Moonshot - Barkley Labs

Internet of Wild Things Class

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We held our very first internet of wild things class yesterday, a workshop  which teaches people how to create machines out of everyday objects and connect them to the internet. Participants entered the class with no electronics or programming experience and were asked to bring in some kind of found object from home - a bottle of sunscreen, legos, a disco ball, and a sewing machine were some of my favorites.

The class started with fundamental electronics concepts to get people excited and confident about making. Together, we wired a few LEDs and used a button to control a light. No one even got shocked!

Look ma, no code

A brief introduction into micro controllers moved us into manipulating components via processor logic. Within a few minutes we were using a web interface to configure and load code onto our spark cores, magically enabling us to control elements of our projects via a web page with a few buttons!


The application used to configure and load code onto the spark cores is a moonshot product and is available as a public project on github.

If I press a button in the real world, make a tweet

After everyone was comfortable making basic electronic circuits, we began creating if this, then that style web flows via Zapier. This gave students a wide variety of web hooks including Gmail, Twitter, text messaging, phone calls, Facebook, and many more.

After this 90 minute introduction, each student started working on their own projects.

Wear Sunscreen

Everyone in the class had great ideas, but two of my favorites were:

1. Sara Buck brought in a bottle of sunscreen and used a force sensitive resistor to detect when the lotion was applied. The bottle would then schedule a reminder on her google calendar set for 2 hours into the future. After two hours, the calendar sends her a text message reminding her to reapply to prevent sunburn.

2. Stacey Kledis brought in her sewing machine and began to create an application which logged the number of stitches and length of use. The machine also attempted to detect the type of fabric used by sensing pressure.

Unobtrusive Face Detection (Part 1): Computer Training

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Demos of emerging technologies frequently ask a person to stop what they’re doing and experience something new. Successful applications are typically fun and engaging, but we at Moonshot wanted to take our face recognition experience to the next level. We wanted to create something which required no action from the end user, it needed to be completely invisible and appear to magically just work.

Imagine an experience where a person unknowingly passes by a machine. The machine verbally says:

Hi Cady. Your timesheet is late. Just like it was last week, and the week before that, and the week before that…


Good morning Ricky, I know you were the one who broke the coffee machine.

Creepy, strange, potentially helpful? But wait a second… how did the computer recognize Cady? How did it know Ricky broke the coffee machine?

Training the Computer to recognize faces

In order to accurately detect a person, the computer needs to create a reference between a photo and a person’s profile - Ricky’s face needs to be paired with Ricky’s profile.

We’ve installed a hidden camera under the stairs at the main entrance of Barkley. A motion detector acts as a trip wire which snaps a quick photo of the passerby. These photos are put into a queue where the Moonshot team matches each face to a profile.

Populating the database with talking points

Making a computer deliver intensely personalized messaging is difficult. We thought about polling social media statuses, scraping profile data from our intranet, and looking up police records for each employee.

None of this felt personal enough because the computer doesn’t really know Ricky, but I do. We built a small web application to help us create talking points for each person. The Moonshot team can select a person and type in a personalized message.


Having a computer accurately capture a photo of a face turned out to be the most difficult part of this project. We started out with a nice web cam, but eventually gave up because auto-focus and lack of zoom were too problematic. We replaced the webcam with a DSLR on all manual settings and got much better results.


We wanted to keep the physical footprint of this project small, so we elected to use a Raspberry Pi. It’s a great little computer, but we are definitely stretching it’s capabilities. Running a motion detector, camera (Canon EOS Rebel), web server (node), database server (mongo), and OpenCV all at the same time pretty maxes out the Pi’s processor. Luckily, we’ve only destroyed one machine so far.

Coming up Next

As soon as we’ve populated a substantial database of users and photos, we’ll begin to turn on the talking points. Part 2 coming soon!

If you’d like to keep track of the latest code releases or see the technology behind this application, check out the github repo.




- Joe Longstreet (@joelongstreet)

Vultures Rejoice, Introducing the Eddie-o-Matic

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Eddie is our concierge here at Barkley. He knows who’s in the office, what clients will be in town, and most importantly, where the free food is after an important meeting.

