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January 29 2014

Four short links: 29 January 2014

  1. Bounce Explorer — throwable sensor (video, CO2, etc) for first responders.
  2. Sintering Patent Expires Today — key patent expires, though there are others in the field. Sintering is where the printer fuses powder with a laser, which produces smooth surfaces and works for ceramics and other materials beyond plastic. Hope is that sintering printers will see same massive growth that FDM (current tech) printers saw after the FDM patent expired 5 years ago.
  3. Internet is the Greatest Legal Facilitator of Inequality in Human History (The Atlantic) — hyperbole aside, this piece does a good job of outlining “why they hate us” and what the systemic challenges are.
  4. First Carbon Fiber 3D Printer Announced — $5000 price tag. Nice!

January 02 2014

December 18 2013

Democratizing technology and the road to empowerment

Advancements in technology are making what once was relegated only to highly educated scientists, engineers and developers accessible to — and affordable for — the mainstream. This democratization of technology and the empowerment it affords was an underlying thread through many of the stories at this year’s Business Innovation Factory (BIF) summit. From allowing hobbyists and makers to innovate and develop on an advanced level to enabling individuals to take control of their personal health data to using space suits to help children with cerebral palsy, technological advancements are beginning to empower — and enrich — at scale.

With the rise of quantified self, for example, people have begun amassing personal data based on their activities and behaviors. Some argue that QS doesn’t go quite far enough and that a more complete story can be told by incorporating emotional data, our sense of experience. While it’s empowering in many ways to be able to collect and control all this personal big data, what to do with this onslaught of information and how to process it remains a question for many.

Alexander Tsiaras, who founded theVisualMD, argued in his talk at BIF9 that “story gives a soul to the data,” and that it’s time to change the paradigm, to start using technology to create ecosystems to empower people to understand what’s going on inside their bodies as a result of their behaviors.

Using visualization and interactive media, personal big data — medical records, test results, lab reports, diagnoses, and exercise and eating habits, for instance — are deconstructed, as Tsiaras explained, to “demystify” the data: “The beauty of visualization is that it speaks to everyone,” he said. From stories to explain test results to stories to help patients visualize the processes going on inside their bodies when they eat particular foods or when they exercise, people are able to turn their personal big data into stories, whether to better understand a chronic condition or to understand how their behaviors play into prevention. “This is the most important thing,” Tsiaras argued, “the moment you take control, that empowerment is huge.”

Arguably, one of the most democratizing and empowering of technological innovations is 3D printing — innovators can now manufacture the products they conceive, even at scale. BIF storyteller Ping Fu emphasized the potential of the technology through a powerful personal story of how her past experiences led her to computer science — a breakthrough, she explained, that changed her life personally and professionally, leading her to co-found 3D printing and design company Geomagic. Fu defined innovation as “imagination applied” and shared examples of innovations in 3D printing, including the Smithsonian’s plan to scan and print artifacts from its collection (which can now be achieved by individuals at home), custom prosthetics designed as mirror images of actual limbs, and the digital preservation of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Fu stressed that the technology should not be viewed as a platform for printing tchotchkes, that real-world, useful products are being produced.

This argument was further supported by storyteller Easton LaChapelle, a 17-year-old high school student who has used 3D printing technology in coordination with advancements in (and some creativity with) engineering materials to create a robotic hand that’s wirelessly controlled by a robotic glove — complete with haptic feedback — and a 3D-printed brain-wave-controlled robotic arm.

Affordable access to 3D printing, LaChapelle said, was key to his ability to move forward with his designs, and he noted that 3D printing is a driving force for innovation: “I can design something in my room and hit print, and within an hour, it’s in front of me; that alone is really fascinating, that you’re able to design something and have it physically in front of you; it’s remarkable in today’s world — it’s a whole evolving technology.”

