Imaginary Gadget: Tricorder


This is a response to Bruce Sterling’s call for imaginary gadgets.

The Star Trek universe actually had several devices called Tricorders, and I’m not enough of a Trekkie to know what the difference was between them, or even what the “Tri” part was about. What I do know is that they were magical devices which you waved knowledgeably in the air in front of you, which then answered the specific questions about your environment. Sometimes you had to fiddle with them a bit.

Back on Earth, Natalie Jeremijenko’s Feral Robotic Dogs project embeds cheap environmental sensors in off-the-shelf toys and sends them out into the environment. The types of these sensors is growing, you can easily (and cheaply) buy sensors for carbon monoxide, radiation, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), etc. My imaginary gadget would simply to replace the cheap toy dogs with yuppies and technophiles, by making a small device filled with sensors that plugs into their iPhone (or build it directly into Google’s Android platform, or the XO2).

If anyone is interested in making this gadget less imaginary, please get in touch with me. Despite having a Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, my practical electronic skills are currently at the level of making LEDs shift colors with my new Arduino. I’m willing to write the web service for co-ordinating all the sensor data data, the iPhone application, and exposing all the aggregate data for nice visualizations in Processing, NodeBox, etc.

Making the invisible visible in our environment can be the first step towards making radical improvements to that environment. Lets see what’s out there, or in Star Trek parlance, “Make it so!”

Best birthday present evar!

My daughter made this for me. She did all the art, animation, and music. I’m just a little bit proud of her. Click the image to see and hear the full thing.

Scratch Project

Thanks, Mina!

Dinner conversation


Yesterday was my birthday, which really has nothing to do with this, aside from the fact that the following conversation (as well as I was able to capture it from memory later) took place at dinner on that day:

“Why is the rat food weighed down by a phone book?”

“Had to, the gravity was pretty iffy yesterday.”


“The gravity was out all over town. I called BC Gravity, but they just said they were working on it and they’d have gravity restored as soon as they could. They said 2000 homes were affected, but they were working round the clock to get it fixed.”

My kids are growing up in a very strange world.

Unit Testing in Vancouver

Just a quick reminder: Henry PrĂȘcheur will be presenting Unit Testing in Python at the VanPyZ meeting tomorrow, February 3rd. The meeting will be at Workspace in Gastown (see map on VanPyZ page). Meetings are from 7-8:30, then we head out for beers afterwards.

Hope to see you there!

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