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I like not wearing a watch. Having something on my wrist decreases ease of melding with my computer. I like the flow-state where it is just me and the bits, working together to make each other work.
Thus, if I was to give up my previous wrist space, it would have to be for a good reason. It would not be a pedometer ( lives in my pocket), a GPS (lives on my phone), or a sports anything (lives nowhere on my person).
I’d consider a health monitor but I don’t think the technology is there. I’d want it to monitor core body temperature, heart rate, glucose levels, and blood pressure. Basically, it would be a wrist mounter tricorder. None of those are easy to do on the wrist (also, noninvasive was implied) so this seems like a pipe dream.
But I’m not completely unreasonable. I’d settle for an auxiliary screen for my phone. It would have to be light, more like one of those rubber cause wrist bands (i.e. livestrong) than a proper watch.
I’ve heard rumors of Apple and a slap band style. I could get into that. Say it is two inches wide and eight inches long. When flat, it could show me movies via, I dunno, Bluetooth (or BTLE). My headphones would plug into my phone so the wristband doesn’t need a jack. Though it could have one which would let me watch movies with someone, that’d be neat.
Given my goal “watch” is now about 2″ wide and 8″ long, the screen could be about 2″ x 4.5″ which would show movies in widescreen (16/9).
I could see using the wristlet in flat form as a display, using my phone’s screen for a larger keyboard. But I don’t have any problem with typing and seeing on my phone (most of this blog post was written on my phone).
When the wristlet is in coiled mode, it should show time and some chosen info from my phone: texts, emails from VIPs, tweets, etc. I’d like to be able to press something and say show me more and dismiss (also pause, forward, and back for movies). I don’t know if that means I need a touchscreen or just a few buttons on the end. With feature creep, I could see a stopwatch but I don’t really need a features I’ve got elsewhere.
I understand a lot of people are trying to make a wrist based phone and I can understand that. But even if they succeed, I don’t want that. How about instead of another me-too product, we get something really spiffy?
If you want my wrist, be innovative.
There is a guy crawling around my ceiling right now. On the upper side. And this is literal, not my usual metaphoric guy crawling around my head.
The guy is from a Solar City, he’s looking at the roof, at what would need to be replaced. Because all or part of our roof will need to be replaced before we get solar panels. I’ve wanted solar panels for a long time. It just meets some check on the list of “living in the future”.
When we moved in to the house, they said the roof would last 3-5 years and need re-doing. That was 15 years ago and every year we wonder if THIS is the year. And every year, including this one, we call a roofer to check it out and they do a couple repairs then say it will last 3-5 years.
So why is there another guy planning to destroy the roof? We’ve been waiting to get solar until the roof went. But the tail is going to wag the dog a bit:
We want a new roof because we want solar. We want solar because if we get solar, the panel upgrade is free. We need a panel upgrade because 100A is not enough to run the oven, the microwave and the charging station. We need the charging station for the new car. We need the new car because we got the garage re-done.
No, that last part isn’t right. We got the garage re-done because of the new car. And because the garage was horrific but it is super nifty now. And the floor will match the new car.
Which we will get on Saturday. Hopefully.
About a decade ago, I had the idea to create a data logger, it would write data from a serial port to a USB thumb drive. I'd worked on a lot of devices that had serial output for their main interface or for debugging purposes. Normally, to get data, I'd have to hook a computer up to the gadget, hoping that the laptop batteries didn't die, that Windows didn't go to sleep, and that I didn't need to timestamp anything to greater than 4ms granularity (Window limitation). The ability to store days or weeks of data would be fabulous.
I chose the processor because it had the bare minimum I needed and a USB device. I got a wonderful and generous EE to help me choose the other components and make a schematic. I paid for it to get laid out, ordered all the parts, built kits, got boards fabbed, bought cases, worked with a model shop to get the cases cut for the boards. I learned a whole heck of a lot. The boards came in and came up ok but the vendor's USB library worked with only one or two thumb drives. I worked with the vendor to expand their library. Then I got a full time position and the frustrations of dealing with the vendor… well, I just finally got rid of the boards and cases recently (though not the completed one, there on the left of the pic). About two years ago, someone else built a data logger, one that I could just buy and it would do what I wanted.
About six years ago, I saw a product design contest and entered it with a neat new idea. I wanted microcontrolled Christmas lights, ones that I could put up and never take down because they'd change color to match the upcoming holiday. With a marketing VP friend, I wrote a complete business plan (summary: holiday decoration is a huge market). The software was easy to explain and the market was there but the hardware was difficult. The way the lights were to be controlled led them to have an unwieldy cable, making them expensive and essentially unmarketable.
Two years ago, GE came out with individually addressable LED strands (on the right in the pic). A hacker worked out the control protocol shortly thereafter. Anyone who wants to make my holiday lighting needs the $50-80 light strand, a $30 Arduino controller, and freely available program. Ok, so it is still expensive but it isn't impossible anymore. After I (and another wonderful EE) presented how to put this together at this spring's Embedded Systems Conference, I was accosted by an engineer for a lighting company asking if I had patented the idea (no, I just wanted someone to build it for me, I didn't want to block development). After a bit of searching, a generous patent agent friend found that Philips had patented “LED as applied to…” well, anything… including the “tidy bowl” application.
