Thursday, January 29, 2015

Focus or Diversify?

Life is a series of resource allocation decisions.  Whether in business or personal decisions, we are continually deciding where to focus our time, attention and money so we are most likely to enjoy the best results.

The physicist and game theorist John L. Kelly developed a mathematical formula in 1956 that can be used to guide those decisions.

f = p(b+1)-1

In the Kelly criterion, f represents that fraction of resources that should be allocated to a particular endeavor. The probability of achieving the expected results within the established time period is represented by p. b is the odds or win/loss ratio on the investment.

John L. Kelly Jr.
John L. Kelly Jr.
Application of the Kelly criterion indicates that endeavors where we believe the probability of success is the highest are the places where we should invest the most resources. Determining the probability of success is a judgement call, but one that can be improved greatly by research and knowledge about the particular opportunity.

In general, diversification is a compensation for poor research and indecisiveness.  The highest returns come from a greater focus on fewer things, but the right things.

How are you spending your time, attention and money?

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tinkering with Tinkercad

Peter Penguin Designed by Maker Advocate
Peter Penguin for Sharkweek Designed by Maker Advocate
In the 1980s, when Apple introduced the first laser printers and launched the desktop publishing era, we all needed to learn a few basic principles of graphic design. Will 3D printers turns us all into mechanical designers?

If so, Tinkercad is a great place to start. Tinkercad was created by Kai Backman and Mikko Mononen in 2011 to be an easy-to-use online tool for creating 3D designs that are ready to be 3D printed into physical objects. In June of 2013, it became part of Autodesk's 123D family of design products.

Tinkercad Logo
Not only is Tinkercad easy to use, it also includes step-by-step lessons which teach the basics of 3D modeling then move on to more complex modeling techniques. A basic account is free and will have you learning to design in 3D within minutes of your first visit.

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Tinkercad Tutorial Video

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Add Color to Your 3D Printer

Spectrom 3D Image via Wamungo
Spectrom 3D Image via Wamungo
The inability to change color on the fly is one of the major limitations of most consumer level 3D printers. Last week at CES, Spectrom demonstrated a prototype of their device which can add multi-color printing to any filament based 3D printer.

Spectrom works by adding color dyes to the filament before it enters the 3D printer. By coordinating the timing of the dye changes with the extrusion of the design, the user can change the color of the part in precisely the desired location. The Spectrom device was shown in conjunction with a Robo3D R1 printer and will be available as an upgrade to existing R1 printers.

Although the Spectrom method doesn't provide sufficient control over the color changes to provide continuous tone color printing like the 3D Systems Project 4500, it appears to provide a greater level of color flexibility than any other consumer level printer.

How would you use color in a 3D print?

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Photography Soars at CES

Harwar-Mega Industrial UAV
Harwar-Mega Industrial UAV
Returning home after the Photo Marketing Association conference and CES is a good time to reflect on the most important new developments in the field of imaging. While there were incremental improvements in most still camera lines and a strong push for 4K resolution in video capture, I believe the most interesting developments were in the area of unmanned aerial photography.

The Parrot AR Drone quadricopter has been popular at CES for several years, but this year they were joined by a plethora of other companies offering powerful aerial platforms in a wide array of sizes and capabilities. From autonomous swarming drones small enough to fit in the palm of your hand to large industrial units with enough power to carry a full-size DSLR or professional video camera, there were units every application.

If you like your unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) large, you will be impressed by the Harwar-Mega series.  These are industrial units with a unibody built from carbon fiber and enough power and range to travel up to 10 kilometers under self navigation. The three axis camera head allows shooting 360 degrees with a control accuracy of .02. TD-LTE 4G cellular communication resolves any concerns about transmission range.

At the other extreme, the Zano, designed for "taking your selfies to new heights" is about the size of the smart phone you will use to control it. This Kickstarter project, with an estimated delivery of June 2015, can be controlled by tilting your phone or tablet forward, back or to the right or left. You can also set the Zano to follow you so it can capture everything you do. 

Phantom 2 Vision+
Phantom 2 Vision+
The Phantom 2 Vision+ by DJI fits between the two size extremes. With a 14 megapixel camera and a 110 degree field of view, you should be able to capture impressive images and full HD video. The control range can be extended up to 700 meters.

Some of the other UAVs at CES included the Ehang Ghost, Micro Drone 3.0, MaxAero X-Star and the Hubsan X4 Pro.

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Harwar-Mega UAV Applications

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Refocus for 2015

I am a strong believer in the value of periodic evaluation accompanied by redirection of time and attention into new areas of interest. For me, the beginning of a new year is an ideal time for reflection and planning.

In my January 2012 post, Do Your Own Annual Review, I posed eight questions which I still believe are extremely useful.  However, they could be simplified into these three:
  • What has changed in the past 12 months?
  • What do I hope to change in the upcoming months?
  • What do I want or need to learn to make these changes happen?
 Personally, the topics where I intend to focus most of my research and reading in 2015 are:
  • Design trends in the stationery and wall decor markets.
  • Applications for additive manufacturing in industry and medicine.
  • The impact of printed electronics on the internet of everything.
  • Implications of artificial intelligence on industry and transportation
  • Lessons to be learned from late 19th century and early 20th century industrial history.
The tricky part about identifying new areas of focus is finding the time to make it happen. Since the amount of time per day in 2015 is the same as in 2014, any new to-do list needs to be accompanied by a not-to-do list.  What are you planning to give up to make room for the new areas of focus?

The year ahead will be full of exciting developments.  Some are expected and some will be delightful surprises. The Consumer Electronics Show next week should be filled with both.

What is your focus for 2015?

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