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Showing posts from 2013

FYP: Lego - the best form of rapid prototyping

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So Progressing on and actually starting the build of this hunk of technology I decided to tackle the servo first, as I had all the equipment all ready. So simple enough I hooked up the servo to the Arduino and managed to get it working fine with a couple of test values. Using some of the stuff I learned from Chris' and the IBM workshops I wrote a little sketch that connects to the web through my WiFi and subscribes to a topic on Chris' remote MQTT broker. It takes the values coming in from the topic and if they're integers and between the values of 0 and 170 it sends them to the server. I'm using a max value of 170 because my little ol' servo's a bit busted and struggles with values above 170. Using mqtt.io I sent some test values over and it after a little fiddling it worked.

The next step was to hook up the servo to a set of speakers. I attached a spoked attachment onto the servo, and then taped the attachment onto the volume control for my parents' PC.



I…

VC: Resource Database

Relevant companies:breakfastny.com - Main initial company influence - Digital Agency based in New York known as the ‘Custom tailors of the tech world’focuslabllc.com - Agency in Savvanah, Georgia that do both client and personal projectselepath.com - Digital agency in San Fransisco, who only create products they want to create.wearefuturegov.com - Company working for profit alongside aiding and developing government websites.wonderroom.com - Company in the southwest - part of Plymouth University, working with vaired projects from print, to web deisgn to installations.nickcharlton.net - Freelancer graduated from university, now running his own 9-6 business while running research/self-development side projects.n9design.com - Local graphic communication studio, working in the relevant field.Contacted people/companies:wearefuturegov.com - Contacted and interviewed Ben by Chris.rokkmedia.co.uk - Spoken to the founder breifly at a networking event, found out interesting fact that they are …

VC: Elevator Pitch

We filmed our elevator pitch today. Doing this we decided we were going to approach it by actually filming ourselves talking to unsuspecting 'victims' in an actual lift about Bento to see what they think, and whether or not they actually understood what we were. We had a sort-of-script that we used, which we very, very loosely stuck to. We talked on the fly mostly about the company, trying to embody our goals and vision in the way we talked. Filming was done using Chris' GoPro attached to the inside of one of the lifts inside the Roland Levinsky building on campus. Here's the result:




The results were definitely mixed. There were many who didn't really seem to be with it, but mostly because they were evidently rushing around Roland Levinsky trying to get deadlines done. However we got quite a few good responses who really seemed to enjoy the idea.

EW Project 2: Presentation and conclusion

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So the presentation went pretty well. After a little calibration with our 'garbage simulation ballasts' the system worked extremely well. It worked consistently and reliably. Here's us tinkering with the system with our chosen ballasts, cans of cool refreshing Coca Cola. Here's us doing some last-minute tinkering:


And here's a link to the presentation: http://goo.gl/NW0Hgt
Overall I felt the presentation went really well. I think we conveyed the idea fairly effectively and the demo went off without a hitch. One thing we probably should have elaborated on a bit more was the reward system. 
Some future improvements to the system include:

Weekly or monthly scores. While doing it live is pretty cool, it can be wildly unreliable as it relies on the trash currently in the bin, which can vary so much. However averaging it over a longer period of time would produce a nice average score over the course of a longer, more representative timeframe/Developing further on the fir…

VC: Bento Roles & Business Pitch

So after much deliberation and focus on getting our mission, vision and some of other core ideals of Bento set in stone on content we began the work our presentation. It took a lot of thought to decide on the content of the presentation. To begin with we took our mission, vision and some core ideas. A lot of it had to be cut out to properly format it in the form of a presentation.

Another thing we had to sort out was roles. We set about creating two roles for each of us, one more technically oriented and one business oriented. Knowing where each of our strengths and weaknesses were, Cai's role was fairly easy to define as the Lead Designer and Creative Director. However both Chris and I are primarily developers, so this was a little tricky. We decided to name me the Lead Developer and Technical Director, while Chris went with Interaction Developer and Managing Director. While these are great on paper in reality our set roles would be a bit more blurred, put perfectly by this quot…

EW Project 3: Development

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To to begin development on this project we needed to sort out how we'd measure the content on the bins. One of the ideas was to use the ultrasound distance sensors on the lids to see how high the bins had piled up. However Mike mentioned to us that another group were already using this. Feeling the way to go was weight we asked Mike if DAT had any weight sensors. Alas not. Mike did say DAT had some force sensors though. These were similar to the ones we'd used for Coffee.

