Category: Research Diary (Page 1 of 2)

Shorter posts outlining the work done by the research assistants over the span of a week (or a very productive day).

Helios: The Good, The Bad and (Mostly) The Ugly

Jenny and I divided our prioritized tasks for the week. I drew the short straw and ended up with all the Helios related tasks. Thus begins this tale of woe.

Helios (the version running on upod-dev) currently is unable to communicate with Hue lights, and the OpenWeather functionality is also down. While the Hue light logging is working on the local version of Helios — suggesting that the problem is more on the system admin side — the OpenWeather feature is not working on upod, upod-dev and local instances, hinting that the problem is code-centeric.

T-staff says that all the ports we requested to be opened, were already open and functional. The situation is at somewhat of an impasse, and until we learn of new ports to open/configurations to change the Hue problem will likely remain unresolved. The OpenWeather problem hopefully will be simpler to fix (their API is extremely straightforward).

Now for some good news! (Transitions between emotions are abrupt when working on Helios.)

The Helios master branch merged with the multisensor branch bringing about the long-awaited version 2.0 of Helios. This also made it easier to test the door-sensor model for Helios which is also slated for merging. Even better, the door sensor logging is now live and fully functional. By writing a custom SmartApp we were able to make the necessary HTTP requests to get  SmartThings and Helios talking. This alliance allows for fairly rapid device addition, and the number of devices available to us will only continue to grow as does the SmartThings platform.

LabRoom security just got an upgrade.

LabRoom security just got an upgrade.

Further, given our new understanding of APIs it will be possible to design an API that taps into the device control functionality of SmartThings, allowing for end-user interface prototyping (getting there will be time-consuming, but it is certainly now in the adjacent possible).

Jenny will be posting later in the week (or to be more accurate — next week) with the progress on the other priority items.

Preparing for Future Generation

Today we devoted time on finishing up a crash course development for new members to recruit for UPOD. This crash course covers topics from JSON parsing, API, and making HTTP requests, to writing data models in SQL Alchemy. We believe that this will allow for a much more efficient transition for new members.

We also completed writing door sensor models and views. It is up on Helios-dev website. We documented each step taken on Helios wiki, so new members who went through the apprenticeship process can leave their marks by adding a new device to Helios.

Tomorrow we will tackle writing a SmartApp so that SmartThings devices will send data to Helios directly. Professor Kraska introduced to us a Masters student, Giselle, who has a complete kit of SmartThings installed at her house and wrote numerous SmartApps, so we plan show her the system we have and receive feedback.

Overall, very productive day!

Returns and Exchanges

After spending a few days with the new gadgets the following facts emerged:

  • The Lenovo laptop has Windows 7 pre-installed. Kinect SDK 2.0 requires Windows 8. Though the laptop came with a Windows 8 OS recovery CD we were unable to get Windows 8 working on it, which makes it of limited use for development purposes.
  • The new Surface Pro 2 we got has severe Visual Studio installation issues. It also seems to be stack overflowing — as of writing is has become unusable since only 15 MB of hard disk space is left (our Skype meeting with Blase was temporarily cut off due to this issue).
  • The HP tablet we ordered turned out to be our best purchase. It has Windows 8 out-of-box, a decent touchscreen and a great ergonomic keyboard. It’s perfect for deployment and development and currently HomeOS, the Z-wave stick and Kinect are all running on it simultaneously without a hitch so far (touchwood).

In conclusion we’ll probably need to return the laptop and Surface 2, and order more HP tablets in lieu.

Salient points from our meeting with Blase:

  • Print out comment cards and run pilot study in lab with Jenny and I as guinea pigs.
  • Make crash course for Anavi (which can also later be used for new UPOD members) to get her up to speed on the basics so that she can develop a clean Web-based interface for controlling lights and even answering survey questions.
  • Fix Helios Hue light logging to only happen when the light state changes. Like all things Helios this won’t be as straightforward as it should be, and will require a foray into Python’s DB modelling and the Hue API.  Currently all data models including lights inherit from a single class and changing the save behaviour for only the lights will require an override — which will also mean looking into SQLAlchemy’s ORM.


