There are a multitude of unsolved mysteries left for science to tackle. We don’t know where life came from or whether it exists elsewhere in the universe. We’re not even sure what most of the universe is made of. But all the more amazing to me are how many everyday phenomenon are not fully understood. We don’t know why we sleep. We don’t entirely know what moves the continents. We don’t even understand our own clothing. It’s true. What you’re wearing right now, we don’t know why you chose it, cannot predict what you will wear tomorrow, or even explain exactly what you are accomplishing by wearing it. Science lacks any ”Theory of Clothing.”
That doesnt mean we’re totally in the dark. We know that we use clothing to regulate body temperature. It seems obvious that it’s involved in social signaling, otherwise we’d fully relinquish our duds in warm weather. But good luck finding a textbook that explains how that social signaling works, why we often dress at odds with temperature regulation or the empirically derived purpose of neckties. An astronomer can easily tell you what phase the moon will be in on July 24th, 2097, but nobody can accurately predict what your sister will wear tomorrow. That’s kind of fantastic.
And it’s not like a theory of clothing is esoteric. The world apparel market is worth some $1.7 trillion yearly and about 75 million people are involved in making those clothes(ref). Shouldn’t we know why they do that? And wouldn’t it be handy for a trillion dollar industry to have some method for forecasting demand? Because right now it’s partially done by designers looking at rocks in their pockets. We can do better.
Here’s an article that takes an opening stab at the problem. Kurt Gray, Peter Schmitt, Nina Strohminger and Karim S. Kassam’s recently published “The Science of Style: In Fashion, Colors Should Match Only Moderately.” If you don’t like reading scientific articles, it’s pretty well digested on Slate.
The article’s findings—that clothing should match, but not too much—include equations and a graph. This is fantastic not because graphs and equations are themselves fantastic (though they are), but because someone is finally asking structured questions about what all this fabric is doing around our bodies. And asking in a way that tries to make predictions. Because these styles must mean something, and something pretty important considering we’re spending 1.7 trillion dollars to drape them around us. “Wearables” are all the rage with tech writers and venture capitalists, but how can we make great wearables until we know what and why we wear things in the first place? A theory of clothing could do that.
Is anyone else in science studying clothes? I’d love to hear about it.
The LilyPad XBee sew-in wearable radio created by myself and Kate Hartman just got an update to add a reset button and improve its manufacturability. This board can be paired with LilyPad wearable sensors, custom built sensors and a variety of output devices to create a complete wireless wearable system. Available from Sparkfun for just $14.95 with discounts available for larger quantities. Get yours today!
Botanicalls was recently featured in the Smithsonian Channel’s “Amazing Plants” documentary. There’s even beauty shots of the Arduino and XBee radio components!
Also here’s the segment, filmed all the way back in 2007:
For the latest Digi Hackathon, I headed overseas to hold our first ever creative construction event at Digi’s office in Logroño, Spain. Using XBee WiFi Cloud Kits, the four teams hacked away for what was the most competitive session yet. In a matter of hours, each team had to quickly brainstorm, build, and present their cloud-connected projects. Their results were terrific.
- The Garbage M.A.N.: Smart garbage containers monitoring for smart cities
- Germinator Plus: An automated system for remote greenhouse seed germination monitoring.
- Lie-Detect-o-Meter: A mobile battery-operated wristband lie detector for public questioning.
- The Smart Plug-Y-Play: A power consumption monitor and remote control for computers and other electrical appliances.
Read more and see pictures on the Digi blog.
Last week, we held a Digi Employee Hackathon to put the new XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit to the test. This is one of several ways we are working on designing outstanding user experiences for new Digi products. With the kits, the teams were able to build projects that connected with the cloud right away. One team member reported, “I got from the box to the cloud in under 20 minutes.” Using the kit’s dashboard, new widgets were developed to whimsically represent data being collected by Device Cloud. Rain, food safety and even child development were addressed by our project teams.
I’m looking forward to doing more of these internal hackathons in the coming year. They’re fun!
Read more about this hackathon on the Digi Blog.
I’m quoted this week on the NOVA web site in a well-done NOVA-next summary piece by Alison Bruzek’s about the Internet of Things. It’s called “To Automate Everything, Solve These Three Challenges“:
“…Connected devices are just beginning to slip into homes, from smart thermostats to apps that unlock your door without a key…as the internet of things is poised to remake our homes and offices, it’s facing perhaps its most critical test: adoption by the average consumer. The intelligent future promised by entrepreneurs won’t catch on if those devices can’t connect to each other automatically, lack intuitive programmability, or aren’t appealing designed. If they fail at any one of these, automating our homes may be more trouble than its worth.“
I argue that this intelligent future won’t arrive as some brave new world of scary robots, descending on us en masse. And you certainly won’t bring it all home in one bag.
“The best, easiest-to-use smart objects will likely look no different than devices we use today, Faludi points out. “A big chunk of this will just be baked into things that we buy,” he says. “You won’t buy an ‘internet of things.’“
Read more of the article online on the NOVA web site .
The new XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit won an Editor’s Choice award at Maker Faire NYC! My team at Digi International has been hard at work all summer bringing together this modular kit to help users create XBee Wi-Fi connected devices for the Internet of Things. There’s a development board with all kinds of input and output components plus modular widgets to make building online web interfaces for seeing data and controlling devices a snap. The kit gets online right out of the box, and contains additional loose components to help you create your own circuits and wire them to the web. Look for an XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit release in November.
We also showed off the beta of Digi’s XCTU configuration tool and presented “Make it Awesome: How to Internet-Enable Your Project.” Here’s some more photos from our fabulous weekend at Maker Faire NYC:
Get a sneak peek of the brand new version of Digi’s XCTU for Mac & Windows! It’s the official tool to configure and test XBee radios, as well as other Digi devices. Get the New XCTU beta version below, completely redesigned from the ground up with:
- a fresh new user interface
- expanded discovery options
- automatic device recovery feature
- local and remote radio management
- API frame generator and interpreter
- automatic updates with more features on the way!
Check out these screen shots for a sneak peek. Then download the new XCTU 188.8.131.52 beta:
World Maker Faire NY is less than a week away! We’ll have project demos for you to check out, a new development kit, and we’ll be giving a talk on connecting your projects to the Internet. It’s going to be an extremely fun weekend. If you’re going to Maker Faire, be sure to stop by the Digi booth where we will be debuting our XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit. The Kit makes Internet-enabling your project easy. Maker Faire attendees also have a chance to sign up for the beta version of Digi’s new XCTU software.
Digi’s Liz Presson and I will be presenting September 22, 2013 at 12:00p.m. EST on the Electronics Stage. We’ll show you how an Internet connection can improve your project and turn it into something amazing. This will be a great first step to getting your projects online. Everything from how to get started, what technologies to use and examples of great internet enabled projects will be covered.
Learn more about the talk here!