To be honest, I thought the Snapchat spectacles were a waste of money when I first heard about them. “Oh great, another company trying to make glasses with a gimmick”. So I put them out of my mind and moved on despite hearing about all the craze in Los Angeles and New York regarding their pop-up Spectacle vending machines.
Fast forward to this past weekend. I was on a trip with a group of friends and a couple of them brought their Spectacles along. Every now and then they would press the button on the side of the glasses to start recording a 10 second video. Although they used it quite regularly, I almost never noticed them filming except for in darker areas where the ring of light around the camera would animate while it was recording. At this moment I had revised my opinion of them to “They’re great “spy-like” glasses for recording video”.
The true “aha” moment came at the end of each day when my friends would view the footage and transfer it to their phones. As we watched each clip I felt that I was seeing each moment through their eyes, not just some video they had recorded. It turns out that the 115 degree angle lens being placed on a pair of glasses right next to your eyes is a great POV (Point of View) recording combo. This led to the next realization, “Why bother taking out a camera/phone, or strapping a GoPro to your head to record?” Just throw on a pair of Spectacles and press the button to record while still living in the moment. There’s no need to check a screen to make sure you’ve got the shot, or fumble with opening up an app or sending it right then an there. The key to the future of the Spectacles (in my opinion) is that it allows you to live in the moment, record the moment, and relive the moment.
However, there are a couple of improvements that I think would greatly increase its adoption for “capturing the moment”.
Waterproof it (allows you to take it to more areas)
Hide the camera better or make it smaller (allows you to put it into other styles)
Make the lenses swappable so that you can have clear ones for night-time or indoors but shades for the day (allows you to wear it in more areas)
Make the battery last longer (always on the list for any electronic)
Make the video capture capabilities longer (having options is always better and being able to select the default length of clips would be nice. Press the button again in the middle of recording to stop it earlier)
Will I buy one now? Maybe. But I’ll be looking out for the V2 for sure.
This is how it was left hanging for about a week before I bought an electrical box at a nearby Home Depot that would fit next to my original electrical box so I could begin mounting it. Steps for the finishing touches were as follows:
Cut out a bigger hole in my drywall (making sure that it was still small enough to fit under the included mounting plate)
Mount the transformer/relay next to the original electrical box. (Something to keep in mind: Double check to see if your original electrical box is bigger than its opening. If it does, you will most likely not be able to place another box right next to it without have to do some patching of the drywall after)
Paint over any small marks or discrepancies with the mounting so that it would look as good as new!
The bigger hole was still small enough for the face plate to cover (included with the Nest) and I was able to paint over the edges to make it look as good as new!
I recently decided to switch my old thermostat to a Nest and figured that it should be easy considering my current thermostat just controlled a simple electric wall heater. Unfortunately, it was only after taking my old thermostat off the wall that I realized that it was in fact a line voltage thermostat (Honeywell’s T410AA), which means that it uses high voltage (240 V) and acts as an in-line switch between the electric wall heater and the power supply. The problem with this is that systems like the Nest run off of low voltage (24 V) and can’t be used to switch a high voltage system.
To fix the issue I started researching. Surely I wasn’t the only person who wanted to switch their old school line voltage thermostat with a Nest! Unfortunately, a bunch of the solutions were on Nest’s old community site which had since been taken down. However, I was able to find out about a relay/transformer that according to the reviews should be able to bridge the gap between line voltage (240 V) and the typical low voltage setup used for modern thermostats like the Nest (24 V). The schematic for it shows the method for hooking it up to known thermostat wires.
The Aube Relay RC840T-240 does exactly that. It takes 3 wires carrying the line voltage (connected to Black, Blue, and Red) and then connects them out via 3 wires (R, C, W) carrying low voltage. This works to connect the line voltage wall heater with controls from the Nest system.
After connecting everything up, I tested the Nest to see if it worked and low and behold! It worked like expected. The only thing left after wiring and testing the setup is to mount it properly. However, the relay/transformer does not fit inside the original electrical box so I will need to devise a workaround to get it to all fit within the wall up to code.
Read the Continuation here: http://blog.anthonyngu.com/2017/01/10/finishing-touches-installing-nest-w-line-voltage/
I recently obtained a second Amazon Echo for free and set it up in my bedroom. For reference, I’ve got the first Amazon Echo set up in my living room and it’s just close enough proximity to the second one that if I use the same trigger name ‘Alexa’ for both of them, they can sometimes both hear me and both respond.
The current solution offered by the Alexa App is that you can switch the trigger name of one of them to either ‘Echo’ or ‘Amazon’. Although this works, it sucks for the user because you have to remember which name to use for each Echo and when you are asking something off the top of your head, you tend to forget which trigger name to say.
So this got me thinking, what is the best method of remedying this situation?
The simplest solution would be to just drop the second query whenever it matches (within a declared timespan).
