Tuesday, September 17, 2013



BevLab was soo much fun! We did at least four different experiments (depending on how you count), including:
 - drinking a cloud, basically: add some essential oils to water, then use one of those ultrasonic humidifier gadgets to make flavoured "cloud". It's amazing how strong the flavor can be!
 - liquid nitrogen cooled salsa and guac. We squeezed syringes of salsa and guac into a pool of liquid nitrogen, freezing drops of it very quickly. Then we eat those frozen drops on scoop chips. Very cold, but fun!
 - frozen sphere of fruit juice, we used syringes again to remove the unfrozen fluid in the center, then added our own back, giving a two-flavor mix
 - make our own soda. Combine up to 12 different flavors into a 300ml beverage, carbonate it, then pour into soda bottle and cap. I made a blackberry / lemonade / hot pepper soda, it had a real zing :-)

There was also a super cool demo of a beverage mixing robot which used twitter feeds (e.g. #food) to decide on the ratio of the ingredients.  Taste data indeed!

Check out my complete flickr set of photos of the event. I originally got tickets via the design offsite indiegogo.  I hope a lot more things like this come to Toronto!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2013

I'm organizing the Toronto Mini Maker Faire this year! It's a gathering of "makers", people who DIY technology. Traditionally it's all the kinds of things in my world - hackerspaces, electronics, 3D printers, quadcopters, etc. It's been really interesting to be behind the scenes in the planning. I've been basically doing maker coordination - making sure that all the coolest people are coming, coordinating with them about what they need, informing them as our own plans develop, etc. It's also been interesting to watch the marketing - I've never been involved in an event at even close to this size, but we have a team who have done all kinds of events at this scale, and marketing an event like this is a huge task. Speaking of which, I've got my own personal discount code: eric, get 20% off tickets :-). I'm super excited to have the faire happening in Toronto again - it was sad when it didn't happen in 2012. Come see hacklab at the faire, Sept 21 & 22, at Wychwood Barns here in Toronto.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Waterloo Mini Maker Faire

Yesterday three other members of hacklab and I road tripped to the Waterloo Mini Maker Faire, a gathering of about 40 makers showing their work to the public. It was free entry, so they didn't charge tickets or even keep track of attendance, but there was a very steady crowd of people at the "Hacklab Propaganda Booth" (I titled it that as a joke, I figured the organizers would edit it, but apparently they liked the joke too!), so I figure several thousand people made their way through the faire. They had a wonderful venue, the big lobby of Kitchener City Hall. They basically filled the downstairs area, and a little of the outdoor area, but there was an entire second level overlooking the downstairs which had lots of space but no exhibits - plenty of room for growth for next time! Hacklab showed off our Ultimaker 3D printer, Fumon's flipdot display playing the game of snake, my electronic jewelry and North Paw compass anklet, a mecanum wheel robot (sadly not working), and a really cool USB microscope which you could use to look at some old UV-PROMs that we had, as well as various coins, skin, hair, etc - microscopes are very cool and playful! Much fun was had by all!

Some of the great things I saw outside of our booth (in order of the Waterloo Maker Faire 2013 Flickr Set): awesome wooden mechanical models and contraptions, cairo coat wearables jacket with cool diffusers, cheap LIDAR using home etched circuits, various light sabers, Replicator 2X 3D printer, Mascot Heads by Agnes, MYO prototypes, miniatures figurines including one I made for free, heart circuit with 4 blinking modes, amazing steampunk / mad science sculptures and machines by Russel Zeid, super cute recombinant bicycle for a 3-year old, cyber-netimals: stuffed toys with circuit and computer stuff attached; sadly no active electronics :-(, the hacklab booth (pictured right), wooden puzzles, some general shots of the space, people learning how to solder.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Tron Jacket!

For a recent video-game costume party, I made a Tron Jacket! I've always wanted to make one, and things finally came together for it. I got an awesome (fake) leather jacket at a RoboCop remake props sale, and then this party popped up on my radar, and I knew I had to do it! There are lots of interesting examples of Tron Jackets on google image search. I tried the reflective tape idea, but I didn't like how it looks close up, and it's also highly dependent on the illumination in the room (works best in black light!). I also played with EL-strip, which is awesome because it's wider than than the EL-wire, but I found that the lamination was so inflexible that actually working with it on clothing was basically impossible. Despite hints here, I couldn't figure out how to cut and resolder it (basically the interior is made of paste, so soldering to it directly certainly doesn't work), and it doesn't bend, so I think it's basically only suitable for long linear strips, like on a car or bike or something like that. Anyway, with those two options out of the way, I settled on EL-wire for sure. So I bought 2x 10 foot lengths of white EL wire at Creatron, and associated inverters/battery holders.

