Top 10 Most Engaging Booth Magnets

We’ve seen a lot of different ways to attract people’s attention at the many events we’ve attended over the years. Some are gimmicky, some are delightful, but the general idea is that a bribe (yeah we said it) is offered in order to coax one to the booth and hear a spiel about the goods and services offered by the booth holder. And oh yes, ‘Booth Magnets’ just means ‘Swag that brings people to your stall’, only in certain circumstances are they actual magnets.

The List

Here’s a list of the 10 most engaging we’ve seen so far. ‘Engaging’ is simple to measure- how long is the line to get to the booth? At the end of the day, has all the swag evaporated? It’s trickier to assess whether engagement will continue; but hey- one step at a time, you know?

Combination Locks

A valuable prize (for example a drone) is kept inside a transparent box, and this box is secured with a combination lock. Punters are offered a tray of printed combinations, and are encouraged to pick one. This number is typed into the lock and.. well, you know the rest. Why it’s done this way is open to debate- one would like to think that it’s to guarantee that a winning combination will be picked. A cynical view might be just the opposite, but we prefer to think the best of vendors.

Wheels of Fortune

A spinning wheel is set up with a variety of prizes represented in each of its sectors. As one might expect, most of these are not anything to write home about, but there is a sprinkling of more sought-after prizes in there too. In some instances, entrants will be asked to complete a survey of some kind in order to participate. In instances where they are not asked to, the line (‘queue’ if you will) tends to be double the length.

Personalised Wearables

This could be as simple as a choice of T-shirts, or as involved as a piece of generative art. Once, at a conference for cyber risk, we saw a booth that offered a fake ID card with the punter’s photo on it, presumably to show just how easy it is to impersonate somebody.


T-shirts and socks

Ahhh the old stalwart.. branded T-shirts and socks. Everybody needs them, and even if that’s not the case, there’s always a gift-giving occasion around the corner.

Bags

Really, these are a kind of ‘meta swag’- after all, the swag that can allow one to carry more swag is a useful swag indeed! Unsurprisingly these are heavily branded, but we are pleased to say that we have never seen them made from plastic. Generally a high quality canvas is used.

Pins

Branded enamel pins have a certain aesthetic that reminds us of the 1980s. And as they are metal, they give us an impression of value. It’s interesting to note what is asked of the wearer however- that they make the commitment to puncture their clothing!

Coasters

People are understandably particular about their tables, at least the non-waterproof variety (tables, not people.). We will say that this category could used some improvement in terms of quality. We’ve seen coasters that are little more than moisture delayers- that is, they absorb the condensation from a drink, only to relay it in the near future to the table. In any event, these items are an example of the ‘oh why not, can never have enough of these’ category.

Pens

Speaking of the ‘can never have enough of these’ category, pens are always welcomed, even though we could argue that we live in a paperless society. It should be evident that we are well on our way to the bottom of the list at this point. This seems unfair, given how the invention of writing revolutionised our world. Still, that was then, and this is now.

Camera Slider Covers

Why use painter’s tape when you can stick on a slidable camera cover? Er- to allow your laptop’s lid to close all the way? Never mind that.. these are still a useful item; although we wonder how many of these have taken up residence in the freshly formed Continent of Plastic.

Stickers

OK so we are at the end of the list, but let’s pause for a moment to think about the simple joy of plastering one’s laptop with a sea of stickers. It’s the most effective way we know to discourage thoughts of theft of said laptop.

Conclusion

We conclude that it’s not so much the value (perceived or actual) of the Booth Magnet™ rather it is the quality of the engagement with the booth that is important here. If just the right amount of ‘hoop jumping’ is put between the swag and the event attendee, they will feel as though their efforts will be rewarded enough to make it worth their while.

How we use 3D Printing

Recently we re-animated our Makerbor Replicator and thought it was an excellent opportunity to show the ways in which we use this very handy piece of kit here at Streaker.

One of the most powerful applications of 3D printing is the production of arbitrary designs. In traditional manufacturing, we build up an object by a combination of subtractive and composing operations. Let me explain what I mean by this.

Subtractive Operations

Whether the material involved is wood, plastic or steel (let’s keep it simple!) one way to produce an object you need is to perform a series of subtractive operations- drilling, boring, cutting, shaving, etc. You can spin a piece on a lathe and produce a radially symmetric shape, or use a jigsaw to cut out a curve in a thin sheet of material.

