Category Archives: Everything Else

Super Awesome White House Hangout

Our pal Super Awesome Sylvia will be joining a White House Hangout on the Maker Movement tomorrow with White House innovation advisor Tom Kalil and others including our friends Dale Dougherty of MAKE and Saul Griffith of Otherlab. You can watch at or tune in to the White House’s Google+ page or YouTube channel on Thursday, March 28th at 3:00 pm ET.

(Photo of President Obama with FIRST Robotics Team 341 at the 2010 White House Science Fair by Pete Souza)

Dazzle Camouflage in Fashion

We’re no strangers to seeing an occasional hard-to-look-at article of clothing. However, we recently came across the above pictured dress (the Signature Shift Dress by Julie Brown), and noticed a peculiar quality about it.  The pattern of angled, high-contrast shapes makes it remarkably difficult to see the actual shape of the dress underneath that print.

Now, where have we seen this kind of thing before?

Ah yes: Dazzle Camouflage!  Dazzle camouflage was used in WWI to make ships more difficult to identify and target, by disguising their size, configuration, range and orientation. This is different from traditional camouflage, which tries only to minimize visibility, but can be surprisingly effective.  In the photo above, of the USS Mahomet in port (circa November 1918), it’s hard to make out even the out the shape of the ship.

Additional good examples of ships with dazzle camouflage can be seen herehere, and here (in an article that discusses the design process for the patterns).

Curiously, dazzle camouflage seems to have made a recent comeback in fashion.

This Print Wrap dress at Uupto distorts the model’s curves in strange ways.  Thanks to the “mountain range” in the middle, one might initially perceive this to be a maternity dress.

The Print and Proper dress at Modcloth is another new example.

And the Poleci Women’s Cross Front Striped Longsleeve Top from FavBuy creates the illusion of a strangely misshapen abdomen.

The Elbow Sleeve Tiered Dress at Venus.  The interrupted, striped, spiraling pattern creates the illusion (perhaps assisted by photoshop) that the diameter of the dress is somewhat smaller than it is in reality.

You can dazzle all the way to your toes, with these matching Black and White Platform Heels at Venus.


Some designs stray from simple black and white geometric patterns, but still effectlively confuse the eye, such as this Jersey Maxi Dress by Julie Brown.  Worth noting is that many of the original dazzle patterns on ships were brightly colored, too.


Of course, this is not the first time dazzle camouflage has appeared in fashion. At the time that dazzle camouflage was first introduced, the public was fascinated by it.

The Dazzle Camouflage Pinboard by user Saruzza has some wonderful historical fashion examples, including a reference to a 1919 Dazzle Ball at the Chelsea Club.

From a contemporary article (via camoupedia), comes this account:

Four British naval officers, distinguished for their success at camouflage, had charge of designing the dresses, and the ballroom looked like the Grant Fleet with all its warpaint on, ready for action. The jazz bands produced sounds that have the same effect upon the ear as this “disruptive coloration” has upon the eye.

A themed masquerade ball is one thing, but the patterns did also make their way into the mainstream culture of the time:

This picture of dazzle camouflage bathing suits from the 1919 New York Tribune was provided as a visual supplement to an excellent audio post by 99% Invisible on disruptive camouflage.

And as for the future? No discussion of dazzle would be complete with out mentioning CV Dazzle, which covers methods of using makeup and hairstyles to thwart face recognition software. Perhaps soon e-ink fabrics will also provide changeable displays that disrupt QR and barcode readers, as well as other visual tracking systems.

Pi Blanket


Happy Pi Day, everyone!

To celebrate, our friend Samantha brought in her knitted Pi blanket to share. After the first hexagon with the letter π embroidered on it, the first 127 digits of Pi are shown using the resistor color code to represent the value of the digit. Samantha is donating this quilt to the Project Linus, an organization that gives blankets to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need.

For those in the San Francisco area, the Exploratorium is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Pi Day from 1 pm to 3 pm in front of their soon-to-open new location at Pier 15.

Comet Pan-STARRS

The Exploratorium writes:

The comet Pan-STARRS is currently in view! Did you glimpse it last night?

This beautiful photo was taken by Exploratorium Staff member Adam Esposito last night (March 12) from the Berkeley Hills with a telephoto lens. Uranus is actually right near the comet as well. Mars in the clouds below.

TO VIEW TONIGHT: most of USA and northern hemisphere should look west, about 30 minutes after sunset. You may be able to see it below the crescent moon. It’s close to the sun so only after sunset is it briefly visible in the darkening sky.

We were able to see it last night with a Galileoscope, in spite of haze and an aggressive tree-line, by locating the moon and panning left. has a helpful sky map, too.

