When I was eleven, my three primary interests were science, art, and magic. That hasn't changed. In 1981, I visited San Francisco for the first time and my big brother took me to the Exploratorium, a pioneering museum that exists at the intersection of science, art, and magic. It blew my mind wide open. And more than three decades later, it's become a very special place for my children, aged 7 and 4. Part of the Exploratorium's stated mission is to ignite curiosity about human perception. But the Exploratorium doesn't just teach people about human perception. Like the best science, art, and magic, the museum experience actually changes your perception of reality.
Earlier this year, the Exploratorium moved from its vast warehouse space near the Golden Gate Bridge into new digs on a pier overlooking the Bay. The massive new space retains the raw, inviting "rustic" warmth of the original location but with better amenities and, most importantly, far more room to showcase classic and new exhibits and also inject even more of the DIY spirit that fuels the museum's creators. This motivation is made tangible in the exposed workshops (just like the old facility) where staff prototypes new exhibits, and in the new Tinkering Studio, a bustling workshop where every guest is encouraged to "learn by doing." And if you need inspiration, just look around at the permanent and temporary exhibits like Scott Weaver's "Rolling Through The Bay," made from 100,000 toothpicks and seen in action above.
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After eight years of development and a successful Kickstarter, BB pal Mitch Altman's Neurodreamer sleep mask is ready for shipping! You might recall that Mitch is the inspiring maker behind the TV-B-Gone, Trip Glasses, and a bunch of other delightful gadgets. The Neurodreamer is an open source light/sound machine integrated into a memory foam mask. Mitch says:
The NeuroDreamer sleep mask is an advancement over prior entrainment* devices which attempt to entrain the brain with only a single brainwave frequency at a time. The NeuroDreamer sleep mask uses up to four brainwave frequencies simultaneously (mixed at different amplitudes), to more closely replicate the full spectrum of frequencies present in a person who is falling asleep.
* "Entrainment" is the the process of externally presenting brainwave frequencies to the brain, allowing it to synchronize to those frequencies.
It's available for $69.95 in three different versions designed for Sleep, Lucid Dreaming, or Meditation. Mitch is having a sale right now: Entering the coupon code THANKS gets you 10% off everything in Mitch's Cornfield Electronics shop, including the Neurodreamer. I want one!
Face-o-Mat is Tobias Gutmann's absolutely delightful faux-automatic portrait machine: "The interaction with machines made our daily life easier, faster and more efficient. Despite the rapid growth of technology, machines could not yet replace a simple smile, but now we have Face-o-mat." (via Think Faest!)
Valentin Squirelo and friends at HackerLoop built a miniature model of the flying house from UP! outfitted with a Raspberry Pi computer and floated it above Paris where it posted live photos to Instagram. This was particularly interesting because generally photos can only be uploaded to Instagram via the official iOS or Android app. HackerLoop worked around that limitation. HackerLoop's #Upstagram
Mitch Altman, inventor of TV-B-GONE and co-founder of San Francisco's Noisebridge hacker space, is a master maker and educator who finds great joy in teaching people of all ages how to get creative with electronics. At last year's Science Hack Day SF, Mitch taught my 7-year-old son how to solder and he's been at it ever since, making increasingly-complicated kits from Mitch's Cornfield Electronics, Maker Shed, and Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. Mitch even taught a weeklong Creative Electronics camp for elementary school kids at my son's school over the summer and it was a huge hit. If you (or your kids) want to learn to solder too, I highly recommend the "Soldering Is Easy" comic book (PDF) that Mitch created with Andie Nordgren and Jeff "mightyohm" Keyzer. You can download the free PDF in multiple languages from Mitch's site. And there's also a single-page "Soldering Is Easy" reference sheet too. Thanks for all that you do to inspire young makers, Mitch!
Royce Hutain made a wonderful "stick person" costume for his toddler from LED lights and a body suit.
Classic Nintendo audio is translated in (very near) real-time for live playing by a modern-day "player piano" (Yamaha Disklavier) and robot percussion system, under Raspberry Pi control.
The software is responsible for translating the gameplay audio to instructions which ultimately define which solenoid should be actuated. In full disclosure, there is normally a half-second audio delay that was removed in editing, but it's still very playable live. The piano is controlled through the Disklavier's MIDI interface, while the percussion's solenoids are directly controlled through the Pi's GPIO interface.
On August 17-18, 2013 in San Francisco, Boing Boing is hosting its first ever large-scale live event, called Boing Boing: Ingenuity. The invitation-only extravaganza starts with a hack day on Saturday (8/17) and will continue on Sunday (8/18) with a mind-bending theatrical experience of presentations, performances, oddities, and wonder! This coming Thursday, we'll announce the stellar line-up for the August 18 stage show, and next week we'll tell you how to score an invite! (Of course, the entire Boing Boing: Ingenuity weekend will be heavily documented in video, photos, and text that will be shared on the site during the event and after.) Meanwhile, a bit about the hack day…
Starting bright and early on Saturday morning August 17, several dozen of our favorite hackers, designers, and developers will gather at TechShop San Francisco. We are thrilled that our pal Ariel Waldman, global instigator of Science Hack Day who was recently named a White House Champion of Change, is orchestrating the hackathon with us. The theme of the day is Ingenuity: Data Driven. In an age of big data, hardware hacking, and open source culture, how can makers bridge the gap between cars and drivers to enhance the driving experience? Of course, any ideas the participants dream up will belong to them, although Boing Boing and Ford, our partner for Ingenuity, would be thrilled if the creations became open source.
The hackers will have an opportunity to use the new OpenXC Platform developed by our partner Ford and Bug Labs. It's a compelling open-source hardware and software toolkit for exploring what can be done with over 300 sets of live vehicle data points. And of course, there's no shortage of other driving-related datasets and APIs, from traffic, weather, and fuel economy to location-based services and environmental impact calculators to play with online.
Already, the hyper-talented hackers are devising ingenious plans, secret projects, and unprecedented uses of driving data. Stay tuned.
Boing Boing: Ingenuity in partnership with Ford C-Max.
(above, Ford X-2000 concept car, 1958)
Wondrous young maker Super Awesome Sylvia and our friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories are hoping to release their amazing WaterColorBot as a kit. My 7-year-old son and I both want one, and we can vouch not only for Sylvia's awesomeness but the quality of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories kits! They've launched a Kickstarter for the WaterColorBot kit.
"The key thing about all the world's big problems is that they have to be dealt with collectively. If we don't get collectively smarter, we're doomed." - Douglas Engelbart (1925- 2013)
My kids (7 and 4) love to make things out of recycled cardboard, from curious Rube Goldberg-ian contraptions to palaces for stuffed animals. They do wonders with scissors, tape, and magic markers. A friend told us about Makedo, a system of reusable plastic clips and hinges for cardboard construction. We ordered a set and have been having a ball. The sets even come with a plastic saw for cutting the cardboard. It's not as quick as a box cutter or sharp scissors, but sawing itself can be fun, and the point on the saw handle is meant for punching holes for the clips. And yeah, I guess it's safer too. We didn't make the cardboard gorilla at right but I'd like to! We're gonna need a lot more clips though. There are a variety of Makedo kits available but the 65-piece starter kit is only $14 from Amazon, and comes in a sturdy tube. Of course, if you buy it from Amazon, the shipping box is part of the present! "Makedo FreePlay Kit For One"
Marc Freilich made an R2-D2 birthday cake for his son's sixth birthday. He integrated a pico projector into R2's dome to project the Leia "hologram" and a special birthday message. He's posted the baking and build notes online. "Just another R2D2 Birthday Cake Build"