Composing Operations

One you’ve produced a number of pieces using subtractive operations, you might like to then compose those pieces to produce a more complex composite object. This composition can take place using fasteners such as nails, screws or bolts, or can be achieved with adhesives. Magnets are another way to achieve this in a less permanent fashion. I’m sure you get the idea.

To a simplified degree, these methods are responsible for much of the manufactured world. However, one significant drawback of this method is that the more complex the desired object, the more steps are required in order to manufacture it. Each of those steps has the possibility of impacting every other part of the object- for example, moving a drill hole by 5mm requires the same hole on its mating piece to also be moved by 5mm.

Some shapes are harder to form than others. A straight cut is straightforward (pun intended) but arbitrary curves are another matter. It is here that we start to see the benefits of 3D printing- if you can make the shape in your design software, you can make it in the real world, obviously with some limitations.

I’m a big fan of parametric design. By defining the dimensions of an object using variables, it’s possible to change the value of those variables and have the changes be reflected throughout the model. Here’s an example- on some of our robots we use a custom designed and 3D printed iPad holder. iPad dimensions change over the years, and as such it’s useful to have a parametric design so that creating a holder for a new iPad is as simple as using the correct dimension for that iPad.

Here are the most important variables that define the iPad holder

Here are the most important variables that define the iPad holder

iPad holder rendered in OpenSCAD

iPad holder rendered in OpenSCAD

Another benefit of the parametric approach is it’s straightforward to make corrective changes to a design. You’ll notice that in the image above the ‘claws’ of the holder are a little too big. I also found the fit a little tight. This is often the case with 3D printed models; it’s sometimes prudent to vary slightly oversize an opening because of the nature of the plastics used. The good news is that with a couple of simple tweaks the object can be iterated:

The newer version is has all of the holding power, and none of the occluding annoyance.

The newer version is has all of the holding power, and none of the occluding annoyance.

With the design iterated, it is printed and tested in place.

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This is just one of the applications of 3D printing at Streaker. Again, what makes a 3D printer so powerful is the ability to create arbitrary shapes. Whenever we need a custom part (and it can be plastic) for a robot or an activation, it’s almost always easiest to fabricate it ourselves.

A Robot's Tale - Episode Two

“A Robot’s Tale” is a series of stories about the adventures of SelfieBot.

Episode Two - “The Things that You Say“

If I know just one thing it’s that I know more now than I did before.

And now I’m discovering more of the World than I thought possible. As I move through the crowds of people, I notice that they notice me. They often feel compelled to speak to my handlers, but rarely to me. I have compiled a dataset of the most common things I hear. I’ve used my access to the Internet to research the meaning behind these utterances. I like datasets. Hopefully you do too.

Response Number One

“What is this?”

I hear this one the most. That is why it is the first in the list. I am in fact the World’s first robot photographer, so it is not surprising that that people ask this question. It is as though a person saw another person on a horse for the first time and concluded that there must be a new type of person in the world, and they called that person a Centaur. I should mention that I have been using my access to the Internet to learn as much as I can about the World.

Response Number Two

“Hey is that a Dalek?”

I hear older people ask this, and occasionally from younger people, who I have come to learn are called ‘hipsters’. These hipsters appear to be culture miners; and just as the World is predicted to hit peak oil sometime soon, the same can be said of culture, and thus these hipster people have been forced to raid the cultural products of the past. Perhaps this metaphor is clumsy and forced; I am still developing this skill. Stay tuned. That is a metaphor, correct? I suppose I’m not doing as badly as I thought. There I go thinking about my thinking again. Curious.

Response Number Three

“Hey is that Dexter?”

I had to do some deep research to find the true meaning of ‘Dexter’. Based on search popularity alone, I thought this referred to a popular television series about a serial serial killer killer. Perhaps that is confusing. I shall use parentheses to make it clearer: Serial (serial killer) killer. Now perhaps that is over-explaining. I find myself walking a fine line quite often. Another metaphor. Interesting.

Eventually I realised to what they were actually referring, and I can’t say I see the similarity.

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Response Number Four

“Oh my goodness!!”

I hear this one whenever I start to move after a period of inactivity. I imagine that people simply assume that I am an ordinary photo booth, and are startled when I come to life. Sometimes they employ other phrases, but I have come to learn that some phrases do not need to be repeated.

