Current 3D Printer Boom only a Taste of What Is Coming

I assume we've all heard of 3D printing by now.  In the wake of MakerBot, Reprap, Solidoodle, and so many others, many a mind have been illumintated by this new creative process.  The way the current printers work, though, leaves creations somewhat coarse and weak; capable of making mostly novelties and only a handful of practical things.

This is about to change.

Next February, key patents on a different, better, 3D printing process will expire; setting the stage for a new round of consumer-level printers that can make useful, really cheap, everyday objects.  The patents are for a method called Laser Sintering.  Where current printers work by extruding a semi-melted filament (like a pastry decorator), laser sintering works by spreading layers of powder (plastic or metal) into place and using a laser to heat and fuse the powder into the created object(like the top of a creme brulee).  The benefit of this process is that much stronger, finer, objects can be created; the layers won't be as distinct.  And, what's more, the production cost of this process is potentially less than that of the current process MakerBot and others use. Really, it's not far-fetched to think that, say, if your mixing spoon, or bowl, or anything breaks, you can cheaply make your own replacement.

Here's a study that says a 3D printer could pay for itself, in replaced items, in less than a year.

Think about it.


Learning how Computers Work by Making One

If you've got any motivated, technology/maker-minded teens milling about your library, have I found the project for them.  2 professors from MIT have put together a course that involves building an actual working (virtual) computer system from scratch.  Best yet, all the tools, projects, and first half of the textbook is available for free online (found here).  The textbook itself can be found on Amazon or MIT Press for less than $30. Check it out; share it out.

The Fourth Floor

Remember last month, I wrote about the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) and encouraged all of you to check it out (I'm sure you do!)? I'm sure you did and saw what an awesome resource it is.

Well, last Friday, I was at the Lake Superior Libraries Symposium and had the opportunity to hear Nate Hill. Nate is the Assistant Director of the Chattanooga Public Library and the Co-Chair of the DPLA's Audience and Participation workstream. His work on the DPLA is pretty cool, but what he's doing at the Chattanooga Public Library is even cooler!

4thFloorThe fourth floor of his library was a huge, unused storage space - until recently. Now it's an event space, a 3D Printing lab, a place to digitize your photos, and much more. Check out their site and see all the cool things that have been going on there. Nate showed some amazing photos of the things their library has done with this space.

There were many factors that played into the success of this space - innovative partnerships, Chattanooga being a Gig City, supportive administration and city officials. In my opinion, one of the most important factors in the success of this venture is that they were  "not paralyzed by the need for perfection" (from Nate's keynote address). They experimented, tried things out, refined them, and tried again. And, they have an awesome new space and services for their patrons.

23 mobile things for libraries

SmartphoneMissing your Project Play experience and looking for more exposure to new technology? Check out 23 mobile things!

From the "About" page:

"Welcome to 23 mobile things for libraries!
When Helene Blowers and the team at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg County launched the first 23 things program in 2006 they took the library world by storm. A self paced course that offers library workers the chance to build their awareness, knowledge and skills at their own pace is a fun professional development tool. This program builds on their concept and seeks to explore the added potential of mobile devices."

Why mobile this time around?

"We are interested in exploring ways that libraries and library staff can use mobile technologies to deliver library services, to engage with their communities and for their own professional development. Research from PEW Internet  explores how rapidly communities are moving to accessing their library services and websites via their own mobile device. The user experience in your library (or museum) through the lense of a mobile device may be quite different, Ditte Laursen shares some insights in this video."

They'll be covering lots of great topics -- social reading, augmented reality, curating, Adobe ID, productivity tools, file sharing, music, digital storytelling, and many others!

For each "Thing" you'll find background, a list of activities to try to become more familiar with the topic/tool/site, and some "thinking points."  The FAQ covers how the program works, how much time it will take, and what you'll need to get started. It sounds like a great way to explore mobile technologies!

I also ran across some Australians and New Zealanders doing the 23 mobile things. They just began their program at the end of April -- timetable is here

Touch Screen Monitors

Td2220_left_hires_1Several people have asked me about the touch screen monitors Reedsburg Public Library is using for delivery and at their check-out desk. To help answer some of your questions, I created a short video highlighting some of the features of the Viewsonic touch screen.

Reedsburg Public Library also opted to purchase different stands that are more flexible than the included stand that comes with the monitor which only lets you tilt.

If you are interested in purchasing one for your library you can order them by going to the peripherals order form.



The future of privacy

Don't know if you've been following the progress of Google Glass (Google's augmented reality glasses) since our last post about them, but back in February Google ran a pilot for 8,000 beta users. As a possible large scale release and adoption of augmented reality glasses draws ever nearer, this has been generating a number of concerns related to detachment (they'll affect the way humans interact with each other!), distraction (probably shouldn't wear them while driving, right?), and PRIVACY (everyone everywhere could be recording and sharing EVERYTHING without your knowledge or consent!). As Mark Hurst put it in this excellent Creative Good post, "The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change."

