We have been quietly observing and evaluating our options before we finally decided to get a telepresence robot. Telepresence technology dates back to 1993 (Human Productivity Lab) and telepresence robots are not completely new.
There is a growing array of telepresence robot options (see comparison) and the list is bound to get cheaper and better. Before we settled on getting the Double Robotics robot, we tested the Suitable Technologies Beam. The Beam robot is a pretty solid solution, but it lacked one of our primary requirements: an SDK. We wanted a platform that we could “hack” to explore different scenarios. So we got the Double 2 robot, which does have and SDK and promptly gave it a name: Elliot after the main character in Mr. Robot.
As far as usability, driving around is not difficult at all. The Double 2 does lack a wide angle camera or foot camera since it uses the camera from the iPad. (Edit: It was pointed to me that The Double 2 standard set includes an attachable, 150 degree wide-angle camera and an always-on downward facing camera. We just didn’t buy the standard set.) But driving the Double 2 feels really smooth, so moving around to look and moving side to side is not a problem. The iPad housing has a mirror pointing to the bottom so you can switch to the back camera and see the bottom. There is an Audio Kit with external mic and speaker that helps you hear and be heard better. Overall the experience is good as long as you have good internet connectivity.
I have been virtually attending some of our Cloud Lab tours and the reaction is always positive. I also attended a couple meetings and felt a bit more integrated. Maybe that would wear off with time, but that is one of the reason we have it, to research the human aspect of these devices.
I am eagerly working on making Elliot a little more smart. Thanks to the SDK I can automate movement, but sadly the Double 2 doesn’t have any external sensors. So we are working on retrofitting some sonar sensors similar to the ones we used for this project to give Elliot a little more independence. So stay tuned to see more coolness coming from Elliot.Possibly Related Posts:
One month before we entered the OAUX Exchange tent at OpenWorld, Jake (@jkuramot) challenged us to come up with a visualization “that would ambiently show data about the people in the space.”
Mark (@mvilrokx), Noel (@noelportugal) and I accepted the challenge. Mark put together the Internet of Things ultrasonic sensors, Noel created a cloud database to house the data, and it fell to me to design and create the ambient display.
An ambient display is the opposite of a dashboard. A dashboard displays an array of data in a comprehensive and efficient way so that you can take appropriate actions. Like the dashboard of a car or airplane, it is designed to be closely and continuously monitored.
Ambient displays, in contrast, are designed to sit in the background and become part of the woodwork, only drawing your attention when something unusual happens. They are simple instead of complex, unified instead of diverse, meant for glancing, not for scanning.
This project was not only a chance to design an ambient display, but also a chance to work with master makers like Mark and Noel, get my feet wet in the Internet of Things, and visualize data in real time. I’ve also long wanted to make an art installation, which this sort of is: an attractive and intriguing display for an audience with all the risks of not really knowing what will happen till after the curtain goes up.
My basic concept was to represent the sensors as colored lines positioned on a simplified floor plan and send out ripples of intersecting color whenever someone “broke the beam.” Thao (@thaobnguyen) suggested that it would be even better if we could see patterns emerge over time, so I added proportion bars and a timeline.
Since we only had a few weeks we had to work in parallel. While Mark and the rest of the team debated what kind of sensor to use, my first task was to come up with some visuals in order to define and sell the basic concept, and then refine it. Since I didn’t yet have any data, I had to fake some.
So step one was to create a simulation, which I did using a random number generator weighted to create a rising crescendo of events for four colored sensor beams. I first tried showing the ripples against a white background and later switched to black. The following video shows the final concept.
Once Mark built the sensors and we started to get real data, I no longer needed the simulation, but kept it anyway. That turned out to be a good decision. When it came to do the final implementation in the Exchange tent, I had to make adjustments before all four sensors were working. The simulation was perfect for this kind of calibration; I made a software switch so that I could easily change between real and simulated data.
The software for this display did not require a single line of code. I used NodeBox, an open source visual programming tool designed for artists. It works by connecting a series of nodes. One node receives raw cloud data from a JSON file, the next refines each event time, subtracts it from the current time, uses the difference to define the width of an expanding ellipse, etc. Here is what my NodeBox network looks like:
One challenge was working in real time. In a perfect world, my program would instantly detect every event and instantly respond. But in the real world it took about a second for a sensor to upload a new row of data to the cloud, and another second for my program to pull it back down. Also, I could not scan the cloud continuously; I had to do a series of distinct queries once every x seconds. The more often I queried, the slower the animation became.
I finally settled on doing queries once every five seconds. This caused an occasional stutter in the animation, but was normally not too noticeable. Sometimes, though, there would be a sudden brief flash of color, which happened when an event fired early in that five-second window. By the time I sensed it the corresponding ripple had already expanded to a large circle like a balloon about to pop, so all I saw was the pop. I solved this problem by adjusting my clock to show events five seconds in the past.
Testing was surprisingly easy despite the fact that Mark was located in Redwood Shores and Noel in Austin, while I worked from home or from my Pleasanton office. This is one of the powerful advantages of the Internet of Things. Everyone could see the data as soon as it appeared regardless of where it came from.
We did do one in-person dry run in an Oracle cafeteria. Mark taped some sensors to various doorways while I watched from my nearby laptop. We got our proof of concept and took the sensors down just before Oracle security started getting curious.
On the morning of the big show, we did have a problem with some of the sensors. It turned out to be a poor internet connection especially in one corner of the tent; Noel redirected the sensors to a hotspot and from then on they worked fine. Jake pitched in and packaged the sensors with hefty battery packs and used cable ties to place them at strategic spots. Here is what they looked like:
The ambient display ran for three straight days and was seen by hundreds of visitors. It was one of the more striking displays in the tent and the simple design was immediately understood by most people. Below is a snapshot of the display in action; Jake also shot a video just before we shut it down.
It was fun to watch the patterns change over time. There would be a surge of violet ripples when a new group of visitors flooded in, but after that the other colors would dominate; people entered and exited only once but passed across the other sensors multiple times as they explored the room. The most popular sensor was the one by the food table.
One of our biggest takeaways was that ambient displays work great at a long distance. All the other displays had to be seen closeup, but we could easily follow the action on the ambient display from across the room. This was especially useful when we were debugging the internet problem. We could adjust a sensor on one side of the room and look to the far corner to see whether a ripple for that sensor was appearing and whether or not it was the right color.
It was a bit of a risk to conduct this experiment in front of our customers, but they seemed to enjoy it and we all learned a lot from it. We are starting to see more applications for this type of display and may set up sensors in the cloud lab at HQ to further explore this idea.Possibly Related Posts:
Companies talk about “Gamification,” but the first time I felt like I was playing a game at work was driving our Double telepresence robot around the office floor, rolling down the hallway and poking into cubicles. With a few simple controls—forward, backward, left, and right—it took me back to the D-pad on my NES, trying to maneuver some creature or robot on the screen and avoid obstacles.
It’s really a drone, but so much less stressful than controlling a quadcopter. For one, you can stay put without issue. Two, it’s not loud. And three, there aren’t any safety precautions preventing us from driving this around inside Oracle buildings.
Of course, this isn’t the intended use. It’s a telepresence robot, something that allows you to be more “present” in a meeting or at some remote site than you would be if you were just a face on a laptop—or even more invisibly—a (mostly silent) voice on a conference call. You can instead be a face on a robot, one that you control.
That initial drive wouldn’t have been nearly as fun (or funny) if I were just cruising around the floor and no one else was there. A lot of the enjoyment was from seeing how people reacted to the robot and talking to them about it.
It is a little disruptive, though that may wear off over time. Fellow AppsLab member Noel (@noelportugal) drove it into a meeting, and the whole crowd got a kick out of it. I could see throughout the meeting others gazing at the robot with a bit of wonder. And when Noel drove the robot behind someone, they noted how it felt like they were being watched. But no one forgot Noel was in the meeting—there was an actual presence that made it feel he was much more a part of the group than if we were just on the phone.
On another virtual walkaround, Noel met up with Mark (@mvikrokx) and they had a real work conversation about some hardware they had been emailing back and forth about, and being able to talk “face” to “face” made it much more productive.
All this provokes many interesting questions—is a telepresence robot better than video conferencing? How so, and by how much? How long does it take for the robot to seem “normal” and just become a part of a standard meeting?
And of course—what would a meeting be like that consisted solely of telepresence robots?Possibly Related Posts:
In last post, we have setup development environment for coding and uploading scratches to NodeMCU, an IoT device.
This post, we will upload and run two examples to demonstrate how IoT device sending data into Cloud and receiving commands from Cloud. You can find the source code and MQTT library requirement on github.
4. Architecture Diagram
It involves several tiers and components to make the whole IoT loop. However, you will just focus on device communication with MQTT, all other components have been setup properly.
5. Wiring Diagram
For the two testing examples, you can just use the following diagram:
And here is an example of actual wiring used to test the example code:
6. Test Sample #1
Demonstrate that IoT device interacts with Internet over MQTT. You can get the source code from github: https://github.com/raymondxie/iotws/blob/master/iotws_mqtt.ino
Please note, you need modify the code by supplying necessary connection parameters for WiFi network and MQTT broker. Check the parameter values with your instructor.
The example let you press a button, the event is sent to MQTT broker in the Cloud, and NodeMCU board is also listening to that channel for input, essentially the information just come right back to the board. Based on the button press count (even / odd count), the board plays a different tune for you.
Have fun playing the tunes!
7. Test Sample #2
Send a message into Oracle IoT Cloud Service (IoTCS) by press of a button. You can get the source code from github: https://github.com/raymondxie/iotws/blob/master/iotws_iotcs.ino
Please note, you need modify the code by supplying necessary connection parameters for WiFi network and MQTT broker. Check the parameter values with your instructor.
This sample let you press a button, and a message along with your name is sent to MQTT broker. There is a Raspberry Pi listening to inputs to that particular MQTT channel. The Raspberry Pi acts as a gateway to IoTCS, and relays the message to it. You can then verify your message with your name in the IoTCS console.
Possibly Related Posts:
AppsLab and OTN will jointly host IoT Workshop at Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne conference in 2016. We look forward to seeing you at the Workshop.
Here is some details about the Workshop with step-by-step instructions. Our goal is that you will learn some basics and get a glimpse of Oracle IoT Cloud Service at the workshop, and you can continue playing it with IoT package after going home. So be sure to bring your computer so we can setup proper software for you.
Before we get into the step-by-step guide, here is the list of hardware parts we will use at the IoT Workshop.
1. Download and install software
We use the popular Arduino IDE to write code and upload to IoT device.You may download it from Arduino website even before coming to the workshop.
Just to make sure you get the proper platform for your computer, e.g. if you have a Windows machine, get the “Windows installer.”
The installation is straightforward, as it is very typical installation on your computer platform. If needed, here is instruction: https://www.arduino.cc/en/Guide/HomePage
2. Setup Arduino IDE to use NodeMCU board
We use a IoT device board called NodeMCU. Like Arduino Uno board, it has many pins to connect sensors and LED lights, but also has built-in WiFi chip which we can use to send input data into IoT Cloud.
You have installed Arduino IDE at step 1. Now open the Arduino IDE.
Go to File -> Preferences, and get to a page like this:
Add this “http://arduino.esp8266.com/stable/package_esp8266com_index.json” to the “Additional Boards Manager URLs” field, and then hit “OK” button.
Restart Arduino IDE, and go to “Tools” -> “Board” -> “Board Manager”, and select “esp8266 by ESP8266 Community”. Click it and install.
Restart Arduino IDE and go to “Tools” -> “Board”, and select “NodeMCU 1.0” board.
Also set up corresponding parameters on CPU Frequency, Flash Size, etc, according to above screenshot.
3. Quick Blink Test
To verify that we have set up the Arduino IDE for NodeMCU properly, we can connect the board to computer using a USB-microUSB cable.
Then go to “File” -> “New”, copy & paste this example code into coding window: https://github.com/raymondxie/iotws/blob/master/iotws_led.ino
Select the proper Port where board is connected via USB:
Click “Upload” icon on the top left of Arduino IDE, and observe that the sample code is loaded onto board. The on-board LED should blink once per second.
For some Macbook, if you don’t see proper port of “USBtoUART”, you need install a FTDI driver – you can download it from here.
For Windows machine, you will see certain “COM” ports. You need install this driver.
You can also play around and connect an external LED light to a pin similar to following wiring diagram, and modify the code to use that pin to blink the LED.
By now, you have completed the setup of Arduino development environment for NodeMCU – an IoT device, upload and execute code on the device.
Are you attending Oracle OpenWorld 2016 or JavaOne 2016? Then you are in luck! Once again we have partnered with the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) team to give OOW16 and JavaOne attendees an IoT hands-on workshop.
We will provide a free* IoT Cloud Kit so you can get your feet wet on one of the hottest emerging technologies. You don’t have to be an experienced electronic engineer to participate. We will go through the basics and show you how to connect a wifi micro-controller to the Oracle Internet of Things Cloud.
Note: OK, so that Gluon JavaOne app, 1) isn’t new this year and 2) I posted the wrong links. This year’s app is called JavaOne16, so look carefully. You can find the IoT Workshop signups under OTN Experiences.
Or find us at the OTN Lounge on Sunday afternoon. Workshops run all day, Monday through Wednesday of both conferences. Space is limited, and we may not be able to accommodate walkups, so do sign up if you plan to attend.
Then come to the OTN Lounge in Moscone South or the Java Hub at Hilton Union Square with your laptop and a micro-usb cable.
*Free? Yes free, while supplies last. Please make sure you read the Terms & Conditions (pdf).Possibly Related Posts:
“Supercharged Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks This Month” – as the very first edition of Daily Minor Planet brought us the news on August 4th, 2016.
Daily Minor Planet is a digital newspaper on asteroids and planetary systems. It features an asteroid that might fly by Earth for the day, or one of particular significance to the day. Also it features a section of news from different sources on the topics of Asteroid and Planets. And most interestingly, it has a dynamic orbit diagram embedded, showing real-time positions of the planets and the daily asteroid in the sky. You can drag the diagram and see them in different angles.
You can read the live daily edition on the Minor Planet Center website. Better yet, subscribe to it with your email, and get your daily dose of asteroid news in your email.
Daily Minor Planet is the result of collaboration between Oracle Volunteers and Minor Planet center. Since the Asteroid Hackathon in 2014, we have followed up with a Phase I project of Asteroid Explorer in 2015, which focused asteroid data processing and visualization. And this is the Phase II project, which focuses on the public awareness and engagement.
The Oracle Volunteers on this phase consisted of Chan Kim, Raymond Xie (me!), Kristine Robison, DJ Ursal and Jeremy Ashley. We have been working with Michael Rudenko and J.L. Galache from Minor Planet Center for past several months, and created a newspaper sourcing – editing – publishing – archiving system, with user subscription and daily email delivery functionality. And during the first week of August, the Oracle volunteer team were on site to prepare and launch the Daily Minor Planet.
Check out video of the launch event, which was hosted in Phillips Auditorium, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and live streamed on YouTube channel. The volunteer’s speech starts around 29:00 minute mark:
It was a quite intense week, as we were trying to get it ready for launch. In the end, as a reward, we got a chance to have a tour of the Great Refractor at Harvard College Observatory, which was located just in next building.
By the way, the Perseid meteor shower this year will peak on August 12, and it is in an outburst mode with potentially over 200 meteors per hour. So get yourself ready and catch some shooting stars!Possibly Related Posts:
Probably the best way to get to know your users is to watch them work, in their typical environment. That, and getting to talk to them right after observing them. It’s from that perspective that you can really see what works, what doesn’t, and what people don’t like. And this is exactly what we want to learn about in our quest to improve our users’ experience using Oracle software.
That said, we’ve been eager to get out and do some site visits, particularly for learning more about supply chain management (SCM). For one, SCM is an area most of us on the team haven’t spent too much time working on. But two, at least for me–working mostly in the abstract, or at least the virtual—there’s something fascinating and satisfying about how physical products and materials move throughout the world, starting as one thing and being manufactured or assembled into something else.
We had a contact at Micros, so we started there. Also, they’re an Oracle company, so that made it much easier. You’ve probably encountered Micros products, even if you haven’t noticed them—Micros does point of sales (POS) systems for retail and hospitality, meaning lots of restaurants, stadiums, and hotels.
For this particular adventure, we teamed up with the SCM team within OAUX, and went to Hanover, Maryland, where Micros has its warehouse operations, and where all of its orders are put together and shipped out across the world.
We observed and talked to a variety of people there: the pickers, who grab all the pieces for an order; the shippers, who get the orders ready to ship out and load them on the trucks; receiving, who takes in all the new inventory; QA, who have to make sure incoming parts are OK, as well as items that are returned; and cycle counters, who count inventory on a nightly basis. We also spoke to various managers and people involved in the business end of things.
In addition to following along and interviewing different employees, the SCM team ran a focus group, and the AppsLab team ran something like a focus group, but which is called a User Journey Map. With this research method, you have users map out their tasks (using sticky notes, a UX researcher’s best friend), while also including associated thoughts and feelings corresponding to each step of each task. We don’t just want to know what users are doing or have to do, but how they feel about it, and the kinds of questions they may have.
