Wednesday, July 16. 2014
Tuesday, July 15. 2014
Monday, July 14. 2014
When you walk into the Shapeways headquarters in a sprawling New York City warehouse building, it doesn't feel like a factory. It's something different, somehow unforgettable, inevitably new. As it should be. This is one of the world's first full service 3D-printing factories, and it's not like any factory I've ever seen.
Founded in the Netherlands in 2007 as a spinoff of Philips electronics, Shapeways is a truly unique and delightfully simple service. If you want an object 3D-printed, all you have to do is upload the design's CAD file to Shapeways' website, pay a fee that mostly just covers the cost of materials, and then wait. In a few days, Shapeways will send the 3D-printed object to you, nicely bubble-wrapped and ready for use. It's effectively an on-demand manufacturing service, a factory at your fingertips in a way that's wonderfully futuristic.
Aside from the windows that look on to the factory floor, Shapeways HQ looks just like any other start-up office. Colorful chairs surround laptop-littered desks. Employees drinking seltzer linger around a long lunch table in the back. It's oddly quiet, and everything is coated in a fine layer of white dust, the cast-off material that didn't quite make it into an object of its own.
If you didn't know any better, you'd think it was some sort of art studio littered with hulking machines, perhaps for firing pottery or something. In fact, each of these closet-sized machines costs upwards of $1 million and can 3D print about 100 objects at a time. Shapeways names all of them after old women because they require lots of care. The entire cast of Golden Girls is represented.
There's actually not much to see inside the machines. A small window offers a peek into the actual printing area, an unassuming expanse of white powder that lights up every few seconds. Shapeways uses selective laser sintering (SLS) printers that enable them to print many objects at once and product higher quality products than some other additive manufacturing techniques.
That white powder lingering everywhere is the raw material for a 3D-printed object. The box lights up because a series of lasers are actually sintering the plastic in specific spots, as dictated by the design. An arm then moves over the surface, adding another layer of powder. Over the course of several hours, the sintered plastic becomes an object that's supported by the excess powder. The process look almost surgical if you're not familiar with the specifics of exactly what's going on.
But, the printers don't just spit out objects ready to go. The finished product is actually a large white cube that's carefully moved from the machine to a nearby cooling rack. After all, it was just blasted with a bunch of hot lasers. Eventually, it's up to a human to break apart the cube and find dozens of newly printed objects in the powder. It's almost like digging for dinosaur bones. As Shapeways' Savannah Peterson explained to me, "You feel like an archaeologist even if you're just watching."
She's right. After I made my way around the factory floor, which is roughly half the size of a basketball court, I got a peek at this process. The guy doing the digging was wearing a protective jump suit and a large ventilator to keep from inhaling the powder. And despite the fact that large plastic curtains contained the breakout room, the powder gets everywhere. Suddenly, the light coating of dust that covers the whole factory made even more sense. By the end of the tour, I looked like a baker covered in flour.
That's about as messy as it gets, though. The rest of the process is remarkably clean and streamlined, yielding some pretty incredible objects made not only out of plastic but also vari. The Shapeways website is full of curiosities, from delicate jewelry that can be printed in sterling silver to physical manifestations of internet memes that are printed in color using a special printer that can handle rainbow hues.
Tuesday, July 08. 2014
Ever since covering Fliike, a beautifully-designed physical ‘Like’ counter for local businesses, I’ve been thinking about how the idea could be extended, with a fully-programmable, but simple, ticker-style Internet-connected display.
A few products along those lines do already exist, but I’ve yet to find anything that quite matches what I had in mind. That is, until recently, when I was introduced to LaMetric, a smart ticker being developed by UK/Ukraine Internet of Things (IoT) startup Smart Atoms.
Launching its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign today, the LaMetric is aimed at both consumers and businesses. The idea is you may want to display alerts, notifications and other information from your online “life” via an elegant desktop or wall-mountable and glance-able display. Likewise, businesses that want an Internet-connected ticker, displaying various business information, either publicly for customers or in an office, are also a target market.
The device itself has a retro, 8-bit style desktop clock feel to it, thanks to its ‘blocky’ LED light powered display, which is part of its charm. The display can output one icon and seven numbers, and is scrollable.
