My name is Matt Johannesen, and I’m a dual major in CS and IMGD Tech from the distant land of Los Angeles, California.
I can say with confidence that my everlasting love for LEGO building got me hooked on programming. Like any young LEGO builder, I loved the idea of seeing my creations come to life and being able to interact with them, but often I just left that up to my imagination. However, when I started doing competitive robotics in 2008 or so, I was introduced to the LEGO Mindstorms kit and the graphical coding environment that came with it. At first, it was thrilling enough just to see my once-stationary models move and spin and make noise – but after hours of experimenting, I began to see that with my newly formed programming skills, I could create far, far more intricate and complex things than just fun machines. A lightbulb turned on that year, and I haven’t looked back.
Since then, I’ve taught myself to use programming platforms like Scratch, Gamemaker Studio, Unity, Unreal, and Arduino, and as I’ve worked with them more, my interest in melding art and technology has steadily grown. Through years of chasing seemingly unexplainable bugs, scouring forums and documentation, and honing my creative visions, I’ve built up a strong confidence in my ability to learn new tools and create things I never would have imagined myself making before.
My biggest work thus far is this VR escape room, which I developed in Unity over the course of 3 months in 2018. It was my first big project for a VR headset, and really challenged me to not only make an efficient puzzle management system, but design puzzles and communicate clues in a way that made sure players would never feel truly lost.
This is one of the more interesting interaction systems I’ve made for a game. The premise is simple: players have to quickly tap the correctly colored pie tin within a few seconds to increase their score, or they lose. What’s unique, however, is that I designed the Arduino circuit to use the human body as a wire, rather than using any actual buttons. The video only shows me testing it by myself at home (which made connecting the “ground” tin and the 4 colored tins very easy) but if the tins were spread out, then several players could form human chains in order to connect the right tins!
I’ve also become very interested in physical art forms that use modern tools. Last year I learned how to laser cut designs into wood using vector graphic designs, and soon after I was itching to make something big. My very first project with the machine was this game board I created for my IMGD 1000 final project at WPI. I designed and laid out all the tiles, graphics, and gameplay markings myself using Inkscape:
I also created this coaster based on my favorite puzzle game series, Rusty Lake: