Monday, April 23, 2012

Alberta provincial election

I live in the beautiful province of Alberta, Canada. Today we are having a provincial election. This is usually a ho-hum affair. In the 107 years Alberta has been a province, only four political parties have formed the government.
The Progressive Conservative party has won a whopping eleven straight majority victories and have governed for an incredible 41 straight years. My prediction is that this string of victories - virtually unheard-of in other longstanding representative democracies - is about to come to a crashing end.

The name of the party, "Progressive Conservative", seems like an oxymoron. It is essentially the marriage of two earlier centrist parties, the Progressives on the center-Left and the much stronger Conservatives on the center-Right. The PCs have governed as a centrist-slightly-Right party for four decades. Over the years the party slowly drifted Left with each passing year. The party made one readjustment back to more conservative values in 1993 to stave off election defeat, and during those early years under Premier Ralph Klein were governing once again from the Right. The period from 1993 to 1999 saw the Province of Alberta completely pay off its debt.

But time moves on and people retire and once again the PC party has slid well over to the left. On the other side, promising to govern from a more Libertarian conservative angle is the Wild Rose party led by Danielle Smith.

You have to admit, it's an amazing advertising gimmick, and news of this bus virally spread as far as Jay Leno.

When I went to vote this afternoon, the ballot boxes were already so full of ballots from earlier voters that there was hardly room for my ballot. Such high voter turnout in a Provincial election bodes poorly for the incumbent - it means people are passionate. We'll see how it goes as the night progresses.

Update: Looks like the polls were all wrong, and the PCs won another majority government.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making your own Google Glass

Recently Google announced Project Glass, and it has already inspired hackers:

(via [hack a day])

There are some obvious pitfalls to this totally immersive computing environment:

This got me thinking, though. The technology required for something like this is largely off-the-shelf, and could be much more capable than Google's project. Goggles with dual video displays (and the optics to focus them) are off the shelf (and come with earbuds for stereo sound). Six degree of freedom head trackers are off the shelf. Webcams and ultrasonic transducers are off the shelf, and can be combined to make something like an Open Source version of Microsoft Kinect which could be mounted on the frame facing forward to monitor the user's hand gestures. The addition of a microphone is trivial - most webcams already have them built in, or a small one could be mounted to the frame of the glasses ahead of the right ear. It is possible to cram in Bluetooth and Wifi and maybe even a cell phone connection.

What I am suggesting is an Open Source project to combine the ideas behind Google Project Glass and Open Kinect and Sixth Sense Computing, to create a device worn like glasses that replaces laptops, tablets, and cell phones, providing a full 3D environment operated by voice command and hand gestures. The technology is available now; why not?