"iot" entries

How virtual reality can make the real world a better place

Can VR become “the ultimate empathy machine?”

Early_flight_02561u_(2)Virtual reality (VR) can make the impossible possible — the rules of physical reality need no longer apply. In VR, you strap on a special headset and leave the real world behind to enter a virtual one. You can fly like a bird high above Manhattan, or experience the feeling of weightlessness as an astronaut on a spaceship.

VR is reliant upon the illusion of being deeply engrossed in another space and time, far away from your current reality. In a split second you can travel to exotic locales or be on stage at a concert with your favourite musician. Gaming and entertainment are natural fits for VR experiences. A startup called The Void plans to open a set of immersive virtual reality theme parks called Virtual Entertainment Centers, with the first one opening in Pleasant Grove, Utah by June 2016.

This is an exciting time for developers and designers to be defining VR as a new experience medium. However, as the technology improves and consumer hardware and content become available in VR, we must ask: how can this new technology be applied to benefit humanity?

As it turns out, this question is being explored on a few early fronts. For example, SnowWorld, developed at the University of Washington Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab in 1996 by Hunter Hoffman and David Patterson, was the first immersive VR world designed to reduce pain in adults and children. SnowWorld was specifically developed to help burn patients during wound care. Read more…


Buddy Michini on commercial drones

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Drone safety, trust, and real-time data analysis.


Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, we talk with Buddy Michini, CTO of Airware, which makes a platform for commercial drones. We cover some potentially game-changing research in localization and mapping, and onboard computational abilities that might eventually make it possible for drones to improve their flight intelligence by analyzing their imagery in real time.

Among the general public, the best-understood use case for drones is package delivery, which obscures many other promising applications (and perhaps threatens to become the Internet-connected refrigerator of autonomous aircraft). There’s also widespread (and understandable) fear of drones. “We need to make drones do things to improve our lives and our world,” Buddy says. “That will get people to accept drones into their lives a little bit more.” Read more…

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Four short links: 5 October 2015

Four short links: 5 October 2015

Semantic Sensors, Broadening "Sensor," Moving Fast, and Presidential Campaigns

  1. Semantic Sensors (Pete Warden) — tiny, cheap, all-in-one modules that capture raw noisy data from the real world, have built-in AI for analysis, and only output a few high-level signals.
  2. What if People Were Sensors, Not Things To Be Sensed? (Cory Doctorow) — Even in the Internet of Allegedly Free Things, humans and comput­ers are adversaries. Medical telemetry and implant companies envision selling shockingly intimate facts about your body’s internal workings to data-mining services and insurers. Car companies see their vehicles as platforms for gathering data on your driving, on traffic patterns, and on the sense-able facts of the streets you pass by, to sell it to, you guessed it, data-mining companies and insurers. John Deere has argued that its tractors are copyrighted works, and that it, not the farmers, own the soil-density data collected by the torque sensors on the wheels (it sells this data to Monsanto, which charges farmers for the right to know about it).
  3. Move Fast and Break Nothing (Zach Holman) — the first step is identifying what you cannot break.
  4. I’m Trying to Run for President But the Democrats Won’t Let Me (Larry Lessig) — A “democracy” in which 400 families give 50% of the money in campaigns is not American democracy. It is a banana republic democracy.
Four short links: 1 October 2015

Four short links: 1 October 2015

Robot is Meaningless, Building Analytics, Real World Challenges, and Reclaiming Conversation

  1. The Word Robot is Meaningless and We Need to Stop Saying ItAs more and more household tasks become automated, the number of robots in our lives is growing rapidly. And the rise of connected devices raises a thorny semantic question: namely, where does “automated process” stop and “robot” begin? Why is a factory machine that moves car parts considered a “robot,” but a Volkswagen with a much more sophisticated code base is just a Jetta?
  2. Building Analytics at 500px An ETL script that has to turn messy production data into clean data warehouse data will naturally be extremely messy. Use a framework like Luigi or a tool like Informatica. These have well-known coding styles and constructs, and are also widely used. It will still be messy. But it will be comparable to known ways of doing ETL.
  3. Systems Computing Challenges in the Internet of Things — I love that while there are countless old institutions engaging consultants and writing strategies about “digital,” now there’s a white paper from a computer group fretting about the problems that the Real World will cause them. Maybe they should just choose the newspaper solution: the real world is just a fad, don’t worry, it’ll pass soon.
  4. Reclaiming Conversation (Review) (NY Times) — review of Sherry Turkle’s new book. When we replace human caregivers with robots, or talking with texting, we begin by arguing that the replacements are “better than nothing” but end up considering them “better than anything” — cleaner, less risky, less demanding.

Jim Stogdill on cloud-based typewriters and smart watches

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Distractions, wearables, and reference peanut butter.


Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

In this episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Jim Stogdill, one of the key figures behind the launch of our Solid conference, about some of the cool pieces of hardware that we’ve come across recently.

Stogdill starts off with the Hemingwrite, an ultra-simplified Internet-connected typewriter for writers who need to isolate themselves from distraction. It duplicates, at significant expense and austerity, a small part of any modern computer’s functionality. The Hemingwrite’s existence — along with that of its oversubscribed Kickstarter campaign — demonstrates the new economics of hardware: development costs have fallen enough that clever entrepreneurs can isolate and solve niche consumer problems like needing a browserless computer because you sometimes don’t want to be distracted by your browsered computer. Also, I’d like one. Read more…


No, the IoT does not need strong privacy and security to flourish

The Internet of Things will happily march along with lousy privacy and security, and we will be the poorer for it.