Advancements in technology aren’t only empowering LaChapelle to create innovative designs in robotics; they’re empowering him to help humanity, and in turn, empowering humanity. He explained during his story:

“When I was at the science fair in Colorado, I had the first generation of the arm there for a public viewing, and a 7-year-old girl came up to me. She had a prosthetic limb from the elbow to the fingertip, with one motion — open-close — and one sensor. That alone was $80,000. That was really the moment that touched my heart, the “ah-ha” moment, that I could take what I’m already doing, transfer it directly to prosthetics, and potentially make people’s lives better.”

The final iteration of the arm is completely 3D printed, making it lightweight — from fingertip to shoulder, it’s in line to weigh less than five pounds — and cost about $400 to produce. “The third generation arm is the final [iteration of the arm] and the point where it can change people’s lives,” said LaChapelle. He’s currently working on developing exoskeleton legs for a friend who was paralyzed in a car accident, technology that he’ll make available to anyone with paralysis, MS or any other condition that impairs movement: “I want to solve this. My approach is to give them something they can afford and something they can use easily.”

You can watch LaChapelle’s inspiring talk in the following video:

In a similar vein, storyteller Dava Newman, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems at MIT, explained how her team uses advances in materials technology to develop exoskeleton space suits to address particular issues astronauts experience in space, such as combating bone density loss, and increasing mobility and flexibility (see the gravity loading countermeasure suit, which is also used to help children with cerebral palsy perform daily activities).

Suits are also designed with high-precision EGain sensors to help provide muscular protection and measure hot spots and pressure while astronauts are training, in hopes of preventing shoulder injuries, for instance. The ultimate goal is developing the BioSuit, which uses electrospun materials, dielectric elastomers and shape memory alloys to provide a skin-tight, pressurized but flexible suit environment for astronauts. Newman stressed that the importance of our work as scientists, designers, researchers, artists, mathematicians, etc., is to take care of one another:

“…200 miles, 400 kilometers — Boston to New York — that’s where we’re living in space now; it’s low Earth orbit, and it’s fantastic and it’s great, but it’s been 40 years since we’ve been to another planetary body. I think, with all my great students and all the great dreamers in the world, we’ll get to the Moon, we’ll get to Mars, and we’re going for the search of life. It’ll be humans and rovers and robots all working together. The scientific benefit will be great, but the most important thing is that we learn about ourselves — it’s in the reflection and thinking about who we are and who humanity is.”

As technology advances and empowers more and more people to create, build and produce more and more innovative products and experiences, a discussion has begun as to the responsibility we have as engineers, scientists, designers, etc., to consider the implications and ramifications of our work, to using our designs for the benefit of humanity, to further social progress in a positive direction. It’s clear through these and other storytellers from BIF9 that doing so results in a more enriching, empowering experience for everyone.

December 16 2013

Four short links: 16 December 2013

  1. Suro (Github) — Netflix data pipeline service for large volumes of event data. (via Ben Lorica)
  2. NIPS Workshop on Data Driven Education — lots of research papers around machine learning, MOOC data, etc.
  3. Proofist — crowdsourced proofreading game.
  4. 3D-Printed Shoes (YouTube) — LeWeb talk from founder of the company, Continuum Fashion). (via Brady Forrest)

December 11 2013

Four short links: 11 December 2013

  1. Meet Jack, or What The Government Could Do With All That Location Data (ACLU) — sham slidedeck which helps laypeople see how our data exhaust can be used against us to keep us safe.
  2. PirateBay Moves Domains — different ccTLDs have different policies and operate in different jurisdictions, because ICANN gives them broad discretion to operate the country code domains. However, post-Snowden, governments are turning on the US’s stewardship of critical Internet bodies, so look for governments (i.e., law enforcement) to be meddling a lot more in DNS, IP addresses, routing, and other things which thus far have been (to good effect) fairly neutrally managed.
  3. 3D Printed Room (PopSci) — printed from sand, 11 tons, fully structural, full of the boggle. (via John Hagel)
  4. Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising — awesome tumblr, great post. (via Keith Bolland)