But, best of all, the LaMetric is fully programmable via the accompanying app (or “hackable”) and comes with a bunch of off-the-shelf widgets, along with support for RSS and services like IFTTT, Smart Things, Wig Wag, Ninja Blocks, so you can get it talking to other smart devices or web services. Seriously, this thing goes way beyond what I had in mind — try the simulator for yourself — and, for an IoT junkie like me, is just damn cool.
Examples of the kind of things you can track with the device include time, weather, subject and time left till your next meeting, number of new emails and their subject lines, CrossFit timings and fitness goals, number of to-dos for today, stock quotes, and social network notifications.
Or for businesses, this might include Facebook Likes, website visitors, conversions and other metrics, app store rankings, downloads, and revenue.
In addition to the display, the device has back and forward buttons so you can rotate widgets (though these can be set to automatically rotate), as well as an enter key for programmed responses, such as accepting a calendar invitation.
There’s also a loudspeaker for audio alerts. The LaMetric is powered by micro-USB and also comes as an optional and more expensive battery-powered version.Early-bird backers on Kickstarter can pick up the LaMetric for as little as $89 (plus shipping) for the battery-less version, with countless other options and perks, increasing in price.
Thursday, July 03. 2014
Published on Jun 10, 2014The beauty of hackers, says cybersecurity expert Keren Elazari, is that they force us to evolve and improve. Yes, some hackers are bad guys, but many are working to fight government corruption and advocate for our rights. By exposing vulnerabilities, they push the Internet to become stronger and healthier, wielding their power to create a better world.
Wednesday, July 02. 2014
Via Tech Crunch
Online artists’ community deviantART is hoping to become responsible for the new .art web domains, and it recently sent a letter to ICANN (the organization responsible for managing top level domains) laying out its perspective on the stakes in the decision.
The letter also presents deviantART’s case for why it deserves a “community designation” in the application process, saying:
“We are on the cusp of an extraordinary opportunity with the simple use of a single word: a virtual place within the Internet for the arts and a virtual palace to the arts built site-by-site by millions of artists and art institutions each with an individualized artistic contribution gathered around the simple namespace of ‘.ART.’”
The letter adds that if the domain is exploited commercially, “it will only occasionally and haphazardly designate the arts themselves. It will not be a welcomed location for the arts.”
That may seem like an unusual argument coming from a for-profit business, but deviantART has created a new subsidiary called Dadotart (apparently that’s standard procedure when applying to manage a new top level domain), and it says it would create a policy board of “artists and art institutions” that would establish the standards for when the .art designation can be used.
deviantART says ICANN is currently deciding whether it deserves the community designation, which would give it priority in the application process. The initial signs may have not been entirely positive, as the letter states: “We believe preservation of the arts is at risk based upon the results of the initial community evaluations made by ICANN that clearly disfavor their approval with a resulting and evident bias towards commercialization.”
If you aren’t familiar with deviantART, the site showcases digital art, traditional art, photography — sometimes original and sometimes inspired by existing media properties — and it says it has 31 million registered users. (Software company Autodesk became an investor last year.)
e-flux, a network of art professionals, is also applying for a community designation, and although the applications can’t be combined, deviantART says the two groups support each other’s applications and would be involved in policy issues if either gets awarded the domain.
Thursday, June 26. 2014
NASA officially granted permission to a group of scientists and enthusiasts who want to do what NASA can't afford: Make contact with a 36-year-old satellite called ISEE-3 that's still capable of taking directions for a new mission. It's the first agreement of its kind—and it could hint at where the space industry is going.
So, a little back story. As our sister site io9 explained last month, ISEE-3 was launched back in 1978 to study the relationship between the Sun and Earth. It enjoyed many more missions over the next three decades, but NASA officially cut the cord in 1997. Still, ISEE-3 kept on trucking.
It wasn't until a decade later that NASA discovered she was still at it, despite the lack of commands from her benefactors at NASA. Why not send her on a new mission? Well, that's the trouble: We have no way of communicating. The antenna used to contact ISEE-3 had been removed.
Enter the group of scientists including SkyCorp, SpaceRef, Space College Foundation, and others. They want to use a different antenna, at Morehead State University, to contact ISEE-3. "Our plan is simple: we intend to contact the ISEE-3 spacecraft, command it to fire its engines and enter an orbit near Earth, and then resume its original mission," said Keith Cowing, a former Nasa engineer and owner of Nasa Watch, told the Guardian.
The ISEE-3, (later ICE), undergoing testing and evaluation.
