Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Time article: Martha Stewart: Why I Love My Drone

Martha Stewart: Why I Love My Drone

Martha Stewart attends the "Get On Up" premiere at The Apollo Theater on July 21, 2014 in New York City.
Martha Stewart attends the "Get On Up" premiere at The Apollo Theater on July 21, 2014 in New York City. Jemal Countess—Getty Images

Because it's a useful tool. And imagine what Louis XIV could have accomplished at Versailles if he'd had one

In just a few minutes I was hooked. In near silence, the drone rose, hovered, and dove, silently and surreptitiously photographing us and the landscape around us. The photos and video were stunning. By assuming unusual vantage points, the drone allowed me to “see” so much more of my surroundings than usual. The view I was “seeing” on my iPad with the help of the drone would have otherwise been impossible without the use of a private plane, helicopter, or balloon. With any of those vehicles, I would have needed a telephoto lens, and all of them would have made an unacceptable commotion on the beach. What’s more, I would not have been in the photos!

So much has been done in the past without drones, airplanes, hot air balloons, or even extension ladders. It is hard to imagine André Le Nôtre laying out the exquisite landscape designs for Vaux-le-Vicomte, and later the magnificent Château de Versailles, with no high hill to stand on, no helicopter to fly in, and no drone to show him the complexities of the terrain. Yet he did, and with extreme precision, accuracy, and high style.

Earlier, Henri IV drew up complicated plans for the immense and elegant redesign of Paris, capital of France. In England, Capability Brown somehow had the innate vision and perspicacity to reconfigure thousands of acres into country estates fit for royalty. He and Sir Humphry Repton invented an entirely new style of landscape design that had little to do with the grand châteaux of France. It became all about the “axis of vision” — relaxed, looming views of the distance that, without an aerial view, required the utmost in fertile imagination.

In the late 1800s, more people wanted the bird’s eye view of city and country and went to extreme lengths to rig up guy-wired telescoping towers, build extension ladders of dangerous lengths, and man hot air balloons, from which intrepid photographers could capture remarkable images—such as those of the Chicago Union Stock Yards and the U.S. Steel Corporation—from heights of 2,000 feet.
What about the Great Wall of China, or the Nazca Lines in southern Peru? I began reflecting on how the engineers and architects of the past accomplished so much without the modern tools we have at our disposal.

My mind started racing and I imagined all the different applications for my drone. I knew that every type of use had already been thought of by others (governmental agencies, businesses,, Google Maps), and I knew I could not even begin to fathom even a fraction of the social, ethical, and political challenges the widespread use of drones would create.
Do they raise legitimate privacy concerns? Should they be regulated? Should we have a national debate?

I don’t have all the answers. But I forged ahead, using a Parrot AR Drone 2.0, photographing my properties, a party, a hike in the mountains, and a day at the beach. I did my best to master the moves and angles that would result in most arresting pictures and video.
An aerial photo of Martha Stewart’s farm in Bedford, New York, taken with her drone. Martha Stewart
One of my farm workers used his drone, a DJI Phantom flying camera, to capture amazing images of my 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York. Suddenly we could see with astonishing clarity the layout of the open fields, the horse paddocks, the chicken coops, the greenhouses, the hay barn, the cutting gardens and henhouses, the clematis pergola, and the long allée of boxwood. The photos were so good I posted them to my blog on The response was phenomenal!
Henry Alford wrote a satirical essay about me and my drones in The New Yorker that was really funny but missed the point about why I love my drone. Drones can be useful tools, and I am all about useful tools. One of my mottos is “the right tool for the right job.”

A few facts:

The hobbyist drones we can all purchase online or in stores are technically known as UAS: unmanned aerial systems. Many can fly up to 900 feet. With practice, a novice photographer can take really great photos.
The shots of my farm were breathtaking and showed not only a very good landscape design — thanks to the surveyors and landscapers who worked with me on the overall vision, much as le Notre worked with Louis XIV — they also showed me what more I can do in the future, and revealed unexpected beauty.