It was interesting to work our the pressure sensors. I wired them up and they looked something like this:


Once this was wired up I used the serial connection to monitor the values coming from each. Unfortunately the force sensitive resistors were both reading different values, with one of them having total inconsistency and acting rather sporadically. After bashing my head against this, rewiring and rewriting the code and getting nowhere I enlisted the help of one of my housemates, Simon - a robotics student.…

EW Project 3: Smarter Planet

So we were given the brief for this IBM Smarter Planet Project. To begin with we were pretty confident about this. Pretty quickly coming up with the idea of using Arduino to remotely control volume of an Hi-Fi. However this was very quickly dismissed once we further understood the scope of the project, and how this didn't really fit the brief. We struggled pretty hard for the rest of the session to come up with a viable project. Instead making a Heliduino:



The tutorial portion of the workshop was pretty cool. Chris Hunt and the IBM lads were showing us how to use Node Red, an IBM developed open-source webapp that lets you take inputs, manipulate them and connect them to outputs. Really simple concept, and pretty well implemented. I learned quickly how this Node Red thing worked, and it was pretty cool as it was based on Node JS, which is something I'm keen on learning anyway.
We all met up in the next session where we struggled just as much to come up with ideas. We thought ab…

VC: Quote

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We decided to make Cai's initial idea, Quote, to demonstrate the research projects we undertake in Bento. Cai made a really nice mockup, and went on to develop the website. I later added in sharing to Facebook functionality. Quote is live here: quote.bento.is



VC: Bento.is

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We came up with the concept of the bento.is to allow is to engage creatively with the URL. For example our holding page is bento.is/coming. In future when we launch we could have bento.is/here. bento.is/us could be the team page, bento.is/this could be an about page and so on.

The holding page was pretty fun to develop. Cai being our designer made a mockup of the website in Photoshop, which both Chris and I liked. Cai then made a static HTML version of the page and handed it over to me to implement the functionality for the signup portion. We felt this went pretty well and were really happy with the result:


VC: The name Bento & Branding

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We went through a few names deciding what we'd call ourselves. After a lot of though we settled on the name 'Bento'. This is based on the Japanese bento box. The Japanese bento is a collection of various food items, generally rice, vegetables and meat. This food is placed in individual sections of a sectioned-off shallow box. Bento boxes are generally very well presented, and both delicious and aesthetically pleasing. Here's an example of a bento box from Koishii, a Japanese restaurant that we went to for lunch and to take some photographs for our branding material and website:



Feeling that the concept of a bento box related to our ideals we decided to call ourselves Bento. Providing technology, a service and our skills - all of which come together in a nice, beautifully packaged product.
For the branding we wanted to embody the following ideas: 
FunApproachableEncompassing our skillset - demonstrating what we doQuality of design Clear readability
Chris knocked up mock…

VC: Defining our Unique Selling Point (USP)

Once again following a similar process we developed our USP.
Cai: 
Our USP is that we are working in the future. We have that advantage over competitors, who are working in the past. Chris: 
Our USP is twofold. Firstly we truly enjoy what we do, which inspires us to do the best job that we can possibly do. Secondly that we are working in the future; ordinary items can be intelligent, an ad campaign can be a circuit board, and a public space can react when it knows who you are.  Sidd:
Our biggest USP is the fact that we really enjoy what we do - we find our line of work extremely fun and challenging.
Chris' USP was clearly the strongest of the three and embodied our ideals very well. Because of this we decided that his one was clearly the one we should use.

VC: Defining our Vision Statement

We followed the same process creating our vision statement as we did with our mission statement. Here are the results:

Cai:
We provide clients with a broad skill set, that enriches their product. Through having the leading edge on competition, a premium quality will be met on all briefs, whilst combining this with a fruitful process of collaboration. Chris:
We provide our clients with expert marketing in both the digital and physical space. We work closely with our clients and thoroughly enjoy the work we do. We see ourselves as people who take the amazing power of what can be done online and bring it into real world experiences. We want to bring our clients into the future.  Sidd:
We provide you with a friendly, approachable all-in-one service for all your creative and technical needs, from digital installations to complex web applications. We aim to take your brief and through a close relationship, work with you to deliver the best possible bespoke solution; delivering only the highe…

VC: Defining our Mission Statement

So we sat down together to discuss our mission statement, vision statement and unique selling point (USP). We were all pretty in sync about the core ideals of the company. We decided the best way to come up with a solid mission and vision statement was to go off and each do one. We'd later get together and combine our ones to form the final statements. Here's what we did for our mission statement:
Cai: To be the number one advanced technology agency in the south west of England. Providing clients with products that appropriately meet the desired brief 48 hours before the specified deadline. Retain 80% of customers in future services, through implementing thorough design techniques and combining this with the highest quality standards of work that adapts to the benchmarks of the industry. 
Chris: Our mission is to become a successful digital agency developing in the Future. We will use the new and unexplored industry of physical computing, combined with absolute beautiful design…

EW Project 2: Presentation and Conclusion

We brought all the kit in to do the presentation with and did a decent amount of testing beforehand and all seemed to work pretty well.

