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Archive for the ‘MIT’ Category

Cover Design of my Book "inVENterviews"

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

So, I have been wondering on how to write a book and what to write…

Ein Buch Schreiben – Teil 1

Ein Buch Schreiben – Teil 2

I thought a good way of starting to think what the book should be about, for me at least, would be start out with the cover-design of the book. Here is what I came up with so far:


I hope you like it! Two of my inVENterviews you can already find on my blog:

inVENterview – David Merrill

inVENterview – Stephen Steiner

Let me know what you think! I will keep you posted! Have a nice weekend! Best,

Writing a Book

Friday, April 10th, 2009


Yes, it is hard! – who will join me on finding out, how hard?

Great Wearable Tech of the Future OR NOT

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

This demo — from Pattie Maes’ lab at MIT, spearheaded by Pranav Mistry — was the buzz of TED. It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment. Imagine “Minority Report” and then some.

I am not sure if this is as great as it looks, having discussed some of the disadvantages that all the “great tech” brings with it before:

Are we becoming Gargoyles from Snowcrash?

At this point in time, I ask myself the question: “Do I have to have this?” and I hope that it wont come to: “You need to have this”.

Through a recent discussion with some fellow students at MIT, I started to think and realize that we dont have a choice anymore!

Lets just ask the following question: Do we have a choice to not use the internet or email or a mobile phone? I think, we DONT have a choice anymore! We have to use these technologies, if we want to or not. Somehow, this is a development, which I am not particulary fond of.

I have been avoiding to get a mobile phone in the US, for quite a while now and I really enjoy it. On the one hand, there is the challenge of really defending oneself why I chose to not have one. ;_) On the other hand, there are many advantages that come with not having a cell phone (to be talked about in another post).

To get back to what I have been trying to say above: “Am I less human now, because I dont have a cell phone?”, “Do I want to connect less with people around me?”,… NO!

Finally, all these technologies only make sense, if other people use them as well (which is one of the main reasons, why people tell you to get a phone: then, having their phone makes more sense to them…).

I am not saying that any of these technologies are bad or that they dont bring great advantages with them. However, I think, I should always be able to chose not have to use it!

Enough said, I will open it for questions, comments and discussion! Have a good weekend! Best, Daniel

Latke VS Hamantaschen – MIT Debate 2009

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

What a debate!




… for those of you, who have not yet tried these delicious treats!

MIT has fought a debate for the past 7 years over which is better: Latke or Hamantaschen


Two teams of three prestigious MIT professors each, fight in this debate and try to win by scientifically explaining why the one is better than the other!

Chemistry VS Math VS Brain and Cognitive Sciences VS Materials Science….It is hilarious!



Who won, after all this???:

(Team Hamantaschen)

and this

(Team Latke)


Latke are more energyefficient when used in batteries
Hamantashen were the reason for the crash of the Airbus, which safely landed on the Hudson River
Barack Obama is all for Hamantashen
Hamantashen are the new Green

…and lots more…

IT WAS A TIE! So, unfortunately, the debate will have to be held again, NEXT YEAR! ;_)


A 3D Sonar Concept by looking at Echo-Location used by Bats

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

1. Reflection of project proposal:

I explained my idea of a 3D sonar by mimicking Echo-Location using cell-phone technology (Echo-Location used by bats to fly in the dark AND by blind people) to our team and my project partner. Of course, I had to explain my project, but he and the team were able to understand it right away (Presentation pics).

I did have a prototype, which certainly was not functionable at the time, but it was clearly understood what I was saying:

3D Sonar Prototype

My project partner designed a diagram through my description, which I enhanced to make the important parts come out in more detail:


Amber joined our team and she could immediately tell what was described in my project partner’s diagram.

2. Further concentration

Considering my concept and distilling it further, I find that the Biology how bats can navigate through the dark or even blind is the most fascinating fact about it. It also showed to be the most descriptive when trying to explain my idea. How bats can just easily navigate in the dark, without seeing anything:

Amazing Video studying bats (from 1955)

This is really the core concept of my idea to mimic this so-called Echo-Location, but use Cell-Phones to capture objects or even architecture, then use more than one cellphone to triangulate the position of the objects and display them through a visual system (could also be a non-visual system: shown in the Computer Game Darkgame – but be aware of the lack of documentation of the project).

