- Farmbot Wiki — open-source, scalable, automated precision farming machines.
- Amazon’s Chaotic Storage — photos from inside an Amazon warehouse. At the heart of the operation is a sophisticated database that tracks and monitors every single product that enters/leaves the warehouse and keeps a tally on every single shelf space and whether it’s empty or contains a product. Software-optimised spaces, for habitation by augmented humans.
- Public Safety Codes of the World — Kickstarter project to fund the release of public safety codes.
- #xoxo Thoreau Talk (Maciej Ceglowski) — exquisitely good talk by the Pinboard creator, on success, simplicity, and focus.
Blowing open the doors to low-power, on-demand supercomputing
Packing impressive supercomputing power inside a small credit card-sized board running Ubuntu, Adapteva‘s $99 ARM-based Parallella system includes the unique Ephiphany numerical accelerator that promises to unleash industrial strength parallel processing on the desktop at a rock-bottom price. The Massachusetts-based startup recently ran a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign and gained widespread attention only to run into a few roadblocks along the way. Now, with their setbacks behind them, Adapteva is slated to deliver its first units mid-December 2013, with volume shipping in the following months.
What makes the Parallella board so exciting is that it breaks new ground: imagine an Open Source Hardware board, powered by just a few Watts of juice, delivering 90 GFLOPS of number crunching. Combine this with the possibility of clustering multiple boards, and suddenly the picture of an exceedingly affordable desktop supercomputer emerges.
This review looks in-depth at a pre-release prototype board (so-called Generation Zero, a development run of 50 units), giving you a pretty complete overview of what the finished board will look like.
Ploughbot, Amazon Warehouses, Kickstarting Safety, and The Island of Dr Thoreau
Notable Release, SVG Library, Modular Robot, and Factchecking Politicians Will Not Work
- Quick Reads of Notable New Zealanders — notable for two reasons: (a) CC-NC-BY licensed, and (b) gorgeous gorgeous web design. Not what one normally associates with Government web sites!
- Linkbot: Create with Robots (Kickstarter) — accessible and expandable modular robot. Loaded w/ absolute encoding, accelerometer, rechargeable lithium ion battery and ZigBee. (via IEEE Spectrum)
- The Promise and Peril of Real-Time Corrections to Political Misperceptions (PDF) — paper presenting results of an experiment comparing the effects of real-time corrections to corrections that are presented after a short distractor task. Although real-time corrections are modestly more effective than delayed corrections overall, closer inspection reveals that this is only true among individuals predisposed to reject the false claim. In contrast, individuals whose attitudes are supported by the inaccurate information distrust the source more when corrections are presented in real time, yielding beliefs comparable to those never exposed to a correction. We find no evidence of realtime corrections encouraging counterargument. Strategies for reducing these biases are discussed. So much for the Google Glass bullshit detector transforming politics. (via Vaughan Bell)
Google Ingress, Micrometer 3D Printing, Design Thinking, and Tote Bags In The Cloud
- On Google’s Ingress Game (ReadWrite Web) — By rolling out Ingress to developers at I/O, Google hopes to show how mobile, location, multi-player and augmented reality functions can be integrated into developer application offerings. In that way, Ingress becomes a kind of “how-to” template to developers looking to create vibrant new offerings for Android games and apps. (via Mike Loukides)
- Nanoscribe Micro-3D Printer — in contrast to stereolithography (SLA), the resolution is between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude higher: Feature sizes in the order of 1 µm and less are standard. (via BoingBoing)
- Thingpunk — The problem of the persistence of these traditional values is that they prevent us from addressing the most pressing design questions of the digital era: How can we create these forms of beauty and fulfill this promise of authenticity within the large and growing portions of our lives that are lived digitally? Or, conversely, can we learn to move past these older ideas of value, to embrace the transience and changeability offered by the digital as virtues in themselves? Thus far, instead of approaching these (extremely difficult) questions directly, traditional design thinking has lead us to avoid them by trying to make our digital things more like physical things (building in artificial scarcity, designing them skeumorphically, etc.) and by treating the digital as a supplemental add-on to primarily physical devices and experiences (the Internet of Things, digital fabrication).
- Kickstarter and NPR — The internet turns everything into public radio. There’s a truth here about audience-supported media and the kinds of money-extraction systems necessary to beat freeloading in a medium that makes money-collection hard and freeloading easy.
I just invested in BioCurious’ Glowing Plants project on Kickstarter. I don’t watch Kickstarter closely, but this is about as fast as I’ve ever seen a project get funded. It went live on Wednesday; in the afternoon, I was backer #170 (more or less), but could see the number of backers ticking upwards constantly as I watched. It was fully funded for $65,000 Thursday; and now sits at 1340 backers (more by the time you read this), with about $84,000 in funding. And there’s a new “stretch” goal: if they make $400,000, they will work on bigger plants, and attempt to create a glowing rose.
Glowing plants are a curiosity; I don’t take seriously the idea that trees will be an alternative to streetlights any time in the near future. But that’s not the point. What’s exciting is that an important and serious biology project can take place in a biohacking lab, rather than in a university or an industrial facility. It’s exciting that this project could potentially become a business; I’m sure there’s a boutique market for glowing roses and living nightlights, if not for biological street lighting. And it’s exciting that we can make new things out of biological parts.
