Monthly Archives: May 2013

Crazy new flexible 3D printing materials from Shapeways and Materialise.

Shapeways is developing a new material called Elasto Plastic.

It’s just what it sounds like, a stretchy, flexible, 3D printable material. The possibilities for wearables like jewelry and shoes are enormous- and the medical implications for a material that looks and behaves like cartilage are incredibly exciting.

Earlier today Materialise announced that their flexible printing material is now available to all users on a trial basis.

Materialise has a history of working with high-end designers and couture, as opposed to Shapeways’ more egalitarian, any-Maker-can-play approach. So their product, TPU 92A-1, made its debut on the catwalk during Iris van Herpen’s Voltage Haute Couture show at Paris Fashion Week. You can see the dress being made!

I look at the fun designers and artists are having with 3D printers, and wonder where this sea change in artifact production will fit in fashion history.

Is it like the Jacquard Loom or more like home sewing machines becoming widely available? To the average creative person, 3D printing may work in clothing and accessory design like Sculpey/Fimo – a way to make small decorative things easily and cheaply.

Will the next stage be designers be buying home 3D printers and making signature clothing components, for people to add to their projects? Perhaps custom monogram buttons, or flexible bra cups made to your measurements, to sew into a bustier?

I recently bought some custom digitally embroidered lace pieces from a woman on Etsy. I told her what colors I wanted and she programmed her machine to run them up. She uses commercially available patterns, probably buys the design files from a company like Urban Threads.

Soon enough, artists and designers will be selling print design files so that people can print jewelry or shoes on their own home 3D printers.

Flexible materials make this profoundly more useful and interesting. Vivienne Westwood jelly shoes- 3D print your own at home soon?At Maker Faire, the guys from Deezmaker gave me a stretchy bangle made of PLA, which used the strength of the material and sheerness of its output to flex very nicely. But that’s designing around material, not designing to it. Want Vivienne Westwood jellies? Buy the file, print your own!

These Nicholas Kirkwood Beatrice shoes with insane lacquered laminate heels cost £540- but you could 3D print something like this easily. And hopefully soon, I will!Nicholas Kirkwood Beatrice Suede Wedge Courts






this post originally appeared on the T324 Blog.

Soylent is the post-food nutrition drink for busy guys at tech startups. Yuck.

People give money to the weirdest Kickstarters. And crowdfunds you’d never expect to fund go nuts, sometimes.

I would have loved to see the Soylent Crowdhoster fail, but instead it’s at 374%.

Why, why would anyone want to give up food?

Why would anyone consider food something you need to set your body free from? Who thinks like that? I’ll tell you who. Software engineers and hackers, that’s who. I live with one, and if this crap goes on the market, we’ll be buying it for him. Continue reading

Is the future finally here? Oddly, the XBox One release confirms it.

We didn’t expect a video game controller to seal the deal on living science fiction style.

But it’s the most banal uses of innovation that create widespread adoption. Microsoft has just released the new XBox One, with wildly improved Kinect sensor tech.

Seriously, the new Kinect tech is unbelievable. It can probably see what religion you are.

XBox One has widescreen Skype capabilities (for your group activities and phonotelephote needs) and voice commands. “Computer. Computer? Hello, computer?”

“The new Kinect can also see under our clothes. No, it’s not scanning our bodies, but it can intuit skeletons and muscles. The new human-based physics model helps Kinect not only detect movement, but also tell which muscles are in use and which are relaxed. On screen, we saw these differences represented as red (stressed) and green (relaxed) muscles.” – Mashable

So a camera that can see under your skin and a computer that responds to your voice and a videophone that shows your living room to the other side of the globe costs $500.

That’s the future, right?

On Saturday my boyfriend and I went to Maker Faire. Afterwards, we had bubble tea in a Palo Alto cafe with a hacker friend who works at Marketo.

I asked her, “Do you feel like there’s an accelerating sense that the future is finally happening, this year?”

She said yes; she said she hears it from people around her too. “The cyberpunk dystopias are all coming true, and yet there’s good things about them that we didn’t foresee.” Like the 3D printing boom.

