Previewing Pin Explorer for Kinoma Create at MIT

Peter Hoddie
  

Peter Hoddie

January 20, 2015

This past Thursday, I spoke at the IoT Festival hosted at The MIT Sloan School of Management. The IoT Festival is a weeklong event, including a hackathon for a select group of students of varying disciplines.

iotFest

BeagleBone

I co-keynoted the event on Thursday with Jason Kridner, co-founder of BeagleBone.org. Jason gave a thorough introduction to the BeagleBone product line and ecosystem. He is refreshingly open about the choices the BeagleBone team has made in their hardware design. Jason is an evangelist for hardware and software openness, as well as the use of scripting (particularly JavaScript) in prototyping and making. I now have a much deeper appreciation for the BeagleBone.

beagle board

Introducing Kinoma Create

I then introduced Kinoma Create to an audience that had never seen one before. A student remarked that it reminded him of a Nintendo product, reaffirming our goal design goal of making Kinoma Create fun and approachable. One of the wonderful things about an audience in Cambridge/Boston is their openness to new ideas. As I presented the many distinguishing capabilities of Kinoma Create, I could feel the energy and interest in the room rise.

Unknown-5

NFC + SomaFM + PubNub = fun demo

Early in the presentation, I demonstrated an IoT concept created by the Kinoma team. I’m a fan of SomaFM, an eclectic internet radio broadcaster, so the concept started with our SomaFM sample app. We wired an NFC card reader into Kinoma Create over an I2C connection. Next, we took plain white NFC cards, printed out the station logo for SomaFM on heavy paper, and glued them to the cards. Then we modified our SomaFM Radio sample code so that it automatically tunes into whatever SomaFM station card is nearest to Kinoma Create. The station plays as long as the card is detected, stopping when the card is removed. It is a very cool, very casual way to select music to play, almost like putting a record on a turntable, but now touchless and nearly instantaneous.

create-somafm-nfc

Our team also modified our SomaFM app to publish the now-playing station to the cloud using our KinomaJS port of the PubNub SDK, allowing anyone in the world to visit a web page to see what station I’m listening to. I then briefly walked through the JavaScript code to show how everything – the NFC I2C driver, user interface, cloud access, internet radio streaming – was implemented.

pubnub

The SomaFM NFC demo shows the value of all the hardware built into Kinoma Create. It used the screen to show the app user interface, the pin headers to wire in the NFC reader, Wi-Fi to communicate with SomaFM and the PubNub, and speaker to play the music. And all that hardware is readily scriptable from our KinomaJS framework.

Previewing Pin Explorer

Pin Explorer is the latest application for Kinoma Create, which we’re just about to launch. IoT Festival attendees received its first public preview. Pin Explorer is an interactive tool that runs on Kinoma Create that combines some of the capabilities of an oscilloscope, signal generator, and volt-meter to help developers explore the capabilities of components wired into the Kinoma Create, and to debug their wiring before they begin coding.

pin explorer picframe

Pin Explorer is unique in the world of making. It is possible because of Kinoma Create’s built-in touch screen, allowing Kinoma Create to be a partner in your project development, not just the development target. I showed how Pin Explorer drives Digital outputs by blinking an LED (Maker 101!), how it can graph Analog inputs by graphing my heart rate using a Pulse Sensor, and how it automatically scans for connected I2C devices and then can read and write registers on those I2C devices using SMB using an combination Ambient Light / Proximity sensor. There’s much more that Pin Explorer can do. Kinoma Create developers are going to have a lot of fun using it.

DouZen Sushi

The KinomaJS framework that powers Kinoma Create can also power mobile apps. Kinoma Studio easily generates Android and iOS apps from your KinomaJS code. App developer DouZen has built some beautiful mobile apps using KinomaJS. Julian, their main programmer, joined the event to show their latest work. DouZen designs and implements beautifully fluid user experiences to visually navigate through large collections of data. They have applied their skills to create the Dynamic Sushi app now in the Apple App store. The only way to appreciate it is to see it, so download and explore. Beyond a beautiful demonstration, Julian shared a little bit of his KinomaJS programming experience. He has also contributed some animation samples to our sample code repository (Kangaroo Disco, Kangaroo Text) so you can learn some of his animation techniques.

douzen picframe

The people

The IoT Festival was organized by Brian DeLacey, whose skills at organizing fascinating technology events traces back to his work with the Boston Computer Society’s Mac user group. Brian started the event with an introduction that somehow managed to mention the venerable Multics operating system. We were then treated to an impromptu lecture on the history of Multics by Jon “maddog” Hall, who happened to be in attendance.

DeLacey MIT

At the end of the keynote presentations, Jason and I were joined by Bob Frankston and Oliver Steele to take questions from the audience. Bob is the original programmer for VisiCalc, arguably the application that launched the personal computer revolution. Bob has an incredibly well informed perspective on software development, and is generous in sharing his knowledge and experience. Oliver was a graphics engineer at Apple when I began working there. One of my early jobs was to test his code. He is among the most clear thinking, clear speaking software engineers you will meet. Earlier in the day he shared some of his experience working at Nest, including an overview of the hardware/software architecture of their first thermostat.

With Bob Frankston

Perhaps it is no surprise given Brian DeLacey’s guiding hand for this event, but it reminded me very much of the best of the Boston technology scene from my time at Boston University. The event attracted an incredibly intelligent, diverse group of individuals — industry legends, technology veterans, business people, students, and technology enthusiasts. They effortlessly and generously share their impressions, ideas, knowledge and experience with the simple goal of learning more and helping others.

Video Replay

The event was live-streamed, and is now available as a replay. Check it out.