ESLOV IoT Invention Kit

In this installment of “What Can I Blow My Cash On Today Using Only the Internet”, I humbly submit to you the offerings of the one and only Arduino Company, makers of the Arduino and Genuino line of wildly successful maker boards. The mad scientists at that now famous lab have knocked it out of the park with their latest. They’ve concocted a way for you and I to easily start slapping components together to make an IoT gizmo of our very own with little or no previous experience in software or hardware—kinda like Lego, but with more Buzz! and with Humidity Readings! The way they’ve envisioned to do this is to break key functions of a device into easily connectible modules which then allow you to arrange them as you see fit to achieve an end device. So, slap a couple of modules together clickety-clack and BAM! you’re talking to space aliens! (Note: ability to talk to space aliens may vary). They’re calling the project ESLOV (for the life of me I can’t find what this stands for, but there you have it).

Their project over at Kickstarter explains it thusly: “ESLOV is a system of intelligent modules that you can connect in endless ways. You can create new devices, prototypes, science experiments in seconds. No programming or hardware knowledge is required.”

The process to make a device is super simple. You connect the roughly stamp-sized modules together via a small jumper, then plug them into a computer via USB. The freely downloadable software (open source FTW!) then recognizes the modules and allows you to visually draw connections between them to establish their relationships in software space. Once this is done, you can fully configure the modules to do what you need them to do when you need them to do it. And once the modules are then plugged into a small WiFi hub, you can connect your new device to the internet. Lastly, and perhaps the most cool part is, you then publish the project on the Arduino Cloud and you can now access your device from anywhere there’s an internet connection, including your phone. It’s that awesome!

There are currently 25 modules to choose from ranging from RGB LED’s, buzzers and motion sensors, to potentiometers to humidity and temperature sensors and even GPS. And since this is Arduino we’re talking about, if you have the chops, you can hack and solder your own module and slap that baby on there, too (anyone up for an Alien Chat module?).

And of course this is all open source and runs on the GNU/Linux. A great great added reason to back them.

Now, the downside is the backer levels in my opinion are a bit steep. The entry backer level is $99 which gives you a WiFi hub and RGB LED, buzzer, and button modules (there is a $56 level, but it’s just a WiFi hub with a motion sensor “on board,” so, not so much bang for the buck.) Honestly, that’s not a whole lot for $99, considering a brand new Arduino is around $30. The next backer level at $180 gives you a WiFi hub plus eight other modules. I understand that they need to get production lines in order and get some idea of demand, as well as hire devs out there to code the software, but if successful I foresee prices coming down a bit. I’m also guessing that once this hits public production space modules will be sold separately so you can pick and choose what you need for your project instead of buying bundles where you’ll most likely leave several of the modules gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

The project is seeking a hefty $495k to get off the ground. It’s not a flexible campaign, so it’s all or nothing. As of this writing, they’re currently at 64k with 23 days to go. If you’re at all as excited by this as I am and have some wadded bills to throw at them, head over to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/iot-invention-kit/eslov-iot-invention-kit?ref=discovery and show them your green love and support.

As always, if you want to get a hold of me, toss some digital bits my way at my twitter account or email me as listed below.


The Linux Crowd

About this column: The Linux Crowd attempts to locate interesting crowdfunded projects and bring them to your attention, the GNU/Linux enthusiast. These projects are curated from the usual crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Crowdsupply.org., in order to find those that look particularly noteworthy, but ones specifically that use GNU/Linux as a major component. Some of these projects are ongoing and could use your support, while others might have finished (successfully) in which case you can still contribute to purchase an item. If you have any comments or questions hit me up at: FreedomPenguinBrad@gmail.com

Blocking Big Brother with Senji Security

If your big brother is anything like mine, you’d want to stop him at all costs too. Well, Senji can’t help you with your crappy, good-for-nothing brother. But it can help you with Big Brother. You know, the one with capital B’s.

