ENTRIES TAGGED "kinect"

Printing Plastic Tchotchkes Was Fun, but MakerBot Was Just Too High-Maintenance

Breaking up with MakerBot

I’ll never forget the day I first met MakerBot. It was August 1, 2012 when he*—a bright, shiny first-generation Replicator—arrived at our Cambridge, MA, office, greeted by screams of delight by a throng of fans. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated and star-struck: MakerBot’s reputation preceded him. He was a rockstar in the DIY community, a true maverick of a machine, ushering in the “Wild West of 3D printing” among our sedate sea of MacBook Air laptops running Adobe InDesign. All we had ever made here before were PDF files, but with MakerBot humming cheerfully in the lounge next to the kitchen, that had all changed. We were now maker-magicians, spinning ABS thread into gold.

At first, it was hard to get any quality time with MakerBot. I’d come into the office in the morning, and he’d already be surrounded by three or four groupies, who were browsing the catalog at Thingiverse, selecting a fresh set of STL models to print: from Mario and Batman to Mayan Robot.


The T-Rex (far left) and Barack Obama figurine (bottom-right) were made with glow-in-the-dark ABS thread (hence “Glowbama”).

But MakerBot didn’t just allow me and my coworkers to print out other people’s models; he offered us the promise of designing our own plastic masterpieces. He came packaged with the open source software ReplicatorG, which provides a nice GUI for doing simple modifications on existing models (scaling, rotating, etc.). ReplicatorG isn’t a tool for constructing models from scratch, however, so I also started experimenting with other 3D rendering applications like Blender, MeshLab, and OpenSCAD.

I was interested in the possibilities in transforming 2D photos into 3D models that MakerBot could print, so I started experimenting with a Python tool called img2scad, which can convert a JPEG image file into a .scad file (convertible to a compatible STL file with OpenSCAD) by transforming each pixel in the image to a rectangular prism whose height is directly proportional to how dark/light the pixel is. When this SCAD model is printed, the output is a photograph embossed into a sheet of plastic. Pretty cool—although, in practice, the results were somewhat lackluster since much of the detail captured in the subtle shading differences among pixels in the source JPEG didn’t get preserved in the conversion to prisms.
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Four short links: 22 May 2013

Four short links: 22 May 2013

New Kinect, Surveillance of Things, How to Criticise, and Compensating for Population

  1. XBox One Kinect Controller (Guardian) — the new Kinect controller can detect gaze, heartbeat, and the buttons on your shirt.
  2. Surveillance and the Internet of Things (Bruce Schneier) — Lots has been written about the “Internet of Things” and how it will change society for the better. It’s true that it will make a lot of wonderful things possible, but the “Internet of Things” will also allow for an even greater amount of surveillance than there is today. The Internet of Things gives the governments and corporations that follow our every move something they don’t yet have: eyes and ears.
  3. Daniel Dennett’s Intuition Pumps (extract)How to compose a successful critical commentary: 1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.” 2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement). 3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
  4. New Data Science Toolkit Out (Pete Warden) — with population data to let you compensate for population in your heatmaps. No more “gosh, EVERYTHING is more prevalent where there are lots of people!” meaningless charts.
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Four short links: 6 July 2012

Four short links: 6 July 2012

UK Copyright Modernisation, Lessons from Cisco's Evil, Automation, and Kinect Tool

  1. HM Government Consultation on Modernising Copyright (PDF) — from all appearances, the UK Govt is prepared to be progressive and tech-savvy in considering updates to copyright law. Proof of the pudding is in the eating (i.e., wait and see whether the process is coopted by maximalists) but an optimistic start.
  2. Cisco Provides a Lesson (Eric Raymond) — This is why anyone who makes excuses for closed source in network-facing software is not just a fool deluded by shiny marketing but a malignant idiot whose complicity with what those vendors do will injure his neighbors as well as himself. [...] If you don’t own it, it will surely own you.
  3. Automate or Perish (Technology Review) — As the MIT economist David Autor has argued, the job market is being “hollowed out.” [...] Any work that is repetitive or fairly well structured is open to full or partial automation. Being human confers less and less of an advantage these days.
  4. Kinectable Pipe (Github) — command-line tool that writes skeleton data (as reported by Kinect) to stdout as text. Because Kinect programming is a pain in the neck, and by trivializing the device’s output into a simple text format, it becomes infinitely easier to digest in the scripting language of your choice.
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Four short links: 29 May 2012

Four short links: 29 May 2012

AR Theme Park, Digital Citizenship, Simulating Faces, and Reverse-Engineering Pixels

  1. South Korean Kinect+RFID Augmented Reality Theme Park Sixty-five attractions over seven thematic stages contribute to the experience, which uses 3D video, holograms and augmented reality to immerse guests. As visitors and their avatars move through the park, they interact with the attractions using RFID wristbands, while Kinect sensors recognize their gestures, voices and faces. (via Seb Chan)
  2. Digital Citizenship — computers in schools should be about more than teaching more than just typing to kids, they should know how to intelligently surf, to assess the quality of their sources, to stay safe from scammers and bullies, to have all the training they need to be citizens in an age when life is increasingly lived online. (via Pia Waugh)
  3. Simulating Anatomically Accurate Facial Expressions (University of Auckland) — video of a talk demonstrating biomechanical models which permit anatomically accurate facial models.
  4. Depixelizing Pixel Art (Microsoft Research) — this is totally awesome: turning pixel images into vector drawings, which of course can be smoothly scaled. (via Bruce Sterling)
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Four questions about Microsoft with Mary Jo Foley

Mary Jo Foley on what’s on the horizon for Microsoft in 2012.

