Two months since my last blog post! Two months, and two new gigs. That’s my excuse…
This is gonna be about Pinoccio, where I’m rolling into my third month as Hacker in Residence — a magnificent offer that swept me off my feet and ended my term at Sauce Labs. (Next time’s ramblings will be about a residency with Instructables!)
I still love Sauce dearly, but Sally and Eric held the keys to my little hardware-hacker heart: a half-time gig, working from anywhere (mainly TechShop), making strange things and talking to people and writing docs for an open-source-tastic company. We make a microcontroller that’s compatible with the Arduino DIY project platform, but which comes with its own battery (!!!) and does mesh-networking out of the box. That means that all your bits of hardware can talk to each other, and to the internet, within about five minutes of opening your kit! (This is me doing my best to explain what I do without getting commercial, but SERIOUSLY GUYS this thing is AWESOME and I am SO EXCITED to work on it.)
Exclusive glamour shot! Available here only!
One of my first actions with Pinoccio was to give a demo at Rachel Kalmar’s Sensored meetup. In order to demonstrate the board’s ability to tie together smartphones, WiFi, and radio, I built the Sneeze-Ray Remote-Controlled Nose Tickler! It’s the latest in human-computer-interface (short for “humans with computers in, on, or about the face”) technology. :) This little assembly (including glasses, controller pendant, and nose-feather) enables anyone, anywhere, to tickle your nose with the push of an Internet button.
Every time I see “Sneeze-Ray”, Dr. Horrible starts playing in my head…
I think this was much more successful as an instructable than a presentation: although the audience really dug it (and everybody wanted to give it a try), it was pretty tough for them to tell what was going on, since the nose-tickling motion isn’t obvious from a distance.
Oh, right: this is what a Pinoccio Scout looks like (with a couple of LEDs on it). :)
So, for Nick Pinkston’s Hardware Startup Meetup, I planned something a bit more flashy. It turned into a demonstration of one of my most precious acquired skills: pulling together something cool at the last minute. If you’re pressed for time, you’ve got to push aside any feelings of hopelessness, reassess the situation constantly, consider what minimal investment will get you the maximum effect, and take stock of all materials available to you. Don’t be afraid to discard plans! There’ll be time to build them later.
In this case, we started shipping to our IndieGogo backers the same day I’d been planning to spend building my demo. So, I spent the afternoon polishing documentation and sending updates to our backers and friends, and by the time that was done, I had only an hour or so left to build. The worktable held a number of cheap light-up yo-yos, some clear HexBug packaging spheres, and an array of microcontrollers. 30 minutes later, my grand scheme clearly wasn’t going to happen. I socketed bright white LEDs into a couple of Scouts and packed everything up, resolving to come up with something on the Caltrain down to South San Francisco.
On the train, I modified the Sneeze-Ray’s code slightly to include an extra output pin and pointed the LEDs in different directions. Now, when I typed “blaze” into the console on my computer, a message would be sent via WiFi to one board (“Leonardo”), and relayed via radio from there to another board (“Michelangelo”). This would enable us to live-demo the radio communication range, which is one of the things people ask about most frequently.
A number of things were less than ideal: I’d have to set up WiFi access once I got there, I wouldn’t have a chance to test before running the demo, and dammit, I was tired. But Cédric helped bolster my spirits, and our gracious hosts at Counsyl got me last-minute network access. So, when my turn came, I picked on Drix to help me. When I entered the “blaze” command, I shouted “PING!”, and he moved steadily away from me, shouting “PONG!” when his board lit up. Soon, the whole room was shouting “PONG!” as he held the beacon aloft; when we finally lost the signal, it was certainly near the 100m quoted range for the radio chip, and around a corner. Also, two minutes over the allotted time — Nick had decided to let us go double because of the crowd’s interest.
• ann arbor •
A little background on the Pinoccio linkage: They’re based in Ann Arbor (where I spent 6 years studying languages and getting into hackerspaces), and they were pointed at me by Dug Song, security rockstar / cofounder of Duo Security and a creative polymath. Looking forward to potential collaborations there as well! :D
I took a trip back, this January, to catch up with some old friends. AHA, the local hackerspace, is going stronger than ever. Since the last time I visited, they’ve really opened it up, and they’re still America’s friendliest hackerspace. Larry was running a group for an upcoming Coursera course, and Josh had rigged up a 3D scanning apparatus. I believe they’re using a PrimeSense scanning unit, from the company that was bought by Microsoft to create Kinect. May be wrong there. (Sadly, I’ve lost my photos from that trip — but rest assured, the space looks amazing!)
Print your own teeny Merlin!
Also happy to see that Alex, my Norse Biker Fashion Legend friend, is actually creating new jobs (in Michigan!) with his chainmail business, Metal Artisan Studios. And I got to introduce him to Suby, a kickass composer whom I met through a short stint with the neuro-integrated MiND Ensemble at Michigan. (Those two make for one hell of a brunch!) I didn’t get a chance to check in on Maker Works, but from what I hear, they’re still tearing it up.
Continuing the sorta-thread, I think I’mma talk some about 3D modeling next, and then a bit about the Autodesk Artist in Residence thing… Woo!