Senji is an app that takes an interesting, innovative approach to security and privacy. Normally, when you upload information to the “cloud” (anyone else sick of the term yet?), you are trusting the encryption and practices, or lack thereof, of the provider of said cloud. You are trusting that they don’t snoop on your data (they do), or that they won’t turn over your information if the NSA so much as sneezes in their direction (they will). You’re also trusting that even if your information is encrypted, it’s not decrypted on certain servers once it arrives (it probably is). Now, there are some really good OTR (off the record) cloud storage providers out there where you can store your information with zero knowledge (SpiderOak comes to mind), but once again, you have to trust that they’re doing what they say they’re doing (personally, I do, but that’s mainly because the place isn’t run by my older brother).

Senji does things a bit differently. What Senji does is take advantage of an account holder using multiple clouds for the purposes of decentralization and therefore privacy. The application splits all your information up into chunks and distributes those chunks amongst the cloud services you tell it to use. That way you don’t have to rely on the integrity of the provider—all they have is an incoherent piece of the whole, an incomplete message that reads like a garbled mess. Pretty clever. Now, one might say that you have to trust that Senji is doing what they say they’re doing, too. To answer that very concern, the team has open sourced the code so that it can be reviewed and verified. As an added benefit, Senji has zero knowledge of the content of your information (which is also verifiable in the code), so no one knows what your information contains, except for you.

So, what if one of the cloud providers decides to stop its services? Senji has you covered. According to the crowdfunding description:

“Thanks to redundant data storage and depending on the number of connected clouds Senji can compensate the outage of at least one provider.”

I personally doubt that Drive or any other giant provider is going out of business soon, but if you’re storing your information at Mom and Pop’s Cloud Emporium, this could be a good thing.

The only concern I have is the case where you only have one cloud service that you trust and love and use that one service solely. As described, this wouldn’t help you all that much as your data wouldn’t be able to be spliced up and distributed. I imagine that the message could be chopped to bits and made to look like garbage on the server side, but I wouldn’t think this is any different from just encrypting data before sending.

Currently, the campaign is at $1,495 of the $35k they’re looking for. But this is a flexible goal, so they will produce the software no matter what they receive (which will be Free as in beer—premium services will be offered for purchase). As far as GNU/Linux is concerned, it is a stretch goal of theirs—they’ll implement a G/L client if they get $70,000. I’ve decided to do a write-up of this even though G/L isn’t included out-of-the-box because they are working on an Android client which I think at least mostly fits the bill. Also, since the code is open sourced I’m sure if some enterprising G/L individuals wanted to, they could bang something out for us penguin folks in due time (with Senji’s permission of course, I don’t think the code is Free, as in Libre).

If you’re interested in privacy and want to help a project out, head on over to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sengi-it-big-brother-needs-to-be-stopped-internet-security#/ and throw some cheese at them.


Notable mention:

I looked at some other projects and wanted to give a shout out to one of them that caught my eye even though their respective campaign is over. It is In-Demand over at Indiegogo, so you can still get in on it if you were so inclined.

The project is the 101Hero: The World’s Most Affordable 3D Printer. This seems like a really cute project. It is, as the title suggests, a 3D printer designed to be cheap and easy. For a first printer designed for beginners like myself or kids, this seems like a perfect entry point to the craft. And it runs the good ol’ GNU/Linuxes, so that makes me happy. At 80 bucks you can’t really go wrong. The cheaper version uses an SD card for data files (so figure in the costs), but the higher end one supports a direct interface. Here’s the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/101hero-the-world-s-most-affordable-3d-printer#/

Death Story Video Game

Death Story

For this installment of the Linux Crowd, I’m checking out a video game. I’ve long been an avid gamer and I couldn’t be happier with the deluge of Linux games that have hit our hungry desktops. To see more and more games get funded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo that support GNU/Linux is truly heartening. Aside from the usual gadget fare over in crowdfunding land, I thought I’d take some time and cover one that crossed my desk (er…screen).

The game is called Death Story. True to its title, you play a cute avatar of Death (from the Major Arcana in tarot) in this side-scrolling action-adventure platformer with “rogue-like and rpg influences” with some bullet hell thrown in for good measure.

