How to hack Amazon’s $5 WiFi button to track baby data


Amazon is selling Dash Buttons for $5. They contain a Wi-Fi radio and a battery. You are supposed to stick them to your washing machine, inside a cabinet door, etc, and when you run out of Tide, Gatorade, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, etc., you just push the button and Amazon will ship you more.

Clever people are starting to find moire interesting uses for the Dash Buttons, such as Ted Benson, who has written a guide that shows you "how to hijack and use these buttons for just about anything you want." Read the rest

Quantified Self Expo in San Francisco on Saturday (6/20)


Our pals at Quantified Self are hosting a big expo in San Francisco on Saturday and they're offering BB readers a $10 discount off the $20 ticket price! Get hip to the self-tracking scene and see your life through the lens of data! Event details here. Read the rest

Jump rope shows your stats using persistence of vision

The Smart Rope has 23 LEDs in the rope, so your jump data appears in front of your eyes. Read the rest

The dystopian future of quantified babies

A group of design students from a Swedish university published an insightful academic paper last year spoofing all the baby health trackers now pitched to parents. The trackers measure things like a baby's breathing rate, heart rate, and sleep, and are made by startups including Mimo Baby, Owlet, Sproutling, and Monbaby.

Is this fear mongering for new moms? Or will these devices actually offer valuable data on infants? I think it's too early to tell. But the paper does a good job of critiquing the design pitfalls of the user experience. It argues such devices could needlessly raise anxiety and remove intuition from parenting.

There's a cool hand-drawn storyboard of a new mom deciding not to go the park with Johnny after she binges on biometric data:


Also, a good rendering of an epidemiological map overlay that would show all the kids in your neighborhood suffering from excessive booger:

Read the rest

Detect your pulse with your webcam

Thearn released a free/open program for detecting and monitoring your pulse using your webcam. The code is on github for you to download, play with and modify. If this stuff takes your fancy, be sure and read Eulerian Video Magnification for Revealing Subtle Changes in the World, an inspiring paper describing the techniques Thearn uses in his code:

This application uses openCV ( to find the location of the user's face, then isolate the forehead region. Data is collected from this location over time to estimate the user's heartbeat frequency. This is done by measuring average optical intensity in the forehead location, in the subimage's green channel alone. Physiological data can be estimated this way thanks to the optical absorbtion characteristics of oxygenated hemoglobin.

With good lighting and minimal noise due to motion, a stable heartbeat should be isolated in about 15 seconds. Other physiological waveforms, such as Mayer waves (, should also be visible in the raw data stream.

Once the user's pulse signal has been isolated, temporal phase variation associated with the detected hearbeat frequency is also computed. This allows for the heartbeat frequency to be exaggerated in the post-process frame rendering; causing the highlighted forhead location to pulse in sync with the user's own heartbeat (in real time).

Support for pulse-detection on multiple simultaneous people in an camera's image stream is definitely possible, but at the moment only the information from one face is extracted for cardiac analysis

thearn / webcam-pulse-detector (via O'Reilly Radar) Read the rest

Frogdesign presents 20 Tech Trends for 2013

Frogdesign's Design Mind blog presents 20 Tech Trends for 2013. Here's one:

Sensors, social networks change health behavior—on a large scale

By Associate Creative Director Montana Cherney, San Francisco

Why just prompt behavior change on an individual level, when we can do so much more? Behavior evolution—or behavior change at scale and over time—is the new frontier. Ubiquitous connectivity, real-time remote monitoring, and social networking are three of the most prevalent factors revolutionizing health care. We’ll see more and more people connect to devices, share their data, and reach out to others. Doing so will allow them to enhance their care experiences by relating with others with similar symptoms, receiving social support for achieving goals, and “crowdsourcing” treatments and cures.

In addition to patients receiving more personalized guidance, individual health data that is collected will increasingly be used to provide more proactive care at the population level. Yes, many connected care solutions that collect individual data exist today, from Patients Like Me, a data-centric social networking site; Cure Together, a health-tracking site; and Asthmapolis, a system that allows patients to connect to a mobile app via a sensor-enabled inhaler. In 2013, expect more services such as these to emerge and grow. They synthesize information to make it more relevant to providers and patients alike, and therefore actionable; then these services broadcast their analyses to improve the quality of life for not just one, but for all.