On those frequent occasions where there are leftover muffins, cake, or any other treat, Eddie will send out a company wide e-mail to let everyone know. Unfortunately the food goes fast and if you’re not one of the first vultures to show up… you’ll be going hungry.

Introducing the Eddie-O-Matic, a machine which immediately notifies the Moonshot team of free food and its location.

Behind the Scenes

A webhook established via acts as a listener for any incoming e-mails from Eddie. When one is received, will notify a custom web application with the message details. The application checks to see if two parameters are met:

1. Does the e-mail contain words that look like food - donuts, bagels, Dean and Deluca!?!
2. Does the e-mail contain a location where we might find the food - a floor number or something similar?

If both of the conditions are met, the web app will then notify the Spark API which in-turn immediately messages the Spark core (the micro-controller we’re using for this project). The board then:

* Lights up the appropriate LED which matches the free food item.
* Rotates a servo so the arm points to the correct floor.
* Rotates another servo and “DINGs!” the bell (Eddie’s signature sound).


The Spark core is a really great controller to get ideas going fast. The hardware is easy to work with and the board provides wifi connection out of the box. The REST API is a huge convenience and is reliable and easy to use. If you’re willing to write a web app, you can make fairly complex mashups quickly.

- Joe Longstreet (@joelongstreet)

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We took sixteen Barkley partners through our Crash Course in Design Thinking today in the lab, based on the Stanford D School’s Virtual Crash Course.  Everyone had a great time learning and doing Design Thinking and making things for one another. Big lesson learned for the lab team: make sure you have plenty of pipe cleaners, Duct Tape and construction paper.

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Chris Leon Rocks Pedalboard.js

Creative Tech takes many forms.

Vote for Moonshot!

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Moonshot is competing in KCSourceLink’s KC Battle of the Brands. Help us survive and advance by voting for us in the Innovation Bracket.

Vote here!

Showrooming in the world of iBeacons

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There’s a lot of talk about how iBeacons will revolutionize indoor location – how they’ll allow for incredibly precise context-aware content and notifications inside your apps.

But one point we’ve not seen many talking about is their effect on showrooming.

Showrooming, according to Wikipedia, is “the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item.”

The Amazon app is the perfect example of this. Kick open the app in store, scan a barcode, see if the product is cheaper on Amazon, buy it on your phone, then have it on your doorstep in two days.

Showrooming is making it difficult for brick and mortar retailers to compete with online merchants, especially considering the tax advantages to selling online.

But, imagine how the problem could be exasperated in an iBeacon-saturated world, where every aisle is broadcasting its identity to your apps.

What if Amazon rolled out a small update tonight that added a simple unnoticeable feature to their existing app? Imagine it just did one thing: every time someone scans a barcode with the Amazon app, the app records the list of iBeacons that are broadcasting in the area and reports home to Amazon for data collection.

Imagine the massive database of information Amazon could compile that ties specific product UPCs to individual aisles in retail stores. What would the repercussion be?

Well, imagine that Amazon makes another update to their app in a year or so once iBeacons become more common.

Now, whenever you stand in an iBeacon-enabled store aisle, the Amazon app automatically displays a list of products in your area with their prices on Amazon, enticing you to buy. You don’t even need to scan a barcode. It conveniently knows what’s around you, and possibly even price-matches products based on what previous customers may have reported in that aisle.

Furthermore, what if Amazon could upsell you on a product with a push notification? They already know what your interests are and have perfected the art of recommending products to you, so what if you got a push notification walking past the electronics aisle for that digital camera you’ve been considering. “Canon EOS Rebel T3i nearby if you’d like to try it in person.” Amazon could tell you to go look at it, to try it out, then buy it online, cheaper, with a tap in their application.

iBeacons are an incredible idea, but they carry with them an uncomfortable truth brands will have to face: They can dramatically improve your customer experience, but your brand has no control over how the technology gets used by others.

It’s a possibility that showrooming will only worsen, even when brands suppose they are making it easier for their customers to find and buy the products they want in store.


Moonshot is Hiring

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Moonshot is looking for a few good geeks. We have positions open for a Creative Technologist, an Experience Designer and a Technoculturist. Check ‘em out and apply. Feel free to share widely. - Mark

Where Am I?