At the insistance of a friend, I decided to do it non-destructively, meaning: I can't sew the EL-wire into place using clear thread, which is the best way to hold it in place. I walked in a local sew shop and asked the owner there about how to attach things to leather, and he sold me what he called "leather double sided tape". I tested it on the fake-leather and it does indeed stick things good, but comes off without leaving a mark (or even sticky patch, it kinds of rolls up under heavy friction). Then I traced some patterns on the jacket with reference to some of the images online, and started putting the EL-wire unto the jacket. I put the inverters in the front pockets and had to make six holes in the end: out of battery pocket, then up and around to back of jacket, then into the interior, and back out for the circle on the back, that's half, double it for the other side.

Over-all the effect is great, I got a lot of compliments at the party, in the dark it's super convincing. In better light, you can totally see the glue, and the black tape I used in places to make the circles stand alone (with no connecting light). And the glue proved to be more temporary than would be really desirable - the EL-wire starts to lift off in places after a couple of hours, and by the end of the night it was getting impossible to have it not lifted somewhere. Still, I'm happy to have my jacket mostly non-damaged, so it was the right choice. If I ever get a second leather jacket though I totally want a full-time Tron Jacket!

You can see many shots of the jacket, including in-process shots, at my Tron Jacket Flickr Set. Total cost of this project: about $100, and 10 hours of time (of which about half was design/prototyping, once I was going with the double-sided tape & EL-wire, it was pretty quick). Plus jacket, of course :-)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013



Sorry for the long haitus, I've been super busy with far too many projects. One of them was a talk I gave at TEDxOCADU, an extremely well put together event held at OCADU, a local design and arts university. My talk was on DIY Cyborgs, the idea that we are all capable of augmenting ourselves, in fact that we do this all the time, it's basically human nature. Technology is just making that more obvious. You can see some really cool illustrated versions of my talk that were produced at the event: one by Sacha Chua and one by Patrica Kambitsch. You can see the illustrations for all the talks at the Experivis archive of TEDxOCADU. More updates soon!

Friday, November 23, 2012


Mushroom Forey 2012

So this is a couple months late, but back in September I attended my dad's annual Mushroom Forey. Just like last year, we hiked the Bruce Trail across the street from where they live, it's a large wooded area which includes some of the last old growth forest in southern Ontario. Check out my complete flickr set: Mushroom Forey 2012. The forey was later this year than is typical, but we found roughly as many mushrooms as usual, including a large set of edibles. In particular we had three different "tooth" mushrooms that were all super yummy! Unlike last year though I don't remember any particularly stand-out non-edible - though there sure were a lot of slime molds out!

Monday, September 24, 2012


Quantified Self Conference Notes

I attended the Quantified Self Conference 2012 last weekend, it was a total blast! I learned a lot, and I have a huge list of todo's from the thing. Small flickr set. I'll post my complete notes below, but some serious highlights for me: And so, so much more, I learned a lot! My full notes (sorry they may be kind of impenetrable, they are notes I made for me):
Quantified self conference, Sept 15th, 2012, Day 1

Coffee is protective against depression?
Minutes of meditation per day - good proxy for whether he is having a good day.

When you skip a day, or more, you loose confidence - academically called "loss of self efficecy"
Gary plotted inverse of meditation plot - days missed, longest skip, per month: turns out his skipping is seasonal!  Now he doesn't loose confidence!

What is a computer for? The answer has been changing, it's now very personal!

It's not the bigness of the data that matters, it the ourness of the data.  The outliers are the most interesting bits, they are not mistakes!

What if it's data all the way in? Data all the way down.

Technologies for mindfulness, Nancy Dougherty.
Tracking your emotions really changes them!  Aka, mindfulness really works.
She build an EMG device that activates a string of LEDs when she smiles - real smiles, she put the electrode up by her eyes.
"help sparkle me out of whatever funk I'm in"
She wants her sparkles to make her more like her dog - bringing happiness to herself and others everytime she meets someone.

