Week in Geek 1.30.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

Before we get started, i’d like to say thank you to all the people who have visited The Long Shot, followed the blog and kept up with Week in Geek. Since starting this column, a couple of hundred people have found their way here and started following, and that means a lot!

i hope you enjoy the content here, and if you’re new to The Long Shot’s Week in Geek, click the follow button or subscribe by email so you can keep up to date on technology and other geeky stuff happening in Cleveland and around the world.

Thinking inside the box

Not a terribly clever heading and i can’t imagine i’m the first to use it for an intro to…

thinkbox logo

i was invited to tour this amazing facility by the director of CWRU’s Blackstone Launchpad program, Bob Sopko. Launchpad, funded by a charitable organization, exists to help train the next generation of entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio, and from what i’ve discovered so far they’re doing a fantastic job. Meeting with Bob was a real treat, and while walking around CWRU’s campus chatting with him it’s clear that he is extremely well-connected and knowledgeable about all things technology.

Blackstone Launchpad's office inside Thwing Center on the CWRU campus

Blackstone Launchpad’s office inside Thwing Center on the CWRU campus

On our way to think[box], we passed through a student lounge where Bob pointed out another Cleveland entrepreneur’s presence – they have their own Melt restaurant on campus. But the bigger news out of the space was the huge touchscreen news hub that we stopped to check out.

Passersby can touch any of the floating cubes to get course information, alumni profiles and other news.

Passersby can touch any of the floating cubes to get course information, alumni profiles and other news.

For the meat of the tour, Bob showed me around inside think[box], a 4,500 square foot space which serves as a center of innovation for anyone – not just students. The center’s resources are available for use by anyone with a project to work on, providing both space and people “to tinker and creatively invent.”

Inside think[box] is pretty much anything you can think of for creating and bringing a project to market, and before you think there’s some kind of catch, the university has no ownership rights on anything developed inside. Inventors retain intellectual property rights on whatever they create, with a few exceptions (like if you’re working on further development of technology already owned or invented by the university). Users don’t even need to get permission or disclose their work to the university.

The facility does not have any age restrictions either. The website lists guidelines for minors from K-12, and Bob said they’ve certainly hosted young inventors from time to time in the three years that think[box] has been up and running.

Ben Guengerich is a design/manufacturing operations specialist at think[box]. Drop him a line at bsg@case.edu if you have any questions

Ben Guengerich is a design/manufacturing operations specialist at think[box]. Drop him a line at bsg@case.edu if you have any questions

The coolest thing about think[box] is that they have resources available to shore up whatever side of a project you need help with. For example, if you’ve got your prototype ready but you’re lacking in the artistic department, they have art and design services that can work with you to create logos, packaging and help refine product design. Likewise, there are business and finance specialists, legal advisers, engineering assistance and more.

Essentially, if you have an idea, there’s enough help available to make it become a reality.

Laser wood cutter - one of the many tools available at think[box]

Laser wood cutter – one of the many tools available at think[box]

Bob's favorite feature of the laser cutter - the safety alert to hit the big red button if there's a fire

Bob’s favorite feature of the laser cutter – the safety alert to hit the big red button if there’s a fire

One of the stops on the tour was this machine, a laser wood-cutter that was in use by an engineering student. He explained that he was making a ring box for an engagement ring, and bashfully admitted he wasn’t very creative. i disagreed and told him i thought it was really thoughtful, and showed that it’s true what they say about how STEM disciplines ought to be called STEAM. There’s a big push for that in the technology world, and i couldn’t agree more. Engineers, coders and other technology professionals are incredibly creative and it’s important to be inclusive of that aspect. Bob agreed as well, and i hope the romantic engineer took it to heart.

Circuit board mill signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak

Circuit board mill signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak

In October, CWRU hosted “Creativity and Innovation: A Live Q&A with Steve Wozniak” and the Apple co-founder visited think[box] to check out the facility. While there, he signed this circuit board mill, just another piece of the amazing array of resources for inventors. Bob mentioned how Everykey’s Christopher Wentz had a chance to speak one-on-one with Woz, who handed him one of his custom business cards. As my college professor and mentor once told us, when someone hands you their card, it’s because they want you to keep in touch with them. Big news for a Cleveland startup!

Steve Wozniak's custom metal business card. This image is from a Google search - not the actual one given to Chris Wentz.

Steve Wozniak’s custom metal business card. This image is from a Google search – not the actual one given to Chris Wentz.

The list of hi-tech tools inside think[box] frankly had me geeking out. Every few feet there’s another workstation with pieces of equipment heretofore only read about, so it was exhilarating to see all of them right in front of me. But lest you think the space is full of only these sorts of technical gizmos, the place also has both a fully-equipped woodworking shop and metalworking shop.

A 3D microscope used to perform precision work on things like circuit boards

A 3D microscope used to perform precision work on things like circuit boards

The area that most intrigued me were the 3D printers think[box] has for use. You can’t 3D print a rock and throw it without hitting news about 3D printers, and if i’m honest i’d never actually seen one in person before.

Think[box] has two varieties of 3D printers as well. A very high-end version suitable for lab use, and some tabletop models from MakerBot. On a side note, Bob mentioned that another prominent 3D printer manufacturer, MakerGear, designs, engineers and manufactures them right here in Ohio! MakerGear – you’re on notice: i’ll be contacting you for a tour soon.

MakerGear's Makerbot tabletop 3D printer - designed, engineered and manufactured right here in Northeast Ohio

MakerGear’s Makerbot tabletop 3D printer – designed, engineered and manufactured right here in Northeast Ohio

Part of 3D printing that i wasn’t aware of is that sometimes there’s additional material used to make the objects. For example, a piece may require a surface to build material on, so a sort of filler is used to provide that surface. After printing, the piece takes a relaxing acid bath that dissolves the unneeded material.

