Category Archives: Culture

Homestar Runner is back! Almost…

Just in case you missed the ’00s, his name is Homestar Runner. And he has been gone a looonng time.

But not any more. Homestar is coming back. Read about it here.

I hope you are all as excited as I am!

Sorry iPhone’s and iPad’s, the site is built in Flash. Because, you know, it was like 2001 and stuff… back in the early days of the internets.

Project Loon

Recently, I learned of a revolutionary project developed by Google to promote quality Internet access to rural and remote places. However, what is truly interesting about this effort is that the Internet conglomerate is using balloons to make the whole thing possible. That’s right, balloons!

But these aren’t just any balloons, these are a global network of high-altitude balloons floating twice as high as commercial jets in the stratosphere.

While those of you reading this (myself included) rarely go more than 15 minutes without being “connected”, roughly two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access.

And while some might argue that Internet access in desolate areas is inconsequential, Google definitely does not think so. After all, with the Internet comes search engines that connect users to a plethora of knowledge including sustainable agriculture, water collection and treatment, building construction, and disease control.

So just how does Project Loon work?

As the term stratosphere suggests, the winds in the Earth’s stratosphere are stratified with each layer containing winds that vary in speed and direction. Utilizing GPS tracking and software algorithms, Google is able to determine more or less where their balloons need to go. Then, they move them into the position where the wind is blowing in the desired direction. By using the wind to their advantage, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communication network.

Through a specialized Internet antenna attached to a user’s home or business, signals are transmitted from the balloon to the ground allowing for connectivity via a consumer grade router.

Amazingly, each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area of about 40 km (25 miles) in diameter at near 3G speeds.

Each balloon’s life span is approximately 100 days. Upon retirement, gas is released from the balloon and it returns in a controlled descent to a pre-selected recovery zone where it is collected and either re-used or recycled.

Where is Loon?

Beginning with a pilot test in June 2013, thirty balloons were released from New Zealand’s South Island. Since then, the test has expanded to include more people throughout the region. 2014 plans for this project include continued expansion that will encompass the 40th parallel south.

For more information on how Internet access is exceedingly beneficial to those living in remote areas, watch Zack Matere, a Kenyan farmer’s, story here:

Want to know what’s next for Project Loon?

Continual up-to-date information on this ambitious project is available by following the Project Loon Google+ page.

A Little Bit of What We Saw at SXSW

For everything that’s happening in Austin, TX for SXSW, there’s only a miniscule amount of information that can be taken in when relating to the event as a whole. But that’s okay, because everywhere you turn, there’s something amazing to be seen in the sea of brilliant new technologies, information, and ideas. Craig, Alex, and Matt embarked on the journey to Austin to soak themselves in what SXSW had to offer, and they came back with a few things to share.

The team made it a point to learn about the latest from the UX/UI world as well as see what some of the great online innovators are saying about the state of responsive design and preparing for the influx of devices that are being introduced to market. Admittedly, much of what we heard was still being attributed to the birthing era of responsive design, and much of that we are quite familiar with as far as going through the rounds and testing responsive ideas ourselves. A common theme we were hearing was the internet of everything and the internet of things. As we see more consumer products being introduced as “always connected” and “smart” such as the NEST, there comes more thinking and planning on how the experience will be portrayed. It’s definitely exciting times in the world of user engagement.

Apart from the technical aspects of the web, we saw quite a few inspirational talks from peeps that have started some good things. Dark Rye is a small group of people working on unbranded content for Whole Foods Market. The idea is all about storytelling and the end result is a online catalogue full of engaging video and inspirational stories. The budget is low but it all stems from passion – the passion of the stories that are found and the dedication of the team that makes it all happen. It’s a great recipe for an audience to click the share button.

Of course, with the maker movement in full swing, we had to sit in on some DIY talks. We saw 4 ambassadors share their ideas and success stories about their endeavors and the communities they share in. More and more hacker spaces keep popping up and spearhead a growing community of Makers to keep learning and inventing. It’s a lot to chew, but these places offer all sorts of savviness in programming, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer software design to name a few. It’s a great place to hang if you love taking stuff apart and want to hang with others doing the same thing. I’m keeping my eyes on the Steam Carnival up in LA to see what sort of sorcery those makers come up with.

There’s endless tales to be told from SXSW 2014, and some additional experiences may soon get their own blog post. Keep on the look out!

Augmented Reality: “Your Perception Is Your Reality”

Augmented Reality, or AR as it is quickly becoming referred to in the tech space, is currently making quite a splash on the scene, yet has remarkably been within our reach for over 30 years. AR, a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image with our view of the real world using sound, video, graphics, or GPS, enhances the way we perceive reality.

Technically speaking, AR adds layers of digital information on top of physical, tangible items we see in the world around us. A Boeing researcher, Tom Caudell, first coined the term in 1990, referring to a version of the technology used by aircraft electricians. What makes the technology different today is that it can be used by anyone. Developers have the technology to create it and with a smart phone or tablet, we have the technology to use it.

AR is virtually everywhere; you just have to look. Sports coverage on TV, for example, is a form of AR. Slow motion and the virtual image on a TV screen of a first down line in football are older forms of AR that require much larger systems. Now, we can constantly be connected to the internet and have access to devices that fit in our hands, like the iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets with video capabilities. We can easily overlay information on top of a video or picture with just the click of a button.

The app world is a perfect example of where AR is growing and thriving. Whether it is used for applications, like Computer Science professor Steve Feiner and PhD candidate Steve Henderson’s AR project for the military, or used with apps for the sake of fashion, like Cassette Playa’s T-shirts at Paris Fashion Week, Augmented Reality is changing the way we visualize the world in front of us.

At Ninthlink, we’re having a lot of fun with AR. Our designers and developers are constantly researching and tinkering with the technology and we’re currently in the process of integrating AR into some of our projects. One of our clients, Qualcomm, the brains behind the Vuforia platform that enables best in class AR app experiences, is a perfect example of the way AR is escalating. You can check out more about Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform at vuforia.com

Ninthlink Spends the Day with Habitat for Humanity

On January 29th the entire Ninthlink team spent the day volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. This was the second year we worked alongside Habitat’s selfless group of volunteers and donated funds to help the remarkable organization. We specifically donated funds to Habitat to help support this particular build site. The four townhouses have been designed specially and are being built accordingly for disabled veterans and their families. We couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of a new home, than those who risk their lives defending ours.

Make a difference. Donate today!

It was a hot and sunny day out in Santee but the experience was truly humbling. We broke off into teams, working closely with Habitat’s volunteer contractors to saw and nail siding, jackhammer concrete and lay piping, work on the roof and windows and use table and power saws, nail guns and hammers. Many of us had no experience with construction but enjoyed learning how to use the equipment and talking with the volunteers. By the end of the day, the entire front of the structure had siding and there were only a few cuts and bruises!