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Analog Approach to Displaying Data 274

Lurker McLurker writes " BBC News reports that Ambient Devices, the MIT Media Lab spin-off which brought us the Ambient Orb, have developed a new product, the Ambient Dashboard . The orb changed colour to display information at a glance, for example turning red if the stock market is going down. The dashboard has three displays, similar to speedometers or barometers, to show the information of your choice, from stock market volumes to the pollen count." As a proof of concept, this is neat stuff. However they seem awful pricey.
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Analog Approach to Displaying Data

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  • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:19PM (#8194342) Homepage
    Save money and build one yourself!

    You'll need:

    • A computer with an Internet connection
    • 3 analog voltimeters
    • 3 rheostats
    • A heavy-duty, 18' USB cable
    • One of those damn kids that always runs across your lawn

    Here's how you do it:

    First, connect each of the rheostats to a voltmeter. Apply current and test the system to ensure that all the hardware is working properly. Then, take the USB cable and fashion one end of it into a crude snare trap. Hide this snare trap under leaves and grass clippings in the middle of your yard; hold onto the other end of USB cable and lie in wait behind a bush. When the damn kid runs across your lawn and onto the snare trap, tug hard on your end of the USB cable. This will trap the child about the ankle. Tie the free end of the USB to a securely anchored object near your comuter. Have the kid constantly surf the web, checking for information that is interesting to you; when something changes, tell him to twiddle the rheostats or something. When the novelty wears off three hours later, tell the kid to stay off your goddamn lawn from now on and let him go. Throw voltmeters and rheostats in trash. Hang self with USB cable.

    • by Raul654 ( 453029 )
      Just leave him there until he starves, then replace him with the next one who runs across your lawn. They're easily replacable, don't you see?
    • When I was growing up, an old neighbor would yell at me to not walk on his lawn. You seem to share his views on lawn walking. What's the big deal? Walking normally on grass doesn't hurt it. When I was a teenager, I would mess with his lawn as punishment for being a dick.

      • It's a shame we can no longer shoot little kids, I feel the whole country has gone down the tubes since then. Take you for instance, a quick dose of buck shot and you'd think twice before trespassing wouldn't you?

        The first politician to run for office promising to abolish laws on murder gets my vote. A nice polite, peaceable society.
    • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:16PM (#8194991) Homepage Journal
      I know nothing about tcp/ip, but my electronics and basic are pretty good...

      You'll need
      3 analog dials
      3 triacs
      a parrelel port.

      i'll just provide a link [] with some pertanent info. Basically wire up the triacs to the voltmeters (to isolate and backflow current from the VU meter's coils) and the other end to any data line on the parrellel port. Strobe the data line till your VU meters needle is pointing where you want it to go.
    • You don't even need to think too hard, since Ambient actually tells you how, to build your own, on their developer page []. They are probably guessing that most people would rather spend their money on a solution that doesn't require a soldering iron, so they don't mind sharing the details.
  • ...the daily build []!

    Which is in the green, thanks very much.
  • prior art (Score:5, Funny)

    by trb ( 8509 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:20PM (#8194363)
    my boss changes color to display information at a glance.
  • by holzp ( 87423 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:21PM (#8194374)
    the one monitoring their web traffic just exploded.
    • The little paper insert reads:

      [Is this thing on?]
      [I think I see a byte!]
      [Your friends just looked at your site.]
      [Your friends clicked refresh a few times.]
      [I'm hosting Janet Jackson porn!]
      [I'm hosting animal porn!
      [I'm 'given 'er all she's got!]
      [Oh Shit, Slashdot.]
      [Oh SHIT, Google.]
    • the one monitoring their web traffic just exploded.

      Actually that would be rather cool in the operations room. No longer would you need to use a screen to see that your site is dying ( well, to confirm it you would ). Just put it on your desk and work on something else.
      • Actually that would be rather cool in the operations room. No longer would you need to use a screen to see that your site is dying ( well, to confirm it you would ). Just put it on your desk and work on something else.

        This would be loads better than my current system of holding down the "refresh" button until the site refuses to display. ;)


  • Fun for now. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ActionPlant ( 721843 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:22PM (#8194384) Homepage
    But if you had one for everything, wouldn't you just be surrounded by a lot of (eventually) confusing colors? I still prefer a single device with a sensible display. Sure, this looks fun, but after the novelty wears off I think it'll be not only annoying but inexcusably inaccurate.