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That’s the question we’ve set out to answer in the soon-to-arrive world of iBeacons. iBeacons give us much more granular information about the location of mobile devices than existing technology, especially in those hard-to-reach-by-GPS places.

So, while we wait for our actual BLE beacons to arrive, we’ve set up our iDevices in the office to function as transmitters and are making attempts to guess a smartphone’s location.

Here is the code (JavaScript for our PhoneGap app) that lets us triangulate a device’s position using its distance from three fixed points, our future beacons.

While we wrote the code for iBeacons, it can be used to triangulate the intersection of three circles for any javascript application, like this:

    var point = triangulate(
        [0, 0], 7,
        [10, 0], 7,
        [5, 10], 5

The three arrays provide the fixed locations of the beacons (x, y), and the radius value represents the device’s distance reading from each. The function returns a point which represents the most accurate of six possible intersection points between the beacon broadcast signals.

We’ll let you know how it goes when our actual beacons arrive!

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We ordered a Spark Maker Kit this morning. It’s exciting to see the price of Internet-enabled microcontrollers continue to fall as more and more competitors enter the market.

For the Spark, you get Internet connectivity, a cloud editor, and a RESTful API straight out of the box, which is the perfect recipe for building your own cloud-enabled hacks.

CES 2014 - Over/Underwhelming

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I went to CES 2014 and all you get is this lousy PDF. Here’s a quick scouting report of sights and thoughts from CES. It was both overwhelming and underwhelming, but the highlights include: wearables, 3D printing, connected cars, and lots of bluetooth speakers and iPhone cases. OK, those aren’t all highlights.

- Mark

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It seems that the brainiacs behind image recognition have made it much easier to do real-world print ad recognition. I’ve seen several similar apps, but this is the first that seems to work well with only partial captures of print pieces.

Read more at Mashable.

Facebook WiFi — Irresistible Utility in Exchange for Brand Promotion

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Facebook released Facebook WiFi this week.

Here’s how it works:

1. You configure your router for Facebook WiFi at your business location.

2. Consumers who connect to your wireless network are prompted to check in to your business on Facebook in exchange for free Internet access. (They can opt out of the check-in too.)

It’s been said that useful is the new cool, and Facebook has made a compelling case for consumers to broadcast their brand patronage to their social network by providing them with some nearly irresistible utility.

Here’s how it benefits everyone.

Facebook benefits by causing more users to engage with the Facebook platform, especially the check-in feature. It’s unclear whether or not users will need a Facebook account to use the service, but if so, that’s another huge benefit to Facebook (account creation/retention for patrons of Facebook WiFi businesses). Facebook also would be able to gather even more massive amounts of data about user behavior online. Lastly, the service requires businesses to create a Facebook Page to use the service, which could lead to even more engagement and revenue from small businesses. For Facebook, it’s a huge win.

Businesses benefit because for little or no cost, they can entice their customers to promote their brand (check-in) on their Facebook stream. For smaller businesses or those hoping for an extra push on social media that wouldn’t have happened naturally, this is an option they might consider.

Consumers get free WiFi at businesses they frequent, which is the driver for the whole equation.

It’s one smart move by Facebook that broadens further the reach of their platform and data collection into the physical world while providing a little promotional benefit to businesses who use it as well.

Commotion in Africa (the good, geeky kind)

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An interesting post by Daniel Hastings talks about his ambitious installation of a mesh network for his students in Somaliland.

Aside from being an inspiring read and demonstrating a great attitude toward problem-solving and learning, it’s whet our appetite to learn a bit more about Commotion, the open source software toolkit Daniel used to support the infrastructure.

What’s to Come in 2014

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The Economic Times published an article by R/GA chairman Bob Greenberg about what he sees happening in the coming year.

One trend on Mr. Greenberg’s list really caught my attention.

Agencies as business transformation consultants -Agencies will transform into broad ranging companies that provide business transformation consulting, product innovation, technology innovation (development of digital services for brands), brand development and a myriad of production capabilities.

That concept is central to why Moonshot exists. It’s our goal to broaden the types of services we provide our clients. Digital innovation is one of the ways we push at the edges of traditional advertising agency roles.

It’s going to be an interesting year for sure! To see Bob Greenberg’s other predictions for 2013, you can read the entire article here.