Aaron Cael

Kinect, Glitches, and Reading Carefully


So I bought my own Kinect. This is after months of having one around the place and telling myself I’d get down to some serious fooling around with it tomorrow. Always tomorrow. But the loan (and the relationship) ended so I bit the bullet, bought my own used one. Having some filthy lucre invested in it is pretty good motivation to fool with it in earnest thus far.

But… I bought the thing used. I’ve bought a lot of electronic junk at garage sales and ended up scrap plastic and metal for my trouble so my skepticism level is already up there. So when I  hooked it up to Processing and saw a swath of static scrolling up and down through the IR output…



Googling around didn’t turn up much so I resolved to make my first project be a diagnostic tool to figure out if the info was really coming in or if it was simply a display issue on the part of the Processing sketch I was using. Deadline: before the return/exchange period expires on this beast.

Long story short, I got the basic flow of things down, learned a bit more about the various Kinect libraries for OpenFrameworks, Processing, Cinder, and otherwise but never whipped up a working diagnostic. Work was halted on that tool when I came across this:

Screen shot 2013-06-28 at Jun 28, 20137.30.36 PM

Yep. It’s a glitch in the sketch, not my sensor. So if you’re pulling your hair out troubleshooting the IR sensor on the Kinect, try it in open Frameworks or one of the various 3d scanning programs and see if it messes with you.


On to the next project with it: whipping up a Kinect-based control scheme that’ll work with the classic flying shoot ’em up Terminal Velocity. Basically, I want to wiggle around with my arms out like I’m the plane, headbanging to blow up tanks. Because that’s what we all want. This will probably involve actually knowing what I’m doing with OSC instead of merely nodding and saying “ahh, yeah, OSC” when someone mentions it.


Postcards 2012

post_islandspoint post_lookatthat post_warholWhat do I do to relax? I make postcards. Not always collage. I find it the perfect format for trying something new in a format that is disposable, easily sent or kept. A pack of 4×6 index cards keeps me occupied for awhile.

Ideal for those who find a sketchbook too much of a commitment.

Towards a Lazier, Less Emotionally Intense Gift Economy

#ihave / #iwant

I like free stuff. A lot. I’m a curb checker, trash picker, dumpster diver, recovering connoisseur of the Craigslist free section. Used to post to the ol’ free section quite a bit too. Got some hearty handshakes and a few six packs out of it as I shed vintage video equipment and futon frames and complicated memories.

While Craig and his List have been so good to so many and yes, Freecycle and OurGoods also exist, from time to time there comes a stirring in my soul for something that works a little more elegantly to reroute the good stuff to people who need/want/hoard it.

I started thinking in earnest about this back around when the Brooklyn Free Store got torched back in 2011. Since holding space for non-profit-driven things was so hard (and occasionally subject to violent response/arson) what about a Virtual Free Store parasitic on other existing networks for such exchange?

One thing with multiple plugins, rolled out in stages.

1: a hastag
Piggyback on Twitter:
#ihave 2 cans blue paint
#iwant winter jacket black
2: A search engine that searches freecycle, twitter hashtags, craigslist free section
3: map mashup on site. Connections to community orgs that need volunteers and give things/services. A hub.advertise this with stickers, flyers, etc
post free stuff on craigslist with a link to this network

if successful and expenses mount, allow sponsorship from individuals and organizations. No ads, just a simple ‘Jane Gooddall sponsored us this month’

Then, move into other means of organizing efficient consumption/non-consumption:

Ad-Hoc Co-Op buying – getting together with a dozen interested parties who have certain shared needs for foodstuffs on a regular basis. Semi-nonperishable stuff. Flour, nuts, beans, protein flakes, raisins and the like. Bottom-up/Swarming Groupon, basically.
What Can I Do With This? Meal/Project suggester – Scan an item’s barcode or type in the name of a thing and it suggests a recipe or project you can do with it.
Scan: natural peanut butter. Suggest: Thai peanut noodles
Type in: bottle jack Suggest: apple cider press

Etc, etc.

The tricky bit would be the initial promotional phase. Getting momentum. If someone starts searching #ihave tags and comes up with little that’s satisfying, that first impression is blown. Would love to hear other ideas in this vein.

Old Writing: Onsen and Bear, 2006

Yeah, this never saw print for obvious reasons. Was going through a deus ex machina phase.

– – –

I turned away from the bear in the onsen, him glowing beatifically as only one ensconced in the perfection of a blank mood can be.  What is the word for that?  That blankness shot out of just a little too much eye contact like one caught but not bothered, in repose but not loose.  I’m looking for something that would describe a spiritual variety of smug.  I pressed my tiny towel tighter to the front of my thighs as I made eye contact with a stranger in the middle of his life and I said, “This bear.  He is.”

These words solved nothing, nor provoked more than a sharp exhalation from the man, who made the briefest of eye contact before shooting half a look to where my towel did an amateur job of covering my genitals.  As a round-eyed, bulge-cocked uninvited barbarian, I accepted my position as an object of knee-jerk fascination.

Once outside the baths, toweled, dressed, and flushed, I sniffed the air and walked the lanes of the town, breathing hazy particles flaked from walls older than me by 30 years but designed to look older by 600.

Seconds later, robots came through and just fucking annihilated everything.

Cheap Fixes for the MTA


“In an effort to encourage the powers that be to implement some sure-to-be-lauded changes, designer Randy Gregory is posting a different idea for improving New York City’s subway every day for the next 100 days.” – Gizmodo

This is awesome. Check out his Tumblr here.

I had a similar undeployed idea back when I belonged to a hackerspace to get a think tank together to come up with very low cost design/tech/UX improvements for the subway. I think I was calling it, alternately, 80BucksaStation and theGcouldbelesshorrible.com

The two guiding principles were: Improve calm. Improve flow. I mainly focused on ideas that could be implemented cheaply and, if neccessary, unofficially/clandestinely.

Some ideas:
>>  Walk Left, Ride Right stickers on escalator handrails.

Seriously people. The unspoken, unwritten rule is to leave one lane open for people who want to walk. In the U.S., we replicate the passing-lane by making the walking side be the left. At certain high-traffic stations that rely on precise timing (Whitehall Street/South Ferry especially), one lazy human speedbump can make dozens miss their connection and lose 30-60 minutes of their life by denying everyone behind them the ability to move. With MTA approval, this could be a stencil, sporadically renewed. If done as a guerilla campaign, stickers.

>> Mark unofficial transfers.
Hansel and Gretel left a trail of bread crumbs through the forest. We can do better. Break out the spray paint and stencils and make a little tasteful path between nearby stations not connected underground. Basically, mark a track between any stations less than a 1/8 of a mile apart that connect train lines that do not have an easy transfer. Hell, while we’re at it, why not make these stations an actual free transfer? If subway-bus transfers can be automatically calculated, there’s no reason this can’t work.

For starters, mark:

  • Fulton G to Atlantic-Pacific
  • Court Square to Queensboro Plaza
  • Lorimer JMZ to Broadway G

>> Mark the platform where the subway doors open

Yeah, I know. Human operated trains do not stop precisely at the same spot every time. But they do 90% of the time and pretty damn close the rest. Giving some cue as to where these openings are would allow passengers to better organize themselves to allow easier on-off.