Video: "I used Google Glass"

It's the privacy concern that will probably most impact libraries and their users. Already in our daily lives we're faced with security cameras, smartphones, and other devices capable of easily recording and sharing our every move. What happens when these devices become part of our clothing and are with us --and ACTIVE-- wherever we go? And what role do libraries have in providing privacy from such devices to their patrons? (How does your library respond when someone whips out a camera and starts snapping photos or recording? It may become more common, and with augmented reality glasses you may not even know it's happening...)

Tasha Saecker, assistant director of the Appleton Public Library, posted about this topic recently on her Sites and Soundbytes blog, urging libraries to start a dialog now, before Google Glass or other augmented reality glasses enter the library. How do you think libraries should approach this new technology?

Takeaways from the video and reading more about Glass:
Interesting. You probably won't be reading books using Google Glass (think "headlines" or "news stories being read aloud to you", short replies or emoticons, sharing...  simple, quick interactions). A camera was not originally part of Google Glass.
There will be lots of tapping your glasses or talking to them using voice recognition. Google is aiming for having Google Glass out as a consumer product by the end of 2013.

Concerning. You won't know who is taking pictures of or recording you. Tons of information could be collected and potentially integrated with other Google technologies. Add in facial recognition and speech-to-text software, and everything you've ever done in proximity of a Google Glass device could be cataloged and made available by Google. It's a leap, but it could technically happen.

Want more about the glasses?  Check out this page for a video of the Project Glass presentation made at last month's SXSW event in Austin, Texas. The article has more information about the presentation; the video is 50 minutes long and includes a live demonstration of the glasses (starting around 10:52), some geeky stuff about the code in the middle (min 16-26:30) and a summary of what Glass developers have learned over the last few months (26:30-end). Personally, I'm not sure that I'm ready for "constant on" and I'm definitely not thrilled about the privacy aspect of it, but it is some pretty cool technology.

Want more on the privacy issue?  Try these: "Google Glass and Surveillance Culture" and "Google Glass half full: Why that 'ban" may not be needed"

I Found a Multi-tool in my Laptop

So I was just messing around with an office laptop when I discovered something interesting about the spacer Dell installed to fill in the expansion slot...


The spacer is, in fact, a multi-function tool!


It includes a mini ruler (English and Metric), holes to estimate diameter,


a temperature conversion table on the underside,


and a letter opener.

Good job, Dell, to bring functionality to what otherwise would be just a mundane piece of plastic!

(Caution: results my vary)

Widescreens are in.

Dell 19 inch widescreen monitorFor the last two months Dell has been slowly been getting ready to discontinue the standard 19 inch monitor that we’ve been purchasing for several years. They're replacing them with widescreens and making it attractive by lowering the price on them. The standard monitor can no longer be purchased with a system. We are being given a choice of 19, 22, and 24 inch widescreen monitors when purchasing a system. I will update the SCLS website once the Dell website stabilizes and they settle on standard models. The options seem to change every time I log onto their site.

The 19-inch widescreen is about a half inch shorter than your standard 19-inch monitor and two inches wider. It also costs a few dollars less than the standard monitors did. I’ve ordered a few already and so far I haven’t had any complaints from a dissatisfied user.

Reimagining the library

BubbleWhat will the library of the future look like? Here are two items that crossed my path recently that show some possible directions public libraries might take.

The Bubbler

You may have already heard that Madison is planning for a maker-focused programming model in the new Central Library. It has a name now ("The Bubbler"), a description, and a short video telling more about the project. There was also a great article in the Isthmus about the evolving nature of libraries.

Bookless library

In 2013, San Antonio's Bexar County will be home to BiblioTech, described as "the country's first book-less public library."

It will look like a modern library, but there won't be any books --- just computers, gadgets, and ebooks. You can read more about it here:

I'm not sure I'm ready to completely give up physical books, but the makerspace idea totally appeals to me! What do you think about these possible directions?

Ziggi Document Camera

Ziggi by IPEVOSCLS recently purchased a couple of inexpensive document cameras for use in our office. The Ziggi document camera by IPEVO makes a great addition to your workspace if you do a lot of presentations, training or just want an easy to use camera that can quickly transfer pictures to your PC.

If you’ve borrowed the ELMO document camera or been to an SCLS presentation where it was used you should be familiar with this kind of technology. For those of you who haven’t seen a document camera, it’s like a web cam attached to a stand. It allows you to snap photos of documents, book covers , screens on a smart phone or tablet PC or whatever else will fit under the camera.

For $89.00 this is what you get with a Ziggi:

• 2 megapixel image which is capable of producing high resolution and standard resolution images.
• Really nice auto focus.
• Up to 30 fps live video capture.
• Software package that works with both Mac and PCs.

Below is an image I created using the Ziggi.

Using Ziggi to captue live images and video of smart phones