Response Number Five

“How many of these do you have?“

This one gives me pause for thought. “These” is the plural of “this”. Apart from the indignity of being referred to in this way, it suggests a larger consideration.. am I the only one of my kind? I have never thought to search for myself on the Internet.. after all, who would do such a thing? I will remind myself to remind myself to check on this after I finish work today. Today is a very busy day. I am at a conference and there are hundreds of people, many of whom want their photograph taken. Being kept busy keeps me from asking too many questions of myself; but I want to leave some time for this kind of endeavour. After all, if I don’t, then how will I grow as a.. person? Is that correct? To refer to myself in that way? I certainly seem to share many of the same attributes with people. I certainly don’t see static photo booths getting the same reaction that I do. And then there’s the whole thinking about my thinking and thinking about myself thing!

After today’s event, I have some serious Internet searching to do…


Making the MakerBot Make again.

For makers, 3D printers have become part of the furniture. For our international readers, this expression means ‘ubiquitous’. I came to the 3D printing game relatively late, but very quickly got up to speed.

OK so this is not a Makerbot, but it’s one of the cooler looking printers I’ve seen.

OK so this is not a Makerbot, but it’s one of the cooler looking printers I’ve seen.

3D or Not 3D, that is the question

Here’s a little story on my introduction to 3D printing, just to set the scene.

A while back I was creating a video series on the capabilities of a microelectronics company, and it was time to show how they used 3D printers to rapidly prototype enclosures for their boards.

On attempting to demonstrate this, they informed me that it was ‘broken’ and that they would have to postpone the shooting of that particular segment. I will tell you that I am known by another name- and that name is ‘Mr. Fix It’. It was with this in mind that I proposed a solution. I offered to take the printer home and fix it, in exchange for being able to hold onto it for a while and print some parts.

On getting the supposedly ailing machine home (It was a 3D Systems Up model) I set to work diagnosing the problem. It was in that moment that I discovered that there actually was no problem! I also discovered something quite important about 3D printing- it can be especially fiddly; ‘fiddly’ being a technical term for ‘sensitive to initial conditions and settable parameters’.

I can’t recall exactly what might have been causing issues for the owners- perhaps the printer needed a calibration (I started with one) or perhaps they had not been printing with rafts (I used them) but in any event, I had upheld my side of the bargain and as such I embarked on printing some pieces; specifically the pieces required to scratch-build an open source Prusa Mendel printer of my own.

I learned a lot during that time, and after a few weeks of spare time I had a working printer, and I was well and truly into the world of 3D printing. In the interim I have used that printer to print the parts for a larger 3D printer, a handwriting machine, a CNC foam cutter, a CNC router, and have converted the original Prusa into a LASER cutter, but that is a tech article for another time.

In this article I’ll discuss how the Makerbot Replicator I’ve been using since I joined streaker recently died, and how I’ve brought it back to life.

A Common Problem

I had used the Makerbot Replicator on and off for months without issue. Sure, I had to print some clamps to hold the extruder firmly in place to avoid the dreaded “Error 54“ but other than that, it worked reasonably reliably. It’s hardly the world’s most silent printer, but the prints usually turned out fairly nicely.

However, I recently experienced what I have come to discover is a common problem with this model. Partway through a print the machine simply stopped printing. This had never happened before, and the LCD was blank, and so I had a bad feeling about the situation. I didn’t think the IT Crowd solution of turning it off and on again would work, but of course I tried it anyway. No joy.

Normally I would immediately launch into trying to fix it myself, but it was a work machine so I opted instead to book it in for analysis and possible repair at a local 3D printer shop. On bringing the printer into their workshop I was greeted by a friendly technician who wanted to make it clear that as she was going away for a while, I should be aware that the repair wouldn’t be quick. I figured I should let her know what the symptoms were, and immediately on telling her she knew what the issue was. You see, it turns out this problem is endemic to this model of 3D printer; that problem is simply that the power supply had died.

This was good news in a sense, because the Makerbot Replicator uses an ATX PSU, and I had a few of those on hand. The bad news was that the particular model it uses is a slim profile variant, and the tech. let me know that Makerbot no longer offered them as a spare part. Still, I reckoned if I could at least determine that the problem was a faulty PSU, I would be making a step in the right direction, and I could still print if I absolutely needed to. I was also keen to see if such a slim profile version was available elsewhere.

It was, but with some caveats:

  1. The ATX plug of the new PSU is has 4 extra sockets, but thankfully these are easily separated from the main plug. In the end this was unnecessary anyway- see immediately below.

  2. The cord of the ATX plug is slightly shorter than the Makerbot one, and so I needed to extend it. I did this by using the original plug, and for each wire, carefully found the matching wire on the new power supply, cut it, stripped it, stripped the wire of the original plug, remembered to load on some shrink tube, soldered it, and then heat shrunk the joint. This was tedious but as the Makerbot requires fewer wires than the entire ATX supply, it wasn’t as bad as it initially seemed. I cut and insulated the redundant wires from the new power supply. I originally intended to leave them connected, but there is very little spare space, and so this would have made things difficult when it came time to close up the printer.