There were dozens of 3D printing companies at Maker Faire; they had their own section on the map.

I remember the early consumer 3D printing machines at SIGGRAPH in 1999, how miraculous the fragile little objects seemed. At Maker Faire the Deezmaker people gave me a stretchy bracelet and a pendant I couldn’t actually break. They were printed on their Bukobot “Green” model, which makes objects with a beautiful glittering finish from biodegradable PLA. (In 1985 I read about plastic made from corn in “Footfall” and it seemed impossible; right now the cup my iced coffee is in was made from corn.)

I stopped by the Shapeways booth to handle all the materials; their new Premium Silver is GORGEOUS. The Klein Bottle Opener in Glossy Antique Bronze is as covetable a geek goodie as you’ll ever find. The ceramics look great too.

Printed body parts are developing fast; this week NASA announced that pretty soon we’ll be able to order “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” as well. “Don’t print guns, print food!”

Think about how Big Data and the Quantified Self will change healthcare.

Right now we don’t know exactly what causes the Marin Breast Cancer Epidemic. But we could know soon. Put a FitBit or a Scanadu Scout (just released and hailed as a real-life Tricorder) on every lady and give the data to cloud-based Big Data apps.

Electric Cars? Tesla just paid off almost a half a billion in Federal loans- nine years early.

I saw a Tesla roadster on the way to work last week- it blew by me like I was standing still. It was red flake and looked amazing. I saw a Google self-driving car on the same strip of 80 East earlier this year; I gave it a wide berth but it seemed to be driving as well as I was.

Crowdfunding is changing the world.

Every startup at Maker Faire had a Kickstarter or an IndieGoGo. “Where’s your Kickstarter at?” I asked blue ribbon winner Eric Sagotsky, who’s created a beautiful 3D vis tool/art piece called ModelBox3D. I just assumed they had one. It’s at 10% today. We can crowdfund space, if private industry doesn’t take us there first.

Seriously, with this kind of support available to inventors and makers, innovation is being supercharged. We can literally pay to have our dreams made real. And a lot of us have been dreaming about the future all our lives.

this post originally appeared on the T324 Blog.

Sawyer has a chip in his head, and J.J. Abrams has all the things.

When I came in to work today, our production department (aka “the guys”) was discussing the news that J.J. Abrams may do Portal and Half-Life movies.Josh Holloway and Marg Helgenberger in new CBS show Intelligence

This is so ridiculous that we really don’t have words for it. Especially in light of the lukewarm reviews of JJTrek2, and their possibly ominous implications for Abrams’ Star Wars movies.

Should we really put all our scifi franchise eggs in the basket of a billionaire named JJ?

Somewhere in the myriad action set pieces, plot points (and holes), and fan-servicing references in J.J. Abrams� new Star Trek Into Darkness lies a question that sticks with you long after the credits roll: What does this mean for Star Wars? The latest outing for the Star Trek franchise will be the last directorial effort from Abrams until his Episode VII, and now that some fairly lackluster reviews have started to come in it�s hard not to wonder/worry if what happened with Trek could happen in a different galaxy far, far away.

We were all discouraged, and yet we’re all planning to go see Star Trek: Into Darkness this weekend.

To cheer up, we had an office discussion of how excellent the Dredd remake was, and how great Karl Urban is. Is his frown CG? Is it possible to frown continuously for an entire movie shoot?

Meanwhile, Lost‘s Sawyer (aka actor/hotness machine Josh Holloway) is in a chip-in-head show starting next Fall.

It’s called Intelligence, and it looks fairly dumb, but I’ll watch it, because Sawyer. Also CSI’s marvelous, viscerally powerful Marg Helgenberger and the sassy Meghan Ory are in it. As well as long-time Genre Player with Honors John Billingsley.

The chip-in-head HUD visuals look more Lawnmower Man than Continuum, so fingers crossed.

Is a chip-in-head show too Uncanny Valley right now, with Google Glass closing in HUD space so quickly? My boyfriend doesn’t follow Glass news as closely as I do. He was horrified to learn that with Google I/O this week there actually people walking around SoMA with Glass on. Aka Glassholes. Including prototypes for eyeglass wearers, so Glass for me is not too far away!

The resemblance of Holloway’s chip-HUD to real-life Glass AR may make the show look dated before it launches.

But we hope not, because we loved Sawyer so, so much, and we’d like to see Holloway as the star of his own show. Come to think of it, we’d have liked to see 121 episodes of Lost starring Holloway…

this post originally appeared on the T324 blog.

Mechanical telepathy, getting closer every day.

When I got on Twitter in 2007, I fell in love with the way it formed a kind of cloud consciousness for my community.

It reminded me of being a graffiti writer in New York in 1980 and getting on a subway car that had just been tagged by someone I knew. In the wet ink I could see the traces of my friend’s presence, the knowledge that they had probably gotten off just one stop before I got on. I could feel the network of the subway system brachiating out through the city, feel my awareness of my community spreading across it, leaving marks of our passage for each other. There was a signal going out into the world, openly visible and yet you needed to be part of it to recognize it.

Twitter and Foursquare were an evolution of that community consciousness and communication, a distributed mechanical telepathy. Now, of course, the Twitter signal is mostly noise, except when it’s news, which is a very different thing. But mechanical telepathy is still moving forward, with devices like Google Glass at the forefront.

Mechanical telepathy is why I want a ChipInHead, not because of the HUD aspect.Continuum's Kiera uses her HUD display.


I want the MMI‘s I saw in 1982 in Larry Niven’s most politically radical book, the Panopticon/ecoterrorism fable Oath of Fealty. In Oath of Fealty, two executives who have Brain-Computer Interfaces with their corporate server essentially IM or email each other through the corporation’s AI-like system.

It’s a very manageable, intentional vision of telepathy- there’s no possibility of accidentally overhearing things you don’t want to hear, or becoming overwhelmed by hearing every mind in the world. You don’t need earworms about Tensors to protect yourself from snooping Espers. In fact, this version of telepathy is most like texting, and one of the reasons I love texting is that it possesses agency, latency and a non-invasive property that the phone call never did. Texting, and the smartwatch bubble, are steps on the way to mechanical telepathy. So is Neurogaming.

The world’s first Neurogaming Conference was just held in SF last week.

Neurogaming tech builds on the current Quantified Self sensormania, ever-improving haptic tech, and the is-VR-finally-here excitement around tools like the Oculus Rift. In the Year of The Cyborg Tipping Point, we’re ready for recreational use of medical and military bio-monitoring tech. We’re ready for AR, not in the locative death scene art-installation sense but in the quotidian sense. But market forces have to justify the R&D. The success of sensor tech like the Kinect and the Wii doesn’t mean guaranteed resources for gaming EEG and invasive-sounding biofeedback tools like sweat tasters.

Medical dollar competition, like prosthetic control and the race for the bionic eye market, may push brain-computer interface development along.

The Nurmikko Nanophotonics and Neuroengineering lab at Brown has a research goal of recording signals from primate brains. Then there’s magnetized ink for a haptic tattoo. Nokia has taken out a patent application. Feeling a distinct pattern of pulses when your loved one calls is definitely a form of telepathy.

What about the product actually called Telepathy?

Telepathy One, the Glass-type wearable AR device that was demoed at SXSW, sent out a press release about its US launch this week. Telepathy One is focused on media sharing and experience augmentation, and uses earbuds rather than bone conduction, which supposed to make it affordable. The concept is more “reach out and touch someone” than digital upgrade/onboard PA. The tech seems to be at least partially working, but the sleek design has a deadly flaw- the headset looks and apparently is uncomfortable and unstable on people’s heads in a way Glass isn’t. While Telepathy One is supposed to make it to market before Glass, it doesn’t look robust enough to get rapid adoption.

Is mechanical telepathy too creepy?

To people who aren’t me, I mean? One of the things I find most exciting about Google Glass is that you can pipe video of your viewpoint live to someone else’s laptop, the closest we’ve gotten so far to simstim and “accessing” other people’s sensoriums. (Peter Acworth sees application to POV prOn, while I see poignant echoes of Slow Glass.)

Last Friday I went to WearTechCon, the Wearable Tech Meetup at Twitter, and met some folks from Vergence Labs.

Vergence is working on what they call “Social Video” glasses. The glasses are called Epiphany Eyewear and are being developed with IndieGoGo funds, after Kickstarter choked their campaign. Because it was creepy? Or because a similar project had left a bad taste in the mouth of many contributors?

I spoke to CEO Erick Miller and designer David Meisenholder, who’s doing a Product Design Masters at Stanford. (Did you know Stanford had Product Design? I didn’t!) They seemed like extremely smart, talented guys with impressive pedigrees working on a cool project to me. I kind of totally love the engineering equivalent of an artist’s statement Miller has on his LinkedIn, seen below. It’s like a geek version of the Rozz-Tox Manifesto. And he comes from the world of CG TDs, which is a world I know well, having been married to one and worked at a VFX house.

So I don’t think these guys are startup jerks trying to create a product that will enable POV Girls Gone Wild videos.

I think they’re serious people who care about technology’s human future, and not just in a dopey Singularity way. Also, the glasses totally work.

The glasses look like chunky black plastic hipster frames; the hardware is in the earpieces (temples or bows). The temples are scarcely thicker than those on Buddy Holly’s. They look sleek in black, but I loved the slightly-translucent white ones, with their visible components. (I imagined them styled with a Unif Vapor Moto jacket and ombre seapunk hair!) Miller demonstrated the glasses recording his POV and then uploaded it to Vergence Labs’ social platform, I was delighted.

Later that weekend, I excitedly told my boyfriend about it. He was horrified.

I was babbling happily about how he could record his experience at events he goes to that I don’t attend, like Chaos Communication Camp and Burning Man. Then I remembered that a) as an online NYM Rights activist, he is violently opposed to mass-disseminated video life-logging and video documentation that could be exploited by facial-recognition software. (See my Google Glass post, “Promise Me You Won’t Wear Them In The House“). B) so are all his hacker friends. And C) Burning Man has had plenty of issues with video and consent.

Ah well- so much for watching the Man burn while sitting on our couch with the cat.

I’m still totally in favor of social video glasses, and Epiphany Eyewear is already compatible with prescription lenses, a distinct market advantage over Glass. You can just go to Lenscrafters and have them cut lenses to fit your Epiphany frames. Plus, they’re cheap as hell – looks like they’ll launch at a MSRP of around $300. I asked Miller when they’re shipping, and he said he couldn’t confirm a date yet – so I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled and the blog updated.

Mechanical telepathy, about to be unevenly distributed!

Should you freak out about 3D printed guns?

“The street finds its own uses for things.”

William Gibson said that, in the short story “Burning Chrome”. If you’ve ever lived on the wrong side of the law, reading that made your hair stand on end.

If in 1981 you had drug-dealer boyfriends with pagers, when the only other people who had them were doctors, and you were making your long-distance calls with calling-card numbers hacked by the Yippies, you understood that technology belongs to the people who take it. And the cops never catch up with the robbers.

Everything that’s happened since I read “Burning Chrome” supports the idea that black and grey market forces will drive technology development.

First 3D printed gun fired- photo by Michael Thad Carter for Forbes

First 3D printed gun fired- photo by Michael Thad Carter for Forbes

This Sunday the first 3D printed gun was fired, and now the internet is in a panic.

It’s perhaps unfortunate that the spokesperson for the gun printing company, Defense Distributed, is a total doucheboat captain. And that he test-fired the gun in Texas.

The company’s mission statement is all up in Second Amendment space, and the gun is called the Liberator.

These guys are swinging for the fences, internet-frenzy wise.

Wilson, who’s a law student, claims the gun is a thought experiment about the impossibility of re-bottling tech genies.

