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Thinking about Glass Development

This weekend, I'm getting together with a long time friend and software developer with whom I've worked on many interesting projects. We'll spend some time thinking and talking about what could be done using Google Glass.

I've commented to people that Glass is still a prototype and there isn't a lot out there for it yet. You can send pictures and videos to Google+ Twitter, Facebook, Evernote and probably a few other locations. You can get limited notifications from Twitter, Gmail, CNN and the New York Times. You can search information and get directions. I did find a fitness app being developed which I tested once and should test more when I get a chance.

Currently, I've been using an app called FieldTrip on my Android phone. When I am near a location of interest, a message pops up on the phone about the location. This would be a nice app on Glass, especially if you could select different topics your interested in having pop up. My understanding is that Ingress uses the FieldTrip framework, so getting Glass to send me a pop up message when I'm near an Ingress Portal would be very nice. Adding filters, so it would only pop up if the portal was a certain level or controlled by a certain faction would also be nice. Advanced features might be to look for specific portal owners, mods, etc., sort of like some of the stuff in Ingress Intel Total Conversion.

There is a development platform, which on first glance appears somewhat limited, but has potential. One of the things I'm particularly interested in building frameworks. I've worked a lot in Drupal over the years, so I'm interested in a Drupal module that would allow for the easy access of nodes via Glass. I'm also interested in some sort of Wiki for Glass. At work, we use Microsoft's Sharepoint as well as Microsoft's Analysis Services, Cubes. A framework for accessing Sharepoint or Cubes would also be very nice.

Making it so the Drupal nodes, the Wiki entries or Sharepoint pages could be geotagged and pop up in a FieldTrip like App would be really nice. Ideally, a FieldTrip app, or something related, which could pop up messages from any selected set of sources would be particularly cool. For work, my interest in data in the cube is not particularly geocoded. However, I did some experimenting with PostGIS a while ago and having a Postgres, or other database that could have geocoded data and pop up messages from that data could be very interesting. For example, MySQL with OpenGIS extensions support a distance calculations. For a starting point on this, I looked at New UDF for MySQL 5.1 provides GIS functions distance_sphere() and distance_spheroid()

Imagine census data, population health data, or health disparity data in a geocoded database. When you enter an area where some data point meets a certain criteria, a popup shows up on Glass.

"Woodbridge, CT: Zip 06525, 2010 Population 8,990 41.9% Graduate or Professional Degree, 22.4% Italien"

For that matter, a Fact Finder Google Glass App would be very interesting.

I suspect a lot of this stuff would be fairly easy to develop using the existing Mirror API. As an aside, I should really spend a little time getting up to speed in Go and Google's App Engine.

However, there are lots of other aspects of Glass that I'd love to see developed, which probably go beyond what you can do with the Mirror API. I don't know how much computing power is available on Glass, but I'd be very interested in seeing if Glass could do Eulerian Video Magnification. The health care applications would be fascinating.

I also like to think of Glass in terms of the larger set of technologies I'll refer to as wearable computing. I include things like the Pebble Watch and Fitbit. Imagine the capabilities of Glass, Pebble, and Fitbit combined into one device. You could go for a run, see your course, distance, speed and splits. You could add in information, like for a race course, how far you are to the next water stop, or how your doing against other people using the same device. It could monitor your heartbeat, perhaps even your blood oxygen levels, and give you warnings if you are over exerting yourself, or perhaps encouragement to push harder if you aren't exerting yourself as much as you should.

There's plenty more to think about for Glass Development, but these are a few of my starting interests. What do you think?

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Players Who Suit Ingress

In 1996, Richard Bartle wrote and article, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs in which he explored four basic player types in text based virtual reality games called MUDs or Multi-User Dungeons. He summarizes these types as follows:

So, labelling the four player types abstracted, we get: achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. An easy way to remember these is to consider suits in a conventional pack of cards: achievers are Diamonds (they're always seeking treasure); explorers are Spades (they dig around for information); socialisers are Hearts (they empathise with other players); killers are Clubs (they hit people with them).

He uses this to explore ideas like game stability and player interactions and recently, I've been wondering how this relates to the Augmented Reality game, Ingress.

In Ingress, players interact with one another, destroying opponents portals, fortifying portals that other faction members have captured, recharging portals, exchanging gear, etc. There is an achievement aspect in terms of what level one is and how much gear one as accumulated.

I suspect that the player styles may change as people level up as well as when an area gets more players of one faction or another, and that each player has a little bit of each style.

For example, I probably started off primarily as an achiever, seeking treasure and trying to level up. Once I reached Level 8 in Ingress, which is currently the highest level possible, my focus on seeking treasure has diminished, but I still seek a basic amount of treasure. Now that I'm Level 8, I tend to move more towards being an explorer or a socializer. I like exploring new areas and I like interacting with players.

I've met some players who fit very nicely in the into the socializer category, always dropping inventory for new players and helping them get started. I've ran into players who remain very focusing on achievement, trying to build up Level 8 farms, and gather as much gear as they can from them. I've run into others that focus mostly on tearing down other people's farms.

Another component of Ingress is establishing links and fields. With this there are several different styles, that I haven't really figured out how they best fit to Bartle's model. Some people rarely link, or create links to support a farm. Others create long wild links, which make it difficult for others to link but don't serve any other apparent purposes. These links are used to establish fields. Some people establish large fields, mostly as an achievement, which the killers take down as soon as possible. Others create lots of small fields, overlapping as much as possible.

Bartle spends a bit of time talking about interactions between different styles of players and it is useful to read through the section, think about what sort of player you are, what sort of players are around you in your faction, and what sort of players are in the opposing faction. It may provide insights that can make the game more fun for players, no matter what style they adopt.

So, do you play Ingress? What style of player are you? What style of players are around you in your faction? What style of players dominate the opposing faction? How do these insights change the way you approach the game? Or, do you think Bartle's ideas don't translate to Ingress? Is there something that better explains player interactions? Let me know your thoughts.

Glass Log - Day Thirteen

On Friday, June 14th, I went into New York City and to pick up Google Glass. It was a quick, uneventful trip. The Glass office on the eighth floor of Chelsea Markets had all the feel of a trendy New York City creative space sparsely decorated with tall ceilings a large windows looking out over the meat packing district.

After picking up Google Glass, I stopped by at the Apple Store next door. One of the sales people asked a bit about glass and we talked about the prospects for it. I then head dinner with two of my co-workers as we discussed how we hope to use Glass at work.

My initial reactions is that it reminded me of when I picked up an Apple Newton twenty years ago. For those who don't remember the Apple Newton, it was a handheld device, the precursor to the personal digital assistant and ultimately the smartphone. It is probably only a small number of older early adopting geeks that remember the Apple Newton, and I wouldn't be surprised that Glass will be remembered in the same way two decades hence.

Most people I've met have been fascinated by Glass, though some express concern about privacy. One person tweeted, "If you're wearing Glass, you've turned yourself into a sense organ for a corporate being. Not even a metaphor, that's the real situation."

I responded, "I, for one, welcome our new #glass providing overlords." I'll the discussions of the new form of the social contract in the digital world for a later time. I believe there is value to Glass if you use it with your eyes wide open.

Over on Facebook and Google+ there has been more of the discussion about facial recognition. Personally, I would be a big fan of facial recognition on Glass, even if it were only opt-in. If I see one of my thousands of friends, followers, or connections from Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Twitter, I'd love to be reminded of who they are and how I know them.

The facial recognition would also be great for a politicians. Imagine working a crowd and being able to tell if the person you are speaking with has written to your office about an issue, has donated or volunteered for your campaign, or other information like that.

By the time I got on the train home, that first day, the battery had died. After trying to recharge it, I found Glass would not start back up. I spent much of Saturday talking on the phone with folks at Google, trying to find ways to restart Glass. By Monday, the decision was to RMA it. Now came the issue of how to do this. Normally, they ask people to return to where they got Google Glass and swap it. It is about a two and a half hour trip if I drive into the city, longer, but more comfortable, if I take the train. So, we explored other ways to do the exchange.

For people that live a long distance from a Google Glass store, they can get a new pair shipped, and then return their broken pair. All they need to do is allow Google to put a hold for $1,500 on their personal credit card. I don't have that sort of money to spare, and they wouldn't take a hold on a corporate card, so on Tuesday, I headed back into New York to get a new pair.

This pair has worked much better. I've taken pictures and videos, I've gotten information via Google Now, the New York Times, CNN, Twitter, and email. I've started to explore the development environment.

I recently received a survey from Google about how I use and like glass. As a wearable communications device, I really like it. The sound quality is not all that good for doing phone calls, or listening to information, but it is good enough to get alerts. The screen is okay, but I worry that if I used it a lot, I might get eye strain.

