Play Striker Air Hockey on a capacitive touch surface

After discovering capacitive touch interactions with a Makey Makey device and an Arduino Leonardo, Jason Eldred realized it could also be used to control the Unity game engine. After a night of hacking, he had a basic interface that could change the scale of a virtual circle. From there, he teamed up with Alex L. Bennett to produce an art installation called Bee that invited users to interact with it by physically touching a panel to change graphics on the panel itself and a screen in front of them.

While not meant as a game per se, after more experimentation including work by Gabe Miller and Dustin Williams, this interactive display method was finally turned into a virtual air hockey table via a giant crisscrossing grid of copper tape and wires.

In the game, two players push a virtual puck projected onto a horizontal surface for colorful AR interactions at a very low cost. You can see it in action below, and read more about the project on DigiPen’s website and in Gamasutra’s recent article.

Arduino Blog

Alexa, play me an ad that I don’t want to hear (said no one ever)

Here’s a good news, (potentially) bad news story.

First the good news: Even though it typically doesn’t provide sales numbers for its product lines, Amazon touted record purchases of Alexa-enabled products this holiday season.

Given how mainstream and relatively inexpensive Echo and Fire TV devices are, that’s not a surprise. I’d expect record sales over last year’s numbers for those reasons. However, a recent Amazon press release did give us some inkling of the sales figures, which are impressive:

[T]ens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices sold worldwide. Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote were not only the top-selling Amazon devices this holiday season, but they were also the best-selling products from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.

The company also noted that usage of Alexa on Fire TV is up 889% in the U.S. since last year. Clearly we’re getting close to the point where it might be odd not to see or talk to an Echo or Fire TV in most households. Again, great news for Amazon.

Now for the potential bad news: With a fast growing user base across all types of households, Amazon is looking forward to further monetization of its Echo products. And that may come in the form of Alexa voicing more spoken ads or product promotions to you and your family members. A report from CNBC shares limited details of discussions between Amazon and top-tier consumer brands such as Procter & Gamble as well as Clorox.

I say this is possible bad news from a consumer standpoint, mainly because we seem to go in cycles with digital advertising: Every time a new device, medium or service hits the big time, annoying ads typically follow. I can’t get through a few Instagram photos, for example, without seeing some sponsored product. That wasn’t an issue when Instagram was building an audience, but once it did, the ad revenue started flowing. I don’t want to see the same thing happen with Alexa-enabled devices for a few reasons.

While they’re often an necessary evil, ads can be annoying. I’m now trained to generally ignore them when surfing the web at this point. (Yes, I know I could use an ad-blocker.) But that training essentially took years of using the web before ads essentially became so invisible to me that I just focus in on actual web content.

How will that work with voice, though? Not well, unless Amazon provides noise cancelling headphones with every Echo or Fire TV sold, which of course won’t happen. So Amazon will be walking a very fine line if it decides to ramp up spoken ads on Alexa-enabled devices. Too much “in your face” advertising and Amazon runs the risk of upsetting its customer base. Will those folks abandon the U.S.S. Alexa and get on board with Google, Microsoft or Apple? Probably not but Amazon prides itself on keeping customers happy, so this is risky business at best.

Amazon could integrate contextually relevant voice ads with spoken queries, but I’m not a fan of that. If I say I want to buy a Brand A toothbrush, I don’t want Alexa to tell me about Brand B.

It’s possible that companies could sponsor certain Alexa Skills, which would be decent approach in my opinion. After all, users choose to install a Skill or not, just like they choose to install mobile apps with or without ads. That puts some of the power in the hands of end users because they’ll know for sure if they can expect advertising or not from their personal assistant.

I’m also wondering if Amazon decides to replicate its advertising options on Kindle readers and tablets: You could pay less for an Alexa-enabled device in return for some limited amount of (hopefully not too intrusive) advertising. If you want to squelch the ads, you simply pay the small “upgrade” fee to be rid of them. Since some Echo devices are so inexpensive, I couldn’t see this working on an Echo Dot or Fire TV Stick. But a full sized Amazon Echo Plus or Echo Show? The numbers could work.

