My Ball of Wires

Some people have a junk drawer. Some people have a shoebox of memories. But not me. I have a Ball of Wires.

The Ball spends its days overflowing a 31-gallon plastic tub. It contains my collection of audio/video, computer, and telephone cables, assembled over a decade of roaming the US, connecting things to other things. The Ball is hopelessly tangled -- it takes a good ten minutes to disentangle any given cable you want from the Ball -- assuming you can find it in the first place. I'm constantly removing cables from the Ball, but somehow it continues to gain mass and needs semi-annual upgrades into ever-larger plastic tubs.

Witness more details of my secret messiness after the jump.

Ball of Wires in Tub

Embedded in the Ball are: several obsolete cell phones, a TI graphing calculator from high school, an impressive array of SCSI cables from old Macs, several dozen RCA/RCA-to-1/4" audio cables, many hundreds of dollars of microphone cables, power cables, USB cables (several flavors), serial cables (Mac and PC), one parallel (printer) cable from a failed PC project, an answering machine, a metal music stand (in two pieces for easy storage), a USB hub from 1998, an assortment of telephone and Ethernet cords, a collection of torx wrenches, an anti-static wrist strap kit, an assortment of WiFi antennas, a Nintendo 64 controller (there used to be two, but one is out on permanent loan), several power strips, several computer mice, several 9-volt wall warts (many now hopelessly disassociated from their appliances of origin), and...well, you get it.

Ball of Wires - Big

My new visitor, Emma the cat, likes the Ball of Wires. It's chewy. Mostly I keep it under wraps (safely crammed in its host container), as it represents a sort of immense to-do item that may never get done. I bet if I spent a day disentangling, I could sort these all out. But how boring would that be? And wouldn't that destroy a handy metaphor?

A friend recently saw the Ball and suggested a good joke: "Just tell people you went wireless."

So what's your secret Ball of Wires? Do you have any special bits of clutter hiding in your home? Do you have any plans to deal with them?

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Sensorwake, Kickstarter
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Wake Up to the Aroma of Cappuccino With This Scent-Emitting Alarm Clock
Sensorwake, Kickstarter
Sensorwake, Kickstarter

Some people need an aggressive alarm clock to get them out of bed, like Simone Giertz's slapping robot, or the singNshock, which zaps you if you hit the snooze button. For others, a gentler wakeup call is what does the trick. That's what you get with Sensorwake, a new alarm clock on Kickstarter that gradually stimulates three of your senses to ease you into the day.

During the first minute of the alarm's three-minute wakeup process, it releases a pleasant aroma. You have your choice of scent cartridges, including cappuccino, peppermint, rose garden, chocolate factory, orange juice, and pine forest. A single cartridge lasts 30 days before it needs to be switched out.

After reviving your nose, Sensorwake activates its visual component: a soft light. For the final minute, the gadget plays sound like a traditional alarm clock, but instead of a blaring buzzer, you hear one of five upbeat melodies. If all that isn't enough to get you on your feet, you can hit snooze and wait for the cycle to start over in 10 minutes.

With more than three weeks left in its Kickstarter campaign, Sensorwake has already multiplied its original funding goal of $30,000. To reserve a clock and two scent capsules of your own, you can pledge $59 or more. Shipping is estimated for November of this year.

[h/t Mashable]

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Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL
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technology
MIT’s New AI Can Sense Your Movements Through Walls Using Radio Signals
Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL
Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL

New artificial intelligence technology developed at MIT can see through walls, and it knows what you’re doing.

RF-Pose, created by researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), uses wireless signals to estimate a person’s pose through a wall. It can only come up with a 2D stick figure of your movements, but it can nonetheless see your actions.

The system, described in a new paper [PDF], uses a neural network to piece together radio signals bouncing off the human body. It takes advantage of the fact that the body reflects radio frequency signals in the Wi-Fi range. These Wi-Fi signals can move through walls, but not through people.

Using data from low-power radio signals—1000 times lower than the power your home Wi-Fi router puts out—this algorithm can generate a relatively accurate picture of what the person behind the wall is doing by piecing together the signals reflected by the moving body.

The system can recognize movement in poor lighting and identify multiple different individuals in a scene. Though the technology is still in development, it’s not hard to imagine that the military might use it in surveillance, but the researchers also suggest that it may be useful for video game design and search-and-rescue missions. It might also help doctors monitor and analyze the movements of patients with disorders like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

This is just the latest in a series of projects using radio signals to mimic X-ray vision. CSAIL has been working on similar technology using Wi-Fi signals for several years, creating algorithms to recognize human forms and see motion through obstructions. In the future, they hope to expand the system to be able to recognize movement with 3D images rather than the current 2D stick figures.

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