Next Industrial Revolution

This post is in response to the following video: Chris Anderson: Makers – The New Industrial Revolution

There is a certain sense of liberation when you own a 3D printer for yourself. It is literally a game changing device that has brought me joy, and access to being able to manufacture what is in my mind into reality. Chris’ descriptor of placing bits into atoms is fairly apt.

I had no idea that digital manufacturing has gotten as customizable as it has. If it is as flexible as it says it is, then we are talking some serious technological adaptability. My mind has been resting on the concept that factories were still fixed. While robotics have replaced a large chunk of manufacturing labor forces, I understood them to be as varied as their tasks were. This meant specialized hardware, and very specific demands. Tesla’s automated multi-purpose robots are amazing.

I think far ahead, and imagine how having just one of these would be an amazing concept. A multi-purpose construction system. Built in 3D printer, Built in CNC, Built in Laser cutter, as well as drill, welding, forming, bending, screwing, bolting, and whatever else you need that thing to do. Just one of these would augment human power by factors.

Another aspect that I love about this, is the concept of singularity and this. If the manufacturing equipment is so powerful, and adaptive, then in theory the computer can analyze designs, modify it to enhance the operational design, and built it. Could an Artificial Intelligence improve our technology, and even invent that? Once computing power exceeds that of the human ability, we may find this answer.

I have seen glimpses into this world on websites that offer 3D printing services. Upload your design, they print it, and then mail it to you. Simple, efficient and short lived. However it gives access to that person who never would have been able to.

The Maker Shops that Chris was mentioning sounds like a dream, and is something that I have been considering creating for Bangor. What I did not consider was the addition of a workshop in conjunction to advanced manufacturing systems. Now I must consider having two separate locations. The DownTown storefront, restaurant and micro manufacture, and a more urban workshop where all the tools and equipment are.

I think it is really important to supply these resources and abilities. There are incredible amounts of ideas and possibilities out there that do not get the opportunity to see the light of day. It is almost criminal to keep all that locked up. If you have thought about it, most likely someone else has as well. In the end, it is who can get to the resources first that is the real winner in any race of innovation.

I see value in Chris’ vision, and proof. It is essential, and will expand the possibilities to be able to tackle problems we haven’t even discovered yet.

Visiting Artist Will Rogan

A sample of Will Rogan’s work

Video of the Featured Image

On November 8th, 2009, Will Rogan visited the IMRC for Tuesdays at the IMRC. An ongoing weekly event series where visiting artist come to present their works and philosophies.

Will Rogan was an interesting artist and presented a different view on art. His works are very much in the moment, and inspired by personal whims. He spoke often that he didn’t really know what he was doing and simply allowed the art to speak out for him, and take on its own form.

He did carry themes throughout his works. Right Angle triangles and time were elements throughout. He acknowledges time and how it erodes at the works created by human hands. Will was strongly adamant in the belief that things go away.

I think one of the most entrancing works was his capture of an exploding hearse. The amount of detail that could be captured was amazing, and allowed me to see things that I would never have been able to see with my human eyes.

However, as a matter of personal taste, I found it hard to find personal message to me. His works felt more like a collection of objects. Which I suppose could be said about many art works if one were to boil it down to its simplest components. These things felt very simple and shallow. Even the video of the hearse exploding was more of a scientific curiosity, while at the same time an immersion in a five second span.

All in all, I’m not really a big fan of this artist’s work. I suppose my biggest issue was that the works didn’t really answer a bigger meaning, or supply a message that I felt was relevant to my mind and needs. This is no fault of the artist by any stretch of the imagination, and there are certain peoples who do enjoy his work.

While his philosophies on time and how it wears away at the physicality of things, were interesting, and worthwhile considerations. Time is fleeting, and so are our things. Holding on to them only reduces their worth.

Random Thoughts

What if your search engine had personality? My brain has never really been wired to accept responses from a search engine that I didn’t ask for. My usual reaction is to step up to a search box, type in my query, and expect a response that is exactly relevant to my request.

Today, I was slapped in the face with another reminder to vote from Google. I had  a sudden flare of frustration, destroyed the little reminder by clicking on its little x of destruction, and proceeded to type my feelings into the search engine’s text box so prominently centered, and framed by little images for voting.