Mission Impossible Now Possible

Finally we have good news to share today!

Let’s start off with a bad one : we have decided to put the blue Surface Pro 3 in the drawer because it seems to be faulty and malfunctioning in many cases. Even after uninstalling the old Kinect SDK and reinstalling a new one, it still did not recognize Kinect and freaked out when USB cable was plugged in.

For Surface Pro 2 and HP tablet, we figured out a way to install Zwave driver for Windows. Extracting before running the application was the key.

Then magic happened where everything else also worked. Given the issue raised on Microsoft website about Kinect needing to be the only device connected to one USB port, we thought that was the reason why Kinect kept on dying when plugged into USB hub with Zwave stick was because Kinect is resource-hungry. However, it turns out that they can coexist! Must have been a problem with the blue Surface itself.

We have  a package ready for Professor Littman to take home and install. The box includes a Surface Pro 2 that can successfully run HomeOS and send both Kinect and multisensor data to Helios. Also, we wrote up documentation for self-deployment so that when we send the package to Blase, he can set things up himself as well.

Currently, there is a set of multisensor and Kinect connected to HP tablet that are logging data in the lab room.

Tomorrow we will work on preparing package for Blase, debug Helios, and write door sensor model.


Rising from the ashes and other updates

Helios dev is back up! The supervisor script had been stopped and just needed to be restarted (followed by restart Helios and nginx reload).

With Helios back up multisensor data is logging (from the Z-wave stick connected to the blue Surface). However, the blue Surface seems to not be recognizing Kinect any more (even when plugged in directly) which is problematic to say the least. To get around these we’re using the black Surface (Surface 2) to log Kinect data. So the LabRoom now has multisensor, Kinect and light data being logged! (One caveat Hue lights are not working on the dev version, though they are on production, but hopefully with the ports open this will be easy to debug.)

We’re also setting up all the new devices we got today, and the Wi-Fi is clogging up a bit but the HP tablet and Lenovo laptop should be ready by tomorrow (which will allow testing of Kinect and Z-wave stick on same machine).

With Helios working again and HomeOS working, we can turn our attention to SmartThings. Jenny got hold of Professor Kraska’s SmartThings details, we’re thinking of writing a door-sensor-to-Helios app for SmartThings as one of the main targets for the week (as that will open up a large number of devices for logging and controlling).

Oh, and we also need to finish reading the API book, perhaps next week.

The State of Helios

Several small bugs in Helios were fixed (related to the Multisensor view). Jenny and I had talked about trying to add functionality for trying to make an auto-device-addition-code-generator for Helios but the idea was squashed given the time required vs. the low number of further devices we intend to add (the automation idea could take up to 20 hours while adding a new device to Helios is 1-2 hours).

We also now have to stable test websites for Helios: and . The dev version is for testing experimental features and allows us to try functionality that’s potentially broken.

Helios dev

Helios dev

Friday deployment at Professor Littman’s house nears…

Lessons Learned and Action

In the morning, Tushar and I watched Kamin Whitehouse’s talk on MIT Technology Review and learned the importance of work environment: he highlighted the fact that Americans spend 60% of their time in their homes, thus innovation in home is important.

So we did some rearrangement of furniture and organization of wires. We had been avoiding the lab room because it felt crowded. Now, it is so fresh I think I could wake up earlier in the morning to work in the lab room(or maybe not).


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The Marauder’s Map

Having got Helios one step closer to working (the bug is on Nick’s side now) the rest of the day was spent cleaning out the lab (it looks great now…we just need to configure the Hue Tap, and hide the gently decaying walls somehow) and reading up on Kamin Whitehouse‘s research group and their projects.

Whitehouse’s group had several interesting projects underway, and even though they weren’t using machine learning on end-user programming they had stumbled upon some powerful innovations. I want to talk about my favorite so far, the Marauder’s Map.

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