- Future of Working: Real World Robotics, Medical & Health Robotics (YouTube) — interesting talk by Kiwi Foo alum, Jonathan Roberts, given to a Future of Working event. New class of tools, where the human uses them but they won’t let the human do the wrong thing. (via RoboHub)
- On Code Review (Glen D Sanford) — Pending code reviews represent blocked threads of execution.
- Four Days of Go (Evan Miller) — Reading Go’s mailing list and documentation, I get a similar sense of refusal-to-engage — the authors are communicative, to be sure, but in a didactic way. They seem tired of hearing people’s ideas, as if they’ve already thought of everything, and the relative success of Go at Google and elsewhere has only led them to turn the volume knob down. Which is a shame, because they’ll probably miss out on some good ideas (including my highly compelling, backwards-incompatible, double-triple-colon-assignment proposal mentioned above). Under this theory, more of the language choices start to make sense. There is no ternary operator because the language designers were tired of dealing with other people’s use of ternary operators. There is One True Way To Format Code — embodied in gofmt — because the designers were tired of how other people formatted their code. Rather than debate or engage, it was easier to make a new language and shove the new rules onto everyone by coupling it with Very Fast Build Times, a kind of veto-proof Defense Spending Bill in the Congress of computer programming. In this telling, the story of Go is really a tale of revenge, not just against slow builds, but against all kinds of sloppy programming.
- Tempescope — Ambient weather display for your home. In my home, that’s a window. (via Matt Webb)
Technology executive and enthusiast Mike Milinkovich on Java's role in shaping future enterprise development.
Hardware and software are coming together in new and exciting ways. To get a better sense of this excitement, one need look no further than the nascent explosion of connected devices and technologies. But how do we best cater development for these emerging paradigms, and how do more mature languages, like Java, fit into the equation?
I spoke with Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director at the Eclipse Foundation. Mike and his team are currently leading the charge to promote open source IoT protocols, runtimes, frameworks, and SDKs across a variety of languages, including Java. Eclipse’s IoT stack for Java is already being utilized by such companies as Philips, Samsung, and eQ-3. Here, he talks about Java’s unique standing in this emerging marketplace, and the impact of the open source community on IoT development.
The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Steve Omohundro on AI, cryptocurrencies, and ensuring a safe future for humanity.
Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.
I met up with Possibility Research president Steve Omohundro at our Bitcoin & the Blockchain Radar Summit to talk about an interesting intersection: artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain/cryptocurrency technologies. This Radar Podcast episode features our discussion about the role cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies will play in the future of AI, Omohundro’s Self Aware Systems project that aims to ensure intelligent technologies are beneficial for humanity, and his work on the Pebble cryptocurrency.
Synthesizing AI and crypto-technologies
Bitcoin piqued Omohundro’s interest from the very start, but his excitement built as he started realizing the disruptive potential of the technology beyond currency — especially the potential for smart contracts. He began seeing ways the technology will intersect with artificial intelligence, the area of focus for much of his work:
I’m very excited about what’s happening with the cryptocurrencies, particularly Ethereum. I would say Ethereum is the most advanced of the smart contracting ideas, and there’s just a flurry of insights, and people are coming up every week with, ‘Oh we could use it to do this.’ We could have totally autonomous corporations running on the blockchain that copy what Uber does, but much more cheaply. It’s like, ‘Whoa what would that do?’
I think we’re in a period of exploration and excitement in that field, and it’s going to merge with the AI systems because programs running on the blockchain have to connect to the real world. You need to have sensors and actuators that are intelligent, have knowledge about the world, in order to integrate them with the smart contracts on the blockchain. I see a synthesis of AI and cryptocurrencies and crypto-technologies and smart contracts. I see them all coming together in the next couple of years.
Designers need not start from scratch as they wrestle with orchestrating experiences that span digital and physical.
Download a free copy of Designing for the Internet of Things, a curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. This post is an excerpt from Understanding Industrial Design, by Simon King and Kuen Chang, one of the books included in the curated collection.
Two of our richest senses, smell and taste, are not often associated with design. However, the creation of objects that support these senses is an ancient practice, embodied best by the tea set, where rituals of assembly and service lead to hints of the aroma. Holding the tea cup warms your hand without burning it, and the slow sipping of the tea forms a communal bond with other participants. Outside of classic and common serving items, designers today are increasingly finding new ways to collaborate with chefs and food companies to design with smell and taste in mind, forging a new frontier for sensorial design.
Martin Kastner is the founder and principal of Crucial Detail, a studio in Chicago that specializes in custom pieces to support unique culinary experiences. Martin is best known for his work designing serviceware concepts for Alinea, the 3-star Michelin restaurant founded by chef Grant Achatz. That collaboration has extended to other restaurants owned by Achatz, including The Aviary, a cocktail bar that prides itself on serving drinks with the same level of attention as a fine dinner.At The Aviary, one of the most popular creations by Crucial Detail is the Porthole Infuser, a round vessel that presents the ingredients of a patron’s cocktail between two flat panes of glass, emphasizing the transformative action of the steeping process and building anticipation for the cocktail’s taste. The Porthole Infuser takes a part of the preparation process that is normally hidden and brings it directly to the person’s table, providing time for the drinker to contemplate the ingredients on display, creating a mental checklist for their tongue to seek out when they take their first sip.
