Project Naptha — automatically applies state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms on every image you see while browsing the web. The result is a seamless and intuitive experience, where you can highlight as well as copy and paste and even edit and translate the text formerly trapped within an image. Chrome extension. (via Anil Dash)
Garbage Trucks and FedEx Vans (IEEE) — Foo alum, Ian Wright, found traction for his electric car biz by selling powertrains for garbage trucks and Fedex vans. Trucks have 20-30y lifetime, but powertrains are replaced several times; the trucks for fleets are custom; and “The average garbage truck in the U.S. spends $55,000 a year on fuel, and up to $30,000 a year on maintenance, mostly brake replacements.”
Microsoft’s Quantum Mechanics (MIT TR) — the race for the “topological qubit”, involving newly-discovered fundamental particles and large technology companies racing to be the first to make something that works.
Eye Catcher (We Make Money Not Art) — the most banal-looking wooden frame takes thus a life of its own as soon as you come near it. It quickly positions itself in front of you, spots your eyes and starts expressing ‘emotions’ based on your own. Eye Catcher uses the arm of an industrial robot, high power magnets, a hidden pinhole camera, ferrofluid and emotion recognition algorithms to explore novel interactive interfaces based on the mimicry and exchange of expressions.
FORTIS Exoskeleton (Lockheed Martin) — transfers loads through the exoskeleton to the ground in standing or kneeling positions and allows operators to use heavy tools as if they were weightless. (via CNN)
Homebrew Cray-1A – fascinating architecture, but also lovely hobby project to build the homebrew. The lack of Cray software archives horrifies the amateur historian in me, though. When I started building this, I thought “Oh, I’ll just swing by the ol’ Internet and find some groovy 70′s-era software to run on it.” It turns out I was wrong. One of the sad things about pre-internet machines (especially ones that were primarily purchased by 3-letter Government agencies) is that practically no software exists for them. After searching the internet exhaustively, I contacted the Computer History Musuem and they didn’t have any either. They also informed me that apparently SGI destroyed Cray’s old software archives before spinning them off again in the late 90′s.
How Do Committees Invent? — 1968 paper that gave us organizations which design systems [...] produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. That was the 1968 version of the modern “your website’s sitemap is your org chart”.
Guidance Note on Uncertainty (PDF) –expert advice to IPCC scientists on identifying, quantifying, and communicating uncertainty. Everyone deals with uncertainty, but none are quite so ruthless in their pursuit of honesty about it as scientists. (via Peter Gluckman)
SparkFun Rapid Prototyping Lab — with links to some other expert advice on creative spaces. Some very obvious software parallels, too. E.g., this from Adam Savage’s advice: The right tool for the job – Despite his oft-cited declaration that ‘every tool is a hammer,’ Adam can usually be relied on to geek-out about purpose-built tools. If you’re having trouble learning a new skill, check that you’re using the right tools. The right tool is the one that does the hard work for you. There’s no point in dropping big bucks on tools you’re almost certainly not going to use, but don’t be afraid to buy the cheap version of the snap-setter, or leather punch, or tamper bit before trying to jerry-rig something that will end up making your life harder.
Dudes with Drones (The Atlantic) — ghastly title (“Bros with Bots”, “Bangers with Clangers”, and “Fratboys with Phat Toys” were presumably already taken), interesting article. San Diego is the Palo Alto of drones. Interesting to compare software startups with the hardware crews’ stance on the FAA. “We want them to regulate us,” Maloney says. “We want nothing more than a framework to allow us to continue to operate safely and legally.”
Making Fast-Paced Multiplayer Networked Games is Hard (Gamasutra) — This may all sound like smoke and mirrors because that is exactly what it is – we are just maintaining the illusion the game is playing out in wall clock time even though updates are arriving from the past.
The Physical Web — a discovery service for physical things. Interesting to see a Google angle: the list of available things might be huge, so it’ll be sorted, and ranking long lists of results is a Core Competency.
Cyborg UnPlug — sits on your wifi network and will alert you if it finds Google Glass, Dropcam, spycams, and other unwanted wifi Klingons. Or it can automatically send deauth packets to those devices to try and boot them off the network.
How Complex Systems Fail (PDF) — That practitioner actions are gambles appears clear after accidents; in general, post hoc analysis regards these gambles as poor ones. But the converse: that successful outcomes are also the result of gambles; is not widely appreciated.
Mapping Digital Media (Open Society) — analysis of media, online and off, in various regions and discussion of how it’s changing. Among the global findings: digitization has brought no pressure to reform state broadcasters, less than one-third of countries found that digital media have helped to expand the social impact of investigative journalism, and digitization has not significantly affected total news diversity.
Distributed Systems Theory for the Distributed Systems Engineer — I tried to come up with a list of what I consider the basic concepts that are applicable to my every-day job as a distributed systems engineer; what I consider ‘table stakes’ for distributed systems engineers competent enough to design a new system.
Shenzhen Trip Report (Joi Ito) — full of fascinating observations about how the balance of manufacturing strength has shifted in surprising ways. The retail price of the cheapest full featured phone is about $9. Yes. $9. This could not be designed in the US – this could only be designed by engineers with tooling grease under their fingernails who knew the manufacturing equipment inside and out, as well as the state of the art of high-end mobile phones.
Sproutling — The world’s first sensing, learning, predicting baby monitor. A wearable band for your baby, a smart charger and a mobile app work together to not only monitor more effectively but learn and predict your baby’s sleep habits and optimal sleep conditions. (via Wired)
Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft — wonderfully detailed analysis of how photos were lifted, and the underground industry built around them. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.
Liquibase — source control for your database. Apache 2.0 licensed.
A Few Useful Things to Know About Machine Learning (PDF) — This article summarizes twelve key lessons that machine learning researchers and practitioners have learned. These include pitfalls to avoid, important issues to focus on, and answers to common questions. My fave: First-timers are often surprised by how little time in a machine learning project is spent actually doing machine learning. But it makes sense if you consider how time-consuming it is to gather data, integrate it, clean it and pre-process it, and how much trial and error can go into feature design.
Dat — an open source project that provides a streaming interface between every file format and data storage backend. See the Wired piece on it.
Smithsonian Crowdsourcing Transcription (Smithsonian) — 49 volunteers transcribed 200 pages of correspondence between the Monuments Men in a week. Soon it’ll be mathematics test questions: “if 49 people transcribe 200 pages in 7 days, how many weeks will it take …”
MIT Guide to Family CompSci Sessions — This guide is for educators, community center staff, and volunteers interested in engaging their young people and their families to become designers and inventors in their community.