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The Emerging Technologies team of Oracle Applications User Experience
Updated: 8 hours 29 min ago

Find Us at Oracle Code

Tue, 2017-02-28 11:19

Oracle Code (@oracledevs) begins tomorrow in San Francisco, and we’ll be there.

What is Oracle Code? Check out the video, which includes our Gadget Lab at HQ, robot arm demo, VR egg chair and Tony O giving a tour.

Specifically, Raymond (@yuhuaxie) and Mark (@mvilrokx) will be hosting IoT Workshops like they did during JavaOne and OpenWorld 2016. Also, Raymond’s Pac-Man on a String will be one of the exhibits. Next week in Austin, Noel (@noelportugal) and Mark will host the IoT Workshops.

Oracle Code events will nearly happen every week, all over the World, and we’re not covering them all. But don’t fret, the IoT Workshops and Pac-Man on a String will be at each event.

Interested? Register for  your local Oracle Code event.Possibly Related Posts:

Art of Making

Fri, 2017-02-24 13:42

Art of Making

I caught up the making virus from our engineers, and, jointly with a fellow parent, volunteered to teach an “Art of Making” seminar at my daughter’s school (my friend’s son came up with the title). Our hope was to bring STEM, art, and design thinking together. (I am supposed to represent art and design thinking, but secretly dream of learning some STEM along the way).

There are about thirty different seminars that students can choose from based on the seminar’s description. Ours was “Don’t take the world the way someone made it for you, make it what you want it to be. Be a maker! The world is full of opportunities for improvement, and everything is a tool. Hi-tech and low-tech. Paper and foil, 3D printers and code. Why, using tools is what made us human. Release your inner humanity by embracing your tool-using nature! In this seminar you’ll play with bunch of hi and low tech staff to make pretty flashy things from fashion to toys, and learn along the way.”

The seminar filled in to a maximum on a first day of signup. 100% boys.

I contracted my daughter to run an emergency promotional program for our “Art of Making” with the goal of bumping up girls’ enrollment. I felt that my daughter knows the best what’s appealing to that audience. And I was right! Her choice of message, channels, and timing was impeccable, and in four days the girls’ enrollment risen up to 50%!

That’s the teen power!

To be continued…Possibly Related Posts:

RIP Oracle Connect

Mon, 2017-02-13 11:59

Blogging and long-form content seem so tedious to me nowadays, but if you’ve read here for a while, you’ll recall that I used to post several times a week.

One of the reasons I’ve kept this blog running in the era of ever-shorter content is that it keeps a historical record of this team’s work and our thoughts. As an emerging technologies team, we know that not all our thinking will make it to daylight, so we use this outlet as a way to leave breadcrumbs for ourselves and others.

One such project, Oracle Connect, died a quiet death a few weeks ago.

Connect and OraTweet had been hosted on a machine we were given in 2008, and IT had been trying to decommission that old relic for years. They finally did a few weeks ago, and while Noel (@noeportugal) is salvaging OraTweet, we have no plans to resurrect Connect.

We’ve been urging people using Connect to move to Oracle Social Network for many years, but even so, it still had a handful of users, most of whom reached it via old links on the corporate intranet that haven’t been updated.

Social networks seem pedestrian now, but in 2007, when Connect was born, they were still relatively new, especially inside corporate firewalls. As far as we could tell, Connect was one of the first handful of such corporate networks, and at its peak, it served a couple hundred thousand pageviews a month. Not bad for a little web app managed by a team of four.

Over the years, Oracle Connect has been profiled in a couple books on enterprise social adoption over the years, Niall Cook’s (@niallcook)  Enterprise 2.0: How Social Software Will Change the Future of Work and Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance by Arthur L. Jue, Jackie Alcalde Marr and Mary Ellen Kassotakis.

Back in 2012, I chronicled the History of Connect, if you’re interested in its genesis and trajectory.

So, RIP Oracle Connect, gone but not forgotten.Possibly Related Posts:

Some Video of Our Exploits

Wed, 2017-01-25 12:43

Lots going on here at the ‘Lab as always, and now, I have video to prove it.

First, a large of our daily routines now involve showing off our demos to visitor to the User Experience Cloud Labs at Oracle HQ. Our demos live in a space we affectionately call the Gadget Lab, and during last year’s OpenWorld, Gozel (@gozelaamoth) had a film crew take some video.

Now you can get a sense of what a tour of our Cloud Labs is like.

Here’s a still shot if you prefer.

If you follow us, you’ll recognize some familiar faces in there. Like what you see? Plan to be at HQ sometime? Why not sign up for a tour of the Cloud Labs?

Another recent video and newsworthy bit is that Mark (@mvirlokx) was in the January edition of Oracle Magazine talking about his Oracle Maker Faire projects.

Wow, the last time I wrote here was July. Luckily, the team has done an excellent job carrying the weight in my absence. See you in another six months or so.Possibly Related Posts:

An Oracle Partner Cloud Integration Hackathon in Sydney

Tue, 2017-01-24 11:33

At the end of November, Laurie’s (@lsptahoe) Apps UX Innovation Events team organized another fabulous hackathon, this time in collaboration with the Oracle Sydney Office.  The goal of the hackathon was to integrate several Oracle Cloud Services and hack together an application built on top of those Cloud Services, using a toy or other device. The AppsLab was prominently represented by Jake, Noel, Raymond and myself as we were invited mentors for the various teams that signed up.  This is my report of the proceedings.

Sydney Harbor

We arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning to give ourselves a fighting chance to get over our jet lag before the actual start of the hackathon on Wednesday, but the preparations for us mentors started a few weeks before we set foot on Aussie soil.  You see, there were 14 Cloud Services that were made available for the participants, and as mentors, we were obviously supposed to be fluent in all of them.  Unfortunately, I myself was only familiar with a handful of these Cloud offerings so I had to learn as much as I could about all the other ones before we headed out.  We were given access to all of the services on offer in October and I spend the next 4-6 weeks getting familiar with DCS, ICS, MCS, ACCS, IoT CS and more.  Within a few days I was able to port one of our existing services (a universal web scraper Web Service that we use in various other projects, e.g. in the Scavenger Hunt registration application) to ACCS using Dev CS as my Continuous Integration/Deployment platform.

Also as part of the preparation we were assigned to the partner teams, mine was Accenture, and we had a few meetings to review and refine our hackathon elevator pitch.  The idea that emerged from our team was a sort of “Kudos” application that would allow anybody to give a present to anyone in their company as a thank you.

On Tuesday we went into the Sydney office to meet our fellow, local mentors, mostly from the ANZ Sales Consulting org.  Oh, and they also brought their toys, the famous Anki car demo!

Anki Car demo

Anki Car demo

That’s an Oracle Cloud driven Anki car race track of 84 pieces (it actually broke the Anki iOS app which seems to only be able to handle a 64-piece track)!  What you can’t see in this picture is that they were filming this with their DJI Phantom drone, right there in the office.  It was made available to the participants (using the Oracle Cloud API Management Service) to integrate in their solutions, which some actually did, but it was just plain awesome to look at (and play with).  They actually took this behemoth on a tour, you can find more information here

The hackathon started officially Wednesday morning, where we finally got to meet all the participants and I got to meet my whole team:

Accenture Hackathon Team

Accenture Hackathon Team: Alan, Kanthan, Richard and Vasanth

For scope’s sake, we scaled down our hackathon solution to a Coffee Giving Application and decided to use the Mobile Cloud Service and MAX to build our Mobile Application and HCM Cloud, Process Cloud Service, Integration Cloud Service and Database Cloud Service on the backend:


A design, hackathon style!

We split up the tasks and went to work.  True to form, the Accenture team worked till the wee hours of the night, way (way) longer than any other team, in fact we only stopped when we were kicked out of the building just before midnight.  Thanks to the help of some of the other mentors…


Chris Muir and me mentoring…

…we were able to put together and present a fully working solution to the judges the next day:

Hackathon Solution Presentation

Hackathon Solution Presentation

This is the architecture of the solution we presented:

Architecture Cloud Hackathon

Architecture Cloud hackathon

In the end, we didn’t win a prize, but it was a great experience.  I learned a lot about the Cloud Services that Oracle is offering, and we are looking to extensively use them going forward when building demos and prototypes.  The partners that participated got exclusive access to Cloud Services that aren’t even on the market yet and got to learn from a great team of mentors.  Overall it was a fantastic experience all around.  I’d like to thank Laurie and her team for organizing, all the mentors for their help and the Sydney office for their hospitality.  I really hope to come back one day…

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge


Mark.Possibly Related Posts:

Emotion Recognition at Oracle Maker Faire

Wed, 2016-12-21 14:05

Emotibot, an emotion sensing robot.

A few weeks before the first ever Oracle sponsored Maker Faire, I was experimenting with some of the cognitive (vision) recognition APIs available. Google Vision API, Watson Visual Recognition and Microsoft Computer Vision API are some of the biggest players in this field right now.

After testing all of them I found the idea of Microsoft’s CaptionBot really compelling: Upload an image to the CaptionBot and it will try to come up with a coherent caption based on a mashup of three of their cognitive services (Computer Vision API +  Emotion API + Bing Image API). I wrote an iOS app (with it’s own  Swift framework) to consume this mashup and took it for a spin.

I gave my phone to my kids to test the app. They ran around the house and were truly amused by pointing the camera to an object and getting a description.

