Augmented Reality – Information at your Pupils


The equation above says it all, in a few short years, augmented reality is going to explode.  Augmented reality refers to supplementing the real world with contextual computer generated information.  While the concept of augmented reality is not new, the ability to “take it with you” is just becoming economical.  The devices we carry every day (iphones, smartphones) will get smarter and more powerful, the bandwidth connecting us to the net will continue to increase, and the data being crunched for us in the cloud will continue to become more relevant.  

Already, the GPS information in iphones is changing the way people interact with the world around them.  Turn-by-turn directions are combining your location information with map data to get you where you wish to go.  Smart applications provide details about real estate by using GPS to understand which property sits in front of you.  Social networks can be updated with the click of a button to let your friends know where you are.  Even so, in a few years we will shrug when we think about how primitive this technology was.

As I write this, applications are being authored that combine the camera, orientation, and GPS information from the phone with data in the cloud to provide rich information about every day things.  Just by pointing the camera on your phone to a sculpture in the park, you will get detailed information delivered to your screen about the art and the artist.  Pointing at a restaurant might reveal the day’s dinner and happy hour specials, the wait time for a table, and then provide you a way to place your order as you make your approach.  New in town and not sure where to get a bite?  Point your device down the street and GPS combined with image recognition will present you with rich data about the establishments that lie ahead of you.  In order to make sense of the enormous amount of data, the information will be easily filterable (Food, Italian, Romantic – for example) .  Many different devices will provide this functionality and it will become clear that the hardware at your hip is much more than a phone.  

RIDEventually, companion devices such as smart-glasses (Retinal Imaging Display), will enter the marketplace.  These glasses will connect to your device via technologies like Bluetooth to allow for more convenient access to your information.  Think of it as the way Terminator viewed the world, only without the all the red tint and orders to kill people.  Information at your fingertips will become information at your pupils.  Voice recognition will allow you to easily navigate through the data that is being drawn onto the lenses of your eyes. Likewise, content will be very interactive, allowing you to receive and send information to the people and places that stand before you. 

This brings me to the “people” part of this future.  The dawn of augmented reality is neatly aligned with the maturing of social media.  The data crunching cloud is not only taking in everything it can about where you are and what you’re looking at, it’s correlating it with everything it knows about you through your social networks, online profiles, search histories, and so on.

AR Phone

Content you are interested in will reach out to you in the form of real time alerts to let you know you are in the vicinity of something you’d be interested in (end-user customizable of course).  When you pass a comic book store that has the rare issue of Spider Man you’ve been looking for on ebay – an alert notifies you.  As you walk through downtown Seattle, you’re notified of an audio walking tour that can be streamed in real time to your ear as you pass monuments and places of interest.  When you walk into a party or concert, your data is correlated with others in your social networks to show you where your friends are in a crowded room or auditorium.  It will be as easy to find someone in a crowd and send a direct message to their ear as it is to send a direct message on Twitter today. 

The device you carry with you will become your extended sense of site and sound (and maybe more) and the data rich, processor heavy cloud will become the distributed machine that is organizing information, processing it and serving it up.  You may think this sounds overwhelming and perhaps even annoying.  In fact, you’re probably right.  But rest assured… though it may be too much information for you to stomach, your kids are going to love it.

Want to learn more?  Check out the Layar platform for one approach or Tonchidot for another.

Plasticiety: Society Meets The MakerBot Revolution

Every movie in the 80’s talked about plastics being the wave of the future.  As I sit here in my office surrounded by plastic gizmos and gadgets, typing away on my plastic keyboard, and listening to music crank out my plastic speakers; there is no doubt that those predictions have come true… almost.  In truth, we’ve only seen the first phase of the plastic boom – the top down, manufactured approach where companies make and consumers buy.  Well strap on your seatbelts folks, because Plasticiety is rapidly approaching and the wave it’s riding is called MakerBot

In the not-so-distant future, we will all have MakerBots on our desktops or in our garages.  They will do to manufacturing what desktop publishing did to printing; put it in the hands of the commoner.  Makerbots are open source 3D printers.  Similar to how a hot glue gun works – plastic tubing goes in one side, gets heated up into a liquid stream and is injected onto a surface (layer by layer) to form a 3-D object.  Today the 3D object is limited in size to 4″x4″x6″, but that will increase in the wake of Plasticiety. Products will dawn stickers that define what percentage of MakerBot printable parts comprise them. Consumer purchasing decisions will be partially based off of this volunteer rating because it will mean the products can be easily repaired.  Did the knob break off of your stove?  No problem, just go to and download the 3D knob object that matches your part number and print out a new one.  Tired of losing or breaking the battery cover for your remote controls?  Put down the duct tape and have Makerbot print a new one.  Uh oh, the kids lost the toothpaste cap again, surf over to, download the object, and print a few spares. 

