More Kinect Goodness

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I showed a video last week from Iron Man 2 about a holographic interactive GUI, I saw this using the Kinect today. This kind of stuff gives me goosebumps.

Hackety-Hack Don’t Talk Back

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I had an absurd day full of brain damage. I have been assigned a task at work that is kind of dependent on another department’s resources and I have no authority to get what I want. So, I have made some commitments and now I am totally falling down. It makes me look like a schmuck, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. Now, the director who I made these promises too is raising the alarm with everyone she can to try and motivate me to do the job. Problem is, I am motivated, I kind of have to wait to get what I need from another dude. Anyway, it’s fun stuff. I came home feeling like a sack of hot garbage.

But then guess what showed up in the mail. All kinds of goodness. First, I bought an iphone with a broken screen and I got the replacement screen in the mail. Also, I wanted to upgrade my xbox 360 hard drive and that also came in the mail.

I spent the night replacing iphone screens and taking apart game consoles, and I am complete. I feel great. What’s the threat of humiliation at work when I have half-open computers to keep me safe and warm. I love it.

Do you want to know how I learned how to do home made upgrades to my xbox and fix iphone screens? ON THE INTERNET! That’s right. Anything you want to know, somebody has created a video showing you how to do it. Brilliant.

I think the iphone is OK, it seems to be working. I had to take it apart twice and so it may be a little abused. The home button seems to need a little extra firm push to get it to go, but it may have been that way when I got it. I don’t know. The xbox now has a 250GB hard drive in it instead of 20GB, for like $45.

Right now I am installing android on iPhone. I wanted an extra phone that had android so I could play around with it. The geniuses on the internet have been working to get the iphone to dual boot both the iphone software and the android software. I think a lot of things still don’t work, but it will give me something to play with for a little while.

I have been curious about the android platform so I wanted a phone to play with it.

Here are the links to show you how to upgrade your xbox HD, replace an iphone screen, and install android on your iphone.

I think I want a makerbot. I’m thinking it might be cool to build 3D puzzles with it.

Makerbot – Gutenberg Press of 3D Printing

Engineer Boy’s 3D Puzzles

The Best Possible Time To Be Alive

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I think now is the best possible time to be alive. I really do. Today is so freaking awesome.

I hear folks bemoan the bygone eras, those days when people lived off of the land, were relatively self-sufficient, lived in small, tight communities, had strong family values, etc. In those days we didn’t worry about pollution, obesity, homelessness (in it’s current form), identity theft, etc.

I could make an argument about all the unpleasant threats that technology has made go away. Bears, for example. But, that’s not really why I feel the way I do. I like now because of all the amazing things that are being invented.

In the last two weeks, something called the Xbox Kinect hit the market. Within a few days, hackers had peeled off the security and started writing their own code. It reminds me of when the Wii first came out. I own a Wii. When I bought it 3 years ago, I hadn’t bought or played console games since I was a teenager. I wanted a Wii. Not to play games (not only to play games, anyway). Truth is, there still aren’t that many really fun games for the Wii. But, because it represented a new frontier in technology. It created a space for brilliant people to tinker. Take this guy:

Guess what happened to Johnny Lee after this, he went to work at Microsoft. He helped with the Kinect.

Back in the early Wii days, there were all kinds of cool hacks that people came up with. One group used it to control a robotic arm. I remember seeing Roombas that used it as a remote control. I saw several custom made digital musical instruments that were created.

So, now we are there again. It seems like a really long time ago, but that was about 3 years ago. Three years.

Here are some interesting hacks from the first two weeks.

Head Tracking – same idea as in the Wii video, but no special glasses required

Turn your cat into blobs –

Fat Cat from flight404 on Vimeo.

This Kinect is attached to a robot that created a 3D map of its environment

Control 3D object with bare hands in real space

Kinect Object Manipulation from Dominick D'Aniello on Vimeo.

