Everything Else.




Look at this bluetooth EEG reader. Using it we can read brain waves that reveal mental states. Meanwhile we can get any music from APIs like Spotify. Also machines can learn. So we obviously need an app that learns how different music affects your mental state so that you can choose a mental state and be played the music that puts you there. So if I want to feel relaxed, I should be able to set a dial to "relax", and trust that the app will play play the music that makes me so. And over time it should learn to get better and better at it.

This would be interesting because it would rely not on what I thought consciously about music, but how it actually affected my mood. So maybe thrash metal could help me relax, or Katy Perry could make me sad, all against my better judgement. It is my subconscious that would be the judge.


This is Di Zhan. She is one of this year's Queen Mary interns. Her project is to make the first step on the road to making this app. Di has a background in information processing, particularly extracting features from music. For example, using various mathematical techniques it is possible to extract all the notes that are being played by different instruments in a recording by analysing the waveform of the sound. Using this knowledge we hoped to extract features from mp3 files and see how they correlated with one mental state in particular, "focus".

We recorded EEG readings from a sample of people whilst they listened to mp3s at 1 second intervals, we also extracted data from the music itself such as the pitches and volumes. We then fed this data into Google Predict to find a relationship between the level of focus and the various features we were analysing. The output of this process is a "Model" that will predict how much any arbitrary mp3 will make you concentrate.

The app we have actually created is called Eedi (EEG + Di) and is based on the idea of a thermostat. You set a thermostat to a desired temperature and if its too cold the heat goes on and if its too hot it goes off. In our app you set your desired level of focus with the slider and press play. If your focus, according to your EEG reading, is too low it plays higher focus inducing tracks and vice versa. So in effect you can set you level on concentration and let it do the rest.


This is just a start. The app only uses a small sample of music as all of the data is pre-processed outside of the app and is only using one person's (Di's) EEG feedback. Also, just monitoring focus is quite limited. The eventual aim is to look at more mental states and for the music analysis and learning parts of the process to be done in real time through the app. We will probably have some processing engine in the cloud that the app can upload training data to using empty bandwidth. The system should be able to learn how music affects you specifically, and also how it affects the population. How unusual are you? Can we put you into a "type" and predict what else you will like based on your subconscious music appreciation? We don't care about genres as we are looking at fine grain features of the music, so a system like this might really open your eyes to what you really like, despite yourself.


A few weeks ago my housemates and I built a sculpture for Secret Garden Party festival. The brief (set by INT Works) was to make something that you would interact and have photos with. We sat in our sweaty pants for three days inflating 2,500 rubber gloves and then attached them to a scaffolding/wood/mesh frame. The gloves were arranged to read 'FEEL' but people didn't need any encouragement to run up and motorboat it.








Google partnered with Penguin to create Storytime Hangouts, enabling absent parents to place themselves within bedtime stories and read them to their children on screen, from wherever they may be. It’s a free app, available via Google+, meaning any number of contacts can be invited in and given characters. Get it here: http://ow.ly/lND9B



Vine just launched on Android, bringing six-second fun to a whole new audience. The Twitter-owned app already has 13m iPhone users, and downloads on Android are sure to be strong – although the features differ slightly, and do not allow sharing direct to Facebook. http://ow.ly/lNEAD

But Vine creativity continues to make waves, as demonstrated at The Joy of Six: http://ow.ly/lNEFa



Facebook has followed Twitter’s lead and introduced verified pages for big entities. Currently they’re proactively choosing the biggest and most active Pages to receive the blue tick and are not taking requests. http://ow.ly/lNFNL



This month, Wired asks why Facebook has been put (back) in the Wall Street doghouse. A lot of expectation lies in the launch of video advertising, anticipated this July – will it take off and give stock a much needed lift? http://ow.ly/lNGeI



In fact, Wired attributes a degree of the network’s market failing to Facebook’s ‘conventional’ ads – just as we see an Ads overhaul and streamlining.  Changes are informed by marketer behavior, and cull features like Offers and Questions, bringing the current total of 27 ad variants down about 50%.  Roll-out is unspecified, and will most likely be staggered, with big spenders getting the new products first. http://ow.ly/lNHkW



Burberry adds to an already extensive list of digital credentials with a new partnership with BAFTA. The fashion heavyweight will celebrate and support stars of film, television, and more interestingly gaming, through the newly formed Breakthrough Brits initiative. http://ow.ly/lNI8B



Why write a press release when you could make a GIF? Nike had the exact same thought. They just launched the P-Rod 7 in flashing graphic form, supposedly to reflect the ‘perpetual motion’ of skating, but mainly to look cool. Enjoy the ride here:  http://ow.ly/lNK6c



Grumpy Cat is going to Hollywood. Last year’s Meme of the Year will be starring in a ‘Garfield-like feature film’ thanks to Broken Road Productions. We suspect she doesn’t really care. http://ow.ly/lNJ2R



As Sir Alex announced the end to his glittering managerial career, we set out to create our very own Lean Mean Fighting Machine tribute, by claiming to have got our hands on Fergie's last piece of chewing gum.


