I'm also grateful for all the experiences I had in 2012. Up until March, I was busy building out the radiation sensor network in Japan. That was crazy since so many companies were involved and they all seemed to be breathing down my neck. Once I got that off my chest, I was able to focus on some crazy projects I've been interested in. Most of them failed, but one of the more interesting ones that came out of it was working with Wrecking Crew Orchestra. That project deserves its own writeup because there were a lot of experiences involved. In fact, it was a dramatic rollercoaster since I had a very limited time to take over the project from another engineer, re-design all the hardware and software, and make sure it was performance ready within an extremely limited time. We were all struggling to make sure the first show in September was able to even go on since the hardware, software, sequencing, and choreography were all behind schedule. Most of us didn't sleep for a few nights before the performance and were going nuts as the deadline closed in. Had I known then how difficult it'd be, I probably would have refused immediately. These are some pics of rehearsal and also sleepless nights working on the system. Ha ha ha.
Two highlights of my year were getting to talk at the Open Source Hardware Summit and being chosen by the UN as a design consultant on their weather monitoring project. The Open Hardware Summit was awesome and I actually got a chance to put a physical face to all the people that I interact with on Twitter but always felt virtual, nebulous, and ethereal. Talking to everyone also made me feel like I was really part of the community which is nice since it's probably the only place I really feel like I belong. It was nice to go into technical discussions and not have people's eyes glaze over. Ha ha ha. Here's a shot of me with the ever expanding Adafruit and my talk at OHS 2012 :)
The UN project is also interesting because it's a chance to really use open source hardware to make an impact on how climate and environmental scientists measure our environment. I'm really putting a lot of effort into using the recent advancements in power management, communications, sensors, Arduino, and openly available firmware libraries to try and set a new bar for the equipment that they'll be deploying in the field. The project is still early so things are fuzzy, but look for a beta release early this year with a lot of rapid iterations. This is a very alpha prototype of the Arashi system. It's still very rough and needs a lot of work but the initial specs look good. It's extremely low power and the battery pictured should be able to power the system over a year. Once the solar charger is integrated, then the lifetime should be indefinite. I'm also looking at cellular and satellite radios for the system. Although these will affect battery life, there's nothing like a good satellite radio on your weather station to make sure you're covered anywhere on terrestrial earth :)
Onward and Upward
2013 is looking to be a busy year for me already. Next week, I'll be heading to Shenzhen to help Bunnie Huang teach a 4-week workshop on electronics manufacturing for MIT Media Lab grad student designers. We'll be doing factory tours to look at the manufacturing lines, spending time in the marketplaces shopping, discussing components and component selection, and finally having a mini conference with HAXLR8R, Dangerous Prototypes, Seeed Studio, and K-TOWN from Adafruit on manufacturing in OSHW. All the while, we'll be helping them out with their design projects and also advising on the electronics, functionality, and manufacturability of the designs they'll be making. Hopefully I'll get to blog more about this during the course of the 4-weeks.
Apart from that, me and some friends are starting up another hackerspace in Tokyo, this time in Akihabara. I've always felt like a hackerspace should exist in Akihabara and since they opened up the Chiyoda Arts Center in the area, its the perfect opportunity to mix art and technology. The space I'm targeting is right next to the art center and within a 5 minute walking distance to the electronics shops. I'm already starting to collect equipment like an 80W laser cutter and a medium format woodworking CNC machine and will hopefully do a writeup on the process of starting a new hackerspace as well as purchasing and importing heavy industrial equipment from China. Since this is my second time around, I have much clearer opinions on what needs to be done. Whether or not that translates into a successful hackerspace is another story, but at least it can be a case study.
I've also started up a hackerfarm on the outskirts of Tokyo in Chiba with some other friends. Last year, we had the opportunity to rent a house, warehouse, and storage shed in Kamogawa, Chiba for cheap. That area is in the middle of a farming community and we were able to get a huge amount of space for extremely cheap. We're currently fixing up the place and we'll be doing a lot of agricultural and food projects out there. The current plan is to build a large outdoor smokehouse for smoked sausages and meats, an outdoor oven for bread and pizzas, and renting an acre or more of farmland for various farming projects and parceling out to people interested in tending a small plot of land. It's pretty interesting and also a good change of pace from the city life.
So there's quite a bit of stuff on the plate for 2013. I think this year will be exciting if I can survive it. Hopefully I'll be able to write and update the blog more on what's going on since this year seems like it will also be rich in a lot of different experiences.
Happy New Year!