But that describes only the tip of the iceberg! Sharing  and community will do to manufacturing what it has done to music… irrevocably flip it on its head.  Just visit some of the many object sharing communities that this revolution will foster, download the object models that intrigue you, and then print them into existence.  Objects will be simple at first: hooks and hangers, Jello molds, cookie cutters, spatulas, spoons, measuring cups, salt and pepper shakers, coasters, bottle caps, etc. – but they will become more complex as the phenomenon takes off.  In addition to the plastic tubing (aka – print cartridges), our local hardware and office supply stores will sell bundles of simple parts like springs, hinges and simple motors.  With easily downloadable instructions, you will quickly be able to assemble your homemade parts into more complex creations.  Likewise, when you find or invent items that are useful, it will be easy to post them to the community and share them with your friends.

As noted above, today these MakerBots only make items that are smaller than 4″ by 4″ by 6″ and the objects they create have limitations – but that will change as time goes on.  The bots you have in your home will become efficient at creating items of larger sizes and at higher qualities.  Likewise, 3D object printing shops will begin to show up around town (the Kinkos of Plasticiety) and enable much larger or specialized projects to be completed with the same relative ease and low cost.

You are Here.  At the crossroads of  hyper-manufacturing and consumer empowerment…  where digital turns back into physical and where ideas become tangible objects.  Welcome to Plasticiety. 

For a glimpse of this future today, check out MakerBot’s website  and the open source object marketplace at

Print 3D Objects with Makerbot

Bre Pettis just completed his Gnomedex presentation on Makerbot and it’s a concept that really gets you thinking about what the future could hold.  How cool would it be to dream something up, and then print it into reality?  When something breaks around the house, how handy would it be to just download the 3D model and print another one?  Uh oh, did your Makerbot break down? No problem, just ask your neighbor to print out the part you need.  The possibilities seem endless – welcome to the world of distributed manufacturing.  Click here to view my notes.

Gnomedex 9.0 Kicks Off in Seattle

Gnomedex 9.o kicked off last night in Seattle with the usual cocktail reception at Bell harbor.  This year, the theme is “Human Circuitry – A technology Conference of Influence and Inspiration.”  This morning the actual conference began with “The Art of the Interview” by Warren Etheredge of the Warren Report.  To boil a fun and informative presentaiton down to it’s core three concepts: get their attention, win their trust, and earn their respect.  The Keynote speakers were Chris Brogan and Julien Smith discussing concepts from their new book release “Trust Agents“.  It was a fast moving and entertaining presentation about using the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust.  My notes can be found here. Following the keynote was another interesting presentation by Phil Plait about being an active skeptic.  In the fast moving world of the web, it’s more important than ever to be an active skeptic and question things.  My notes can be found here.  Next up?  Christine Peterson discussing life extension.  How do we slow the aging process and stay healthy longer?  There were a lot of concepts in this presentation about getting a baseline on your health, maintaining and improving it, supplement use, etc.   I didn’t walk away with anything too ground breaking other than that I really need to drive toward living a healthier lifestyle.

It’s almost lunch time, so we are about a quarter of the way through the two day conference.  It’s been a great event so far and there is a lot of interesting content coming down the pipe, so I look forward to having a full head by the end of the day.