Long-time Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley tells us what to expect with Windows 8, Metro design guidelines, and the Kinect SDK for Windows.

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Four short links: 30 January 2012

Four short links: 30 January 2012

Human Labour, Kinect in Laptops, Web Fonts, and Brain Boosting

  1. Improvisation and Forgiveness (JP Rangaswami) — what makes us human is not repetitive action. Human occupations should require human intellect, and there’s no more human activity than making a judgement call when processes have failed a customer.
  2. Kinect Tech in Laptop Prototypes — “waving your hands around at your laptop” will be the new “bellowing into your walkie-talkie phone”. (via Greg Linden)
  3. Beautiful Web Type — demo page for the best from Google’s web fonts directory. Source on GitHub.
  4. Ethics of Brain Boosting, Discussion (Hacker News) — this comment in particular: in my initial reckless period of self-experimentation, I managed to induce phosphenes by accident — blue white flashes in the entire visual field, blanking out everything else. Both contacts were in the supraorbital region. I ceased my experiments for a while and returned to the literature. And you thought that typo where you accidentally took the database offline was bad ….
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Developer Week in Review: Start your lawyers!

Developer Week in Review: Start your lawyers!

If the lawsuit fits, the Kinect SDK for Windows arrives, and IPv6 day fails to excite.

The legal community continued to feed off IP disputes among software giants, Microsoft brings the Kinect SDK to Windows, and the web switches IPv6 on for a day, but did anyone notice?

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Four short links: 25 May 2011

Four short links: 25 May 2011

DoD Open Source Report, Kinect Javascript, Open Core, and Anti-App Store

  1. OTD Lessons Learned v1 (PDF) — Dept of Defense report on use of open technologies. Advocates against forking open source projects, and provides specific guidance for groups looking to use OSS so they can navigate the military’s producement policies and procedures in a way that’ll deliver the best chance of success for the project. Imagine if only the manufacturer of a rifle were allowed to clean, fix, modify or upgrade that rifle. The military often finds itself in this position with taxpayer funded, contractor developed software: one contractor with a monopoly on the knowledge of a military software system and control of the software source code. (via John Scott)
  2. depth.js — Javascript for Chrome and Safari that lets the Kinect interact with web pages. (via Javascript Weekly)
  3. A Liberating Betrayal (Simon Phipps) — Microsoft have told Digium (makers of Asterisk) that they can’t sell their Asterisk-Skype interaction module after July 26. Simon notes that this reveals the fundamental problem with “open core” approaches to open source business. The proprietary interests hold all the cards here. The community can’t just “rehost and carry on” because the crucial add-on is proprietary. Even if wasn’t, the protocol it’s implementing is proprietary and subject to arbitrary change – very likely to happen if anyone attempts to reverse-engineer the interface and protocol. Asterisk may be open source, but if you’re dependent on this interface to connect with your customers on Skype you’ve no freedoms – that’s the way “open core” works.
  4. Zero InstallZero Install is a decentralised cross-distribution software installation system. Just hit 1.0. (via James Williams)
Comment: 1
Developer Week in Review

Developer Week in Review

Google takes the moral middle ground, Hollywood turns to Turing, and an April Fool's gag turns real.

In the latest Developer Week in Review: Google tries to bulk up its patent portfolio, filmmakers are taking a look at the life of an early software pioneer, and researchers decided to turn an April Fool's joke into reality.

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Four Short Links: 16 March 2011

Four Short Links: 16 March 2011

Javascript Fiddling, Securing Web Traffic, DIY Jumbotron, and Kinect Tesla Fun

  1. JS Fiddlean online editor for snippets build from HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The code can then be shared with others, embedded on a blog, etc. (via Darren Wood)
  2. SideStep — Mac OS X program that automatically routes connections through a secure proxy when you’re on an unsecured wifi network. (via Gina Trapani)
  3. Junkyard Jumbotron (MIT) — lets you take a bunch of random displays and instantly stitch them together into a large, virtual display, simply by taking a photograph of them. It works with laptops, smartphones, tablets — anything that runs a web browser. It also highlights a new way of connecting a large number of heterogenous devices to each other in the field, on an ad-hoc basis.
  4. Kinect-Controlled Tesla Coil (YouTube) — “now say: Fools, I’ll Destroy You All!”. (via AdaFruit)
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