November 27 2013

Four short links: 27 November 2013

  1. CT Scanning and 3D Printing for Paleo (Scientific American) — using CT scanners to identify bones still in rock, then using 3D printers to recreate them. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Growing the Use of Drones in Agriculture (Forbes) — According to Sue Rosenstock, 3D Robotics spokesperson, a third of their customers consist of hobbyists, another third of enterprise users, and a third use their drones as consumer tools. “Over time, we expect that to change as we make more enterprise-focused products, such as mapping applications,” she explains. (via Chris Anderson)
  3. Serving 1M Load-Balanced Requests/Second (Google Cloud Platform blog) — 7m from empty project to serving 1M requests/second. I remember when 1 request/second was considered insanely busy. (via Forbes)
  4. Boil Up — behind the scenes for the design and coding of a real-time simulation for a museum’s science exhibit. (via Courtney Johnston)

November 15 2013

August 14 2013

July 25 2013

Four short links: 25 July 2013

  1. More Git and GitHub Secrets (Zach Holman) — wizards tricks. (via Rowan Crawford)
  2. Building a Keyboard from Scratch (Jesse Vincent) — for the connoisseur.
  3. Practicing Deployment (Laura Thomson) — you should build the capability for continuous deployment, even if you never intend to continuously deploy.
  4. 3D Printed Atoms (Thingiverse) — customize and 3d-print a Bohr model of any atom.

July 22 2013

Four short links: 22 July 2013

  1. The Anti-Virus Age is Overfor every analyst that an AV company hires, the bad guys can hire 10 developers.
  2. 3D Printing’s 2014 Renaissance (Quartz) — patents on sintering about to expire which will open up hi-res production. Happened in the past when patents on fixed deposition modelling expired: Within just a few years of the patents on FDM expiring, the price of the cheapest FDM printers fell from many thousands of dollars to as little as $300.
  3. Ultrafine Particle Emissions from Desktop 3D Printers (Science Direct) — Because most of these devices are currently sold as standalone devices without any exhaust ventilation or filtration accessories, results herein suggest caution should be used when operating in inadequately ventilated or unfiltered indoor environments. (via Slashdot)
  4. Aireal — focussed changes in air pressure simulate sensations of touch. The machine itself is essentially a set of five speakers in a box–subwoofers that track your body through IR, then fire low frequencies through a nozzle to form donut-like vortices (I imagine the system as a cigar-smoking Microsoft Kinect). [...] In practice, Aireal can do anything from creating a button for you to touch in midair to crafting whole textures by pulsing its bubbles to mimic water, stone, and sand. (via BoingBoing)

June 28 2013

Four short links: 28 June 2013

  1. Huxley vs Orwellbuy Amusing Ourselves to Death if this rings true. The future is here, it’s just not evenly surveilled. (via rone)
  2. KeyMe — keys in the cloud. (Digital designs as backups for physical objects)
  3. Motorola Advanced Technology and Products GroupThe philosophy behind Motorola ATAP is to create an organization with the same level of appetite for technology advancement as DARPA, but with a consumer focus. It is a pretty interesting place to be. And they hired the excellent Johnny Chung Lee.
  4. Internet Credit Union — Internet Archive starts a Credit Union. Can’t wait to see memes on debit cards.

June 17 2013

Four short links: 21 June 2013

  1. Ant-Sized Computers (MIT TR) — The KL02 chip, made by Freescale, is shorter on each side than most ants are long and crams in memory, RAM, a processor, and more.
  2. Some Thoughts on Digital Manufacturing (Nick Pinkston) — Whenever I see someone make a “new” 3D printer that’s just a derivative of the RepRap or MakerBot – I could care less. Only new processes, great interfaces or super-low price points get my attention anymore. FormLabs being a great example of all three – which is why they were a massive hit. If you’re looking for problems: make a cheap laser cutter, CNC mill, or pick-n-place machine. See the Othermill.
  3. The Dictatorship of Data (MIT TR) — Robert McNamara epitomizes the hyper-rational executive led astray by numbers. (via Wolfgang Blau)
  4. A Field Test of Mobile Phone Shielding Devices (PDF) — masters thesis comparing various high-tech fabric-type shielding devices. Alas, tin-foil helmets weren’t investigated. (via Udhay Shankar)

