Tagappropriate technology

Samsung Releases Source Code for Eye Controlled Mouse Pointer

The Verge on the eyeWriter inspired EyeCan from Samsung:

While controlling a mouse pointer with your eye isn’t brand-new technology, Samsung’s taking steps to get it in the hands of as many people as possible by open-sourcing its eyeCan technology. EyeCan was developed by five members of Samsung’s Creativity Lab, and was built with the purpose of helping those who are paralyzed from a disease like ALS control a computer through eye tracking. They’ve been testing it and posting videos of it in use on YouTube over the last few months (not surprisingly, one of those videos showed off a game of Angry Birds) and now the team is ready to release the software and documentation behind it for anyone to develop their own solution.

The Verge: Samsung releases source code for eyeCan, an eye-controlled mouse for the disabled

See also:

A Brain–Computer Interface Allows Paralyzed Patients to Play Music with Brainpower Alone

Third World solutions to First World problems

Design for the First World

I’m not sure if this is a joke or not, but it is a good idea:

Our fellows in the first world often come to visit and give us their well intentioned but often very problematic “solutions”. We thought, why don’t we pay back?

Dx1W is a competition for designers, artists, scientists, makers and thinkers in developing countries to provide solutions for First World problems. […]

The activ­i­ties car­ried out under the Inter­na­tional Year focus on:

*Reduc­ing obesity.
*Address­ing aging pop­u­la­tion and low birth rate.
*Reduc­ing con­sump­tion rate of mass pro­duced goods.
*Inte­grat­ing the immigrant population.

The Dx1W com­pe­ti­tion is addressed to the devel­op­ing coun­tries of the world: All cre­ative solu­tions depend on hav­ing a pow­er­ful idea. Whether it’s great resources, mil­i­tary, pol­i­tics or gov­ern­ment, power and size are not enough with­out hav­ing a pow­er­ful vision. The First World needs our ideas to solve their prob­lems. First World prob­lems demand Sim­ple Third World solutions. From today on The Third World will bring ideas to redesign the future of the First World.

Design for the First World

(via Chris Arkenberg)

EyeWriter: Open source technology for people suffering from ALS

EyeWriter

EyeWriter

The EyeWriter project is an ongoing collaborative research effort to empower people who are suffering from ALS with creative technologies.

It is a low-cost eye-tracking apparatus & custom software that allows graffiti writers and artists with paralysis resulting from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to draw using only their eyes.

Members of Free Art and Technology (FAT), OpenFrameworks, the Graffiti Research Lab, and The Ebeling Group communities have teamed-up with a legendary LA graffiti writer, publisher and activist, named Tony Quan, aka TEMPTONE. Tony was diagnosed with ALS in 2003, a disease which has left him almost completely physically paralyzed… except for his eyes. This international team is working together to create a low-cost, open source eye-tracking system that will allow ALS patients to draw using just their eyes. The long-term goal is to create a professional/social network of software developers, hardware hackers, urban projection artists and ALS patients from around the world who are using local materials and open source research to creatively connect and make eye art.

EyeWriter

(Thanks to Brett Burton, who pointed this out on the post about Intendix’s brain-computer interface)

Cooking With Sound: Bio-Mass Burning Stove Also Converts Heat Into Sound Then Electricity

cooking with sound

A low-cost generator with the potential to transform lives in the world’s poorest communities is now being tested across the UK and in Nepal. The Score project, led by The University of Nottingham, is developing a bio-mass burning cooking stove which also converts heat into acoustic energy and then into electricity, all in one unit.

The £2 million Score project (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity) brings together experts from across the world to develop the biomass-powered generator. By developing an affordable, versatile domestic appliance Score aims to address the energy needs of rural communities in Africa and Asia, where access to power is extremely limited.

Science Daily: Cooking With Sound: Bio-Mass Burning Stove Also Converts Heat Into Sound Then Electricity

(Thanks Capn Marrrk)

A 50-Watt Cellular Network

solar powered cell tower

An Indian telecom company is deploying simple cell phone base stations that need as little as 50 watts of solar-provided power. It will soon announce plans to sell the equipment in Africa, expanding cell phone access to new ranks of rural villagers who live far from electricity supplies.

Technology Review: A 50-Watt Cellular Network

(via Edge of Tomorrow)

Who’s going to start settings these sorts of things up in American cities to power decentralized wireless networks?

Apple and Control Machines

apple: come see our latest restriction

In the days before the new Apple tablet was announced the anti-DRM group Defective by Design dubbed Apple’s announcement event the “Come see our latest restriction” event. Since then, there’s been a lot of chatter about the various limitations of the device – DRM, or otherwise.

I think some of these limitations could be important for the future of computing and media.

Limitations could be a feature – keeping people focused on reading. Perhaps we shouldn’t be thinking of this as a laptop or netbook alternative at all, but as an text reader and video player. Having a limited multitasking abilities and a lack of Flash might be a means to limit our level of distraction from e-mail and instant messaging. Stan Schroeder wrote for Mashable:

Then, there’s multi-tasking. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to thinks this is a huge deal-breaker, but I think it makes sense. Although Steve Jobs was trying hard to prove to us that the iPad is a computer, it isn’t. Just like the iPod and the iPhone, its main purpose is to give the users an easy way to consume certain types of digital content. After music (iPod) and mobile applications (iPhone) comes iPad with video, photos, e-books, e-magazines, games. Apple doesn’t really want you to do complex photo editing on the iPad; you’ve got your Mac or PC for that. Apple wants you to touch a button, and start consuming content (preferably paying a couple of dollars for it).