I pressed enter, and then sat for a moment. Then I felt remorseful, and felt I had to append my message with a follow up. An explanation in my earlier outburst. God forbid I offend the internet. More seriously though, in an internet of lost context, my message would have been seen more as a rage entry or something. What I really wanted was the ability to indicate I already had voted. Understandably, early voting is still somewhat new, and even the analysts are not sure on how that will affect this election cycle in the United States.

What I really wanted to drive down into is the concept of talking to the search engine. In years past, the search engine has been a tool. It still is, but it has become far more intelligent and predictive. The speed in which it collects and exports data is incredible, and  it has vast connections. If I had to reduce it, the search engine is is a method of learning. It is an access point to data. An intelligent being would know how to navigate the endless indexes and pull data from any point.

Personality is borne from experiences. Experiences are bits of memory, information, that contribute to our ability to interpret the world. Memory is measurable. Therefore, the internet is a collective memory. All those who have participated, leave something of themselves. If there was a way for the search engine to be used in the creation of a mind, I can only imagine the personality that could come out of it. Would it be analogous to our own? Would we be able to understand it? What would it learn?

If it came out as being benign, would it be willing to help us? Would helping us be to taxing, or would that mind be able to do other things? If it was willing to help, would seeing results being returned by it be different? How would that personality show itself? Would it modify my responses for the better, or for the worse?

I suppose I would have to ask Cortana, or Siri, or any of these new voice activated interfaces. Though, I’m not sure I can. Is their personality a result of their experiences? I’m willing to believe that, but I think those experiences were preprogrammed by the designers. I’m not very sure how far along this technology is as of now. Progress has been very swift on artificial intelligence research, and I really do wonder what is already being done.

Random Thoughts

What if your search engine had personality? My brain has never really been wired to accept responses from a search engine that I didn’t ask for. My usual reaction is to step up to a search box, type in my query, and expect a response that is exactly relevant to my request.

Today, I was slapped in the face with another reminder to vote from Google. I had  a sudden flare of frustration, destroyed the little reminder by clicking on its little x of destruction, and proceeded to type my feelings into the search engine’s text box so prominently centered, and framed by little images for voting.

I pressed enter, and then sat for a moment. Then I felt remorseful, and felt I had to append my message with a follow up. An explanation in my earlier outburst. God forbid I offend the internet. More seriously though, in an internet of lost context, my message would have been seen more as a rage entry or something. What I really wanted was the ability to indicate I already had voted. Understandably, early voting is still somewhat new, and even the analysts are not sure on how that will affect this election cycle in the United States.

What I really wanted to drive down into is the concept of talking to the search engine. In years past, the search engine has been a tool. It still is, but it has become far more intelligent and predictive. The speed in which it collects and exports data is incredible, and  it has vast connections. If I had to reduce it, the search engine is is a method of learning. It is an access point to data. An intelligent being would know how to navigate the endless indexes and pull data from any point.

Personality is borne from experiences. Experiences are bits of memory, information, that contribute to our ability to interpret the world. Memory is measurable. Therefore, the internet is a collective memory. All those who have participated, leave something of themselves. If there was a way for the search engine to be used in the creation of a mind, I can only imagine the personality that could come out of it. Would it be analogous to our own? Would we be able to understand it? What would it learn?

If it came out as being benign, would it be willing to help us? Would helping us be to taxing, or would that mind be able to do other things? If it was willing to help, would seeing results being returned by it be different? How would that personality show itself? Would it modify my responses for the better, or for the worse?

I suppose I would have to ask Cortana, or Siri, or any of these new voice activated interfaces. Though, I’m not sure I can. Is their personality a result of their experiences? I’m willing to believe that, but I think those experiences were preprogrammed by the designers. I’m not very sure how far along this technology is as of now. Progress has been very swift on artificial intelligence research, and I really do wonder what is already being done.

Mindfulness in Design

This post is in response to the following video: Simon Norris on Experience

Simon is exactly right concerning the subject of user experience. It is extremely important to consider the humans that are using the product. Being aware of how that product is being used in a variety of times and places goes a long way towards understanding how the product should work.

What I found interesting was the concept of making distinctions between physical experiences and digital experiences. Given that our current society is very much inclusive in the internet with many of our tasks. What we would normally do in the real world we can do digitally as well.

