Tech East and More of Day 1 at CES

I wrapped up at Tech West (previous posts here and here), and in the afternoon I ventured over to Tech East at the Las Vegas Convention Center where many of the larger tech firms have their exhibits.

A big theme this year was obviously the Internet of Things (IoT) — connected everything, with a focus on connected home devices. There seems to be a lot of innovation here, and many companies seem to be pushing their products closer to the point at which the benefits of some of these devices justify the (falling) costs, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

Zigbee had a big home automation demo, showing everything from connected lights, speakers, flood monitors, motion sensors, and more:

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New connected lights from Sylvania, which appeared to be competitive with the Hue and Lifx at a much lower price point:

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More home automation from Wemo:

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Not sure who would use this, but there was Droplet, a Roomba-like robotic sprinkler system. Kind of amusing. Who knows, maybe it works:
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There were a few exhibits showing sleek connected car interfaces, and all digital dashboards:

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Of course there were drones, and luckily for everyone at CES, they were all in drone cages:

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I was very impressed with a company that created electronic waterproofing technology. They showed a working circuit board powering a TV above (not shown) and iPhone submerged in water:
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They also had a fully functioning TV, operating in a tank of water:

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Water-free solar panel cleaning robots:

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I was excited to see Nikon’s setup, as I was hoping they’d announce an update to the D7100 camera, but no such update yet. Only a new entry level SLR, the D5500, which does look nice.

2015-01-06 15.52.49I did get to play with a bunch of beautiful lenses. I loved the 300mm f2.8:
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Too bad it’s $6,000.

They had a guy telling stories about amazing photos he took on an African Safari — I was blown away by some of the shots he had taken:

There was a “mirror” that shows you an image of yourself wearing virtual clothes:

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Towards the end I made it over the to bigger exhibits, which were impressive, but nothing too surprising.

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Just when I thought 4K TVs were only getting started, there were 4K Ultra TVs, 4K 3D TVs that didn’t require any glasses (they made me dizzy), and a whole new line of 8K TVs. They looked beautiful, but with all the competing technologies, it just made me think I don’t want to upgrade my TV for a very long time.

Curved TVs were a big craze. Nearly all of Samsung’s TVs were curved:

2015-01-06 16.25.17 2015-01-06 16.24.58They just made me think of this from Vizio:

Curved TV seating chart

Monster:

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And finally Sony:

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That was it for day 1. My iPhone step counter says I walked 11 miles.

3D Printing at CES

In my second hour at CES, after spending some time looking at health trackers, I stumbled into the 3D printing area. There seemed to be hundreds of firms showing off their 3D printing skills, and all of the plastic things they printed. I was struck by how many firms are eagerly competing and innovating here.

The first printer I saw, and maybe my favorite, was Zeus: A 3D scan, print, copy, fax machine:

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When pressed, the Zeus guy admitted the fax button just sends a copy of a scan to any other connected Zeus machine over the internet, but still. I was impressed. I asked about resolution, and learned that it’s measured in layer microns, and the highest (smallest) resolution of this machine was 80 microns, but it could print more quickly to other resolutions. Here they made a copy (left) of a Zeus figure (right):

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And here’s an elephant, printed at 200 microns. The picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but it has a number of moving, interlocking parts, all of which were printed in one go, with no need for assembly:

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Another printer we spent some time looking at was the Cube, which offers a range of consumer-focused 3D printers
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While I know 3D printing technology has come a long way in the past few years, going from an interesting idea to an effective way to illegally make guns or to send tools to the international space station, the sense I got from the conference is that this is only the beginning, and quality keeps rising while prices have dropped to the point where you can easily buy a 3D printer for less than $1k. Good stuff.

First Day at CES

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I spent my first full day at CES, and most of the descriptions I’ve read are spot on. It’s a complete zoo, it’s exhausting, and it’s awesome. I started the day at Tech West, spending most of my time in the Sands Expo. I first worked my way through more fitness/health trackers than I previously could have imagined existed. There were obviously dozens of Fitbit-like step counters and sleep trackers, which seemed increasingly irrelevant as much of this functionality, at least the step counter part, is a feature on most new smartphones.

I found a “Smart Basketball”, 94fifty, that sends real time data on your shot speed, backspin, arc, and dribbling to your phone:

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There was Skulpt, which initially sounded ridiculous to me, but within minutes I was very impressed. It’s a piece of hardware that measures the strength of each of your muscles. You have to hold it to each muscle area — forearm, bicep, tricep, shoulder, quad, etc — to get a reading. It then rates each muscle on a quality and fat percentage scale. You can then use the readings to set goals and track results with follow-up readings. Again, it sounds ridiculous. But it was very easy and quick to use. The hardware seemed thoughtful, and the software looked impressive and easy to use and interpret.

