Google’s project Ara, aimed at creating a smart phone consisting of easily interchanged modules, is officially shelved.
Ara should have been a research project, and not a productization attempt. As a product, it was always questionable: it’s hard to figure out what could make customers wait in line for these phones (“I can change a camera, uhuh, OK, and?”), and it’s not clear what would make manufacturers want to produce them (“Let me see if I get this straight, I now get to sell components with lower profit margins, rather than integrated devices with higher ones — I should do this why, exactly?”).
For a research project, seamless modularization would have been an intriguing and potentially transformative goal. Modularity is cool. Continue reading
As of July 2016, the totals of places where I went running and ran at least one mile include:
- Countries: 12 out of 196
- Canadian provinces and territories: 3 out of 13
- US states: 30 out of 50
The recent additions to the collection are Delaware and North Carolina (both added in March 2016) and Iceland (added in March 2015). The countries and the states where I went running are: Continue reading
The wisdom of racing is that finishing dead last (DFL) is better than not finishing (DNF), and not finishing is better than not starting (DNS). DFL < DNF < DNS.
Well, T-shirt wisdom aside, sometimes you gotta take the annoying DNS. And that’s the case with my planned 2016 New York City Triathlon, which is going on this Sunday, less than 16 hours from now. Continue reading
New Zealand Herald has an interesting opinion piece on the promise of wearable tech in work-wearables. The author makes several good points about why work wearables look like a promising area: work wearables have more reasons to be wearable, their price is easier to justify, and one won’t necessarily have to worry as much about style.
Different from, say, using existing lifestyle trackers for figuring out the employees’ levels of fitness, the argument is for wearables as tools for getting work done. Like smart uniforms that have long been envisioned by different military agencies — helping people be more productive in the 3rd of the lifetime that they spend at work.
Amazon recently announced that it will be partnering with over 50 additional brands in deploying its Dash buttons, small electronic buttons that can be sprinkled around the house and clicked to order the product a button represents. There are now more than 150 buttons available, covering products both ubiquitous (Doritos, Huggies, Gatorade) and niche (Greenies, L’il Critters Vitamins, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein).
A Dash button in its intended deployment.
From an engineering point of view, Dash Button is a curious creature. Other smart buttons, such as the Flic Wireless Smart Button, exhibit the design choices that an engineer would naturally come up with: a smart button is a small device with a replaceable coin cell battery, communicating over Bluetooth. If you come up to me, or any other engineer, and ask them to sketch on a napkin a smart button design, you’d get something like Flic.
I am finding it exceptionally rewarding to be serving on the Grace Hopper Conference Scholarship Committee, that is, reviewing Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference travel grant applications. I’ve served on this committee in 2015 and 2016, and plan to continue doing it in the foreseeable future.
Science Magazine announced its 9th annual Dance Your PhD Contest — a competition for best explaining your PhD research in an interpretive dance.
My treasure of a dentist, the smartest and most caring of all dentists that I ever had, said the darnest thing to me the other day: “You do research, really? Good for you. I could never do it myself, it’s so boring.” She said that as she was reaching for an oddly shaped sharp implement which, she explained, was “like a cookie-cutter, but for the gums.” Cookie-cutting gums is fun for her, you see. Research is boring. My jaw would have dropped if my mouth was not already propped wide open with a different oddly shaped (this one rubbery, rather than sharp) implement.
Research, boring? I mean, seriously?
Like many other people, I was saddened by the death of Andy Grove, the former Intel CEO who drove the growth of Silicon Valley.
Andy Grove’s “High Output Management” has been my go-to book on running teams and improving business processes. I have seen few books like it: it offers a clean, clear, distinctly common-sense engineering perspective on day-to-day issues that managers face. I have internalized multiple messages from this book, such as its approach to one-on-ones (their importance and structure) and its guidance on team sizes. This book stands in sharp contrast to many “Leadership BS” books: it offers practical no-nonsense advice and guidance, rather than noble-sounding but impractical practical tidbits. Continue reading
An activity that enhances both creativity and communication skills — wouldn’t that be a fun activity to try? Uri Alon, a scientist at Weizmann Institute of Science, promotes creativity of improvisation theater training as similar to creativity of truly innovative scientific discoveries [ link to Uri’s TED talk ]. In the keynote speech of the 2015 Supercomputing conference, Alan Alda, an Oscar-nominated actor and a long-time host of Scientific American Frontiers show, talks about the benefits of improvisation training for scientific communications.
Alan Alda’s talk gives me a push I need to give improvisation theater training a try. December 2015 through February 2016, each Monday evening I spend 3 hours learning how to do improv at NYC Magnet Theater .