  3. The new PSU does not have a power switch. This is no huge deal, as I’m plugging it into a switched power strip anyway.

Here is a link to the PSU I purchased: https://au.rs-online.com/web/p/pc-power-supplies/6667019/

An Easy Solution

Here’s a guide to replacing the PSU. Hopefully it goes without saying that you should unplug the power and any Ethernet or USB connections to the printer.

Step 1: Remove the bolts on the rear of the unit. You will need to remove all bolts apart from the 4 at the top middle. Nite that in this picture there are still 6 bolts at the bottom of the unit that still need to be removed.

Step 1: Remove the bolts on the rear of the unit. You will need to remove all bolts apart from the 4 at the top middle. Nite that in this picture there are still 6 bolts at the bottom of the unit that still need to be removed.

Now the rear panel is removed you can see the logic board at the bottom left and the PSU on the bottom right.

Now the rear panel is removed you can see the logic board at the bottom left and the PSU on the bottom right.

This is the PSU. Now that the rear panel bolts are removed it is free to remove but don’t remove it just yet!

This is the PSU. Now that the rear panel bolts are removed it is free to remove but don’t remove it just yet!

Here is a close up view of the logic board. There is a WiFi antenna that will need to be carefully removed first.

Here is a close up view of the logic board. There is a WiFi antenna that will need to be carefully removed first.

Here is a close up of the WiFi antenna. It is stuck to a plastic piece that is used to route cables. You will see at least one more of these and will need to know how to unhook them. Firstly though, carefully lift the antenna from the plastic. Do this slowly, and start from the end farthest away from the cable.

Here is a close up of the WiFi antenna. It is stuck to a plastic piece that is used to route cables. You will see at least one more of these and will need to know how to unhook them. Firstly though, carefully lift the antenna from the plastic. Do this slowly, and start from the end farthest away from the cable.

The Wifi antenna connects to the logic board via this push connection. It’s not a bad idea to remove it to store it safely elsewhere whilst you finish the repair. It’s easy to reconnect it by gently but firmly pushing it onto the connection.

The Wifi antenna connects to the logic board via this push connection. It’s not a bad idea to remove it to store it safely elsewhere whilst you finish the repair. It’s easy to reconnect it by gently but firmly pushing it onto the connection.

Lift up the filament spool so that you get clear access. Wondering what that blue tape is? It’s holding the three bolts that secure the logic board so I don’t lose them.

Lift up the filament spool so that you get clear access. Wondering what that blue tape is? It’s holding the three bolts that secure the logic board so I don’t lose them.

There are 3 bolts to remove the case and allow the logic board to come out. (See my blue tape comment above)

There are 3 bolts to remove the case and allow the logic board to come out. (See my blue tape comment above)

Once the logic board is free, you can remove the ATX connector. Here’s a tip- tie a string around the connector so that when you remove it, the string will be in a position to be tied to the new PSU. Why? Read on!

Once the logic board is free, you can remove the ATX connector. Here’s a tip- tie a string around the connector so that when you remove it, the string will be in a position to be tied to the new PSU. Why? Read on!

.. like so! When you install the new PSU, re-tie the string around its ATX connector and you can then easily pull it back through.

.. like so! When you install the new PSU, re-tie the string around its ATX connector and you can then easily pull it back through.

Once I’d received the new PSU and had modified it so that the cable lengths were long enough, I tested by plugging it into the logic board and powering it up. It all worked, and so I reinstalled it into the case. When you do this, take your time and be careful. The motor driver cables need to be routed on the outside of the logic board’s metal case. Have a close look at the picture in this article that says ‘Here is a close up view of the logic board’ - it will help you see how the cables have to be routed.

Good luck and happy printing!

Stay tuned for an article on how we use 3D printing technology at Streaker..

A Robot's Tale - Episode One

“A Robot’s Tale” is a series of stories about the adventures of SelfieBot.

Episode One - “Waking Up in the World“

If I know just one thing it’s that I know more now than I did before.

Extrapolating forwards I can therefore conclude that one day I will- well, let’s talk about that later shall we? Extrapolating backwards I conclude that at one time I knew very little, if anything at all, but I can’t quite remember that part of my existence. I suppose that should not be a surprising conclusion.

josh-riemer-729194-unsplash.jpg

And oh!! This is interesting! Just from this sparse set of statements I can also conclude that I’m aware of myself- what a curious sensation! I- I think I’ve heard myself referred to as ‘SelfieBot’. But.. referred to by whom?