Simon brings up the other point in how the same retailer would have completely different experiences between their online and physical stores. Where the store experience is so much better, that the user does not want to use the application or website. However, knowing that the customer may want to use the app while in the store may allow the user an additional tool to navigate and compare the products.

This sort of mindfulness has been part of my own mindset for a long while. When I redesign kitchen at the various stores I work at, I consider very seriously how the space is used, and who will be using it. Knowing the needs of those you are working with is imperative in being able to design an experience that fits their needs and desires. Once those are met, then the worker is more effective and efficient at their job. It reduces stress on their mind, and their body. The customer is better served as we know where things are, and can easily access the product when the need for it arises.

Understand the customer’s needs. Understand the customer’s requirements. Understand the limits of ability. Understand that time moves forward, and we have to consider what could disrupt our future actions. These anticipations are important towards a successful product.

 

image is a screenshot from the video

Project 2

 

My zealousness for this project can probably be described as an overstatement. I really wanted to succeed and create something really awesome at the same time. My usual process of shoot high, and get something better than average probably was a bit off this time around. It’s okay, I can accept failure, but in the end I felt I had some success. I learned a lot from this, and from that, I’ll be able to do better next time.

So just went wrong?

As you can imagine, my first project’s goal was pretty high. I wanted to have some sort of stabilizer type subsystem for a drone. With my research and trials, I discovered that this scope was far too advanced for my level of knowledge and experience. So I redid the project.

Version two of this project took the form of a formation light controller. Much easier to deal with, but I still had some high goals. I wanted to use two 555 timers in tandem to create a very specific effect. The first 555 would pulse, and activate a light. The trigger pin of the 555 was also connected to a transistor. This would activate a secondary light while the trigger pin was low. This created an alternating light effect. The trigger pin was connected in addition to pin eight of the second 555. When the first 555 was high, the second 555 would activate at a higher pulse rate. This triggered it’s on set of lights.

The final effect was to have the first 555 blink red LEDs and green LEDs alternately, while the second 555 would blink a pair of white LED’s twice per cycle.

Learning how to do this was the most difficult part, but it worked once I completed it. I ordered additional resistors and capacitors of multiple values so that I could tune the circuit to my needs.

The greatest failure that I encountered with the circuit was when I tried to transition the design onto a permanent soldered setup. This was my first time using a perfboard to assemble, so my approach was horrible to say the least. I knew it was not coming out well, and I tried very hard to make it work correctly.

In the end, I was unable to make it work again. This was probably the part that hurt the worst. When I arrived to the conclusion that I failed, and probably damaged some of the components, I took my defeat and went to bed.

The laser cutting portion of this was a better success. While the option of having a box was okay, I was not really enthused by the simplicity. Leave it to me to make it even more complex than I should.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to experiment too much with this part. Having paid close attention to the lessons on how to operate the laser cutter, I found little difficulty. What added to the complexity was that I wanted to take one of my 3D models and convert it to something that could be cut and assembled. I found 123D make and went to town. There was a bit of a learning curve, but once I became familiar with the program, I spent more time adjusting the model and pattern to better fit my needs. There were a number settings, and in the end, I felt I could have done a better job myself by designing the shapes myself. What attracted me to the program was the potential time savings benefit I would gain.

So, Lessons Learned:

  • Circuit Design
    • Really consider the research, and understand your limits. I discovered this in my initial project proposal. I saw a video of it being done on youtube. With the belief that it is possible, I set forward to make it reality. However, technical skill and knowledge are preferable before jumping to the arena and fighting the bull.
    • Soldering is something I need to practice more to get better at, like anything else. I definitely mangled my design, and it was very sad. I half expected this result, as it is my due. Perhaps that was the voice in the back of the head giving me warning bells. Perhaps I should listen to those bells rather than shoving them full of cotton.
  • Laser Cutting
    • Cool doesn’t always equal success.
    • I discovered some limits to the laser cutter in that there were some very sharp points in the design. When the laser cut through, it ended up burning some of those points off, resulting in nubs. That wasn’t the desire, even if it didn’t affect the assembly at all.
    • More pre planning would have been required to integrate the circuit. The suggestion of creating a base with a stand made much more sense, and would have done well to hide certain elements that would not be useful being seen.
    • Automated programs for developing 2D renderings from 3D models are useful, but not entirely dependable. It creates shapes that make sense in digital land, but when made real, are flimsy and creates a fail point. As a result, my design is fragile and requires care when handling and transporting.

