HackWaterloo! Meet Little Turk!

Five hours of train to Toronto, a 6:00am alarm in Toronto, an hour drive to Waterloo, six furious hours of coding, twelve presentations, impatient waiting through deliberations, and, at last, judges decisions. Then, then.. then! I won Hack Waterloo (!!!), with my project Little Turk.

I wasn’t going to go to Hack Waterloo.

It’s Very Far from Montréal. Particularly for a non-driver (True story, I don’t know how to drive). But I ended up going anyway, thanks to a nudge from Leila (:

As for my project; ideas, sometimes come from unexpected places. I said this in the developer chat-room at work, last week on Wednesday:

“Maybe I should wear my tutu and mask at the hack thing this weekend, instead of on Dress Like a Grownup day <:"

Instead of wearing a tutu and mask to Hack Waterloo; though, it occurred to me that maybe I could do another video-centered hack using clips of myself in a tutu and mask (much more comfortable!). Something else I wanted to do, after using the Idée APIs pretty heavily in previous hack events was to use a broader collection of APIs. Creating a query-interface seemed like a pretty good way to combine the two. So I did!

It presented a video window, with a very small version of myself, sitting in a tutu and venetian mask; with a laptop, hula hoop, map, and a ukulele. There might be other things if you ask the right thing. Okay, there are. Next to the video, was a field for entering commands, and a box for their output.

When you type a query, some very simple language processing takes place; and the video of the Little Turk would react to the query in some fashion, and provide a response. Mostly, she ends up typing (: But if you ask her to look for restaurants (using the Yellow Pages API), she would point at her map until the results had been retrieved, and would then start typing. You could also tell her a colour that you like, and she would find pictures for that colour, from Piximilar (alas, video exists for Dark Turk, who knows about drawing pictures; but the three minute demo time was going to be too short for a narrative with two turks). If you asked about a domain, she would ask PostRank about that domain.

Asking about invoices would get you a smartass remark (:

The video component, I put together using Quartz Composer. If you have the OSX development tools installed, Quartz Composer is lurking in there, somewhere. Roughly, it would look at an XML file to see which clip it should be playing; and play that clip. It also maintained a queue of the most recent 25 frames of video which it combined with the current clip (mostly to smooth out transitions between the different clips with visual noise. But it does also make the video look delightfully creepy).

The query interface was HTML/javascript/jQuery; which isn't exotic at all. The language parsing was more-or-less a tangle of if-statements and imagination. There was also a tiny server-side component that was responsible for updating the XML file when Little Turk needed to start doing something else.

Pictures and video, later (:

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