    • Glad you didn't RTFA. These aren't orbs, they're meters. No colors. Just indicator needles pointing to text.

      The Ambient Dashboard consists of three independent meters. You insert transparent faceplates in front each meter that indicates whatever you wish that meter to display, daily Dow Jones rise/fall percent, local temperature, football game point spread, whatever. And each faceplate has some encoding mechanism that automatically tells the base what type of data it is supposed to display; the base

      • Sorry, but I got the impression there would be no text. Tick marks maybe? It's a lot easier to look at a digital readout temp gage and see that it's 62.8 degrees than it is to try to determine an exact temp from a VU. And the color comment was simply from the proof-of-concept that got them here.

        But to be fair, I do get a generally more comforting sense of temp and time from analog than by merely reading digital numbers. So I suppose this does have its place.

        • Or just stand outside naked for a couple minutes and you will get a great analog temperature readout from your skin*:

          Red: Hot
          Blue: Cold.
          Brown: Get out of the mud.
          Black: Nighttime

          * Results may vary for people of color

    • by PetoskeyGuy ( 648788 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:13PM (#8194963)
      It's listed as the Ambient EXECTUTIVE Dashboard. Executive - no need to be sensible or accurate.

      The previous color changing ones were a little too simple and tended to hypnotize the executives. Have you seen the Executive toys at most office stores? I don't think Novelty wears off for those folks.
  • This isn't worth much more than that. Especially not the prices they charge. I'm all about integrating information delivery into everyday hardware - especially if it looks nice. But think less B-movie prop and more toaster-with-an-mp3/aac/ogg-player. Now THAT would be useful.
  • Analog all the way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by matth ( 22742 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:22PM (#8194391) Homepage
    Of course.. we live in an analog world.. we'll never be able to take things in digitally because we don't work digitally. Even your computer needs to be able to display in analog (speakers/monitor) before you can figure anything out. We can't do anything in digital... :)
    • Whoa, dude! That's, like, totally deep and stuff.
    • Are you sure about that?

      -.. ..- ....
  • by bandy ( 99800 ) <> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:23PM (#8194401) Homepage Journal
    I've got a watch that does this. Mickey's hands move with the passage of time - the big hand sweeps in a circle over the course of an hour. The little hand goes around the circle twice a day. It's great at letting me know about what time it is! Only $299, postpaid.
  • Hey! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Temporal Outcast ( 581038 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:24PM (#8194414) Journal
    The research group I work with here - Information Interfaces Research Group [] - at Georgia Tech works on something quite similar.

    Its called the InfoCanvas [] - kinda cool stuff :)

    And yes, although its not analog per-se (as in, display-meters and the like), it does show you in gradual gradings. Like the sky-color changing from a hue of blue to red, and the rainbow slowly fading away and the like.

    Just thought it might be relevant! :)
    • Re:Hey! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dschuetz ( 10924 )
      Its called the InfoCanvas - kinda cool stuff :)

      For me, this is the "killer app" for digital paper.

      On my desktop(s), at various times, I've typically had:
      • Current month's calendar
      • Clock
      • Local weather
      • IM buddy list
      • three webcams (Rothenberg, Chesapeake Bay, and Skyline Drive -- places I'd rather be than at work)
      • Current stock prices for some key stocks
      • Department in/out board
      • Recent comic strips

      But, of course, most of the time I can't *see* any of those, because they're covered up with real work. Sure, I

  • by ENOENT ( 25325 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:24PM (#8194425) Homepage Journal
    I have a digital version of this! Let's see... right now it says "Outlook not so good." Now it says, "Try again later."

    Wow! High tech stuff!!!

    • I have a digital version of this! Let's see... right now it says "Outlook not so good." Now it says, "Try again later."

      No matter how many different versions, and how many times you try to use Outlook, the magic 8 ball is always right, Outlook is not so good.

  • by addie ( 470476 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:25PM (#8194430)
    1- Number of support calls answered today
    2- How much money earned today
    3- Depressing ratio between the two
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:40PM (#8194626)
      Actually, I have the coolest CPU load display. It's made with one of these "charge left" check display that comes with some AA battery (you know, you press two poles and it turns yellow). Here's the recipe:

      - Get a used battery with a level check gage

      - Carefully unwind the wrapper, and cut it to size to recover the gage

      - Duct-tape thin electrical wires at the two ends, behind the wrapper. It's tricky to get good contact. Unfortunately, it's not possible to solder then.

      - Glue the wire-equipped gage against something : this is important, the display method in the case of these AA batt checkers is thermal ink. If you want it to display something more useful than just "full on" all the time after 5 minutes, you need to glue it on something that sinks the heat from behind.

      - Make a small TTL-controlled 1.5V power supply and connect the control line to one of your // port's line.

      - Make a small program to control the display by sending a continuous square signal with variable width modulation (variable duty cycle). Wiggling the line only several times per second is okay, the thermal inertia of the display is high enough that any timing will work. It takes a while to calibrate it, as it's not linear.

      Mine's glued on the side of my monitor. At a glance, I can see the average CPU load. It's the display itself that does the averaging, due to thermal inertia. I left the wires exposed and the "Duracell" part of the wrapper to increase the geeky looks.
  • by Cyclopedian ( 163375 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:28PM (#8194471) Journal
    I don't need a colorful orb to tell me the pollen count in my area.

    My hay fever nose does just fine. Like clockwork.

  • For Once (Score:2, Interesting)

    by niko9 ( 315647 )
    this could actually be a useful case mod.


  • by ayahner ( 696000 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:28PM (#8194478)
    Wow. This is it. The latest and greatest information display of all time.

    It's a single pixel monitor for crying out load!

    What the hell are people thinking?

    If you really want that functionality, just plug in a monitor using a second cheapo vidcard. Much more expandable...

  • Ye Olde Weather Ball (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:28PM (#8194484) Homepage
    a weather beacon that again changes colour to reflect the forecast.

    Sounds a lot like the weather ball [] that glowed from a tower in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. in the 60's-80's (and now back up, elsewhere in the city). Pretty intuitive, and just in case you didn't get it, there's a bit of verse to explain it: "Weather ball red, warmer weather ahead / Weather ball blue, colder weather in view / Weather ball green, no change foreseen / Color blinking bright, rain or snow in sight." Same old concept, just a different device.

    • Pretty intuitive, and just in case you didn't get it, there's a bit of verse to explain it: "Weather ball red, warmer weather ahead / Weather ball blue, colder weather in view / Weather ball green, no change foreseen / Color blinking bright, rain or snow in sight."

      These kinds of verses are almost never intuitive. For example, what if I remembered it as:

      Weather ball red, colder weather ahead
      Weather ball blue, warmer weather in view
      Weather ball green, rain or snow is foreseen
      Color blinking bright, no chan

      • what if I remembered it as:
        Weather ball red, colder weather ahead
        Weather ball blue, warmer weather in view

        Weather ball green, rain or snow is foreseen
        Color blinking bright, no change in sight.

        Then you would be a frickin' doofus who should just wait for it to get warm or cold or rainy.

        Red for warm, just like your oven. Blue for cold, just the way everyone draws pictures of "cold" things with their crayons at age five. And who would remember a blinking twinkling flashing light as "steady as she go

    • This sounds alot like the Canada Life Weather Beacon [] at the corner of Queen and University in Toronto.

      It's one of those incredibly unique things that are just a part of everyday life, and you never think of them.

    • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:01PM (#8194839)
      That's kind of like the weather rock we used to have:

      If it's wet - it's raining.
      If it's swinging - it's windy.
      If it's white - it's snowing.
      If it's gone - you'd better get going.
    • My girlfriend's dad has a similar device in his garage. It's called the "Newfie Weather Station". It's a rock dangling from a piece of string, and the verse accompanying it goes something like "If rock is wet, it's raining. If rock is white, it's snowing. If rock is swaying, it's windy. If rock is gone, there's a hurricane."
    • a weather beacon that again changes colour to reflect the forecast.

      I must have a weather tree. When it's leaves are green it's going to be warm, yellow leaves mean it's getting cooler and no leaves means it's damn cold.
      • I must have a weather tree. When it's leaves are green it's going to be warm, yellow leaves mean it's getting cooler and no leaves means it's damn cold.

        Yeah, but the refresh rate sucks.


  • ...Stock Market trends, weather forecasts, traffic on your commute...

    I'm glad they invented this! I was so tired of visiting weather web sites, installing stuff in my menu bar, just to display the current temperature and barometric pressure. Now I can just plug this gizmo into my computer and have it display whether the temperature and pressure are going up or down!

    I saw something like this at my grandparents' house once. I never could figure out where they got the internet subscription.
  • Can it be configured to flash bright red when GPS data shows that your wife is about to bust you with another woman?

