Thursday, May 31, 2012

College Freshman’s Automated Dorm Room Has Party and Study Settings . From Time Magazine.

In most college dorms, the most advanced pieces of technology consist of a George Foreman Grill and a glow-in-the-dark Bob Marley poster. Not so for UC Berkeley freshman Derek Low, creator of the Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm (BRAD).

Everything is rigged to work either through voice commands, wireless remote or an iOS app. He even installed a motion detector to flip on all of the lights and open the automated curtain whenever he gets in from class.

The most clever thing Low did was create different settings for different situations: “Sleep mode” turns everything off while “homework mode” turns on only his desk lamp. Then there’s “romantic mode.” Now, putting aside the fact that saying the words “romantic mode” in front of someone probably isn’t the smoothest move one can make, it’s still pretty cool, involving a disco ball, drawn curtains and Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

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  2. Ah, since it's all under computer control, and also considering that just about all computers are on the Internet these days, one might write a program that counts the time in the various modes. Being able to show that a student spent approximately zero hours in homework mode would be handy, when confronted by a student sniveling, "But I worked SOOOO HAAARRRD..."

    (And I don't want to know how much time they spend in romantic mode.)

    1. This student does not spend time in Romantic Mode. This student spends ALL HIS TIME reconfiguring his computer interface. He will discover romance at the age of 30 and marry the first person he sees. And then go back to reconfiguring computer interfaces.

      He'll likely be able to hold down a job, though.

    2. @Merely: I thought, as faculty, we were supposed to encourage intelligence and resourcefulness. I don't see what calls for your derision. Perhaps jealousy?

    3. No derision intended, Frod. I think it's extremely cute. This student thinks that the key to a romantic partner's heart is to do more programming. I have a beloved close relative who could be this student, or his precursor, a couple of decades ago.

      He spent all his time playing with his computer, looked up one day, contemplated the opposite sex and decided he liked them, found a nice one and worked out with her a user-friendly problem-solving interface that seemed to assist them to have a low-friction mutually supportive productive relationship. (I'm pretty sure that's actually how he thinks about it.) Or you could phrase it as "after nearly 30 years they're still very much in love." They're married, have well-behaved and and happy children, AND they can both hold down a job. It's a success story by any measure.

      So I approve very much of young McGyver here. I see the problem with the tone of my comment on rereading, though - I should have said "and he'll likely be able to hold down a job TOO."

      I was amused by his approach, though, because while my brother, er, beloved close relative was still spending all his time reconfiguring computer code, he was not being highly successful on the Romantic Mode front. For that, he actually had to leave his room. :)

  3. On the other hand, the student has obviously learned several systems integration (and possibly programming and electronics) skills. While they may not guarantee success, it will be hard to fall too far in this world with that skillset.

  4. I find this completely cheering. I'm especially impressed that homework mode turns off everything but a desk lamp, as it means he is not doing homework while watching TV, listening to music, and talking on his cell phone.

  5. Even if some modes (i.e. "romantic") may be more aspirational than necessary at this point, I, too, rather like the combination of tech and DIY, and think it will serve him well. It's not like adults in their 30s and up don't do things like buy houses with enormous "retreat" master bathrooms, complete with jacuzzis, that they never have time to use because they're too busy working to pay for it all. And yes, "homework" mode seems well-thought-out. I think this young man will do well by himself.

    Also, unless the meaning of "ridiculously" has completely shifted among the young (I suspect it has a bit, in the direction of emphasizing the extreme nature of something, while carrying less of a negative connotation than the traditional use), the name he gave it does suggest that he has a sense of humor about the project. The choice of soundtrack for "romance" mode may provide further evidence in support of this hypothesis.


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