Technology forum: improving quiz bowl...

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Technology forum: improving quiz bowl...

Postby First Chairman » Tue Oct 30, 2007 12:02 pm

Yes, I had to do the research. Since 1995, Chip has been doing his QuizNet competition using IRC-like technology.

Maybe technology has improved a little bit, but I have wondered with the proliferation of webcams in laptops, why have we not been more willing to use teleconference technology to do practices or run virtual practice games?

To this end, the general question to the world of quiz bowl: what technological advances would you like to see quiz bowl take more advantage of to enhance the game preparation or playing experience? I have a couple of areas I'm thinking are obvious areas of improvement.

1) Wireless buzzer systems and scoring. Seriously, interactive classroom technology exists so that students (or conference attendees) can respond to multiple choice tests or survey questions displayed on powerpoint with immediate real-time responses. I'm pretty sure that some of these programs can be modified to be responsive like on Jeopardy or like a quiz bowl match. The one area that may need to be adjusted is the frequencies at which these systems work so there is no crosstalk between game rooms, but one can keep score on these systems easily. Furthermore, the possibility of real-time score changes and statistics is feasible.

2) Webcameras and Macromedia Breeze/Microsoft Conference technology (I don't know Apple's iLife) instead of IRC chat for game rooms. With the right technology, the usual game rooms we have had could be done more interactively. Instead of typing up a question, a "moderator" can actually read a question, and people can type in their responses in the chat text window in real time. Maybe this is already happening, but for the most part there needs to be a server able to handle the demand. I'm sure that such servers are more accessible in cost by the year. So what would such a virtual practice room look like?

3) Anything else???
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Postby Mike Bentley » Tue Oct 30, 2007 12:46 pm

1. I don't see Wireless buzzers catching on for a long time still. I would imagine that they're too unreliable for a number of reasons. Individual units would have to have their own batteries, which could break down. Signals could get crossed with other buzzers or other rooms.

2. I would like to see someone develop online quizbowl software where questions are more synced and automated than IRC. Webcam technology is probably a little too extreme (it would be too hard to sync up, I would think), but there are easy ways to improve on IRC. I imagine some sort of text-based program that would send the entire question to each player / team's client. After each team's client has verified it has received the question, the question is then read at an automated rate to each team. The team buzzes in when they know the answer, and then types the answer. That answer is secretely sent to the "reader", along with all of the other answers and when the answer was given by the other players. The moderator sees an ordered list of answers based on when people buzzed in, and can verify from the top-down whether players got it correct.

You probably lose the ability to see what other people have buzzed in on during the question (although this could hypothetically be implemented), but you gain the ability of not having online quizbowl based a lot on reading speed and latency.

3. I would like to get a chance to make that computerized scoring / question display program I talked about making in the spring. This would hypothetically increase the speed of matches (there would be no need to switch between questions on your own, and scoring would be done automatically with a click), and be able to offer much more detaile stats about questions, similar to what Brown did by hand for EFT's bonuses this year.
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Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Oct 30, 2007 1:13 pm

IRCle, a Macintosh IRC client, has a feature that allows sending webcam feed to other IRC users. I used this feature in like 2001.

IRC is pretty awesome, especially for something its age. It looks scary at first, but it lacks a lot of unnecessary complication that more modern technologies have. It doesn't hog RAM like AIM or MSN do.
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Postby Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 30, 2007 1:57 pm

There's no need to use wireless buzzers to do the automatic scoring stuff we're talking about; wired buzzers would work just as well. In fact, some vendors have for years been selling USB modules that cause computers to function as systems. Now, someone just needs to write the software to do the scoring and we win.

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Postby theMoMA » Tue Oct 30, 2007 2:19 pm

My high school had a set of wireless buzzers for Science Bowl. They were kind of like garage-door openers.
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Postby 40 characters in search of a username » Tue Oct 30, 2007 3:14 pm

I think online/wireless trivia is great. The problems can be summed up in one word, though- Google.
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Postby First Chairman » Tue Oct 30, 2007 3:26 pm

ImmaculateDeception wrote:There's no need to use wireless buzzers to do the automatic scoring stuff we're talking about; wired buzzers would work just as well. In fact, some vendors have for years been selling USB modules that cause computers to function as systems. Now, someone just needs to write the software to do the scoring and we win.

MaS


Sorice,

Can you recall which vendors these are... and what exactly do they do to make laptops function as buzzer systems?

