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…

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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.”

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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!

Week in Geek 1.2.15

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

2014 Annual report

The closeout of the year brought along many changes in the world at large and for me personally. Several of those changes occurred right here. The Long Shot got a brand-new look, and WordPress added new formats for creating posts and viewing stats. They also provided an artfully-done 2014 Year in Blogging Report that you can check out yourself if you’re so inclined.

Highlights of the report, for me anyway, included an analogy between The Long Shot and a New York City subway train that holds 1200 people and would need to make six trips in order to carry all the people who visited the site this past year.

Not surprising at all was the fact that my busiest day by a huge margin was just a few weeks ago on Dec. 13 when Week in Geek got Stuckmannized – also the most viewed post of the year. i’d like to think it was due to my sublime writing skills, but really it’s because the fella i interviewed has an enormous following and graciously helped promote the article. That being said, writing narrative interviews is my favorite kind of post to work on and going into 2015 i hope to do more of those. i’ve got a few of those in the pipe, including one that the TOS fan in me is geeking out about already.

Worth mentioning though are some other notable posts from the year. One of them is a prime example of how important SEO is to generating traffic, and the other is exciting because it comes from a contributing writer, something i hope to see a lot more of in 2015 and beyond.

CWRU at CES 2015

It seems that i’m starting to make at least a little bit of a name for myself in the Cleveland technology scene, as a press release came to my desk a few weeks ago from Bob Sopko, director of Blackstone LaunchPad at Case Western Reserve University.

Bob was excited to let me know that he, along with students and alumni from CWRU, would be showcasing their inventions and entrepreneurship at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 6-9.

Nine teams will travel to the exhibition that draws over 150,000 visitors from around the world, with two of the teams making a return visit after introducing their concepts at last year’s show.

One of the returning teams is Everykey, the brainchild of CWRU students that is a Bluetooth-enabled wristband which stores the ever-increasing number of passwords we use throughout the day with our smartphones, tablets and computers. Further developments will enable the stylish accessory to grant access to physically locked items like doors, cars and bike locks as well as plans to integrate other systems like home lighting.

everykey

Everykey wristband in one of seven available colors

“Everykey removes the stress and hassle of losing keys and forgetting passwords, while providing even better security than what consumers currently have in place,” Christopher Wentz, CEO of Everykey and 2013 CWRU grad, said. “Our product uses military grade encryption, allowing only you access to your personal property and accounts. Like a credit card, you can instantly disable your Everykey if it ever gets lost or stolen.”

On their website right now, you can preorder your own Everykey for $25 less than the retail price, which is only a modest $100 to begin with. The device works with Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android and iOS as well as Chrome, Firefox and Safari. The rechargeable battery life holds an impressive 30 day charge, and the device itself is water-resistant, with Bluetooth Low Energy and a customizable range up to three meters.

Everykey originated in an entrepreneurship class taught by Walt Sokira at CWRU in 2012. Sokira was so impressed by the idea that he invested capital in the project. Since then, Everykey has been well-regarded in publications like The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch and Digital Trends.

The Kickstarter for Everykey shows that they surpassed their $100,000 goal and funding is now closed. The tiered rewards for pledging included some impressive stuff from regular access to all updates, an Everykey developer circuit board and early access to Everykey SDK all the way up to an exclusive visit to their office to have their chief designer create a custom Everykey wristband for you. Most backers pledged in the $50 range, which netted them an Everykey at half price, with planned shipping in March 2015.

This to me is another example of some of the fantastic technology innovations coming out of my hometown. Everykey is definitely something i’m putting on my wishlist, especially since more and more, accounts prompt you to change your password so often – i can’t remember them all!

The other returning team is Carbon Origins, a CWRU student technology think-tank focused on solving hard technical problems in electronics and aerospace. Their first product – Apollo – is a tiny embedded sensor development board capable of measuring and recording temperature, pressure, humidity, ultraviolet, infrared and visible light, audio intensity, three-axis accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer and GPS.

Data gleaned through Apollo was originally used after a rocket crashed, and scientists strove to learn the reason why. Like most innovations, this singular use was expanded upon and has found a home in applications ranging from robotics and drones to wearable computing devices.

Apollo is about as big as your thumb, with a trackball control and 128 x 64 pixel 0.96″ OLED screen and is equipped with an onboard microphone for audio recording and streaming.

The Apollo device from Carbon Origins

The Apollo device from Carbon Origins

The remaining teams traveling to CES 2015 have varying goals for their presentations, like high-tech home maintenance, health monitoring, aviation and rocketeering, or to use the latest manufacturing technology to make high quality toys less expensive.

All of the projects are supported by think[box] – CWRU’s center for innovation that provides space, equipment and training. Anyone is invited to use their resources to tinker and creatively invent, but especially CWRU students, faculty and alumni. Right now, think[box] is housed in 4500 square foot space but $35 million in renovations are in the works for a 7-story, 50,000 square foot facility to make one of the largest university-based innovation centers in the world.

“Think[box] is where our students and faculty can, on their own, take those ideas in their heads and get them in their hands – that is, to actually go from concept to prototype,” Jeffrey Duerk, dean of the Case School of Engineering, said.