So when the call to create a project for Oracle Maker Faire with my kids came, we sat down and started brainstorming. The concept was still fresh on their minds; A computer could guess as close as possible to what an object is and even guess a facial expression.

Brainstorming ideas

They came up with a plan and a name: Emotibot, an emotion sensing robot. We drove to the closest Home Depot to find materials. We found an Led Glow Ball Lamp that worked perfectly for the head of our emotion sensing robot.

Staging parts before drilling holes


We used the following materials to build our robot:

The robot worked as follows:

  1. The Ultrasonic Ping sensor detected when someone was close to it (about 10 inches).
  2. The robot started to talk using festival-lite or flite. The mouth servo was synchronized with the flite by counting the words and moving the mouth for each word spoken.
  3. A picture was snapped and submitted to Microsoft Emotion API. The JSON result was parsed and then spoken with flite by Emotibot.
  4. Using the blink(1) USB LEDs the robot changed colors based on the emotion.
  • At the end we also added a microphone array to interact with the robot, but since we knew it was going to be noisy we didn’t enable that part during the faire.


Overall the project was a success. I was able to involve my kids and they learned some concepts along the way. If anyone is interested to see the code hit me up in the comments and I might put it on Github.Possibly Related Posts:

Pac-Man on a String

Thu, 2016-12-08 17:43

Oracle hosted the first-ever company co-sponsored Maker Faire event on November 17, 2016.

When I heard of the event, I had something in my mind that I would encourage a group of middle-schoolers to make a game for the event. I have been teaching them occasionally on Arduino, NodeMCU and MQTT concept over some weekends, and this is the perfect opportunity to put them together in a build.

After some brain-storming, we came up with “Pac-Man on a String” concept. And because of the way of this game plays, the player needs to rush to a location and do a quick action, I picked the team name as “JET – React” to describe the game play, (and if you are writing JavaScript at Oracle, you know JET and React).

There are some interesting design points we have put into the build:

  • We want to make a game that is simple, anyone can come by and play;
  • We want to make a game that is addicting and challenging (which seems to be conflicting with point #1), so people can keep playing for many times and not getting bored;
  • Simple control and interface.

So we adapted the game plot of well-known Pac-Man, and changed narratives to collect gems (as Emily likes sparkling gems), and changed ghost to wasp so we can flee or just attack at the spot with precise timing. Coding-wise, it turns out “wasp” is very much like “gem” except it chases player (represented as 5-LED segment).

The modified game story and play mechanism fit very well with the limited control and interface we have. Making a interesting game with just one joystick and one LED strip, that presents serious constraints as what you can work with. But in the end, I think we achieved excellent results.

To make it simple, we coded 5-LED segment (we call it Saber) that a player can move it up and down along the LED strip, and use that to collect a gem or attach a wasp. Most people can align 5-LED to sparkling dot on the strip, right?

To make it challenging (that is to gain high score), we made the scoring logic to require a player has great timing and quick reflexes. First, all the gems and wasps can show up at any location, any moment, for any length of duration (all the parameters are randomly generated). So player has to move fast, and quickly decide what to do when multiple gems/wasps are showing. Second, the Saber has 5-LED segment, and if you use middle LED to collect a gem, you get 100 points; the two LED next the middle one will get you 50 points, and two side LED get you 25 points. So it has great incentive to use the middle LED to do your work, but it is very difficult to move the Saber to the right spot, it requires great skill of timing and anticipation. And finally, the wasp can sting you, but if you are quick enough, you can knock it out before it can sting you, and you gain points, that requires great timing skill. Overall, it takes practice to play this game well.

So here is the team info and game play description:

These are the components and flow for the game build.

The game code is on the Arduino Mega board, where the player moves Saber to collect and attack. The code controls all LED light state at all time, which represents space, gems, wasps, as well as detect the player action, and Saber to gem/wasp collision time. It has scoring logic when detected collision, and sends game events to NodeMCU for reporting.

The code on NodeMCU is to rely game events into CloudMQTT, so that the App on Tablet can get the events, and starts/stops game, or accumulates points. Once a game is over, the score is recorded into Oracle Apex database for keeping the Leader board.

First prototype build, using a wooden tea box:

This is the cleaned up final build, hosting all components in a acrylic box:

This is the close-up look at the inside of box:

Score board and leader board in an Android App:

The game as played out at the Maker Faire. Both adults and kids had a blast!

Update: Here’s a video of the gameplay.

Possibly Related Posts:

Trip to Black (W)holes

Mon, 2016-11-28 02:54


Last week my kids’ school went on a field trip to the University of Santa Cruz to observe a black hole multimedia exhibition. We were invited there by Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, the astrophysicist and the fellow parent at the school. When Enrico is not busy pushing the frontiers of science (he is partial to violent explosions), he teaches astrophysics to children age 4 to 12.

