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Turkey Tracker: What to Watch (Online) This Thanksgiving

Turkey Tracker is a bold experiment in social networking and turkey-smoking technology. Turkey Tracker combines a live video stream of a turkey smoking (at an undisclosed location, but I might as well tell you it's in Portland, Oregon), a live Q&A session and other events throughout the day (see the Broadcast Schedule at the bottom of this post for details), a live temperature graph of the bird gathered using high-tech components (again, see below for the ridiculously awesome details), Twitter updates, Flickr updates, a chat room, and more. It's a wonderfully geeky thing to check out on your Thanksgiving -- just stick the laptop in the corner of your kitchen and tune in!

In addition to the main turkey action, the Turkey Tracker folks are asking viewers to pledge money to the Oregon Food Bank in a style similar to a walkathon, where you pledge a small amount per Turkey Tracker viewer. (Don't worry, you can limit the pledge total amount in case this thing goes nuts and there are a million visitors.) The money goes directly to the charity, there's nothing fishy going on here. (Also, they're giving away an iPod touch to people who donate.)

Here's a video of Michael Weinberg (the Turkey Master) on "Thanksgiving 2.0," explaining the Turkey Tracker 2009 project. This is really fun, and includes some shots of "technical difficulties" (involving fire) from last year's event.

Here's an example of awesome geekiness from the Turkey Tracker 2009 FAQ (emphasis added):

8. How do you track the temperature?

This year, we're using Type-K thermocouples from Omega Engineering in Connecticut--they're a provider of industrial sensors and process control equipment. Our ambient and smoker temperature sensors are bolt-on thermocouples with glass-insulated wire rated to 480degC (900degF). The probe for the turkey itself is a custom ordered probe that has a advanced ceramic insulation made by 3M that's rated to 1200degC (2200degF). The thermocouples generate a current proportional to the temperature, which we amplify with an Analog Devices AD595 chip. The AD595 is then connected to an Arduino microcontroller board that is programmed to output the temperature, in Celsius, over USB. We have a ruby script that collects the data on the serial line and converts it to Fahrenheit. For graphing, we use RRDTool. The data is polled every minute. The steps you see in the graph also depict minute intervals.

Our obsession with high-temperature rated materials is due to events last year that caused us to lose sensors twice during the cooking process in a very dramatic fashion. Besides, we haven't had a chance to buy export-restricted thermally-insulated sensors before.

How to Track the Turkey

First off, follow @turkeytracker on Twitter. Next, check out the Turkey Tracker website (where you can watch live video, view a temperature graph, check out user-contributed turkey photos from around the world, and chat with other visitors). If you want to pledge to help Oregon Food Bank, there's a convenient form to help out. Finally, check out the Turkey Tracker Blog which includes this important schedule (times are Pacific Standard Time):

Broadcast Schedule

9 "“ 9:30 AM: Turkey in the smoker, broadcast starts.
10 AM: Gobble Gobble Hey? "“ We answer your questions.
11 AM: Turkey Toast & Technocrati Talk "“ A Discussion of the Technology Behind Turkey Tracker. This hour is sponsored by New Seasons Market.
12 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped)
1 PM: Beers to compliment your Thanksgiving meal. Q&A.
2 PM : Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by dedications.
3 PM: Wines to compliment your Thanksgiving meal. Q&A.
4 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by more Gobble Gobble, Hey?
5 PM: Parade of Appetizers
6 PM: Kevin Ludwig from Beaker and Flask presents a cocktail in honor of Turkey Tracker. (pre-taped) followed by Prize Drawing.
6:30 "“ 7 PM: Turkey is done!

See also: coverage of Turkey Tracker from 2008.

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Courtesy Umbrellium
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Design
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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iStock
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Live Smarter
How to Make Sure Your Cell Phone Receives Emergency Alerts
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iStock

Thanks to smartphones, we’re more plugged into the world than ever before. Some of us receive notifications for everything from Amber Alerts to trending news stories, so it makes sense that we’d also depend on our phones to alert us to emergencies in our neighborhoods. But as The Daily Dot reports, relying on your cell phone alone for such news might leave you in a dangerous situation.

Unlike Amber Alerts, local notifications for natural disasters like wildfires don’t operate on a broad alert system. If counties were to contact every single resident every time a specific area was threatened, it would lead to traffic jams and unnecessary panic, putting more lives at risk. So instead, the police only contact people in their database that live in the affected location.

The Reverse 911 law allows law enforcement to contact you at your home in case of emergencies. If you have a landline you can expect to get the call there, but because the law was enacted before the age of cell phones, receiving a call anywhere else isn’t guaranteed. To make sure your county knows to contact you on your cell phone, you need to reach out to them and ask for that number to be listed as your primary mode of contact. Just over half of all households in the country use cell phones for all personal phone communications, which means that most Americans need to opt in to receive life-saving emergency notifications.

Fortunately, getting your cell number into your county’s database isn’t hard. You can starting by searching your county’s name and “emergency alert” online. There’s no uniform system across the U.S., but on Los Angeles County’s emergency alert page, for example, residents are asked to indicate their name, address, phone number, and the type of alerts they wish to receive. This information can be updated at any time—so if you get a new phone number, make sure your local police department is one of the first to know.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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