On Mike's issue #1: actually, what prompted me to ask the question is iClicker, which some of our profs here have been using (and I presume at other institutions too) to record responses to multiple choice questions. Now, the designers have made sure that some of the receivers and senders can be tuned to different frequencies to reduce cross-talk, and a receiving module can accept hundreds of inputs. So I think the crosstalk issue can be overcome if we can create a tunable frequency system that can accommodate a large number of systems. Granted, there may be a limit, but one should not choose frequencies that interfere with wireless hubs of course. :)
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Postby Mike Bentley » Tue Oct 30, 2007 3:44 pm

I've used the iClicker in one of my physics classes and it was okay. However, setting them up sometimes was difficult, and I think maybe some people would be lost doing it. They're likely less intuitive to fix if they break down than wired buzzers as well.

And you don't really need buzzers connected to a computer to make automated computer scoring work. You just hit a button for who got it right / wrong.
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Postby dtaylor4 » Tue Oct 30, 2007 4:36 pm

I too have used iClickers in classes, and they are susceptible to problems.

Also, the wireless system I have seen and used, Gizmo, is expensive ($575 for a 10-player set) and has problems. It was notorious for locking up on buzzer races and took a long time to sort it out, and I don't know if said problem has been fixed.

To Dr. Chuck: http://www.buzzers.com has USB buzzers.
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Postby pray for elves » Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:27 pm

ZeeCraft makes something like what you're describing. However, this comes with the caveat that it's made by ZeeCraft.
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Postby theMoMA » Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:50 pm

DeisEvan wrote:ZeeCraft makes something like what you're describing. However, this comes with the caveat that it's made by ZeeCraft.


Yep, I've used those extensively. Our high school had them. They're surprisingly consistent and don't break very easily. You can hook them up to a computer and run a scoring program on it. It's pretty neat.
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Postby grapesmoker » Tue Oct 30, 2007 6:48 pm

For the technologically inclined, all you need to build a USB buzzer is a switch (for buzzing), the USB-enabled CPU (those are like $5 on mouser.com) and... an expensive programmer. The programmer might run in the neighborhood of $200 but I'm not sure. In any case, the electronics and programming aspect of it is relatively simple. I'm too immersed in other things at the moment to even think about attacking this, but it would be a good project for someone. Even if you sold each buzzer for $15, you would come out ahead quickly.

edit: now with link

another edit: looks like you don't even need the programmer! Someone get on this.
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Postby Captain Sinico » Tue Oct 30, 2007 9:27 pm

Yeah; the iClicker was invented at Illinois and I've used it a number of times for several years. I'm not a huge fan. I also really don't see any compelling reason for wireless buzzers and tons against them (what happens when the battery on one runs out during a match, for example? Screw city.)
Also, Mike's right; you don't need the computerized buzzers for scoring and a clickable scoring program would be awesome, too. Why not do both (maybe starting with the latter?) The computerized scoring with buzzers will just make things even easier.

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Postby First Chairman » Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:38 am

So how would this work on a standard buzzer system. I guess that instead of a "reset" button you would have alternate ones that would include a "reset and add 5 or 10 points" button? How about interrupts/negs versus no-penalty situations?

I think if the wireless buzzers could come with a rechargeable battery, one could be able to recharge the buzzers quickly... or have extra rechargeables on hand that one can quickly insert. If each buzzer had a "low battery" LED on it as a warning, we hopefully won't have a complete power outage (at the level of one buzzer) during a game.

Obviously you can tell me more offline about iClicker since two of my other premed prereq classes use it and I'm trying to make it more cost-effective for those students to use it in my class. But I'm saying that the technology does exist to have a high enough frequency band to tune the buzzers wirelessly to one console without cross-chatter to other buzzer consoles.
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Postby grapesmoker » Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:04 pm

The easiest thing to do would be to give the moderator a programmatic console (as in, displayed on the screen of a laptop) so that he could see who buzzed in and would click the appropriate button (+15, +10, -5). Most USB hubs have at least 4 ports, so you could do this with two hubs per laptop.
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Postby Mike Bentley » Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:17 pm

grapesmoker wrote:The easiest thing to do would be to give the moderator a programmatic console (as in, displayed on the screen of a laptop) so that he could see who buzzed in and would click the appropriate button (+15, +10, -5). Most USB hubs have at least 4 ports, so you could do this with two hubs per laptop.