This is the debut title of Team Neko, the developer on Death Story. It is also a Steam Green Light game. Green Light has been a mixture of success, failure, and colossal failure over the years, so we’ll see if the game meets muster upon release. Personally, I hope it does. The more successful Linux games out there in gameland, the better.

From the kickstarter project’s website: “This tale follows centuries of struggle and strife between mortal men and a group known as the Major Arcana. You are Death, a young girl who inherits the Death Arcana’s power, allowing her to slice ‘n dice anything in her way through an epic metroidvania that combines modern mechanics with timeless gameplay.”

The videos showing off game play look promising, with a wide variety of environments and monsters to fight through. The design on the bosses looks pretty cool. I was particularly impressed with the 3D skull-sphere climbing with multiple skeletal hands up through a chasm of death.

Aside from the general look, what sets this game apart from all of the other platformers is the ability to stop time and slice enemies to ribbons, only to watch their sad, fragmented bodies fall from the sky. Time stopping has been a welcome and fun addition to platformers: any time one can actually stop the game to see what the hell is going on, it’s a godsend; being able to kick the hell out of enemies in this state is a bonus.

Another intriguing feature of the game is that the entire world is procedurally-generated. The dungeons, world-map, and towns are all randomized. Now, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. Procedural generation is all the rage right now in “vid-game land.” And it is absolutely fascinating, since randomization can create some unexpected results that are surprising and fresh. But oftentimes, procedural generation misses the mark. Nothing can beat the handcrafted work of a clever (sadistic?) developer/designer who knows their tools and knows how to leverage them in the creation of a good level. I fear that while procedural generation can be interesting and is supposed to inspire replay-ability with an infinite array of maps, it can often become redundant in its randomness and therefore stale.

If you couldn’t guess from the developer’s company name, the art style is heavily influenced by Japanese anime. Since I’m an old time anime junkie, this suits me just fine. However, if you happen to, for some ungodly reason or rare strain of insanity that runs in the family, not like anime, then the aesthetic might not be appealing to you (seriously, you need to see a therapist—cute, expressive eyes attached to power that can often level a city block is something to be admired.)

I reached out to the developer, but sadly they didn’t have a working demo I could try. So, as such, I am unable to vouch for gameplay, Linux compatibility, controls, or overall general quality of game. Invest at your own risk. (But hell, for the price of a couple of cheap beers you’re not risking a whole lot, eh?)

As of write up, the project is at $4,711 with 15 days to go. They’re looking to meet a goal of $12,666 (cute). If you think the game is something you’d like to bang your steam controller against, throw em’ a few ducats here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teamneko/death-story-0.


The Linux Crowd

About this column: The Linux Crowd attempts to locate interesting crowdfunded projects and bring them to your attention, the GNU/Linux enthusiast. These projects are curated from the usual crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Crowdsupply.org., in order to find those that look particularly noteworthy, but ones specifically that use GNU/Linux as a major component. Some of these projects are ongoing and could use your support, while others might have finished (successfully) in which case you can still contribute to purchase an item. If you have any comments or questions hit me up at: FreedomPenguinBrad@gmail.com

The Ubuntu Tablet – Why I’m Grabbing One

UbuntuTablet

If you’ve been following Canonical/Ubuntu at all, you’re probably aware of the announcement of their first Ubuntu Tablet, the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition. It is being produced by the manufacturer that made one of Canonical’s first Ubuntu phones, BQ, headquartered out of Spain. Currently there are two versions to choose from: The FHD (Full HD) and regular HD versions.

Their specs are fairly standard:

  • 10.1” touch display with 10 simultaneous detections points
  • FHD or HD resolutions (1920 X 1200 or 1280 X 800)*
  • 7280 mAh LiPo battery
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • Memory Expansion up to 64 GB via microSD
  • MediaTek Quad Core MT8163A up to (1.3 GHz or 1.5 GHz)* CPU
  • MediaTek Mali-T720 MP2 up to (520 MHz or 600 MHz)* GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • Micro HDMI and Mirco-USB
  • 8 MP or 5 MP* or Rear Camera
  • 5 MP or 2 MP* Front Camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0

*Depending on model.