I rolled up my sleeve and the founder put the hardware up to my arm to get a reading, which took about two seconds. My muscle quality was 110, which was characterized as fit, while my fat percentage was “amazing” — must be all the pushups from the 10K Pushup Challenge:

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Here’s their breakdown of muscle quality readings:

 

I tried another health reader, MyBiody Balance, which requires you to take their hardware and hold it in one hand while touching the other side to your ankle, and it reads bone mass, muscle density, hydration, body fat and a few other metrics. I found the hardware to be awkward and klunky. It’s a French company, and it was amusing to watch the two representatives arguing in French accents about how I should be holding it. When it wasn’t working, they kept insisting it was the simplest thing in the world, implying the lack of a reading was entirely my fault. After a few tries they got it, and then the device synced some data to an iPad that basically said I was in good health. Not sure who would use this:

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The device looks like a half guitar:

Then there was obviously Fnitbit:

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And a company that makes small tracking devices to put on bikes, skis, snowboards, surf boards, and any other activity hardware — once you’ve attached the devices they track speed, spin, and other motion to provide a 3D rendering of whatever it is you do (e.g., bike jumps, ski flips, etc). Seemed pretty interesting, but obviously not too relevant for the average person:

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I never figured out what this was:

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Of course now that human activity trackers are becoming mainstream, the new frontier is per trackers. There was FitBark, which is a small device that goes on a dog collar to measure steps and distance:

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There was also a wireless pet fence system:

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Bellabeat is a device that allows you to listen to your unborn baby’s heartbeat. Really?

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And finally, not sure why this was here, but there was a free tooth whitening booth:

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So that pretty much covers my first hour of my first day. I’ll hopefully post more soon.

Lightroom 5 Preset: Highland

It’s been over a year since I’ve added a new Lightroom 5 Preset. I’ve actually got quite a few new ones in the works, and over the next few months will plan to post them. Here’s my thirteenth preset: Highland. It’s a vintage looking filter, with nice oranges, reds, and browns. I’ve found that it’s often helpful to adjust highlights and exposure after using it. Below are some examples. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for all the support.

A highland cow, which inspired the preset:
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An old Porsche that was parked outside my brother’s Vancouver apartment when I visited:
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A couple Mariachi’s waiting for the bus in Meixco City:
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And a few produce traders in New Delhi:
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Here’s the download: Lightroom 5 Preset: Highland

To install it in Lightroom, simply right click any preset, select import, and then select the downloaded preset file.

The Best Combination of a Map and a Chart

I love maps and I love charts. So I was particularly excited to find this great chart of the world’s population by latitude, which obviously resembles a map (because most people live on land):

europe_smlThis is a much more eloquent way of combining latitude and longitude population charts, as I’ve previously posted about here.

At the bottom of the post, the creator links to whackdata.com, where Ryan Brideau posted some R scripts that take publicly available data and create similar population map charts. Ryan does a great job describing why the chart is so interesting:

“What I love about it is that, in the absence of any traditional map features, the outlines of countries and continents are immediately apparent. And as long as you are familiar with what the land masses of the globe look like, you know exactly what the plot is without even needing to be told. Another interesting feature is that the peaks also give information about both the population and and the density: the area under the graph represents the total population, while the higher the peak, the more dense it is. (Hence the huge peak of Tokyo, and the low, wide peak of Mexico City.)”

Having only a little experience with R, I thought this was a good opportunity to see if I could use Ryan’s scripts to make something similar for the Boston area.

After a bit of tinkering, here’s what I came up with for Massachusetts:

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And here’s greater Boston:

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Not bad. Thanks Ryan.

The 10K Pushup Challenge

Sometime in mid 2014 I added 50 pushups to my morning routine. It seemed like a small and simple thing to do to supplement my gym workouts, taking just a couple minutes every day. I stuck with it for about three weeks, then forgot one morning. Once the streak was broken, I just stopped and didn’t think about it again for a while.

Last month I decided I wanted to start again. But I knew I needed to approach it differently if I wanted to make it a longer term habit. What I quickly realized is that I don’t really care whether I do 50 pushups every day, and there isn’t anything particularly special about doing 50 reps. Some days maybe I’ll want to do more, others none. My goal was really just to integrate more pushups into my life.