The popularity of the Porthole Infuser at the Aviary led Kastner to create a Kickstarter campaign to fund the additional design and manufacturing required to release it as a commercial product. Support for the project was dramatic, achieving 25 times more funding than originally asked. This backing set the course for a redesign that allowed the infuser to be manufactured at scale and sold for $100, down from the several hundred dollars that each custom constructed version for The Aviary cost.
The Porthole Infuser is marketed as more than a cocktail tool, working equally well to support the smell and taste of oils, teas, or any other infusion recipe. It’s an example of how designers can enhance the dining experience, not by crafting the smell or taste of the food itself, but working in collaboration with a chef to heighten our awareness of those senses. Read more…
Scott Jenson on empathy, interaction on demand, and Google’s Physical Web Project.
I recently connected with veteran designer Scott Jenson, who is currently developing the Physical Web Project with the Chrome team at Google. We’ve been talking quite a bit about empathy in the past few months here at O’Reilly, and Scott’s recent blog post, The Paradox of Empathy, caught my attention. I sat down with him to learn more about his thinking around empathy and to talk about his work on the Physical Web Project.
Empathy is part of every great designer’s toolkit
Jenson is often asked for recommendations for learning the next tool, or program. but as he explains, learning how to empathize is fundamental to product design:
When I reflected on what I wanted people to understand, what the core thing was, it wasn’t a technique. It wasn’t a visual style. It wasn’t learning a certain program. The core thing was making sure that you never thought about the product from your point of view, but from somebody else’s point of view. That’s what prompted the [The Paradox of Empathy] post.
He breaks empathy down into four components:
I basically take the whole design process from soup to nuts and break it up into four types of things, what I called understanding, bridging, flowing, and refining, which is a little bit of wordplay, but it was just really trying to say that most people talk about the icons and the buttons. That’s the last category, the refining. What I tried to do was to go back in time to get earlier and earlier interactions with people. So, the flowing is basically just how the whole program feels and what metaphors do you use, and how many steps do they take. It’s the level above the bits. Bridging was about matching the technology to the actual user needs. The most important one, the one that we actually tried to do the most when I was at Frog Design, was understanding, which was just to understand what people were doing, what were they up to, where they were at. In fact, to the point where you’re not even designing a product for them. One of the reasons why I think [The Paradox of Empathy] post got some positive response, was the fact that the first two were so clearly focused on user research.
How proximity approaches compare and a look at the flourishing proximity startup ecosystem.
In the first of this series, I covered some of the basics behind proximity, Bluetooth Low Energy, and iBeacon, and walked through some use cases where proximity and iBeacon have started showing up in retail, travel, and other applications.
While iBeacon has arguably galvanised the notion of using proximity in applications and services, it’s not the only game in town.
In this post, I’ll cover one of the alternatives to Apple’s iBeacon, Physical Web from Google, and then I’ll zoom out to look at the flurry of activity in startups in the evolving “Beacosystem.”
First, a small recap on what helped iBeacon gain so much traction, so quickly and helped shape the landscape for a proximity ecosystem to emerge.
Creating an ecosystem
Apple’s iBeacon is a layer, or a “convention,” that builds on the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Standard. Apple has spurred an ecosystem around iBeacon by doing several things, which all feed into each other:
- Baked support for iBeacon into its mobile operating system (iOS) so that APIs are readily available for developers.
- Included support for background notifications at the OS level, so that push notifications can be triggered in certain situations, but without killing your phone’s battery.
- Provided a certification program to enable hardware manufacturers to create iBeacon-compatible hardware. This allows third-party manufacturers to provide iBeacon-compatible hardware of all shapes, sizes, and form factors, At last count, there were more than 50 suppliers of iBeacon hardware.
- Enabled every iOS device to be an iBeacon. This has many potential uses, from iPad-based POS systems welcoming you to a store, to the Hailo App letting you know that you can pay by Hailo.
- Ate its own dog food, by using iBeacon with their Apple Store App in all their US based Apple Stores.
Phil Gilbert on IBM’s deep design roots, change management, and hiring for culture fit.
Companies of all sizes are recognizing that by taking a design-first approach to product development, they can improve profit. I recently sat down with Phil Gilbert, GM of design at IBM, to discuss how he is helping to lead the transformation to a design-first company within IBM. Adopting design as a key corporate asset may seem like a no-brainer, but for a company of more than 350,000 employees, it’s a massive undertaking. IBM hasn’t been quiet about its plans to hire 1,000 designers over the course of five years and embed design in product teams throughout the organization.