Not a bad piece of kit, really, either way you go. But on to the reasons why I’m grabbing one whenever I can scrape together the scratch to actually buy it. Let’s face it, the digital landscape is pretty monochrome these days. And while Android has added some color, it’s still a desert painted in three hues: iStuff, Windows, and the aforementioned Android. The market is saturated and boring. Now, some may argue that Android is already GNU/Linux, so that base is covered. Whether that’s true or not (I take issue with it in spirit if not in fact), adding some extra vibrancy to the palette out there isn’t a bad thing—not in the least. If you’re a distro-hopper, then you know what I mean.

Add to that the actual nuts and bolts of some of the competition’s hardware and you have the immediate need for some fresh blood. Let’s take the Surface for example. Wow, what a colossal train wreck that thing is. I got one of these as a Christmas gift (god bless my family, but knowledge of technology is not one of their strong suits). In the spirit of a die-hard technophile, I put aside my differences as long as I could and dove into the thing with the enthusiasm of a lifelong kid that just loves to play with his toys. After some initial wonder, my experience became less than satisfactory. It went from bad to worse to infuriating. The Surface is really nice from the outside, but once I dove into its guts, I became wholly disappointed with the machine. I won’t go into a Microsoft bashing rant here, but suffice to say I wouldn’t buy another tablet made by them on pain of death or dismemberment.

The Ubuntu tablet looks like a refreshing change of pace from the above. It’s open source (yes Canonical has its proprietary stuff going on, but for the most part…) and therefore eons beyond the locked-down world of Microsoft’s making. For example, once I set up the Surface replete with password and user account I had to log in my “Microsoft” account to access some functionality (using my Hotmail login). I cocked an eyebrow, but thought: what the heck? It’s probably just linking to my hotmail account as an option. Nope. The tablet immediately took my initial setup, username and all, threw it out, and used my hotmail account login as my default tablet’s login, irrevocably marrying the two in what looks to me very, very suspicious switchery. Also, a Buy Office 365 Now! Pop-up pops up in your notifications with the appropriately annoying sound daily until you rip it out by uninstalling the “program.” Thank you, but I like my hardware out of the box without commercials. I’m fairly certain Ubuntu will be less draconian in its marketing practices.

Now, let’s talk the “C” word for a second. Convergence. Much has been bandied about concerning this next frontier of portable computing. Thus far, companies have claimed, in a marketing attempt to secure the prize of “first in,” to have converged their devices. To my knowledge, no one really has. Kind of like cold fusion, it’s been a bunch of tall tales designed to add credibility and dominance (and marketing buzz) to tech companies rather than actual technological advancement. All such claims have eventually crumbled under scrutiny and usually the stories slink back to the dark recesses of PR from whence they were born. But it seems that a champion has finally emerged and Canonical is quietly claiming the prize with this tablet. The threshold of convergence lies in the ability of a device to act as a full-fledged PC (changing the onboard UI to one of a robust, standard desktop environment used by the OS) once outfitted with the proper hardware: mouse, keyboard, display. To my knowledge, the Ubuntu tablet does just that. Once the mouse, keyboard and, optionally, a larger screen are connected (the keyboard and mouse have to be connected via Bluetooth here, but more on that later), the Ubuntu Touch interface found on the tablet (and phone), turns from “scopes” interface into the familiar Unity desktop. If the hardware can handle the the actual demands of a full Unity desktop, then convergence here we come!