Dave Asprey, talking about using software to exercise your mind, grow your focus
Dual n-back, he claims 10 iq points if you can stick with it, but super frustrating!
Calmness generates better thinking, recommends heart math 
Some claims that you should NOT use chunking on dual n-back, be more intuitive
He claims the benefit persists even if you stop doing it.  But it will make you super angry while you are doing it.  You need to let go in order to do well.
He also recommends feedback as you play, rather than only getting feedback at the end.
All of the things that improved his IQ he found super difficult and emotional - something about this stuff really pushes your buttons.
Active vs passive mode of your brain - more like a slider switch, how can we learn to better remember what our brain does in passive mode?  He has a counting app to be used while blindfolded with audio that forces your brain into alpha mode.
I3mindware - fun but doesn't think it works very well.  Brain workshop is the open source one that is good.
He recommends walking meditation, breathing, increasing your heart rate variability.
He is writing another book, partially about "threat response" stuff in your brain.
The heart math training allows you to turn off the threat response stress system, that's what the training is for!
The things that you pay attention to, you get better at.  He's impressed with the smile detecting device.
Neural programmer 2: software with sound training.
There is EMDR software.
Emotional n-back - squares have faces, words have emotional content - it's supposed to improve your emotional regulation.
Toba score - a measure of your ability to pay attention.
Most surprising - gratitude and forgiveness really required to get IQ improvements.  Not just mentally - has to be more than you pretending.
Biocybernaut testing - 10 day $20k retreat to do neural feedback training.

Ignite talks
A factory line of awesome
Doctors - reactive and paternalistic

Habit session
The muggle chasm - QS right now is for male geek wizards.  How do we cross the chasm to regular people.
He thinks "behaviorism 2.0" is the best thing for habit design.
Conditioning the environment to support the new behavior - shoes by the side of the bed
Exponential fee structure if you don't follow through with your habit
He no longer believes that gamification can lead to behavior change - it ultimately backfires, especially anything involving unbroken trends, etc.
Triggers like timers and alarms as things to hang habits on, eg calling friends.
B.j.fogs behaviors model
Book: the power of habit
A habit follows a que, then a routine occurs, and then there must be a reward.  Without all three, the habit will not last
Book: the will power instinct
"the science of small wins"
Negative habits - replace the routine, but not the que.  E.g. Eating cookies, keep the hunger queue, but replace cookie with socializing in cafeteria: same reward of getting out and seeing people.
Anchor habits - the big things in your life that happen every day.  Many routines are triggered based on the structure of the day, e.g. Getting up to go to work

Qs show and tell
600 nights of sleep data
Sleep charts are like fingerprints
Zeo is her mechanical mom
Best thing she learned - see the hidden part of you! (when you are asleep)
Www.lauriefrick.com - she tells how to visualize your sleep like she does - lines of color

Stephen Cartwright 
Visualizing data using mechanical systems with ardunio - cool programmable bar chart and 3d chart thing.
Really cool vizualizations of where he has been - GPS data for 15 years!

Seth Roberts
Brain tracking: what I've learned recently
Humans enjoy making skilled movements
People are innately specialists.  He has a theory of evolution about how hobbies were the stepping stone in our evolution from everyone making a living the same way (like any other species of animals) to everyone making a living in a different way.
A sign that you are omega3 deficient: bad gums

Body transformation
Wanted to live a more brauny life
Three types of motivations: vanity (looking good naked), performance (eg at sports) and health.  He claims health is less common!

Adafruit sells a $30 polar chest strap, new this week

Sunny Bo, with misfit ?.  Amar works with MCten
Sunny is looking at accelerometers, pressure sensors, GSR.  Things that you clip on your clothing, and things that you would wear but not strap on - no skin contact.  One of the great possibilities for wearables is real-time feedback.  E.g. Real time GSR sound feedback to overcome elevator phobia.

Amar is thinking mostly about the power that the sensors take.  Stickers, band aids, tattoos.  Conformativity to the skin is super important for them.  Looking at preventing injuries in athletes, e.g. Looking at hydration.  They want to eliminate the compliance issue. They plan to scavenge power from your cell phone.

Quantified Self Conference, Day 2, Sept 16th 2012

Cognitive measurement - by quantified mind people.
Yoni first got into this because he wanted to stop aging.
Trying to build stuff that is repeatable, fast and efficienct.
Did a year of research in psychometrics
They have also been doing brain scanning stuff (open source) using the emotiv.
They have been experimenting the doing tests while wearing it, and recording the data.
Have managed to increase alpha doing this.
The emotiv puts pressure on your head, Jacob says he can only wear it for about 15 minutes before it becomes too painful.
Yoni says that he can't think of a test on quantified mind that isn't heavily G loaded
Analogy between muscle testing and mental testing - its hard to measure your strength without depleting your muscles, and ultimately making them stronger.  But the mental change due to testing seems a lot faster than they change in muscles - and this does matter.  It complicates things if you do multiple tests in a row, does it matter in other ways?  There doesn't seem to be anything practical we can do about it.
Analogy to early days of AI - we are probably naive about how much will actually be possible with simple tests in terms of cognative measurements.  But continuous measurements like EEG offer some small hope...
Processing speed, executative function, working memory, several other things
He hasn't been able to make a repeatable test for creativity, despite lots of research...
Commenter suggests using mechanical Turk to get human judging of such a test...
Practice effect - he has a huge data set of 100,000 people doing tests repeatedly, and it turns out the practice effect is better modeled with plateau and burst than power law.
Can you use the practice effect itself as a test?  Totally, he has seen some stuff on this.
Quantified mind was built to measure, but he can get a lot more users by claiming its a tool to improve!