IBM’s long history of design
What I was surprised to find when reading about IBM’s latest design plans, is that the giant tech company has design roots dating back to the 1950s. Gilbert shares in more detail:
We started our first design program — and we were one of the first to really apply design holistically at scale — in 1956. In the 1950s and the 1960s and into the early 1970s, we had a constellation of designers around IBM that, quite frankly, has never been equaled.
Elliott Noyes was our first head of design. Thomas Watson Jr. hired him in 1956. He assembled people like Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Paul Rand. He assembled this team of people, and, essentially, I think the reason it happened then is because humanity was addressing a fundamentally different relationship between ourselves and technology. There was a lot of turmoil and angst as a result. We used design at that time to communicate and engage in a conversation with humanity about that relationship and about our role with technology. We viewed it as a very holistic statement — we communicated it through our products, our communications, our buildings, and we did it through our exhibits at places like the World’s Fair.
Since then, I don’t think there has been as fundamental a change in the relationship between human beings and technology. The move from mainframe to mini-computer, the move from mini-computer to personal computer, the move to client-server computing — all of these things were actually fairly incremental. But I think in 2007, with the release of the iPhone and with the ubiquitous access via mobile devices, I actually think that we’re, again, in a time of real turmoil and change around this relationship of where does technology sit with human beings.
This is a real change, and I think that human-centered design and design thinking as a method to achieve human-centered design is why it’s become so important. Because our relationship with technology is, it may not be as frightening as it was in the 50s and 60s, but it certainly is fundamental. I don’t think we quite yet understand it. I think design is the primary lever that we have to understand that relationship and then to communicate that relationship.
Jonathan Follett on creative class workers, product life cycles, and enhancing company-customer relationships.
I recently sat down with Jonathan Follett, principal of Involution Studios and editor and author of the recently released O’Reilly book Designing for Emerging Technologies. We talked about the ways in which emerging technologies are disrupting the product life cycle and considerations for companies looking at new ways of approaching product design and development.
The age of the creative class
Follett noted the cyclical nature of the design life cycle, drawing parallels between today’s emerging technology and that which arose during the Industrial Revolution. He outlined a few ways we’re seeing technology disrupt the product design life cycle today:
When I talk about emerging technologies, sometimes I refer back to the second Industrial Revolution, where you had a whole bunch of emerging technologies of the time coming together. You had your automobile, your lightbulb, your electric power, your telephone all coming to the fore at the same time. That created the modern world we’re living in today.
When we’re talking about product design and new products coming to the fore today, we can see the same thing happening, whether you’re talking about the Internet of Things, or robotics, or synthetic biology and genomics, or any of those other exciting elements that are all mixing together. That’s one way. … [We’re] creating whole new lines of products that we’ve never even thought of.
The other way we’re seeing disruption in the product design life cycle is that we’re finding different ways to work together as creative class workers. What I mean by that is knowledge workers, scientists, designers, engineers. You’ve got all of the leverage of open source. You’ve got open source mechanical designs, open source CAD drawings, open source electrical designs that a product designer can leverage to create their new products. [We’re] doing what Isaac Newton said — he stood on the shoulders of giants; that way, he could see farther. We’re having an opportunity in real time to find a crowdsourced IP and bring it into a product design, and push the design out the door so much faster than before.
As a creative class, we’re finding new ways to work together that are not restricted to Industrial Age thinking. Open source and crowdsourcing are just two examples of that.
The O'Reilly Solid Podcast: Zach Supalla and Will Hart on building a supply chain, making radios work, and taking on big telecom.
Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid podcast to stay on top of topics related to the Internet of Things, hardware, software, manufacturing, and the blurring of the physical and virtual worlds.
A few weeks ago, hours after launching a blow-out Kickstarter campaign, Zach Supalla and Will Hart of Spark Labs dropped by our podcasting studio to have a wide-ranging conversation about how they’d built a successful hardware startup, how they manage their overseas supply chain, and how they’re taking on established machine-to-machine and telecom companies by turning themselves into a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).
Spark’s latest product, the Electron, is a tiny development kit that can connect just about any kind of device to Spark’s back-end platform over a 3G cellular signal for as little as $3 per month. Read more…
The O'Reilly Solid Podcast: Dennis Wingo on reestablishing contact with a satellite that had been silent for 17 years.
Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid podcast to stay on top of topics related to the Internet of Things, hardware, software, manufacturing, and the blurring of the physical and virtual worlds.
After an hour of recounting his techno-archaeology exploits — reverse-engineering the arcane analog image-transmission systems that NASA’s engineers developed in the 1960s — Dennis paused and said, “and that’s just one of our history projects.”
That teaser is where we begin today’s episode. Ready to apply modern computing to another analog challenge, Dennis turned his attention to the reboot of the International Sun/Earth Explorer-3, a research satellite launched in 1978 and commended to the heavens in 1997.
NASA decommissioned the equipment for communicating with the satellite in 1999, so Dennis set about reverse-engineering the ISEE-3’s control system and devising a way to communicate with it. In the 1970s, he would have needed custom analog hardware, but now, general-purpose hardware is powerful enough that he could do it all with software. Read more…