Social Redirects

Last night, the race was on for anyone and everyone to get a direct Facebook URL. As a consequence, I had to decide if I wanted to tie my Facebook account to my real name, or to my CrapMonkey brand. In the end, I decided that Facebook makes more sense being tied to my real name as opposed to the CrapMonkey moniker. This also got me thinking about my presence on other social sites like Twitter, Flickr, and Myspace and how my user names and URLs vary accross each service. Then it struck me that I could put a simple logic behind all of these services just by creating sub-domain redirects from Duh… where have I been? So, here’s the logic of how to find me online: just add the name of the service as a subdomain of If’ I’m on the service, you’ll find me. Here are some examples:

DNC Streams HD with Silverlight & Move

Travis at DNCFor the last week, I’ve had the pleasure of working in Denver at the Democratic National Convention to support HD live and on-demand streaming of the convention through the DNC website:  The content is being delivered to the Internet over Level3’s content delivery network using Move Network’s delivery technology integrated with a Microsoft Silverlight player developed by Vertigo.  The result is an unprecedented rich media experience that provides end users with gavel to gavel live and on-demand coverage of the convention, exclusive interviews, and behind the scenes coverage of DNC happenings.  Though conference coverage is available on many different sites, the DNC coverage is the highest quality content available and is uninterrupted by advertising or commentary.  Additionally, the site offered an alternate camera angle of the convention from the Pepsi Center and, for the first time in convention history, the site offers a Spanish feed (sponsored by Comcast).  Check out the live and on-demand media on the DNC site and let me know what you think of the experience.  
On another note, I had to include a picture of the Daily Show Bus.  The fact that it presents itself as a rebranded RATT tour bus is brilliant.  Check out other photos of the convention on flickr

Daily Show

Extensions for Windows Beta 2

Extensions for WindowsI installed beta2 of Extensions for Windows and I am pretty impressed.  The exstensions suite is customizable in the sense that users may install only the utilities that are desired, but I find that I have uses for all that are included.  Extensions offered out of the gate include a Screen Capture Utility, a Virtual Drive creator and manager, a Shortcut Manager, a File Compare Utility, a Find and Replace Utility, a Disc Analyzer, an Explorer Extension, a Task Manager Extension, and FTP client, and a File Converter.  The Shortcut manager is a very convenient way to create, modify or remove Windows keyboard shortcuts.  My favorite extensions so far are the Explorer extension – which is like the Windows file explorer on steroids.  It enables tabbed explorer windows, side by side explorer views and a host of other helpful options.  Most of the extensions are available by clicking on the Extensions Icon in the system tray.  However, a couple of my favorite extensions are accessible by right clicking on files. Right clicking on image files gives you an “extension” option that allows you to quickly convert or resize images (See image below).  Doing the same on office documents lets you quickly “print” the document to a PDF.  This is cool, and so far the bugs I’ve encountered have been minor and the installation did not appear to slow my machine down.  So far, I give Extensions for Windows two opposable thumbs up!

Extensions for Windows

Is Your Computer Equipt?

EquiptIn mid-July, Microsoft will begin selling office programs to consumers on a subscription basis.   This is a bold new business model for Office that is rumored to start at about $70 per year.  The price seems reasonable for what you get (especially when I consider that I spend over $100/month on my cable bill), but you be the judge.

Equipt will include:

  • Word 2007
  • Excel 2007
  • PowerPoint 2007
  • OneNote 2007
  • Microsoft Office Live Workspace
  • Windows Live tools (Mail, Messenger, Photo, etc)
  • Windows Live OneCare
  • Upgrades and Updates

What do you think?  Good deal or bad deal?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Older Gas Pumps Can't Surpass $3.99

It’s a bit like the Millennium bug that threatened applications that were not prepared for the year 2000.  Some older dial gas pumps were not designed to exceed $3.99 per gallon and did not have “4” as a possible dollar amount.  Now that gas prices have shot past the $4 mark in many places; smaller, older service stations are in trouble.  Many mom and pop shops cannot afford the tens of thousands it can cost to replace the pumps.  Furthermore, it is illegal to sell gas from a pump that cannot register the price correctly.  That said, regulators understand the bind that small service stations are in and have allowed them to stay open so long as they can demonstrate they are working to retrofit or replace the pumps.  In the mean time, service stations must calculate the price of gas manually.  I suggest we keep gas below $4 a gallon to help these guys out, what do you say?  More detail can be found in this Article from the Seattle Times.

The Xobni Outlook Plug-in has Released

XobniToday it was announced that Xobni has released for the general public to download.  Xobni is the best Outlook plug-in that I’ve seen in a long time.  This sidebar allows for fast and easy email search, attachment aggregation, and thread compression.  Another handy feature of the tool includes extracting contact information from email signatures – this is extremely handy for quickly finding contact info for folks that don’t yet exist in your contacts list.  There is also a host of bells an whistles thrown in around inbox analytics (who you send mail to, who you receive it from, etc) and fun ways to drill through your network of email contacts.