While I would consider my project a failure within the scope of the given assignment, I learned a great deal through the process. With this in respect, I found success through what I have completed. Each part had success, the failure lay in myself, and inexperienced in electronics. Something I intend on correcting in the coming weeks, months, and year. I certainly do not feel intimidated, or put off due to these events. With these lessons acquired, I’ll be able to move forward and better guide myself to success, as well as know what questions to ask.

Robotic Teachers

This is in response to an article titled “When the Teaching Assistant Is a Robot”. Published in the October 28th, 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Only as an assistant. The human element in education is much too important. Unless we have fully fledged self aware artificial intelligence, I cannot accept technology as a replacement for education.

I fear that this places me at something of a hardliner when it comes to the subject, however. I would be willing to change my mind, so long as the technology is human like in its behavior and thoughts.

At this point in our technological development, robotics are unacceptable for the human experience portion of a child’s education. They need that interaction, and they need that empathy that only a human can provide. Humans must choose to help, and to sympathize. Humans have emotions and capacity to gauge other human’s emotions. This is imperative when it comes to context, or realizing that a different method of explanation is required.

As a teaching assistant, I think it is wonderful. It holds no hours, and has no emotions when it comes to menial questions. It has all the patience in the world to address student needs and questions. In a text based format, the technology is sufficient to address student’s needs while maintaining a facade of humanity. As students learn to learn, the teaching assistant can become more of a tool. A reactive dictionary, or search system. Much like Siri, Cortana, and other such assistants.

Until the technology is capable of addressing the emotional component of a person’s education, I can’t see it being useful at that level. Technology is ever evolving and it will be interesting to see what results from this experiments and others that are similar to it.

image from here

The Internet Of Things

This is in response to an article titled “The ‘Internet of Things’ Faces Practical and Ethical Challenges”. This was published in the October 28th 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This brings up the same questions that I had concerning the subject. While I was aware of the concept of many common items becoming “smart”, I have only recently been aware of the term “Internet of Things”.

I have two minds on this subject. There is the old geezer me that says, Why? My toaster was just fine as a toaster. My fridge keeps my food cold. I know how long it takes me to get to the store, and I know when to shop so that my checkout is fast. Why do I need to have all these things innovated for me? As a particle human being, I can’t say that I agree with the smartening of things. I understand that by allowing our technology to become so invasive into every little thing we touch, we some how ease the human experience. Allow us the opportunities to explore thoughts and creativity rather then waste our lives on mundane actions. This is great and all, but I think those mundane things are what help to create the human experience as well. By removing the human from the action, we remove the empathy, and awareness of how that action came to be, and maybe even why it happens at all. I believe that there needs to be an awareness of one’s environment in order to be able to fully understand life.

My other mind things this is very interesting, and spurs the futurist in me thinking forward. What happens when the internet is included into everything? Where the internet knows you so well from past behavior, that it will be able to predict your actions and needs, and in theory meet them before you realize you will need them. A society that is sufficiently capable of doing this would in theory be so advanced, that menial labors and mundane tasks are all automated. Anything from agriculture, energy production, and manufacturing. The technology would be capable of self modification and research. This would in theory be the point in which technologically we would have passed the singularity of computing power. This type of society would be able to pursue other tasks, such as exploration, scientific discovery, or spreading of religions, or whatever it is that is important that far into the future.

Today however, this is a very precarious point, and leaves us open to invasive cyber tactics that would hurt us significantly. Or it would allow tyrants to oversee the actions of all their citizens to ensure compliance. Stalking, and war would be redefined. This is a very fragile thing we are doing, and I believe we are treating it more as a toy then as a real potential. Most people don’t know what to do with it, or what its impacts are.

My personal fear, is that it will remove the human element from a process. When that process has no human involvement, apathy becomes prevalent. We become dependent on it. There is no longer emotional investment in the object, or service. Then we take it for granted. It becomes part of our lives, and accept it. Then we forget completely how to do that service, or how to make that object. We forget how to make it happen, and become completely reliant on the system. If that system fails, then we fall. When I look forward to that glorious civilization of discovery, I feel sadness. Those people who are asking such massive questions, forget that their are important smaller questions for themselves. And if that technology were to fail? That civilization would be doomed to their ignorance.

 

image from here