Visualizing the latent emotional and bureaucratic labor in our material world

Work, today's XKCD installment, hypothesizes the latent, invisible human effort that went into the everyday things around us, from the hours of meeting-time to decide upon the length of the stem of a goose-neck lamp to the career-ending engineering argument over where to put its switch. It's a kind of preview of what augmented reality could bring, the embodiment of the spime idea, where the full costs and histories of the things around us cluster around them in complicated, emotional clouds -- an idea that's been around since at least 2006, but that is feeling increasingly likely with the passage of time. Read the rest

Claude Shannon, MOOCs, and nanoassembly: what 3D printing is really about

Neal Gershenfeld, founder of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, has been talking about making digital things physical and physical things digital longer than almost anyone, and his books -- notably FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop -- are visionary and inspirational ways to think about how information technology has changed our species' relationship with the universe; while the Fab Labs he helped invent represent the best and most thoughtful way that a makerspace can be built to suit local community needs. Read the rest

HOWTO make an Internet of Things camera

Following on from their Internet of Things Printer, the good folks at Adafruit have produced a set of plans and a kit for making an Internet of Things Camera -- a tiny, standalone gizmo that turns an Arduino, a webcam's guts and an EyeFi card into a device that can wirelessly transmit photos to a computer, with complimentary software for processing, uploading and filing the images it captures.

Here’s our Arduino based “Internet of Things” camera. It’s a simple remote monitoring using the Eye-Fi wireless SD card and Adafruit Data Logging Shield for Arduino. The Eye-Fi card is a tiny wireless memory card. It stores photos and fits inside a camera just like a regular SD card, but also has built-in WiFi transceiver that can upload images to your computer, smartphone or to various photo-sharing sites. We use one here when taking pictures for our tutorials — it’s a great timesaver, eliminating the extra USB transfer step that’s otherwise necessary. Can the Eye-Fi card work in an Arduino SD card adapter? You bet! Adding a TTL Serial JPEG camera, together with some minimal prep work, we can then create a self-contained wireless monitoring camera with motion-sensing capabilities. Hide it inside a hollowed-out book or a plush dinosaur toy and discover who’s been eating all your Thin Mints cookies!

What makes this combination way cooler than just a normal SD card or a USB cable to a computer is all the infrastructure provided by the Eye-Fi service — not just transferring images to your computer, but pushing them to your smartphone, photo-sharing sites like Flickr, issuing email or Twitter notifications, etc.

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