An inventor removes a 3D printed object from an acid bath that dissolves superfluous material

An inventor removes a 3D printed object from an acid bath that dissolves superfluous material

Bob and i talked about 3D printing at some length, and how there’s so many applications for it that we’re only still scratching the surface of with what has been done. He told me about a recent archaeological site where diggers took a 3D image of a fossil and emailed it to a lab thousands of miles away where technicians recreated it with a 3D printer. Applications like that have a huge impact on research, allowing people from anywhere in the world to work together using physical models identical to each other.

At work the other day, one of my colleagues admitted he hadn’t even heard of 3D printers up until about a month ago, and he joked that the next thing you know they’d be 3D printing houses. Of course i had to laugh at that comment – a 12,000 square foot mansion was just recently 3D printed in China!

An anatomically-correct 3D printed heart. The applications for medical use are already being seen every day with things custom prosthetics and more

An anatomically-correct 3D printed heart. The applications for medical use are already being seen every day with things custom prosthetics and more

Mentioned earlier, think[box] isn’t just about the technical work involved in fully creating and bringing a product to market. There tools, resources and people there can help with any aspect of design, creation and the business of invention for entrepreneurs.

A digital photo station, so you can take professional images of your product to showcase

A digital photo station, so you can take professional images of your product to showcase

As if the facilities think[box] offers aren’t staggering enough, CWRU is working to create an entirely new space for the innovation center. Renovations are currently underway to repurpose a former vault building on campus for a new facility. The new space is going to be 50,000 square feet (about 10 times the size of the existing space!). The $35M project will make CWRU’s new think[box] one of the biggest university-centric innovation center in the world, and according to Bob it will be ready for the fall 2015 semester.

This former vault building is undergoing at $35M renovation to become the new home of think[box] and one of the largest of it's kind in the world

This former vault building is undergoing at $35M renovation to become the new home of think[box] and one of the largest of its kind in the world

Conceptual images of the new think[box] interior that will open for fall semester 2015

Conceptual images of the new think[box] interior that will open for fall semester 2015

Touring think[box] was most certainly an amazing experience and Bob was incredibly courteous and accomodating to take time from his schedule to show me around.

Coming up, CWRU is holding a HackCWRU event on Feb. 6-8. If you’re not sure what a Hackathon is, i’ll let HackCWRU explain it for you:

What is a Hackathon?
Hackathons are marathon long coding parties, lasting between 24 and 36 hours, where you’re invited to build something with a team.
We supply you with a steady stream of food, caffeine, and mentors.
All you need to do is bring a computer and anything else you need for your hack.
You can make any kind of app or hardware project. The world is your oyster. If you can think it up, you can try to make it

My coding skills a far from up-to-snuff and my laptop doesn’t work without the adapter plugged in, but i’m definitely going to try to make this event to see what everyone else comes up with.

In related tech news, my editors at The News-Herald printed my first published technology story today on the Tech page (it’s also online at their website). My conversation with Everykey’s Chris Wentz got some extra mileage and it is very exciting to see that people outside of The Long Shot are interested in what i’m doing here.

The tech editor did mention to me that my enthusiasm makes him feel tired, but discovering and covering all the incredible tech news coming out of my hometown Cleveland only inspires me more to keep at it. My only lament is that there’s so much awesome stuff going on that i can’t cover it all!

If you’re as interested in technology as i am and want to cover some of the exciting things going on, in Cleveland or your own hometown, please drop me a line. Adding your own tech stories to The Long Shot would be terrific, and if you’re interested but don’t know where to start, i can help you with that too. There’s something going on every day in Northeast Ohio!

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the 14th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science, technology and pop culture stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did:

  • High demand for high technology skills continues to build
    • This article from one of my colleagues at The News-Herald covered a forum held in December with 60 area leaders economics, education, technology and business. One of the major points discussed was the profession fo coding which, according to labor statistics, pays an average salary of $74,280. One more reason to head over to Codecademy and get started!
  • These are the hottest new open source projects right now
    • More examples of the collaborative nature of technologists. Sure, there’s competition, but there’s a heck of a lot of courtesy and sharing going on too. Open sourcing allows others to build on work that has already been done, increasing the rate at which technology advances.
  • Why the Apple watch is wearable tech’s first make-or-break moment
    • It’s no secret that i’m not a fan of Apple products, but i’ll grant them their market popularity. So when their smartwatch drops in April, it will definitely have an impact one way or another. Oddly enough, the photo embedded in this article was flagged as adult content on TweetDeck; i guess anything in that region of the human body is taboo…?
  • Food buggies to start rolling through Cle streets (and buildings)
    • Food trucks evolve right here in Cleveland! Smaller, streamlined versions of food trucks that aren’t restricted to roadways. These little guys will create more jobs and put another notch in Cleveland’s foodie town cred.
    • “They’re very cool looking,” says Eric Diamond, ECDI executive vice president for lending. “They have a full working kitchen with a cooktop and plumbing. The idea is you can get into buildings and it’s a lot cheaper than a food cart.”
  • Microsoft’s Bill Gates insists AI is a threat
    • What would Week in Geek be without a new entry into the increasingly relevant scenario involving complex thinking machines? The founder of Microsoft’s comments are at odds with reps from the company, who had a different opinion to offer this week. Gates said he “didn’t understand people who were not troubled by the possibility that AI could grow too strong for people to control.”
    • More on this, that includes references to other leading thinkers like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, in this article from Quartz.
  • Out of control AI will not kill us, believes Microsoft research chief
    • One of the aforementioned people who Gates doesn’t understand. This guy thinks AI systems could achieve consciousness, but downplays any potential threat to human life.
    • He does concede though, that “AI systems risk invading people’s privacy, since they will become capable of making ever-deeper inferences about users by weaving together the mass of data generated by human activities.”
  • Having a hard time being human? This app manages friendships for you
    • Take all that messy emotional decision-making out of your life and place it in the hands of this app, which gathers biometric data and correlates it with information you  input about the people in your life. Based on patterns, algorithms will determine whether you should be spending more time with a certain person or if you should cut him or her out.
    • Creepy!
  • Robots are getting more like us and famous scientists are concerned
    • We’re deep into the uncanny valley here. This kinda summarizes a few different articles from this and the last few weeks of Week in Geek’s further reading. For what it’s worth i think i’d prefer my robots to look robotic, you know? Save the tears in the rain for the movies, please.
  • Lasers can make water bounce on metal
    • Some good ol’ fashioned laser news. Researchers who used lasers to make hydrophilic materials flipped it around so that water is instantly repelled. Pretty nifty high-def slow motion video showing the hydrophobic metal in action.
  • The Elio needs only 3 wheels to reach 84 mph
    • A slick re-envisioning of the consumer automobile, but i ask you – can it do the driving for me? Get back to me when it can. Self-driving cars ftw.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    • i’m a huge Samsung nerd, and this new mobile device looks perfect to me. My Galaxy Tab is basically an expensive comicbook longbox that sometimes does double duty for Skype. The Galaxy S5 i use now is great, and i’m basically attached to the thing. The Note Edge is bigger, which i like. And the customizable edge looks like a nifty innovate for smartdevices. Fingers crossed that my AT&T Next plan will let me get one of these!
  • Office puts chips under staff’s skin
    • Workers at a hi-tech office complex in Sweden has RFID chips installed to open doors, control the copier and eventually pay for their morning coffee in the lobby…but who controls the chips, i ask? Kind of cool, but at the same time i wonder if we’re just handing ourselves over to a technocracy.
  • Report: Marvel eyeing Chiwetel Eijiofor for Doctor Strange role
    • It’s just talk, but the takeaway for me speaks to how Marvel is dominating the superhero film market. THEY GET EXCELLENT ACTORS. Some whispers suggest Eijiofor may take on the role of Brother Voodoo. Personally, i have no idea. Doctor Strange is a character i like, but fringe characters like him are so wide open for interpretation and unusual developments, there’s no telling what the film story may turn out to be.
  • The speed of light can vary in a vacuum
    • But…but…it’s a finite speed of 186,000 miles/second! Oh, long-held universal truths, we love to shatter you.
    • This discover “could change the way we think about one of the constants of the universe.”
  • Virtual reality content an offer to airline passengers
    • Which begs the question, why even take the trip in the first place? (That’s me being facetious).
  • The Cubitat shrinks an entire house into one compact cube
    • Cubitat is a 10-by-10-by-10-foot cube that houses a kitchen, bathroom, bed, laundry, and storage.

      Cubitat is a 10-by-10-by-10-foot cube that houses a kitchen, bathroom, bed, laundry, and storage.

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Feb. 6 and i’d love to see you here!

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Content analysis

Friday night, ice tinkles in the glass. The shape of downtown is visible through the negative space where there are no office lights on at this hour. Some shapes and lights move out there – a car on the shoreway, a train just up the block from Clifton Boulevard. Shapes made of light move across the screen, too. i’m organizing some files and come across a content analysis of The Onion. The bulk of work in a course frequently spoken of dread beforehand and relief after. A wild Friday night.

cleveland-skyline-at-nightjpg-40c37272a71eb3df_large

i didn’t find it to be so. To an analytical mind, learning to understand the underlying logic in content messages held no small amount of appeal. Plus, we got to design a scientific inquiry into any subject we chose. The professor made it very clear that some of the material potentially included things like colorful language or other socially uncomfortable content, and that was okay. The project was to be factually honest, both technically and ethically.

My research question was:

Does the inclusion of profanity, referential material, and visuals with traditional journalism combine to make “The Onion” an effective satirical news source?

After a lot of counting swear words intellectual debate with myself over things like if a lion lamenting its own slow death counted as real people (the lion is real), a mythical being, maybe even just “other,” the results showed that The Onion is pretty true-to-form when it comes to traditional inverted pyramid style. Much more often than not are references to real people and things. Also there were enough ticks in the “other”  category that further tests should expand the possible choices.

The articles from The Onion that have been cited elsewhere as credible sources contained no contextual profanity. There had been 17 times where that happened at the time of the research.

So basically, if they cut out the profanity, they could easily be mistaken for real – if not absurd – stories.

As a heads up, here’s one of my all-time favorite stores from The Onion. If you ever hear them report this on the nightly news, you’ll know it’s a fake. The original piece has artists renderings of the stunning discovery.

AL JIZAH, EGYPT—A team of British and Egyptian archaeologists made a stunning discovery Monday, unearthing several intact specimens of “skeleton people”—skinless, organless humans who populated the Nile delta region an estimated 6,000 years ago.

An archaeologist examines the intact remains of a spooky “skeleton person.”

“This is an incredible find,” said Dr. Christian Hutchins, Oxford University archaeologist and head of the dig team. “Imagine: At one time, this entire area was filled with spooky, bony, walking skeletons.”

“The implications are staggering,” Hutchins continued. “We now know that the skeletons we see in horror films and on Halloween are not mere products of the imagination, but actually lived on Earth.”

