Javascript on devices #2 – 21/01/14

On Tuesday, I went to my second JS on devices meetup. Like the first one, it was full of really useful information and cool tech. It also really showed off the ease of using javascript across a range of devices. Alex did a really great job organising this. It’s also nice to see companies (like Badoo in this case) hosting these kinds of events and enabling great discussions.

Enough of the fluff though. Now for the meat. There were three separate talks – about quite different devices.

Google glass

Radek started off the evening by talking about Google glass.

Interestingly, this was the least technical of the talks. A fair amount of it was focussed on introducing us – the audience – to the device and its capabilities. My guess is that this is because Google glass is in a sense the device most foreign to a tech audience. The user experience is clearly completely different to normal computers, mobile phones, other (sensor based) embedded devices. It also felt like the USB connection-based video feed to Google glass did not manage to fully convey the actual experience of using it. Radek had to work quite hard to bridge the gap to the actual experience!
I’d really love to take one of these for a spin, but at $1500 to join the developer community, it is quite steep and a big investment. Still, some of the things which he showed were extremely cool.

On the tech side, Radek briefly introduced two different ways of developing for Glass: A mirror rest API and the more traditional Glass SDK, GDK. The latter is a close sibling of the Android SDK, but still very much under active development with new releases happening every month.

Radek also had to spend some time justifying glass as a separate device (as opposed to, say, a mobile). His argument was that Google Glass solves the attention problem that many people struggle with. I.e. glasses notify you about important events without distracting you too much from your day to day activities. Working with Google Glass is not as disruptive as getting your phone out. Personally, I have to admit that I still have to be convinced, but – still – I would love to try one!

Run Javascript on Arduino – what, why and how

In the second talk, Alex spoke about how to run javascript on the Arduino. You can find his slides here. He first spent some time giving us some Arduino context which, as an Arduino noob, I found very helpful: He talked about things like the different types of Arduinos and the different extensions (“shields”) you can get for an Arduino. It made me very much want to get one – especially because I don’t know nearly enough about the hardware/circuit side of things and this would really force me to catch up with it.

In terms of running javascript on the Arduino (the title of the talk), the approach Alex presented was that of running a javascript wrapper library on a computer which allows you to abstract the actual hardware instructions. I believe the words “Johny five” and “Noduino” might be appropriate here!

The downside, of course, is that in this setup the Arduino needs to be connected to a computer. However, Alex pointed out that this means that you can leverage the computing power and other in-built facilities (e.g. wifi) from the machine.

Nodecopter

Finally, Andrew talked a little bit about Nodecopter. You can find his slides here. Nodecopter is a project which managed to run NodeJS on Parrot’s AR drone 2.0. This drone has got some pretty cool facilities: Front and bottom camera, 4 rotors, ultrasound sensors, 1ghz ARM cpu with 512mb of storage. It is also a flying router – it shows up as an unsecured hotspot.

Andrew showed some pretty awesome hacks for this drone:

  • Controlling the drone via a dance mat
  • Controlling the drone via a Kinect
  • Virus copter

He also talked a little about two different ways of operating the drone: one loading a node cross compiler on to the drone and then loading javascript files via ftp or USB stick so that these can be executed on the drone without needing to interact with the drone over its wifi network, the other of loading different javascript files on to the device and interacting with it that way.

Altogether a pretty awesome evening with exciting talks about three very different, but very cool devices!

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