Well the problem with this is that it would probably take up a lot of valuable screen space that would otherwise be used to read questions. It's not a problem if you use paper questions, but it seems like each year there are fewer tournaments that do this.
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Postby grapesmoker » Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:11 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:The easiest thing to do would be to give the moderator a programmatic console (as in, displayed on the screen of a laptop) so that he could see who buzzed in and would click the appropriate button (+15, +10, -5). Most USB hubs have at least 4 ports, so you could do this with two hubs per laptop.


Well the problem with this is that it would probably take up a lot of valuable screen space that would otherwise be used to read questions. It's not a problem if you use paper questions, but it seems like each year there are fewer tournaments that do this.


This isn't necessarily true, and in any case is a question of smart design. I don't think there's anything intrinsically problematic with this approach.
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Postby Captain Sinico » Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:19 pm

Yeah, like, you could have a window pop-up saying who buzzed (and how long ago, automatically standardizing timing) and having a place to click for, like, +15, +10, 0, -5, or, like, clear (for mistakes or buzzer checks.) The window could go away when a scoring option is selected, so it wouldn't interrupt reading. Would this be hard to write if we can get the hardware? I know nothing about GUI programming, but it seems like it shouldn't be.

Later,
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Postby grapesmoker » Wed Oct 31, 2007 3:19 pm

ImmaculateDeception wrote:Yeah, like, you could have a window pop-up saying who buzzed (and how long ago, automatically standardizing timing) and having a place to click for, like, +15, +10, 0, -5, or, like, clear (for mistakes or buzzer checks.) The window could go away when a scoring option is selected, so it wouldn't interrupt reading. Would this be hard to write if we can get the hardware? I know nothing about GUI programming, but it seems like it shouldn't be.

Later,
MaS


GUI programming is pretty simple using Visual Basic (if you're doing it for Windows) and only slightly more complicated using something like Qt (because you want to be Open Source).
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Postby theMoMA » Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:09 pm

I mean, if we want to get really intensive, we can have the computer have voice recognition of certain benchmark words in the text, and then register when the buzz occurs, so that stats about who buzzes when would be available.
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Postby grapesmoker » Wed Oct 31, 2007 7:18 pm

theMoMA wrote:I mean, if we want to get really intensive, we can have the computer have voice recognition of certain benchmark words in the text, and then register when the buzz occurs, so that stats about who buzzes when would be available.


Unlike the things I suggested, that's actually really difficult.
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Postby Captain Sinico » Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:42 pm

Alternatively, we could have the moderator just mark where the buzz occurred...

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Postby vcuEvan » Wed Oct 31, 2007 11:13 pm

You guys are too slow. I have already developed my own software for my mirror of the 2008 VETO. In case your wondering the "MARK AS CANADIEN" can also be used as a "TOSSUP WENT DEAD" Exclusive screen shot here:

http://img215.imageshack.us/img215/340/vetozd0.png
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Postby Ben Dillon » Thu Nov 01, 2007 2:47 pm

Last year, the parent of one of my players, a EE professor, had his graduate students build a wireless buzzer system for a summer project. It consists of one "master" unit that is wireless from the two "slaves" that control each side. (It's not fully wireless, though; the slaves do have cords connecting to each buzzer.)

It never locks up on buzzer races, and it only occasionally loses a signal and gives a "duplicate address" label, usually when the rechargeable batteries are low. Additionally, the master has a timer built in (that locks out both teams when time runs out) and a simple scoring system (with + and - buttons of various values) that both display on the slaves, so that each team has the current score and time remaining in front of them.
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Postby First Chairman » Sat Nov 03, 2007 8:56 am

Any possibility of patenting that system and selling it... or making the design freely available?

Granted, they won't get the patent until 12 years from now...

Oh how I miss the ability to have grunts... er, students working in a lab I run... :cool:
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Postby Ben Dillon » Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:26 pm

I'll ask him... I should point out that there may be less goodwill than previously because I didn't select his son for varsity this year as a senior.
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Postby Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sat Nov 03, 2007 10:13 pm

Ben Dillon wrote:I'll ask him... I should point out that there may be less goodwill than previously because I didn't select his son for varsity this year as a senior.

That's silly and petty if it ends up that way.
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Videoconferencing a match...

Postby rleavitt » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:28 am

I did a little research about our videoconferencing capabilities and found out that all another school would need is an IP address to call another school. We have a wonderful Tanburg (a huge TV with a webcam) that I could envision a long distance match...