About three, maybe four, years ago, I got an idea for a video game called Shoe Shopping Adventure. The player would make life choices (i.e. career, friends vs. work) and that would translate into their need for different varieties of shoes, their available funds, and their time allotted for shopping. I learned a bit about iPhone programming, drawing shoes, and designing games. I tried to get Zappos involved because I was thinking that one way to avoid doing a lot of UI design is to use actual pictures of actual shoes. And as a revenue source, people who bought shoes in the game might want to see those same shoes for themselves later. Anyway, I only bugged one software friend and she mostly just had to listen to me babble one afternoon. Well, and my husband who has been supportive through all of these. So far, no one has made this game for me (yet) but I stopped development because it is a heck of a lot of work (and because I started writing Making Embedded Systems).
It isn't that I don't finish things. I do. I mean, I wrote a book (two, actually!). And I've shipped tens of products. But those have been for other people, for the companies that I've been employed by. The book was for myself but I had some external impetus there.
So it is with some trepidation that I say, once again, I have an idea. I wonder if I'm ready. And what I'll learn.
Going to college is expensive, really hideously expensive. And the price keeps rising. Student mortgage themselves in hopes of future income. And if they choose a major that doesn’t pay off, well, too bad, you still have to pay the loans
I don’t think this trend can continue. I’m excited (amazed, thrilled) by the online universities. Some of these are traditional universities offering their course material for free, often without a grade. Standford’s Machine Learning course by Professor Ng was awesome, I think every week I learned something that I applied to my job’s gnarly data analysis problem. And last fall, Stanford opened its Artificial Intelligence class for free to all comers. More than a hundred thousand people took them up on it. A hundred thousand people taking an upper level CS course. Wow!
The professor (Sebastian Thrun) touched all those minds. Amazing. And apparently addictive as he went off to co-found a startup to teach the masses. Udacity offers courses free to anyone and they range from intro to CS (no programming required) to building a robotic car. And the now-almost-legendary AI course is there. They even give you a grade (well, certificate with different levels of distinction).
Udacity isn’t alone. ITunes U has just a slew of videos and course materials on every topic under the sun. The photography ones are worth watching just for the pictures. And Courseara has partnered with Stanford, Princeton, Penn and U of Michigan to offer an amazing selection.
See, every time someone makes a better course on topic X, you could watch that one instead. You could get the best education money can buy (and never have a boring, droning professor whose lecture leaves the material all in a muddle in your head). And it would be free.
Hey, I’m flabbergasted by that. I remember the day I paid off my student loans, what huge weight it was off my shoulders. Why would you pay to go to college when you could just suck this all down for free? For free!!!!!!!!!
How can it stay free? Well, I heard Udacity’s strategy yesterday (but I don’t know if it was said in confidence so you can search online to find it out yourself). It was interesting. I don’t know if it was viable but close enough that, yes, they can probably stay free to the student. Which is awesome (amazing, thrilling, exciting).
Grading become a problem but everyone is working on that. At Udacity, they build courses that have exams and homework that can be automatically graded (with some teaching assistant involvement). For many of the sciences, points can be based on the right answer (though it leaves style and partial credit to be solved).
Let’s say they fix that; natural language processing is getting better. Computers can read essays already, they don’t have too far to go to grade them. And multiple choice is evil but easy to grade.
Once you have grades, the next step is accreditation. Colleges already have it so they know how to do it. Some places may not go down that road, instead offering non-accredited transcripts. As long as they maintain an excellent reputation, it will work. For awhile. And then they’ll get accredited though maybe not by the body that does it now.
So, sweeping aside the problems that University of Phoenix has already surmounted, let’s think about where we go from here. Online colleges don’t have to turn anyone away to keep class sizes small. They can scale. Infinitely.
But what about labs? Physically doing the work in science? And then there is the issue that one of the main points to college is meeting everyone else in your college. The people I met in college are still my best friends, the people I trust to “get me” when no one else does. And I’ve heard the main point of business school is making contacts to help you work in business.
(Note: wild prognostication ahead.)
I think that college will go mostly online as the only affordable choice. And then students will realize they need each other, beyond the forums, in person. So they’ll co-locate. But not to an expensive university town, instead to an apartment in some cheap place where they can find part time jobs. And then, when four people are living nearby, a few more will come because is makes sense. And then a few more, until the whole building is mostly college students, studying together, helping each other, sharing physical space and physical materials.
Their degree will be from Accredited Online University with a note that the student was from Apartment Building 12. Some of the apartments will be frat houses. Some will have chem labs in the basement. (Oh, save us from those that are both.) And some people won’t have that, they won’t afford the apartment or won’t get in (will you have to send your SAT scores so you can live with these people?). That’s ok, though it may be like going to a lower tier college so they’ll need to get good marks. Or maybe the students will take online courses from a dormitory at a traditional college as they augment that degree with courses that aren’t taught locally (or at the time needed or are taught poorly).
One of the tenets of society right now is that information wants to be free. If you are older than 35, can you imagine having Wikipedia in high school? I’m constantly stunned by the depth and breadth of what I can find online. Adding courses, designed to help people learn, well, now we are getting somewhere awesome. It isn’t just information, it is education.
Another tenet is that of self organization. Flash mobs are amusing; SOPA legislation squashing was more amazing. They used to call it grassroots. Now they call it the internet.
So, I think the universities of the future will be partially self organized. Where the senior, getting ready for a job, tells his sophomore neighbor that if she takes Penn’s archaeology course before Stanford’s paleobiology, it will make more sense. Since her transcript is going to be a set of courses and grades, well, her “degree” comes from when she’s ready to get a job or pass a certification exam. He does this because he wants his apartment building to stay ranked and maybe because he gets some “mentoring score”.
I don’t have it all planned out. But if I start buying apartment buildings, well, you’ll know why.