Standing at the excavation site, a 20-by-20-foot square pit along the Nile River, Hutchins noted key elements of the find. “The skeletons lived in this mud-brick structure, which, based on what we know of these people, was probably haunted,” he said. “Although we found crude cooking utensils in the area, as well as evidence of crafts like pottery and weaving, we are inclined to believe that the skeletons’ chief activity was jumping out at nearby humans and scaring them. And though we know little of their language and means of communication, it is likely that they said ‘boogedy-boogedy’ a lot.”

Approximately 200 yards west of the excavation site, the archaeologists also found evidence of farming.

“What’s puzzling about this,” Cambridge University archaeologist Sir Ian Edmund-White said, “is that skeletons would not benefit from harvested crops, as any food taken orally would immediately fall through the hole behind the jaw and down through the rib cage, eventually hitting the ground. Our best guess is that they scared away a group of human farmers, then remained behind to haunt the dwelling. Or perhaps they bartered goods in a nearby city to acquire skeleton accessories, such as chains, coffins and tattered, dirty clothing.”

Continued Edmund-White: “The hole in that theory, however, is that a 1997 excavation of this area which yielded extensive records of local clans and merchants made no mention of even one animated mass of bones coming to town for the purpose of trade. But we are taking great pains to recover as much of the site as possible, while also being extremely careful not to fall victim to some kind of spooky skeleton curse.”

As for what led to the extinction of the skeletons, Edmund-White offered a theory.

“Perhaps an Egyptian priest or king broke the curse of the skeletons, either by defeating the head skeleton in combat or by discovering the magic words needed to send their spirits back to Hell,” Edmund-White said. “In any case, there is strong evidence that the Power of Greyskull played a significant role in the defeat of the skeleton people.”

According to Hutchins, the skeletons bear numerous similarities to humans, leading him to suspect that there may be an evolutionary link between the two species.

“Like humans, these creatures walked upright on two legs and possessed highly developed opposable thumbs,” Edmund-White said. “These and many other similarities lend credence to the theory that hundreds of thousands of years ago, human development passed through a skeletal stage. These skeletons may, in fact, be ancestors of us all.”

“Any of us could be part skeleton,” he added.

Other experts disagreed.

“The evidence of an evolutionary link between humans and skeletons is sparse at best,” said Dr. Terrance Schneider of the University of Chicago. “Furthermore, it is downright unscientific to theorize that skeleton life originated in Egypt merely because mummies, another species of monster, are indigenous to the area. Spooky creatures are found all over the world, from the vampires of Transylvania to the headless horsemen of Sleepy Hollow.”

OSU winning the national championship was only 96-pt.

And i couldn’t leave you without the best headline in the history of news journalism. This news is so big…

News so big you have to turn to the jump just to get the whole headline.

News so big you have to turn to the jump just to get the whole headline.

Then there’s me, and the Onion Project.

Speaking of satirical news, the guy who first introduced me to The Onion has been keeping up with his own satirical news site for many years now. The Morning After Post is that site, and it’s time- space- and reality-warped news articles are densely woven to create a place you can get lost at for a while in its dizzying volumes.

Week in Geek 1.16.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

Everykey CEO Christopher Wentz

Right now, i’m working two jobs (three if you count The Long Shot), both of which require password changes for security every 90 days in order to log in to their systems. Not just any old password though, they must contain an arcane combination of alpha-numeric characters and symbols that i fear may open a rift in time and space if incanted aloud.

In addition to those, i’ve got passwords for my cell phone, tablet, desktop, laptop and host of apps and websites – a situation not unique to me and one that increases in scope as new technology is rolled out at an astounding pace.

But there’s good news for those of us who don’t keep a database (password-protected of course) for all of our various access keys that comes from one particular Cleveland innovator featured prominently in posts – the CWRU-grown startup Everykey. With wearable technology all the rage at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, the Everykey team who exhibited there fit right in with the cutting-edge developers.

The Everykey wristband in one of seven available colors

The Everykey wristband in one of seven available colors

Christopher Wentz, Everykey LLC CEO and 2013 graduate of CWRU with a computer science degree, took some time from his busy schedule to speak with me about how Everykey came about, how it’s grown and where he’s steering the company heading into the future.

Before speaking with him, i was already impressed with the virtual personal assistant who answered the phone. Maybe i’m just behind the times, but the AI-like receptionist who directed my call was pretty neat and i wondered what the UI was like on the user’s end…something to look into for another Week in Geek.

Despite the myriad scenarios in which the Everykey wristband has already found a use, the origins of the stylish wearable tech came about from a much simpler need than retaining electronic device passwords.

“We came up with the idea for a class project in an entrepreneurship class,” recalls Wentz. “The professor told us to come up with any kind of business idea, and we were all sitting around talking about how much we hate getting locked out of our dorm rooms. All of us had been locked out of our dorm rooms before, and we all decided there had to be a better way to get back in.”

Working from the idea that keys could become something more personal than a keychain you just carry around in your pocket, Wentz and the rest of team developed the idea for the wristband that would be with you all the time so it wouldn’t get left behind or lost.

Since then, the Everykey concept has grown considerably. The professor who taught the class was impressed enough by Everykey’s potential that he invested his own money to help Wentz continue developing the product. The initial duo of Wentz and CiCi Qian has blossomed into a team of about 25 people, growing steadily over the last two years since they first started.

“I don’t think we’d be around today if it weren’t for the Blackstone Launchpad here at Case,” Wentz said of CWRU’s initiative that helps students and alumni start new companies with funding, mentorship and encouragement. “It’s pretty much the driving force behind all of our success.”

Wentz explained that there wasn’t a single moment or event that catapulted the company forward. Rather, it was the result of continuing to work on the product and build capital that enabled them to hire additional staff and keep growing. That steady growth has drawn attention to their product, which continues to gather people who believe in the idea.

