New Home at Idea Foundry Columbus


We are excited to announce that we have moved into our new location at the Idea Foundry in Columbus, Ohio! We couldn’t be more excited to collaborate with all of the entrepreneurs, inventors, makers, artists, and businesses that all work in the space with us. We won’t be alone in our new office either, we’ve partnered with Will Nickley of Safety Third Racing to help bring an authentic curriculum experience to the world of educational technologies, such as Drone Racing, robotics, and 3D printing.

As we ramp up our educational offerings and professional development programs, we are also hard at work on evening classes for adults and a number of inventions and concepts we are excited to bring to market. Having a location where we are surrounded by innovators makes this decision an easy one, and we can’t wait to see what our new home brings to our imagination and creativity!

KN001 Enters Prototype Stage

KN001
We’ve been busy! Our first potential product, code-named KN001, has jumped off the sketchpad and into the prototype stage. The initial concept proposal for KN001 stretches back almost 10 years, so we’re very excited to move ahead into a physical product we can hold.

From initial brainstorm paper sketches to the CAD program to the 3D printer took just over a week. Our first prototype gave us some ideas about future iterations and design decisions that we need to rethink, so we just made prototype number 2 and it came out great. We are using P2 (prototype 2) to incorporate the electronics and have begun coding the operation of the various systems involved using a combination of Arduino IDE code and Xcode Swift for the accompanying app. Next step is P3 with some additional design iterations and dimension changes to accommodate different electronics. We should have that one finished in CAD and printing by the end of the week!

KN001 3D

Brainstorm sketches using iPad Pro / Apple Notes
Initial rough model created in Sketchup
Slicer by Cura
Printed on a Lulzbot Mini
Coded using Ardiuno IDE and Apple Xcode

Learn to Code Games This Holiday


During this time of reflection, relaxing, and renewed goals, we like to spend time with our families and friends and unwind after a long year. Eventually, you’ll be asked about technology because you are the resident ‘computer person’ in the family and lately we’ve been fielding a lot of questions about coding. Where to go, which language to learn, what tools to use, etc.

I always start with this question: why do you want to code? The answer to this question will steer you in many directions, such as coding for mobile, coding for IoT, coding for database or websites, etc. The tools, language, and focus of your learning is slightly different for each one, so it’s important to have an idea going in.

For most of my younger friends and cousins, there is a strong desire around videogame development. And to that end, it is almost a 100% focus on mobile gaming because that’s where the casual gamers are at and they see a chance to make a dent with their ideas. So where does a person start to make mobile games if they’ve never coded before?

1. Swift Playgrounds for iOS

This incredible free iOS app is built from the ground up by Apple to teach the Swift coding language in a very fun, game-like environment. Swift is a quickly maturing open source language used in the development of iOS applications and this app will take you through the basics and challenge you along the way. I recommend this app to people just starting out with game coding, and it will give you a great sense of what coding in Swift is about and how you can use it to make games. And because Swift is open source, there are many ways you can apply this code to many other apps, even using it to make an Android version of your app!

2. Hour of Code Tutorials

The Hour of Code is an initiative to get every person to try coding for at least 1 hour. They have laid out a lot of different tutorials for people of all ages to try, many of them being games! If you are new to coding, these tutorials are a great place to start and give you a good idea about how you can manipulate the code to make the games do what you want. Many of the projects have a creative aspect too, which will focus on character design and graphics, which is where I find a lot of people enjoying doing more than the coding. Most successful teams and game developers need people who are both good at code and graphic design to create an exciting experience.

3. Stencyl / GameSalad / GameBlox

If you are having fun with code and are ready to start making an original game with your ideas, it’s time to start building your idea in a game engine. Websites like Stencyl, GameSalad, and GameBlox use block coding to make development easier so you can focus more on the graphics and design of your game world and worry less about the underlying code. By using ‘blocks’ to represent large chunks of code, these tools can make building your game easier by giving you access to complex commands in an easy to use manner by dragging and dropping the code to make it do what you want.