That said, when someone else isn't borrowing Google Glass, which happens a lot, I wear it almost all the time.

What will the replacement for Google Glass look like? Will it include other health monitoring tools like pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, etc, combining the best aspects of other wearable input devices, like Fitbit? Will it become smaller and even less noticeable?

I'll keep experimenting with Google Glass and talking with others doing the same. What do you think?

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Ok, Glass… Hack Portal … Geek Cred Restored, Good Work

Ok, Glass…

This box is 100% paper. So use it to write a letter to your Grandma. Or at least, please, recycle it. All of it.

That's what it says on the side of the box my Google Glass came in. Perhaps it says something about the demographic Google is targeting for their Explorer program.

Google Glass is a pair of glasses you can wear with a little screen above your line of site you can use to communicate online. It connects with your cellphone, with BlueTooth and Wifi. It has a camera you can take pictures with and a speaker you can listen to things with. It takes voice commands and you can send additional commands by touching the side of the Google Glass.

The Explorer program is for about 8,000 people that responded on social media; Twitter or Google+ about what they would do with Google Glass. Back in February, I tweeted,

#ifihadglass I'd look to improve #healthequity using augmented reality for Public Health and #fqhc

They liked the quote and invited me to join the Glass Explorer program. I told people at work and they were very excited. They kept asking me when I would get Google Glass. I waited and waited. Finally, on June 5th, I got a message from Google:

Your Glass is now ready! Please purchase within 14 days. Follow this link to pay and schedule your pickup:

Yesterday, I joined two of my coworkers in New York to pick up Google Glass.

Hack Portal
I caught the train from Milford, CT. Before I got on the train, I stopped to capture some enemy portals in the game, Ingress. Ingress is an augmented reality game for cellphones developed by a NianticLabs at Google. As you walk around an area, you see an overlay of game pieces on you cellphone. There are portals which are controlled by two different teams, the resistance, sometimes called Smurfs, since their color is blue, and the enlightened, sometimes called frogs since their color is green. If you destroy an enemy portal and capture it for your team, you gain points. Your level in the game is based on the number of points you've accumulated. I was about 90,000 points away from reaching Level 8, the highest level currently possible in the game. I gained about 30,000 points in Milford waiting for the train.

There are many Ingress portals in New York City, and everyone said I should easily be able to gain the remaining 60,000 points there. Yet I didn't have a lot of time. Along the way, I captured a few portals and then visited my brother, who was already Level 8. He gave me some items for the game that would help me reach Level 8.

I met with my co-workers and we discussed how we would use Google Glass in health care. This is a discussion just getting going. We sat down for my Google Glass fitting. My account was set up for Google Glass, connecting it with features on my cellphone. We tested out various features and details about Glass were explained. It was all very exciting.

To activate Google glass, you tap the side of the glass, or glance upwards. Then, to send a command, you start with, "Ok, Glass…" You then tell Glass the command you want. Take a picture. Record a video. You can also send messages, call people, look things up in Google, get directions, and join a Google Hangout. There was not an option to "Hack Portal".

On my way to the train station, I captured a few more portals. Down to 30,000 points needed to achieve Level 8. I could have easily reached level 8 if my battery hadn't died on my cellphone. It appears as if the battery also died on my Google Glass. On the train, I plugged both of the devices in to recharge and had a good discussion with people sitting next to me on the train about Google Glass.

With Glass partly charged, I tried to power it up, but I get a blank screen. I'll get back to that later.

I arrived in Milford and found that all the portals I had captured in the morning had been recaptured by the opposing team during the day. This was actually fortunate for me. My phone was now about half recharged, and there were plenty of portals to try and recapture. Using some of the items my brother gave me, I quickly gained the remaining 30,000 points and reached Level 8, even though members of the opposing team appears to be actively trying to stop me from capturing their portals.

Geek Cred Restored

The past year has been a challenge for me. I ran for State Representative. I often tell people that I didn't get elected, but I won. I won by talking with people about issues like education and health care, about the failures of test based education and about the inequities in our health care system. I did my fellowship in the Connecticut Health Foundation's Health Leadership Fellows Program. I mourned the death of my mother, and through all of it tried go be a good husband, father, and employee.

At the same time, I have been trying to spend more time writing, improving my craft. Yet with all of this, I've spent less time on more geeky pursuits. My old linux based Nokia N900 cellphone is on its last legs. I played a little bit with Raspberry Pi, but not a lot more.