I figured I had probably done about 1,000 pushups over the three weeks when I stuck with it, and then maybe I did another 500 at other times throughout the year. So in the first 11 months of 2014, I probably did about 1,500 pushups. So I set a simple goal: over the next year I’m going to do at least 10,000 pushups, and I don’t care when I do them.

To track this, I put together a simple grid with 400 boxes, each box representing a set of 25 pushups. Every time I do 25 pushups, I write the date in a box. If I do 50, then I fill two boxes, and so on. And I put the grid on the refrigerator.

I’m two weeks in, and so far this has been extremely effective for me. Sometimes I do pushups when I wake up, other times when I walk by the fridge and am reminded of the 10k goal. In the two weeks I’ve averaged about 70 per day, but with a wide amount of variation – on one day I did 200, and I skipped Christmas. Here’s my progress:

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If I were to do this over a year, it works out to about 27 pushups per day, but at my current rate, maybe I’ll finish the 10k more quickly. When I do, I’ll plan to just print a second grid to keep at it.

I told this to my friend Dan Siegel, who loved the idea and asked for a copy of the tracker. He immediately forwarded it on to a few of his friends (before even looking at it), then later complained that he didn’t realize it had no explanation and was just an excel spreadsheet with a grid designed to fit on one page. After telling some other friends, I got more requests for the copy of the tracker along with a bunch of commitments to do 10k pushups in 2015.

So I’ve “updated” the grid with instructions, added a name (i.e., The 10K Pushup Challenge), introduced a logo for kicks (I Googled free logos and found DesignMantic, which presented me with a sweet logo of a bear growling), and turned it into a PDF file. Here’s what it looks like now:
Capture

 

I don’t often make new year’s resolutions, and didn’t intend for this to be one, but the timing is right, so I figured I’d share my tracker today. And I encourage anyone reading this to join me and do 10K pushups in 2015.

You can download the tracker here. Happy new year.

Sidecar Dogs and Doggles

I recently stumbled across a trailer for a documentary about dogs riding in motorcycle sidecars. The preview was perfectly executed: bikes and revving engines, dogs wearing goggles with their faces in the wind, americana music, and a bunch of biker stories about how much dogs enjoy riding in sidecars. After watching the first thirty seconds, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a whole sub culture of people who absolutely love taking their dogs on bikes. I hadn’t previously considered the possibility, but I’m extremely happy to know this is a thing.

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The movie is called ‘Sit Stay Ride: The Story of America’s Sidecar Dogs’. It was funded through Kickstarter earlier this year, raising almost $35K from 679 backers, and appears to have been primarily released digitally through Vimeo. What a great example of using crowd funding to facilitate creative projects. Just a few years ago a movie like this probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the creators taking on significant risk, and now a small group of supporters can make this sort of thing happen.

Here’s the trailer, which I definitely recommend watching:

Immediately after watching the trailer I looked up dog goggles, as I also hadn’t considered that there’s a market for protective eye wear specially made to fit dogs. I quickly learned that it’s dominated by a company called Doggles, and they offer dozens of different colors, sizes, and styles (e.g., chrome, frameless, original). In the same way that the brand ‘Frisbee’ has become the most common word for flying plastic discs, regardless of the brand, I get the sense that dog goggles are always just referred to as doggles. Which makes sense.

I also researched the secondary market for motorcycles with sidecars. I decided that if I ever get a motorcycle (which I won’t), it will definitely be a Ural 750cc. Examples here and here.

A few days after seeing the trailer I had an open evening and decided to buy and stream the movie. I enjoyed it, but at an hour and twenty minutes, make sure you’re very excited to hear bikers talking at length about how much their dogs love riding around in sidecars before jumping in. I think it actually would have been better as a forty to fifty minute film, with the same content, but edited down a bit. Regardless, it’s filled with a bunch of interesting, quirky, small-town people who all have great stories about their lives, dogs, and sidecar bikes. And as a crowd-sourced documentary project, it’s clearly positioned to appeal to a niche group of people who think this sort of thing is awesome. And that’s great.

And yes, I realize the proportion of my posts that are about dogs has significantly increased since Laura and I got a dog.

Dogs on the Beach

I spent the holiday in Narragansett with Laura’s family, and we took a long walk on the beach on Christmas day. The weather was perfect for this time of year – almost sixty degrees – and the light in the late afternoon was even better. I hadn’t taken my camera out since the late Summer, and it was great to spend the afternoon shooting.

Here are a few action shots I took of Bella playing with some other dogs in the water:

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