As far as the use of such a technology is concerned one can imagine many scenarios for blind people being able to “see” their surroundings or for people with normal vision, such as

walking through a city in real-time, while still sitting on the plane
walking through rooms of a building (museums, hostage situations, ….),…

The following video shows a simulation of a building that is occupied by terrorists and the police can trace the position of each terrorist and captured individual in the building by matching the building plan to the collected 3D sonar data:


Further studies will include:

The Bathouse Project
Echo-Location used by Animals
Human Echo-Location)

Thanks! Best,

Snow Crash – Gargoyles

Friday, February 20th, 2009

So, I heart that Snow Crash is a must read for every MIT student. I purchased the book and I did some research on the infamous Gargoyles described in the book: and (see the image descriptions!)

Then I found this:

3rd Eye
This ultralight spherical video camera attaches to a headband, providing a third eye while biking, hiking, or during other activities. (LINK to Product Site)

I am sure there is even more out there, just came across the 3rd eye and the flickr picture and then THIS:

OTHER Body VS Human Stories and links:

1. Here is a feeling-WIFI project that I saw at the ARS ELECTRONICA in Linz, last year:
Constraint City
Vital Threads
presented at HOPE.


Good’ay! Yours, Daniel

Researching Hearing TO "See" like a Bat

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Through a class that I am taking at MIT I got really interested about our senses.
The class is called Networked Cultures: Collision – Body vs Network (

So, I started to…

Research HEARING:

Hearing (or audition) is one of the traditional five senses. It is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations via an organ such as the ear.

In humans and other vertebrates, hearing is performed primarily by the auditory system: vibrations are detected by the ear and transduced into nerve impulses that are perceived by the brain (primarily in the temporal lobe). Like touch, audition requires sensitivity to the movement of molecules in the world outside the organism. Both hearing and touch are types of mechanosensation.

Hearing in animals

Not all sounds are normally audible to all animals. Each species has a range of normal hearing for both loudness (amplitude) and pitch (frequency). In species that use sound as a primary means of communication, hearing is typically most acute for the range of pitches produced in calls and speech.

Frequencies capable of being heard by humans are called audio or sonic. The range is typically considered to be between 20Hz and 20,000Hz. Frequencies higher than audio are referred to as ultrasonic, while frequencies below audio are referred to as infrasonic. Some bats use ultrasound for echolocation while in flight. Dogs are able to hear ultrasound, which is the principle of ‘silent’ dog whistles. Snakes sense infrasound through their bellies, and whales, giraffes and elephants use it for communication.

That got me to think about the last Batman movie and ultrasonic hearing of bats…

So you might think the Bat-Pod is the coolest gadget Batman has:


The Bat-Pod’s forward-swooping design allows the rider to steer with his shoulders. Currently only one stuntman in the world has the skills to drive it.
Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures /TM, © DC Comics

BUT, here is the actually most amazing device idea:

3-D Sonar System

Since the Joker does not have a lair or a base, Batman must track the constantly mobile madman through the streets of Gotham. To do this he uses a cowl-mounted sonar device that triangulates the baddies’ cellphone signals and then renders the sound of their communication into a 3-D visual map.

So, the Joker is on the loose, he’s a hard man to track down and time is of the essence. Well, if you’re Batman you hack every mobile phone in Gotham to create a 3D sonar image of the city. Then, if his voice is picked up you triangulate his position Oh yeah, and the map can be fed straight into your cowl. Slightly unethical, but ace.

Video of the device through the sight of the viewer:


So, using Cellular Phones or another technology one could create 3D images of our surroundings, cities,…

To start this I created this FACEBOOK GROUP and REDWIRED GROUP (Austrian Social Network) to discuss the issues that might arrise, but also the positive sides of a device: It could be something interesting to be developed for blind people.

Real-World Counterparts, so far: Lidar and Sonar

Usually utilizing lasers, a Lidar system measures reflected light to find the range, dimensions and other properties of far-off objects. Sonar, of course, is the technology of bouncing sound waves off faraway objects to get a realistic picture of where those objects are. Combine the two, and you’ve got the 3-D system Batman uses to hunt his quarry.

