tamberg's Blog

2011-10-30 by tamberg

Side Projects (Hardware)

This is part three in a series on side projects. The title says hardware but only some of the projects required soldering. Others are about using existing hardware for self-tracking. Still, the enabling tool was a soldering iron, bought at Pusterla after having met the multi talented hacker and artist @dusjagr at a DIY-workshop. Besides this, SparkFun and Adafruit were essential as they provide parts and how-to knowledge.

Wearing a mobile Web cam (2008). When Qik came out with live video streaming for smartphones I thought it would be nice for self-tracking. By sewing a neck strap to a safety belt loop I built a holster which carried a smartphone. With that around my neck I started walking around, passively filming everything. Unfortunately the phone's battery was not up to the task and needed recharging every half hour. Also, data plans were way too expensive at the time. So the experiment didn't last long.

Facebook shirt (2008). At the time, Facebook used to be a valid conversation topic at parties. So, after some beers we came up with the idea of an Internet-connected shirt that would light an LED if you are near a person that has any common friends with you. The system was based on LilyPad Arduinos, the BlueSmirf module and smartphones. I even bought the domain "facebook-shirt.com", but then the project got stuck because of a problem with configuring the Blueooth modules.

Rfish – a system to count swimming laps (2009). As described in great detail on the Rfish Blog, this project is about building an RFID based online swim lap counter. A fully working prototype can be seen in the video accompanying the Weather proof, Bluetooth capable RFID reader Instructable. Unfortunately AppJet, who hosted the server side Javascript of the Web service, went out of business. I'm still looking for an equally easy to use replacement platform.

Building MakerBot #19 (2009). Having followed the RepRap project for some time before, the original announcement of the MakerBot "CupCake CNC" convinced me to venture into personal fabrication. Building this home 3D printer kit and watching it print the first object still is one of the more rewarding moments in my life. At the time I took a lot of pictures, which was a good reason to buy a Flickr account that I use ever since to document all sorts of stuff.

Wearing a SenseCam for a year (2011 - present). I wanted a SenseCam since I first read about it in an article about MyLifeBits, a Microsoft Research project aimed at storing every life memory. The project was lead by Gordon Bell, who wrote about his experience in the book Total Recall. When the cam was released as a consumer product through Vicon Revue, I got one and started wearing it all day. The resulting flood of pictures is overwhelming and I still have no good idea how to categorize or annotate them. One solution might involve Amazon's Mechanical Turk Service, but I never got around trying that. Another strategy is to just wait, as it's probable that a suitable tool will be built in the future, when everybody generates so many pictures.