An aerial shot of the vegetable garden looked very much like my Peter Rabbit marzipan embellished Easter cake, which was designed without the help of a drone.

Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Emmy Award-winning television show host, entrepreneur and bestselling author, is America’s most trusted lifestyle expert and teacher.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One Wheel : self-balancing electric skateboard

from slashdot:

It's a one-wheeled, self-balancing electric skateboard called (appropriately) the Onewheel. You can't buy one right now. They've already shipped all of their first production runs and still have Kickstarter backers' orders to fulfill. After that, though, they might make one for you -- if you come up with a deposit of $500 against a total price of $1499. Plus shipping. This may seem like a lot of money to some people, but enough folks have found it reasonable that Onewheel has sold out not just its first production run but also the second one. Their Kickstarter success was nothing short of amazing, with $630,862 raised although their goal was only $100,000. Inventor Kyle Doerksen is the man behind Onewheel, but he's also one of the people behind Faraday Bicycles, whose flagship model costs $3500 -- and whose initial production run is also sold out -- which means there are people around who are willing to pay $3500 for an electric bicycle instead of putting a motor kit on a used Schwinn for a total cost of less than $500 (with a little careful shopping). Alternate video link.

Friday, July 18, 2014

MIT - wrist-mounted device augments the human hand with two robotic fingers

New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes


Researchers have found that an injection of protein FGF1 stops weight induced diabetes in mice, with no apparent side effects. However, the cure only lasts 2 days at a time. Future research and human trials are needed to better understand and create a working drug. From the story: "The team found that sustained treatment with the protein doesn't merely keep blood sugar under control, but also reverses insulin insensitivity, the underlying physiological cause of diabetes. Equally exciting, the newly developed treatment doesn't result in side effects common to most current diabetes treatments."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Motion Design, UX

Paul Stamatiou @Stammy

Provide meaning with motion

Why motion design is now a required skill for designers.

Last week I attended Google I/O for the first time and participated on a small panel about cross-platform design challenges. There was so much going on that it was a bit of sensory overload, much like walking down the Las Vegas strip for the first time. Google announced many welcomed Android improvements such as a battery saver mode and lock-screen notifications; something you'd previously need to use add-ons for as mentioned in Android is better.

More uses of the Android operating system emerged: Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV. A smartphone won't be the only thing that comes to mind when someone says Android. It'll be this family of screens from couch to car to wrist.
“If there were no constraints, it’s not design — it’s art.” — Matias Duarte
With Android and other such Google products now being used in more contexts it became necessary for Google to step back and voraciously think through their design. The resulting visual design language was dubbed Material Design. At a high-level it introduces constraints to craft a framework within which Google and others building on top of Android can more easily make design decisions.
However, the real news from Google I/O wasn't about Android or Material Design itself. It was Google's implicit announcement that motion design is now a huge, required component for creating great software for mobile, desktop and wearable devices. Motion was mentioned in every design session at I/O. This coming from what has historically been a developer-focused event.

A year ago I had a half-written post sitting in my drafts folder called “The right tool for the job.” The gist of it was using a suite of tools during your design process to effectively communicate the entirety of your intended design. It was going to be about showing animations and transitions with tools like After Effects, Quartz Composer and building HTML/CSS/JS prototypes to interact with on your mobile device.

This was around the time Facebook made waves in the design community when they discussed how their design process for FB Home included Quartz Composer:
Not only does QC make working with engineers much easier, it’s also incredibly effective at telling the story of a design. When you see a live, polished, interactable demo, you can instantly understand how something is meant to work and feel [...]
Julie Zhou
At the time incorporating such attention to motion and gesturally-interactive prototype work in your design process may have seemed nascent; if not entirely optional unless you wanted to customize everything and add another level of interaction detail.