Get notified when our free report “Privacy and Security in the Internet of Things,” by Gilad Rosner, becomes available.

padlock-322494_1280“Without addressing privacy and trust, the Internet of Things will not reach its full potential.”

This refrain can be heard at IoT conferences, in opinion pieces in the press and in normative academic literature. If we don’t  “get it right,” then consumers won’t embrace the IoT and all of the wonderful commercial and societal benefits it portends.

This is false.

It’s a nice idea, imagining that concern for privacy and security will curtail or slow technological growth. But don’t believe it: the Internet of Things will develop whether or not privacy and security are addressed. Economic imperative and technology evolution will impel the IoT and its tremendous potential for increased monitoring forward, but citizen concern plays a minor role in operationalizing privacy. Certainly, popular discourse on the subject is important, but developers, designers, policy-makers and manufacturers are the key actors in embedding privacy architectures within new connected devices. Read more…

Comments: 5

The validated learning process for building a hardware startup

How to validate your idea, and get your community engaged.

Buy “The Hardware Startup: Building Your Product, Business, and Brand,” by Renee DiResta, Brady Forrest, and Ryan Vinyard. Note: this post is an excerpt from the book.

puzzle-696725Hardware founders should strive for hypothesis-driven development and validate their ideas with customers as early as possible. This can be done before or alongside the prototyping process, but it should absolutely be done before moving toward tooling.

Changing your design or switching technologies becomes much more expensive once you’ve moved beyond a prototype, so it’s important to get it right the first time.

The foundation of effective validated learning is conversation. You want to talk to — and, more importantly, listen to — several distinct groups of people who will be critical to your success as a company.

Your fellow hardwarians

The first group of helpers on the road to building your product are fellow hardware founders. Not everyone within the hardware community is a potential customer who will help you unearth the roots of a particular pain point. But within this community are the people who have done it before. They have extensive experience and can provide invaluable guidance for specific problems. They’ll help you reduce waste in the production process. Certain steps in the development process, such as finding a contract manufacturer, are often driven by word-of-mouth referrals. Networking with other founders building products in your space will give you a better chance of getting these things right the first time. Read more…


Understanding the experience design of consumer IoT products

Great UX for IoT requires cross-discipline collaboration between design, technology, and business.

Download a free copy of our new report “User Experience Design for the Internet of Things,” by Claire Rowland, to learn about a framework for understanding the UX of consumer IoT products. Note: this post is an excerpt from the report.

Trapeze_artists_1890When we think of design for connected products, we tend to focus on the most visible and tangible elements. These are the industrial design of connected devices, and the user interfaces (UIs) found in mobile and Web apps and on the devices themselves.

They are important concerns, which have a major impact on the end user’s experience of the product. But they’re only part of the picture. You could create a beautiful UI, and a stunning piece of hardware, and users could still have a poor experience of the product as a whole.

Designing for IoT is inherently more complex than Web service design. Some of this is to do with the current state of the technology. Some of this reflects our as-yet immature understanding of compelling consumer IoT value propositions. Some of this stems from the fact that there are more aspects of design to consider. Tackling them independently creates an incoherent user experience (UX).

Designing a great connected product requires a holistic approach to user experience. It spans many layers of design, not all them immediately visible. More than ever, it requires cross-discipline collaboration between design, technology, and business. Great UX may start with understanding users. But the designer’s ability to meet those users’ needs depends on the technology enablers, business models, and wider service ecosystem. Read more…


Quentin Hardy on Facebook’s drones

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: The New York Times' deputy technology editor talks about technology, people, and power.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

350px_Signaling_by_Napoleonic_semaphore_lineIn our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with New York Times deputy technology editor Quentin Hardy. Hardy recorded with us just after visiting Facebook’s Aquila drone project, which promises to extend Internet access to remote parts of the globe — and to advance a slew of aerospace and communication technologies through open sourcing.

Projects like Aquila can challenge traditional government, but have their own tendency to create new mechanisms for control. “What’s clear is that existing systems of power will morph or collapse in decades to come because of these new technologies,” Hardy says, noting the contradiction that, in today’s world, “people have never been more empowered, and they’ve never been so controlled and repressed.”

We also talk about what’s happening in Shenzhen, China (which has been called “China’s Silicon Valley”), and the hardware hub’s dynamic mix of entrepreneurship, knockoffs, and innovation. Read more…


Talking to the IoT

When our stuff speaks to us, we exchange more than ideas.

PSM_V79_D354_An_early_voice_recorderPeople are really good at talking to each other. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Conversation among human beings has evolved over a very long period of time — and now we’re starting to talk to our stuff, and in some cases, it’s talking back.

Asking Siri (or Cortana or Google Now) some simple questions is just the beginning of what’s coming. In fact, we’re in the midst of a significant shift in voice and conversation technology. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google are falling over each other to hire researchers and acquire related companies, and they are starting to use this talent in new and interesting ways.

This is the first post in a series of articles I’ll use to explore speech and conversational interfaces. The subject will be dialog systems in general, with a focus on the intelligent interfaces we can expect to see more of in the future. Other topics could include:

  • Design considerations for spoken language systems
  • Emerging research in the area
  • Changes to how we interact with technology plus the social impact they might have

If you’re someone with a finely tuned hype radar, some skepticism about just how good these technologies might be is understandable. Most of the speech-to-text and automated telephone interactions available up to this point have been frustrating to use. People regularly share tips for short-circuiting interactive voice response (IVR) trees (I hear swearing helps!). And even Siri can seem clueless a lot of the time. Read more…