Physical Boundaries still to be investigated

comment from

OK, I know it’s only a comic book movie, but still: sonar cell phones?

Work out the details. Let’s assume it is possible to force anyone’s cell phone to become an echo transponder (it maybe possible for all I know). The ultrasonic beep would have to be generated on the phone—cell phone transmissions have a notoriously low range: less than 10 kiloherz (kHz). The human ear can usually hear up to 20 kHz, and some people beyond that.

If the cell phone speaker can manage to generate the ultrasonic beep because Batman’s software completely took over the codec, then you still got problems. The sound goes out, and we’ll be nice and pretend it actually forms a nice sweeping cone, but when it comes back, it’s still coming through a crappy microphone and digitized by a cheap ADC. I’ll play nice and assume Batman was really smart and came up with a nifty software hack to perform the real-time compression of ultrasound. How does he know which direction the echo came from?

Sonar in animals depend quite heavily on being able to tell exactly where a sound came from. For bats and some birds, it’s the pair of ears on their head. For whales, they use their lower jaw and ears. These mechanisms allow them to precisely figure out direction as well as distance. A cell phone has a very limited ability to detect direction, not enough to give the detailed pictures in the movie. The microphones on cell phones are designed to be very responsive in a narrow band in front of it and almost deaf to anything outside of that band. So at best you’ve got a spotlight, but all you get back are a bunch of echoes that tell you nothing of the shape or direction. The microphone still can’t tell what angle the echo came in at.

The one part about that plot device that came close to reality was monitoring all that cell phone traffic for someone’s voice: there are rumors that the NSA’s ECHELON program can pick out voices of “parties of interest” from thousands of calls. Of course, I’m sure that’s just tin-foil hat thinking.

However, other comments say that it still might be possible…

Other cool Batman gear:

A Sonar Company:

I will look into this further! Have a good one! Yours,

Ein Samstag in Cambridge

Saturday, January 31st, 2009


Nach einer 19 Stunden Reise (9:00 Graz – 4:00 Boston)…! Aber es ist eh immer die gleiche Routine. Allerdings muss ich sagen, dass ich jetzt doch schon laenger nicht mehr hier war (seit Juli 2008). Das macht das ganze wieder irgendwie interessanter!

Durch die Gaenge des MIT zu spazieren ist immer interessant! Gleich habe ich zwei interessante Dinge entdeckt:
Die MIT IDEAS Competition! Findet uebermorgen statt:

"Interested in space? Biotechnology? How about sound? Our goal is to provide the most interesting and informative display of the breakthrough research and development in a variety of fields – everything from aerospace to automotive. The audience will learn about the most cutting edge science and technologies while exploring the technical challenges of working in specific fields. Please stop by and enjoy refreshments while presentations are going on during the event.

TechFair will be conducted "trade-show" style. The audience will be able to walk around to different companies and learn about the company, what they’re presenting on, and how the science and technologies work, and careers in the company and field of research. We’ll also be raffling off great prizes!"

Schon sehr interessant! Das werde ich mir ansehen.

Das Wetter ( heute ist wunderschoen in Cambridge und Boston, blauer Himmel.


Herrlich, aber ein eisiger Wind pfeifft ueber den Charles River, der natuerlich vollkommen zugefroren ist ( -4 Grad, aber durch den Wind: -12 Grad!; Die Sonne geht im Moment um 7:00 auf und geht um 17 Uhr unter).


Heute musste ich mir natuerlich gleich einen der besten Burger goennen in meinem Lieblingsrestaurant und glztg. Bookstore, dem Trident Cafe.


Das Trident Cafe befindet sich in der Newbury Street, einer tollen Strasse in Boston – viele kleine Cafes, tolle Restaurants, kleine und grosse Geschaefte zum Einkaufen – toll zu jeder Jahreszeit!


Gut gestaerkt sitze ich jetzt wieder im MIT, allerdings nicht in meinem Buero, sondern in der Bibliothek, von hier hab ich einen tollen Blick auf den Charles River!