My team meets Wednesdays from 3-4 EST. Anyone interested in a match? Perhaps we could share moderating responsibilities to make it fair for both teams.
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Postby First Chairman » Sat Dec 29, 2007 10:13 am

For Christmas I wound up getting a Slingbox. Now I can watch It's Ac just about anywhere in the world. :)
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Postby cdcarter » Sat Dec 29, 2007 4:36 pm

I was able to whip up a little quiz bowl buzzing program today using ruby. It works using just keyboard keys as buzzers, so if you wanted to use it in a real situation, you would want to wire your buzzers into a keyboard. Or slightly modify it to use what ever USB thing you devise. It goes through and gets team names, player names, and their buzzer "name", which is just what key they are using. It is setup to ask 20 questions by default, but that can be changed too. It waits for a buzz, then prompts the moderator to give a score, and bonus points if possible. It keeps pretty detailed score stuff, so you can see who got 0s on tossups but didn't neg.

You can get the code here: http://pastie.caboo.se/133067. It requires ruby 1.8.6, and the HighLine rubygem.

The code is pretty rough, it only took me about 30 minutes, but it's just a proof of concept. I might have time to rip open a keyboard this weekend, and then I can put it into actual use.
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Postby First Chairman » Sat Dec 29, 2007 6:45 pm

Hmm... could you use something smaller, like a numeric keypad that has a USB connection? Or maybe four mice hooked up to a multi-USB connector to a port?
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Postby cdcarter » Sat Dec 29, 2007 6:53 pm

Will Run PACE for Reese's wrote:Hmm... could you use something smaller, like a numeric keypad that has a USB connection? Or maybe four mice hooked up to a multi-USB connector to a port?

A numpad would work fine too. I don't quite know how you would do it with mice though, it would be important to get the OS to not take them over as "mice". I think I might have a USB board somewhere in my closet, if I can find it, I could probably build something with that and release the design. but I think the cheapest solution would be something along the lines of gutting an existing input device like a numpad or keyboard.
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Postby AlphaQuizBowler » Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:37 am

I tried to run the program after installing ruby 1.8.6 and highline rubygem, but received the following error:
Command Prompt wrote:C:\Documents and Settings\William\My Documents\Academic Bowl>ruby pastie-133067.
rb
c:/ruby/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:27:in `gem_original_re
quire': no such file to load -- termios (LoadError)
from c:/ruby/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:27:in `re
quire'
from pastie-133067.rb:1

Do you know what's happening? If so, how do I fix it?
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Postby cdcarter » Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:49 pm

AlphaQuizBowler wrote:I tried to run the program after installing ruby 1.8.6 and highline rubygem, but received the following error:
Command Prompt wrote:C:\Documents and Settings\William\My Documents\Academic Bowl>ruby pastie-133067.
rb
c:/ruby/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:27:in `gem_original_re
quire': no such file to load -- termios (LoadError)
from c:/ruby/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/rubygems/custom_require.rb:27:in `re
quire'
from pastie-133067.rb:1

Do you know what's happening? If so, how do I fix it?


Deleting the first line should do it.
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Postby AlphaQuizBowler » Sun Dec 30, 2007 2:57 pm

Thanks. The program is great, and very useful already. I am very excited about its potential as well.
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Postby quizmachine » Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:29 am

Hi, we provide a wired Quiz solution, enabling you to build your own customized multimedia quizzes in a very user friendly way.

Please take a look if its interesting for you...
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Postby Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:42 am

Dutch quizbowl must be amazing.
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Postby First Chairman » Tue Jan 08, 2008 8:33 am

Image
Fred... do you get compensated for having your previous avatar in this ad? :)
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Postby quizmachine » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:02 am

Hey, why paste the Dutch picture, there is one in English as well ! :)
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Postby Dr. Loki Skylizard, Thoracic Surgeon » Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:27 am

Will Run PACE for Reese's wrote:Image
Fred... do you get compensated for having your previous avatar in this ad? :)


There has been no Hulkamania paraphernalia Photoshopped onto that baby, so I think I'll have to let this go.
Fred Morlan
University of Kentucky CoP, 20XX
hsqbrank manager, PACE member (former President and At Large member of Board), NAQT writer & subject editor, HSAPQ freelance writer, former hsqb Administrator/Chief Administrator, 2012 NASAT Tournament Director
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Dr. Loki Skylizard, Thoracic Surgeon
groom of totemic guanacos
 
Posts: 13166
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 8:08 am


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