However, possible problems with this are:
What if they come in at the exact same time (or near enough to the same time that the flag hasn’t been set from the first query)? Although this would be very rare, it would most likely just result in two responses, so nothing that isn’t already happening.
What if the one that comes in second got delayed by the hardware and it is actually closer to the user? This would result in the closer Alexa device not responding and the farther one responding (not a great result)
Another possible solution is:
When the service that backs Alexa in the cloud receives two commands at near the same time from one account that have the same query, respond to the one that has the louder volume query and ignore the other.
The problem with this solution is that it produces a delay for every query since you have to wait for the possible “dual query” scenario. This might be able to be fixed by adding a “start query” signal to Alexa devices that sends a small packet to the Alexa service when a device is being given a query. This would allow the Alexa service to determine if multiple queries are incoming and whether to respond to the query immediately, or to wait for the second query for comparison.
Establishing a mapping of Alexa devices where they are able to interact with each other and triangulate the user so that only the one closest to the user responds.
The problem with this is solution is that it would require more computational power on each Alexa device and would slow down the responses from being sent to the Alexa service at all. The computation would be done on the actual devices (or a central “master” one) and only after having figured out the “correct” device, would the response get sent to the Alexa service.
There are obviously more possible solutions and I would love to hear from others about fixes for the issue and any responses to my solutions above.
TL;DR – The DJI Phantom 4 is the better drone by far. The only case in which you should buy the 3DR Solo is if you are able to get it during its $600 sales (Drone + Gimbal), already own a GoPro, and are willing to use the lesser product.
Pros of the Phantom 4
Better Battery Life
Better video from their in-house camera
More sturdy for travel with the connected legs and rigid camera attachment
Charger comes as one instead of separate ones for the controller and the drone batteries
Better design with the controller (Allows for extender to be dropped)
USB connection instead of WiFi for connecting the controller to your phone or tablet
Quick connect propellers
White – turns out it gets less hot on sunny days (who would have figured)
Can easily be flown without a GPS Lock (The 3DR Solo requires you to turn on Advanced flying and also set one of the dedicated “A” or “B” buttons up for “Manual Flight” which flies it without GPS)
Pros of the 3DR Solo
Can be made to go faster
More modular (possible future attachments & Easier to fix or replace components)
Just a little insight into my drone purchase history. I bought both drones. I owned a DJI Phantom 4 first and had an awesome experience with it, but found it to be a bit too pricey for me. Then I saw a deal on the 3DR Solo + gimbal for $600 and I figured I would return the DJI Phantom 4 and get that instead. After obtaining the 3DR Solo, I noticed immediately a couple areas where the DJI was better, but figured I could handle it. But as I continued to fly it, the cons started adding up a bit too much and so I returned it. I am planning on obtaining a DJI Phantom 4 again in the future.
I quickly classified the development of Alexa Skills into two major categories. They don’t break them down this way, but it makes more sense to think of their development by the requirements of the developer and setup.
Not user specific – Generic information and interactions available to everyone
User specific – Needs information from the user like configurations, links to their devices, or specific user instances.
The non-user-specific Alexa skills are fairly simple to create and for this guide I will be creating one using Node.js in an Amazon Lambda function (their version of a cloud run process) combined with an Amazon Skill.
In your lambda function, go to the Event Sources tab, and add the “Alexa Skills Kit” Event source.
Then copy your Amazon Lambda’s ARN (Amazon Resource Name) and past that into the Endpoint textbox in the Configurations Tab of your Alexa Skill – something like
The user-specific Alexa skills require an endpoint that allows the user to login to your own authentication service. This in turn will require a web app and a database of stored information per user. Stay tuned for more information on how to make that happen.
At the end of my investigation of the non-user-specific Alexa skill, I created and deployed a Wind Reporting service to Alexa that allows me to use the Echo to find out what the current Wind conditions are in my city before I take my drone out for flights.
It’s been a while since I last made a smart home device, not because my home is fully automated or because there wasn’t a need for another device, but because I still live in a rented unit and didn’t want to to spend the time making and setting up custom devices that would need to be torn down in the future.
Well the other day I realized that I could build another home automation device without a long-term stationary placement requirement! Not too long ago I built voice integration into my smart home system using the Amazon Echo (check out the articles here). While this worked well for moments without ambient noise, it failed to work well during parties, while watching movies, or while listening to music on my sound system. Obviously I needed another way to interact with these smart home devices and the current method of pulling out a phone or tablet, unlocking it, then switching between apps just didn’t appeal to me. What I really wanted was a universal remote that could also talk to my smart home devices.
So I started designing and planning out the features that I would want in my smart home controller and it had to be wireless charged (because replacing batteries or being tethered to a wall is archaic). Here’s the requirements I came up with:
LED Screen to provide visual input (battery life, device selected, value selected, etc.)
Neopixel Ring (because who doesn’t love feedback through colors?)