We’re pleased to announce the launch of the new V1.6 North Paw kits! These kits are very similar to the V1.5 kits, except that the enclosure has been changed to a small black plastic box. This change was made mostly because it was very very time consuming to make the laser cut acrylic enclosures, both for us and for our customers; these new enclosures snap together in about 1/10 of a second! Minor improvements have been made in other places: the battery is now physically smaller and more rigid (increasing safety), the velcro dots are now much less likely to go missing during transit, and the confusing R1 on the rear of the PCB has been moved back to the front thanks to a superior, smaller, layout. Get more information on the North Paw page, or read the new instructions.
Announcing at long-last the logging version of Heart Spark! It collects data on every beat of your heart, for up to 14 hours. Then you can go an plot it and make pretty charts & graphs. We have a very limited number of Heart Spark Logging beta units available. Beta means this is not the final product, changes are still taking place in the code, bugs are being fixed. But it’s not alpha: all major features are present and the software is totally usable. If you’ve been waiting for a truly open heart rate monitor, your wait is over.
We sure are excited to hear from a bunch of new people after this Wired article.
But, it did hit us a bit by surprise; we had yet to update our North Paw inventory numbers as we were right in the middle of getting more kits together. But fear not! More kits are ready now, so order yours here.
I’ve made the product page for Heart Spark, our new blinking pendant! I have only a small number available at the moment, but more are being assembled rapidly. There is a lot of labor per pendant – by the time you count all the soldering, programming, testing, epoxying and packaging, it’s over an hour per pendant! But I think the final result is super stunning, I’ve been getting a lot of comments when I wear mine around. And I’m a man! On a lady it should be spectacular! Anyway, check it out and let me know what you think. The logging version should follow in about a month, once I get the software side working a little bit better.
I was interviewed for The Mark News, a local (Toronto) outfit. They came by the hacklab.to and I talked about North Paw and the Heart Spark:
Heart Spark is almost ready to go on sale. I have received the first lot of boards from China, assembled and tested the first one (works!), so sometime this week you can expect to see a limited number for sale here. Currently I am assembling them myself, it takes about 30 minutes of delicate surface mount soldering per board, plus extra time for programming, testing and the all important attachment of the jewelry bits, of course .
I’ve been working on a new product for sensebridge tentatively called the HeartSpark. It’s a heart-shaped pendant that flashes LEDs in time with your heart beat. It pairs with a polar chest strap & transmitter to acquire the heart-beat info. The product version will include a Real-Time-Clock chip and an EEPROM, which will allow the user to log data all day log. I plan to make software in Processing which would allow easy retrieval and plotting / saving of this data. But I’m also super excited about the social possibilities of broadcasting your heart-beat – I had some very interesting conversations with people at the Ottawa Mini Makers Faire, including one memorable conversation with an older woman who said that she felt “slightly dirty even looking at it” because she felt that my heart-beat was really private information… Anyway, second round of prototypes should happen around the beginning of December, and I’m hoping to have product ready for the start of next year. If you’re interested or have feedback about the design, please send me an email!
After rather more weeks than we’d have liked, the next batch of North Paw kits are shipping. Many thanks to those of you who waited patiently for three or more weeks for them to be ready. All shipping is complete for paid orders.
I thought I’d share a little bit about the process of making the kits. It was the first time I personally had made kits and it was a very educational experience. At a very high level, it goes like this:
- Figure out how many kits you plan to produce
- Count the parts you have on hand and do the math to figure out how many parts to order
- Track the parts as they arrive to make sure they’re correct
- Do the part manufacturing – the North Paw has two custom parts, the armature and the enclosure, each with its own manufacturing process, and many of the other parts required processing
- Pack the kits – ours have three nested levels: the delicate components which we put on static resistant foam, the rest of the components in the electronics bag, and everything else
Pretty straightforward, right? Well, at any stage in that process, there is an enormous amount of detail, and occasional snags. It’s pretty clear how getting the armatures sewn up could be highly detailed, I’m sure. Well it turns out that there’s complexity even in ordering parts. In many cases we could order parts from a number of different suppliers, with slightly different prices and different shipping times and costs. Bundling is necessary. Minimax for ALL the parts, though, fails when you run into someplace that is out of stock but doesn’t say that up front… especially if you have already placed orders with other vendors.
Must flash the code onto all the ATmega controller chips. We have a jig for doing this. For other parts, there’s a fair amount of chopping up to do! The velcro, the cabling, the heat shrink tubing, even the static resistant foam all come in larger pieces than required for the kit. This is really easy to do, but takes some time. When it’s time to pack the kits up, a bunch of little Dixie cups are great for sorting, and you can just pour the parts from the cup into the bag. Remember to print stickers to close the bags up with! Did a business card get into each one?
The one snag that is at all interesting is this. The acrylic enclosure is cut to fit precisely over the slots on the board. In this batch of boards, the inner corners were rounded, not square, so the acrylic didn’t quite fit all the way. I ended up grinding down these inside corners rather than trying to redesign the enclosure, so they should all fit perfectly again – if you find that yours doesn’t, it’s easy to use a tiny grinding wheel or even a small file to trim it a little farther.
I’ll be giving a talk in the North Paw and the Pulse Choker at SoOnCon, the Southern Ontario Hackerspace Conference. See the Schedule. My talk is Saturday Oct 2nd at 3:30pm, in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. It should be an awesome time!
Three separate people in the course of several days sent me a link to a NY Times article about how language may shape one’s experiences. In particular, the article discusses geographic languages: languages which do not use the egocentric terms left, right, forward and back to describe relative position. Instead, they use the cardinal directions at all times. This has some interesting ramifications on speakers’ spacial perception:
In order to speak a [geographic] language like Guugu Yimithirr, you need to know where the cardinal directions are at each and every moment of your waking life. You need to have a compass in your mind that operates all the time, day and night, without lunch breaks or weekends off, since otherwise you would not be able to impart the most basic information or understand what people around you are saying. Indeed, speakers of geographic languages seem to have an almost-superhuman sense of orientation. Regardless of visibility conditions, regardless of whether they are in thick forest or on an open plain, whether outside or indoors or even in caves, whether stationary or moving, they have a spot-on sense of direction. They don’t look at the sun and pause for a moment of calculation before they say, “There’s an ant just north of your foot.” They simply feel where north, south, west and east are, just as people with perfect pitch feel what each note is without having to calculate intervals. There is a wealth of stories about what to us may seem like incredible feats of orientation but for speakers of geographic languages are just a matter of course. One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions.
For me, this raises two interesting questions about how we sense direction:
- By carefully controlling environmental stimuli, would it be possible to determine exactly which stimuli are being used by these geographic language speakers?
- Can someone who did not grow up with a geographic language from birth use the North Paw to learn to use those same stimuli, thus eventually obviating the need to wear the North Paw at all?
Those of us who have worn a North Paw for extended periods of time find it difficult even just to explain what it means to “feel North”, but we would likely have no trouble explaining it to a speaker of a geographic language. As the article says, “they simply feel where north, south, west and east are, just as people with perfect pitch feel what each note is without having to calculate intervals.” This article gives me very strong reason to to believe that learning to feel North by wearing a North Paw may come about much faster if done in the company of others. Externalizing, and explicitly referring to, your new sense of absolute direction would very likely reinforce the neural connections that you are developing. I suspect it would be very powerful to use cardinal instead of egocentric directions in everyday language with someone else who would understand you, and this would let you develop your new sense much faster.