Saturday, June 19, 2010

NorthPaw Day One - Remember to Charge It!

Friday was the first real day of wearing the NorthPaw and was a little odd. I neglected to charge it Thursday night, so I think the battery was getting a bit low on Friday. Had a couple nifty experiences walking around getting used to the thing buzzing on my ankle. Escalators cause some weirdness. So does the wheelchair access lift when I'm sitting too close to the front of the bus.

Charged it last night, so I guess today is going to be my real first day.

Heading to Hackerbot Labs early today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Got My NorthPaw and It Works!

My NorthPaw kit arrived yesterday from Sensebridge.

The northpaw is a compass that provides feedback in the form of 8 small motors (the kind that make your cell phone buzz) in an anklet. The northern-facing-motor buzzes slightly on your ankle, so you always know which way is north.

This is the kind of practical DIY transhumanism that makes me really excited.

Technical components are small and cheap. We can take all kinds of interesting sensors and put them in gadgets that provide some flavor of sensory feedback and neuroplasticity handles the rest.

At Maker Faire I had the great pleasure of meeting Eric Boyd of Sensebridge & Noisebridge who is responsible for the particular kit I got. He was as super cool guy. Friendly and full of great stories and great ideas. I've got nothing bad to say about this guy except for his hair, just kidding, I like his hair too.

Put the kit together last night and took it for the first test spin around the neighborhood. It was awkward and confusing. But I sorta started to get the hang of it... sort of, maybe?

It very much reminded me of the first few minutes of awkwardly playing a new video game with foreign controls, or a new class of controller. Which button is walk forward? [avatar fires gun] Oops... Is this walk? [avatar crouches]. How did I just fire my gun? [avatar self-immolates].

You need a little while in the game to map the controls so you can think "walk forward" and your hands perform via muscle memory. I wonder what my learning curve is going to be. I already have a little bit of "the eric dance" going on.

Here is a video with him talking about the thing:

Eric Boyd - The North Paw: A Haptic Compass Anklet from Loren Risker on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I love my usb microscope

--- Warning - LOW-VOLTAGE ---
Notice: This post contains an unusually-low voltage-rating. If you're only here for the sparks, you can skip it. But it is still nerdy DIY sciency stuff, I promise.

I have a super cheap hand-held microscope that has the nifty feature of plugging into usb and being recognized by generic webcam software. Once in a while I pull it out and spend a few hours being a huge nerd and taking silly picture of tiny things.

I sat down and was going to look for tiny fractals on my artificial fulgurites like I'd seen at hackerbot labs on a microscope that didn't have a convenient save-function. I got a few snaps, but quickly got distracted because I realized I had a couple dead bugs laying around from some sort of invasion I had a few nights back. The pinnacle was when I grabbed a wasp out of the air with my leatherman, but didn't kill him (unfortunately, he tragically suffocated that night in a sealed jar). Also there was a dead spider I have for reasons I'd rather not discuss.

What I learned: Insects look way cooler under microscopes than boring ol' melted sand.

Let me show you.

Here is some boring impurity involving chemistry I don't understand. Its yellow and red up close, which is kinda neat, cuz its just an orange dot normally...

Fulgurite Impurity

Here is the tip of a quartz-sand artificial fulgurite. Its kinda white, and kinda glassy... about like you'd expect... yep...

Fulgurite Tip Zoom

Then I turned the the spider.

If you're super-squeamish about spiders and wasps this is where you stop.