hacking, interface, open source

Being ‘hacked’ == cool?

I really have to pick up a theme that Julian posted in his prior post, because I am the skeptical guy here. “Opening up” companies products by re-engineering them is a delicate topic. From a hackers perspective it is done because technology that involves some mystery is sexy for their intellect. So why not give it a go and demystify things, these companies can’t be that smart I am not going to understand how their product works. But it is not just that. Today’s consumer electronics come to market at an ultra low price. Almost too cheap to buy all the components by yourself and assemble them. So hacking is also an economic consideration.

There are currently three main competitors in the console market Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft and all of them provide cheap sexy hardware so that all three platforms have been hacked and opened up for homebrew software. But things go further. It is not just the consoles that get “hacked” but also the interfaces, because they became more attractive the more intelligent as our old button based interfaces. Where are the challenges to hack a button? It really has to be a bit more challenging.

The WiiMote was possibly the first mass produced interface that had more than the average amount of actuators and sensors embedded than the rest of interfaces available to the market. The complexity is much higher than a simple joystick, but the price is nearly the same.

The Kinect, picked up Nintendo’s whole body interaction success and updated the xBox with new 3D sensing capabilities.

So what about Sony? Well, they updated the already existent EyeToy Camera + Ps3 combination with the PS Move controller. A really cheap solution for getting in line with the main rivals Nintendo and Microsoft. However, there is a more sophisticated controller from Sony which should attract more hackers, because it is currently unclear how it works. But strangely it is still un-hacked. Is it just un-cool or did the engineers at Sony just do a better job to protect their interface?

I am talking about the GunCon3.  It has similar functionality like the WiiMote and some claim it is even more precise than the WiiMote, but strangely it is not hacked yet. So what is the reason for that? Maybe it is the price. Here in UK the GunCon3 is 10 quid more expensive than the WiiMote and its far less widespread than the WiiMote. So here is the million dollar question: Could Sony by “opening up” the hardware make some more cash out of it or is it more profitable to leave the product catch dust in the department store shelves?

We can compare that a bit to the Apple theme Julian mentioned. In a commercial sense Apple is doing the right thing. Innovating, but restrict free access as hell and at the same time exploiting the open market of  App makers.

So here are my answers:

Q: “What does this tell us about how companies can profit from “hacked” or rather “open” products?”
A: “Nothing. We can not judge the cases, because we have not reviewed sales figures. However, when a companies IP gets “stolen” they could adapt to the situation like companies that have hardware on the market that does not sell. In the case of Sony (or NAMCO’s) Guncon3 we can clearly tell that “opening up” would be a rather bad management strategy.”

Q: “Isn’t all the buzz about the Kinect the best thing that could have happened to Microsoft?”
A: “There are a few companies and individuals that profited from the buzz. Especially PrimeSense, OpenNi, Johnny Chung Lee, the DIY people, etc. Microsoft? No.”

Q: “Shouldn’t that make other companies think about how they see their products? And especially rethink the restrictions they impose on their customers (yes, I’m looking in your direction here, Mr. Apple!)?”
A: “I think people will change their thinking about products in the future and companies will have to adapt when they figure out that sale figures have gone down. But that is nothing new. The problem is, that people will have to think about useage licenses of every product in the future and this will be the biggest pain I believe.”

controllers, DIY, hacking, interface

Kinect and spacial projection mapping

Kinect, yes, a very interesting topic on several different levels. First, there is the technological side: The last months have shown that a lot of great projects can be realized when you have a 3D camera! Johnny Lee (famous for his Wii remote projects) posted a video that sums up some of the most interesting projects created in the first 5 months since the release:

(The list of featured projects can be found in the description of the YouTube-Video or in the comments on his blog.)

I very much share Christian’s view, that projects with spacial output (he called them “space to space systems”) are the most interesting ones. In this context I really like the research into mapping projections onto physical 3D objects (you might want to call it “projection-based augmented reality” or “spacial augmented reality”). Thus, I’m very happy to see, how this research profits from the Kinect’s technology.
While the mapping-process used to be a time-consuming manual process in its first incarnation (e.g. using 3d touch probe scanners like Raskar et al. did for their Shader Lamps, one of the pioneering work in this field), then became easier using structured light scanners (e.g. like Jones et at. in their last year’s ISMAR contribution) now really got easy! Furthermore, it is now possible to do it invisibly and in realtime. So, when the physical scene changes, the projection can change instantly without a time consuming re-calibration. With that, physical objects can act as both, input device and output display:

Kinect Hadouken from Elliot Woods on Vimeo.

Kinect-Projector Visualization from Augmented Engineering on Vimeo.

Now, I’m really looking forward to seeing the great potential this technology used in tangible interaction projects!

In addition to the technological possibilities, there are two other aspects that I’d like to see discussed in this blog over the next weeks:

  • What can we learn about development processes in the internet-age from how all these Kinect-projects learned from, built-upon and were inspired from each other? What can we learn about collaboration?
  • What does this tell us about how companies can profit from “hacked” or rather “open” products? Isn’t all the buzz about the Kinect the best thing that could have happened to Microsoft? Shouldn’t that make other companies think about how they see their products? And especially rethink the restrictions they impose on their customers (yes, I’m looking in your direction here, Mr. Apple!)?

controllers, DIY, hacking, interface, urban space

Kinect S2S Projects

Everyone knows it: The kinect is hacked and a lot of very good and less good projects are filling the blogs and streams on various sites. In my eyes the development to gestural interfaces has a lot of advantages and delivers a playground for artists, designers and engineers to create things and non-things that were impossible before.
To trigger the communication in this blog, I briefly introduce one project that deals with the kinect in a good manner. I call this project a space to space (S2S) system, because it tracks spatial gestural information and computes them to again spatial output. In the beginning of the Kinect hacks I somehow missed these factors.

Be Your Own Souvenir! from blablabLAB on Vimeo.

BlablabLAB produced an impressive set up using three!!! Kinect controllers for covering 360° and a RepRap Rapman3.1 to capture movements of people acting in front of a shopping window and produce them via Rapid Prototyping. The video shows very moody and nicely the idea of creating ones own souvenir in tradition to the freezed people standing in pedestrian areas. Though I think it might take a while to produce these little figuers of the actors, I see the potential in this idea towards photo booths that do not spit out photostripes, but little sculptures. And, to excuse the delay of printing the objects, the waiting time in analog photo booths can also take up to 10 minutes, queuing not included.
The software is all openFrameworks and openKinect, with a bit tweaking. The Labs Website is currently under construction, but i’m sure they will open their ideas to the public asap



As Christian mentioned, he invited some people to get this blog back to life again. One of those is me, Julian Adenauer. First of all, thanks Christian for the invitation to participate in this blog project. I’m sure we’ll discuss a lot of interesting projects, ideas and viewpoints and have a lot of fun on the way!

So, let me introduce myself. I am a PhD student at the HCI research training group prometei (prospective design of human-machine interaction) at the Technical University of Berlin. My research is focussed on the process of prototyping interactive products. We’re exploring the concept of hybrid prototypes that combine virtual (using virtual reality technologies) and physical parts. With this, we aim at speeding up the iterative process and getting users involved earlier in the process.
Apart from my academic work, I am co-founder and CTO of the Sonice Development GmbH, a small product development firm based in Berlin. Our best known project is currently the Facadeprinter. The Facadeprinter is a machine that paints large graphics onto walls by shooting color balls (paintballs). A more physical approach to digital graffiti – but not really interactive at this point. More information about this project can be found on our website.
This already says a lot about my interests which are: HCI in general and especially tangible interfaces, product development, prototyping, and the creative use of technology.

I’m really happy to be posting on this blog regularly now and looking forward to the things to come. We’ll try to get in a lively discussion among the authors and would be happy if you’d join in by posting comments with your opinions and views.



Getting something done here

Dear Friends,

It´s been a long time of silence on this site! I know. It was a tough last year for me personally and professionally. The SMSlingshot, a project of me and my collective went straight through the ceiling, I was taking care of my daughter, i had to rest a lot. All that stuff. And as Chris o Shea used to say: My heart wasn´t blogging any more. I tried to, but the list of projects and festivals got longer and longer and so much other stuff was way more important than putting out on this site. But now I found some people to join me here to create a more fluent and regular output. In the following weeks, you will find articles that relate more to each other and may look like a little ping and pong between the authors. With this method we will try to get one topic featured and discussed in many ways and from different point of views. What readers were mentioning, is the way we corelate to other projects. We keep on doing this. Everything will be put in a general and personal context, so you will not find pingbacks, and copy/paste articles here.

And to start all this I just put the last video up from our SMSlingshot project. It features our little world tour 2010 and is edited by Dominic Kießling from Berlin Based visual crew Pfadfinderei.  There are a few other projects that work with textmessages and augmented graffiti in public space, maybe this will be one of the first topics in the next posts. So keep online and drop by from time to time!