June 14 2013

Four short links: 14 June 2014

  1. How Geeks Opened up the UK Government (Guardian) — excellent video introduction to how the UK is transforming its civil service to digital delivery. Most powerful moment for me was scrolling through various depts’ web sites and seeing consistent visual design.
  2. Tools for Working Remotely — Braid’s set of tools (Trello, Hackpad, Slingshot, etc.) for remote software teams.
  3. Git Push to Deploy on Google App EngineEnabling this feature will create a remote Git repository for your application’s source code. Pushing your application’s source code to this repository will simultaneously archive the latest the version of the code and deploy it to the App Engine platform.
  4. Amazon’s 3D Printer Store — printers and supplies. Deeply underwhelming moment of it arriving on the mainstream.

June 11 2013

Four short links: 11 June 2013

  1. For Example — amazing discussion of 3D visualization techniques, full of examples using the D3.js library and bl.ocks.org example gist system. Gorgeous and informative.
  2. Anti-Gravity 3D Printer — uses strands to sculpt on any surface. (via Slashdot)
  3. How 3D Printing Will Rebuild Reality (BoingBoing) — But even though home 3D-printing has received substantial publicity of late, it is in the industrial sector where the technology will probably make its most significant near-term impact on the world both by manufacturing improved commercial products and by stimulating industry to develop next-generation fab methods and machines that could one day truly bring 3D-printing home to users in a real way.
  4. The Emotional Side of Big Data — Personal Democracy Forum 2013 talk by Sara Critchfield, on reframing emotion as data for decision-making. (via Quartz)

May 23 2013

Four short links: 23 May 2013

  1. Kindle Worlds Fine Print — Amazon’s fanfic publishing system has a few flaws: no pr0n, no slash (crossovers), and Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright. I can’t see this attracting pinboard’s most passionate users.
  2. XBox One Won’t Allow Indies to Self-Publish GamesWhen it comes to self-publishing, Microsoft is the odd man out. Both Sony and Nintendo allow developers to publish their own games onto PlayStation Network and Nintendo Network, respectively. Microsoft’s position stands in stark contrast to Sony, which has been aggressively pursuing indie content for PS4. (via Andy Baio)
  3. 3D Printers for Peace Competition (Michigan Tech) — We are challenging the 3D printing community to design things that advance the cause of peace. This is an open-ended contest, but if you’d like some ideas, ask yourself what Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, or Ghandi would make if they’d had access to 3D printing. (via BoingBoing)
  4. covimCollaborative editing for vim. My dream of massively multiplayer troff can finally be realised.

May 10 2013

Four short links: 10 May 2013

  1. The Remixing Dilemma — summary of research on remixed projects, finding that (1) Projects with moderate amounts of code are remixed more often than either very simple or very complex projects. (2) Projects by more prominent creators are more generative. (3) Remixes are more likely to attract remixers than de novo projects.
  2. Scratch 2.0 — my favourite first programming language for kids and adults, now in the browser! Downloadable version for offline use coming soon. See the overview for what’s new.
  3. State Dept Takedown on 3D-Printed Gun (Forbes) — The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.
  4. Data Science of the Facebook World (Stephen Wolfram) — More than a million people have now used our Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook. And as part of our latest update, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, we launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to us for research purposes. A few weeks ago we decided to start analyzing all this data… (via Phil Earnhardt)

May 09 2013

Four short links: 9 May 2013

  1. 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)
  2. Nanoscribe Micro-3D Printerin 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)
  3. ThingpunkThe 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).
  4. Kickstarter and NPRThe 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.