Like most people with a trolling agenda, he either doesn’t think or doesn’t care about possible consequences. The gun was printed on a Stratasys machine- the same kind of machine that’s being used for development of 4D printed, self-assembling objects.

Meanwhile, Autodesk is partnering with bioprinter Organovo to develop life-saving 3D bio-printing tech.

Both of these research directions could change the future in big, big ways- much bigger than the convenience of home-printing your own part for a broken food processor. But panic and the rush to ban around 3D gun printing could affect the insane market growth of 3D printing companies like Stratasys, 3D Systems and ExOne Co.

When Stratasys became aware of Wilson’s intentions, they voided Wilson’s lease on one of their machines and repossessed the machine pronto.

It’s not yet clear* how he got ahold of the second-hand machine he ultimately used to print the gun. The company did acquire a Federal license to manufacture firearms, making the use of the printer legal. In August, Defense Distributing’s IndieGoGo campaign to raise the funds for the project was shut down before it reached its goal. BitCoin made Wilson’s funding happen, despite this.

*edit: we’ve learned that the machine used to print the gun was bought on eBay for $8,000.00.

In December, MakerBot‘s 3D-sharing platform Thingiverse purged all gun part printables.

This CNET article covers the policies various 3D printing companies had in place regarding printing firearms or their components, as of September 2012.

Also in December, Wired named Wilson as one of the 15 Most Dangerous People in the World.

Let’s note that the panic on the internet is mostly ignoring something crucial: that’s it’s not just legal to make a 3D printed gun, it’s legal to make a gun, period.

Did you know that before today? I sure didn’t. This quite level-headed article on TechCrunch addresses the realities of the situation. And of course, although the notorious Armory has been closed, you can probably still buy a gun on Silk Road or some other Darknet site if you want one.

So really, what’s important here is this:

  • America is a free country where wackadoodle Libertarians can BitCoin up the dollahs to manufacture anything.
  • American politicians will jump on any hot-button cause, because votes, and gun control is très chic.
  • 3D printing companies have some ‘splainin to do, but their PR teams will dodge this particular, um, bullet.

The Guardian looks at the bigger picture and notes that what we’re talking about here is what it means to have the digital extend into the physical. Bringing all the issues of censorship, legality, copyright and clearance the digital has already raised along with it.

this post originally appeared on the T324 Blog.

Wearable Tech is Everywhere.

The latest news in wearable tech is that everyone is talking about wearable tech.

At the beginning of the year this trend looked strong, but it’s completely outstripped expectations, pushed by the Smart Watch Bubble and Glass-mania. (Click here if you want to see Robert Scoble wearing Glass in the shower. A tad NSFW.)

Just announced, and disturbing: the Jawbone UP is being opened to developers as a platform.

The device will soon be able to monitor everything about you, and then how long before insurance companies or employers are requiring that people wear them and penalizing them for health behavior violations?

Also, researchers at Purdue have now developed LED glasses that let you read while running, syncing up moving text with your moving head. And there are HUD ski goggles (the Smith I/O Recon and the Oakley AirWave), because it’s all about the sensors right now. We are getting quantified.

People are doing cray VR stuff with the Oculus Rift. Since we’re still perfectly happy with the level of immersion provided by text and there’s plenty of Wincest on Ao3 we haven’t read yet, we’ll be late-adopting on the VR tip.

New RFID research means flexible, ultra-thin tags could soon be showing up in all kinds of fabrics. Internet of things, meet closet; you’re going to be great friends.

Also just announced, the world’s first 3D-printed wood necklaces, from Hot Pop.

In news about tech that enables better wearing, the Kickstarter for Wool&Prince’s wash-only-once-per-100-wears shirt is at $253, 583.00 of its $30,00.00 goal. We say “ew”.

Virtual fitting rooms are proliferating; recently closed a bunch of Series A dollahs (actually, pounds, since they’re based in London) and is looking to push into the US market. And finally, if your favorite etailer doesn’t have a virtual fitting room solution yet, we love custom-fit clothes from Constrvct in the new “Glitchaus” designs.

This post originally appeared on the T324 blog.