We put water in the wave tanks today. After a few small adjustments, they seem to be operating very nicely. The process of filling and testing them drew a decent-sized crowd of curious youngsters.

At Mark’s urging, I tried to create an impressive tsunami in the smaller tank. A single, mighty heave barely produced a ripple.  This is good, as it means visitors with this goal will need to spend a few seconds fine-tuning their timing and rhythm to meet it. It is satisfying when you get a nice, even stream of deep waves marching down the trough.

Alan is in the process of testing out his wave energy demonstration device, which is essentially one of those electromagnetic flashlights you shake up to charge, with a float attached. It’s simple but effective, and it seems like common sense once you see it in action.


Two of our wave tanks arrived this morning.  The largest wave tank needs a little more time in the oven, so it should be arriving in a week or two.  I’ve spent more time crawling around in acrylic tanks than I have moving them, so I was a little surprised at the weight of the things.  They definitely feel solid.  With summer approaching, I’m sure they’ll get a thorough durability test in their first few months of service.


Take a look at this here Kickstarter campaign. “MaKey MaKey” is a device that promises to allow you to turn anything even slightly conductive into a key or mouse button. The principle is fairly simple:

“Alligator Clip two objects to the MaKey MaKey board. For example, you and an apple. When you touch the apple, you make a connection, and MaKey MaKey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks MaKey MaKey is a regular keyboard (or mouse). Therefore it works with all programs and webpages, because all programs and webpages take keyboard and mouse input.”

One inherent drawback is that if you intend to simply create and push a button (as in the above example), you must hold onto a wire or otherwise attach it to your body to complete the circuit. It’s a small thing, but it could put a damper on spontaneous interactions in a museum or science center setting (“Try this miraculous chess set piano!  Wait, let me tape this wire to your arm first…”). Of course, you can circumvent this problem fairly easily with a little ingenuity, and the designers show some examples of this.

Perhaps what I like most about this concept, aside from its obvious versatility, is its simplicity.  I’m pretty sure I could fix this thing if it broke, using only basic roadie troubleshooting skills. That’s more than can be said of some of the sleeker novel user interfaces out there. Exhibit malfunctions being one of life’s few absolute certainties, this is a pretty huge selling point.


Michael is now Dr. Liu.  Congratulations, Michael!

He delivered a great talk yesterday, which you can watch here.  Koi hobbyists are an unusual bunch.  When asked what is missing from the backyard, only a very special type of person would say “a hole filled with Cyprinid carp.”  Even fewer would feel the same way about the living room.  Michael managed to discern what inspires these people, and to lay it out in an easily-digestible way.

Mark located an ultra-cheap compact USB video camera and microphone online. By ultra-cheap, I mean $10. Laura clipped it to her shirt and gave it a quick trial run in the Visitor Center.

It had remarkably good resolution, but muffled audio quality beyond about two feet. Also, we found that a lapel-mounted camera moves a lot, making it hard to discern what the wearer is attending to.  This new gadget may have some use if affixed to an exhibit, but it doesn’t compete with the Looxcie as a visitor-mounted camera.

My favorite aspect of the product, however, is the instruction manual.  This document stands as a heroic failed attempt to translate coherent thoughts into the awkward and confusing linguistic soup we call “English.”

Here are some highlights:
-When you charge it, blue light and red light will bright simultaneously, of which states are stillness.
-Notice: when battery power is not enough, D001 will enter into protection mode, so it cannot be turn on.  Now, please charge for it.
-If you need to continue to video, please press Record/Stop button slightly once more.

Our other projects are moving along quickly.  The wave tanks should arrive next week.  The data collection cameras should in within two weeks.  If you haven’t seen Katie’s test run of the SMI eye-tracking system, you can watch a quick video of it here.