Category Archives: Products

The Amazon Dash Button

Amazon’s branded Dash Buttons were introduced in March 2015, allowing products to be easily re-ordered with a single click of the battery-powered device – not to be confused with the unbranded UK AmazonFresh version (which works like a miniature version of the popular hands-free Amazon Echo).

As an inexpensive (US$4.99) wifi-enabled IoT device, in less than 3 months they were starting to be re-purposed. There are a handful of approaches, from fairly non-technical ARP probe detection through to bare-metal reprogramming. Amazon themselves are also reaching out to developers and smaller brands with their Dash Replenishment Service.

Getting started seems pretty simple – when you get a Dash button, Amazon gives you a list of setup instructions to get going. Just follow their list of instructions, but don’t complete the final step . Do not select a product, and just exit the app.

Most techniques use something like IFTT to connect the button event to a IoT trigger of your choosing. Instructables has a great step-by-step tutorial, and there’s some great open-source code available on GitHub.

Amazon Dash Button (Tide) on washing machine
The Dash Button as it it usually used - to order more Amazon products (such as washing powder).

The detailed specs:

  • The CPU is a STM32F205RG6 processor which is an ARM Cortex-M3 that can run up to 120mhz and has 128 kilobytes of RAM and 1 megabyte of flash memory for program storage
  • The WiFi module is a BCM943362 module which in combination with the CPU make it a platform for Broadcom’s WICED SDK
  • There’s a 16 megabit SPI flash ROM which is typically used in conjunction with the WICED SDK for storing application data
  • An ADMP441 microphone is connected to the CPU and used by the Dash iOS application to configure the device using the speaker on a phone/tablet
  • There’s a single RGB LED and a button

Quite powerful for US$5.

However, the next step in this evolution has just been released – the AWS IoT Button.

The AWS IoT Button is a programmable button based on the Amazon Dash Button hardware. This simple Wi-Fi device is easy to configure and designed for developers to get started with AWS IoT, AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon SNS, and many other Amazon Web Services without writing device-specific code.

Targeted at developers, this US$20 version connects to the web using the Amazon Web Services Lambda platform without writing a line of code (ok, so not developers then). However, even the “Hello World” example described here seems quite technical – in some ways, even more so than hacking the original (and at four times the cost). It seems to have three types of button pushes, though – short, long and double for more interactions.

AWS IoT enables Internet-connected things to connect to the AWS cloud and lets applications in the cloud interact with Internet-connected things. Common IoT applications either collect and process telemetry from devices or enable users to control a device remotely.
Zoom ARQ


The ZOOM ARQ Aero RhythmTrak is an all-in-one production and live performance instrument which includes an integrated drum machine, sequencer, synthesizer, looper, and MIDI controller with a built-in accelerometer.

One trend in music instruments development is getting away from linear interfaces based on knobs and keys, and instead creating devices that allow physical intuitive interaction and designed for live performances. That is where Zoom ARQ comes in, one of the most amazing music instruments of the year. Zoom ARQ is a circular device with a lighted ring that lets you visualize music as a true loop and it functions as a drum machine, sequencer, synthesizer, looper and MIDI controller at the same time. ARQ is completely wireless and can be used as a standalone instrument or connected to a computer. It is a show in itself and a one-of-a-kind live music experience.

Just wait until Kieran Hebden gets his hands on it!

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The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable (and more…)

The Stanley Parable (adapted from the free original Half-Life 2 mod) is an exploration of story, games, and choice. Except the story doesn’t matter, it might not even be a game, and if you ever actually do have a choice, well let me know how you did it.

It was a collaboration between Davey and UK designer William Pugh, working together as Galactic Cafe. The game expanded substantially upon the mod version, adding substantial amounts of new content, new endings, a complete overhaul of the visual designs, and new voicework from Kevan Brighting.

The game was one of the first to be approved for Steam via the Greenlight community feature. It went on to sell over a million copies, win such awards as the IGF 2014 Audience Choice award, and be featured in schools and museums all over the world.

A free demo and the full version can be purchased here.

The Beginner’s Guide is a narrative video game for Mac and PC. It lasts about an hour and a half and has no traditional mechanics, no goals or objectives. Instead, it tells the story of a person struggling to deal with something they do not understand. It can be purchased here.

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is a free-to-play “15 minute heist game” in which you’ll become a master thief, burglarizing his way across the hottest summer in Europe. It features voice acting by British comedian Simon Amstell, formerly the host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, who seems to be having a bit of a stressful time explaining exactly what it is you’ll be doing on this job.

Portrait by Jonathan Worth

An Internet of Things that act like inkjet printers

Cory Doctorow explains at O’Reilly’s OSCON (covering open source tools, enterprise, architecture, infrastructure, community and more) in Austin, Texas why the Internet of Things that includes DRM may not be the best option.

It may, in fact be the worst.

Cory is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing, and a contributor to The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He holds an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University (UK), where he is a Visiting Professor; in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.


Hemingway (logo)

Do your headlines have a Beyoncé-level of engagement?

Like the lead paragraph in a news story or thesis in an essay, your headline is your one true sentence: the single most important asset for capturing attention in the feed.

Hemingway is Sharethrough’s new AI-powered headline analyzer, an easy-to-use, publicly available tool that puts a wealth of proprietary data science and linguistic analysis at your fingertips for the first time. This new tool is free for anyone looking to navigate the new pressures and demands in content marketing, helping them analyze and quickly improve the quality of their headlines, optimizing for both impression and engagement.

Below are the intial results for this article’s headline (pre-Beyoncé).