4. GameMaker Studio / Unity Game Engine

A step up from block coding in both complexity and features, these full featured game environments are more complicated but allow you to code and build a more advanced game by giving you access to better graphic and development tools. You’ll notice some of the top games on mobile are created using these tools, so they are very much ready for professional developers but can be used for free by people just starting out. However, tools like the Unity Game Engine and GameMaker Studio require you to learn new code languages and have a grasp for the way everything fits together, so they can be daunting to beginners. As I’ll mention below, there is an almost endless stream of help and tutorials for these platforms, so you shouldn’t be stuck for long. When you get comfortable, though, these tools allow you to take your game to the next level all the way to the app stores so you can unleash your awesome creations to the world.

5. YOUTUBE AND VIDEO!

Regardless of which tools or code languages you want to learn, there are thousands of tutorials on Youtube and video sites that can help you get started or solve problems you are having. Help is just a good search away. The open nature of modern game development means that everyone is sharing tips, sample code, and ideas to help you make more exciting games, so you should never be stuck for too long. From help forums and tutorials to demo games and assets, there is always somebody willing to help point you in the right direction, so don’t be afraid to ask, we were all beginners at some point!

The Big Life Fix is Incredible


It’s impossible for us not to feel intense emotion when watching the new BBC Two series called The Big Life Fix with Simon Reeve. Matching inventors and innovative studios with people who are facing incredible hurdles to express their creativity and ability to work is exactly what we at kneurons are all about. By identifying problems in the modern tools that make them hard to use for people with disabilities, the series aims to solve these setbacks with innovative solutions created by makers and inventors across the UK.

The first episode we watched, titled ‘The Invention That Helped Me Write Again’, shows how Haiyan Zhang and the Microsoft Innovation team worked with graphic designer Emma Lawton to create a system that counteracts her tremors from Parkinson’s to enable her to draw and write again. This powerful video shows how the developers researched, designed, and evolved the solution to enable Emma to regain her ability to sketch straight lines and even write her name for the first time in ages.

The system, appropriately called ‘Emma,’ is a wearable watch band system that monitors her constant tremors and counteracts them using miniature motors controlled by a microprocessor. Watching Emma use this invention for the first time gave us overwhelming emotions to see just how much this creation changed her life and gave her back the ability to express her passion for drawing and sketching.

Identifying modern problems and creating innovative solution is our mission, and we couldn’t be happier to see this work being done by innovators across the globe. We’ll be tuning in to watch subsequent episodes and can’t wait to see what kind of amazing innovations are created to enable people all over the world to regain their confidence and passion for creativity that they never thought was possible.

On The Desktop Dec 6 2016

1. Bringing Wind Energy to the Street Corner

When it comes to renewable energy in residential areas, solar is king. From solar rooftop panels to actual solar shingles, there is much more happening at the home level in solar than other alternatives, such as wind energy. A new innovation by French company NewWind aims to change that with its new Wind Tree. The Wind Tree is a steel composite structure designed to look like a tree and branches that would like right at home with modern art installations and progressive tech campuses. As opposed to the gigantic wind turbines you normally see spotting the countryside, the Wind Tree is only 30ft. tall. The ‘leaves’ on the Wind Tree are actually dozens of small turbines, spinning in wind as low as 4MPH to generate electricity. One Wind Tree can generate enough electricity per day (3.5kW) to power a small home, but the installation costs run upwards of $67,000, which means initial plans are to offer these to commercial entities interested in diversifying their energy portfolio.

2. Projection Mapping with MadMapper

We’ve been researching and working with projection mapping since the day we saw the first IllumiRoom concept video by Microsoft. That demo blew us away with it’s ability to immerse the players into the experience by transforming the whole room into part of the game experience. Further developed by Microsoft engineers into the RoomAlive concept, the possibilities for this technology are in its infancy. At a recent workshop put on by the Fuse Factory and hosted at CCAD Design Studios in Columbus, local experts explained how Projection Mapping works and led users through lessons to create their own designs. The software used, MadMapper, thankfully has a demo version letting you experiment and try out this new medium, bringing projection mapping to a more affordable place. Check it out and let your imagination go wild with ideas!