The notion that Everykey would store things like website passwords is something that wasn’t originally part of the concept. In the early days, the device was primarily intended to store access to mobile devices themselves – like the password-protection used to lock Android devices.

“We never thought there would be much need for it to enter passwords for websites,” Wentz explained. “We didn’t think that having it enter your Facebook password would be an attractive sell to consumers. But when we went out and talked to a bunch of people about what they’d want in the product, that was actually the No. 1 feature, so we pivoted a little and started emphasizing that more in our product development and marketing.”

At this point, Everykey is designed to interface with a user’s personal devices. So for example, if you went to the library and used a computer there, the device would not enter your passwords for you. However, Wentz said they are working on developing a USB module to enable it to work with any computer. There are some technical hurdles to overcome in order to achieve that goal, but nothing too monumental according to Wentz.

One of the key components that the developers kept in mind while developing the firmware was aimed specifically at ensuring the device is upgradeable and not a static device. One of their goals from the outset was building a platform that could be expanded upon as new ideas and technology come about.

“This is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of what we think we can accomplish,” Wentz said.

During their time at CES 2015, Everykey participated in a pitch competition hosted by ShowStoppers, a Cleveland-based event management company focused on technology. The pitch competition is open to any company in the Eureka Park area of CES, which had about 300 companies.

“Ten of them were chosen as finalists for the pitch competition,” Wentz said. “So we were extremely excited to be chosen for this. We win competitions every once in a while here in Northeast Ohio, but doing that on a national stage is totally different.”

The pitch competition went very well for Everykey, and Wentz said they received several press inquiries, booth visits and increased traffic because of their successful showing.

(Photo courtesy of cleveland.com/Marcia Pledger) Ed Gecovich, a patent attorney who has been working with Chris Wentz, right, congratulates him soon after Wentz claimed a $12,000 first place prize at ProtoTech’s business pitch competition. Everykey designs wristbands that replaces keys and passwords.

(Photo courtesy of cleveland.com/Marcia Pledger) Ed Gecovich, a patent attorney who has been working with Chris Wentz, right, congratulates him soon after Wentz claimed a $12,000 first place prize at ProtoTech’s business pitch competition. Everykey designs wristbands that replaces keys and passwords.

“We had a lot of fun at CES, and we had a lot of licensing opportunities and people reaching out to us,” Wentz said. “They saw our demo, and wanted to license our technology. Our competitor came, and we got to sit down with them. That was kind of a dream-slash-nightmare.

“A whole bunch of different opportunities came up,” he said.

Up until this CES, Wentz said they always wanted to be their own product and never really considered the idea of integrating into other people’s products. But after seeing the extent of the wearables section at CES, he realized how many wearable devices there are out there.

“It’s becoming a pretty competitive space, and most of those wearables are trying to find a new value proposition,” he said. “Something that distinguishes them from the others. One thing that we learned at CES is that, because of that, there’s a lot of possibilities that we can integrate our technology with things like Fitbit, or Jawbone, or Pebble, or some of the other wearables, to up their value proposition. We’d make money off of the licensing fees, and get our technology out there ahead of others, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Right now, Everykey is getting ready for the first shipment of their wristbands to those who pledged the successful Kickstarter. In March, they’ll ship around 2,300 units to about 1,600 backers. In addition to that initial shipment, Everykey continues to take preorders, which right now offers a $25 discount on the standard $100 pricetag.

As a startup company, the team at Everykey right now is focused on the product itself, so preorders for units has declined slightly from what it was during the Kickstarter campaign, but Wentz is happy to note that business is still healthy and continuing to experience growth. The reason for the plateau is due more to keeping their resources focused on creating the highest quality product they can right now, rather than diverting them for additional sales and marketing.

In 2015, Wentz is confident that their product will keep growing and shipping. He hopes to start working more with other companies to integrate technologies, and adding features to Everykey for unlocking additional devices. On the business side of things, there are several interested investors that will help Wentz keep the company growing as well.

Not surprisingly, Wentz views success in a similar way to basically every other person i’ve had the experience of interviewing here on The Long Shot. Whether they are independent filmmakers, film critics, video game developers, visual artists or, in his case, technology innovators, people like Wentz don’t see success in terms of dollar signs.

“If you’re doing what makes you happy, and you’re able to sustain that and maybe make a good living off of it, I’d say that’s success,” Wentz said. “I’ve never been driven by money necessarily. I think that people should always try to do what they really enjoy. And to me, what I really enjoy is developing consumer products and making something that literally thousands of people will end up using, and developing a brand name that I hope will become a national brand name. That’s what I see as a success in my personal life, and whether I make money off of it doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I’m able to sustain myself and live a healthy life.”

Life at Everykey right now is informal, Wentz said, with the company primarily working out of his Cleveland apartment that doubles as their offices. In that regard, Everykey presents a picture reminiscent of many of the leading companies that started up in someone’s garage – as a group of passionate people working together on something they believe in with hopes of achieving success through their endeavors. So far, this model has proven to work well for Everykey, and if their history in the last couple of years is any indication, they’ll continue to experience success and growth.

“We all have titles and everything, but rarely do those titles mean anything,” Wentz explained. “Most of the time, we all do whatever needs to get done. There’s a sense of camaraderie – everyone is friends around here. I try to make it so there’s not much tension between people, and we’re all trying to work towards the greater good of the company and the product.

A question that I get asked a lot is ‘Where do you see the company in 10 or 20 years?’ and I guess the way I’d answer that is I hope that one day it’s a national brand. We see these brands all the time like Apple, Microsoft and Google. We recognize their logos and they’re near and dear to us, and they instill a certain emotion is us. That’s what I really want Everykey to be one day…it’s not a power trip to make myself famous – it’s almost like an artist wanting their work to become popular. I want my art, and my business, to be well-known and recognized.”