I do have my reservations about converging a tablet, however. I don’t know if it is enough to get your average user off of the mainstream sauce, as it doesn’t immediately scream something new and useful that buyers will be tearing down storefronts to get at. But upon further examination, it looks pretty handy. Picture a job that requires on-site computing away from an office. You bring the tablet down, do whatever work is necessary—making notes, writing reports, taking pictures etc. You can then head back to the office and without having to rely on the tired old way of uploading those docs, you slam the tablet into a dock that’s connected to a bigger display and hammer away at the data with typical mouse and keyboard. Suddenly, the picture starts to look a lot more compelling. We’re not talking phones here, but this kind of behavior with an Ubuntu phone makes this even more interesting. I can’t think of all use cases here, but I’m hard pressed to argue that convergence would be a bad thing. Also, the ability of the device to be able to run full applications that are used with the regular flavor of the OS makes this even more compelling of an idea. Running the full version of LibreOffice, for instance, on the tablet would be extremely useful, if the tablet’s hardware is capable of such. I’ve heard that LibreOffice can run comfortably on a Raspberry Pi 3, so I’m not that worried. Expand this to the whole of software that linux has to offer and you have a winner on your hands. Other hardware, thus far, relies on either a wholly walled off “app store” or specific versions of software made for that device. Not exactly all that appealing. The only argument against this being less than useful would be the proliferation of web-apps like the aforementioned Office 356. But web apps haven’t exactly caught digital fire like some predicted they would, and we may never see the domination of such considering the limitations of browsers and internet connections as they stand today *cough* telecoms! *cough*.

Now, back to my Bluetooth reservations. I find it a rather odd choice on the part of BQ to go this direction for mouse keyboard connectivity. While it may prove to be the option of the future, it’s not exactly friendly to the now of peripherals; how many people do you know that just have Bluetooth keyboards and mice lying around? That being said, I did some research on prices for said peripherals and they’re not all that expensive. Couple that with the idea that you can just “pair” them with the tablet without the fuss of dongles and cords and this might just be a stroke of genius. Even if this spells a kind of pain the ass now, I’d be surprised if we don’t see this sort of thing taking off with more and more hardware going forward.

Let’s face it, supporting GNU/Linux is good for the greater ecosystem. People may disagree to a fault about Canonical’s motives, but anything Linux is better than the monopoly that is Microsoft, the outrageously overpriced hardware and walled in prison that is Apple, and the ever-increasingly-creepy nature that is Google. In light of the benefits of an Ubuntu tablet, along with the “curious” factor figured in, the scales definitely tip in the direction of “buy.” If only my checking account would tip in the same direction, I’d be able to scoop one up upon launch. I do promise, however, that once I get one in due time, I’ll tinker with the thing and drop a review here so you can all see how the experiment went.

If you’re looking for a tablet you can visit the BQ site here:

The FHD version and the HD are going for €299 and €259 respectively (about $340 and $295 US).
Currently, there is a launch special going on where you can get a cover and screen protector with your pre-order for free.

Deliveries are to begin the second half of April.

Update:BQ has apparently pushed back the date of release. Their target puts the release in mid or late May. Apparently the infowebs had their streams crossed (don’t cross the streams!).  The BQ Reader is currently shipping for pre-orders.  Not in May as erroneously guesstimated by yours truly.


The Linux Crowd

About this column: The Linux Crowd attempts to locate interesting crowdfunded projects and bring them to your attention, the GNU/Linux enthusiast. These projects are curated from the usual crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Crowdsupply.org., in order to find those that look particularly noteworthy, but ones specifically that use GNU/Linux as a major component. Some of these projects are ongoing and could use your support, while others might have finished (successfully) in which case you can still contribute to purchase an item. If you have any comments or questions hit me up at: FreedomPenguinBrad@gmail.com

Mycroft – The World’s First Truly Open Home AI

If you haven’t heard of Mycroft, there’s a good chance you’ve been living under a rock. And not one of those fancy under-a-rock condos either—the kind of under a rock without—horrors!—wifi! Mycroft is a project over at Indiegogo and Kickstarter that has the distinction of being the first truly open source, open hardware home AI to grace the technological landscape. And, of course, it runs GNU/Linux.

Mycroft is designed to respond to natural human language and execute functions based on what you say/it hears. This allows it to integrate with an array of online sites like YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify (along with many others) so you can find content/control those sites with the ease of voice. Say, “Mycroft, rock me some Clutch,” and Electric Worry comes slamming out of its hi-fi speaker like a jagged sound-rainbow spewing forth from a crack in Hell. (If you don’t know who/what Clutch is—I’m telling you, you need to get out from under that rock).