No jump cuts

I won't dive into the intricacies of how material design defines animation but it's required reading: authentic motion, responsive interaction, meaningful transitions, delightful details. Read them now, I'll wait.
"Carefully choreographed motion design can effectively guide the user’s attention and focus through multiple steps of a process or procedure; avoid confusion when layouts change or elements are rearranged; and improve the overall beauty of the experience.”
Motion can and should go beyond a veneer of polish or delight. It's another avenue for adding personality, educating your users about how to interact with particular elements and for creating a story for the user.

Changing an entire page on the user requires them to re-scan everything to see what has changed. This affords an opportunity to choreograph, or string together several transitions to provide context around what is changing.

For example, Google has described much of their motion in terms of ripple choreography: using a sequence of small, delayed transitions as an affordance to express the transfer of energy from the user to the system. By connecting user actions to the resulting change you can improve the user's understanding of the relationship between spaces.

Design tools

One of the questions Roman Nurik asked us on the design panel was about how to best present your designs to others. This spurred a conversation on the power of functional prototypes.

Though when you think of the term prototype in the context of design process over the last 5 years, more often than not the first thing that came to mind was something rudimentary like linking a few pages of a flow together with tap targets. Fast-forward to today where prototypes for me mean experiences that can just about fool someone into thinking they are real apps when put on a mobile device — real page transitions, draggable elements, scrollable areas, animations, keeping track of state where necessary and so on.

In the past it probably wasn't the best use of a designer's time to recreate designs in a tool like Adobe After Effects. Doing anything beyond sliding in new page might have even been considered polish. Polish is a dangerous word as it implies that it's not vital and if it's not vital it's likely to be cut from the project when deadlines get tight.

Instead After Effects was used to detail new microtransitions or object transformations. That was about it — tinkering with small, more complex nuggets of an experience. Beyond that it was easy to communicate with engineering teams about how the rest of the flow was supposed to work. This modal falls down, this page slides in.. standard app page transitions and the like.

Times are changing. Things like page transitions will still exist but involve more of the elements on each page. You'll begin choreographing. In the next few years consideration for motion will be required to be a good citizen of your desktop/mobile/wearable/auto/couch platform. It will be an expected part of the design process just like people will begin to expect this level of activity and character in software.

One of the popular questions at Google I/O design sessions was how designers should go about incorporating motion into their design process. Googlers mentioned that they personally use After Effects but mainly only for microtransitions, things like loaders and icons transforming. The also mentioned their own Polymer web framework that includes the new Material Design UI components.
In short — there was no good answer. There's a huge opportunity here for new tools to cater to budding new choreographers.

Polymer can help with choreography by including things like animating along a path and some affordances for sequencing animations but the components are only great if you're using the material design components exactly as they are and don't need any customization.

I have been using Framer.js on an almost daily basis to build interactive prototypes of my designs. It's basically a JavaScript animation framework and can take some time to get up to speed if you're not comfortable with JavaScript. However, unlike other tools anything you learn about JavaScript while using Framer is applicable for web development in general.

Framer is exceptional at testing out small bits of interaction or linking together several pages of a flow. But as a next generation tool with more needs for managing choreography, keeping track of state, and working with draggable and scrollable elements, you incur significant overhead for managing your code. I found myself creating views to manage other views, much like I used to do with complex pages when I was building Backbone.js apps, but I digress...

There are more WYSIWYG tools like Pixate, which lets you use a drag-and-drop web app to create your prototypes, then view live on your device. But without a preview mechanism on the web this seems to slow development down with constantly having to publish to the device.

I'm still waiting on the right tool for this new mix of motion and interactive prototyping. Building your design also makes you think about how it should be built and the constraints of the design; things you might have only run into later when it was actually being developed. And of course one thing's for sure: putting a real prototype in front of your team is the best form of communication. No more explaining your design to others by trying to talk through it .. "then you tap this, and this happens and that loads, then you slide this.."