The exhibition combined the visualized data from recent Extreme Mass Ratio Inspiral (look it up) event, projected to the round screen on the floor, with the sound mapped to the acceleration of the star matter spiraling into the black hole, and an auxiliary animation of Einstein’s scribbles projected to the walls. It was an immersive experience.

The reality of being INSIDE of the installation, together with friends and the teacher, stimulated thinking and collaboration. Kids started asking questions, and there were no stopping of them. Enrico is awesome at understanding underlying questions children ask no matter how well or poorly they express the questions with their words.

There were certain abstractions in the visualization – it was rendered in a logarithmic scale, the perpendicular rays had to be “flatten” to the projection plane, the meaning of color was reversed to red for hot and blue for cold. Interestingly, these abstractions provoked more thinking and more discussions.

Enrico explained it is a balancing act to find a happy middle between scientific accuracy and intuitiveness of visualization.

Where the visual props come short, Enrico switches to explaining with his hands, he is as good at it as Richard Feynman was, creating a kind of single-actor science visualization theatre.

I was fascinated to hear from Enrico that, as a scientist, not only he uses imagery for explanations, but he also thinks in images.

I’ll use this as a good excuse to break into quoting my favorite parallel quotes.



artandsci3Possibly Related Posts:

A Personal Assistant Technologies or PAT Hackathon

Mon, 2016-11-07 17:31

When tech media started proclaiming 2016 as the year of the bots, they seem to have nailed it. At Oracle we have at least three groups working on bots, OAUX included.

One of the latest forays into bots was a Personal Assistant Technologies (PAT) hackathon, organized by Laurie Pattison’s (@lsptahoe) Apps UX Innovation Events team, open to people across Oracle. The goal? Create a great use case for bots with a great user experience.



Because I’ve done a fair amount of research on bots recently, I was selected as a mentor, though the MVM (most valuable mentor) prizes definitely went to Anthony Lai (@anthonyslai) and Noel Portugal (@noelportugal), who provided all the technical assistance for the teams.


The most interesting part of a hackathon is, of course, at the end. Each team has three short minutes to show what they built and why it’s awesome. There were a lot of teams, covering use cases from sales, service, supply chain, finance, developer tools, and project management. It was a pleasure just to see all the creativity across groups that came from distant parts of Oracle—including a few who traveled all the way from India and Armenia just to participate.


The teams had to use an NLP system and a bot framework to interact with Oracle systems to actually do something—some were more transactional, others more about querying information. The most important thing (to me, at least) about a bot use case is that it needs to be better than the existing way you’d do something. Why would a user want to use a bot—something new they have to learn, even if it is easy—instead of doing it the old fashioned way?

A big part of the potential value of bots is that it’s easy to use them from a variety of devices—if all you need to do is type or speak, you can easily use a mobile device to send a text message, Amazon Echo, your IM on your desktop, or maybe even a smartwatch. The teams used a variety of input methods, pointing out the real value someone can unlock with the ability to be productive while on the go or in contexts we don’t normally associate with work.


Also represented in the mentor and judge crowd were Oracle Virtual Assistant (part of the RightNow team), and the Chatbot Cloud Service, which Larry Ellison introduced at OpenWorld this year. Some teams leveraged the Oracle Virtual Assistant for their submissions, but it wasn’t required.

It’s an exciting time, now that natural language technology is finally enabling some wonderful user experiences. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing all the upcoming cycles of design-build-test-repeat in the quest for a useful and productive bot experience.Possibly Related Posts:

Mixed Reality Demo – The Physical Parts

Mon, 2016-10-31 17:50

I have been always intrigued by the fact that people get deeply attached to the characters in the game (e.g. Second Life), or virtual pets. And with sufficient advancement in technology, the virtual characters may eventually cross the boundary and get attached to real-life people (e.g. Sci-Fi movie such as “Her”). While that is still a little far away from now, I’ve been looking to explore the 2-way communication and interaction between virtual and real world.

At AppsLab, we have enough skills to build some physical toys that we can communicate and control, but we miss a game or virtual environment that is appealing and communicative. I tried interact with Minecraft environment but stopped when it was sold. So Jake’s casual mention of MindWurld from Ed Jones (@edhjones) sparked a great interest!

MindWurld is a fantastic game.  You can choose a virtual character (Avatar) to walk around Hawaii island to free and rescue pigs, also collect treasure, and play trick of spawning pigs and catching them with Pokeball. And yes, we have full access to the source code. (see Ed’s post for details)

So we came up with a game plot quickly, as manifested in the final build:

Real controller - Virtual avatar - Real robot

Real controller – Virtual avatar – Real robot

  1. Player in Real world communicates to a virtual character in MindWurld;
  2. Virtual game character and object has a mirrored object in the real world;
  3. Events or actions happening in sync between real and virtual objects.