  • For all my analog data display needs I devised a method of using hand held sticks made of chalk on a slate tablet.
    Tablet PC's watch out, analog data displays are on the way in again!!!

    I've even got a hand held version on the way!!!
    Ohh and of course I've already filed over 100 patents covering my unique inventions here.
  • by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:34PM (#8194545)
    For instance, when I was almost side-swiped by a semi truck, my car seat turned yellow.

    Moments after seeing flashing red and blue lights in my rear-view window with a pound of a sticky, green, and illicit herb in my trunk, my seat turned a deep shade of brown.

    The analog olfactory indicators were an added bonus.

  • Hence, this will become the latest "I gotta have it!" thing for executives/bureucrats who depend on guys like us to tell them what it actually means.

    Never mind me, guess I'm just cynical today. Sure, great toy.
  • I've got something setup on my computer which gives me analogue dials to display memory use, cpu use and CPU temperature - it's build into a box on the front of the case and runs off a little bit of code I hacked together.

    Of course.... what I really want is an analogue accelerator pedal to control clock speed ;-)
  • Have it count the number of days since you've had sex. "Look baby, it's turning blue!"

  • Bandwidth VU Meters (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jea6 ( 117959 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:37PM (#8194588)
    My boss has always wanted "bandwidth VU meters" to spotcheck resource usage here. Any suggestions? (Other than Google? [])
    • Run a program that generates graphs, and display the graphs on a couple of Sun IPX's (can't use IPC's because no color framebuffer) in the front office. We use IPX's to display this stuff [] in color, and we use rpc.rstatd on IPC's (since the graphs don't need color) for monitoring load/cpu/packets/hdd for all the computers on the network.

      Just run an ethernet cable up front, and put a hub, a few of those machines, and a few 17" sun monitors up, and you'll be good as gold.

      It may not be exactly what you want,
    • Well I found this [] a while back. I want one. And I'm not even into case modding. It's just tres cool.
  • ...Brookstone, Herrington's, etc. will all carry it for about six months and then it will be go to join the Pet Rocks, in the great Johnson Smith & Co. catalog in the sky.

    This is just a way of saying "I am so important and so concerned with matters of consequence that I actually need to know all this information on a minute-to-minute basis."

    Remember the old Beagle Brothers software ads in Softalk? Their office had a row of clocks showing the time in, IIRC, Sausalito, Bakersfield, and San Jose... all s
    • You could probably say the same thing about the clocks that sync with the atomic clock. Are you so important that you need to know EXACTLY what time it is?

      Also, I don't really need to know anything the gkrellm tells me. Temps? What difference does it make? Load average? Who cares?

      I like to look, though, because it's interesting. Even though I can't change something, I still want to know about it.
  • The best Analog Approach to Displaying Data I've ever seen was taking a computers address bus and splitting it into two parts and feeding each part into a D to A converter. The output of the D to A converters was displayed on an O-Scope. You could watch where the program was running, where the OS and the application were, where data was accessed, and where the computer was spending most of it's time on a pretty simple device.
  • And of course, the Ambient folks would NEVER sell the huge pile of interesting demographic data that they're collecting by all these Orb users customizing their orbs.
  • Rumour has is that Home Turf security honco Tom Ridge has ordered 250Millions of those dodahs. Every US citizen will get one excluding the 10 potential BadGuys he has on his WatchList plus George that can't quite get the hang of how it works.

    DuckTape can only get you so far, in this HiTech world Secretary Ridge was quoted.

  • 1) Building national wireless network to transmit your data and not charging monthly fees.

    2) Cost of bandwidth for slashdotting.
  • Patents (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dr. Mojura ( 584120 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:53PM (#8194762)
    1. 52: Why didn't anyone think of this before?
    1. Not sure, feels pretty obvious to us. But we patented it anyway.

    Seems to be the trend these days..

    Anyways, looks pretty cool. There's just something about analog gauges that's so asthetically pleasing. Like someone mentioned before in the post about analog watches still being used, It's probably that an analog gauge is highly visual, whereas digital is more of numeric processing. Would anyone rather have a digital tach in their car than an analog one? I know I wouldn't.
  • but this kind of products seem really stupid, and building a business around it, well...

    I mean, besides the novelty of it, is it something that really serves a purpose? Or is it just one more of those kind of executive desk toys?

    But if they insist, then perhaps what they SHOULD do is consult Edward Tufte and create entire lines of products for displaying statistical/quantitative information in a way that would be truly meaningful and useful.
  • Been there .. done that.