Finally, the camera. Yes, it would be nice to have video chat. But once again, Apple wants you to do that on a Mac. If you want to snap photos, you should do it on the iPhone — you’re carrying it with you all the time, anyway. Once again, it becomes clear that Apple doesn’t want to sell devices that can do everything; they want to find the best form factor to consume some types of digital content, and then focus on them. If you look at it, you can do pretty much everything on your personal computer; by that philosophy, you don’t need anything else besides a laptop. And yet, you’ve now got smartphones and e-readers selling very well. Could it be that one powerful device is not as good as several less powerful, but more focused ones?

If that’s the case, and the iPad is just another consumer device and a paradigm, then it’s no big deal.

But if they’re letting users instal everything from the iPhone app store, then are they really designing useful limitations to keep the device focused? You can install apps that do just about anything, not just consume media. And the keyboard extension explicitly allows two-way media interaction.

Ultimately the lack of Flash or multitasking or a web cam seem trivial to me. They’re just features that may or may not be able to make or break the latest in consumer technology. And that’s just not important. But there’s a scarier possibility – that Apple is slowing easing its customers into an app-store centric world, where every app that runs on their platform on a “legitimate” (non-“jailbroken”) device has to pass their gates. It may sound conspiratorial, but I worry that Apple is trying to migrate their closed device paradigm from the mobile world (where that sort of thing is already pretty common) to the desktop world (where that’s unheard of). It’s strange that years after Trusted Computing became an information liberty concern, it’s been Apple, not Microsoft, leading the way to a more restrictive computing environment.

Peter Kirn at Create Digital Music has an extensive post considering the potential problems of the “closed Apple” world:

Apple already has a dangerously dominant position in the consumption of music and mobile software, and their iTunes-device link ensures that content goes through their store, their conduit, and ultimately their control. This means that developers are limited in what they can create for the device when it comes to media – a streaming Last.fm app is okay, but an independent music store (like Amazon MP3 on Android) is not. Now, you can add to that Apple dominating book distribution. At a time when we have an opportunity to promote independent e-book publishing, the iPad is accompanied by launch deals from major traditional publishers. What does that mean for independent writers and content? […]

Apple threatens to split computing into two markets, one for “traditional,” “real” computers, and another for passive consumption devices that try to play games without physical controls and let you read books, watch movies, play music, and run apps so long as you’re willing to go through the conduit of a single company.

And, of course, this wouldn’t be worth my breath if not for my real concern: what if Apple actually succeeds? What if competitors follow this broken path, or fail to offer strong alternatives? The iPad today is a heck of a lot slicker than alternatives. It’s bad news for Linux, Windows, and Android, none of which have really workable competitors yet. It’s especially bad for Linux, in fact, which had a real chance to make its mark on mobile devices.

Timothy Blee makes the case that restricted computing will lose out in the market. I’m not so optimistic.

On not-so-dark note, I was disappointed at how uninnovative the iPad is. It’s just a big iPod touch, or a really crippled tablet pc. It seems like it could be an interesting musical insturment (a nice platform for RJDJ, for instance) It doesn’t seem like as much of a game changer as something like this:

microsoft courier

It’s unusual for Microsoft to out innovate Apple (or rather, to beat them to stealing good ideas), but their Courier seems to do just that. Of course, it’s vaporware right now, and could continue to be so, just like its abandoned predecessor the OLPC2:

olpc 2

Rwanda mobile phone revenue could reach US$1 billion by 2012

Sub-Saharan Africa is not famous for technological innovation but a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates that mobile telephone use has grown twice as quickly there as anywhere else in the world. Even in tiny Rwanda, the government estimates that revenue from mobile phones will reach US$1 billion by 2012.

Africa Confidential: Don’t forget your SIM card (Free preview, haven’t read full article)

(via Appropedia)

Low Hanging Fruit

You know what I would love to do? I’d love to start an effort devoted entirely to solving the easy problems in the world. Not a new NGO; you know how I feel about that, but a division within a major existing group. It would be funded by donations, not government grants, and focus on the low-hanging fruit in relief and development. Heck, we could call it Low Hanging Fruit, and live with the inevitable LHF acronym. We wouldn’t worry about sustainability, but we’d have a big focus on local involvement.

There are a million little ideas we all run into, that don’t fit with any expressed donor priorities, but would so obviously make a useful different in the world. LHF would work on those. We’d document everything to pieces, so it would also serve as research on what works. Every community we worked in would have a paired control community with similar demographics, and as soon as we could demonstrate an intervention was working, we’d extend it into the control group so they could benefit too.

Blood and Milk: Low Hanging Fruit

(via Appropedia)

Liberia’s Blackboard Blogger

liberia black board blogger

Alfred Sirleaf is an analog blogger. He take runs the “Daily News”, a news hut by the side of a major road in the middle of Monrovia. He started it a number of years ago, stating that he wanted to get news into the hands of those who couldn’t afford newspapers, in the language that they could understand.

Alfred serves as a reminder to the rest of us, that simple is often better, just because it works. The lack of electricity never throws him off. The lack of funding means he’s creative in ways that he recruits people from around the city and country to report news to him. He uses his cell phone as the major point of connection between him and the 10,000 (he says) that read his blackboard daily.

Full Story: AfriGadget

(via Ethan Zuckerman)

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