3. Let’s Make a Book

After an adventurous year traveling around the USA, we wanted to wrap all the photos and memories in a nice photo book to give as gifts this holiday season. As we started to write some commentary and gather our favorite photos, we focused our research on choosing the best printing company to create our books. We didn’t have any experience outside of using Apple’s iPhoto project tools years ago, and the landscape has changed drastically since then. With web-based creative tools right in your browser now, many companies today offer a compelling service to design and print your photos in any number of formats, from Instagram-friendly square pages to full blown 14×11″ coffee table experiences. After much research, we’ve landed on MixBook and so far we’ve had no problems assembling our photography in their easy to use platform. And with the holidays fast approaching, we’ve found the discounts to be incredible, with MixBook offering 50% on orders over $100! Now to put the finishing touches and get them ordered before Christmas.

4. WordPress Backups for Free

With WordPress 4.7 releasing today, we wanted to go over our free backup strategy so we don’t lose any information in the upgrade. Whenever moving between major versions, it’s important to have a solid backup just in case something goes awry with the installation. We’ve had great success with WordPress and their updates, but with all of the plugins and theme files involved in our new site, it’s a good idea to save a copy of the working site before everything changes. Using the Vaultpress service from WordPress.org is a pricey alternative to just doing it yourself, so we wanted to highlight the tools we use to ensure we have a backup of the site each day/week/month. Since we self-host our WordPress site, we are able to use FTP and PHP services to connect to the files, folders, and SQL database that contains all the data our site uses to run. By using the free Filezilla to grab all the necessary files and phpMyAdmin to grab our database each time, we can ensure that we always have a recent backup copy of the site. Now, time to practice what we preach and upgrade to 4.7!

Apple Watch is a Chore

Apple Watch
After 1.5 years with the original Apple Watch, I recently switched back to a traditional watch for one extremely glaring reason – the Apple Watch needs charged every single day. If you miss just one night, it will not make it through the next, running out of juice by lunch. And when it does die, it can’t even do a basic thing like tell you the time. I knew this going in, but it finally caught up with me. Until Apple can figure out how to make the current feature set last at least one week, it’s not going to be something I can rely on anymore, because there are just too many instances and situations where I wasn’t able to keep it charged thus making it obsolete. I’ve always thought a kinetic mechanism could at the very least keep the time displayed while your movement gave it energy, like a Sieko.

Even the thicker Series 2 Watch, introduced this fall, adds features like GPS and a brighter screen that erase any progress the battery had made in capacity. In a world where even your shoes need to be charged so they work, it’s introducing an incredible amount of consumer friction to have multiple proprietary chargers traveling with you for all the portable devices you want to use on a daily basis. To make matters more complicated, the Apple Watch charger is different from the iPhone charger, which is different from the MacBook charger, which is different from the MacBook Air charger. This isn’t just an Apple thing, mind you, the Android ecosystem has it’s own fractured charging landscape too.

Clearly the market will soon move to wireless charging, but until then, is it really the best experience that 4 products from the same company use 4 different chargers, making consumers buy a myriad of adapters and intermediary devices? If there was anyone who I would’ve thought solved this problem with a one-solution-fits-all approach, I assumed it would have been Apple, but instead they are now the market leader in dongles.

TL;DR We really love the innovative Apple Watch, we just wish it lasted more than a single day and used a standard charger.