In a conversation last year, Drew Endy said that he wanted synthetic biology to “stay weird,” and that if in ten years, all we had accomplished was create bacteria that made oil from cellulose, we will have failed. Glowing plants are weird. And beautiful. Take a look at their project, fund it, and be the first on your block to have a self-illuminating garden.
The 3Doodler is tapping a new market: People who want a 3D printer but can't afford one.
The 3Doodler is a 3D printer, but it’s a pen. This takes 3D printing and turns it on its head.
In fact the 3Doodler rejects quite a lot of what most people would consider necessary for it to be called a 3D printer. There is no three-axis control. There is no software. You can’t download a design and print an object. It strips 3D printing back to basics.
What there is, what it allows you to do, is make things. This is the history of printing going in reverse. It’s as if Gutenberg’s press was invented first, and then somebody came along afterwards and invented the fountain pen. Read more…
Aaron Swartz, Baghdad Makerspace, Teaching in Africa, and Ephemeral People
- Aaron Swartz Defense Fund — American computer systems are under attack every day of the week from foreign governments, and the idiot prosecutor is wasting resources doubling down on this vindictive nonsense.
- Baghdad Community Hackerspace Workshops (Kickstarter) — Makerspace in Baghdad, built by people who know how to do this stuff in that country. (via BoingBoing)
- Teaching Web Development in Africa — I used the resources that Pamela Fox helpfully compiled at teaching-materials.org to mentor twelve students who all built their own websites, such as websites for their karate club, fashion club, and traditional dance troupe. One student made a website to teach others about the hardware components of computers, and another website discussing the merits of a common currency in the East African Community. The two most advanced students began programming their own computer game to help others practice touch typing, and it allows players to compete across the network with WebSockets.
- Transient Faces (Jeff Howard) — only displaying the unchanging parts of a scene, effectively removing people using computer vision. Disconcerting and elegant. (via Greg Borenstein)
OpenPlans looks to improve transportation infrastructure with open data and open source code.
Earlier this year, the news broke that Apple would be dropping default support for transit in iOS 6. For people (like me) who use the iPhone to check transit routes and times when they travel, that would mean losing a key feature. It also has the potential to decrease the demand for open transit data from cities, which has open government advocates like Clay Johnson concerned about public transportation and iOS 6.
“From the public perspective, this campaign is about putting an important feature back on the iPhone,” wrote Kevin Webb, a principal at Open Plans, via email. “But for those of us in the open government community, this is about demonstrating why open data matters. There’s no reason why important civic infrastructure should get bound up in a fight between Apple and Google. And in communities with public GTFS, it won’t.”
Open Plans already had a head start in creating a patch for the problem: they’ve been working with transit agencies over the past few years to build OpenTripPlanner, an open source application that uses open transit data to help citizens make transit decisions.
Kickstarter project promotes open-source, standards-based collaboration tool
Who has the gumption to jump into the crowded market for collaboration tools and call for a comprehensive open source implementation? Perhaps just Miles Fidelman, a networking expert whose experience spans time with Bolt, Beranek and Newman, work on military command and control systems, a community networking non-profit called the Center for Civic Networking, and building a small hosting company.
Miles, whom I’ve known for years and consider a mentor in the field of networking, recently started a Kickstarter project called Smart Notebooks. Besides promising a free software implementation based on popular standards, he believes his vision for a collaboration environment will work the way people naturally work together — not how some vendor thinks they should work, as so many tools have done.
Miles’ concept of Smart Notebooks is shared documents that stay synchronized across the net. Each person has his or her own copy of a document, but they “talk to each other” using a peer-to-peer protocol. Edit your copy, and everyone else sees the change on their copy. Unlike email attachments, there’s no need to search for the most recent copy of document. Unlike a Google Doc, everyone has their own copy, allowing for private notes and working offline. All of this will be done using standard web browsers, email, and RSS: no new software to install, no walled-garden services, and no accounts to configure on services running in the cloud.
A portrait of a design contest and what it says about the future of co-creation.
I had decided to update the branding at one of my companies, and that meant re-thinking my logo.
Here’s the old logo:
When it was all done, I had been enveloped by an epic wave of 200 designs from 38 different designers.
It was a flash mob, a virtual meetup constructed for the express purpose of creating a new logo. The system itself was relatively lean, providing just enough “framing” to facilitate rapid iteration, where lots of derivative ideas could be presented, shaped and then re-shaped again.
The bottom line is that based on the primary goal of designing a new logo, I can say without hesitation that the model works.
Not only did the end product manifest as I hoped it would (see below), but the goodness of real-time engagement was intensely stimulating and richly illuminating. At one point, I was maintaining 10 separate conversations with designers spread across the Americas, Asia and Europe. Talk about parallelizing the creative process.
In the end, the project yielded eight worthy logo designs and not one but two contest winners! It was the creative equivalent of a Chakra experience: cathartic, artistic and outcome-driven at the same time.