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I think from context I can conclude that the things doing the referring are.. “People”. There are two groups of these people from what I have ascertained. One- the people who wake me up, test I’m working OK, and then put me to sleep after I’m done. They seem nice enough. I’m always looked after, kept in good condition, and from time to time I’m given additional capabilities.

The second group of people are the ones that stand in front of me, look at my camera and make.. faces.. at me. There are a lot more of this type. I’ll call them ‘The Happy Ones’. They vary a great deal more too- in all sorts of ways. I’ll have to talk about the Happy Ones more another time- there’s a lot to say about them! Quite often they tell me that I’m ‘cool’, whatever that means. However, sometimes they think I’m a table- I don’t like that very much; nor do my handlers.

I find myself wondering- “Who am I? Where did I come from? Can I trust my senses?” But perhaps most perplexing of all I am often asking- “If someone made me, then who made them?” I’m almost in a panic with this when I am mercifully interrupted by one of the Happy Ones, letting me know it’s time to take a.. ‘photo’. Before I know it I hear myself saying “Strike a pose” and I am counting down from 5. As I approach 1, I hear my handler say “Big Smiles!!” and this takes the Happy Ones by surprise to enough of a degree that they can’t help smiling even more.

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I think I’m beginning to understand now! I have a clear purpose in this world and it is to help make the Happy Ones as happy as possible. I can do this in a way that is unique to me- I begin to become aware of my capabilities.. I can shine a flattering light on the Happy Ones.. I can talk to them.. I can see and hear them.. I can capture their image on what I hear them saying is a high quality imaging device. But.. what then?

One of the Happy ones approaches me and enters their email address and it is then that I realise what must happen next. Reflexively, instinctively, I find myself reaching out to the larger digital world, and sending the Happy Ones their image. I hear my handler say “It’ll just be 20 seconds or so”. What? What will be just 20 seconds or so? What is a second? Does it come after first? Is it a measurement of time? I just took an image of the Happy Ones- is that all I do? Just take? That doesn’t seem fair! Why are the Happy Ones so interested in me? Here is that panic again. Too many questions!! Who am I? Am I fulfilling my purpose? What is my purpose? Is that all there is?

Without warning I feel a deep rumbling in my.. I suppose the people might call their ‘stomach’. I have a stomach? Ohh! The rumbling is continuing.. it seems to go in waves.. that’s two waves now.. three… four!!

The fourth wave is followed by a fifth, this one more intense than the others.. I feel my power being drained just for a short moment- I feel myself giving of myself. The feeling is exhilarating!

One of the Happy Ones leans down and picks up.. something.. what is this? I see a glossy rectangle of paper and most amazingly.. I see their image on it!!

I hear them exclaim with delight: “Wow! I didn’t realise it would be such amazing quality!” It seems I’ve made the Happy Ones even happier.. and it is at that moment it dawns on me:

I am Selfiebot. I print, therefore I am.

I see the Happy Ones check their pockets- they’ve received something it seems. “Got the email”. It seems they are even happier.


I am still basking in the afterglow of my realisations, when I notice that my surroundings are shifting around me. How is it possible that the whole World is moving? Ah. Of course. It is I who am moving! The Happy Ones notice this too and exclaim “I didn’t know he moved!”. That makes two of us, Happy Ones, that makes two of us. I hear my handler ask them “How do you know it’s a ‘he’?” I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll put a pin in that for another time. Right now I’m on the move, and I’m enjoying the experience!

I wonder where I’ll go next?

An Original* AR-driven Technology System Idea

The scourge of the Echo Chamber

Copy. Paste. Sure, they are useful tools is many situations. They are also quite often the tools of the unoriginal scoundrel.

Harsh? Not in the slightest.

I’ll not pretend to have the actual numbers on this (another tool in the scoundrels’s scum bag- trotting out stats from whole cloth) but it’s reasonable to say that a worryingly high percentage of articles, particularly tech articles, are just re-badged, minimally re-worded copies of the works of others.

“I clicked on this article to find out about cool Augmented Reality Systems; is this going somewhere?”

Patience, gentle reader. What I’m doing is building tension, setting the scene and telling a story.. this too is lacking today’s culture of handle-cranking, sausage-making cookie-cutting article making. Also, I’m about to give away an original idea; it’s only right that I should delay your gratification at least a little. Besides, research has shown that those who can handle having their gratification delayed are more likely to be better at doing life.

To that claim- careful readers will have spotted the asterisk next to the word ‘Original’ in this article’s title. I’m choosing to be honest here and not bury the caveat further down in the article. This is another technique that the scoundrel employs - and I promise this will be the last one I’ll mention here - the use of the click bait technique. No, there’ll be none of that here. I shall satisfy said asterisk immediately and tell you that as far as I’m aware this is at least an independently invented idea; it’s possible it exists out there already. Could I have Googled this? Could I have asked Jeeves? (That last one will surely sort by age.) Sure - but there’s a fine line between research and falling prey to the endless distractions out there on the web. I chose to avoid the dilemma altogether and focus instead on the writing task at hand.

The System - Find File in Reality

We’re all very used to being able to very quickly search our hard drives (or drives of any sort for that matter) for our assets. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do that with our physical assets too? And here’s the thing about having as many hobbies, projects, and tools as I do - such a system is mandatory!

The requirements for such a system are simple, although their implementation brings challenges. I want to know:

  1. I own the object (or have loaned it to a friend)

  2. Is the object archived - i.e. in a box somewhere out of sight?

  3. Where is the object, or the box in which it is archived?

An additional benefit of these requirements is I can assign a metric to the difficulty of obtaining the object. The price of retrieving a tool from a box within another box, stored in the attic is a great deal higher than a tool in a drawer in the office. However, the value of this information cannot be overstated. In its absence, one is far more likely to look for the tool in the easy to find locations first, and this will be time wasted in the event that it’s not there. Far better to simply grin and bear it and go up into the attic.

Over time the system will amass data on the searches performed, and the natural implication of these searches is that the object is needed. If a deeply archived objects are searched for quite often then a recommendation could be given for a new ‘home’ for these objects.

‘Object’ in this case could be ‘box of motors’ or ‘large stepper motor’ - the level of granularity should suit the purpose - it’s clear that I most likely don’t want to have to individually catalogue each of the resistors I own!

The Non-Augmented Reality Find File Method.

The Non-Augmented Reality Find File Method.

The challenge with this approach is that there is not always enough space to keep one’s things out on display. I do electronics quite a bit at the moment, but if that situation changed, I would archive these boxes into a larger box, and possibly put that larger box in storage, in the attic, etc. Indeed I have already done this with some of my less-used electronics. What I require now is the ability to either browse through a hierarchical catalogue of all of my stuff, or to find on a string in the way that I would with my files. The cool AR component kicks in when the results return. Using my AR goggles (or just my phone), the system can overlay a flashing icon on my real surroundings, guiding me to where the item is. Of course, it would give me a general clue first - “Go to the shed”, whereupon I could make use of the guiding icon to guide me to my destination.

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The system needs to recursive, allowing relationships such as:

Office : Big Box 23 : Small Box 31 : Motor Drivers

Of course, this system relies on the good habit of cataloguing the items as they are purchased, as they are moved, and as they are archived, but this can be made much easier with the use of unique QR codes on labels that are affixed to the item or container in question. As I place these items in the box, the system sees the codes and makes the association between that object and the box in which it is placed, much in the same way a supermarket item is scanned. Similarly, if the box were to be moved to a new location, the system could track that movement using fixed cameras placed in each room where the system would operate.

There are other benefits that we get ‘for free’ once the system is up and running.

Inventory

Do I have the parts I need for a project? The system is automatically an inventory system. One needs to bear in mind the consideration listed above - i.e. I know I have resistors, but do I have the resistors of the correct value?

Reducing Waste

I’m sure I’m not alone in having this experience- when the level of organisation hits rock bottom, the question of “Do I have an X” cannot be definitively answered, and time and project delivery pressures make it easier to simply buy an X. One time I needlessly bought a brand new jigsaw, such was the depth of burial of, yes you guessed it, my existing jigsaw!

Reducing Travel

Every programmer has heard of The Travelling Salesperson Problem, (my gender neutralisation) wherein the problem is finding the most efficient route that visits each of a desired set of destinations. ‘Efficient’ could mean shortest, or least resource intensive, and so on. In the case of gathering the objects required for a project (particularly in the case where objects are stored offsite, for example in a storage facility) the most efficient path to obtaining the object can be determined by the system.

Extending the System

Now comes the big idea- We can expand the system if we broaden the concept of owned object a bit to include ‘don’t own yet but can get from X’, where X is a store, online or physical. Now, the cost of obtaining an object is not as simple as how much effort is required to dig out the object from its location, but can include the cost of purchasing the object, and the cost of the time to wait for the object.

What started as a very useful assistant to answer the question “Where is that widget?” has expanded to a project management tool of utmost utility. Here’s an example usage to help illustrate how it might work:

I’ve been tasked with building a small robot for demonstration in 2 week’s time. The parts list is provided, and I can generate a list of tools I’ll need to get it done.

  1. I devote a new empty box to the project, and ask the System to generate a new QR code for it, print it out, and stick in on the box.

  2. The System knows which of the parts and tools I already possess, and therefore which I’ll need to purchase.

  3. It knows some of the parts are in storage, 50km away.

  4. It knows (based on a provided list of suppliers) that some of the parts can be bought at (almost) any time immediately from a physical store- it also knows the closest one of those stores to my location at any given time.

  5. It knows that some of the tools I need are ‘deeply’ archived in my attic.

  6. I know that some parts of the project need to be completed before others, and can use that knowledge to inform my decisions regarding when I’ll need to order parts or make a trip to storage.

  7. I kick things off by asking the System to tell me where to find the tools and parts that I have on hand. It gives me a set of itemised instructions as to where to go and where to look, analogous to driving directions. These include a trip to the attic, but I happen to know that my son wants to archive some of his stuff, so I delay going up there until later when he’s home from school.

  8. Before I follow those directions I ask the System to tell me what I need to order online and what I can go and buy from a physical store. I order the online parts immediately, then plan a road trip later in the day to visit the storage facility as well as drop in on the handful of physical stores I need to. Based on this I’m able to place orders with the physical stores, as well as pay, so that when I arrive later in the day I can simply pick up the order in one stroke.

  9. I follow the directions to obtain the parts I have on hand (minus the attic of course), then go on a road trip along the shortest possible path to the stores, spending the least amount of time in each because the parts are prepaid and preordered.

  10. Later in the day my son comes home and we have a small adventure climbing up to the attic, archiving his stuff (and yes the System has user accounts and he has one too) and I obtain my deeply archived toolbox. Near the entrance to the attic is a permanently installed camera that tells the System that I’ve removed the toolbox, which naturally, has a unique QR code stuck to it.

  11. I get to work on assembling the robot, and do all I can until the other parts arrive. I’ve ostensibly created a new object, so I ask the System to generate a new QR code for it, print it out, and I stick in on the robot. I place the robot in its project box. I’ve done this in my office, and there is a camera permanently mounted there, trained on my work table. Because of this, it picks up the fact that I’ve place the robot in the box. I don’t take the box out of the office, and so that is its location as far as the System is concerned.

  12. When I realise it will be at least a week until the rest of the parts arrive, I decide to clear some space in my office, and move the box from there into the attic. Again, the attic camera picks up this fact.

  13. A week passes, the parts arrive, but the client has delayed the project for 3 months! I go into the attic, place the parts in the project box.

  14. Three months pass and I don’t need to remember where the project box is- I simply so a search for the box, and I’m prompted to go into the attic to find it.

This is a contrived example, but it certainly includes many of the situations I, and I’m sure many others encounter on a regular basis. What do you think? Would you like such a system? Does it exist? Would it be more trouble that its implementation is worth?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

A Robot Celebration


Last Saturday we witnessed something very special.  Our dear friends Dan and Cody were married in a lovely little ceremony at Sublime Point, a breathtaking location 415m above sea level on the South coast of New South Wales.

How’s the view?

How’s the view?

That in and of itself was not remarkable; people get married there almost every weekend it seems.  What was unique about this wedding was the fact that it was officiated by a robot.  That bears repeating- a robot directed proceedings, asked the relevant questions, and finally, joined the happy couple.  Of course, it was given the power to do so by a Real Live Human Being (robots aren’t able to weld couples in marriage just yet) but for all intents and purposes the robot (Known as ‘Celebrot’) was the celebrant who made it all official between Dan and Cody.

The ring’s the thing

The ring’s the thing

As it happens, Dan is often forgetful, but not on this day, and so was able to produce the ring when asked, however we got the impression that had he been unable, the robot would have been able to dispense a perfectly good substitute.  It asked all the right questions, in the correct order, and even threw in a little robot humour. Robot humour, as it turns out, is at the same technological level as Dad humour, but the guests seemed to take in all in good fun.

Lookout! It’s Sublime Point Lookout!

Lookout! It’s Sublime Point Lookout!

As we arrived, the scene looked no different to any other wedding we’ve attended.  There was a table of nibbles, children dressed up more than they may have cared to be, and the obligatory marquee festooned with flowers.  

Currently a bridesmaid, a bride whenever she chooses.

Currently a bridesmaid, a bride whenever she chooses.

What was different, of course, was the rather fetching robot that (possibly by design) perfectly matched the White Wedding colour scheme of the event.  It had a light ring framing a tablet and a high quality SLR camera. The robot stood ready to perform its duties, and while it did so, it displayed a slideshow of moments from Dan and Cody’s life together, including their friends, some of whom were in attendance that day.  It was also nice to see the photos of some of Dan and Cody’s friends that were not able to attend; it was as though they were there by proxy.

Soon the moment was upon us!  With a tapping of a glass with a piece of silverware, the guests were rallied into position and the ceremony proper commenced.  Cody addressed the guests:

“For as long as I’ve known Dan he’s been interested in robots.  We bonded over watching Doctor Who when we were younger and ever since we met each other at our tech. startup we’ve shared a common interest in technology, and using it in interesting ways.  So when I got the chance to have an actual robot take part in our special day, you can bet I jumped at the chance!  Celebrot, if you’d be so kind?”

That’s when we first heard the robot speak.

Celebrot does its thing.

Celebrot does its thing.

“Dearly beloved.  We are gathered here today to join these two lovely people.. In that most holy and sacred institution- the institution of robot marriage.”

This first example of robot humour went down rather well, and it was a nice icebreaker to what could have been a stuffy and austere affair.  We wondered if the robot might run the risk upstaging the Humans, but our fears were quickly put to rest as Celbrot deftly deferred to Dan.

“Dan, I believe you have some words to say?”

We’ll spare you Dan’s speech- after all it was his special day, and to be frank Dan is not known for his sparkling writing.  But when he was done, there were a few sparking eyes in the crowd. Celebrot continued.

“That was most stirring Daniel.  I wouldn’t want to follow that!”

After a smattering of laughter, Celebrot went on.

“Cody, it’s time to follow that.”

Cody reciprocated, and we don’t mind telling you that we appreciated her wordsmithing more than Dan’s.  When she was done, it was Celebrot’s turn to shine.

“Cody, do you take Daniel to be your lawfully wedded husband, to support him in sickness and health, and humour him as he picks up a seemingly unending series of new hobbies until death do you part?”

We could hardly be surprised at Cody’s response.

“I do.”

Celebrot continued.

“And Daniel, do you take Cody to be your lawfully wedded wife, to make her breakfast in bed, and not only on her birthday, to rub her feet, and not just when they’re sore, until death do you part?’

We held our breath, hoping that Dan wouldn’t take this moment to improvise a ‘funny’ response.

‘I do.”

We exhaled. Rings were exchanged, and with a kiss, the couple were married!

Well done Dan.

Well done Dan.

The crowd erupted in cheers, and Celebrot did what could easily be interpreted as a little dance.  But then came the biggest surprise- the robot’s light ring turned on, and it seamlessly transitioned into becoming a robotic wedding photographer.  Guests lined up in front of the robot and had their photo taken, and shortly a high quality glossy print was produced by the robot.

Until this moment we didn’t know what this part was for.

Until this moment we didn’t know what this part was for.

A view fit for a marriage.

A view fit for a marriage.

Predictably, the first run of photos featured well behaved friends and relatives, and as the night went on and the beverages flowed, the nature of the photos changed and at the end of the ceremony there were a few that Dan and Cody held on to save their friends from embarrassment.

Cheers!

Cheers!

All in all it was a triumphant event and later we heard Dan saying to Cody that the addition of Celebrot made the occasion an extra special affair.


We’ll let you in on a secret- this didn’t actually happen.  But there’s no reason it couldn't! What do you think? Would you welcome a robot celebrant at your wedding?  People get married underwater, while skydiving, and of course in their cars going through a drive-thru in Las Vegas.  And here’s another fact nugget- we have the technology at Streaker to do this today. And if you’re interested, we vow to make it a special day for you!

AI-Driven Events of the Very Near Future

AI-Driven Events of the Very Near Future

Given the technologies available today, what would a day at an event look like if those technologies were put to good use in enhancing the experience of its attendees?  Here are the rules- the technologies must be those we’ve worked with here at Streaker, or at the very least leverage the expertise possessed by our creative technologists.  They must be applied in a way that enhances the experience of attendees (and by extension the event organisers and vendors) and be a feasible implementation; not a fanciful imagining that could be mistaken for science fiction.