May 06 2013

Four short links: 6 May 2013

  1. Nautilus — elegantly-designed science web ‘zine. Includes Artificial Emotions on AI, neuro, and psych efforts to recognise and simulate emotions.
  2. A Short Essay on 3D PrintingThis hands-off approach to culpability cannot last long. If you design something to go into someone’s bathroom, it will make it’s way into their childs mouth. If someone buys, downloads and prints a case for their OUYA and they suffer an electric shock as a result, who is to blame? If a person replaces their phone case with a 3D printed one, and it doesn’t survive a drop to the floor, what then? We need to create a new chain of responsiblity for this emerging, and potentially very profitable business. (via Near Future Laboratory)
  3. Zuckerberg’s FWD.us PAC (Anil Dash) — One of Mark Zuckerberg’s most famous mottos is “Move fast and break things.” When it comes to policy impacting the lives of millions of people around the world, there couldn’t be a worse slogan. Let’s see if we can get FWD.us to be as accountable to the technology industry as it purports to be, since they will undoubtedly claim to have the grassroots support of our community regardless of whether that’s true or not.
  4. Pirate Economics — four dimensions of pirate institutions. Not BitTorrent pirates, but Berbers and arr-harr-avast-ye-swabbers nautical pirates. Pirate crews not only elected their captains on the basis of universal pirate suffrage, but they also regularly deposed them by democratic elections if they were not satisfied with their performance. Like the Berbers, or the US constitution, pirates didn’t just rely on democratic elections to keep their leaders under check. Though the captain of the ship was in charge of battle and strategy, pirate crews also used a separate democratic election to elect the ship’s quartermaster who was in charge of allocating booty, adjudicating disputes and administering discipline. Thus they had a nascent form of separation of powers.

April 22 2013

Four short links: 22 April 2013

  1. Meshlabopen source, portable, and extensible system for the processing and editing of unstructured 3D triangular meshes.
  2. HTML5 Video on iOS (Steve Souders) — While it’s true that Mobile Safari on iOS doesn’t buffer any video data as a result of the PRELOAD attribute, it does make other video requests that aren’t counted as “buffered” video. The number and size of the requests and responses depends on the video. For larger videos the total amount of data for these behind-the-scenes requests can be significant.
  3. Space Monkey (Kickstarter) — distributed encrypted peer-to-peer cloud service using custom hardware. Not open source, which would make me nervous that I was buying a botnet client with storage capability. (via BERG London)
  4. Matasano Crypto ChallengesCounting is not a hard problem. But cryptography is. There are just a few things you can screw up to get the size of a buffer wrong. There are tens, probably hundreds, of obscure little things you can do to take a cryptosystem that should be secure even against an adversary with more CPU cores than there are atoms in the solar system, and make it solveable with a Perl script and 15 seconds. Don’t take our word for it: do the challenges and you’ll see. People “know” this already, but they don’t really know it in their gut, and we think the reason for that is that very few people actually know how to implement the best-known attacks. So, mail us, and we’ll give you a tour of them.

April 01 2013

Four short links: 29 March 2013

  1. Titan 0.3 Out — graph database now has full-text, geo, and numeric-range index backends.
  2. Mozilla Security Community Do a Reddit AMA — if you wanted a list of sharp web security people to follow on Twitter, you could do a lot worse than this.
  3. Probabilistic Programming and Bayesian Methods for Hackers (Github) — An introduction to Bayesian methods + probabilistic programming in data analysis with a computation/understanding-first, mathematics-second point of view. All in pure Python. See also Why Probabilistic Programming Matters and Trends to Watch: Logic and Probabilistic Programming. (via Mike Loukides and Renee DiRestra)
  4. Open Source 3D-Printable Optics Equipment (PLOSone) — This study demonstrates an open-source optical library, which significantly reduces the costs associated with much optical equipment, while also enabling relatively easily adapted customizable designs. The cost reductions in general are over 97%, with some components representing only 1% of the current commercial investment for optical products of similar function. The results of this study make its clear that this method of scientific hardware development enables a much broader audience to participate in optical experimentation both as research and teaching platforms than previous proprietary methods.
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