    It is *amazingly* accurate.

    Click Here [] for more details on how to use analog ambient weather displays.

  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:00PM (#8194826)
    I've thought of doing this, except with sound instead of light. Instead of a "system monitor" that takes up a large chunk of my screen real estate, what I really want is a monitor that uses sound to tell me what's going on.

    System load could be signified by clicks, with the frequency of the clicks increasing as system load increases.

    Each new TCP connection would make some kind of "boing" sound, with the frequency again depending on what service I'm connecting to (http would go boioioioing, ssh would go beeeerooooing, etc)

    Memory usage would be signified by a double-beep, "beeee-beep," with the "duty cycle" indicating the percentage of memory usage. Two short beeps means lots of memory is free. One long "beeeep" means I'm swapping to disk.

    Disk seek activity would be a series of random bleeping sounds, like Brownian motion across frequencies.

    Basically, I would like an irritating cacophony of sound to emanate from my workstation, which only I can interpret :-)

    • God help us if you got slashdotted. It would sound like a sack full of rocks in a washing machine.
    • System load could be signified by clicks, with the frequency of the clicks increasing as system load increases.

      Sounds like you're looking for this []. Particularly, feature #3. It makes your computer sound like WOPPER in War Games.
    • I rememember reading an artical somewhere (Slashdot?) which took this basic concept and then "skined" it.

      For a jungle theme, processor load would be determined by how many crickets you hear, every time CodeRed tapped upon your port you'd hear a fly buzzing and the more traffic you were seeing the louder the tribal drums could be heard in the distance.

      Imagine that in 5.1 ;)

      A project I always wanted to build consisted of a small motor on the ceiling with a string attached. The more traffic your network is
  • It says something about using a national wireless network and their coverage map looks like cell-phone coverage maps. Does anyone have any idea what it actually uses and how it knows your orb is yours to display the stock or whatever you want it to?
  • by WebGangsta ( 717475 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:06PM (#8194901)
    Minneapolis bank NORWEST had these for years, used to give locals a quick idea of the weather:
    • Red = Warmer
    • White = Colder
    • Green = No Change
    • Blinking = Precipitation coming
    It was simple, but it worked.

    A history of the Weatherball []

    I haven't been by that area for years, so I don't know if the Weatherballs are still there or not. Bueller?

  • Ambient has a very informative FAQ on their site. It answers pressing questions such as

    "Does this device emit radiation"

    and when the answer contains "all things emit radiaion", you know the author must have went to MIT.

  • Some soccer mom in her big ass SUV, talking on her cell phone while putting on makeup and useing one foot to steer and the other to engage in Day Trading while she watches her dashboard to find out hwo her stocks are doing and to decide whether or not life is worth living.
  • If they only made a device that was displayed current information of my choosing, supported multiple colors, was able to display text, could be viewed from a distance, was low cost and could be seen at eye level when I was in front of the computer...That would be a winner.

  • by stienman ( 51024 ) <<adavis> <at> <>> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:26PM (#8195100) Homepage Journal
    5: How does the Ambient Device get information?
    Via a nationwide wireless network called the Ambient Information Network. It works in a similar way to cell phones and receivers.

    There's a pager receiver inside. We send out national pages every few minutes which essentially contain packets of information on each of the possible displays.

    It's still an innovative use of a nearly obsolete network. However, they can't gurantee free service for life though. When they go out of business, your nifty device is nothing unless you hack a computer interface into it, or get a pager account and find a way to attach the receiver into that account.

    But it makes me smile to hear them say they have a network all for themselves - giving the impression that they own or control the network their messages are sent over.

  • is that because executives are too stupid to process real data and like things boiled down to meaningless colors ?! Seems much like the power point to management level ratio. I can literally gauge the management level of a presentation based on the number of colors and type of power point (ie moron displays) The prettier the page, the higher up the management... If presented it in flow charts with lots of colors I could sell our management on anything. Use a digital projector and put it in 3d and you can ad
  • Then again, all you need to do is write software that will display a single color in fullscreen mode reacting to the information you want it to.

    It's doable in three lines of VB.
  • by jukervin ( 8659 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:48PM (#8195322)

    This seems similar to Calm Technology research done at Xerox PARC. The research was/is about "engaging both the center and the periphery of our attention and moving back and forth between the two. Ordinarily when driving our attention is centered on the road, the radio, our passenger, but not the noise of the engine. But an unusual noise is noticed immediately, showing that we were attuned to the noise in the periphery, and could come quickly to attend to it."

