Lady Ada and Phillip Torrone stopped by Tokyo Hackerspace and were kind enough to explain the history, dynamic growth, and drive behind the Open Source Hardware movement. They are also the founders of AdaFruit Industries, a fantastic source for innovative and inspirational electronics and arduino kits that are actually useful.
I've been anticipating the release of practical head mounted display for years since they have tremendous potential for robot and remote telepresence applications. So far all of the designs have either been obtrusive and block the wearer's vision somehow, or they have had limitations that have precluded commercialization.
Now Brother Industries has announced they will roll out their AiRScouter transparent LCD display this Fall for business/industrial applications and hope to follow up with a commercially available version in the near future.
’Head Mounted Display Set To Roll Out (Video)’ continues
If you want to get a broad overview and understanding of sensor technologies you might as well learn from the best. Luckily, the MIT OpenCourseWare program is dedicated to making the same educational material, including course outlines, readings, lectures, assignments, and often videos, that are used to teach MIT students both at undergraduate and graduate levels.
For example, one of the program's current offerings is "MAS.836 Sensor Technologies for Interactive Environments:
"This course is a broad introduction to a host of sensor technologies, illustrated by applications drawn from human-computer interfaces and ubiquitous computing. After extensively reviewing electronics for sensor signal conditioning, the lectures cover the principles and operation of a variety of sensor architectures and modalities, including pressure, strain, displacement, proximity, thermal, electric and magnetic field, optical, acoustic, RF, inertial, and bioelectric. Simple sensor processing algorithms and wired and wireless network standards are also discussed. "
The MIT OpenCourseWare program material is covered by their Creative Commons License, and the best part is that it's absolutely free. All you have to do is bring your own intelligence, curiosity, and dedication. You can't beat that.
Technology development today faces some serious limitations that constrains its application and successful deployment, especially in non-traditional sectors. The two biggest limitations, at least from my perspective, are battery capacity/life and sensors. While there has certainly been a lot of progress in both areas over the past two decades, the core technology and design approach hasn't really changed very much.
In order to achieve radical improvements in the way we put technology to practical use some significant breakthroughs in both areas will be critical. Along those lines, one of the most interesting and surprising "thinking out of the box" sensor developments I've run across recently is the FuwaFuwa sensor module developed as a part of the Igarashi Design Interface Project under the auspices of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) ERATO.
"FuwaFuwa" in the Japanese language is a kind of onomatopoeic word that roughly translates as light/airy/fluffy, and that's exactly what the FuwaFuwa sensor module does.
My personal fascination with electronics and technology started at a very early age when Santa brought a simple electronics experimenter kit one Christmas Eve. All the components were laid out on a board and each one had small wire springs for terminal contacts. The instruction book included diagrams showing how to hook up the wires to complete each circuit.
I can't remember all of the experiments exactly, but I do know there was a switch triggered burglar alarm, some light circuits, and a crystal radio, among others. The 'radio' used a rough crystal with a cat's whisker probe with no application. Luckily we were living in Southern California at the time with at least one 50,000 watt broadcast radio station that I could pick up.
I was very intrigued, and pleased, to discover Andrew Alter, a leading humanoid robot designer, Mech Warfare organizer, and RoboGames champion, explaining the Electronic Brick Starter Kit, since it shows that the same basic approach is still very much in use today.
’Old Electronics Kit Concept Made New (Video)’ continues
Michael Overstreet, one of our regular readers, RoboGames champion, and hacker extraordinare, alerted us that AutoDesk is currently offering the 123D Sculpt iPad app for FREE. It's likely to be a limited time promotional offer, though we can't be sure. Even if they do eventually charge for it, the feature set looks very impressive.
- Multi-Touch tools let you sculpt and experiment with the details of your creation, just like real clay
- Pull – add bumps and create raised areas to exaggerate details like noses, claws, and fins
- Smooth – soften out rough areas or blend details into one another
- Push – create grooves and valleys by pushing into the shape
- Pinch – create hard edges and ridges to add sharp details
- Grab – grab hold of the shape and stretch it out
- Flatten – make curvy or lumpy surfaces flat
- Bulge – create large or small bulging effects
- Personalize and detail your sculpture using built-in brushes and textures, or use your own images to create exactly the look you want
- Paint – use a bold color palette to add shades, tints, and hues
- Image rub – use your finger to rub areas of a photo directly onto your creation to add realistic details
- Import your own images from your Photo Library or take photos using your iPad 2 camera to use as custom textures
- Create and Share your creations as images or movies on Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox or YouTube
- Email your images directly from the app or save to your Photo Library
- Save transparent PNG images for incorporating into other digital art compositions, or for further processing in apps like SketchBook Pro
- Create 720p HD QuickTime turntables of your sculptures for sharing on YouTube or for import into iMovie projects.
I just downloaded the app and will be exploring it later in the day.