Here's a link to the presentation: http://goo.gl/nIrJAz

The demo went okay. I feel as though we didn't communicate well enough the wireless aspect of it. The two Arduinos were messaging each other using MQTT over WiFi and the internet. However as both were plugged into my laptop for power, it wasn't really something that we felt was demonstrates effectively. There was also one hiccup with a portion of the demo, which was when I hit the keyboard I dislodged the sensor from the bottom of the keyboard. Meaning when Jamie went to do his portion of demo - to demonstrate profiles - it didn't detect the hit. It all worked fine when we put it back in place though. Another issue was that because we used the speakers that DAT had, they didn't work immediately when powered they went from off straight to standby, so the music didn't play w…

VC: SWOT analysis

We sat around and discussed in detail what should be included in the SWOT analysis. Over the course of a few hours we established all the key points of the SWOT together on the Google Docs. Chris later cleaned it up when he went home. Click here to download the final PDF. Just to note, the branding on the SWOT was initially the older iteration of the brand, but we changed the PDF with the re-brand.


EW Project 2: Development stage 2 - Bringing it all together

So far we have four individual elements:

Two personalized drink receptacles: one mug, one glassThe coaster that profiles users based on the mug/glass placed upon it.The keyboard with the force sensor that can detect when a user slams their fist on it.The servo-powered remote which can turn up to two mains devices on and off.   Now the next step of development is to link them all together to form the constellation.

So we have two Arduinos, each with their own WiFi shield. Chris ran a workshop on using the MQTT protocol to get devices to talk to each other which was extremely helpful - it's definitely something I'll be using in my final project. So we got the two Arduinos working with WiFi and got them connected up to Chris' message broker. I hooked up the force-sensitive-keyboard to the Arduino. I then hooked up the servo-remote to the Same Arduino. I used the keyboard hit as a switch to call a function which effectively used the servo to hit and hold a button on the remote …

VC: Hanging out

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To discuss ideas we thought we'd go on Google Hangouts and talk about the company and develop our ideas further. The meeting went pretty well, we discussed a lot of ideas and and gained some valuable time emulating conference calls. We discovered that Hangouts has comical filters so everything went silly. Pictures credited to Chris.




VC: Reflective Essay

Here's a link to my reflective essay: goo.gl/ISRcZs

EW Project 2: Development stage 1 - The components

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The idea was to modify this shared environment to be able to accommodate different people, and do do this we needed to profile different people as they sit and begin their day. We dabbled around using different methods of profiling. A weight-sensor on a chair that was calibrated the users was one of the discarded ideas. We settled on profiling using the individuals' drink receptacles; when working we established that each individual has their own mug/glass. We thought a good way to implement this would be using RFID stickers, or tags stuck to the bottom of each mug/glass. The RFID reader would be disguised inside an object you'd expect to find in an office environment - the coaster. To the user this would, in theory, appear seamless. They take their usual mug, and place it on a coaster. This everyday action would profile the user.

Unfortunately there were no available RFID readers in the DAT supply cupboard. We thought the idea was sound, so we wanted to keep the mug and coast…

VC: The foundations of our company

Chris, Cai & I began developing ideas for what would become known as Bento. Throwing around ideas we began going through the eight point list of stuff we need to to.

We established pretty early on how our company would function logistically. We are to gain client work within our skillset, such as graphic design, web development and digital installations, using some of the excess funds and time to work on personal and research projects helping us to further develop our skills.

We started by talking about the philosophy and values our company's foundation will be set upon.

Our Philosophy: FunSolving ProblemsValue over hireMulti disciplinaryLearning - widening skillsetsChoice - choosing our work - choosing our customers Working in the future - internet of things / advanced web design / etcCollaboratingOur Values: Great designImproving the worldMinimalism - Simplicity Enjoying what we do - pride in what we doDoing what we enjoyProviding a high quality of service to our clients

EW Project 2: Constellations

So here I am catching up on this blog. We were given our project brief. The idea was to create some sort of 'constellation' made up of everyday objects that talk to each other. Gianni showed us loads of examples.