But that’s not all! Mycroft is also designed to integrate with the IoT. As such, Mycroft can take advantage of light controls with Hue lights, lock/unlock door locks with SmartThings, make coffee with WeMo, and change the thermostat with Nest. Pretty nifty, eh?

Mycroft also uses what the project is calling “scenes.” Scenes are vocal macros that trigger a set of commands which are executed in a preset order. For example, you could tell Mycroft: “Leaving the house,” and Mycroft would turn off set appliances like the coffee maker, turn off the thermostat (or set it to a preset), and lock the doors behind you. Personally, I’d like a “disco” scene: the disco ball drops from the ceiling, the Bee Gees kicks up, and fog blankets the living room. “Bring your own bell-bottoms, sucka.”

Since Mycroft is open source, devs can get in there and tinker away. The opportunity for it to be able to integrate with more and more devices is wide open. Want to control a Roomba?—code it. Want to be able to check the levels in your *ahem* hydroponics garden?—code it. Software Dev versions of the device are available alongside the regular stuff on the campaign page. Also, Mycroft is rocking a Raspberry Pi 3 and an Arduino. That means getting in there and extending its capabilities hardware-wise is only a screwdriver away.

As a super gold-star-and-glitter GNU/Linux bonus, Mycroft’s stretch goal was met. This goal might be of benefit to you even if you didn’t or aren’t planning on backing the project: the guys and gals down at Mycroft HQ decided it would be cool if the GNU/Linux desktop could benefit from Mycroft’s code as well. And I agree wholeheartedly! This means that you’ll be able to control your desktop’s functions with Mycroft’s speech recognition software a la Siri or Google Now: control applications, launch media, and change settings with just your voice and the magic of technology. Since the device is running Ubuntu Snappy Core and since Mycroft has teamed up with Canonical, it’ll be reportedly easy to integrate with the Unity desktop. The Mycroft team has stated that they’ll reach out to other desktop communities as well, so I’m sure other distros will also see it running in short order.

The original campaign was successfully 129% funded on in September 2015, but if you want to get your hands on one, you can still contribute here or here. The project’s time line has shipping of pre-orders going on from May 2016 to July 2016, so you’d be just in time to get your hands on one (or several). Price for a hardware dev kit is $254 and for a regular extendable it is $154. The Mycroft team will release all of the Mycroft A.I. code under GPLv3 once they’re ready to ship.


The Linux Crowd

About this column: The Linux Crowd attempts to locate interesting crowdfunded projects and bring them to your attention, the GNU/Linux enthusiast. These projects are curated from the usual crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Crowdsupply.org., in order to find those that look particularly noteworthy, but ones specifically that use GNU/Linux as a major component. Some of these projects are ongoing and could use your support, while others might have finished (successfully) in which case you can still contribute to purchase an item.

Hit me up with corrections, comments, well-wishes, or digital beer at FreedomPenguinBrad@gmail.com

Aido – The Latest Home Robot Rolls Onto the Scene

Aido

Looking for an Open source, GNU/Linux based R2-D2 for your home? But one that talks instead of beeping and…making that other sound that R2-D2 makes? Aido’s got you covered. Aido is a home assistant/robot from InGen Dynamics Inc., a Pal Alto-based automation firm, and is the brainchild of Arshad Hisham, a self-proclaimed robotophile and CEO of InGen.

What sets Aido apart from other home assistant solutions like Mycroft (I’m not knocking on Mycroft here at all—I heart Mycroft and I’m excited to see it in action—in fact, I’d love to do a write-up here in the near future if possible), Jibo, and *cough* Echo, is the fact that it’s mobile. That’s right, it’ll jam around your house just like your favorite robots straight out of movie mythology (but hopefully without the “I’m sentient now and have to kill you” part). The robot boasts an omnidirectional ball at its base, a “ballbot”, design that allows for stability and locomotion around the home. Of course this doesn’t solve the ever elusive “stairs” issue, but it’s a step in the right direction (no pun intended—okay, it was kind of intended).