Sounds good, right? Well, it's not so simple. The group, which calls itself ISEE-3 Reboot, needs to essentially rebuild the entire software used to communicate with ISEE-3 back in the 70s. That means digging through archives to find the original commands, then recreating them. With zero funding available from NASA and only a month or two until the little satellite makes a close pass in mid-June. The technical challenges are huge:
But, the creators of the project explained in their pitch letter on Rockethub, "if we are successful it may also still be able to chase yet another comet."
If there was any doubt about whether modern Americans were still enamored with space, the results of their crowdfunding campaign squash it. The group blew through their $100,000 goal, and are currently getting close to a $150,000 stretch goal. There are only two days left to donate—and you should—but the fact that they've raised so much money in so short a time is remarkable.
The ISEE-3 Reboot mission patch.
NASA announced it has signed an agreement with the group called a Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (NRSAA), which is a contract it signs with its external partners to describe a collaboration. It gives the group the green light to go ahead and make its attempt at taking control of ISEE-3—it essence, it gives Skycorp the right to take over the operation of a satellite that NASA built almost 40 years ago.
Here's what astronaut John Grunsfeld had to say about the agreement:
It's an incredible development—and it tells us something about where space travel and research is going. NASA and other state-funded research entities are being strangled by downsized budgets, but the push into space amongst independent scientists, engineers, and citizens is booming. As Elon Musk sues to let commercial space companies compete for government contracts, students and scientists are launching their own satellites.
Over the next few decades, plenty of other NASA-built spacecraft will begin to age—just like ISEE-3. And unless something drastic changes about NASA's budget, it may not have the cash to keep them up. Imagine a future in which craft built by NASA in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, are inherited by independent groups of scientists and space companies who take over operations, just like Skycorp is. The privatization of space might not be so far away—and NASA might play a heavy role in its creation.
Wednesday, June 25. 2014
Early rumors may have hinted that Apple had a fully integrated smart home up its sleeve. But after today's WWDC, we know that's not the case. And it's unclear what developers are going to do with Apple's HomeKit, a piecemeal tease that implies you'll soon be able to control your smart toaster with your iPhone. But in the meantime, we have this Microsoft concept video from circa 1999, showing the amazing interconnected smart home of tomorrow.
The video shows things like the ability to scan a carton of eggs to automatically add them to a shopping list. Even throwing away an item allows your smart trash can to remind your home computer system that you may need to order that item soon. Many of these technologies actually have come to pass, in one way or another, like Amazon's trial of their Dash magic wand.
But again, it's a far cry from the fully integrated smart home INTERNET OF THINGS OMG THIS IS THE FUTURE OF THE HOUSE we've been promised for so very long.
Image: Screenshot from the circa 1999 concept video by Microsoft
Tuesday, June 24. 2014
ComputedBy - The idea to share a WiFi access point is far to be a new one (it is obviously as old as the technology of the WiFi access point itself), but previous solutions were not addressing many issues (including the legal ones) that this proposal seems finally to consider seriously. This may really succeed in transforming a ridiculously endless utopia in something tangible!
Now, Internet providers (including mobile networks) may have a word to say about that. Just by changing their terms of service they can just make this practice illegal... as business does not rhyme with effectiveness (yes, I know, that is strange!!...) neither with objectivity. It took some time but geographical boundaries were raised up over the Internet (which is somehow a as impressive as ridiculous achievement when you think about it), so I'm pretty sure 'they' can find a work around to make this idea not possible or put their hands over it.
Via ars technica
We’ve often heard security folks explain their belief that one of the best ways to protect Web privacy and security on one's home turf is to lock down one's private Wi-Fi network with a strong password. But a coalition of advocacy organizations is calling such conventional wisdom into question.
Members of the “Open Wireless Movement,” including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Free Press, Mozilla, and Fight for the Future are advocating that we open up our Wi-Fi private networks (or at least a small slice of our available bandwidth) to strangers. They claim that such a random act of kindness can actually make us safer online while simultaneously facilitating a better allocation of finite broadband resources.
The OpenWireless.org website explains the group’s initiative. “We are aiming to build technologies that would make it easy for Internet subscribers to portion off their wireless networks for guests and the public while maintaining security, protecting privacy, and preserving quality of access," its mission statement reads. "And we are working to debunk myths (and confront truths) about open wireless while creating technologies and legal precedent to ensure it is safe, private, and legal to open your network.”