The Everykey logo may one day be a household name - you heard it here first!

The Everykey logo may one day be a household name – you heard it here first!

As i mentioned above, Everykey is currently accepting preorders for the product which is planned to ship in March, and you can follow the link to get a $25 discount off the initial retail price for doing that. Personally, i hope to get one myself in the near future and i’ll be sure to give you the low down on the experience.

A new project based on work by Philip K. Dick

If you’ve been reading The Long Shot for a while, it should come as no surprise that i’m a huge fan of Philip K. Dick. So i was extremely excited to learn just this afternoon that there’s a new project coming to the small screen in the near future. Actually, i’m not sure if that’s even the correct term anymore…small screen typically means the television, but this new series is offered from Amazon Prime so it could be on screens of all sorts of sizes.

The Man in the High Castle is based on the award-winning PKD novel and executive produced by Ridley Scott. The story explores what might have been if the Allies had lost WWII, leaving Japan and Germany to rule the United States. The pilot, which you can watch right now for free, has been attracting great reviews.

Here’s a clip from the web series, showing representatives from Germany and Japan discussing the partitioning of America.

The plight of another blogger

i was dismayed today to read about Raif Badawi, a blogger in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes because of an online forum he’d created called Liberal Saudi Network. The site, now closed, encouraged debate on religious and politcal issues in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi was charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience.” He’d also faced charges of apostasy – the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief – but he was cleared of that charge in 2013.

badawi

Reading about the horrendous treatment Badawi received for doing something i do every week without even thinking it might land me in any sort of trouble really made me stop and think about how great i have it here. And i don’t just mean me personally. Working in the news as i do, i am certainly aware of a lot of the problems and issues we face here in the U.S. like racial tensions, income inequality and restricted social freedoms in terms of things like gay marriage and so forth.

As bad as it can be here, though, i chaff whenever i hear people say things like we live in a police state or that America sucks.

We aren’t without fault, there’s no doubt about that. But what we do have is still a lot of freedom compared to many places in the world. We can rally for causes we believe in, and we have the freedom to voice our ideas and opinions even when they’re not popular and especially when they might be critical of our government.

Perhaps the most awful part of Badawi’s story is that it took the intervention of Amnesty International, not to stop the punishment, but only to delay the second round of flogging so that his wounds from the initial round could heal.

“Not only does this postponement… expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its outrageous inhumanity,” said Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and Africa, Said Boumedouha.

“The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous.”

This particular Week in Geek i would like to dedicate to Raif Badawi. What i write here isn’t controversial or a socially-conscious movement to raise awareness for anything, but it does represent our freedom here to share our thoughts and ideas in the form of a blog, something i believe very strongly in.

Please consider signing this petition to add your voice to others to safeguard Raif Badawi against a cruel, brutal punishment for simply creating a space for people to share thoughts and ideas!

Artificial Intelligence warnings…again

More news comes this week from the realm of AI, with an open letter from the Future of Life Institute calling for caution to ensure this emergent technology does not run beyond our control.

In some ways, i’m on the fence when it comes to this topic. It seems to be to be inevitable, probably within my lifetime, that advanced AI will be a common part of every day life. If i’m honest, i’m a little scared but not because i fear a sort of Terminator-like uprising. Moreso, i’m just concerned because i feel like AI is our philosophical successor as humans, and it’s weird to be living in an age where it doesn’t seem that far off.

Experts and high-profile people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk added their names to the supporters of the letter, and in the recent past vocalized their concerns about the dangers AI can represent.

It’s certainly a topic worth keeping an eye on, as i have done numerous times here myself.

Hyperloop

Speaking of Elon Musk, he recently Tweeted that he plans to build a test track in Texas for the Hyperloop, a passenger transport system he described as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.”

Conceptual art of the Hyperloop

Conceptual art of the Hyperloop

Riders would sit in cars that would be fired down a tube with most of the air removed, using magnets to accelerate and brake the capsules as well as prevent them from touching the sides of the tube.

The capsules would travel at about 600 mph, and would permit incredibly fast commuter travel like from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than 30 minutes.

Several people i’ve mentioned this too expressed terror at the very notion, but i’m sure those same sorts of people would have balked at airplanes, automobiles and locomotives before them.

Personally, i’d be all for something like this. Driving is a real frustration for me, so any news of self-driving cars and superfast rail transport sounds great to me.

Call me a thrillseeker – even the “windowless plane” sounds like a great idea to me.

Book me a ticket on the windowless plane - this looks awesome

Book me a ticket on the windowless plane – this looks awesome

Modular cell phone

Here’s something pretty nifty – a modular cell phone from Google’s Project Ara – a smartphone made up of interchangeable components.

Here’s a promo video of the concept, which i’ll let speak for itself:

Anyone else envisioning these components integrating with wearable technology? For example, you could snap one of the components into your wristband device…

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the 12th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science and technology stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did:

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Jan. 23 and i’d love to see you here!

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Thanks for reading!

Week in Geek 1.9.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

CES 2015

The three-day long International Consumer Electronics Show wraps up today, Jan. 9, in Las Vegas. The annual show, which started in 1967, has seen product debuts from VCRs to smart TVs and this year, wearable technology was featured prominently, particularly in the area of smartwatches. Last week i previewed the nine teams of innovative CWRU entrepreneurs exhibiting at the show, and i hope to follow-up with them to find out how it went once they return.

In the meantime, highlights from CES show that yesterday’s science fiction is rapidly becoming everyday consumer technology, with marketplaces for everything from 3D printing to robotics and intelligent vehicles. Keep in mind this is consumer electronics – a trade show for things you can expect to see with increasing frequency in our everyday lives.

