Google Glass Intel Inside®, The Internet Of Things, and The Maker Movement

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In this post I discuss the extraordinary Hype Cycle that Google generated, recent news the next version of Glass will use Intel chips, and the Maker Movement. I’ve argued staid health IT needs to become more like the Maker Movement. In order to more fully explain the “personality” of a Maker, I’ve described myself! 🙂 And my efforts to create a “peds-bot,” the 3D printed, microprocessor-animated, Robot-In-My-Pocket.

Are you familiar with Gartner’s Hype Cycle? It starts with a technology trigger. For example, miniaturization, cloud, and head mounted displays (plus other stuff) led to Google Glass.

Exciting potential captures collective imagination and buzz starts to build. The buzz begins to feed on itself. Folks project all kinds of fantastic wishful thinking without really understanding the technology. Of course, even the inventors sometimes don’t completely understand the tech, so this ignorance is a matter of degree. At some point, the hysteria of crowds can no longer sustain its stratospheric flight, and expectations crash. Many are so disappointed they actually think they were sort of hoodwinked. Subconsciously they “punish” the whole idea of the technology, consigning it to the dustbin of tech failures. However, some of the more clear-eyed realists soldier on: Learning, tweaking, improving. Success stores begin to emerge, though begin to be “re-acknowledged” might be the more accurate phrase. Eventually, the new tech is productively integrated into day-to-day workflows and taken for granted. If anyone pauses to reflect about the roller coaster of high hopes and dashed expectations, it’s usually to wonder what the fuss was about.

Glass could be the poster child for The Hype Cycle. It’s Peak of Inflated Expectations was so high, its Trough of Disillusionment so low, the Glass hype cycle is almost a parody of The Hype Cycle, which is already somewhat parody-ish caricature of what happens to new technologies.

I got Glass in June of 2013. At the point it was still climbing toward the Peak of Inflated Expectations. I used it all the time when out and about. No one, and I mean literally no one (unless I was at a tech meetup) knew what it was. Gradually the percent of people in the know increased. I gave personal, two-minute, demos to over 500 people. I never had a bad experience. Then editorializing began, in media and social media, about appearance (dorky), intrusiveness (privacy), and elitism ($1500, never mind it won’t be anywhere near that when it goes retail). While to this day, I’ve never had a bad experience while wearing Glass out and about, I did become increasingly selective about when I wore Glass. I’d never had a bad experience, but I was aware there was some, in my mind, unwarranted animus, and I don’t see any point in blundering into any unpleasant situations. Ah, those halcyon early days, when literally no one knew what Glass was and I felt comfortable wearing Glass without feeling self-conscious.

What’s my point? Well, when the new version of Glass is available next year, small enough to fit into my eyeglasses, I’ll be able to return to those halcyon days. I’ll be able wear Glass without worrying I may be offending someone’s fashion sensibilities. And, since some eyeglasses can cost hundreds of dollars, I don’t think there will be much different between eyeglasses with and eyeglasses without Glass technology.

That leaves privacy. It will remain a potential issue. Glass isn’t actually as privacy-invading, as people imagine. Simple rules of etiquette and good manners will likely suffice. I’ll carry old-fashioned eyeglasses as a backup, if it’s ever a problem. And, eventually, in the long run, social conventions will change, as they always have and aways will.

This blog post is the last in a series about “Wearable Workflow.” I had intended it to be about Google Glass and the Internet of Things. The wearable workflow would have been about workflows among Glass and an increasingly intelligent and proactive world. Coincidently I just received my Edison microprocessor from Intel. Doubly coincidently, the Wall Street Journal just reported that Intel is going to supply chips for future version of Glass.

In the above tweet you can see Glass, the Intel Edison microprocessor, and a corner of a “breakout” board. The breakout board is used for prototyping, because Edison itself is so small. Edison is small so it can be used in wearables. In the lower left corner of the breakout board is a small rectangle and a connector, on to which Edison is mounted in order to communicate with the board. What you can’t see on the Edison, due to the glare, is the tagline, “What Will You Make?” You see, Edison is aimed squarely at the Maker Movement, about which I’ve written previously.

