Thursday, March 20

Half baked ideas

Just read about apple's research on autostereoscopic displays, which lets us see a 3D image, without needing to squint :) I have been thinking about a pet idea for a long time, which is half baked, and will probably remain so.. Hence I though it might be good idea to spell it out here, so that interested people can work on it/ evaluate it. (and if blog post has any legal validity as a prior art, at least people can't patent it :) I have heard enough brickbats about it from friends, but still it charms me to envision its implementation. Here it goes :(
1. Head tracking pointing: Human computer interface has been trying to replace mouse with gaze for a long time. Usual problems associated with such are distraction and confusion, as cursor follows gaze, and gaze follows moving cursor, which follows gaze and so on. Even gaze tracking is not that accurate yet/ cheap enough to be practical. My solution is head tracking. Head is easier to track approximately, as features/ silhouttes are fairly good indicators. If we put cursor approximately in front of our head. (straightline coming out of our forehead, intersecting the screen), instead of our gaze, the problem is solved much easily and elegantly. All we need to make sure, is with head held steady, the cursor stays steady to a high enough accuracy. It need not be exactly in front. As long as one can keep it steady, and move it about at his will, we are good. The eyes, will track the cursor and move head till it points to the desired location. Thus responsibility of visual-motor feedback is delegated to user, who is much better at it, as he knows where he is going. Distraction is minimal, and computation cost is low enough. If this works, then I can use my Iphone embedded with 2 cameras in two top corners, to track my head, and use very small head movements to focus cursor to the tiny keypad, and type faster than using thumb with little practice. We can also have deliberate head gestures, for common tasks. (wink to click. tilt to left to zoom in, right to zoom out, and so on). All user needs to do for calibration is to snap his own picture, while he is looking at 4 screen corners one by one. When you are gazing out of screen, nothing is affected. Imagine a big art project: A display screen, with cameras mounted in corners, which puts big red globs on yellow background, where visitors' heads are looking. Anyways, enough rant. I would love to see it happen!
2. Keyboard pointing with mouse: So many times, at night, you are typing on laptop, but you cant see the keys due to darkness. You tilt the screen down to give some light, and tilt it back to see what you have typed. Its a bit of a mess. Instead how about, having a backlit keyboard. Each key has a light in it. You can move you mouse to scroll through different keys lit one by one, as if keyboard was an extended screen. When you mouse hits the display bottom, it enters the pseudo-screen of keyboard. Convenient and more importantly, elegant.
3. Breath monitor: You know how your breath is related to your moods. Angry, afraid, stressed lead to shallow breaths. Deep breaths relax the mind. We all know this, but most of the time, we are simply unaware of this pattern. How about a gadget which can monitor your stress level/ breathing pattern and make you aware of it. Breath can be monitored electronically in many ways. In case, bulky instrumentation is acceptable like in a ventilator in a hospital, flow/pressure sensors can be put inside nostrils/ ventilator to detect condition of patient. Are lungs working properly, is there clogging of airway due to sinus, nature of cough, is he agitated/nervous/conscious/sleeping. Or even otherwise, we can have a simple tshirt with accelerometers/fabric strech monitors embedded in front and back, to measure chest expansion. If embedded with small Galvanic Skin Response device, it can even more accurately assess stress levels. A lot of research in pattern analysis is still needed. But such bio feedback devices can be very useful.
4. Smart sweater: 40% of energy used in USA (excluding that for transportation) is used in HVAC, or Heating, Ventilation and Airconditioning. And the most easy and zen way to keep warm without burning fuel is to wear a sweater/jacket. But these are very dumb. They are bulky, we need to take them off and on, as surroundings vary. We cant use them while exercising, as body heat is building up, and so on. One solution is smart sweater, which is very light, and made from fabric which is good conductor of heat. It will have just two layers of cloth, stitched in places with elastic stiches to keep them close, and with air pumped in between. Air pressure dictates the thickness, hence the insulation. A smart miniature two way valve on the wrist, will keep in memory the preferred body temperature, and will measure surrounding and body temperature. Thus when body needs to cool down, it will release the air. When it wants absolutely no insulation, it will prompt you by vibration to press you wrist and vacuum seal the two layers, pumping out all the air. When it needs insulation, it will open the incoming valve and ask you to pump the air in, by pressing your wrist. Thus it will let you manage your own insulation intelligently, and in an elegant manner. And save your electricity bills.