And Finally, invent Vibranium

The libraries for these projects are all available and open source. If you are interested in looking more at this stuff, check out processing, cinder, and open frameworks. These all have similar goals. I like processing the best. The two who started that project designed the code to be easy to learn for artists looking to use programming as a tool in their art. There are some awesome books out there about that. I can recommend this as an easy read to get an introduction to processing and programming in general, Getting Started with Processing

Walking Desks

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I’m feeling pretty proud of myself tonight, yup, pretty proud.

I have been planning on setting up a walking or bike desk so that I can get some exercise while I write code. I spend about 12 hours a day sitting down, I sit all day at work and then I sit when I come home. One option would be to be more active after work, but I am working on some projects that involve writing code and I’m not willing to give that up.

So, I have heard about other folks using walking desks. In fact, last week after I determined that I was going to do this, I found this Good Morning America video on weight loss that involves walking desks.

I remembered that I had some family that had an old treadmill that they weren’t using, Check. Here’s a picture of the treadmill:

You can see that unlike some treadmills, there really isn’t a natural place to set up a flat surface for the laptop. So I needed to combine this treadmill with a desk. I went to Ikea tonight and found this:

The guy at Ikea told me that I could set up the different shelves any way I needed so I thought that I would use the largest one up high for my laptop / monitor.

When I got home I started putting the desk together and I realized that I need the arms to go. They just made it so the desktop had to be up at it’s max height which wasn’t going to be very comfortable. So I started taking things apart, and once I got going, I didn’t stop.

I was able to pull out the whole stem for the arms and the control panel. See the results:

So, yeah, I took apart my treadmill and built a desk around it. Awesome. I am awesome. I bet my wife doesn’t feel the same way I do about having a treadmill desk in the family room. Oh well.

Could this be any more awesome??? Yes.

So, as I was undoing the wiring for the control panel, I had a brilliant idea. I should make an arduino replacement for the control panel. That way I can have a computer that feeds the speed into the treadmill, turns it on and off, records how fast I am walking and for how long, tweets the same, and can be used to track my progress as I walk each day. I saw another guy tracked how long it took him to walk the equivalent of across the United States. Interesting.

It would also allow you to do some interesting things with games, you could create a running game where you jog through famous people’s neighborhoods using data from google street view. Or, you could have the treadmill run you through some kind of chasing/fleeing game where you have to run against a set time, or you could even create a game where you run against yourself, your previous times.

Anyway, feeling pretty good about myself, pretty good, prettay, prettay, prettttttayyyyy, pretty good.

Latest Inspiration

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I have been working on making games for an educational mobile game company that I am starting with some friends. I started reading ‘The Art of Game Design’ by Jesse Schnell. One of the points he raises is that games are at their center a human experience and thus a game designer must be familiar with many disciplines in order to design an experience that is deep and meaningful.

This idea has broadened my appreciation for things and as I have considered what I might look to for inspiration I have begun to recognize my own tastes and interests in certain things. I have paid more attention to what fascinates me as I have thought about the varieties of ideas that I could incorporate into an educational gaming experience.

This week I came across a couple of TED videos that talked about fractals, simple rules that repeat themselves to reveal complex and sometimes surprising outcomes, and I was inspired by this sculptor that creates machines out of wire and other objects that he finds. Here are the three TED videos that got me thinking and pumped up my imagination this week.

Benoit Mandelbrot – Fractals

Ron Eglash – Africal Fractals

Arthur Ganson – Happy Machines Scultor

Arthur Ganson also created the MIT Annual Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction where students are invited to design and bring a link in a Rube Goldberg Machine, then all the links are assembled and the machine runs. More about that here.

Just testing the new @anywhere plugin

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@anywhere, @fattjake, @brainofsteel

Loving Flipboard

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Facebook Friends Links and Photos

Flipboard generated a lot of buzz its first week, however, most of us couldn’t use until a few days ago. I was finally able to connect my facebook and twitter feeds up and low and behold, it lived up to its hype, so far anyway.