This is how we put things together:

Step 1 – Toy guitar as controller

We thought of using player’s own cellphone to call a number to reach the Avatar (the virtual character in game), and just talk over the phone to tell Avatar what to do. But voice service provider was not responsive enough and we were approaching OpenWorld soon, so we ditched that approach and went for a customized controller.

Ed is a guitar player, and the virtual Avatar would be attending OpenWorld on behalf of Ed, so it is fitting that we use a toy guitar to represent him.

Mod of a toy guitar as controller

A toy guitar mod as controller

The toy guitar essentially provides many buttons that I can use to convey various commands and intentions, but the mod itself is a little bit more complex, as each button produce a set of signals feeding into a chip for playing music, it is not a clear simple one push to one line reading.

I used one Arduino mini pro to read signal patterns for each button push and did some noise filtering and process, and then translated them into “a player command,” which is feed into a Bluefruit EZ-key HID chip. The HID chip can connect to a computer as HID device, so each “play command” is a simple key stoke input to control the game.

Step 2 – MiP robot as mirrored avatar

MiP robot from WowWee is an inexpensive but very capable little robot. It can balance itself on two wheels, and can move back-forth, and spin on the spot, and that makes it having accurate travel along any path.

Oh, and it is quite a character. It makes happy, grumpy and lots of other noises, and shows many light patterns, to express full range of emotions!

MiP robot as buddy in Real world

MiP robot as buddy in real world

The best part for our developers – it has an API in many languages that we can program and control the movement, sound and lights.

So for whatever events happening in the MindWurld game, such as the avatar walking around, opening treasure boxes, spawning pigs, freeing pigs and rescuing them, they are sent over a socket to a my Robot controller program, which in turn asks the Robot to perform corresponding movement and act in certain cheerful ways.

Originally, I made the MiP robot to be the mirror of virtual character in the game, in a sense that it walks the same way as his virtual part in game. It requires a large area for it to roam around. For the OAUX Exchange at OpenWorld, due to space limitation, I reprogrammed it to be a buddy of the virtual character, so it does not move too much, but makes noise and blinks light to cheer for his virtual friend.

By now, we can test out the full cast of game!

Step 3 – Juiced it up with a Pokeball

Meanwhile, Mark (@mvilrokx) had been busy printing Pokeballs:  3D printed shells, polished and painted, outfitted with unbalance motor for vibration, LED for light color effect, and  NodeMCU for network connectivity, and hooked up to a MQTT broker ready for action.

Pokeball used to catch pig in virtual world.

Pokeball used to catch pig in virtual world.

Ed quickly outfitted the virtual character with a ball in hand, throwing at pigs to rescue them.

I just quickly added a MQTT client code, replied ball-thrown and pig-rescued events to MQTT broker. And the Pokeball in real world would vibrate and flash when the virtual character throws and catches pigs in the MindWurld.

Play out at OAUX Exchange

Play it out at OAUX Exchange

Oh, that’s the Mixed Reality game setup at OAUX Exchange. Anthony had 3 days of fun time playing Rock Star, together with “real” people, “virtual” avatar, “real” avatar, “virtual” balls and “real” balls.Possibly Related Posts:

Real Time Ambient Display at OpenWorld: The Software (for the Hardware)

Thu, 2016-10-20 03:45

This is part 2 of my blog post series about the Ambient Visualization hardware (part 1).  Also, please read John’s post on details about the creation of the actual visualization, from concept to build.  In the first part, I focused on the hardware, a sonar sensor connected to a NodeMCU.  In this second part, the focal point will be the software.

When I started working with ESPs a few years ago I was all gaga about the fact that you could use Lua to program these chips. However, over the last year, I have revised my thinking as I ran into stability issues with Lua.  I now exclusively code in C/C++ for the ESPs using the arduino library for the ESP8266.  This has led to much stabler firmware and with the advent of the likes of PlatformIO, a much better development experience (and I’m all for better DX!).

As I was not going to be present at the Exchange myself to help with the setup of the devices, I had to make it as easy as possible to set up and use.  I could not assume that the person setting up the NodeMCUs had any knowledge about the NodeMCU, Sonars, C++ etc.  Ideally, they could just place it in a suitable location, switch on the NodeMCU and that would be it!  There were a few challenges I had to overcome to get to this ideal scenario.