On The Desktop Nov 28 2016

On The Desktop

1. Columbus Self-Driving Opportunities

There’s a lot of news on the autonomous vehicle front in central Ohio today, as a number of events are rolling out that stress how important this area is with regards to research and production of these systems. Self-driving startup Otto (recently acquired by Uber) will be testing it’s semi-truck systems today on a stretch of highway north of Columbus, and Ohio’s Governor is announcing a plan to install fiber-optics and important sensors in new roads around the capital. This news, along with our Smart City opportunity, all bodes well for Central Ohio’s future in the incredible transformation of mass transportation systems around the world.

2. Real Life Bridge Constructor

There are a number of “games” that exist where you simply try to build bridges across chasms, and we find them incredibly fun. More like physics simulations, apps like Bridge Constructor, Poly Bridge, or even this whole collection of apps, entertain by way of creativity and exploration of concepts like material science, hydraulics, and will this piece of wood hold this car as it drives over this river? Moving from virtual to reality, the architecture company Mola has produced a physical manifestation of these games with their Mola Structural Kit. Like Erector sets and Legos before it, the Mola set aims to have fun with the study of the same structural principals that you would find in any good bridge building game, with “a series of magnetized springs, planes, and ball bearings which, when assembled on a base, allow architects to visualize the way structural forces work on a building…”

3. Our New Mac is Three Years Old and We Love It

Long story short, we were waiting with apple-baited breath for the new MacBook Pro line to replace our video editing rig in the studio, but as the latest Keynote was winding up, we couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. The lack of ports we needed daily, high price, and in some cases slower graphics performance led us to start looking for a loaded 2015/2014 MacBook Pro Retina that we knew would fit our needs for a fraction of the price. Well, seems like everyone else thought that too, as finding a nice late-model Retina with the specs we need for a reasonable price is near impossible as they are now a very sought-after machine. With no Mac Pro, iMac, or Mac Mini announcements, we were left to make a decision to look for a powerful desktop to keep up with our workload. We even perused the local Micro Center for parts to build a Hackintosh, but decided for a more ‘official’ route to future-proof the machine through updates and app compatibility concerns. Alas, in the back corner of the back room of the Micro Center warehouse, we found a beautiful refurbished 27″ i7 iMac 2013 for $999 that was exactly what we needed to fill the gap until the next round of Apple updates. And our portable machine? A six-year old MacBook Pro 15″ from our friends at MDR that has no problem keeping up after SSD and RAM upgrades. And did we mention all the ports?

4. Giant Robots are Awesome

We admit we have a weakness for giant robots, from a deep obsession with Voltron as a kid to multiple Gundams lining our office, so it was inevitable that we would fall so hard for the new game Titanfall 2. The developers at Respawn outdid themselves with the incredible immersion of being in a mechanized robot defending the planet from other, more menacing giant robots. The precise and hyper mechanics of the game, along with the incredible sound design of the earth-shaking battles and planetary destruction (put on some nice headphones!), keep you coming back for more after each and every game. We highly recommend this one! Buy on Amazon: PC / PS4 / XBOX

On The Desktop Nov 17 2016

blog_dtop_nov17
Here’s what’s on our Desktop today…

1. Build-A-Bot

We have noticed a proliferation of chatbot building services rapidly evolving in the mobile messaging Chat Bot space and it’s time to start working on one ourselves so we can research and develop this technology as a viable solution to customer problems and inquiries. Facebook Messenger and Kik, among others, are both betting big on bots and enabling developers to build out their own bot services for customer. This article from VentureBeat lays out some common best practices for getting started with a bot of your own, so here we go!

2. Foldscope hypercheap microscope

We came across an inspiring startup company that is trying to give every student and budding scientist in the world an extremely affordable microscope to discover the world around them. The Foldscope was inspired by scientists who noticed in field visits around the world that microscopes, essential in basic health and science, were too expensive for most rural areas or in bad shape and too expensive to fix. The Foldscope, appearing on Kickstarter next week, solves this by making a working microscope that can be bought and assembled by hand for only $1. We’ll definitely be putting our support behind this, and look forward to more problem solving from their innovative team.