Everybody’s been dropping the wearables tag when it comes to the hot items at the show. In the smartwatch arena, to me it looks like a lot of the selections are visually run-of-the-mill analog varieties but with some techno-twists to them. Perhaps these hold more appeal for people not yet prepared to embrace the kind of future where we all wear spaceage jumpsuits, and for my money the ones that stood out most are the sleeker varieties, like this one:

MOTA smartwatch

Designed to function primarily as a cellphone, this Bluetooth 3.0 bracelet pairs with your mobile device and has its own speakers, microphone and OLED display. Incoming calls cause it to vibrate, and if the caller is in your contact list, their name will display on the screen. Both Siri and Google Now voice-activation are supported, and there are currently three models available. The G1 and G2 lite both retail for about $80 and the G2 Pro for $90. According to MOTA’s website, you can expect 180 minutes of talktime and 72 hours of standby.

LookSee is another Bluetooth bracelet that seeks to combine fashion and technology. It has an E ink display that reduces power consumption, and the always-on customizable display can be used for notifications like text, photos, clock faces, maps and more.

The most exciting wearables imo are ones like the i.amPULS which makes a distinct point that it is not a smartwatch – it is a computer on your wrist. Growing up in the 80s, my best friend and i used to pretend we were superspies who had gadgets like this. Now, you don’t have to be part of a secret organization (or Inspector Gadget’s niece Penny) to have an untethered computer device strapped to your wrist.

Between wearable wrist computers and tablets, you're ready to take on Dr. Claw and the forces of M.A.D.

Between wearable wrist computers and tablets, you’re ready to take on Dr. Claw and the forces of M.A.D.

Cluing in to this device’s name, it is the brainchild of musician will.i.am, so naturally the promo video on the product website features him and starts off showing how the music capabilities function. The i.amPULS does much more than just play music though. An independent device, it does not require a separate smartphone to sync with, and in fact is itself a functioning phone. Users can also send Tweets, check Facebook, send SMS and emails, manage photos and has built-in GPS.

Still a relatively new market, smartwatches show no signs of slowing down. A fully-functioning computer strapped to your wrist gives consumers a viable alternative to the already diverse options for mobile computing and one that i believe will be well-received. They offer a relatively hands-free experience and all the functions we typically use throughout the day through voice-activation. It’s possible to conceive they may actually replace the cell phones we’re so used to, and i can definitely envision a paradigm shift from a package of home computer-tablet-cell phone to convertible laptop/tablet combo and smartwatch only. It reduces the total number of devices while increasing mobility. Add to that the variety of peripherals with wireless syncing and the movement towards the Internet of Things, and i envision a definite sea change in how we look at our computing lifestyles.

Outside of offering another option to the slate of mobile devices alongside your laptop, tablet and cellphone, another wearable that caught my attention is TempTraq, an adhesive bandage for infants that acts as a thermometer. Equipped with a Bluetooth-connected sensor, temperature is tracked continuously and alerts are made via smartphone. Admittedly, my first reaction to this was a bit wary, because my mind immediately made the jump to proliferation of this kind of technology that could be used to track us all someday. But like all technology, there is the potential for abuse. Overall though, technological advances in medicine used to improve health care are a plus, and expanding technology like this for patient care is a move in a good direction.

In the realm of computing, there was no of shortage tablets, cell phones and laptops. Some of these went beyond what we’re familiar with already and presented innovative hybrid devices that look like they’d be right at home on the bridge of a starship.

HP Sprout workstation

HP Sprout workstation

The HP Sprout is an all-in-one TouchSmart PC equipped with a scanner and cameras – note the plural. Running up the back of the workstation is the Illuminator Column that bends over the top of the display and projects an image onto the touch-sensitive mat. Documents or objects placed on the mat can be scanned in both 2D and 3D, and can be used for onscreen animations or for printout on a 3D printer. It retails for about $1900.

Lenovo LaVie

Lenovo LaVie

The convertible Lenovo LaVie is one of the lightest 13-inch PCs shown at CES, with tough but lightweight magnesium-lithium alloy construction around two pounds. The hinge allows this laptop to function as a tablet, and the Intel Core i5 processor can handle most everyday jobs with high speeds. It retails for about $1300.

XYZprinting's da Vinci Junior 3D printer

XYZprinting’s da Vinci Junior 3D printer

Aimed at the consumer market, this 3D printer lists for about $350 and is designed for ease of use. The device’s SD card slot means users can print directly from an SD card without needing a computer interface, a feature that gives it more appeal as a shared device in places like schools and libraries. Every day, there are more uses and advances in 3D printing that means sooner or later these will be as common and ubiquitous in our homes as any other household appliance. It would not surprise me if, a few years down the road, we’re replacing protein cartridges in these things and 3D printing our dinners.

4K Inspire 1 drone from DJI

4K Inspire 1 drone from DJI

What would a consumer technology show be without drones? That’s right, for just $2900 you can have your very own flying drone with 24fps video capability through its 20mm wide-angle camera lens. For an extra $400 you can get the dual-remote version so one person can fly it while another operates the detachable camera. All paranoia aside, drones are an rapidly-emerging niche for hobbyists who in years past made due with RC planes and those annoying helicopter things that shopping mall demonstrators buzz past your head while you’re walking past. Independent filmmakers will also find these sorts of gadgets useful for getting the kinds of shots they could only have dreamed of without at least a moderate budget.