Ignite talks
Hind hobeika
Shutterfly swimming adapted pulse rate sensor, adapted from open source pulse sensor, uses rgb led to display in corner of vision.

Automated activity tracking
How to not drain battery?  Bursts, adaptive sampling, upload strategy

Natalie mckeever, internal worlds - other species

iPhone rhythm strip
Clinical implications of wireless and ubiquitous heart rate monitoring

Ellie's log
Quantified baby 

Human systems debugging

The quantified doctor
Started "my doctor" private practice
Needed "quant coach" on the medical team to help patients self track

Heart rate variability.
RR intervals - the time between beats of your heart
30 years of research on it, 5000 papers in NIH alone
There are studies comparing chest straps to real EKG in terms of HRV, polar and ANT+ are both good these days
HRV is created by tug of war between parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system.  It's trying to keep a more constant blood pressure, and other things.
Vageltone corresponds to HRV, Vegas nerve
Even athletes with low resting heart rate but low HRV can have heart failure
HRV is measure of your adaptability
It has a circadian rhythm - lower at night
Age, gender and ethnicity dependent!  Declines with age, of course
HRV is also a proxy for will power!
Time domain, frequency domain and non-linear measures of it - a whole series of acronyms.
SDNN = standard deviation of NN which is similar to RR 250ms to 50, 25 is cutoff for sudden death, done on 5minute window
RMSSD root mean square
PNN50 percentage of intervals that are not different by more than 50 ms
Low LF  - .04 to .15 sympathetic
High HF  .15 to .4 parasympathetic
Looking at the balance of the nervous system - LF/HF ratio.  <2 is great. In morning, close to 1 or a little less than 1.  If you meditate, or do coherency training, it all goes into LF (.1hz, called the meditators peak), very little in HF, so it looks bad.
Pretty plots, fractal stuff, obviously different in different states.  Wavelet analysis.
There is actually research showing (dean ornish) that there is causal change in improving your HRV to improve your heart health.  So it isn't just an indicator
eustress - good stress that motivates us to do things - still associated with high HRV, you're in the zone
They have an app: Sweet Beat.  Beathealthy.com
Open source data analysis - kubios.  It's a tool you can get and import HRV time series

Jo Beth Dow  - heart rate variability show and tell
green exercise - in the park 
Alcohol is terrible for her HRV and makes her resting heart rate higher too - even just a glass or two 
Quantified marriage breakdown
She thinks the weight loss helped lower her HRV 
HRV is low when you are exercising, cause the beat to beat time is so low already. 

Elliot Hedman, GSR during a concert
Noisy to quiet - all three people responded
He was the only person to respond to xylophone, he used to play it
Any transition, e.g. To whispering, gets peoples attention
Emotional stuff - look into core affect at MIT media lab.  

Lisa betts-LaCroix
What i learned about tracking by tracking
Behavioral tracking + weight tracking = success.  Weight tracking alone does not work!
Tracking weight is really just a proxy for mindfulness about your life.

Jonas on spaced repetition
Uses a scanner to grab sentences from things he reads, puts definition into SuperMemo.
Familiarity increases interest
12500 flashcards, 50 minutes a day, 90 minutes on the weekend
He is now using it to memorize poetry!
SuperMemo is not for learning - you need to learn it first, then review to remember with SuperMemo

Free posters at the registration desk!

Project lifeslice
The onion: 90% of time spent staring at glowing rectangles
What how learn next (these are the three QS questions + typical follow up :-)
Webcam snapshot photo
Taking photo/ screenshot once per hour is actually a good productivity hack!
Code is on github

Kevin Kelly: "your mission is to discover your mission"
The quantified century
Documentary: the century of the self
Extended self
He thinks the quantification is a step on the route to new senses - like North Paw
We'd like to just perceive the data, as a sensation
2x(n=1) > n=2, but probably this only extends into 100s, not thousands
Quantified community
New ways to measure, new things to better
Data = new gold (including bubbles and hype)
Information wants to be linked
Surveillance is proportional to personalization

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