcore Gamer can do when they'er feeling a little bit creative.

    On with the show.

    Great games can make you think, sure, but sometimes great thinkers can make games, too--especially if your idea of games is a pee-powered gear-shifting simulator and a version of Tetris that builds your biceps. So, for the third year in a row, we travel the globe in search of scientists and students who clearly have too much time on their hands.
    Pee in a pod
    Here's a game where the strategy tip, straight from the designer, is to drink a lot of beer before playing. "Liquids aren't used much in today's interfaces and I found it an interesting idea," says John van Terheijden, a Leiden University grad student in the Netherlands (where else?). "One thing led to another and the idea of using pee came to mind."
    His concoction is TopsPEEd (the pun kinda hits you like a bucket of warm liquid, huh?), a game where you urinate on four tiny seesaws in an enclosed urinal to shift gears on a racecar, which appears on an overhead monitor and shows rpm and mph. The faster you switch gears, the more the car accelerates. There's even an engine sound that roars louder as you race but, thankfully, there's no force feedback.

    Block party
    Two Milan, Italy, grad-school guys with names like Victor Szilagyi and Tristam Sparks must be quirky cool, right? Their xBlocks 3D project is like the ******* child of Tetris and Super Mario Bros, projected on a large 3D sculpture and controlled with standard console joypads. The interconnected blocks form a maze in physical space crawling with flickery blue monsters. "There are two ways to win," says Szilagyi, "either by getting to your opponent's base, or by catching them in the maze." Power-ups increase your speed or upgrade your weapon. But if you wander the maze too long, the monsters will eat you for lunch.

    Kicking the habit
    The Wild Horses Center in the Netherlands (yes, those guys again) is like a detox facility for addicted gamers. The recovery program lasts up to six weeks and treats afflictions of mostly the PC variety. "The most addictive games are World OF Warcraft, any role-playing game, Counter Strike, and Quake," says Keith Bakker, director of the center, which opened just last year. "The symptoms of addiction are loss of friends, bad grades in school, loss of self-control, and mounting debt from all the online-gaming fees." Bakker plans to build an online game-addiction center soon and wants to hear from players with stories to tell about their own game addictions. Just send an e-mail to danielle@smithandjones.nl. And if you don't get help at Wild Horses, please, get help somewhere.

    Seven-block biceps
    While benching the bulky Playstation 3 may seem like a sensible workout for your average muscle-nerd, Tim Tucker blasts his lats old-school. To cap off his Master's of Science in Human-Computer Interaction at Indiana University, he rigged up an "exploration in the area of entertainment fitness"--basically, a sweaty version of Tetris. After spending 650 bucks and a few months tinkering with a computer, some pulleys, remote controllers, and weighted buckets, Tucker had his phys-ed killer app--and the muscles to prove it. He realized that the simple mechanic of lifting weights to shift the onscreen pieces made people forget they were working out at all. Just take care to lift that extra-heavy straight piece with your legs.

    Lean, mean grillin' PS3
    Who says your PlaySttation 3 has to collect dust once you've beaten best-of-the-batch launch game Resistance Fall Of Man? Not Aussie 17-year-olds James Kingham and Brendan Foley, who noticed something very as-seenon- TV about the system's concave casing. "Ever since the final design of the PS3 was announced, people have been joking that it looks like a George Foreman grill," says Kingham. One long Sunday afternoon later (not to mention $1,000 blown on grillin' parts and an imported PS3), the duo had completed their 2,000-watt, meat-heatin' masterpiece. It's roomy enough for two bloody T-bones, four kosher wieners, and a few whiskey-lathered memory cards.

    Ghost buster
    We think students at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan must have played too much Luigi's Mansion. Their Shadow Chaser game is part ghostsucking gun, part psychological experiment. As you race around capturing the projected virtual ghosts--which look like tiny Pokemon--with a special vacuum cleaner, your backpack fills up with their "weight" and the gun's barrel gets clogged. You can hear the goblins' footsteps through a headset as they try to evade your capture. "The purpose of the project is to give users another way to perceive the existence of objects," says student Yoshinobu Nakano. Sounds deep and fun. Ehhh, we think.

    Head game
    To quote one famously tongue-twisted former vice president: "Not to have a mind is being very wasteful." Enterprising engineers at Washington University in St. Louis are picking up what Dan Quayle put down. They hooked up an Atari 2600 to the brain of a teenager with epilepsy, allowing him to control Space Invaders with nothing but thought patterns. Amazingly, the system provides precise back-and-forth control in fine increments. "The patient's electrode array on the surface of their brain is wired directly to a biosignal amplifier," explains Tim Blakely, who helped design the interface. "The computer detects a specific pattern of neuron firings." Blakely found Atari electrical circuit maps on the Internet to get the thought-reading matrix working, and he has expanded the system's compatibility to include simple online games. Here's a thought: Will Nintendo pick up this technology for its Wii successor?

    Space clamp
    Forget driving wheels: The Control Freak lets you use any physical object as a game controller, including bus seats, recliners, tree limbs--anything you don't mind clamping it onto. "I had the idea of a device that could turn objects into controllers by sensing movement," says Haiyan Zhang, a graduate student at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy. "I'd like to eventually add a gyroscope for more precision in the sensing." The clamp prototype uses something called an accelerometer and transmits movement coordinates over a wireless signal. What's next? Home-console controllers that sense movement? That'll be the day...

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