Ja, bestens! Ein schoener Samstag in Cambridge, den ich jetzt mit Bibliothek bis 16:00 und dannach einem Besuch in der Kletterhalle ausklingen lassen werde! Dann bis bald! Euer,


Siftables and Other

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

0. In my last blog I interviewed David Merrill (PhD Candidate at the MIT MEDIA LAB), who is the creator of SIFTABLES.

Having been in the i-team, finding a way for Siftables to enter the Market, I keep a close look for the NEW in this area and what I consider worth sharing at the moment are

1. The HP TouchSmart


2. Or the upcoming! XO-2


For products like the latter, I thought Apple would be first, but lately I find that Apple really waits until a product has proven ground and THEN develops a “new” shiny version. So, we will have to wait a bit longer, until Apple makes something like the XO-2, although, they surely have a whole lot of the necessary patents to do anything they want!

3. And here is the Napkin PC, something I already showed to the i-team during our first meeting this spring. It is just a Design, BUT Siftables – you better hurry up! ;_)


The Napkin PC ended up winning the Microsoft NextGen PC Design Competition (2007-2008)!

Entrants in next year’s competition will gain even more recognition when it is folded into Microsoft’s Imagine Cup!:


INvenTERVIEW – David Merrill

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Finally, I found the time to type up my 2nd INvenTERVIEW, where I interview great friends and people, who I have met on my path at MIT and my carreer. I try to show a more personal and different point of view than usually shown in the media.

Many more shall follow! Enjoy.

INvenTERVIEW – David Merrill

(Date: May, 2008)


David Merrill is a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab who I collaborated with in this year’s i-teams class at MIT. His technology that needed a clear path to the market is called Siftables:


I asked David to start telling his story from his childhood and how he might have gotten into things like Siftables and such!

As a kid I always building with building blocks (he was especially referring to Lincoln Logs, something to get for your child maybe in the near future, besides LEGO and all that or maybe some Siftables…)!”

I liked building!”,

That he really did, in High School (1992-1996) he got into programming, at least as far as the computers would allow him to go, at this time. First, he was programming on his school Texas Instruments calculator (TI)! On the calculator he made simple math programs to help his classmates, and even built a simple driving game with multiple levels. He started making a more sophisticated battleship game, which was "quite a large piece of software for a calculator!", but he got too busy with college applications to release it.

In calculus class he built a program for his TI, where adding up squares underneath a curve computed an approximation of the integral of the curve. Showing an early interest in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Merrill was eager to find out how his fellow students would use his creations. The way to distribute programs at the time was through a cable to the other students’ calculators, an early peer-to-peer file sharing technique for mobile devices!

He was off to Stanford, and created his first website in his spare time at his job at the campus library.

At that time, the question was: What are you supposed to have on your website? …Nobody knew what should have been there! Pictures of my friends, a bulletin board type system, Messages, which everyone could see, we used it to keep in touch.” – very much like today, I thought.

I asked David how Stanford supported his WWW education and he told that even back then they would have seminars in the dorm where the resident computer person would help you make a website.

I thought I was going to study physics, but I ended up studying cognitive science, because it was more interdisciplinary.”

At this time David got really interested in computer science!, “I realized with a computer I could build even better greater things than with a calculator.” Still, the most exciting part for David was when other people would use his programs and benefit from his work. Now he had a word for this interest, however: computer-human interaction became his focus!

In undergraduate computer science he asked himself the question: How can the computer better represent information to us, and how can we interact with it in the most natural manner? As time went on, the question shifted to become: How does our body interact with a computer? And how can this interaction be improved? “What interfaces could I build if my toolset included the physical world, rather than just code?” At this point David’s focus moved from code to the additional use of embedded processors and sensors.

He pursued this interest from 2001 to 2002 at CCRMA, Stanford’s computer music center, in a class about physical music controllers. In the context of making new instruments, he learned by doing how to use basic electronics and sensors.

He was building physical objects that had computational behavior…objects that allowed a person to trigger and shape digital sounds. To put it in a nutshell he was designing systems that enabled a person to control sonic outputs through different physical inputs, and that is where he met his most difficult challenge and question:

What is most intuitive? Now that we can connect any input gesture to any sound output, what should this mapping be?” He considered acoustic instruments and how they have become mature over hundreds of years, and wondered if a good instrument takes a long time to develop.