Before I get to the real meat of this post, what I’d like to see happen regarding Glass and Intel, I need to supply some back story. When I got Glass in early 2013, I started looking around for ideas for Glass apps to build in order to better understand how Glass works from an software development point of view.

I wrote a so-called Glass Eye Chart app:

Co-developed a hospital environmental services app:

But what I was really fascinated by was the potential for Glass to interact, to sense and command, my near and distance environments. I’d seen the experience of two elderly bed-ridden relatives and wondered if Glass can be used to control house lights and temperature and such. It can. Here’s I’m talking about using the Glass customizable tilt angle for turning Glass on and off for someone whose head is on a pillow.

And so, above was my path from Glass to the Internet of Things. For example, below I learned how to turn an LED (Light Emitting Diode) on and off over Wi-Fi using Glass. There are gadgets that can accept the LED input and turn on an off an 120 volt appliance.

At that point (and I describe this in order to emphasize the importance of serendipity in the Maker Movement) I began in investigate Bluetooth as an alternative means of communication between Glass and Arduino-compatible microprocessors and modules. I bumped into to nurses from a local children’s hospital and that free wheeling conversion moved from home automation to wearable technology. What if grandma could tell Sparky her pet robot to turn on the lights. The grandkids would like that. Hey, pediatricians would like that. Can you fit Sparky into a shirt pocket? And that is how Mr. RIMP (Robot-In-My-Pocket) was (eventually) born.

Then, at the Wearable & Things conference, where I presented Mr. RIMP, I met Rex St John, Internet of Things Evangelist at Intel. I was aware I needed to make the next version of Mr. RIMP both smaller and more powerful. And that is where the Intel Edison microprocessor comes in. It’s more powerful than the Arduino Uno board version 2.0 of Mr. RIMP uses but also much smaller. And it has the onboard Wi-FI and Bluetooth I need to make Mr. RIMP interact with me and its environment.

While Mr. RIMP is essentially interactive, programmable, toy, it’s also a platform for my exploring my idea of “wearable workflow.” In fact, I have another character, besides Mr. RIMP, I call Mr. “Wearable Workflow,” (inspired by Reddy Kilowatt).

Building Mr. RIMP. Iterating through versions of him. Climbing multiple learning curves at multiple layers of design: software, hardware, 3D “carpentry”, and manufacturability (which I’ve barely begun to investigate). This has been my entree into a fascinating new world of making new things out of almost as new things.

Well those are my thoughts about Google Glass, Intel, and the Maker movement. I told is as a personal story, because I think it’s useful to understand a kind of playful engineering mindset. As Intel, itself, puts it I need “low-cost, product-ready, general purpose compute platforms that help lower the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs of all sizes—from pro makers [CW: that’s me] to consumer electronics and companies working in the Internet of Things (IoT).”

What I need, as an Internet of Things, wearable tech, “inventor,” are components (both hardware and software) that I can easily put together, Lego block-style, and means to control their interactive data and control workflows with each other, their environment, and me. I’m willing to create from scratch whatever I have to, within reason, but at some point either the path of least effort determines what I make, or, if too much effort, then I don’t make.

I need tools, tool chains, infrastructure, platforms, software development kits, example code, best practice documentation, technical support, communities to join (so I can get and give help), and then I need a path to manufacturability (if I want to Mr. RIMP that far).

Now, I know, I’m small potatoes. Basically an advanced hobbyist having fun. However, I think I’m representative of potentially perhaps millions of “Makers.” The confluence of 3D printing, inexpensive but multifunctional microprocessors such as the Intel Edison, wireless cloud, Bluetooth libraries, free resources, documentation, tutorials, and courses on the Web, are returning us, by analogy, to back when tinkerers in garages created entire new industries just having fun exploring the possibilities.

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