Don’t Fight Glass, Fight Cameras

Picture stolen from Katy Kasmai

The masses have spoken – wearable cameras are terrifying. Why can’t we separate Glass from its most-feared feature?

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We once expected cars to become personal planes, microwave dinners to beget meal pills, acid trips to be replaced by cyberspace adventures, and video calls to give way to to robot patsies. Now, we expect Google Glass to create a hell of oversharing, stalking, and consumerism. The caveat is that we suck at predicting the future. We mistakenly expect the next decade to be an upgraded version of today, forgetting that culture advances along with tech. This taints our judgment and makes us worry: Continue reading

The Four Glassmen of the App-ocalypse

Today we’re talking about the four most popular app ideas for Glass: Contextual Consumerism, Glass Docent, The Cloud Nurse, and Augmented-Reality Nametags. These are seriously popular ideas. If you asked a hundred people what they think Glass is for, I guarantee that 95 will name one or more of these. I call them the Four Glassmen of the App-ocalypse.

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A Pain in the Parse

I’ve pushed waves of tweaks to my Voice-Activated Timer Glassware since putting it on GitHub, and nearly all of them patch corner cases in Google’s speech-to-text. There are a lot of these.

Behold madness itself.

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“1&a half hours”?! What the actual hell?

Google’s voice recognition is nondeterministic like Guy Fieri is overweight. My parsing code has no fewer than five special cases for non-numeric versions of “1” alone, and that’s using case-insensitive matching. There’s no rhyme or reason for how Google picks syntax. Sometimes it’s “one and a half hours”. Sometimes it’s “1 and a half hours”. Sometimes it’s “1&a half hours”, which is on its own level of short-bus derpitude.

You know what would be nice? Deterministic voice recognition.

You know what would be better? On-device, restricted-vocabulary voice recognition. My innocent, morally-wholesome users, whom I respect greatly, have to wait five seconds for a server turnaround to find that Google has mangled their crisp speech into unrecognizable bullcrap.

Thanks to my users and their preoccupation with bug reports, it’s actually getting pretty bulletproof by now. Download the APK, use it yourself, and maybe you too will find a new corner case to call your own!

AutoHud: Your Car’s Performance Data on Glass

If you’re a journalist covering Glass, looking for The Next Big Thing in white-collar terror and moral panic, you’ve thought about driving with Glass. The distraction! The avoidable crashes! What a goldmine of terrifying link-bait headlines, ready to wrap around a shoddily-researched article!

I present Voidstar AutoHud, a Glass app designed to be used behind the wheel, that makes the driver safer.

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Voidstar AutoHud is a unique piece of Glassware, as it’s actually a combination of hardware and software. You plug a cheap OBD-II dongle into a port under your dashboard, hit Connect, and bam, you’ve got your speed, RPM, MPG, and fuel live in front of your eyes.

AutoHud is compatible with every vehicle sold in the US since 1996 (that’s when OBD-II was mandated) and can update as fast as your dashboard. It’s open-source and compatible with open hardware, so you can enforce that your driving data is yours alone.

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This app was developed to prove a point – that you can be safer with a wearable than without one. While I’m wearing Glass and running AutoHud, I don’t take my eyes off the road – my dashboard is in the sky above the asphalt everywhere I look.

You, on the other hand, take your eyes off the road every ten seconds or more to check the dials. That’s just unsafe. You also take your eyes off the road to check your phone and GPS, which makes me fear for my own safety.

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While AutoHud is running, it actually makes it harder to do distracting things on Glass. Like every Glass app that uses a Live Card, AutoHud blocks the wearer from using voice commands and checking notifications while active. If you cover Glass and didn’t know this, I recommend doing some research before your next big scare piece.

AutoHud is easy to install and use, and requires a car, an OBD dongle, and Google Glass. View the source and instructions at my GitHub, or just download the ready-to-install APK.

Right now, AutoHud displays the most important data on your dashboard – RPM, speed, instantaneous MPG, and remaining fuel. By popular demand, the next feature package will be a performance HUD with engine torque, engine load, throttle, and shifter position. Future updates will add an overspeed warning that knows the road’s speed limit, a post-trip report with cost of gas and performance summary, and automatic GPS logging to find your car.

DIY Google Glass Headlight

I’ve had my Google Glass for about ten days now, and I’m surprised to see a lack of hardware hacks for it! A user on the Glass-Explorers.com forum suggested a headlight, and I agree. Presenting the Google Glass headlight dongle!

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To see it in action, check out this first-person demo video!

The body is an Adafruit USB Shell (pinout here). Just connect pin 4 (ID/Sense) to pin 5 (GND), connect the anode of a high-efficiency LED to pin 1 (VCC), the cathode to an appropriate resistor, and the other end of the resistor to GND.

I used a high-efficiency cool white LED with a forward voltage of 3.8V and Imax 15mA, so I used a 33Ω resistor.

How does it work? Connecting Sense to GND puts Google Glass into USB Host mode (yes, Glass does support USB OTG!) which causes the VCC line to output 5V instead of taking it. This powers the LED! No, there’s no way to turn it off yet, but this isn’t bad for a fifteen-minute proof of concept.

Got a Glass and interested in getting your own headlight? Let me know in a comment! If there’s enough interest, I’ll build it into a simple product.

Schematics and instructions soon!

The 20-Sentence Guide to PechaKucha Presentations

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Image shamelessly ripped off Archimedes’ Pool of Ideas

  1. PechaKucha is an event in which people prepare and present decks of 20 slides that advance automatically every 20 seconds.
  2. Most people can’t pull off a decent PowerPoint presentation, let alone 6:40 of timed slides, and they fail badly.
  3. These are powerful tools for delivering a world-shattering PechaKucha, and they make a damn good PowerPoint too. Continue reading