Blackstone LaunchPad also helped teams through mentorship of their startups and development, assisting in securing funding and taking ideas to market.

“We look forward to our expanded involvement in the world’s largest display of innovation and discovery,” Bob Sopko said. “As a major research institution, we will be involved for our second year in a row, expanding from two to six booths (between 75427 and 75437 Tech West, Sands Expo, Level 2). Our students and alumni are excited to be demonstrating, selling and actively looking for partnerships.”

Last year, the Case School of Engineering was the only university organization exclusively showcasing student startups at CES, and now in their second year attending the expo, CWRU is tripling its presence.

Remaining teams that will be at CES 2015 are:

  • SpiroSano, which helps patients with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, COPD or cystic fibrosis, track their activities and episodes around the clock and share that data with their doctor to improve treatment. Doctor and patient create and control a personalized disease management toolkit using SpiroSpano’s platform.
  • Doppler Yoyo, one of several competition-grade and collectors-grade yo-yos Spartan Yoyo Works creates using 3-D printing at a fraction of the standard production price. The yo-yo is made of a single material and achieves a high moment of inertia by changing the geometry in ways that would be impossible without 3-D printing.
  • Event 38 Unmanned Systems, which designs and builds mission-specific, unmanned fixed-wing and multirotor aircraft systems and optical sensors as well as drone data post-processing solutions. Event 38 systems are used primarily in agriculture and surveying.
  • 360×360 Selfie Stick, patented in 2012 by CWRU alumnus Joshua Wang, of Taiwan. With a telescoping handle and a camera bracket that can swivel in any direction, the stick provides the distance to take “selfies” of large groups or to provide different angles or more background in photographs. The stick can also be used to take photos over walls, around corners and in hard-to-reach places.
  • Hema Imaging LLC, which helps homeowners and professionals use thermal, or “heat map,” imaging to uncover unexpected temperatures associated with common household problems, such as faulty circuit breakers, sealing losses or ductwork and water leakage. The HemaVision helps homeowners identify and diagnose problems by automatically highlighting abnormal temperatures, locking onto scenes, calculating power dissipation and cost, and making statistical maps of significant temperature changes.
  • And last but not least, you may remember this Cleveland tech innovator from Week in Geek a few weeks ago – BoxCast, a company that has developed a plug-and-play broadcast box, within the display of Osmisys, an electrical engineering technology firm. The Boxcast product allows anyone with a camera to conveniently stream standard and high-definition live video to the company’s cloud-based service for retrieval at any time and from any location.

To stay up-to-date with these creative innovators and their presentations at CES 2015, like CWRU’s Blackstone LaunchPad on Facebook, follow @LaunchPadCWRU on Twitter and keep an eye on #CES2015.

You can be sure i’ll follow up with as many of these folks as I can after CES wraps.

Code Retreat

Beginning coders and experienced alike are invited to sign up for the Post CodeMash v2.0.1.5 Coderetreat on Jan. 11 from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the LeanDog Software Boat in Cleveland. LeanDog is the sponsor for the event.

Coderetreat is an intensive practice event focused on software development and design fundamentals. Co-facilitators Charlotte Chang and Carl Shotwell bill the event as an opportunity to get away from the pressures of ‘getting things done,’ noting that the format has shown to be an effective way to improve skills. Developers can improve their ability to write code that minimized the cost of change over time, by practicing basic principles of modular and object-oriented design according to the event’s description.

There’s no specific coding language required, so attendees can work in their preferred language setup. Event organizers do ask for open-mindedness though, with the possibility of experimenting with other languages.

In addition to sharpening your coding skills, Coderetreat is a great place to hone your social skills too, and get introduced to peers.

Expertise as a coder, developer or programmer is also not a requirement. Beginning programmers are welcome, but are asked to have a basic understanding and skill – the event is about coding after all. It is an opportunity to learn lessons and values for everyone including experts. If you’re an experienced coder or thinking about getting into it, this Coderetreat is an excellent opportunity to expand your skills and pick up new ones, so check it out!

Thankfully i’ve been plugging away at Codecademy so i think i qualify for the “basic understanding” part of it. If you attend, stop and say hello – i’d love to hear from you! i’ll be the guy who barely knows what he’s doing.

Learning to code

Speaking of Codecademy, i’ve earned 8 badges and 41 points so far, although i have yet to fully complete a skillset (i’m 85% done with the first one though).

My recent experiences there are worthy of their own post, which i’ll work on during the next couple of days. Imagine that – more than one post in a week! In the meantime, check out a couple of the 30-minute exercises i worked on. Still haven’t discovered a way to embed the work directly into a post, so you’ll have to just follow the links:

  • Sun, Earth and Code – simple animation work (although you wouldn’t think so from the amount of lines of code!
  • Earth and Moon – variation on the above using cooler images

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Thanks for reading the tenth (!!) 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. Naturally, there’s several year-in-review and looking-ahead sorts of articles to start the list, and beyond that some useful tips, intriguing experiments and…drama from the world of hi-technology?!

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

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Jan. 9 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!