What are you trying to say Stammy

It’s a great time to be a designer. We have never had so many capable platforms to develop on, nor as many ways to use our products and on so many new categories of devices.
The more designers we have thinking about motion the more we'll have a need for great design tools and the better design tools we have, the easier it will become to build our designs as intended. And with that we'll have more delightful and easier-to-use products that set their users up for success so they can solve the problems you set out to solve for them.
To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.
Milton Glaser

Friday, July 11, 2014

Toby Kebbell performance as Koba, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

MindRDR Is A Google Glass App You Control With Your Thoughts

more from slashdot:

A London based company, This Place, is launching a new app "MindRDR" for providing one more way for controlling Google Glass. It will allow the users to control the Google Glass with their thoughts. This MindRDR application bridges the Neurosky EEG biosensor and Google Glass. It allows users to take photos and share them on Twitter and Facebook by simply using brainwaves alone. This Place has put the code of this app on GitHub for others to use it and expand on it.

Forget “OK Glass,” MindRDR Is A Google Glass App You Control With Your Thoughts

Google Glass has made a name for itself (somewhat infamously) as head-mounted hardware that you can control with your voice and a sliding finger. Now, a team based out of interactive studio This Place in London, is launching a new app that it hopes will kickstart an even more seamless way of interacting with the device: with the power of your mind.

MindRDR, as the app is called, links up Google Glass with another piece of head-mounted hardware, the Neurosky EEG biosensor, to create a communication loop.

The Neurosky biosensor picks up on brainwaves that correlate to your ability to focus. The app then translates these brainwaves into a meter reading that gets superimposed on the camera view in Google Glass. As you “focus” more with your mind, the meter goes up, and the app takes a photograph of what you are seeing in front of you. Focus some more, and the meter goes up again and the photo gets posted to Twitter. Like this:
and this:
photo 1 (2)
It’s an early, and somewhat primitive vision of how your mind can control Glass.

Yes, there are devices out there that have even more sensors on them, although that can start to get very expensive (the Neurosky retails for £71 in the UK, while Google Glass costs £1,000 and the app is free).

And to be honest, the current hook-up is pretty primitive, too. When I arrived for a demonstration earlier today, one of This Place’s account managers was cooling Glass down under the air conditioner.

And that’s before you start to put on two different bits of headgear. It can be a little clumsy.
But all this isn’t the point: The idea here is that this is a minimum viable product, a first step that can be developed further — for example, to create applications to “train” people to concentrate better, or to play games, maybe to help suggest places to get a coffee when your sensor picks up that you’re tired, or for medical applications, for example for people with mobility problems.

And potentially, you could build out the basic concept with more, lighter and easier-to-use sensors. This Place says that among those who have taken an interest are Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist who is nearly paralysed because of a progressive motor neuron disease.
To that end, while This Place continues its own development, it has also put the code up on GitHub for others to use it and expand on it, as well.

Visiting This Place earlier today for a demonstration, Chloe Kirton, This Place’s creative director who had originally conceived of MindRDR, told me that the idea is somewhat related to the kind of work her colleagues do every day for paying clients.

(MindRDR, to be clear, is not a paid project and was not developed for any client; rather it’s in the vein of other London-based creative agencies like UsTwo, where employees are encouraged to work on creative projects that are completely outside of their day-to-day client work.)
A typical project for This Place, she says, is working on user experience and user interfaces for large Internet properties. “When touchscreens first became mainstream it forced the tech industry to really rethink the user experience,” she says. “Could this become the basis of a new kind of user interface? Could the future be about an interface that disappears altogether?”

Part of the interest, too, came out of Kirton’s awareness of some of Google Glass’s shortcomings.
“We saw the problems,” she says. Speaking out loud to your device is unnatural and could be downright awkward in some cases. And the finger sliding and tapping is not great, either. “After a while your arm gets tired,” she says. “You get Glass elbow. We wanted to think of something that was natural and accessible for everyone.”

Google Glass, for all the glasshole drawbacks, has become a reference point that has inspired some interesting applications and concepts for where wearable technology may take us in the future. That’s included ways to use Glass to pay for things, and how Glass can be used by doctors and other clinicians. Kirton says that MindRDR is so far the only app that links up Google Glass with brainwave-reading technology.