Saturday, March 15


My hero :P I just love this guy! One more video. His quotes ..
-I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.
-No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.
-Physics isn't the most important thing. Love is.
-If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize.
-What do you care what other people think! (not exactly quote, but a pact between him and his wife)

Monday, January 21


A week back, I met a friend, who while reminiscing college days, said with dismay, "all is right now, but the innocence is lost." With this, I started thinking about innocence. What is it? Wikipedia articulates it so well.
Innocence is a state of unknowing, where one's experience is lesser, in either a relative view to social peers, or by an absolute comparison to a more common normative scale. In contrast to ignorance, it is generally viewed as a positive term, connoting a blissfully positive view of the world, in particular one where the lack of knowledge stems from a lack of wrongdoing, whereas greater knowledge comes from doing wrong.
This is so intriguing! We treasure innocence, not knowing. We yearn to keep inner child alive, reminder of times when we knew nothing, were cared for, were more full of love & joy, were not so judgmental. We censor our movies, we give spoiler alert before divulging a plot.
This affinity of innocence, runs counter to the doctrine of knowledge, which says that more accurate is our world view, better it is. It also indicates a very fundamental limitation to our freedom. It is very easy to go and learn something, but very difficult to unlearn it. We are bound by our memory, past impressions, stupidity of selective evidence for confirming our theories and vicious cycles of mental processes. Of addiction, of prejudice, of ego, of lust, of guilt, of trauma. Knowing somethings implies undergoing an experience, which changes something in us, which binds us into these vicious loops, and keeps us away from serenity. An extreme example is finding taste of Cyanide, you have to taste it to know the taste, and that kills you. All so called 'Sins' starting with primal sin of Adam & Eve, are usually experiences which may cause us to lose ourselves, if not handled correctly. May be that's why sex education is so tricky..
Is there a way to the knowledge without losing innocence, or freedom to stay serene. Maybe.
Spirituality/ religion can help. Much knowledge starts and is validated by experience. But sometimes we also learn knowledge, which can't be proved by facts, which starts as a belief / blind faith first. Whether God is delusion or not, it sure helps people lead happier lives. Extension of good faith/ trust to strangers can actually encourage good qualities in them. Faith based knowledge, spawns good cycles, countering vicious ones. e.g. love thy neighbor, and he will love you. Smile and world will smile back. Believe in best in people, and that will come true. Or Buddhist precept of not taking your judgement too seriously / keeping an open mind keeps us away from trap of prejudice/ dogma. They can also instill artificial fear to keep you away from Sins, sometimes for your good, but have safety valve of confession to absolve you from the guilt trap, having sinned.
For survival, it is useful to know that fire burns. You can either take your mother's word for it, or stretch your hand and find it yourself. What is important is that this knowledge does not bind you, disturb you. It should not lead to aversion/ phobia of fire. There are people in the world who can hurt you. But having defenses up all the time can drain you of joy & vitality.
Last week, while reading Chinmayananda's book 'SelfUnfoldment', read a very common sense definition of Sin. Sin is something which brings you remorse, either in short or long term. If it doesn't, it is not a sin. Leading a life of a monk without joy, just hoping for long term happiness in heaven is a sin. On the other hand, eating junk food all the time, and growing obese is also a sin. It is very personal.

Saturday, January 19

Globalization !

The manhole near my lab :-) Inner cover from Mexico, outer cover from India, and outermost ring, from China :)

Thursday, January 10

Tata Nano: 1 lakh Car

Well what can I say! They said they would do it, and they did it!!
Hats off to them! Ratan Tata, Tata group, Engineers and designers.
Here is a very good interview of Ratan Tata by Charlie Rose. Is this the beginning of manufacturing led growth in India? Now if only government steps up with infrastructure projects, India can go the China way.

Wednesday, January 2

Saturday, December 22

Johnny Lee: HCI for masses

HCI is Human Computer Interaction, and Johnny Lee from CMU, is making it damn cheaper and fun! And he is making all the code, tools available for hobbyists freely on the web! Now, you can turn any laptop, computer, wall projection into a touchscreen. Or you can wave your fingers at it like in Matrix, click, zoom and pan. Why limit to fixed, flat surfaces? You can take a blank paper, a tablet, an umbrella or mini clay model of a car and turn it into a movable projected display, giving it virtual skin, zoom, pan, doodle on it, move it, tilt it, twirl it! He also has figured a way to use wiimote to turn the flat, drab 2D screen into a 3D display using head tracking, offering custom views for each perspective. Now ducking and strafe from oncoming bullets in Doom, can be much more real life! And all this without the expensive price tag. All above projects are doable with access to off the shelf hardware like computer, projector, wiimote or Umbrella :-) he has also made a 14$ steadycam, which takes steady shoots even while cameraman sprinting! That is the boon for all wannabe speilbergs with great ideas up the sleeve, but no money in the pockets. Cheers to you, Johnny!