The way I understood the project is to take a bunch of everyday household items that can mean different things to different people, generally in emotional or sentimental value. Using this constellation of objects we needed to create a sort of embedded system that does and means different things for different people depending on your relationship with the objects.
The space we chose for this project was the office/home office environment, specifically a shared desk. We actually came up with the idea rather quickly on this one. We didn't spend as much time as we did in the previous project deliberating on past ideas and projects. 
So anyway, the idea. Now when we're working we all agreed that we all get pretty stressed at certain points and need to back away, or…

VC: The Business Pitches

So everyone pitched their business ides. My one went pretty well. I was pretty casual about it, and managed to answer some question:



There were some really cool ones, i quite liked Will's Cyclesense project as it had pretty significant real-world applications and could genuinely improve the general safety of cycling.

In the end, however, I grouped up with Cai and Chris as they were heading in more of a direction I would be interested in. The idea was to start a studio that gained funding through freelance client work. The work would be anything within our domain and interest range. This was pretty broad as the three of us are pretty technical. We'd spend our downtime doing community and research projects that we're interested in to keep ourselves active and broaden our skillset.

FYP: Usability & Blackboxing

The test of consumer technologies is ‘plug-and-ability’. I need to be able to do things (such as like 3D printing) as easily as I can go on to Drive and write this out now. Basically new technologies need to ‘just work’, without all the hassle of complicated set ups.


One example that springs to mind would be the lightswitch. Until recently, the core concept of how a lightswitch works hadn’t changed since the 1800s. The LIFX bulb is a relatively new product that allows the user to control the lights with their smartphone using a wifi-capable lightbulb. My dissertation will aim to discuss how emerging and existing technologies can and will optimize the way we interact with our environment, focusing primarily on the home.

I feel pseudo-blackboxing is an essential in good UX design - the average consumer really doesn’t need to know the backend goings on of a product, only inputs and outputs. However still retaining the option to remove the blackbox for development. For a product to be succ…

VC: My Business Idea

Bit late on this one. So after much thought I decided to use the FYP house automation idea in the end. Not really because I wanted to, but because it was the best thing I could think of. I began by writing a script, and ended up with this:

Hello all, I’m Sidd! Many a time I’ve found myself coming home from work or lectures after a long, hard day. So I finish for the day looking forward to getting home, all I want to do is sit in front of the telly and getting a good meal in me. only to arrive and realise I still have to prepare my meal! I’m feeling lazy today, so I take my meal for the day out of the fridge and or freezer, stick it in the grill and or oven, which I have to wait to pre-hear, only to wait another twenty or so minutes for the food to be done before I can turn my brain off and relax. Wouldn’t it be great if it was done just in time for when I got home?   Now you might be asking yourself; “But Sidd? How is such a feat possible? How could I magically cook food without even…

FYP: A system that monitors electricity usage of individual appliances around the home

Okay, so this popped up on kickstarter recently:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/energyaware/neurio-home-intelligence

This seems like a pretty useful tool to monitor everything going on around the house. Using it's API, it could in theory be integrated into my system to further the automation & self-learning aspect of the system.

EW Project 1: Presentation & Post Project Thoughts

So we did our presentation and it all seemed to work rather well. Alas we didn't have time to prepare for the presentation as I would have liked. The slides were fine, but we didn't prepare for who talks about what, when enough.

Here's a link to the presentation: http://goo.gl/gNmtdQ

The demo went rather well. Everything functioned as expected. The cards scanned and as if by magic, the respective names appeared and disappeared on the 'Fountain Zone' on the website. The appropriate LEDs also lit up on the model to signify the location of the cardholder's friends around the park.

As this was a more of a 'proof of concept' project there are plenty of ideas we didn't apply that would be great for actual implementation.


Instead of having to scan RFID cards in set locations, we could use active RFID or iBeacons. This kind of technology allows tracking to be performed without the need to manually scan in and out, as you can be location tracked in a 3D space…

VC: Business ideas

So we were tasked to come up with a business idea for Venture Culture. I generally consider myself to be pretty okay at coming up with ideas, but in this case it was a business idea. Trying to come up with a cool idea that's a viable, profitable business is pretty tough. Normal my projects are pretty much entirely oriented around fun and creativity - without profit or any kind of financial gain in mind.

The ideas will be taken forward to the class, and a small handful of the favorite ideas will be chosen to go forward. This will then lead onto the chosen ideas to effectively become group projects that will be developed into a viable business plan over the year.