At this point in time, another event shaped David’s life dramatically :

I wanted to pursue a Ph.D., but it was already November (Fall 2001) of the year that I was graduating. About half of the programs had deadlines in December and January, and I was not going to have enough time to make the December deadlines. I didn’t want to apply to only half of the interesting schools because of this deadline crunch, so, I said to myself: Why don’t I apply ONLY to my #1 choice (which at the time had a January deadline). And if I get in, I’ll go. Otherwise, I will just wait a year and apply everywhere else.”

But he got in, and by in, I mean, into the MIT Media Lab, to study physically embodied interactive systems. He worked with Ted Selker, Joe Paradiso, and Pattie Maes over his six years at the lab, and produced an impressive collection of new user interface devices, interactive installations and publications.

And it was the project Siftables that would become the focus of his Ph.D.: Ever since my time at Stanford’s computer center, I have been a bit input device geek! I probably have 25 different game pads and joysticks that I have bought from eBay over the years…..!”

He was intrigued by how devices could be made for our hands: “Hands are most creative part of our body!”

Today we still interact with graphical content using a mouse and a keyboard. David thinks differently about how we might interact with digital content: “Today, my computer has 101 buttons and allows me one fingertip to touch the digital space. Imagine yourself sitting in front of a big pile of blocks and someone tells you that you can only use one fingertip to build structures with them… How can you do anything useful/creative?”

“We should be able to reach out with our hands, to grasp and move digital content around!”

Siftables can do just that. Having collaborated with David, I believe in it myself, but he needs move quickly, because Microsoft and Apple are trying to own this market!

But David is a multi-talented inventor and is already looking beyond Siftables, thinking about nano-bots in our body, as described by Ray Kurzweil, a well-known futurist and inventor. He is interested in neural implants and Kurzweil’s idea that we might be able to live forever, as described in a recent Wired magazine article. David knows that in the future he will be engineering solutions to such "what if we could do X…" questions,My work is very applied”.

He has enjoyed recent press and feedback about his Sound of Touch project and other art installations, as well as blogosphere and news articles about Siftables.

Besides all of his technology work, Merrill has travelled the world: Ireland, England, France, Germany, Morocco, Canada, Peru, Hawaii, Spain, Portugal, and Iceland to date. All of this time abroad probably has something to do with the fact that his girlfriend is a voracious traveler”!

Being originally from California, he enjoys the West coast very much. His friend Ben Olding, a statistics Ph.D. at Harvard who is also from California, articulates the appeal of the place in a way that resonates with David: California is full of dreamers. Everyone has a scheme about what they are going to do next, some high-tech, some not. Their plan might be the next social web service, or it might be mail-order homeopathic medicine. Whatever it is, they are open to new out-there possibilities and trying to make them happen.

"There is something fresh and naïve and wonderful about California, and although I love MIT and the Boston area I am looking forward to my future out West” says David Merill, PhD Candidate at the MIT Media Lab.

Daniel Pressl’s INvenTERVIEW Question List:

1.  Complete the sentence: “I am…

excited to give people amazing new ways to interact with the digital world.

I am optimistic, a roll up the sleeves- and make things happen- kind of guy, who enjoys motivating people around me.”

2.  Complete the sentence: “I like…

languages and understanding or decoding other cultures and places and processes. I like language barriers because they are challenging.”

3.  Complete the sentence: “My heart was beating the last time,…

when I rode my bike to MIT. I need more exercise.”

4.  Complete the sentence: “Once, I would like to drink coffee with…

Mohammed Yunis, who started the Grameen Bank.”

5.  Complete the sentence: “Things that are never missing in my fridge are…

Yogurt and soy milk.”

6.  Complete the sentence: “My favorite book is…

The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker.”

7.  Complete the sentence: “The credo/moto of my life is…

We can built a solution to that.”

8.  Complete the sentence: “My last words should be…

that was great, I did everything I wanted to do.”

Thank you, David!

Previous INvenTERVIEWS:

Stephen Steiner, MIT