Friday, December 21

Friday, November 30


America is a cauldron of exotic people.
Yesterday at a party celebrating my friend's completion of permanent head damage (aka Ph.D.), I had piece of delicious icecream cake on my plate, and I went into kitchen and started talking to a very warm girl doing the hardwork of shuttling pizzas in & out of oven. Considering how high up I am towards my progress in Ph.D. (read above full form again :-), absendmindedly the plate tilted in my hand, and splat! Icecream cake was on the floor.

Now listen to what happened next! I was searching for tissue to grab the cake, put it in trashcan, and wipe the floor, when in swooped this young lady, picked up the remains of cake from the floor, and took it on 'her' plate, and said nonchalantly, "Don't worry, I will eat it!" I was aghast! Now, my standards of cleanliness and what is hygienic are below the world average, but this was even beyond me! and being the sensitive person that I am, I was not going let anyone suffer for my mistakes. I started to grab at piece of the cake. We almost got into a tussle, when I sensed her resolve, and backed up for the fear of hurting her.
"You would throw it in trashcan!", she said. "I can't allow that. I am a freegan. I believe in not wasting any food."
"But it is unhygienic! You might get a food infection!"
"Dont worry", she said,"I do that all the time. My stomach is made of steel."
Aghast at this ordeal she was going through, due to my mistake, and surprised by strength of her beliefs & resolve, vague thoughts about satyagraha, and my father chiding me for leaving few grains of rice in my plate hovered in my mind. But I was too dazed to think through :-)

Then she started telling me about her principals. "I used to do dumpster diving earlier." (i.e. Searching dumpster for food thrown away because it is beyond expiry date, but perfectly edible.) "I don't do that anymore. But I can easily do this. Don't worry about me."

I offered to eat up the rest, but she was doubtful :-) "You would throw it in trashcan." So she would not budge. Now I am looking up freeganism on the google, and can see where she was coming from. I am simply amazed at her passionate belief of what was right, and her readiness to act for it despite fear of what others think/ risk of food infection, and all this with smiling generosity of spirit. How many people can show such courage! I for fact know, I can't :-)

I am just hoping, her stomach is fine... :-)


Steve Wozniak, the guy who designed Apple computer, rocks! Listening to him is almost like revisiting childhood. His innocence, his artlessness, his passion, his evergreen beautiful mind is so rare, and so precious!

Friday, November 23


Blues, mood swings, depression are states of mind. They need not necessarily define people. One can come out of it.

Sherwin Nuland, the surgeon and author, talks about the development of electroshock therapy as a cure for severe, life-threatening depression. Midway through, his story turns personal. It's a moving and deeply felt talk about relief, redemption, second chances.

Tuesday, November 20

YES+ !!!

Last week, I attended a week long course called YES+! It stands for Youth Empowerment Seminar, and is designed by Art of Living Foundation. It was such fun! Full of energy, dancing, music, meditation, exercise and breathing techniques designed to calm the mind, improve focus, get rid of negative emotions, find joy & peace in the present moment, feel connection and sense of belonging with others. I recommend it to everybody! It was taught by Natalie, a sweet young american girl who has conducted many many trauma relief workshops in New Orleans for Katrina affected people, inner city youth, prisons. I have always been overawed by all Art of Living teachers I have met. They really 'know' what they are talking about! Lets hope my discipline gets better of my inertia in practicing these techniques :-) Below is a music video made in Montreal YES+ course, which captures beautifully the essence of YES+.

Monday, October 29

Truth about Gujrat Riots : Tehelka

Ashish Khetan, the brave journalist from has found out some very disturbing truth about Gujrat Riots & role of government inaction in it. Listen to these people, as they speak about their, cops', Narendra Modi's role in riots, with exhilaration, without any remorse or moral qualms. Their morality is shaped around Hindutva, and its glory, and hatred of muslims, and feral animosity long cultivated by shakhas, history, fable of past glory, and isolation from Muslim community. They are gullible enough to reveal all, to a relative stranger whom they believe is member of their clan. I have known a person who is very nice person in all other aspects, except this. He is raged with passion, and hatred when he talks about Muslims. He talks about their plan to reproduce and take over India, and his willingness to take up arms when the time for war comes. The first time, I heard him say this, I sincerely wanted to ask him to get a psychoanalysis, or convince him of irrationality and phobic nature of his thinking, but it was no avail. Now I know how widespread the problem is...
Bravo to brave Ashish for uncovering this. Now we know what we are up against.. Not the people, but the indoctrination which created them. VHP, Bajrang Dal are extremists for sure. But if RSS ideology has role to play in this, it is truly evil. Lets hope the people who committed this, are brought to justice. Otherwise, these expose will be recruitment material for Islamic jihad.

Sunday, September 23


the boy who asked for more :-)
Here are some wonderful songs from Oliver!
please watch in larger window.

Monday, September 10


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