Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Dice-O-Matic is a preposterous product that serves a questionable “need”:

It is a 7 foot tall, 104 pound, dice-eating monster, capable of generating 1.3 million rolls a day.

Currently, GamesByEmail.com uses some 80,000+ dice rolls for play in games like Backgammon, Gambit (a RISK clone), W.W.II (an Axis & Allies clone) and others. To generate the dice rolls, I have used Math.random, Random.org and other sources, but have always received numerous complaints that the dice are not random enough. Some players have put more effort into statistical analysis of the rolls than they put into their doctoral dissertation.

A few years ago I tinkered with a dice rolling machine made from Legos. Though great fun, it was noisy and cantankerous and unreliable, and it never recovered from the move two years ago. But it had made players happy, at least for a while. So I decided to make a ‘professional’ grade rolling machine.

I had been slowly accumulating parts for over a year when I put out a plea for financial assistance. Many players donated small amounts, and a few made some over-the-top donations. I also received a large donation of the elevator parts. The help allowed me to gather the last and most expensive bits, and four months of spare time later, everything is working better than planned.

I had a soft target of a machine capable of 200,000 rolls a day, as site traffic is growing. However, any automation project worth doing is worth over doing, and I way overshot the mark. The result is what you see here: a machine that can belch a continuous river of dice down a spiraling ramp, then elevate, photograph, process and upload almost a million and a half rolls to the server a day.

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