Social Load Balancing

StressLet’s Face it, there are far too many ways to keep in touch these days.  Blogging hit the scene, but it appealed more to publisher types, not folks that just wanted to have a simple online presence.  Then came LinkedIn, which is a cool portal for managing your contacts network (though I think if Plaxo had built out their feature set a little faster, they could have owned the LinkedIn crowd).  That said, LinkedIn is a glorified address book with a little 6 degrees of separation cool factor and it didn’t pack the social aspect that Facebook and Myspace brought.  Myspace went after a younger crowd that prefer websites to be completely annoying, auto-play music, and look like the 1996 Internet threw up all over it.  Facebook brings a bit more sophistication…  Folks who want to create a professional network but still want to let their hair down and slay some vampires every now and then.  Eventually, someone realized that the world really needed a way to IM people in mass, and presto, Twitter was born.  I’m not sure what will be next, but I suspect it will be shorter and easier than Twitter.  Seven character Twitter perhaps (we can call it LicensePlater – CoolHuh? IthnkSo).  But wait, all that is just the Web 2.0 stuff.  Don’t forget you also need to stay sociable in the Zune Social and keep the points coming in on Xbox live.

On the surface, this evolution seems like a great thing.  However, in this era of hyper innovation (and hyper distraction), the predecessors are not going away as new sites, services and technologies emerge.  This means that folks like me are left trying to keep up the blog, build on the LinkedIn network, keep Myspace and Facebook reasonably up to date (and not let my vampire army get too beat down), and Twitter with whatever time there is left in the day.  Whew – factor in eating, sleeping, working, and commuting and this starts to get pretty tough.

This is where one must decide to give up all together and go outside for a walk (yeah right) or become a master of Social Load Balancing

Social Load Balancing (SLB) is a technique to spread content between two or more social networks or technologies in order to get optimal resource utilization, throughput, or response time. Managing multiple social networks and services with social load balancing, instead of managing a single social network or tool,  will increase reliability and coverage in your social representation. Social Load Balancing is handled manually by many, others are beginning to adopt Social Load Balancing tools to simplify or assist in the SLB process.

Tools are emerging to make SLB easier to manage.  For Twitter and Facebook users, you don’t want to be without the Twitter Facebook Application.  This allows your twitters to automatically update your facebook status.  Boom – just like that we are killing two birds with one tweet.  There are also applications that will send your Facebook status updates to Twitter, but that doesn’t seem like the direction most users would want to go.  For you bloggers – maximize your blogging by using a tool like Windows Live Writer.  With Live Writer, you can write your blog posts (offline even) and then sync them to several blog posts at once.  Other software that does this includes Qumana, ScribeFire for Firefox, and Ecto for the Mac.  Still spending too much time bouncing between social sites?  Minggl is a browser toolbar that concentrates Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Myspace into your browser toolbar.  If you want even deeper integration, you might want to try Flock.  Flock uses the Mozilla browser base and adds a ton of social networking capability on top of it (including Flickr and YouTube).   Regardless of how much SLB you do, Twitter is hard to keep up with (especially if you are compelled, like many of us are, to follow as many people as humanly possible).  In this case, you may want to use Twitt(url)y to keep up on what links are being shared in Twitter. 

Above are just a few ways to start to load balance your social life.  Of course, hopefully you also foster an offline social life and you will have to be the judge of how that fits into your SLB strategy.  That said, be careful taking your online social life with you into your offline social life because your romantic evening will tank quickly when your date gazes across the table only to see you Twittering on your iPhone (if only she knew what you were Twittering: “dude, I’m on a date right now”  –  “She just ordered a double Vodka” – “She’s looking really pissed right now” – “Think she’ll go home with me if I ask the waiter to split the bill?”).  Finally, I want to plug one more technology that has the potential to greatly simplify today and tomorrow’s SLB process: OpenID.  It’s bad enough trying to keep up with your online social life, let alone trying to remember your login IDs and passwords on all of these networks.   OpenID aims to drive all of these logins into a single ID system that all of the sites and applications can leverage.  Will they succeed?  Maybe not any time soon, but the goal is admirable.

And with that, I’ve got to wrap this up.  I’ve spent far too long on writing this post and my status on Facebook has become terribly out of date. 

