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[Ben]:Experimental hardware Discuss This [4 comments so far] View Comments
My company is taking part in a project along with (among others) Security Labs, a local custom hardware and security firm specializing in video surveillance. We're doing the web application and SL is handling the hardware and related interfaces. The rest of the team involves mostly scientists, doctors, lawyers and management all of whom worry about licensing, legality, marketability, and so forth ... but the hardware and software are the cool parts. I may be biased, though, and I will grudgingly admit that the whole project would be useless without the folks with PhDs and JDs making sure it will pass FDA muster and be legal.

Anyway, today I got to spend a little time with Brandon Giger, one of the lead hardware/software gurus for SL while planning the web-interface for our collaborative project. It was a good meeting and we got our protocols locked down pretty well. The neatest thing is that I've got the third prototype of the hardware planted on my desk right now, and I'll have the software to run it soon.

I don't know about you folks, but when I buy a commercial product, it's kind of a ho-hum experience. It doesn't matter how neat or ingenious it is, everything is clean, sealed, minimalist, functional and mass-produced. In other words, consumer grade. Even the experience of taking it apart is designed to be irritating because of one-way plastic tabs and adhesives.

There's something enjoyable about working with prototypes. They are - by definition - rare. Even if the final product ends up in every home, office or factory in America, few people will get to see and play with the prototypes. What's more, prototypes are built differently. They are hand-crafted with their own unique flaws and tweaks. Each has an identity. It is a living concept, something that jumped out of a piece of paper, but is still growing, changing, adapating, evolving.

The piece of hardware on my desk today is relatively simple. Eventual iterations will likely contain biometric security appliances and other nifty doohickeys, but what I've got now is a simple - in its own way elegant - execution of a concept built using mostly off-the-shelf components. I've gotten to disassemble it and play with it a bit and was put in mind of projects Michael and I used to toy around with.

Except this one works.
  2006-08-01
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