Entries related to technology.

Glitter Beards, Tech Tats, and the Quantified Self

I’ve never been a big one for makeup, tattoos, are various forms of body decorations, but recently, Kim shared a post about glitter beards and I was curious about how they get the glitter to stay in their beards.

One of the first sites I came to talked about latex body paint. That’s not something I want to use in my beard. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get the paint out. However, rereading the article, it appears as if they were using latex body paint for people that don’t have beards to make a faux-glitter beard. A later article suggested that beard oil, hair oil, or even hairspray would do the trick.

I’m not sure when I would glitter my beard. It just isn’t a decoration I would normally wear. Perhaps if I were doing something special with my three daughters, I would consider it, but one is in Japan, one is in Boston, and one is at home, so I don’t foresee any opportunity to glitter my beard for them, and I really don’t think glittering my beard for work parties, political gatherings, etc., really fits. Maybe an Ingress gathering, but I’d have to have green glitter.

Putting aside beard glittering, I stumbled across an interesting article: “Tech Tats” Turn Wearable Devices into Cyberpunk Body Art. It pointed to work Chaotic Moon is doing in this area. It looks very interesting, but appears to be still more of a concept than a product.

The stories about Tech Tats often lead to discussions about the quantified self. This is an area I’m really interested in, merging my health care work and my technology interests. I probably won’t make it to the Quantified Self Meetup in NYC in December, but I’m following what they are doing.

For two years, I wore Google Glass, and while I found it interesting and somewhat useful, the biggest thing I found lacking was any sort of useful sensors. I would like wearable device that could track activity level, heart rate, blood pressure, O2 level, blood sugar levels, cortisol levels, etc. I would like to know how these change during a normal day. I’d like to have a baseline so that if my averages start shifting, I could be notified to investigate what might be going on.

I played with the Samsung Gears for a little bit and didn’t find it all that compelling. I’ve looked at the Withings Pulse O2, but it needs to be manually engaged to do a reading. It doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time.

All of this takes me back to the Tech Tats. Is it possible to build a continuous O2 monitor as a Tech Tat? What about continuous monitors for blood sugar or cortisol?

So, I looked a little more closely at the idea behind Tech Tats. It seems as if part of what they are using, at least for the prototypes is BarePaint - Conductive Paint. This paint comes with a warning,

Note: Bare Paint is not meant for use on skin!

Note: Bare Paint is not waterproof, but depending on what your application is you can paint over it with a waterproof paint or varnish. On the bright side this does make for easy cleanup.

Perhaps, you could paint a layer of latex body paint, then paint the circuits using conductive paint, and then paint over the circuits to make them water proof.

A simple idea would be to paint circuits that could be connected or not based on touching fingers together. These could be very simple circuits that light up LEDs when circuits are connected. They could even, potentially, be multi-person circuits; one person with the battery, others with LEDs.

Then, there is the idea of adding logic to the circuits. It seems like the ATtiny85 and related devices could easily be part of tech tats and provide the logic.

Of course, some of the real fun could come if you start adding Bluetooth to connect to a mobile device, RFID paint, or NFC connectivity. All of this, probably moves more in the direction of programmable highly interactive makeup for fancy parties, and not so much for quantified self experimentation, but it could be a stepping stone.

The Samuel Baldwin Memorial Ingress Portal

The cars zoomed by
the large rock
with the rusting bronze
and the small American Flag
planted by the D.A.R.

No one,
except for the town historian,
an avid genealogist,
who served on the school board,
knew anything
about this
revolutionary war
the first cousin
of her fourth great grandfather
on her mother’s side.

But now,
late at night
young men with cellphones
stop beside the monument
a twenty first century
game of war.

Note: This was written for a writers prompt to describe a landmark. I took a different angle on this and described the landmark, first in terms of the actual, someone obscure landmark, and then brought in aspects of the game Ingress, played on cellphones, in which landmarks are ‘portals’ in the game.


For my birthday, I got a bluetooth OBDII adapter. OBDII is the second revision of the on board diagnostic systems used in most cars today. It is probably best known in terms of the scanner that is used to figure out why the check engine light is on. However, it can also be used for all kinds of diagnostics.

The specific Bluetooth OBD11 adapter I got was made by BAFX. It is a fairly inexpensive adapter. I paired it with my Samsung Galaxy G4 phone and ran two apps.

The first app was Torque Lite. Torque seems to be the most popular app for Android devices talking with cars over OBDII Bluetooth adapters. My gearhead friends may find the information Torque provides interesting, but mostly, I used it as a test to make sure the adapter was working.

The app I was more interested in is MyGreenVolt. It is designed for volts, focusing on electricity consumption, battery temperature, Miles per kWh and stuff like that.

On my initial test, it seems not to run well in the background, which is how I had hoped to run it. The idea being that I would gather the data, and then analyze it later when I’m not driving. Fortunately, I have two cell phones, so I started running it on the phone I use less frequently.

So far, I’m getting about 4.4 miles/kWh. I’m not sure how that compares with others, and I’m not sure what I can do to get better mileage. I’ve only briefly looked at the data from the App and I expect that will be the next area I spend some time analyzing.

If any of you know other good resources on using OBDII with a Chevy Volt, let me know.

Random Ingress Thoughts

This evening, I’m going heading off to an Ingress event. Ingress is an augmented reality game played on smartphones that I’ve been playing and writing about for quite a while. I haven’t written much about it recently because there hasn’t been much to say. I still play regularly and meet with friends I’ve met through Ingress.

There are things I could say about my strategy, but Ingress is a team sport, and I don’t want to advertise my strategy to people on the other team that might take advantage of knowing how I approach playing. I could talk about various milestones. I’m level 15 out of 16 levels. I’ve walked over 1800 kilometers playing the game. People who play Ingress mostly know this already and it probably doesn’t mean much to those that don’t play Ingress.

One of the things I was very interested in, when I started playing, was the story line of the game, but I never got as caught up in the story as I thought I would. I’ve also mostly chosen to simply play and not get involved in some of the drama. There is a lot of drama between players in the game.

It raises some interesting questions about how you manage the community around a multi-player game. I touch on this in a post on an Ingress related forum the other day, but haven’t really thought out the details. This is probably an area well worth the research, and I wonder if any of my old Internet Research friends are starting to do studies on Ingress.

Teaching Cultural Competency to Digital Immigrants

Working in health care, I often come across the phrase, Cultural Competency the idea of providers delivering services that are respectful of the diverse cultural needs of the clients. Often, the cultures considered are ethnic or based on country of origin. However, there is an important culture that doesn’t get considered, digital culture.

In2001, Marc Prensky mapped out the digital culture divide in his seminal work, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. He focuses more on educational methodology and content, but it is interesting to think of this in terms of cultural competency.

When I was young, the telephone hung on a wall in the kitchen. If the phone rang, you answered it. It was rude not to answer the phone. Then came answering machines and caller id and it became culturally acceptable to screen calls.

Now, I hear digital natives telling their parents it is rude not to respond immediately to a friend’s text message. The cultural shifts continue. To use the phrase from Linda Stone, today’s digital natives are expected to pay Continuous Partial Attention to their digital peers. Asking them to do otherwise is to ask them to violate the rules of their culture.

There are times when we have to choose which culture’s rules we are going to follow, but we have to remember if we are providing services to members of a certain culture to seek follow the rules of the culture we are serving. If you can’t, you need to at least be aware of how you are violating the rules and seek ways to mitigate this. Whatever the situation, it is important to stop and consider to what extent we find a behavior objectionable because of the social context we grew up in and how others might find our behaviors objectionable.

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