3. Self Driving Morals

Self driving cars are on the streets and with the rapid advancement of this tech, we will soon see all manners of self driving vehicles interacting with us on a daily basis. One question we all have is what sort of rules will govern these machines and how will their artificial intelligence handle accidents and decision-making. If a self driving car is faced with a ‘moral’ dilemma, such as choosing between crashing into a pole or hitting a pedestrian, how will it’s algorithms and decision-tree decide what to do? The Moral Machine from MIT aims to understand these problems by giving you a set of scenarios and gathering your thoughts and decisions for each problem. Scientists feel that these problems will be few and far between with the onset of strict driving rules and AI, but as we start to mix perfect driving robots with unpredictable human behavior, expect to see these types of dilemmas to increase.

4. Heavy Fall Rotation

There are certain songs/genres/artists that speak to us in certain seasons. When the leaves change and the crisp air hits you as the sun starts going down before you even get out of work, this calls for some Bon Iver (see also: Beach House). This new song he appeared on with Francis and the Lights called Friends is pushing all the right buttons for us. Except the one that automatically takes care of the leaves, but we’re working on that…

Fun with Dash

blog_dash
There was a report the other day that Amazon was selling their Dash Buttons for $1 but still including the $5 in credit, so they were basically paying you $4 to take one.

The Dash Button is a product by Amazon that let’s you click a button for instant ordering of a specific product. For example, put a Tide Button in your laundry room, and when the detergent is getting low, just press the button and a new tub of Tide will be at your door before the next load is ready. In the background, after setup the button is connected to your WiFi network and has your credentials stored, so it can easily contact Amazon and place orders for you with very little friction on your part.

That’s the intended purpose of a Dash Button, but it can do so much more thanks to hard work in the open source community to unlock and give these buttons a different purpose depending on your needs. You can now use this cheap network device to trigger any number of useful commands at the press of a button, such as turning on lights or ordering your favorite pizza.

By going to GitHub and downloading the framework, you can code the button to fit any project you may be working on. We’re very excited to play with these buttons, and in the meantime we are busy brainstorming ways it may be useful to solve problems.

Which SD Card?

blog_sdcard_2
Almost every device we use to record video and pictures for projects utilizes an SD Card for storage. Recently we encountered an error with a new camera that complained that our SD card wasn’t fast enough to record video. We’ve been through this before, as each new generation of camera or GoPro we use can record in greater and greater detail, now up to 4K. A quick look at the available cards show hundreds of different sizes, speeds, and brands to choose from. Which card do we purchase?

When in doubt, we head over to The Wirecutter and their review pegs the Samsung Pro Plus, so that’s what we got! It was $39.99 at the local Microcenter for 64GB and now our camera doesn’t complain when we tell it to record 4K.

Probably the most important thing to look for is the speed of the card, and there is a big difference between brands! Each card is rated with a small icon for easy reference in the store, and our camera required the fastest, which is Class 10/UHS Class 3. Here’s a good overview of the different Classes, but all you need to know is that the higher number the better. When we got a new camera, our older Class 6 cards were considered too slow to record HD video at higher resolutions. This is basically because the card can’t keep up with the sheer amount of data being thrown at it. A faster card solves that problem and gives you other benefits, such as faster burst photos and a quicker transfer to your computer for editing.

When we went to the store, it was easy to see how confusing it is for consumers, as all the cards and brands were very similar and arranged in random order in a few different locations. Just in the Samsung line, there is the Pro, Pro Select, Pro Plus, Evo, Evo Plus, and Evo Select. That’s a lot to choose from, so I’m glad that I was able to research before heading out or placing an order.

Let me know if you have any questions or need more info on the right card to select! I placed an Amazon link to the Samsung card below if you’re in the market, but I was able to find it temporarily cheaper at Microcenter. Always buy local when possible!

(If you can’t find the Samsung, grab the Sandisk Extreme Pro, on sale here in Columbus at Midwest Photo Exchange for a great price!)

(Samsung Pro Plus 64GB at Amazon)