One such technology, which EFF plans to unveil at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE X) conference next month, is open-sourced router firmware called Open Wireless Router. This firmware would enable individuals to share a portion of their Wi-Fi networks with anyone nearby, password-free, as Adi Kamdar, an EFF activist, told Ars on Friday.
Home network sharing tools are not new, and the EFF has been touting the benefits of open-sourcing Web connections for years, but Kamdar believes this new tool marks the second phase in the open wireless initiative. Unlike previous tools, he claims, EFF’s software will be free for all, will not require any sort of registration, and will actually make surfing the Web safer and more efficient.
Open Wi-Fi initiative members have argued that the act of providing wireless networks to others is a form of “basic politeness… like providing heat and electricity, or a hot cup of tea” to a neighbor, as security expert Bruce Schneier described it.
Kamdar said that the new firmware utilizes smart technologies that prioritize the network owner's traffic over others', so good samaritans won't have to wait for Netflix to load because of strangers using their home networks. What's more, he said, "every connection is walled off from all other connections," so as to decrease the risk of unwanted snooping.
Additionally, EFF hopes that opening one’s Wi-Fi network will, in the long run, make it more difficult to tie an IP address to an individual.
“From a legal perspective, we have been trying to tackle this idea that law enforcement and certain bad plaintiffs have been pushing, that your IP address is tied to your identity. Your identity is not your IP address. You shouldn't be targeted by a copyright troll just because they know your IP address," said Kamdar.
This isn’t an abstract problem, either. Consider the case of the Californian who, after allowing a friend access to his home Wi-Fi network, found his home turned inside-out by police officers asking tough questions about child pornography. The man later learned that his houseguest had downloaded illicit materials, thus subjecting the homeowner to police interrogation. Should a critical mass begin to open private networks to strangers, the practice of correlating individuals with IP addresses would prove increasingly difficult and therefore might be reduced.
While the EFF firmware will initially be compatible with only one specific router, the organization would like to eventually make it compatible with other routers and even, perhaps, develop its own router. “We noticed that router software, in general, is pretty insecure and inefficient," Kamdar said. “There are a few major players in the router space. Even though various flaws have been exposed, there have not been many fixes.”
Monday, June 23. 2014
User interfaces present one of the most interesting quandaries of modern computing: we’ve moved from big monitors and keyboards to touchscreens, but now we’re heading into a world of connected everyday objects and wearable computing — how will we interact with those? Metaio, the German augmented reality outfit, has an idea.
Augmented reality (AR) involves overlaying virtual imagery and information on top of the real world — you may be familiar with the concept of viewing a magazine page through your phone’s camera and seeing a static ad come to life. Metaio has come up with a way of creating a user interface on pretty much any surface, by combining traditional camera-driven AR with thermal imaging.
Essentially, what Metaio is demonstrating with its new “Thermal Touch” interface concept is an alternative to what a touchscreen does when you touch it — there, capacitive sensors know you’ve touched a certain part because they can sense the electrical charge in your finger; here, an infrared camera senses the residual heat left by your finger. So, for example, you could use smart glass to view a virtual chess board on an empty table, then actually play chess on it:
“Our R&D department had a few thermal cameras that they’d just received and kind of on a whim they started playing around,” Metaio spokesman Trak Lord told me. “One researcher noticed that every time he touched something, it left a very visible heat signature imprint.”
To be clear, a normal camera can do a lot of tracking if it has sufficiently powerful brains behind it – some of the theoretical applications shown off by Metaio on Thursday may be partly achievable without yet another sensor for your tablet or smart glass or whatever. But there’s a limit to what normal cameras can do when it comes to tracking interaction with three-dimensional surfaces. As Lord put it, “the thermal camera adds another dimension of understanding. If you have a [normal] camera it’s not as precise. The thermal imaging camera can very clearly see where exactly you’re touching.”
Metaio has a bunch of fascinating use cases to hand: security keypads that only the user can see; newspaper ads with clickable links; interactive car manuals that show you what you need to know about a component when you touch it. But right now this is just R&D – nobody is putting thermal imaging cameras into their smartphones and wearables just yet, and Lord reckons it will take at least 5 years before this sort of thing comes to market, if it ever does.
For now, this is the equipment needed to realize the concept:
Still, when modern mobile devices are already packing tons of sensors, why not throw in another if it can turn anything into a user interface? Here’s Metaio’s video, showing what Thermal Touch could do:
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