First, the sonars needed to be “calibrated.”  The sonar just measures the time it takes for a “ping” to come back as it bounces of an object … any object.  If I place the sonar on one side of the room and point it to the opposite wall, it will tell me how long it takes (in µs) for a “ping” to come back as it bounces of that wall.  (You can then use the speed of sound to calculate how far away that wall is.)  However, I want to know when somebody walks by the sensor, i.e. when the ping that comes back is not from the opposite wall but from something in between the wall and the sensor.  In order to be able to do this, I have to know how far away the wall is (or whatever fixed object the sonar is pointed at when it is placed down).  Since I didn’t know where these sensors were going to be placed, I did not know in advance where these walls would be so this could not be coded upfront; this had to be done on-site.  And since I could not rely on anybody being able to just update the code on the fly as mentioned earlier, the solution was to have the sonars “self-calibrate.”

As soon as you turn on the NodeMCU, it will go into “calibration mode”.  The first few seconds it will take a few hundred samples under the assumption that whatever it “sees” initially is the wall opposite the device.  It will then store this information for as long as the NodeMCU is powered on.  After this, any ping that is close to the wall is assumed to be coming from the wall, and discarded.  Whenever a ping is received of an object that is closer to the sonar than the wall, we assume that this is a person walking by the sensor (between the wall and the sensor) and we flag this.  If you want to put the NodeMCU in a different location (presumably with the opposing wall at a different distance from it), you just switch it off, move it, and switch it back on.  The calibration will make sure it works anywhere you place it.  For the people setting up the sonars, this meant that all they’d have to do was place the sensors, switch them on and make sure that in the first 1-2 seconds nothing is in between the sensor and the opposite side (and if there was something in between by accident, they could just “reset” the NodeMCU which would recalibrate it).  This turned out to work great, some sensors had a small gap (~2 meters), others had a much larger gap (+5 meters), all working just fine using the same code.

Second, the NodeMCU needs to be configured to connect to a WiFi.  Typically this is hard-coded in the firmware, but again, this was not an option as I didn’t know what the WiFi SSID or password would be.  And even if I did, conference WiFi is notoriously bad (the Achilles heel of all IoT) so there was a distinct possibility that we would have to switch WiFi networks on-site to a better alternative (e.g. a local hotspot).  And as with the calibration, I could not rely on anybody being able to fix this in the code, on-site. Also, unlike the calibration, connecting to a WiFi requires human interaction; somebody has to enter the password.  The solution I implemented was for the NodeMCU to come with its own configuration web application.  Let me explain…

The NodeMCU is powerful enough to run its own Web Server, serving HTML, CSS and/or JS.  The NodeMCU can also be an Access Point (AP) so you can connect to it like you connect to your router.  It exposes an SSID and when you connect your device to this network, you can query up HTML pages and the NodeMCU Web Server will serve them to you.  Note that this does not require any WiFi, the NodeMCU basically “brings its own” WiFi that you connect to.

NodeMCU Access Point

NodeMCU Access Point (called ESP8266-16321847)

So I created a Web Server on the NodeMCU and build a few HTML pages which I stored on the NodeMCU (in the SPIFFS).  Whenever you connect to a NodeMCU running this firmware and point your browser to, it will serve up those pages which allows you to configure that very same NodeMCU.  The main page allows you to set the WiFi SSID and password (you can also configure the MQTT setup).  This information then gets stored on the NodeMCU in the Flash (EEPROM) so it is persistent; even if you switch off the NodeMCU it will “remember” the WiFi credentials.

NodeMCU Config Screen

NodeMCU Config Screen

This makes it very easy for novice users on-site to configure the NodeMCU to connect to any WiFi that is available.  As soon as you restart the NodeMCU it will attempt to connect to the WiFi as configured, which brings me to the final UX challenge.

Since the NodeMCU does not have a screen, how do users know if it is even working?  It needs to calibrate itself, it needs to connect to WiFi and to MQTT, how do I convey this information to the users?  Luckily the NodeMCU has a few onboard LEDs which I decided to use for that purpose.  To show the user that the NodeMCU is calibrating the sonar, it will flash the red LED (remember this happens at every boot).  As soon as the sonar is successfully calibrated, the red LED will stay on.  If for whatever reason the calibration failed – this can happen is the wall is too far away (+6 meters), not reflecting any sound (e.g. off stealth bombers) or no sonar is attached to the NodeMCU – the red LED will switch off.  A similar sequence happens when the NodeMCU is trying to connect to the WiFi.  As it tries, it will be blinking the blue onboard LED.  If it connects successfully to the WiFi, the blue LED will stay on, if it failed however, the board will automatically switch to AP mode, assuming you want to (re)configure the board to connect to a different WiFi and the blue LED will still stay on (indicating you can connect to the NodeMCU AP) but very faintly.  With these simple interactions, I can let the user know exactly what is happening and if the device is ready to go (both blue and red LEDs are on) or not (one of the LEDs or both are off).

This setup worked remarkably well and I had not one question during the Exchange on how these things work or need to be setup.  All that needed to be done was set them down, boot them up, and make sure all lights were on.  If they were not, try again (reboot) or reconfigure.