20 Tech Trends for 2013 Read the rest

Tiny clip-on camera for lifelogging

The tiny clip-on Memoto camera takes two photos a minute. The Memoto app displays the GPSd photos on a timeline, so you can go back and see where you were at any point in the past.

The camera has no buttons. (That's right, no buttons.) As long as you wear the camera, it is constantly taking pictures. It takes two geotagged photos a minute with recorded orientation so that the app can show them upright no matter how you are wearing the camera. And it’s weather protected, so you don’t have to worry about it in inclement weather.

The camera and the app work together to give you pictures of every single moment of your life, complete with information on when you took it and where you were. This means that you can revisit any moment of your past.

I think it should have a pulse sensor on it so that when your heart rate increases, it starts shooting video.

Memoto Read the rest

Weighthacker: weight-loss for geeks

Former Boing Boing guestblogger and all-round* happy mutant Craig Engler sez, is a new site for geeks who want to lose weight and get fit. It takes the latest science and research about nutrition and weight loss and translates it into practical, daily advice that geeks can incorporate into their existing lifestyles.

Things like playing games, a love of gadgets and surfing the Web are often seen as contributing to a sedentary, unhealthy existence. But with Weighthacker, those geeky passions can be used as the foundation of a healthy life. Weighthacks aren’t short cuts, they’re smart cuts. They’re the smartest, most optimal things people can do to lose weight.

I’m also crowdfunding a how-to book called “Weight Hacking: A Guide For Geeks Who Want To Lose Weight And Get Fit.” The book will be a complete operating system for nerds who want to lose weight and get healthier. It will include stories of celebrity geeks who’ve lost weight, like beloved author Neil Gaiman and BoingBoing editor Cory Doctorow. And Bonnie Burton, who wrote the Star Wars Craft Book, will be creating new healthy “Food Crafts” for Weight Hacking.


*Actually, a lot less round, these days Read the rest

Data versus diabetes

My friend Dan Hon was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The news shook him. He resolved to do something about it. Being a geek, he decided to measure and quantify the health factors (weight, body fat, activity, blood sugar) that contribute to diabetes. He's lost 30 lbs since the new year, and has gotten pretty far into reversing his diabetes. He's detailed his experience with various kinds of monitoring tools, and written a bit of a rant about what needs to be fixed in order to make this easy for anyone with a diabetes diagnosis to follow in his footsteps.

Incumbents rarely produce great experience design. They don’t have to, and they typically are dealing with historical monopolies on consumers or audiences. But there are also some first movers who don’t seem to have improved their experience over time. I’m looking at you, Withings. It’s a bit embarrassing that Weightbot has a much better mobile app than you do, and you’re selling the hardware.

In the blood glucose testing market, it looks like patents (as ever) are acting to stop newcomers to the market, particularly patents in the device and strips. It’s complicated: they have a very heavily integrated solution and, from what I can make out, rely on insurance providers in the US. The copay I’m charged for 100 blood sugar testing strips is $10. If I’m paying retail, it’s about $110. When I’m testing up to six times a day, that’s nearly 200 strips a month.

Now, if I were being overly cynical, I’d say that the interests of a company producing blood sugar meters and strips aren’t necessarily aligned with the interests of a patient who wants to stop having diabetes.

Read the rest

Behold, the Conformateur! A 19th century hat-fitting device

Tricia Roush is justifiably excited by her acquisition of an 1821 Conformateur in excellent shape. Conformateurs are Victorian devices used to measure the irregularities in the heads of milliner's customers, to ensure a better fit from the eventual hat. Roush explains the device's working in detail, with generous photos of the extraordinary device in action.

While the conformateur is on the head, after the fingers are pressed in so that they are conforming to the head shape, a piece of paper is placed into a frame on the top of the machine. Little pins stick out of the top of the machine, each one attached to one of the fingers, so that the pins now reflect the head shape as well, but in miniature. The frame swings down on a hinge to press the paper into the pins, perforating the paper. In this photo, you can see that the inside of the frame is lined in cork, and there are little holes in the cork where the pins have pressed.

The perforations in the paper make a pattern that's a recording of the person's head shape. The hat maker then cuts the pattern out with scissors along the perforations to store for future use. Here are some examples of the paper patterns. Because it's a shrunken version of the person's head shape, any bumps and asymmetry in the head shape (we all have them) are exaggerated in the pattern, as you can see here.

Oh Joy! My Conformateur (via JWZ) Read the rest