Kawasaki and Ballmer at Mix08


Mix08 is in full swing and it’s all about Silverlight!  I just got into town today, so I missed the first day of sessions, but today was already worth the trip.  For today’s general sessions, Steve Ballmer and Guy Kawasaki had a great conversation that spanned topics ranging from the Yahoo acquisition bid to Vista.  they take turns jabbing each other, but ultimately – both were great sports and the conversation was very intersting.

Virtual Macy's Exceeds Capacity

Ever plan to go shopping at Macy’s, get to the mall, and then find that a security guard is standing outside asking you to wait until other shoppers have cleared out because they’ve reached capacity?  Neither have I.  The same can’t be said for Macy’s online store.  Below is a screen shot that shoppers were presented with when Macy’s website got a little too crowded for comfortable shopping this season.  Just goes to show that regardless of whether you take the Brick and Mortar or the Click and Mortar approach this Christmas, you’re still going to be stuck in the holiday crowds.  


Cool Error Message

I just wanted to share this error message I received on my machine today.  I don’t even recall what threw the error, but I love the way it’s worded.  I wasn’t trying to destroy anything at the time…



Amazon Launches mp3 Download Service

Amazon recently launched Amazonmp3, a music store without that pesky DRM. For my first dip into the Amazon pool of digital music, I purchased Retox, the latest album by Turbonegro. This album has proved to be challenging to find in my local music stores so I was glad to find it here. For under $10 (after tax) I was able to download the entire album in unrestricted mp3 format (encoded a 320kbps). The process was simple, especially since I am enrolled in Amazon’s One Click service. I searched for the album, found it, previewed some tracks, then clicked to purchase. An Amazon MP3 Downloader application needed to install on my system, but it is a pretty small and lightweight application (especially if you compare it to an iTunes front end). Within moments, I had the album on my local machine, completely DRM free. Granted, the overall selection of the store is still quite limited since not all labels have chosen to climb on board the DRM free train… but I suspect they will have to before long. Due to Amazon’s dominance in online retail, the broad device compatibility it affords, and the overall ease of use of this service, I think this will become a pretty popular music store fairly quickly (provided they convince a few more labels to sign on). Watch out iTunes, you’re in the crosshairs of the world’s largest “Internet Bookstore.”

POC 12 – LightSnake USB to XLR Cord Review

LightSnakeMy friend Drew loaned me his latest purchase, a LightSnake Luminescent USB to XLR Microphone Cord.  I figured that the best way to test it out would be to record a podcast, so that’s what this Piece of Crap is all about.  You can’t get much better than this when it comes to simplicity.  Plug-n-Play ensures that it is instantly recognized on the computer and installed so that you are ready to record in a flash.  For a podcaster, this is great as it easily lets you plug into your home PC or laptop without additional equipment or even a sound card.  If the simplicity and sound quality is not enough to sway you, perhaps the green glow illuminating from the USB and XLR connectors at either end will provide enough cool factor to win you over.  At only $40 on Amazon, I’d say this is a worth while addition to the podcasters’ tool kit.  (Beware though, no phantom power means this may not be a universal solution for everyone).  Click below to listen to the podcast recorded using the Lightsnake:

Gnomedex 2007: Day Two

Not to say that yesterday was a bad day at Gnomedex, but the content today was truly outstanding.  Though a bit complicated to grasp right away, the open money presentation given by Michael Linton was compelling.  Following that presentation was a series of very interesting short presentations delivered by Ignite JibSeattle MVPs focusing on topics ranging from Internet Art to not being bored.  

After Lunch, Gregg Spiridellis (the Jib in JibJab) gave an informative presentation about monetizing the long tail of media in the “post-hit” era.  It was truly awesome to learn the lessons that the JibJab brothers learned the hard way over the last decade.  JibJab makes an excellent case study in how to run a flexible business, how to operate on little capitol, how to invent and reinvent business plans, how to identify and capitalize on opportunity, and more. 

In the early afternoon, Derek Miller joined us from Canada via videoconference.  Derek is a regular Gnomedex attendee also known for crafting the Gnomedex theme song each year.  Derek was diagnosed with Cancer since last Gnomedex and has been blogging his experiences.  He popped in to share those experiences and was very humorous and upbeat.  His story and is attitude are inspiring and I look forward to his presence again, in person, at a future Gnomedex.