We built a custom display case, then hours after his final game listed 'The Last Gum' on eBay and watched the bids come rolling in.

100 bids later the highest bid stood at a monumental £150,800, until eBay stepped in and suspended our account.

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Meanwhile the story had spread like wildfire. Firstly from football blogs, then major news reports from Metro, FOXSportsESPN and Yahoo. Before we knew it global coverage was reporting that the gum had sold for just shy of £400,000. It didn't.

Football fans continued to share the story across social channels and the following day it had made page 3 of the Daily Star. Result.


As Fergie once said: "Football. Bloody Hell."

Fergies Last Gum



The 10th International Conference and Trade Show took place in Berlin the other week. This is what the trade show looks like.


As you can see - the buffets occupy a big part of the fair. There are two more just like the one in the picture on the other side of the room. And while you’re enjoying your Italian asparagus you are very likely to find yourself in a conversation about the differences between slot dies and spin coats, or the advantages of nano bio technologies. This blog post is not about this.

Paper electronics applications

Rainbow Waters is one of the companies worth keeping an eye on. They integrate technology with clothing design to create stuff like this:

A sound responsive dress they designed for Made in Future festival in Milan. The louder the music, the more animated the visuals.

Same concept, different design. Here is a Picasso explosion dress
Low Volume
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High Volume
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A water and sun reactive dress
In the presence of sun, the flowers in the dress turn purple.
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Magnum Cute Circuit. A dress connected to Twitter. Tweet pink or black and the dress changes colour.

This is a dress displayed at the fair. It recognises when someone gets closer and changes the visuals.

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Chris Jones from Novalia was there as well. We visited his studio in Cambridge some months ago was interesting to see what kept him busy lately. Unlike most companies at the fair, Novalia succeeds in bringing some design into paper technologies and create final applications themselves.

This is a poster connected via Bluetooth to an IPhone. Touch the poster and you’ll hear the drum beats on your phone.


The Energy Pet – is a poster that reflects the energy usage in a building. The electro chromic ink allows the poster to change colour when people use less energy – showing some fruits and leaves growing.


They’ve just finished a dev kit consisting of a printed capacitive touch, Bluetooth and an IPhone app. You can assemble it yourself and add your own graphics on top. Those black buttons can do whatever you want – from sending a tweet, to playing a tune on Spotify to activating your camera.


Which kind of reminds me of Makey Makey – a plug and play device created by two guys from MIT Media Lab – that turns any object into a playable’ key’.

You’ll find loads of examples online of people playing shark games online with fish ball controllers or using Star Wars figurines as music controllers.

This is a bus shelter prototype from Fraunhofer Visual Computing
The pavement detects the bus arriving and this triggers a change in the bus shelter visuals. Everything is powered by solar panels.


University of Heidelberg
is working on a disposable silicon patch that would replace the classic pulse oximentry devices. Imagine a transparent patch that you place on your skin and the colour change indicates the health of your body. They’re developing different types of patches that would work for different organs.


gastro4you is a device for restaurants that helps you order or pay a bill faster. You touch one of the icons and the waiter knows straight aways what you want. And since it doesn’t require any batteries – it would be really interesting to know what a furniture designer would make of it.


Paper electronics is a great niche for designers. The technology is already very advanced – the paper gets thinner and thinner while holding more complex technology inside. The materials bend and stretch more. Also the printers get bigger so now you can potentially print huge wallpapers or outdoor – where every inch of it can react to light, wind, temperature, touch, movement, etc.
But the applications are still far from making the best of what is out there. I’m curious to see what paper electronics will bring to the next 50 years of design – whether it’s fashion, architecture or medicine. Imagine buildings that constantly respond to the way we live, clothes that reflect the way we feel, or even our skin informing us on the health of our organs.

If you need anyone to guide you through the paper electronics world – there’s a new magazine that can make it easier for you.