By the end of the show today, there were more than 3200 exhibitors showing their stuff at CES 2015. If you would like to find out more about the show, Flipboard has a handy CES 2015 aggregate filled with coverage from the show floor. Check back here in 2016 and maybe i’ll be a part of that coverage, too. Visiting CES would be an amazing and a fantastic opportunity to discover and cover great new technology making its way into our lives.

Cleveland – Innovation Hub and all around great place

Back in November, i mentioned how Cleveland is becoming known as a hub of innovation. Just the other day, that idea was again presented by Popular Mechanics in an article called Medicine, Manufacturers, and Furniture-makers turned Cleveland into an Innovation Hub.

Thanks in part to both the city’s resurgence in manufacturing, and the investment in medical technology and research, Cleveland is re-inventing itself and its image from a grey Midwestern steel town into a center where new methods, ideas and processes are being developed on the cutting-edge.

In addition to the great strides Cleveland has made to foster this growth, it’s also one of the top 50 places to visit, according to Travel + Leisure, alongside places like Fez, Morocco; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Milan, Italy.

The repurposing of historic buildings and return of young professionals to downtown are cited as major reasons for the revival, as well as the selection of luxury hotels for out-of-town visitors.

The Cleveland Convention Center has also made an impact on the city’s success, as it prepares to host the 2015 Republican National Convention. In the meantime, the center has attracted other big-ticket shows like Wizard World – one of the biggest comic book and pop culture conventions in North America…and one that i’ll be covering both here at The Long Shot and, along with entertainment editor Mark Meszoros, for The News-Herald.

Cleveland is also known quite well for the food scene, boasting as the hometown of celebrity chef Michael Symon as well as a host of great restaurants in the downtown area and scattered throughout Northeast Ohio. There’s also established institutions like the famous West Side Market.

On top of all that, Cleveland has an amazing cultural scene, too. The Museum of Contemporary Art is a world-renowned place that underwent an amazing reconstruction in 2012, and the nearby Cleveland Institute of Art’s $75 million expansion is nearly complete. Downtown, Playhouse Square in the Theater District is the largest performing arts center in the U.S. outside of New York.

And, i’m not a sports guy by any stretch, but we got LeBron James back so that’s got to count for something right?

If you happened to watch the video on the Popular Mechanics website, you may have caught the segment where Matt Beyer, director of business development at LeanDog, talked about their role in complimenting established manufacturing companies in Cleveland as a strategic partner and helping them keep pace with the demands of the global economy.

LeanDog has been a great friend to me, too. By visiting their monthly meetups, i’ve not only been introduced to the fascinating world of code, but i’ve made several connections with other Cleveland innovators. This Sunday, Jan. 11, i’ll be on the Software Boat again for Coderetreat, a day-long practice event focused on the fundamentals of software development and design. So be sure to visit here next Friday and read about how that goes.

Producer’s Letter

This morning, i awoke to find that there was a new Producer’s Letter posted on the DDO forums. Executive Producer Robert Ciccolini – or Severlin as he’s known on the forums – gave players a rundown of some of the things we can expect this year for Dungeons & Dragons Online. It would have been cool if they had dropped some of this on me back in September when i interviewed members of the development team, but alas.

ddo_logo

The biggest news in the letter is an update on what we can expect from the adaptation of the Temple of Elemental Evil, a classic D&D adventure making its way to DDO much like the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar did in 2014. Severlin says the temple grounds will be quite large, with lots of danger and treasures to find inside the halls and chambers.

Monster Champions, which so far have caused a huge amount of debate on the forums, will be getting their own collectible system in the form of Mysterious Fragments resonating with magical power. Various agents scattered about the public areas will be interested in these fragments, which players can redeem for scrolls, potions, cosmetic items and even rare pets.

A new class is on the horizon, too. The Warlock is making its way to DDO, bringing their eldritch blasts to the battlefront. New classes are always an exciting time for players to discover new playstyles and multiclass combinations. Personally, i’m most interested to see how (or if) they will implement the various pacts warlock’s make in order to gain their powers. In the tabletop version of D&D, warlocks have pact options with the fey realm, demons and otherworldly entities akin to Lovecraftian elder gods. Colloquially, these resulted in names like feylock and starlock (i don’t remember the slang for the demon pact one – darklock?). When 4th edition D&D came out i made a starlock and had quite a bit of fun with that so we’ll see how it translates to DDO. To be honest, i would have loved to read that they were adding psionics to the mix first, and maybe someday we’ll see them in-game but for now, news of any new class is good news.

The Vale of Twilight and Shavarath are getting updates and new adventure packs in line with the level cap raise to 30. The more powerful and dangerous Vale will also introduce an update to the classic, beloved Greensteel equipment system. i say beloved because the items are very powerful and useful, but i can’t speak from experience because despite playing DDO since 2006 i have yet to acquire a single piece of Greensteel equipment. One day i hope to at least get that Trap-the-Soul heavy repeating crossbow made, but for now i just have the blank sitting in my vault.

Speaking of the level cap raise, players who reach the new cap of 30 can expect additional feats and power, as well as construct new weapons and treasures. That last part intrigues me the most, as i hope this means they will update the Cannith Crafting system to include all the prefixes and suffixes available on random lootgen, and maybe even allow us to craft clickies…? Here’s hoping.

Finally, there are some new festivals planned for 2015 including a mimic-themed event where players hunt down the diabolically disguised creatures, and a new seasonal festival hinted to be Halloween-themed. A later forum response from Severlin confirmed that “the mimic hunt is actually one of the fun things we have planned for our anniversary,” Severlin wrote. “I believe the Mabar items are still planned as rewards for the mimic hunt. We want to have an entirely new festival around the Halloween time, and that would also include appropriately themed items.”

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the 11th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science and technology stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did:

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Jan. 16 and i’d love to see you here!

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Thanks for reading!