In an age where we’re accustomed to pressing a button and having something we want delivered in two days (or less), it’s helpful on a personal level to see how this sort of thing actually happens, and all the people involved in the background. On a professional level, you see how software plays a role in all of it—keeping it all together, but also imposing limits on what can be done and what can be tracked.
This was my first site visit, though I hope there are plenty more in the future. There’s no substitute for this kind of direct observation, where you can also ask questions. You come back tired, but with lots of notes, and lots of new insights.Possibly Related Posts:
Hard to believe it’s been nearly three years since we debuted the Leap Motion-controlled robot arm. Since then, it’s been a mainstay demo for us, combining a bit of fun with the still-emergent interaction mechanism, gesture.
Anthony (@anthonyslai) remains the master of the robot arm, and since we lost access to the original video, Noel (@noelportugal) shot a new one in the Gadget Lab at HQ where the robot arm continues to entertain visitors.
Interesting note, Amazon showed a very similar demo when they debuted AWS IoT. We nerds love robots.
We continue to investigate gesture as an interaction; in addition to our work with the Leap Motion as a robot arm controller and as a feature in the Smart Office, we’ve also used the Myo armband to drive Anki race cars, a project Thalmic Labs featured on their developer blog.
Gesture remains a Wild West, with no standards and different implementations, but we think there’s something to it. And we’ll keep investigating and having some fun while we do.
Stay tuned.Possibly Related Posts:
I previously had my Nexus 5, but over the time, Bluetooth stopped working and that was a good excuse to try this phone.
Also I was so excited because at SXSW I had a long talk with the Nextbit (@nextbitsys) development team about all technology behind this phone, more details below.
So Nexbit is a new company that wants to revolutionize hand held storage and this first attempt is really good.
They came up with Robin phone; it is square, rectangular with tight corners that looks like uncomfortable at first but it has soft touch finish. It has a decent balance of weight. People tend to ask me if this is the modular phone (Project Ara) by Google or if it’s new Lego’s phone. Either way, conclusion is that it has a pretty cool and minimalistic design and people like it a lot.
Talking about its design, power button on the right hand side with is also a fingerprint reader and tiny volume buttons on the left hand side. Probably that’s the worst part of the build; the buttons are small and round and of course kinda hard to press.
The power button does not protrude at all so it’s hard to press too. The fingerprint is actually really good though; accuracy and speed are on point. The fingerprint with the side placement like this, actually makes a lot of sense as you can register your left index finger and right thumb for the way you grip the phone and unlock it as soon as you hold the phone.
It has an USB Type-C at the bottom left corner with quick charging and dual front-facing stereo speakers, loud and clear. Quick charging is awesome.
Running the latest version of Android 6 with a custom Nextbit skin but all elements feel pretty stock.
Specifications are pretty good too, Snapdragon 808, 3 Gb of RAM, 2680 mAh battery, that makes the phone pretty smooth. Camera on the back with 13 MP with decent colors and details but dynamic range is weak.
I noticed that is very slow to actually take the photos, but they just have release new software update that solves the shutter lag.
But let’s focus on what’s the main spec of this phone, storage. All magic is in the Nextbit skin. Every Robin comes with 32 GB on-board storage but then also 100 GB of free cloud storage. Now, you’ll be asking why do you need cloud storage instead on-board storage?
What happens is Robin is supposed to be smart enough to offload the oldest and least frequently used stuff from internal storage straight to the cloud. So when you start to run out of local storage with old apps and old photos that haven’t been opened in a while they will be moved to the cloud and make room for more in your local storage seamlessly almost without you ever having a notice.
Directly in the application drawer you will notice that some app icons are grayed out, so these are the apps that are offline or stored in the cloud and not stored in the device anymore. If you want to use any of them, it takes a minute or so to download everything in the state you last left it in and then opens up right where you left off. So it’s a process of archiving and restoring.
You can also set apps to not get archived swiping the icon app down to pin them, and they will never go to the cloud. If you are using some apps all the time you shouldn’t even need to pin them as Robin will noticed that you use it a lot.
In order to save battery and don’t waste your carrier data, backing up process happens only when the phone is in WiFi and is charging.
Problem is that all restoring is dependent on the internet, so if you are out there with no data and want to use your app that is archived in the cloud, pretty much you’re lost.
In deep details, it has machine learning algorithms, cloud integrated into Android OS and onboard storage is merged with cloud seamlessly. Machine learning mechanism learns from your app and photos usage. Also it can think ahead, so months before you ever run out of storage Robin anticipates you will need more space and continually synchronizes apps and photos. For pictures, they are downsampled to screen resolution but full size version remain linked in the cloud.
For security concerns, all data stored in cloud storage is encrypted with Android built-in encryption.
I like the idea behind Robin system, but the cool thing is that you can use it like a normal phone, you can use your launcher of choice, even root it. The bootloader is actually unlocked out of the box and still under the warranty.
Pretty good phone for the price outside of the storage solution, but if you are looking for a phone focusing on having lots of storage, I’d look for something with a Micro SD card slot. Otherwise it’s definitely worth considering this. Definitely, I would use it as my main phone.
It’s cool to see this type of cloud-based storage solution in action.
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Architects design space. A building is just a way to create spaces. Information architects at Oracle design relationships with abstract concepts. So far the main way we have to create visible spaces for our users is by projecting pixels onto glass screens.
This may change someday. If the promise of virtual reality is ever achieved, we may be able to sculpt entirely new realities and change the very way that people experience space.
One sneak peek into this possible future is now on display at Pace Gallery in Menlo Park. Last week the AppsLab research and design team toured the Living Digital Space and Future Parks exhibit by the renowned Japanese art collective teamLab.