    They designed a Dangling String to "visualise" network traffic:

    "Bits flowing through the wires of a computer network are ordinarily invisible. But a radically new tool shows those bits through motion, sound, and even touch. It communicates both light and heavy network traffic. Its output is so beautifully integrated with human information processing that one does not even need to be looking at it or near it to take advantage of its peripheral clues. It takes no space on your existing computer screen, and in fact does not use or contain a computer at all. It uses no software, only a few dollars in hardware, and can be shared by many people at the same time. It is called the "Dangling String".

    Created by artist Natalie Jeremijenko, the "Dangling String" is an 8 foot piece of plastic spaghetti that hangs from a small electric motor mounted in the ceiling. The motor is electrically connected to a nearby Ethernet cable, so that each bit of information that goes past causes a tiny twitch of the motor. A very busy network causes a madly whirling string with a characteristic noise; a quiet network causes only a small twitch every few seconds. Placed in an unused corner of a hallway, the long string is visible and audible from many offices without being obtrusive. It is fun and useful. The Dangling String meets a key challenge in technology design for the next decade: how to create calm technology."

    from Designing Calm Technology by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown, Xerox PARC, December 21, 1995 .htm
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:49PM (#8195337) Journal
    Having to look at a display is an active process that I may fail to do if I'm busy with something else. I want to hear analog data.

    Sorry, I'm just reminiscing about the old days when I had a micro with some of the address lines insufficiently isolated from the speaker so I could actually hear how busy the CPU was. Just a low level hum but enough to signal when your code was caught in a loop and far more informative that a CPU meter because in a crude way you could actually hear the structure of the kinds of loops being executed. Maybe I should write something like this myself but I'm not sure how to poll the state of the PC register, say, under any modern OS. Each process could have a sound channel - proportional in volume to the CPU time it's using - and I'd be instantly alerted any time something weird was going on.

  • I've had one of these sort of things for years.

    It's a porn-o-meter. It tells me how good the porn is I happen to be looking at at any given time.

    It's in my pants.
  • Anybody remember that funny info pyramid thing from about 1995 or so? It also received data over a pager network and conected to your PC via a serial port. I had one, but the reception always sucked, and the info was usually mediocre at best.
  • I built an analog remote control computer display meter in April 2001 and demonstrated it publicly: here [].
    The file date on the oldest version of the index.html.old [] file is April 21, 2001.
  • We like our Orb (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mahlen ( 6997 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @02:23AM (#8198807) Homepage

    My development group at [] uses an Ambient Orb to reflect the status of the hourly build/test cycle. Even though the continuous build process sends out email and has a web page to indicate what the status is, it's still nice to have a physical artifact of the system, and certainly hammers home that The Build Must Keep Working. When you look at it and it's green, you feel just a little bit OK, and when it's red, you get a little anxious, and really want to make sure it gets fixed.

    I only wish that the Orb was more responsive to the data we send it; occasionally it can take 20 minutes for it to update. But overall, we like it. Do not anger the Orb!


  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Friday February 06, 2004 @12:02PM (#8201837) Homepage

    ..Believe me...I should know. :) I published a paper on the subject back in '97. It's not a new idea by any stretch.

    Anyway, Color-reactivity has been around for ages. Even within the scope of involving computers in one form or another.. There are two examples that i'm aware of, both were implemented w/ early 60's technology:

    1) I wish I could remember the name. It was basically a computer-controlled art exhibit. They set aside a room in an art gallery with an old IBM 704, rigged the room up with motion sensors and microphones, and used the input levels to drive color wheels and light projectors... So if the gallery was quiet, the walls and all the stuff hanging from the ceiling would turn deep blue and move slowly. If there were alot of people visiting the gallery, the color of the room would turn more pink and yellow. If there was alot of chatter going on inside the gallery, with people talking to eachother, the more psychedelic the room became.

    2) There used to be a device back in the early-mid 60's called an Audiovox, if i'm not mistaken...The Audiovox was just a simple amplifier with three colored lights on the front.... Red, Yellow,and Green. It was used to help deaf children learn how to modulate their speech, based upon the feedback the lights produced.... If the lights flickered red, the user would know that their pronunciation was way off. By trying to make (and keep) the green light as solid as possible, deaf children could refine their speech without necessarrily knowing what it sounded like. Neat stuff..

    Anyway. Not a new idea. Not even when I had written about it [].

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