Category: Co-working Space

All the spaces that are good for co-working etc.

Coworking for Computer Vision

Hi, my name is Mark. I’ve been a member of ACE for almost 9 years. There’s been three things on my To-Do list gnawing at my psyche for some time:

  1. Learn about Raspberry Pi microprocessors through Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
  2. Get hands-on experience with Artificial Intelligence.
  3. Learn the popular Python programming language.

Why these? Because computers are getting smaller while getting more powerful; Artificial Intelligence (AI) is running on ever smaller computers; and Python is a versatile, beginner-friendly language that’s well-documented and used for both Raspberry Pi (RPi) and AI projects.

I’ve been working in computer vision, a field of AI, for several years in both business development and business operations capacities. While I don’t have a technical background, I strive to understand how the engineering of products & services of my employers works in order to facilitate communication with clients. Throughout my career I’ve asked a lot of engineers a lot of naive questions because I’m curious about how the underlying technologies come together on a fundamental level. I owe a big thanks to those engineers for their patience with me! It was time for me to learn it by doing it on my own.

Computer Vision gives machines the ability to see the world as humans do – Using methods for acquiring, processing, analyzing, and understanding digital images or spatial information.


In starting on my learning journey I began a routine of studying at our ACE Makerspace coworking space every week to be around other makers. This helped me maintain focus after the a pandemic induced a work-from-home lifestyle that left me inhibited by a serious brain fog.

My work environment at ACE Coworking

OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision Library) is a cross-platform library of programming functions mainly aimed at real-time computer vision. AMONG MANY COMPONENTS It includes a machine learning library as a set of functions for statistical classification, regression, and clustering of data.

Fun Fact: Our ACE Makerspace Edgy Cam Photobooth seen at many ACE events uses an ‘Edge Detection’ technique also from the OpenCV Library.

A self-paced Intro to Python course came first. Then came a course on OpenCV which taught the fundamentals of image processing. Later still came tutorials on how to train a computer to recognize objects, and even faces, from a series of images.

Plotting the distribution of color intensities in the red, green, and blue color channels

 

3D scatter plot of distributions of grouped colors in images

 

A binary mask to obtain hand gesture shape, to be trained for gesture recognition

 

Notice the difference in probabilities associated with the face recognition predictions when the face is partially occluded by face mask

Eventually, I moved onto more complex projects, including programming an autonomous mini robot car that responds to commands based on what the AI algorithm infers from an attached camera’s video feed – This was real-time computer vision! There were many starter robot car kits to choose from. Some are for educational purposes, others come pre-assembled with a chassis, motor controllers, sensors, and even software. Surely, this was the best path for me to get straight into the software and image processing. But the pandemic had bogged down supply chains, and it seemed that any product with a microchip was on backorder for months.

A backlog of cargo ships waiting outside west coast ports as a symbol of supply chain issues

I couldn’t find a starter robot car kit for sale online that shipped within 60 days and I wasn’t willing to wait that long. And I didn’t want to skip this tutorial because it was a great exercise combined RPi, Python, and AI. ACE Makerspace facilities came to the rescue again with the electronics stations and 3D printers which opened up my options.

I learned a few things working at computer vision hardware companies: Sometimes compromises are made in hardware due to availability of components; Sometimes compromises are made in the software due to the lack of time. One thing was for sure, I had to decide on an alternative hardware solution because hardware supply was the limiting factor. On the other hand, software was rather easy to modify to work with various motor controllers. 

So after some research I decided on making my own robot car kit using the JetBot reference design. The JetBot is an open-source robot based on the Nvidia Jetson Nano, another single board computer more powerful than the RPi. Would this design work with the RPi? I ordered the components and shifted focus to 3D printing the car chassis and mounts while waiting for components from Adafruit and Amazon to arrive. ACE has (2) Prusa 3D printers on which I could run print jobs in parallel;



When the parts arrived I switched over to assembling and soldering (and in my case, de-soldering and re-soldering) the electronic components using ACE’s electronics stations equipped with many of the hand tools, soldering materials, and miscellaneous electrical components. When fully assembled, swapping in the Raspberry Pi for the Jetson Nano computer was simple and it booted up and operated as described on the JetBot site.