I don’t use facebook all that often. I find it really noisy. I have a bunch of friends that I collected to play social games like farmville and mafia wars. I don’t care about quizzes and causes and all that. I don’t care about your political opinions or your pet peeves. I want to know what might be of note in your life, or I want you to entertain me, and that’s it.

Flipboard seems to know all this and filter a lot of the crap out. I get montages of posted photos, arranged tastefully. I get pages of status updates that I can scan quickly. I get interesting videos and funny links, already rendered so if I’m not interested I get the idea right away. If I do find something interesting or I want to comment or leave my opinion, I can do that, too. It’s elegant and painless. I don’t have to go to the facebook website. Facebook on Flipboard is what facebook should be. I’m very impressed and I think I’m more likely to use facebook. Flipboard is the killer app not just for the iPad, but also for Facebook.

Facebook Just Statuses

Then there’s the twitter integration. I think this is awesome. I mostly use twitter to follow people that I don’t know personally. I want to know what they are doing, what interesting links they are finding, the latest news in their domain. Most of my friends don’t use twitter, so it’s almost entirely a news/tech idea curation tool for me. Flipboard takes the links and lays them out in a way that is much more aesthetically appealing, and more usable because a lot of the links content is brought right into the app. So far I’m really liking it. Again, I’ll use twitter much more because of this presentation.

I want to use the lists feature now to categorize the people I follow on twitter into subject groups so that I can follow what’s going on in all the different areas of my world that I’m interested in. I’ll have a general news magazine, a design idea magazine, an iPhone programming magazine, etc. I have been heavily using Google Reader for about a year now, but have heard that many people are switching to twitter, because the social curation element brings the cream to the top. I don’t find using twitter very appealing because it’s too much work to go back and forth, I want a google reader interface that collects and categorized the links into feeds. Well, Flipboard does just that and it does it beautifully. I’m really excited about the future of this app.

Twitter Data Mining List


There are some copyright concerns, the content of some websites are scraped and brought into the app. The problem is that adds, branding, and other content is brought left out. While this is a big part of what makes the end result so elegant, it means that some websites and blogs don’t get to monetize their content as well as they might if they had full control over the content. Hopefully this can be resolved without any loss of functionality.

BCG Consultant Story

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Great quote from an article in MIT’s newspaper, “What I learned is that burning out isn’t just about work load, it’s about work load being greater than the motivation to do work.” That’s the exactly right! Sometimes working 18 hour days feels exciting. Sometimes and 8 hour a day job can be excruciating. It’s important that one has a personal stake in the work that one does.

The article is full of good insights. It’s about a young MIT grad working at BCG and feeling less than satisfied with the product that the firm was putting out. I have seen much of the same kinds of problems, politics getting in the way of real analysis. Give it a read . . . The story that BCG offered me $16,000 not to tell

Roambi – Mobile Dashboards BI

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Raombi I discovered Roambi.com this morning. It’s a mobile dashboard tool that just released a iPad version as well (this is how I found it, news about the ipad version). It looks to be a pretty cool service. I downloaded the free version (you can upload excel spreadsheets for free), and I am impressed.

They have about five pre-built dashboard formats that have quite a bit off drill-down and interactive capabilities. You can’t alter these templates much, but what they provide is pretty impressive. The visual design aspects are appealing. If you need a quick way to impress your boss, not a bad option.

If you want to use this in the enterprise they have two pricing options, a hosted $99 a year/per user option, and an enterprise option that you install in house. The enterprise option includes a variety of data sources that it can use as the back-end, including Cognos, Business Objects, and Microsoft Reporting.

If you are a Salesforce customer (which I am not), all of the options will allow you to pull the data from your Salesforce account.

I would like a tool that would allow you to build interactive dashboards, which Roambi is not. But, what Roambi does, it does really well.

Public Spending Data

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The philosophy behind this view is that when GDP is growing, then spending can also increase without danger of financial ruin. In this context spending may leave you with a different impression than what you normally get. Or, maybe not.

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