I immediately thought of my final year project - mostly because I had been working on this for the last couple of months, and it was pretty prominent in my mind. I was really hesitant on using this as there'd be a conflict of interests, and obviously the FYP has to be an individual project. It was time to put the brain …

EW Project 1: Development

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After borrowing the appropriate kit from DAT we set after creating the technical side of the system.
We used the following components in the process:

Arduino with wifly sheildParallax RFID reader2x RFID cards The first thing to get working was the RFID reader. Using the reader's Arduino library I managed to get the reader reading the two RFID cards reliably and wrote an identification script. This script named the two cards and handled check-ins and check-outs, along with letting the person who scanned the card know if their 'friend' is also checked in. I added in a couple LEDs for visual feedback. Here's a demo of it in action: 


Once this was done it was time to begin connecting the wifi. After many, many technical issues with the wifly shield I decided to try an ethernet shield instead, which worked great. Much testing was done to test the connectivity's robustness. However for reasons I couldn't figure out the connectivity was lost after sending data between …

EW Project 1: Choosing the Space

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So after further discussion we're all pretty happy with the idea. We've started getting together a solid list of stuff together, doing a bit of research we've decided on using Beaumont Park as a suitable space for our project. Julia and Matt went down to Beaumont Park and took a couple of pictures, which Julia photoshopped into mockups of the space.



EW Project 1: The Idea

We brainstormed about aiding OAPs in methods of transport, help in the care home or socializing. We ended up settling on socializing as that is one of the most important aspects of our lives, and one of the moral boosting, uplifting aspects of growing old. Having & making friends and engaging in the community.

After much discussion we came up with the idea of creating a public space in which there are different areas. Each of these areas has a distinctive digital presence. Users can visit the park and using their unique RFID enabled object they can 'check in' to these defined areas in the park.

It gets stored in a database that you've checked into one of the areas. The idea's shaping up to be slightly similar to Foursquare, but on a small scale, and without the fiddly smartphone interface.


EW Project 1: The Brief

So we were given our project brief today. It's a joint project with the Spatial Design course at the university. We're tasked to create a space incorporating the 'Internet of things' ideology. The space must for the benefit and take into account the needs of OAPs. Primarily thinking about our own needs, were we 50 years older.

After meeting our designers we initiated the brainstorming process thinking about what we would like in life 50 years on. we came up with a plethora of ideas, but most of them vague and not entirely fitting the brief.

FYP: I love Make Magazine

I follow Make: Magazine, and they released a video yesterday demonstrating how to create an RGB LED controller using an Arduino & Android device. This is pretty useful to me as I can use half of this tutorial to control the RGB LED strip I have.



Although at this point I feel like most of the research and development had already been done, and kinda feel like there's not really much for me to do besides. Like I explained in my previous post about LightwaveRF I feel like that the majority of what I aim to do has already been implemented, albeit in a proprietary, blackbox way. I kind of need to change my idea, or at least implement it in a way that hasn't been implemented before.

FYP: LightwaveRF, a similar modular smarthouse

After explaining my project to my cousin, she brought to my attention an article in the Metro about this. While the article was pretty broad and didn't really go into specifics, it referenced something called LightwaveRF. After looking on their website I found it's uncannily similar to what I intend to do. Looking specifically at their 'day in the life' page they've done almost exactly what I intend to, and implemented it extremely well.



Upon further reading it seems that they've implemented the technology extremely well, however their general business model seems a bit far from what I see mine to be. All their components seem proprietary, meaning that you must buy it from them - which is not cheap. While you can buy individual components, it seems that you need to get the system installed by an approved installer. I tried calling them to ask some questions, but their offices aren't open on Saturdays; I'll try again on Tuesday.

My project aims to be as …

FYP: The Birth of Acorn, the webapp

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I've developed a little webapp that demonstrates the way this controller works.



Screen one shows an overview of the web version of the controller. On the left is the form that allows the user to modify the existing values. All this is generated on the fly based on existing data in the database. The database table has an 'attribute' value that determines if the form produces a slider, button, colour picker and others for that value.

On the right is a JSON array produced from the database. The script that generates these results pulls data from the server every half second. Using the colour picker I've changed the colour value, but NOT submitted the form.


Screen two shows what happens when I've submitted the form. Using AJAX the data is pushed to the server, and the user gets visual feedback of this by the left pane whiting out and a loading circle appearing.


Screen three shows what happens after the data's been pushed. The right pane has also now updated to ref…

FYP: Working out Modules

Here's a little list of how I expect some of the modules to work:
Master controller: Phone/Webapp -> PHP POST -> SQLdb entry

Master receiver: Network capable Arduino/Pi sends several requests to the web DB per second.  

Lights RGB bulb/strip along ceiling/wall join 4 pin input -> Arduino -> Wireless transimtter  (RasPI?/Wifi Sheild) -> Phone Sound Servo hooked up to volume knob 4 pin input -> Arduino -> Wireless transimtter  (RasPI?/Wifi Sheild) -> Phone Food Fridge Weight sensors under products to detect quantity and presence. Notification  when supplies are runing low