We’ll have to see how this all plays out of course. I suspect Amazon is very carefully weighing its options on this front. In the meantime, I’m going to converse a little more than usual with Alexa now so I can enjoy an ad-free experience.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Read the time and play games on this Arduino-based word clock

If you’ve been interested in creating a word clock for your home, then perhaps this neat build by “oliverb” will be the perfect place to start.

The clock, powered by an Arduino Nano along with a RTC module, is capable of displaying the time by spelling it out as you expect, or can use the letters as a matrix in order to show the time in digital format. These letter-dots can even be configured to form an “analog” clock if you prefer.

But that’s not all. The device can reveal the temperature and humidity, as well as play games like Tetris. Be sure to see it in action below!

Arduino Blog

Pitney Bowes and Arrow Electronics team up for public sector IoT play

At a time when public sector authorities globally are facing challenges to make smarter infrastructure, Pitney Bowes and Arrow Electronics have teamed up to help them in the task with the help of Internet of Things (IoT).

As part of an agreement signed by the two companies, they will help public authorities in gathering, processing and analysing data collected through IoT devices to enhance physical infrastructure efficiencies.

The collaboration will introduce to the market a new solution that will help Pitney’s Confirm Intelligent Infrastructure Management solution and the Arrow Connect platform to promptly, efficiently and securely process and analyse IoT-generated data collected via Arrow’s broad spectrum of infrastructure sensors. In addition, the collaboration will help organisations in connecting their traffic-flow monitoring systems into the Arrow Connect platform to expose issues or abnormalities related to traffic speed.

Mark Taylor, SVP of software channels at Pitney Bowes, said: “Arrow’s IoT capability spans design, build and device management across purpose-built IoT solutions and employs some of the best engineers in the world for connected technologies. This collaboration with Arrow allows Pitney Bowes to offer a more robust, IoT-ready infrastructure management solution on a global scale.”

Aiden Mitchell, VP of global IoT solutions at Arrow Electronics, said: “The Pitney Bowes Confirm Intelligent Infrastructure Management solution already services 45% of the UK road network and 140 million citizens worldwide. Pitney Bowes has a proven track record in Infrastructure Management and our partnership will bring scale to their ability to collect and process IoT data and turn it into real insight. Our alliance will create a pathway for our clients to create a truly smarter world to live in.”

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Nokia teaming up with Bosch for industrial IoT play

Nokia has entered into a strategic partnership with Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions to make it feasible for enterprises and communications service providers to easily deploy industrial IoT solutions from sensors through to applications.

The initial work will focus on asset tracking, predictive maintenance and environmental monitoring use cases. Both companies are currently conducting several customer trials in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and commercially available solutions expected in early 2018.

Nokia will be providing its IoT connectivity, IMPACT/Netguard secure IoT Cloud platform and WING for IoT connectivity services by leveraging the ecosystem of mobile operators and sensing services, whereas Bosch will provide smart connected sensor devices to enable industrial customers to improve their overall equipment efficiency and safety.

These devices measure and transmit relevant environmental data based on high-quality Bosch MEMS sensors embedded in an energy-efficient architecture. The partnership will enable easier and more rapid development of solutions designed for large logistics providers, operators and industrial players.

In another strategic collaboration, Nokia and Amazon Web Services (AWS) will expedite the migration of service provider applications to the cloud and drive digital innovation for large enterprise customers. As sister publication CloudTech reported, the two companies will bring together a unique and powerful set of solutions that will enable service providers to implement cloud strategies faster leveraging Nokia's expertise in wireless, wireline and 5G technologies.

Solutions such as the Nokia SD-WAN and its IMPACT IoT platform – along with AWS Greengrass, machine learning and artificial intelligence services – will help large organisations that require fully managed connectivity to access cloud infrastructure, and fully integrated IoT and analytics solutions to enhance their productivity and ease of digitalisation.

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