The actual capturing of data was pretty easy as well; the NodeMCU would send a signal to our MQTT broker every time it detected a person walking by.  The MQTT broker then broadcasted this to its subscribers, one of which was a small (node.js) server that I wrote which would forward this message to APEX using a REST API made available by Noel.  He would then store this information where it could be accessed by John (using another REST API) for his visualization.




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Real Time Ambient Display at OpenWorld: The Hardware

Wed, 2016-10-19 03:44

As John mentioned in his post, one of the projects I worked on for OOW16 was the devices to provide the data to his Ambient Display.  Unlike previous years, where we record attendance and then produce a report a few days or weeks after OOW, Jake proposed that we’d somehow visualize the data in real-time and show it to the attendees as they are producing the data themselves.

In order to produce the data, we wanted to strategically place “sensors” in the OAUX Exchange tent that could sense when somebody walks by them.  Whenever this happened, the device should sent a signal to John so that he could consume it and show it on his visualization.

I considered several designs and my first thought was to build a system using a laser-diode on one side and a photo-resistor as a receiver on the other side: when somebody “breaks the beam” I would know somebody walked by, basically a laser-tripwire you can find in many other applications.  Unfortunately, photo-resistors are fairly small, the largest affordable model I could find was half the size of my pinkie’s fingernail and so this meant that the area for the laser to hit was really small, especially as the distance increases.  To add to this, we couldn’t attach the sensors to walls (i.e. an immovable object) because the OAUX Exchange is held in a tent.  The best we could hope for to attach our sensors to was a tent pole or a table leg.  Any movement in those would misalign the laser or the sensor and would get registered as a “walk by.”  So I quickly abandoned the idea of lasers (I’ll keep that one in the bag for when we finally get those sharks).

Noel suggested to use an ultrasonic sensor instead.  These work just like a sonar: they send out inaudible “pings” of sound and then listen for the sound to come back when it bounces of an object.  With some simple math you can then work out how far that object is removed from the sonar sensor.  I tested out a few sonar sensors but I finally settled on the LV-MaxSonar-EZ1, which had the right combination of sensitivity at the distances we needed (+2 meters) and ease-of-use.

Next I had to figure out what to attach the sensor to, i.e. what was going to be my “Edge” device.  Initially I tested with a Raspberry Pi because we have a few of those around the office all the time, however this turned out to have several disadvantages.  For one, the LV-MaxSonar-EZ1 is an analog ultrasonic sensor. Since the RPi does not support analog input I had to use an ADC chip to convert the signal from analog to digital. Although this gave me very accurate readings, it complicated the build.  Also, we weren’t guaranteed power at each station so the end solution would have to be able to run on battery power all day long, something that is hard with a RPi.

Next I used an Arduino (Uno) as my Edge device.  Since it has analog inputs, it was much easier to build but the problem is that it needs an additional WiFi Shield to be able to connect to the internet (remember, I needed to get the sensor data somehow to John), which is pretty pricy, combined we are now talking +$100.  I wanted a cheaper solution.

As is customary now with me when I work on IoT solutions, I turned to the ESP8266/NodeMCU.  It’s cheap (< $10), has lots of GPIOs (~10) and has Wifi built in.  Also, we had a few lying around :-):



I hooked up the Sonar to the NodeMCU (using PWM on a digital GPIO) and within a few minutes I had accurate readings and was sending the data to the backend over the internet: IoT FTW!  Furthermore, it’s pretty easy to run a NodeMCU off battery power for a whole day (as it turned out, they all ran the whole 3-days of the Exchange on a single charge, with plenty of battery power to spare!).  It was really a no brainer so I settled on the NodeMCU with the LV-MaxSonar-EZ1 attached to it, all powered by a ~6000mAh battery:

NodeMCU with Sonar

NodeMCU with Sonar


First iteration for initial testing.

Three of the ultrasonic sensors we used to detect movement in the tent

Three of the ultrasonic sensors we used to detect movement in the tent

Once I settled on the hardware, it was on to the software, which I will explain in detail in a second post.


Mark.Possibly Related Posts:

My First Oracle OpenWorld

Tue, 2016-10-18 13:44

This year I had the great opportunity to attend in person Oracle OpenWorld 2016 and JavaOne 2016. Since I was student, I heard how fantastic and big is this conference but you cannot realize it until you are in it.

All San Francisco is taken by a bunch of personalities from all companies around the world, and it’s a great space to talk about Oracle, show off our projects and of course, our vision as a team and organization.


In this conference you can see a big contrast between attendees profiles. If you walk near to Moscone Center, you probably will see attendees wearing suits and ties and talking all time about business. In contrast, if you walk couples block to downtown you will see more casual dress code (shirts and jeans) meaning that you are entering to developers zone.


