Geek Camp

As Jo was cheerfully telling someone on the phone on Monday, I was “at geek camp” at the start of the week, which was the second ‘camp’ I’ve been to recently. Still not entirely sure what they have to do with camping but here’s a quick summary of what they were about.

BarCamp Southampton

Southampton’s first BarCamp was held in not one, but two bars at the end of November; I think it needed two so that there was room for all the food! Chris has posted a much more detailed report, and Tony has a gallery of photos from the day, but these are the bits I remember:

And since it was more than a week ago, that’s pretty much all I can remember. Definitely a good day though, and the food and drink (plentiful tea) was excellent!

Design London

Ok, so not technically a camp, but a small detour on the way to Monday’s home camp to visit a 3D stereoscopic visualisation system. Nigel has been on secondment from IBM to Design London, and I’ve been meaning to drop in to see what he’s been up to for a while.

I have to say, I was more impressed by the 3D system than I was expecting, even with a couple of technical hitches while I was there. (I didn’t touch anything honestly!) Essentially it’s just a wall and floor screen with two (very bright) projectors each, polarising lenses and Shrek glasses. Ok, probably not Shrek glasses, as far as I know, but the same kind of thing. Actually, one of the most interesting things about the glasses was the head tracking markers which were stuck to them. These were an asymmetrical arrangement of reflective blobs on stalks, picked up by an array of infra-red cameras. They looked like an extension of the ordinary plastic frame of the glasses, but the texture gave away a 3D printer at work. A great example of the potential of 3D printing.

Nigel demonstrated a few projects that have made use of the system, and it’s immediately clear that this is more than just a 3D monitor, or even a 3D cinema screen. Particularly with the oil rig model he showed me, there’s a real sense of scale and there are some obvious advantages to really getting to know your way round a place like this before going on site. There are just so many possibilities for this technology, but moving swiftly on to the next camp…

HomeCamp 3

After Design London, and a quick stop to have a play with a Galaxy Tab (it’s soooo shiny!), it was time for some home hacking. Thanks to Mike for getting something organised before the end of the year, and thanks to all the excellent speakers as well.

It was also great to catch up with (another) Nigel and hear about the MSc he’s doing at the Centre for Alternative Technology. It sounds like there really is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to energy, with some very interesting side effects to off shore wind farms and wave power.

It’s always good to hear what Usman and Pachube are up to. One of the things they have been up to this year was hiring Ben and I had a thought provoking chat with them about their extended tagging features. It also seems that I’m not the only one pumping data in to Pachube, but not getting much data out. Must do something about that.

Lots of other ideas floating around during the evening, including a USB 3 low voltage system with solar panels, a battery pack and some efficient AC-DC conversion which sounded interesting. Plus tablets seem like a really good way to add visuals to your elevator pitch!

The conversation didn’t slow down on the train home either, with Laura and Sophie talking about design, wire frames, nabaztag smart rabbits, exactly the kind of projects that Georgina was describing in her homesense presentation, and some very (very) cool sounding documentation automation stuff from Ana Nelson. (A bit like a micro Home Camp unleashed on a train. Maybe the Real Ale Train would be a good venue for a future event!)

So, not all that geeky really…

Update: according to Ken, that low voltage dc household power distribution system was from Moixa Technology. (23 January 2011)