3D printed cookie rollers

George Hart sent us a link to his incredible Escher cookie roller project. The project “provides a customizable method of producing cookies that are imprinted with an individual’s favorite frieze patterns and tessellations.”

He and co-consipirator Robert Hanson have provided software for generating STL files to produce 3D printed tessellated cookie or clay rollers, and they’ve even posted a few of their sample STL files.

The process of using an imprinted roller to create patterns on clay dates back to ancient times. Using modern tools including image processing software and 3D printers allows recreation of the ancient patterns, as well as the creation of completely new ones.

Doomsday Atomic Alpha Clock Five Project

From the complete overkill department, evilandy posted in the forums about his project which hooks up an Alpha Clock Five to a GPS module, a WiFi module, a WWVB Atomic radio receiver, two TXCO RTC modules and two microcontrollers because, well, we’ll let him tell you:

I wanted a clock that would display precision time and date in “all” worst case scenarios. If this clock does not show the precise time then it’s time to gather up food, water, ammunition, and the family and head for the underground bunker!

The keyswitch, fire button, and covered toggle are nice touches. Thanks for sharing your project, evilandy!

Infra, a TV built from remote controls

Chris Shen‘s first solo show just opened at 18 Hewett Street in London, and he shared with us about his piece, Infra, built using a Peggy 2:

The idea was to build a infrared display out of old remote controls, using the existing infrared LEDs as pixels of a low-res display. 625 old remote controls are mounted in a metal frame connected by individual wires to a modified Peggy 2 that runs the whole installation.

The main change to the Peggy was to solder molex headers instead of LEDs: this is to allow the wires to be easily plugged in and out of the board which is necessary when dismantling and reassembling the piece. Yes, all 625 remotes are numbered so they can be removed from the frame for transportation! The current and voltage was also adjusted fo IR LEDs as opposed to visible LEDs.

While researching, the main thing I was looking for was the ability to play video (live) on a low-res matrix. I looked into various ways of doing this but once I found the Peggy 2 kit it gave me confidence to go ahead with building Infra because of the open-source nature,  existing work done by Windell, and Jay Clegg’s video Peggy mod.

I connect all the remote controls via 500 meters of speaker wire to the Peggy, held into the frame by a simple looped elastic band. The circuit is mounted to a sheet of acrylic as the circuit bowed with all the wire attached. Each remote had to be opened to solder the wire directly to the LEDs legs. The wire is then routed out through the back of the remote and closed back up.

Preparing all 625 remote controls was the most time consuming part, each was different and often not very clean especially once you get inside. Although looking at all of the remotes individually revealed another side to the project which I’ve documented through a small run of books.

Thank you to Chris for sharing about how you made your piece with us. His exhibit will be up through February 3rd, 2013, so if you’re in London, go see it soon!

Art Controller Automatic Cat Feeder

Our friend Jonathan Foote, after a disappointing experience with a commercially available timed cat feeder, hooked up one of our Art Controller relay boards to an automated candy machine and posted about the project.

Jonathan says, “The resulting hack will reliably and elegantly deliver meals to my favorite pet.”

RoboGames Call for Entries Open

Last Rites and the Electric Boogaloo

RoboGames is now accepting registration for the 2013 competition which will be taking place on April 19-21 in San Mateo, California. Registration deadline is April 1. They’ve also put out a call for papers, demos and talks for the academic symposium with a submission deadline of March 16.

Another related— and very important —event to register for now is BarBot, which will be held in San Francisco on March 1-2. This cocktail robotics exhibition is an amazing amount of fun, and serves as a fundraiser for RoboGames. Registration ends on February 22 for BarBot entries, so it’s now time to get to work on your advanced fluid handling systems!

Robogames 2012-3

At RoboGames, robot builders are rockstars and heroes. It’s one of the few places in our society where engineering and technical ingenuity is exalted in a way that is usually reserved for sports and movie stars. It is open to anyone to participate, and the community of robot builders is incredibly welcoming. They provide huge amounts of information and advice to new and experienced robot builders. There are over 50 different events to compete in, so there is a robot type for everyone.  And it’s not just combat: There’s robot soccer and sumo, navigation and weightlifting, painting and climbing, firefighting and hockey, maze solving, and the all-important bartending event.


If you have ever thought about building a robot, now is the time. Build your bot and bring it to RoboGames, and maybe soon you’ll be the one autographing robot parts for admiring fans!

Update 1/23/2013: BarBot tickets are now on sale!

Photo credits: Last Rites and the Electric Boogaloo by Annie Blumenberg (CC-BY-ND), Yellow art robot by Patrick Giblin (CC-BY-NC).