Either way, the whole city is all about Oracle. Even, there are a couple of main streets that are closed to set up a lounge area, booths and entertainment. You can see hanging posters and glued around the entire city. It’s awesome.

Conference is divided in two, OpenWorld and JavaOne. So as I said, this conference cover a lot of interesting areas of technology.


I attended this year to polish our demos before the conference and to help Oracle Network Technology (@oracleotn) with our IoT Workshops. This workshop was at both OpenWorld and JavaOne conferences, I helped at JavaOne.

The idea behind the IoT Workshop was to introduce technical and non technical people to the IoT world. Show them how easy is to start and teach them the very basic tools, hardware and of course, code to connect things to internet.

From the beginning, we were skeptical in the results. This was the first time we ran this workshop in a big conference three days in a row. Our schedule was five sessions per day, one hour each session. The start was slow, but we got a lot of traction the consecutive days. The response from attendees was awesome. Last two days, pretty much all sessions were packed up. At some point we had a long waitlist and all people wanted to get the IoT Starter Kit.

Speaking of Starter Kit, we were giving away the kit to all attendees at the end of the session. The kit includes one NodeMCU with an ESP8266 WiFi micro controller, a push button, a buzzer, a resistor, a LED and some cables to wire the components. Attendees could take the workshop in two ways; from scratch, meaning that they had to use their own computer and install all required tools and libraries and then compile the Arduino code, wire the components and flash the NodeMCU or the expedited way, meaning that we give them pre-flashed micro controller and they just wire components.

It was very surprising that many attendees decided to take the long path, that showed us that they were very interested to learn and potentially keep working on their own projects. Part of the session, we spent some minutes talking about how OAUX is using IoT to see how it will affect user experience and propose projects that can help Oracle users and partners in their daily lives.




Specifically at JavaOne, we had many conversations about how potentially they could find a niche in their companies using IoT, and they came up with pretty cool ideas. It was so fun and interesting having direct contact with both technical and non technical people.

I think Java is one of my preferred programming languages so far, and I had never had the chance to attend a conference about Java. This time was awesome, I had the chance to present and at the same time be an attendee.




The rest of the team was working at the OAUX Exchange. We presented all our demos and I didn’t miss the opportunity to see how people get very excited with our demos.

And to close with a flourish, some OOW attendees were invited to visit our Gadget Lab to show more about our vision and new integrations with gadgets we have got lately.



Overall, OOW is the result of our team work and collaboration during the year. It’s where we see reflected all our work into smiles, wows and people’s enthusiasm. It’s a feeling that cannot be described.

Finally we are here rolling again, getting prepared for the next OOW. So stay tuned on what we are cooking up to surprise you.Possibly Related Posts:

My Life as a (Telepresence) Robot

Mon, 2016-10-03 15:24

Left: Double 2. Right: Beam

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.

Telepresence Robot in The Big Bang Theory (Sheldon)

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Our Real Time Ambient Display at OpenWorld

Fri, 2016-09-30 16:16

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.”

A view of the Apps UX Exchange Tent at OpenWorld 2016

A view of the OAUX Exchange Tent at OpenWorld 2016

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:

The NodeBox program that produced the ambient video display

The NodeBox program that produced the ambient video display

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:

Three of the ultrasonic sensors we used to detect movement in the tent

Three of the ultrasonic sensors we used to detect movement in the tent

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.

A snapshot of the ambient display in action

A snapshot of the ambient display in action

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:

Fun, Games and Work: Telepresence Robots

Wed, 2016-09-28 13:46

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:

IoT Workshop Guide – part 2

Wed, 2016-09-14 03:50

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:

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:

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:

IoT Workshop Guide – part 1

Wed, 2016-09-14 03:49

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.

Version 2

Board and parts

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:

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 “” 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:


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.

Continue to part 2: Load and Test IoT Code >>Possibly Related Posts:

For OpenWorld and JavaOne 2016, An Internet of Things Workshop

Wed, 2016-09-14 00:48


Want to learn more about the Internet of Things?

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.

All you need to do is sign-up for a spot using the OpenWorld (Android, iOS) or JavaOne (Android, iOS) conference mobile apps. Look under Info Booth, and you’ll find an IoT Workshop Signup section.

Plus, brand-new this year, check out the Gluon JavaOne conference app (Android, iOS), look for the OTN Experiences and hit the IoT Workshop.

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.


The kit includes a NodeMCU, buzzer, button, and an LED


*Free? Yes free, while supplies last. Please make sure you read the Terms & Conditions (pdf).Possibly Related Posts:

Oracle Volunteers and the Daily Minor Planet

Thu, 2016-08-11 13:58

“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

First edition of Daily Minor Planet

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.

The Great Refractor

The Great Refractor, at Harvard College Observatory

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: