Next batch of North Paw kits is done!

October 7, 2010rachel 1 Comment »

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:

  1. Figure out how many kits you plan to produce
  2. Count the parts you have on hand and do the math to figure out how many parts to order
  3. Track the parts as they arrive to make sure they’re correct
  4. 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
  5. 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.

Talk at SoOnCon

September 30, 2010mrericboyd No Comments »

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!

NY Times: Geographic Languages

September 1, 2010askory No Comments »

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.

Link: Does Your Language Shape How You Think?


North Paw Talk at Quantified Self

June 1, 2010mrericboyd No Comments »

Eric Boyd and his Haptic Compass Anklet. It’s actually a really good video, Loren even edited in a couple slides & photos (that were not there that evening), to give some extra context, great job Loren!

Eric Boyd – The North Paw: A Haptic Compass Anklet from Loren Risker on Vimeo.

North Skirt

May 27, 2010mrericboyd No Comments »

North SkirtMy friend Meredith Scheff pulled off an awesome hack in time for Maker Faire this year: the North Skirt. It uses a North Paw V1.5 kit, plus her soft-circuit StarBoards (kits coming soon!, kits available now!), to make a skirt with LEDs that light up on the north side of the wearer only. Much spinning and twirling ensued! She showed off the skirt in the Fashioning Technology fashion show at Maker Faire. It was also featured in the Anti/Surveillance fashion show (also at Maker Faire) put on by noisebridge the next day.

New V1.5 Kits!

May 13, 2010mrericboyd 3 Comments »

North Paw V1.5Announcing the next generation of North Paw! It’s taken a lot longer than we anticipated, but the new improved kits are finally ready. Improvements include:

  • support for Lithium Polymer batteries (and charging thereof)
  • snappy laser-cut acrylic enclosure for the electronics
  • new better looking anklet with skin-facing velvet
  • greatly simplified assembly of the display portion of the kit (see the new V1.5 instructions)

I presented the new North Paw at Quantified Self last night and got a very positive response, people love it!

Wearable Electronic Senses at BIL

February 11, 2010mrericboyd 6 Comments »

I’ll be giving a talk titled “wearable electronic senses” at BIL, an unconference-style event held near the famous (and expensive) TED conference. Both are in Long Beach, California. If you’re nearby, drop on in! My talk will be only 20 minutes long (see schedule), but I’m planning to hold a fun demo/Q&A session as well in the Open Culture space.

Acrylic Enclosure mod

December 4, 2009mrericboyd 1 Comment »

Inspiration strikes! Skory and I talked months ago about how the big black electronic enclosure box could be replaced with a couple of sheets of super cool acrylic. Now, I’ve done it! It only took about an hour, once I had the 1/8″ thick acrylic in hand. Trace the black box twice, cut with hack saw, drill 4 holes with 5/32 drill bit, use 2 8-32 screws with nuts. Presto chango, awesome North Paw mod! As an extra bonus, the thickness of this new enclosure is reduced to 11/16″, from the 1″ dimension of the JM22 enclosure.

China Trip

November 8, 2009mrericboyd No Comments »

I went on the noisebridge China Trip, with Mitch Altman, creator of the TV-B-Gone, a remote control with only one button. He invited noisebridge members (and any other hackers interested) to join him on a tour of some factories near Shanghai, and I was excited enough about that to buy tickets to China. We toured factories that did surface mount PCB assembly (super fast robots!), plastic injection molding, printing at industrial scale and speed, keyboard assembly (way more labor intensive than I imagined), and miner lamp assembly. I got to see all kinds of interesting things and make several business contacts. Sensebridge will be working with some of those contacts to have the North Paw made in China – an exciting project! It’ll be many months before that effort shows up as products on this website, of course, but we’re excited to be moving forward on the China dream that we’ve had for a long time.

More kits!

October 18, 2009askory No Comments »

Finally, all the pieces are in place and we have new kits! So, if you’ve been waiting, wait no longer. Order now and we’ll have your kit in the mail within 2-3 days.