Still photographs do not do this exhibit justice. Each installation is a space which surrounds you with moving imagery. Some of these spaces felt like VR without the goggles – almost like being on a holodeck.
The artwork has a beautiful Japanese aesthetic. The teamLab artists are exploring a concept they call ultra subjective space. Their theory is that art shapes the way people of different cultures experience space.
Since the renaissance, people in the west have been taught to construct their experience of spatial reality like perspective paintings with themselves as a point observer. Premodern Japanese art, in contrast, might have taught people to experience a very different flattened perspective which places them inside each space: subjective instead of objective.
To explore this idea, teamLab starts with three dimensional computer models and uses mathematical techniques to create flattened perspectives which then form the basis for various animated experiences. I can’t say that the result actually changed my perception of reality, but the experience was both sublime and thought-provoking.
Their final installation was kid-centric. In one area, visitors were given paper and crayons and were asked to draw spaceships, cars, and sea creatures. When you placed your drawing under a scanner it became animated and was immediately projected onto one of two giant murals. We made an AppsLab fish and an AppsLab flying saucer.
Another area lets you hop across virtual lillypads or build animated cities with highways, rivers, and train tracks by moving coded wooden blocks around a tabletop. I could imagine using such a tabletop to do supply chain management.
Ultra subjective space is a pretty high brow concept. It’s interesting to speculate that ancient Japanese people may have experienced space in a different way than we do now, though I don’t see any way of proving it. But the possibility of changing something that fundamental is certainly an exciting idea. If virtual reality ever lets us do this, the future may indeed be not just stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.
Living Digital Space and Future Parks will be on display at the Pace Gallery in Menlo Park through December 18, 2016.Possibly Related Posts:
Numbers are a property of the universe. Once Earthians figured that out, there was no stopping them. They went as far as the Moon.
We use numbers in business and life. We measure, we look for oddities, we plan. We think of ourselves as rational.
I, for one, like to look at the thermometer before deciding if I shall go out in flip-flops or uggs. But I cannot convince my daughter to do the same. She tosses a coin.
More often than we like to think, business decisions are made the way my daughter decides on what to wear. I need an illustration here, so let me pick on workers’ compensation. If you have workers, you want to reward them for good work, and by doing that, encourage the behaviors you want to see more of – you want them to work harder, better, quicker, and be happy. You can measure productivity by amount of, say, shoes sold. You can measure quality by, say, number of customers who came back to buy more shoes. You can measure happiness, by, say . . . okay, let’s not measure happiness. How do you calculate what the worker compensation shall be based on these two measures?
50/50? 75/25? 25/75? Why? Why not? This is where most businesses toss a coin.
Here is an inventory of types of questions people tend to answer by tossing a coin:
- Should you monitor the dollar amount of sales, or the percentage of sale increase?
- Which of the two measures lets you better predict future performance?
- Why would it?
- How accurate are the predictions?
- How big shall the errors be until you feel the measure doesn’t make accurate predictions? Why?
- Which measures shall be combined and looked at together?
- In which way?
- Where would you set up thresholds between good, bad, and ugly?
- Why? Why not?
- If some numbers are way off, how do you know it is an exception and not part of some pattern that you don’t see?
If not tossing a coin, it is common practice to answer these kinds of questions based on a gut feeling. To answer these questions based on evidence instead, there shall be a way to evaluate the gut feeling, together with bunch of other hypotheses, in order to choose a hypothesis that actually true and works. This is hard for humans. Not only because it requires a lot of modeling and computations.
Conceptually, as humans, we tend to look for reasons and explain things. It is hard for us to see a pattern if we don’t see why it works. “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it” as one wise person said. Admit it, we are biased. We won’t even consider evaluating a hypothesis that looks like a complete nonsense.
Computers, on the other hand, don’t have such a problem. Machine learning can create and test thousands of crazy hypotheses for you and select the best one. That is, the best one in predicting, not explaining. They can also keep updating the hypotheses as conditions change.
That’s why I believe AI is a new BI. It is more thorough and less biased then us humans. Therefore, it is often more rational.
I am fascinated to learn about ML algorithms, and what they can do for us. Applying the little I learned about Decision Trees to the worker’s compensation dilemma above, this is what I get. Let’s pretend the workers get a bonus at the end of the year. The maximum amount of the bonus is based on their salary, but the exact amount is a percent of the maximum based on performance – partially on the amount of sales, partially on the number of returned customers. These are your predictors. Your goal for paying off the bonus is that next year your workers have increased amount of sales AND increased number of returned customers at the same time. That’s your outcome.
Decision Tree algorithm will look at each possible combination of your predictors, and will measure which one better divides your outcomes into categories. (They say it is a division that minimizes the entropy and increases information gain).
Would we try to do that “by hand,” it would’ve taken so much time. But here we have the most effective bonus recipes figured out for us. Some of the recipes may look counter-intuitive; we may find out that the largest bonus is not the best encouragement, or some such. But, again, figuring out “whys” is a different problem.
And here is my little classification of business intelligence tasks that I believe AI can take over and improve upon.
As a human and a designer who welcomes our machine learning overlords, I see their biggest challenge in overcoming our biggest bias, the one of our superior rationality.Possibly Related Posts:
Just like last year, a few members (@jkuramot, @, @, Tony and myself) of @theappslab attended Kscope16 to run a Scavenger Hunt, speak and enjoy one of the premier events for Oracle developers. It was held in Chicago this time around, and here are my impressions.
Since our Scavenger Hunt was quite a success the previous year, we were asked to run it again to spice up the conference a bit. This is the 4th time we ran the Scavenger Hunt (if you want to learn more about the game itself, check out Noel’s post on the mechanics) and by now it runs like a well-oiled machine. The competition was even fiercer than last year with a DJI Phantom at stake but in the end @ prevailed, congratulations to Alan. @ was the runner up and walked away with an Amazon Echo and in 3rd place, @ got a Raspberry Pi for his efforts.
There were also consolation prizes for the next 12 places, they each got both a Google Chromcast and a Tile. All-in-all it was another very successful run of the Scavenger Hunt with over 170 participants and a lot of buzz surrounding the game, here’s a quote from one of the players:
“I would not have known so many things, and tried them out, if there were not a Scavenger Hunt. It is great.”
Better than Cats. We haven’t decided yet if we are running the Scavenger Hunt again next year, if we do, it will probably be in a different format; our brains are already racing.
Our team also had a few sessions, Noel talked broadly about OAUX, and I had a presentation about Developer Experience or DX. As is always the case at Kscope, the sessions are pretty much bi-directional, with the audience participating as you deliver your presentation. Some great questions were asked during my talk, and I even was able to record a few requirements for API Maker, a tool we are building for DX.
Judging by the participation of the attendees, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm in the developer community for both API Maker and 1CSS, another tool we are creating for DX. As a result of the session, we have picked up a few contacts within Oracle which we will explore further to push these tools and get them out sooner rather than later.
In addition to all those activities, Raymond ran a preview of an IoT workshop we plan to replicate at OpenWorld and JavaOne this year. I won’t give away too much, but it involves a custom PCB.
Unfortunately, my schedule (Scavenger Hunt, presentation) didn’t really allow me to attend any sessions but other members of our team attended a few, so I will let them talk about that. I did, however, get a chance to play some video games.
And have some fun, as is customary at Kscope.
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Are you attending Kscope16? If so, you are in luck, @theappslab team will be back this year (by popular demand) to do a Scavenger Hunt. This year there are even more chances to win, plus check out these prizes:
- First place: DJI Phantom Drone
- Second place: Amazon Echo
- Third place: Raspberry Pi
Our first scavenger hunt took place last year at Kscope15. Here’s a quick video detailing the whats, whys and wherefores of the game from our fearless leader and Group Vice President, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley) and me.
After that, we replicated the experience for an OTN Community Quest at OpenWorld and JavaOne 2015 and then for the UKOUG App15 and Tech15 Conference Explorer. We have had great fun seeing participants engaged. We are very proud of the game engine we built for the scavenger hunt, bringing together software and IoT. If you are interested to see how it all works check out our post “Game Mechanics of a Scavenger Hunt“.
Check the Kscope16 Scavenger Hunt site for more information on how to join and play during the annual ODTUG user group shindig. You can even signup to play during your registration process.
We have some interesting twists in store this year, and we’re hoping for an even larger group of engaged players this year.
See you there!Possibly Related Posts:
Twilio Signal Conference ended with an after-party called the $Bash night. Twilio set up booths with geeky games like programming, program debugging, computer building etc.. They also had a foosball table for 16 people. I think it is one of the nicest parties for geeks I attended so far. It was a fun night with music, drinks, food and games, tuned for developers.
During that morning’s keynote, Jeff Lawson (Twilio Founder) had a virtual meeting with Rony Abovitz (Magic Leap Founder), and they announced that the winner of the $Bash night can get access to Magic Leap. Magic Leap is so mysterious, and I had a great urge to win in the $Bash night to be able to play and do something with it.
It turned out if you compete with other developers during the $Bash night, you could win raffle tickets, and the person who had the most raffle tickets by the end of the night would become the winner. So all night I have been going all out playing and competing. The environment was too dark to possibly take some good quality pictures, but you can find some info here.
There are 2 games I did quite well and enjoyed: 1. program debugging competition among 6 developers, 2. pairing up to move jenga blocks with a robot arm. At the end of night, although I tried my best, I only came out second. At first I was quite disappointed, however, I was told there is still quite a very good chance there is a second spot to offer me for Magic Leap. I shall keep my hope up to wait and see.Possibly Related Posts:
Lets dive to the Twilio sessions.
The sessions are generally divided in the following 4 tracks:
See the latest progress in software and cloud communications, talk shop with Twilio engineers who developed them, and get in to the details on how to use the software.
Hear from industry experts shaping the future of tech with the latest software.
Get details on hurdles tricks and solution from Twilio customers on building communications with software APIs.
Define business plans for modern communications with real-life ROI and before-and-after stories.
My interests was more into the Inspire track, and the hot topic being AI and Virtual Assistants nowadays, those were the sessions I targeted for the conference.
This half year is just the “half year of virtual assistants”, with the announcements of controversial Tay and Cortana from Microsoft, messenger bot from Facebook, Allo from Google I/O and Siri from WWDC yesterday. Every giants want to squeeze into the same space and get a share of it. There were a lot of sessions regarding to bots in Signal, and I had a feeling that Twilio has carefully hand picked the sessions carefully to suit the audiences. IBM, and Microsoft and Slack all presented their views and technologies with bots, and I learned a lot from them. It is a bit odd that api.ai sponsored the lunch for the conference and have a booth in the conference, but did not present in any sessions (afaik).
In the schedule, there was a session called Terrible Ideas in Git by Corey Quinn. I love Git, and when I saw the topic, my immediate reaction was how can anyone say Git was terrible (at least right)?? I just had to go there and take a look. To my surprise, it was very fun talk show and I had a good laugh and enjoyed it a lot. I am glad I did not miss that session.
This year I attended the Twilio Signal Conference. Same as its first year, it was held in Pier 27, San Francisco. It was a 2-day action-packed conference with a keynote session in the morning and sessions after till 6 pm.
The developer experience provided by the conference is superb comparing to a lot of other developer conferences nowadays. Chartered buses with wifi were provided for commuters using different transits. Snacks served all day. 6 30-minutes sessions for you to choose from every time slot. No need to wait in line and you could always attend the sessions you want (sorry Google I/O). For developers, as least for me, the most important thing was a special coffee stall opened every morning to serve you with a fresh brewed coffee to wake you up and energize you for the rest of the day. With the CEO among others to code right in front of you in a keynote session to show you some demos, it is one true developer conference that you could hope for.
There were a lot of new products and features Twilio announced in Signal and I would not spend to time to recap here. You may read more info here and here. The interesting thing to note is how Twilio gets so huge. It started off with a text messaging service, it now also provides services on video, authentication, phone, routing. It is the power engine under the hood for the fast growing companies like Lyft and Uber. It now offers the most complete messaging platform for developers to connect to their users. It now has capabilities to reroute your numbers and tap into the phone conversations. It partners with T-Mobile to get into the IoT domain. Twilio’s ambition and vision is not small at all. The big question is: how Twilio achieve all these? This question can be controversial, but for me, I would have to say it all boils down into simplicity: making things really easy, really good, and just works. The Twilio APIs are very easy to use and it does exactly what it says, no more, no less. Its reliability is superb. That is what developers want and rely on.
But wait, there’s more. Check out my thoughts on the sessions at Signal and my $Bash night experience. I almost won a chance to play with the mysterious Magic Leap, and I might yet get access for finishing second. Stay tuned.Possibly Related Posts:
Editor’s note: We just returned from Holland last week where we attended AMIS 25, which was a wonderful show. One of the demos we showed was the Smart Office; Noel (@noelportugal) also gave a presentation on it.
We’ve been showing the Smart Office since OOW last year, and it remains one of our most popular demos because it uses off-the-shelf components that are available today, e.g. Amazon Echo, Leap Motion, Philips Hue lights, beacons, etc., making it an experience that anyone could replicate today with some development work.
In early 2015, the AppsLab team decided we were going to showcase the latest emerging technologies in an integrated demo. As part of the Oracle Applications User Experience group, our main goal as the emerging technologies team is to design products that will increase productivity and user participation in Oracle software.
We settled on the idea of the Smart Office, which is designed with the future of enterprise workplaces in mind. With the advent of the Internet of Things and more home automation in consumer products, users are expecting similar experiences in the workplace. We wanted to build an overall vision of how users will accomplish their tasks with the help of emerging technologies, no matter where they might be working.
Technologies such as voice control, gesture, and proximity have reached what we consider an acceptable maturity level for public consumption. Inexpensive products such as the Amazon Echo, Leap Motion and Bluetooth beacons are becoming more common in users’ daily lives. These examples of emerging technology have become cornerstones in our vision for the Smart Office.
Wearable technology also plays an important role in our idea of the Future of Work. Smart watches are becoming ubiquitous, and the price of wireless microprocessors continues to decrease. Dedicated mobile devices, our research shows, can increase productivity in the workplace when they are properly incorporated into the user experience as a whole.
Building for you, a Sales Cloud example
We first created what we call a user persona to assist us in building the Smart Office. This helps us develop very specific work flows using very specific technology that can be widely applied to a variety of software users. In this case, we started with a sales example as they are often mobile workers.
Sally Smith, our development example for the Smart Office, is a regional sales vice president who is traveling to her headquarter’s office. Traveling to another office often requires extra effort to find and book a working space. To help Sally with that task, we built a geo-fence-enabled mobile app as well as a Smart Badge. Here’s what these two components help her do:
- As Sally approaches the office building, her mobile device (using geo-fencing capabilities) alerts her via her smart watch and helps her find her way to her an available office space, using micro-location with beacons. She uses her Smart Badge, which has access to data about her employee status, to go through the security doors at the office building.
- As Sally approaches the available office space, her Smart Badge proximity sensor (a Bluetooth beacon) connects with a Lighthouse, which is a small touch-screen device outside the office space that displays space availability and works as the “brain” to control IoT devices inside the space. The proximity with the Lighthouse triggers a second confirmation to her smart watch to unlock the office and reserve the space in the company’s calendar system. This authenticates her reservation in two ways.
- As Sally enters the office, her global preferences are loaded into the office “brain.” Settings such as light brightness and color (Hue Lights), and room temperature (Nest Thermostat) are set to her liking.
- The office screens then start to load Sally’s familiar pictures as well as useful data relative to her location, such as weather or local events, on two Infoscreens. An Infoscreen is a Wi-Fi-enabled digital frame or LCD screen hung on the wall.
Sally has already interacted with her Smart Office in several ways. But up to this point, all of the interactions have been triggered or captured by emerging technology built into mobile devices that she is carrying with her. Now, she is ready to interact more purposefully with the Smart Office.
- Sally uses the Amazon Echo voice control to talk to the office: “Alexa, start my day.” Since she has been authenticated by the system already, it knows that the Oracle Sales Cloud is the application she is most likely to need, and the welcome page is now loaded in the touchscreen at the desk. She can use voice navigation to check on her opportunities, leads, or any other section of the Sales Cloud.
- Sally was working on the plane with Oracle Sales Cloud, but she did not have a chance to save her work before landing. Session portability is built into the cloud user experience, which takes care of saving her work when she is offline. Now that she is sitting inside the Smart Office and back online, she just swipes her screen to transfer her incomplete work onto the desktop screen.
- The Smart Office also uses empty wall space to project data throughout the day. On this Ambient Screen, Sally could use her voice (Amazon Echo), or hand gestures (Leap Motion), to continue her work. Since Sally has a global sales team, she can use the Ambient Screen to project a basic overview of her team performance metrics, location, and notifications.
- If Sally needs to interact with any of the notifications or actions she sees on the Ambient Screen, she can use a grab-and-throw motion to bring the content to her desk screen. She can also use voice commands to call up a team map, for example, and ask questions about her team such as their general location.
- As Sally finishes her day and gets ready to close her session inside the Smart Office, she can use voice commands to turn everything off.
Find out more
The Smart Office was designed to use off-the-shelf components on purpose. We truly believe that the Future of Work no longer relies on a single device. Instead, a set of cloud-connected devices help us accomplish our work in the most efficient manner.
For more on how we decide which pieces of emerging technology to investigate and develop in a new way for use in the enterprise world, read “Influence of Emerging Technology,” on the Usable Apps website.
See this for yourself and get inspired by what the Oracle Applications Cloud looks like when it’s connected to the future. Request a lab tour.Possibly Related Posts:
Another year, another amazing at the Maker Faire.
I’ve attended my fair share of Maker Faires these years, so the pyrotechnic sculptures, 3D printing masterpieces, and handmade artisan marketplaces were of no particular surprise. But somehow, every time I come around to the San Mateo fairgrounds, the Faire can’t help but be so aggressively fresh, crazy, and novel. This year, a host of new and intriguing trends kept me on my toes as I ventured through the greatest show and tell on Earth.
Young makers came out in full force this year. Elementary school maker clubs showed off their circuit projects, middle schoolers explained how they built the little robots, high school STEM programs presented their battle robots. It’s pleasing to see how Maker education has blossomed these past years, and how products and startups like LittleBits and Adafruit have made major concepts in electronics and programming so simple and inexpensive that any kid could pick it up and start exploring. Also wonderful is seeing young teams traveling out to the Bay Area from Texas, Oregon, and all these other states, a testament to the growth of the Maker movement out of the Silicon Valley.
Speaking of young makers’ participation, Arduino creator Massimo Banzi talked about Arduino as an education tool for kids to play and tinker, even he never planned to make kid’s toys in his early years. The maker movement has invoked the curious minds of all age, to start playing electronics, making robots, and learning a new language in programming.
While the maker movement made things very accessible to individuals, the essence of creation and innovation also impacted on the large enterprise. On the “Maker Pro” stage, our GVP, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley), talked about new trends of large enterprise application design, and OAUX group is driving the change to make simpler, but more effective and more engaging enterprise application.
Drones were also a trending topic this year, with a massive Drone Racing tent set up with events going on the whole weekend. Everything was being explored – new shapes for efficient and quick flight; new widgets and drone attachment modules; new methods of interaction with the drone. One team had developed a smart glove that responded to gyroscopic motion and gestures to control the flight of a quadcopter, and had the machine dance around him – an interesting and novel marriage of wearable tech and flight.
Personally, I’ve got a soft spot for art and whimsy, and the Faire had whimsy by the gallon. The artistry of the creators around the country and globe can’t be overestimated.
Maker Faire never disappoints. We brought friends along who had never been to a Faire, and it’s always fun to watch them get blown off their feet literally and figuratively the first time a flamethrower blasts open from the monolithic Crucible. Or their grins of delight when they see a cupcake shaped racecar zoom past them… and another… and another. Or the spark of amazement when they witness some demo that’s out of any realm of imagination.Possibly Related Posts:
Many hands make light (emitting diodes) work. Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) gets down to designing fashion technology (#fashtech) solutions in a fun maker event with a serious research and learning intent. OAUX Senior Director and resident part-time fashion blogger, Ultan “Gucci Translated” O’Broin (@ultan), reports from the Redwood City runway.
Fashion and Technology: What’s New?
Wearable technology is not new. Elizabeth I of England was a regal early adopter. In wearing an “armlet” given to her by Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leicester in 1571, the Tudor Queen set in motion that fusion of wearable technology and style that remains evident in the Fitbits and Apple Watches of today.
Elizabeth I’s device was certainly fly, described as “in the closing thearof a clocke, and in the forepart of the same a faire lozengie djamond without a foyle, hanging thearat a rounde juell fully garnished with dyamondes and a perle pendaunt.”
Regardless of the time we live in, for wearable tech to be successful it has to look good. It’s got to appeal to our sense of fashion. Technologists remain cognizant of involving clothing experts in production and branding decisions. For example, at Google I/O 2016, Google and Levi’s announced an interactive jacket based on the Google Jacquard technology that makes fabric interactive, applied to a Levi’s commuter jacket design.
Fashion Technology Maker Event: The Summer Collection
Misha Vaughan’s (@mishavaughan) OAUX Communications and Outreach team joined forces with Jake Kuramoto’s (@jkuramot) AppsLab (@theappslab) Emerging Tech folks recently in a joint maker event in Oracle HQ to design and
build wearable tech solutions that brought the world of fashion and technology (#fashtech) together.
The occasion was a hive of activity, with sewing machines, soldering irons, hot-glue guns, Arduino technology, fiber-optic cables, LEDs, 3D printers, and the rest, all in evidence during the production process.
Fashtech events like this also offer opportunities of discovery, as the team found out how interactive synth drum gloves can not only create music, but be used as input devices to write code too. Why limit yourself to one kind of keyboard?
Wearable Tech in the Enterprise: Wi-Fi and Hi-Heels
What does this all this fashioning of solutions mean for the enterprise? Wearable technology is part of the OAUX Glance, Scan, Commit design philosophy, key to that Mobility strategy reflecting our cloud-driven world of work. Smart watches are as much part of the continuum of devices we use interchangeably throughout the day as smart phones, tablets, or laptops are, for example. To coin a phrase from OAUX Group Vice President Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley) at the recent Maker Faire event, in choosing what best works for us, be it clothing or technology: one size does not fit all.
A distinction between what tech we use and what we wear in work and at home is no longer convenient. We’ve moved from BYOD to WYOD. Unless that wearable tech, a deeply personal device and style statement all in one, reflects our tastes and sense of fashion we won’t use it: unless we’re forced to. The #fashtech design heuristic is: make it beautiful or make it invisible. So, let’s avoid wearables becoming swearables and style that tech, darling!Possibly Related Posts: