Deconstructing Communication Systems

June 23 2015

Modern communication systems have become so advanced that we rarely pause to consider how they work—conversing with someone hundreds or even thousands of miles away is, for many, now a daily occurrence. For his systems design course at California College of the Arts, Noam Zomerfeld decided to delve deeper into the technological complexities that lie beneath communication systems in an effort to understand and present the ways in which their different elements interact. To do it, he designed and built his own system using Temboo.

As the foundation for his exploration, Noam constructed a rudimentary telegraph using a piece of wood, a nail, two batteries, and a wire. With a classmate, he also designed an alternative to Morse code to use with his device. He then made the system incrementally more complex: first, he added an Arduino that would translate strings of text inputted by users into his telegraph code, and then he brought in Temboo’s Twilio Choreos to enable users to provide their inputs via SMS.

Viewers of his application can text a message to Noam’s Twilio number, and the Arduino attached to his telegraph will check the Twilio message queue every few seconds for new arrivals. When it receives a new message, the device will translate it into Noam’s code, which assigns each letter of the alphabet a unique sequence of between three and nine taps. The telegraph then taps out the encoded message, and whoever receives it can decode and transcribe it based on a key that Noam provides. You can see the telegraph in action in this video:

Modern communication systems have become so advanced that we rarely pause to consider how they work—conversing with someone hundreds or even thousands of miles away is, for many, now a daily occurrence. For his systems design course at California College of the Arts, Noam Zomerfeld decided to delve deeper into the technological complexities that lie […]

Tracking Your Social Media Heartbeat

June 16 2015

Have you checked your social media pulse recently? Yeli Arenyeka, a student at New York University, decided to make this possible by building an app that helps people visualize their relationships with social media. Called Life in Digital, it presents users with a snapshot of their social media usage in the form of an electrocardiogram readout.

“Our time on social media is measured in moments, not successive hours. I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much time I spent on Facebook today,” she said. “Being on our phones and using social media networking sites has become so entrenched in our minds that we do not know when and how much we’re doing it.”

Life in Digital uses Temboo’s Processing SDK and Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr Choreos to gather information on an individual’s social media usage, and then displays that information in intervals of a specified length of time. The data points appear as heartbeats on an electrocardiograph, allowing users to see how often and how heavily they engage with social media. You can find the code for the app on Github, and see more of Yeli’s work on her website and on Twitter.

Have you checked your social media pulse recently? Yeli Arenyeka, a student at New York University, decided to make this possible by building an app that helps people visualize their relationships with social media. Called Life in Digital, it presents users with a snapshot of their social media usage in the form of an electrocardiogram […]

Lit up with Emotion

April 17 2015

How is your city feeling? Chadwick Friedman of the University of Denver wanted to find out, and also to design an interesting medium through which to express his results. He turned to Twitter for his information—by tracking what people were tweeting, he figured that he could deduce how they were feeling. To display his Twitter data, he 3D-printed a lamp that changes color to represent Denver’s municipal mood.

Chadwick wrote a program that aggregates Tweets published within a specified time frame by Twitter users located within a 12-mile radius of the city, and then searches those Tweets for a set of emotion keywords that he has mapped to feelings of happiness, sorrow, or anger. He used Temboo’s Twitter Choreos to collect the Tweets and an Arduino Yún to control the lamp. When most of the aggregated Tweets contain happiness keywords, the Yún causes the lamp to glow green; sad Tweets turn the lamp blue, and angry Tweets make it red. You can see more of the lamp on Chadwick’s blog.

How is your city feeling? Chadwick Friedman of the University of Denver wanted to find out, and also to design an interesting medium through which to express his results. He turned to Twitter for his information—by tracking what people were tweeting, he figured that he could deduce how they were feeling. To display his Twitter […]

Creating the Cloud

January 28 2015

Terms like “Big Data” and “the Cloud” have been thoroughly assimilated into the 21st century lexicon, but in many ways the things they name remain distant and abstract—where is the cloud, what does it look like, and what exactly is the big data that we store there? Jingwen Zhu, a Master’s student at NYU ITP, started asking herself those questions after hearing various lecturers discussing how big data is affecting our lives. She wondered what big data in the cloud would look like if it were tangible, and decided to construct her vision as an interactive data exhibition.

She designed a 3D polygonal cloud made from folded paper to enclose her device, and suspended it from the ceiling. Within the paper cloud are a stepper motor attached to an Arduino, a projector, and a thermal printer. The stepper motor lowers a phone from the cloud, into which users are prompted to enter a string. The phone is then drawn back up into the cloud, and a Processing sketch using a Temboo Google Spreadsheets Choreo collects the data that the user entered. The sketch then causes the new data to be both projected onto the ground as at the user’s feet and printed from the thermal printer. As a result, the “big data” in the cloud can be easily visualized both from the collection of projected words, which change size based on the frequency with which they appear in the dataset, and from the long hanging printout that lists every item therein. It’s a great physical representation of how we send data to the cloud and get data back from it!

Big Data Cloud from JingwenZhu on Vimeo.

 

Terms like “Big Data” and “the Cloud” have been thoroughly assimilated into the 21st century lexicon, but in many ways the things they name remain distant and abstract—where is the cloud, what does it look like, and what exactly is the big data that we store there? Jingwen Zhu, a Master’s student at NYU ITP, […]

The Future of Baby Monitors

January 22 2015

Daniel Sims is taking a data-driven approach to parenting. With a daughter on the way, he’s building a device that will measure a slew of environmental factors to determine how they affect an infant’s sleep patterns.

“I purchased a FitBit that I’ll be clipping to her pajamas to measure basic sleep patterns, but I wanted a higher level of detail as to outside factors. We’re planning to add sensors that measure motion, temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, light, time of day, movement in the room, etc.,” Daniel says. “We are looking to gather as much data as possible, connect it to a neural network, and predict a baby’s nighttime cry before the baby cries.”

Daniel is storing the data he collects in a database, and using Temboo’s database Choreos to communicate between the database and his Arduino-controlled sensors. Then, he’s using Tableau Desktop to visualize the data and reveal trends. Once he has a large dataset, he’ll use a neural network to predict wake-up times and identify possible causes. He’s also setting up an emergency SMS alert system that will text him if there’s a problem, like a high temperature level in the baby’s room or an extended period of crying. He may even leverage other Temboo Choreo bundles, such as NOAA for weather or Fitbit for sleep patterns, to integrate extra data sources among the various factors he is already collecting.

Daniel Sims is taking a data-driven approach to parenting. With a daughter on the way, he’s building a device that will measure a slew of environmental factors to determine how they affect an infant’s sleep patterns. “I purchased a FitBit that I’ll be clipping to her pajamas to measure basic sleep patterns, but I wanted […]

Monitoring Medicine

January 14 2015

Every year, patient non-adherence to doctors’ prescription guidelines costs the U.S. healthcare system $290 billion. A substantial fraction of that total comes from hospital visits by patients who develop more acute conditions as a result of their non-adherence, and end up requiring expensive medical procedures that they otherwise would not have needed. And for some, even hospitalization is too little or too late—each day, one hundred people in the United States fatally overdose on drugs. Though sometimes intentional, misuse of medication can equally be the result of a patient’s misunderstanding or confusion, especially in the case of elderly patients charged with managing their own drug regimens. To address the issue, a team of six Northwestern University students are building a device to keep patients on track.

Mats Johansen, one of the students working on the project, explained, “Our goal is to create directly observable data on a simple user interface for healthcare professionals and families to monitor patient drug regimens.” The device is called MedCap, and it uses Temboo’s Parse Choreos and support for Arduino and BLE to cleverly track and control how patients are taking their medications:

“Our solution to this problem is a lock-on pill bottle cap with a novel mechanism that allows only one pill of any size to come out at a time. This makes the transition from traditional caps to our device as seamless as possible. A sensor built into the cap relays pill intake data to our secure database thanks to Temboo, making the patient’s electronic medical records accessible to the patient, a caretaker, or a physician via our iOS application. In the event that the pill dosage guidelines are not obeyed, the healthcare professionals receive a distress signal, and appropriate action can be taken.”

By bringing more concerned parties into direct contact with medication usage data, MedCap introduces a social element to prescription monitoring and adherence. It’s an innovative idea, and we’re looking forward to seeing where the team takes it next!

Every year, patient non-adherence to doctors’ prescription guidelines costs the U.S. healthcare system $290 billion. A substantial fraction of that total comes from hospital visits by patients who develop more acute conditions as a result of their non-adherence, and end up requiring expensive medical procedures that they otherwise would not have needed. And for some, […]

Healthy at 18,000 Feet

January 6 2015

Working at over 5,000 feet above sea level, medical researchers at the University of Colorado Denver are perhaps unsurprisingly interested in the effects of high altitude on health. It’s a factor that has drawn the interest of Andy Poczobutt and his colleagues, who have designed a series of experiments to investigate how Pulmonary Hypertension is related to altitude. Andy has built a group of hypobaric chambers that use vacuums to simulate the experience of life at 18,000 feet for the groups of rodents housed within, and is using Temboo to make sure that everything in those chambers is functioning as intended. He has wired sensors to Arduino Yúns to measure barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels in the chambers every twenty to thirty minutes, and is logging that data online with Temboo Choreos. If one of the readings is ever abnormal, he has also set up a Temboo SMS and email alert system to warn his team that something has gone haywire and needs to be fixed.

Working at over 5,000 feet above sea level, medical researchers at the University of Colorado Denver are perhaps unsurprisingly interested in the effects of high altitude on health. It’s a factor that has drawn the interest of Andy Poczobutt and his colleagues, who have designed a series of experiments to investigate how Pulmonary Hypertension is […]

The Urban IoT

December 31 2014

Connor McKay is imagining the Internet of Things on a sprawling scale. A public policy student at Northeastern University, Connor became interested in data and how it shapes life in urban centers, and decided to dive into the topic by designing an urban sensor project at the intersection of some of his courses. He wanted to work with what he describes as “a new class of sensor-based technology that allows cities to track the urban ecosystem in near real-time. This gives an unprecedented level of information to policy makers and citizens alike, which makes urban environments more livable and participatory.”

He modeled his project off of a few early-phase urban sensor networks, like Chicago’s Array of Things and Smart Citizen in Barcelona. Data is being collected from temperature, humidity, light, and ambient noise sensors attached to an Arduino board and positioned both indoors and outdoors. With Temboo’s Google > Spreadsheets > AppendRow Choreo, Connor logs that data in a Google Spreadsheet, and then proceeds to analyze his sample in RStudio. The sensor network will only continue to grow, so stay tuned!

Connor McKay is imagining the Internet of Things on a sprawling scale. A public policy student at Northeastern University, Connor became interested in data and how it shapes life in urban centers, and decided to dive into the topic by designing an urban sensor project at the intersection of some of his courses. He wanted […]

When a Virus Goes Viral

December 17 2014

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has been in the news lately, and it captured the attention of NYU ITP Master’s student Craig Pickard. Craig was intrigued by the way that the portrayal of the disease by the media influenced reactions to it in the United States, and in particular by the way that social media was able to rapidly disseminate information and connect large groups of people. He decided to design an interface to display exactly what happens when something “goes viral” on social media, and chose to use an actual virus as his focal point.

“If we take a minute to stop and think about what we mean when we say that something on the Internet has ‘gone viral,’ it becomes apparent that a comparison is being drawn between the way in which information spreads and the way an infectious disease might: presumably at an exponential rate. I thought it would be an interesting idea to represent visually how the spread of information, through a network like Twitter, resembles the spread of an infectious disease through the human population.”

Craig built a data visualization program that takes data from Twitter and illustrates how individual Tweets relate to and influence one another:

“I wanted to show the way in which information spreads across a network, likening it to the way a virus might spread from cell to cell in the human body. For this reason, I chose to represent the data I extracted from Twitter as cell-like organisms, moving independently of one another while still forming part of a larger system. Each particle stores data specific to that Tweet, such as the user’s ID, the actual Tweet text, the number of times it’s been retweeted, and a list of the other hashtagged words the Tweet contains.”

To make this possible, Craig used Temboo’s Twitter Choreos and Processing SDK. He designed two processes around the Choreos to drive the visualization: the first imports one hundred recent and popular Tweets that include a specified hashtag (in this case, #ebola) to populate the program, and the second runs every thirty seconds after that to import ten new hashtagged Tweets.

Finally, with the mechanism behind the program up and running, Craig gave his visualization an interactive component:

“I decided to try and simulate the meticulous and calculated feel of a laboratory environment, where movements are small and delicate. I wanted the user to have a feeling that they were physically interacting with the data in much the same way a lab technician would handle live virus samples. To mimic a sterile environment, I wanted the user to have no actual physical contact with the application (further reinforcing the theme of disease and how it spreads). As a result, I decided on using the Leap Motion controller, as it provides a high degree of accuracy, has a well documented library for Processing, and allows for delicate and precise gestures like the pinching of thumb and forefinger.”

Using the Leap Motion controller, viewers of the project can grab individual elements in order to manipulate them and inspect the Tweets they represent.

Although Ebola made for an interesting and topical initial examination, the visualization does just as good a job at displaying the propagation of any hashtag on Twitter. It’s a cool project, and a great way to understand a bit more about how viral content spreads, and how appropriate “viral” is as a descriptor for information spread in the social media age.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has been in the news lately, and it captured the attention of NYU ITP Master’s student Craig Pickard. Craig was intrigued by the way that the portrayal of the disease by the media influenced reactions to it in the United States, and in particular by the way that social […]

Quote of the Day

October 23 2014

We just received a nice compliment from one of our friends in the academic community, and we wanted to share:

“Temboo provides frictionless access to more than a hundred API’s, from more than a dozen popular programming languages. That alone makes it a valuable tool for professional service developers and data scientists. But the mind-boggling fact that they provide clearly documented example code for every API call, in every programming language—and that they do this for educationally-oriented arts-engineering toolkits like Processing and Arduino—shows that they also respect, at a deep level, the needs of new-media artists, designers, makers, and students. Like a Swiss Army knife, Temboo’s library is an indispensable tool in my computational arts and design courses, whether I’m teaching introductory programming, cultural computing, or information visualization.”

Golan Levin
Associate Professor of Computation Arts
Director, Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
Carnegie Mellon University

If you’re also a student or educator and are thinking about using Temboo in your classroom, take a look at our Education page or drop us a note at education@temboo.com. We’ll help get you going with our free high-usage Educations plans and other useful resources.

We just received a nice compliment from one of our friends in the academic community, and we wanted to share: “Temboo provides frictionless access to more than a hundred API’s, from more than a dozen popular programming languages. That alone makes it a valuable tool for professional service developers and data scientists. But the mind-boggling […]
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