Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Teaching the Makers

TerraSwarm researcher and UC Berkeley Assistant Professor, Bjoern Hartmann,  is helping to educate the next generation of "Makers".   Two classes he teaches at Berkeley,  Interactive Device Design and Critical Making, were highlighted in a November 2013 Forbes online article.

"The question is no longer: can we make it (a product)?" says Dr. Bjoern Hartmann.  "Instead, it has changed to what can we make that's worthwhile?"

The classes take students from the initial sketch through to working prototype and introduces them to the Maker tools, such as 3D printers and laser cutters, allowing them to transform their ideas into products.  These classes encourage heavy design experimentation and connected devices.

To read the full article, go to Educating A Maker: The Berkeley Perspective

Home Appliance Remote Control with Google Glass

An online article in Engadget (December 10, 2013) highlighted one of the applications being designed and developed by TerraSwarm students at UC Berkeley which allows users to interact with devices in their environment without having to touch the device or explicitly summon the device through a smart phone, tablet, or computer. This vision is called “the UnPad” in TerraSwarm and has included the development of prototypes adapting Google Glass with head-up display (HUD) to provide users with real-time device status and available commands. According to the article:

By adding an IR emitter to the side of Glass, the Berkeley team was able to demonstrate remote control of home appliances by pairing them with an Xbee 802.15.4 WiFi radio and micro controller.
A user need only look at the intended appliance to bridge a connection-- made possible by an IR-transmitted device ID- and view toggles for control.

To learn how the students dealt with the challenge of getting the Glass to select one appliance from a cluster of devices in close proximity to each other, read the full article, Google Glass mod gives you control over home appliances with one touch pairing:  http://www.engadget.com/2013/12/10/google-glass-mod-gives-you-control-over-home-appliances/

Monday, February 24, 2014

Michigan Micro Motes

The American Society of Mechanical Engineer's website in December 2013 reported on a prototype of a millimeter-scale computing system that was recently developed by TerraSwarm researchers at the University of Michigan. According to the article Powering up with Particulate Computers:

Tiny, self-sufficient, spying, collecting, and reporting computers are not the thing of some far off future, be it dis- or u- topian. That future is here, at least in prototype form. “What we have today is millimeter scale computing systems, that integrate all of the essential features: sensors that can measure light, pressure, temperature,” says Prabal Dutta, a professor at the University of Michigan. “They communicate wirelessly and harvest energy autonomously.”
The genius—and the slog—behind the Michigan Micro Motes, as the tiny computers are called, has less to do with shrinking the size of any one component, and more to do with the painstaking 20-year long task of getting all tiny parts to work together. “There’s no one single thing that had to happen,” says Dutta. “We had to solve a spectrum of challenges.”
To read more about some of the challenges they had to overcome, see the full article on the ASME website.

TerraSwarm Researchers Write Programs that Jam

A trio of TerraSwarm researchers at UC Berkeley have developed computer programs that can improvise jazz melodies. This work was recently highlighted in Metal Machine Music, published in the the Winter 2013 Information Issue of California Magazine:

Our research is part of a broader effort to better understand how machines can adapt to unforeseen changes in their environments, according to Sanjit Seshia, UC Berkeley Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. “If you look at the dictionary meaning of ‘improvise,’ it means you’re performing something without preparation,” says Seshia, who is working with Music and Technology professor David Wessel and post doctoral researcher Alexandre DonzĂ©. “Music is a very nice way to investigate these ideas.”
Wessel is optimistic about the potential impact of the team’s research. He and Seshia both see their work someday used in other tasks requiring improvisation such as in a highway control system that tackles traffic jams or accidents without human input.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Prabal Dutta Receives NSF Career Award

On January 27, 2014, University of Michigan Professor and TerraSwarm researcher Prabal Dutta was awarded an NSF Career Award for his "Scalable Sensor Infrastructure for Sustainably Managing the Built Environment."

The University of Michigan website stated:

"Under the program, Prof. Dutta will develop advanced sensor technologies that will help to create progress toward the current Federal sustainability goals that mandate that 50% of U.S. commercial buildings become net-zero energy by 2050. A range of options exists to achieve this goal, but financial concerns require a data-driven, empirically-validated approach."
"Specifically, Prof. Dutta will develop a class of low cost, networked "peel and stick" sensors that can be affixed to everyday objects to infer their contributions to whole-building resource consumption. The sensors will monitor the ambient conditions around a load and, using statistical methods, correlate those conditions with readings from existing electricity, gas, or water meters, providing individual estimates without intrusive metering. The sensors will not require external power and will enable scalable deployment and widespread adoption. More information about the project is available in Prof. Dutta's CAREER Award Posting by NSF."
"Since joining the University of Michigan in 2010, Prof. Dutta's research has pioneered practical, low-power platforms and wireless protocols for pervasive sensing, computing, and communications, typically by leveraging hardware/software insights and applying a whole-system approach that spans circuits to software. His work aims to give us the platforms and protocols to realize these systems at scale and in the service of society, and in the interests of increasing the diversity and longevity of life on our planet."
"Prof. Dutta received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught courses in Introduction to Logic Design (EECS 270), Introduction to Computer Organization (EECS 370), Design of Microprocessor Based Systems (EECS 373), Advanced Operating Systems (EECS 582), and Wireless Sensor Networks (EECS 598). He is a recipient of the Intel Early Career Faculty Honor Program Award and is affiliated with the Advanced Computer Architecture Laboratory."
"About the NSF CAREER Award
The CAREER grant is one of the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards, conferred for "the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization."