Friday, January 16, 2015

Bots Arrive

On Monday I received an Amazon Echo.  I am impressed.  "Alexa" is the keyword that gets the Echo's attention and it works near flawlessly.  You can barge-in, get Alexa's attention,  any time, even when the Echo is playing music.  The speech recognition works well in our large kitchen, even with  water running!  It is limited in its range of tasks at this time, but they are sufficient to make it worthwhile.  The music quality is fine, especially for an aging tin ear.  Although Siri does much better in search, I am really impressed by the Echo's speech recognition which is better than Siri's due in part, I am sure, to the 7 microphones.  I also am interested to see how Amazon uses the echo app in conjunction with the Echo device.  Currently the app logs your interactions with the Echo. Also  folks have hacked the API!  If you come across it in a friend's house, Alexa deserves a talking to!


My experience with Alexa has me thinking more about home bots.  Not all robots need to be mobile and my suspicion is that Alexa like entities will become more common in our homes earlier than Rosie like entities. It seems to be a natural transition to go from our smart phone based, social media and search engine interactions to an ambient bot that provides the same functionality by saying "Alexa."

I am still struggling with my copter but I did get software updates into it and learned a bunch about the arduino.  May have to set for a while as I crank up my iBeacon and other Bluetooth low energy devices. More on that in a future post.  Later!

Monday, January 5, 2015


I just completed reading an article from O'Reilly by Mike Barlow, "When Hardware Meets Software."  It is short and free and does a great job of framing perhaps one of the next technological revolutions.  It makes at least three key points:  (1) hardware is beginning to achieve the same speedup in product realization that software has experienced using similar techniques, (2) hardware and software will be more equal partners in the future, and (3) software has  to raise the bar on quality, security, reliability, (name you favorite "ility"), internet quality of service is simply not good enough for the combination.

What does this say about the next generation of software engineers and especially hackers? They have to be as well versed in hardware too!  I think the hacker culture still retains it to a certain extent but not as completely as early Ham Radio enthusiasts or the Byte generation that had no choice but to pick up a soldering iron in order to do their software.

This next wave is a good thing.  Just as the rise of social media increased how connected we were to each other.  The rise of the Internet of Things/Industrial Internet/ Internet of Everything/Cyber Physical Systems will provide us with an appreciation of the  things around us, how they work and what they provide.  Great reading for my train ride to Hoboken!

I spent the weekend building some lego and trying to coax a mini-quadcopter to life.  Sadly it is not connecting to my iPhone so a new version of the software is in order. Double sadly I am struggling with earlier versions of Java related to earlier version of the arduino IDE. Hopefully progress this week and the next post will have a video of my success. Later!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Culture Mapping of Higher Education

We are all struggling to understand how we can convey the joy and excitement of technology to our children.  I have been involved at modest efforts focusing on grade school and high school students, some of which is chronicled at my aarphacker site.

Tim Stock and Marie Lena Tupot are focusing on using technology to understand what is available for students and using culture mapping and college syllabi to map and interrelate courses.  What a concept, to understand what is available and how it relates. They have a kickstarter to accelerate this mapping and I just stumbled across it with less than twenty hours to go.  So I am asking you if you read this on January 2nd would you please check out their kickstarter and hopefully back it and hopefully let others know.  Thanks!

I did not meet my resolution of last year for more posts but in 2015 I hope to average a post a week.  It has some probability of success since much of what I am doing in my new gig (Industry Professor at Stevens) will hopefully be of interest.  I am redoing my previous udoo benchmarks and am working on some items from kickstarter, so hopefully more soon.  The best to all of you in 2015, later!