HacDC Science is back, baby! This time it is neuroscience…

Thank to help from several of my fellow HacDCers, I have my HacDC website access working again, and you know what that means- more SCIENCE content! Today a quick pointer to a fascinating article on the computer simulation of a mammalian brain – or at least an important portion of one- the neocortical column from a common laboratory mouse. The cool thing is that they generated much of the data needed to run the simulation (at the scale of one processor per neuron right now) by using laboratory robots to generate a huge number of experiments on living mouse cells, the data from which were put directly into the simulator. Very, very interesting approach, and an equally cool result- reproducible prediction of the brain’s response to stimuli by the model, which matches perfectly with what is observed in the living mouse. We are getting close to where we are only Moore’s Law away from being able to do the same thing with a human brain. If you read the article here: http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/out_of_the_blue/ be sure and ask me about my related funny Terry Sejnowski story.

XMPP Beyond Chat (Presentation by Arc Riley)

HacDC is developing an XMPP stack to coordinate networked messages to and from microcontrollers over WiFi, serial, and radio. It will ideally enable a near plug-and-play way for people to network their microcontroller projects and display them at HacDC. XMPP is “an open, XML-based protocol originally aimed at near-real-time, extensible instant messaging (IM) and presence information (e.g., buddy lists), but now expanded into the broader realm of message-oriented middleware.” It serves as the backbone of Google Talk, for example. One of the first projects to be linked to our framework will be an ambient lighting system for the space.

On Thursday, August 12 at 7:00PM, as a part of the NARG meeting, Arc Riley will present on the some of the XMPP aspects of this endeavor and will discuss PubSub, Data Forms, and Ad-Hoc Commands. Any individuals interested in these interesting aspects of XMPP beyond chat are encouraged to attend, and, like all HacDC activities, the event is free and open to the public.

At the end of the presentation, we may do some code sprinting and ensure that those attending have access to the distributed code repository.

Ambient Lighting Project with HacDC’s Artifical Intelligence Working Group (NARG)

HacDC contains numerous enthusiasts active in both software and hardware projects, and although these categories divide, they can be difficult to define. On Monday and Wednesday nights at the space, microcontroller and electronics enthusiasts meet, and on Thursday nights hobbyists of artificial intelligence and natural language processing gather.

HacDC’s NARG group is beginning a project that offers one way to bridge the gap between these rough groupings. Blinky lights and LEDs have always been a foundation of microcontroller work, and as actuators they can be surprisingly dense. Interested in the “smart home” concept, HacDC’s NARG group would like to establish an ambient lighting platform with an API that could link into various algorithms — smart, simple, or silly — to affect the color and intensity of lighting in the space. Potential controlling factors include weather, natural language commands, and inferences about the “mood” of the space from sensor data. This could start as one light, like an ambient orb, and potentially expand to a complex network of lights and LED “objects.” This effort could also merge with a larger, long-term project HacDC has to create a master network to communicate with microcontroller projects in the space via XMPP, radio, and WiFi.

On Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 7PM, NARG will discuss and outline the hardware and software needs for this platform. This meeting, like all HacDC meetings, is free and open to the public. And please feel free to keep visiting NARG on Thursdays and Microcontroller Mondays to help this project develop.