When you capture a portal in Ingress, the game voice says, "Portal Captured, Good Work". Even though can't hack a portal with Glass, the combination of getting Google Glass and reaching Level 8 in Ingress, perhaps, restores a little geek cred.

"Good Work."
My mother was born in 1931. The youngest of seven children. Her mother was born in 1897, 116 years ago. I was the next to the youngest of my siblings, so my grandmother was 62 when I was born. My father's mother had died of cancer before I was born, so I never got to meet her.

My earliest memories of my grandmother are from when she and her husband lived in a small house in central Massachusetts. She would have been in her late sixties or early seventies. My grandfather would have been in the living room, watching a ball game on a small old black and white TV. He would offer us candies. My grandmother would be in the kitchen with her daughters, preparing the food for the family gathering. I would be running around with my siblings and cousins. With the exception of my younger sister, everyone would be older, perhaps much older.

My mother's mother died on flag day, June 14th, 1977. Yesterday was flag day, the thirty sixth anniversary of my grandmother's death. She died before cellphones, the internet or digital photography became ubiquitous. So, I won't be writing a letter to her on the box that my Google Glass came in. All of this is from a much different world. Yet what remains the same is the importance of being connected with one another, through pictures and videos shared via Google Glass, through getting together with people who have a shared interest in a game, whether it be golf, tennis, or Ingress.

Ingress, Field Trip and Glass

In one of the Google+ communities for Ingress players, a friend linked to the article, Deep inside Ingress, the Google-made game that's paving the way for Glass with the comment, "We're not sure how to make money on this."

I don't know who the 'we' he was referring to was. Google? His own business? I started to write a reply in the Google+ community, but it started growing so I decided to turn it into a blog post.

I'm not sure how much Google is looking at this in terms of being an immediate money maker, and a few different things come to mind. First, many technology pundits thought Google was nuts to pay as much as they did for YouTube when they bought it for $1.65 billion. Reports are that in 2012, YouTube had $3.6 billion in revenue.

Google seems to take a long view. They are well known for their twenty percent time. Google employees are allowed to spend twenty percent of their time working on projects that aren't necessarily in the in the employee's job description.

I don't know if Niantic Labs grew out of twenty percent time. I don't know how much Google has a long term plan for Ingress, Field Trip, Glass, etc., but I find all of them fascinating. Let's start off with Ingress. People have noted that there are many Duane Reade's as portals in Ingress. Did Duane Reade pay to have all these portals? Will other companies pay to have their locations host Ingress portals?

Yet Ingress is much more than portals at locations. There is a complicated multimedia backstory. There are YouTube videos, ebooks, and more. Will it lead to a best selling book? A feature length movie? An art exhibit? Will it change the way we relate to media? I must admit, I haven't followed the storyline that closely, but the implications for the future of media are fascinating.

People have linked Ingres to Glass. I expect to pick up my Google Glass next Friday. I had to pay for the Glass with my Google Wallet. Most of the discussions about Glass are taking place in Google+. It is a good way of getting people to use more Google products. The possibilities of Google Glass seem endless and I'll be exploring these more, both in my personal blog and my work blog.

This leads me to Field Trip. I just downloaded Field Trip and at first glance, it looks really interesting. As I've thought about Google Glass, I've been thinking about something along the lines of Field Trip, with a few specific tweaks. For example, I'd love to see a geocoded wiki which could be accessed through an app like Field Trip. Anyone could leave tips about places, links to other information, a sort of friendly twenty first century version of hobo code. Of course, I'd also like to see specialized databases, such as one that provides census data, FBI data, or health data about communities a person is traveling through.

So, how do individuals, not working for Google make money off of this? Well, there are a few different things that come to mind. It used to be that if you wanted to do business with someone, you would grab a bag of golf clubs and walk with that person around a golf course. One day, I got a call from a friend of my brother who is a financial planner. There was family business to discuss. He, my brother and I are all Ingress players, and that's how my brother and he met. Forget the golf clubs, grab a cellphone, maybe a spare battery pack, and head to the nearest collection of portals.

For me, I always try to stay on top of what is emerging. Somethings don't make it. Others do. Will Ingress, Field Trip and/or Glass make it? I can't tell, but I find them all very compelling. So, I'll keep exploring them. Perhaps enhancing my reputation as an early adopter, perhaps leading to opportunities to work with developing something else new and interesting. That may be a little vague, but may fit with Google's strategy.

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