What My Browser Looks Like After Sketching in Hardware 2014

The Sketching in Hardware 2014 conference just ended, and before I leave Berlin, I want to get some notes down from the conference. Most of my notes consist of stuff I saved in browser tabs from people’s talks. This is not a comprehensive set of notes, just the links from the talks in which I caught a reference and opened the link for later browsing.

This year’s theme was “Borders and Crossings” but it might as well have been “Internet of Things” for the number of times it was mentioned.

Meshblu, formerly Skynet.im: A cloud hub for devices. “Meshblu allows you to query devices such as drones, Hue light bulbs, Belkin wemos, Arduinos, and server nodes that meet your criteria and send IM messages to one or all devices.” I’ve seen a lot of these, and I suspect we will see several disappear in time. What happens to the data they hold when they go bust is something I wonder about.

Adrian McEwen wasn’t there, but he tweeted in for a bit, and left this post from his talk at the Italian Internet of Things day. It contains a few examples of IoT applications.

Jordan Husney mentioned Trello as a tool for managing a team, particularly when the team is spread out geographically.

Stefan Brunner showed some really nice interactive musical pieces for public spaces, and mentioned a really uncomfortable 11-minute sound piece composed from the sounds of boxers (the athletes, not the undershorts) hitting each other.

Claire Rowland gave a really good talk on the user experience of the consumer internet of things, and hit on many points that I’ve been thinking about a lot myself, regarding responsiveness, making it clear to customers where things happen, and much more. Here’s another talk she gave on the same topic. She’s working on a book on the subject for O’Reilly which I imagine will be a good read.

James Tichenor and Josh Walton did a really good talk as usual, and the piece I took away from it to think about later has to do with sensor abstraction. This is a problem many folks have mentioned, but no one’s solved really well yet. What James and Josh made me realize is that there’s another way to think about sensor abstraction, and maybe I’ll post some more on that later.

Tod Kurt gave a talk on Bluetooth Low Energy, which is why I’ve got a tab open to a brief intro to Bluetooth LE that Alasdair Allan, Sandeep Mistry, Don Coleman, and I took a few months ago.

Kipp Bradford mentioned his Solid conference talk for more information on his presentation dealing with mechanisms of economic change. The twems Kipp threw into the mix that buzzed around the most were Mean Time To Blink, or how long it takes you to get the basic application running on an embedded platform, and Mean Time To Abandonment which is how long it takes you to abandon the platform when you can’t do anything more than Blink.

Steve Hodges gave a talk on prototyping small devices with conductive ink and a pick & place machine, and passed around a tiny, tiny Cortex M0, which reminded me of Prabal Dutta’s talk on mm-scale devices at the Microsoft Faculty Research Summit a couple weeks ago.

Eric Schweikardt introduced us to FARKUS, his open source factory automation system that he and his team are building at Modular Robotics.

Phil Van Allen’s NETLab Toolkit has come a long way, and is looking really nice these days as a way to program connected microcontroller devices graphically. Now in HTML5! Phil also shared a link on his thoughts on Animism in Interaction Design.

Andy Carle introduced us to Kinoma, a JavaScript framework for embedded devices from Marvell. I’m eager to compare its performance to Tessel and Espruino.

Travis Lee and Evan Shapiro from IDEO introduced noam.io, another framework for connecting things. This one’s graphical, and features useful tools for debugging your network of connected devices.

Julian Bleecker gave a good talk on speculative futures and design fictions, and mentioned the TBD catalog that he’s about to release. For those interested in speculative fiction based on current tech and societal trends, you might also want to check out Adrian Hon’s A History of the Future in 100 Objects.

Justin Bakse told us about how he likes OpenSCAD because he can create 3D objects with code, and told us about a project he’s been working on, Comb Script, which he describes as “the best possible tool for creating a comb”. It’s “a language for describing technical vector designs and a tool that exports these designs as SVG files.” As it develops, it should be a useful tool for laser cutting. There’s a gitHub repo if you want to contribute. He (or someone in the twitter backchannel, I forget which) also mentioned Toby Schachtman’s ITP thesis, Recursive Drawing.

In the swag bag, we all got Blink(1)s, and many of us got Electric Imps and breakout boards as well.

Finally, here is Tod Kurt’s archive of the tweets with the hashtag #sketching14

There were a lot of other good talks, but I didn’t end up with links from them, so I hope others from Sketching 2014 will post their own notes as well.

Thanks to Mike Kuniavsky for making Sketching happen all these years. It’s a really great conference, and Mike does it as a labor of love. He’s never really made any money from it, but it’s been a real catalyst for those of us who make tools for designers and others to develop new interactive devices.

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