Hemingway (actual headline result)

Using this analyser, I was able to push my Headline Quality Score from 62 to 79%. I’m not sure adding Beyoncé improved your level of engagement after you arrived, but you clicked on the headline though, didn’t you? Apparently that’s 98% of the problem solved.

How does it work?

The Headline Quality Score is based on a multivariate linguistic algorithm built on the principles of Behavior Model theory and Sharethrough’s neuroscience and advertising research. The algorithm takes into account more than 300 unique variables, including EEG data and Natural Language Processing, enabling your native ads to capture attention, increase engagement and deliver a stronger impression.

Basically, it offers suggestions to improve clickthroughs – but’s it not going to write better headlines for you.

Back to work, you Hemingway-wannabe.


Transhumanism & Biohacking

Wearable technology has taken the next logical step – implants.

From LEDs to NFCs and RFIDs, consumers are looking at ways of applying medical approaches to implant consumer-grade technology. So-called Grindhouse Wetware (or “Grinders”) view this as next level body augmentation (i.e. piercings on steroids), and with the Maker revolution you can now cheerfully implant this technology yourself at home. You can already buy an all-in-one syringe kit (based on animal LifeChip transponders – for when your cat or dog goes missing).

Bodyhacking – turning yourself into a cyborg – also includes enhancements to existing senses (such as infra-red eyesight) or creating new senses (such as sensing magnetic north or radio frequencies). A lot of this technology was initially developed for people with disabilities or impairments (such as cochlear implants for the deaf, and retina implants for the blind). Artificial hearts and pacemakers could be seen as the ancestors of embedded tech.

It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to swipe your Oyster card with your wrist. Never forget your keys again!

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Optical Data Storage Squeezes 360TB on to a Quartz Disc — Forever

Researchers at Southampton University in the UK have now written a series of major works to small glass discs– including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, the Magna Carta and the Kings James Bible. The density of the data aboard these discs suggests that they could squeeze a total of 360 terabytes onto a single piece of quartz. They also point out that the data is extremely stable: It could endure for as long as 13.8 billion years at temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


A Raspberry Pi powered Magic Mirror


Blogger Dylan Pierce decided he wanted to give someone the gift of a smart mirror. He went with an affordable, DIY approach and with just a little bit of coding and some ingenuity, he was able to make a mirror that’s got people like me drooling all over it. Here’s how he did it.


Pi Zero computer so cheap it comes free with magazine


The Pi Zero is a fully fledged computer which measures just 6.5cm by 3cm. Made in Wales, it sells for just £4 in the UK and $5 in the US. Raspberry Pi is also giving the device away for free with the purchase of its £5.99 monthly magazine, The MagPi.

However, it’s not the only kid on the block. The C.H.I.P. (from Next Thing Co.) launched earlier this year has a similar form factor and similar price. Here’s a blow-by-blow comparison – but it’s different strokes for different folks.

Either way, these sub £10 computers will disrupt many existing business models (and create a few new ones, as well).


Smart products, smart makers


The internet of things will strengthen manufacturers’ hands in the battle for customer loyalty. A commodity ought to be “a very trivial thing”, Karl Marx argued in Capital, and “easily understood”. But in fact it is the opposite: “a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.”


Lytro Illum light field camera

Lytro’s approach to photography is to capture as much data from the field of light as possible – instead of focussing on one particular setup to capture the moment. The multi-dimensional image is captured with an array of micro-lenses. This wealth of data then gets translated to an interactive ‘image-scape’ where you can redefine the focus freely, as many times you want.

Coca-Cola’s “Small World Machines”

People from both countries who engaged with the screens were encouraged to complete a friendly task together such as wave, touch hands, draw a peace sign or dance before they shared a Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola recently put digital signage-enabled and connected vending kiosks in two popular shopping malls in Lahore (Pakistan) and New Delhi (India), hostile neighbors with simmering resentments that once were part of the same nation.

Of course we know that The Coca-Cola Company is really a heartless corporate behemoth, trying to win market share by winning the hearts and minds of the people.

Sure, it’s a little (ok, perhaps overly) sweet, but a step in the right direction. Perhaps next we’ll have coke-sponsored NGO initiatives?


Jacob Sutton’s L.E.D. Surfer

“Filming in the suit was the most surreal thing I’ve done in 20 years of snowboarding,” says Hughes of the charged salopettes. “Luckily there was plenty of vin rouge to keep me warm, and Jacob’s enthusiasm kept everyone going through the cold nights.”

“The shoot was really challenging. Not only were we using experimental technology in terms of the suit, but we were shooting in deep snow at night and the temperature was -25C. We were shooting for between 6-8 hours a night for three nights.”

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Mogees – play the world

Mogees is a system that allows one to transform any object into a musical instrument just by placing a contact microphone on it. Mogees lets artists to take advantage of everyday objects using them as musical instruments, breaking the boundaries between the digital and the real world.

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Justin Hall-Tipping: Freeing energy from the grid

What would happen if we could generate power from our windowpanes? In this moving talk, entrepreneur Justin Hall-Tipping shows the materials that could make that possible, and how questioning our notion of ‘normal’ can lead to extraordinary breakthroughs.


Cosmic Motors’ Detonator

From Daniel Simon – the former VW designer and futurist who also penned the Light Cycles for Tron: Legacy. Its got a 30-inch front wheel and dual 96 volt electric motors in the hub of the 27 inch rear wheel. The e-bike is powered by lithium-ion batteries, and charges in an hour when plugged into a 110 volt outlet. Parker Brothers estimates the bike has a 80-100 mile range when fully charged, and its been bench tested to a 120 mph top speed.