Power is provided by a dual battery (lead acid and nickel cadmium hybrid) configuration with dedicated hardware to deal with power management and battery switching. According to the campaign, Aido can function for about 8 hours including 2 hours of mobility, which, if true, is pretty acceptable considering the bot will be relatively close to its charging station ($199 extra) at any given time. The FAQ has charging times at 12 hours for first use and 4-5 hours for daily use. If you need Aido to be more stationary, the top part of the assembly is detachable and can function as a table-top appliance like Mycroft. Aido:

“Ahem, Dave? Where’s my body?”

Aido uses voice control as its main interface: according to the site, the robot has a 6 mic array with dedicated hardware for detecting and filtering the human voice. Speech recognition is done using a “3rd party speech engine based on a custom deep neural net architecture,” so time will tell how robust the architecture is when dealing with real world human needs and everyday speech parsing.

Another unique feature of Aido is its ability to project content onto a wall or countertop. This allows you to be able to watch Netflix on the living room wall or to have interactive cooking directions projected onto a countertop in the kitchen. Depending on the clarity and resolution of the display, this seems to be a very nifty feature. It definitely would cut down on the need to buy multiple flat-screens for different rooms of the house.

Aido also uses what are called “workflows,” basic phrases that trigger macro actions. For instance, you may tell Aido, “Goodnight Aido,” and the bot would turn the lights off or dim them, set the thermostat, arm your security system, and get itself into a patrol mode around a pre-set path. You can customize your own workflow using an iPad or Android application, so the combinations seem fairly endless.

The software running Aido is an Android/Ubuntu Linux hybrid. It can apparently run all familiar Android apps, which might keep things pretty interesting and competitive. It is unclear if this is true for traditional GNU/Linux applications as well. Since the primary OS is a headless version of Ubuntu, it wouldn’t be easy without some dev tweaking, but hopefully some intrepid devs are out there just salivating at the chance. More good news is that Aido uses an open source platform , so developers can get their hands dirty and design new skills and behaviors for the robot and pass them on to end users.

Under the physical hood (do robots have hoods? A hatch, perhaps?) is a Raspberry Pi, two additional CPU’s (Quad Core R7 and Dual-core A23), and three GPUs to handle the graphics load. It also has WiFi and five external USB ports along with multiple environmental sensors like temperature, light levels, and humidity along with haptics for touch features and touch recognition.

As of this writing, the campaign is 474% funded with 21 days to go. To get your own home robot (that’ll likely drive the cat nuts) it is going to run you a cool $549.00. According to the campaign, this is 60% off retail. If I’m doing my “maths” right, it means that if you want to purchase a shiny new bot after the campaign it’s going to cost you over a grand. I’ve got to admit that stings a bit, so if you’re interested at all I’d get in early (although you’d be gambling on this purchase sans further reviews—you might be betting on a dud of a robotic horse—but “thems the breaks” when it comes to crowdfunding).

In the spirit of full disclosure and as a caution, I don’t actually have one of these robots on hand. As such, I can only rely on the campaign’s information as a source. The Indiegogo video came off as a little misleading: the examples of the robot’s projection functionality look “photoshopped in” as do any shots of Aido’s screen, and so it all feels a bit deceptive. Mobility might be problematic as well, depending on the environments that it has to traverse; the video doesn’t show this in comprehensive detail, so collision and obstacle avoidance are questionable. Its further claims of “object” and “scene” recognition might be a bit far-fetched, too—I would have liked to see an actual demonstration of Aido recognizing and responding to events happening around it.

Home robots are an inevitability and we’re seeing just the beginning. I would guess that this is the “pong” of the robot development cycle, but if you’re curious and want in on the ground floor check it out at their Indiegogo page.


The Linux Crowd

About this column: The Linux Crowd attempts to locate interesting crowdfunded projects and bring them to your attention, the GNU/Linux enthusiast. These projects are curated from the usual crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Crowdsupply.org., in order to find those that look particularly noteworthy, but ones specifically that use GNU/Linux as a major component. Some of these projects are ongoing and could use your support, while others might have finished (successfully) in which case you can still contribute to purchase an item. If you have any comments or questions hit me up at: garagecat@hotmail.com