Soldering
It’s ALIVE! with an IP address that I use to connect remotely

The autonomous robot car starts by roaming around at a constant speed in a single direction. The Raspberry Pi drives the motor controls, operates the attached camera, and marshals the camera frames to the attached blue coprocessor, an Intel Neural Compute Stick (NCS), plugged into and powered by the Raspberry Pi USB 3.0 port. It’s this NCS that is “looking” for a type of object in each camera frame. The NCS is a coprocessor dedicated to the application-specific task of object detection using a pre-installed program called a MobileNet SSD – pre-trained to recognize a list of common objects. I chose the object type ‘bottle’.

“MobileNet” because they are designed for resource constrained devices such as your smartphone.  “SSD” stands for “Single-shot Detector” because object localization and classification are done in a single forward pass of the neural network. In general, single-stage detectors tend to be less accurate than two-stage detectors, but are significantly faster.

The Neural Compute Stick’s processor is designed to perform the AI inference – accurately detecting and correctly classifying a ‘bottle’ in the camera frame. The NCS localizes the bottle within the camera frame and determines the bounding box coordinates of where in the frame the object is located. The NCS then sends these coordinates to the RPi; The RPi reads these coordinates, determines the center of the bounding box and whether that single center point is to the Left or Right of the center of the RPi’s camera frame.

Knowing this, the RPi will steer the robot accordingly by sending separate commands to the motor controller that drives the two wheels:

  • If that Center Point is Left of Center, then the motor controller will slow down the left wheel and speed up the right wheel;
  • If that Center Point is Right of Center, then the motor controller will slow down the right wheel and speed up the left wheel;

Keeping the bottle in the center of the frame, the RPi drives the car towards the bottle. In the lower-right corner of the video below is a picture-in-picture video from the camera on the Raspberry Pi. A ‘bottle’ is correctly detected and classified in the camera frames. The software [mostly] steers the car towards the bottle.

Older USB Accelerators, such as the NCS (v1), can be slow and cause latency in the reaction time of the computer. So there’s a latency in executing motor control commands. (Not a big deal for a tabletop autonomous mini-car application, but it is a BIG deal for autonomous cars being tested in the real world on the roads today.) On the other hand, this would be difficult to perform on the RPi alone, without a coprocessor, because the Intel NCS is engineered to perform the application-specific number-crunching more efficiently and while using less power than the CPU on the Raspberry Pi.

Finally, I couldn’t help but think that there was some irony in this supply chain dilemma that I had experienced while waiting for electronics to help me learn about robots; Because maybe employing more robots in factories will be how U.S. manufacturers improve resilience of supply chains if these companies decide to “onshore” or “reshore” production back onto home turf. Just my opinion.

Since finishing this robot mini-car I’ve moved on to learn other AI frameworks and even training AI with data in the cloud. My next challenge might be to add a 3D depth sensor to the robot car and map the room in 3D while applying AI to the depth data. A little while back I picked up a used Neato XV-11 robot vacuum from an ACE member, and I might start exploring that device for its LIDAR sensor instead.

Let me know if you’re interested in learning about AI or microprocessors, or if you’re working on similar projects. Until then, I’ll see you around ACE!

Mark Piszczor
LinkedIn

desk, locker, lamp, plant

New Dedicated Coworking Desk

Ace Makerspace is introducing a new Membership type that comes with a dedicated desk. This option includes:

  • As a motorized sit/stand desk for your exclusive use!
  • A private locker (provide your own lock)
  • A locking file cabinet and office drawers
  • Lamp and power strip for easy charging
  • 24/7 Access with full makerspace membership

The Ace Makerspace coworking space has a cafe atmosphere and is in a large room that is also used for coworking. This desk is great for all regular office-type activities. It is not suitable for art or messy fabrication work.

This desk membership is month-to-month and comes with all the responsibilities that are part of space membership for $295 per month.

Check availability!

AMT’s Adventures at Maker Faire 2018

The Art Printing Photobooth aka The Edgy Printacular

At the Bay Area Maker Faire 2018, a team of Ace Monster Toys members created a photobooth where participants could take selfies which were then transformed into line art versions and printed, all initiated by pressing one ‘too-big-to-believe’ red button.

Back in March, AMT folks began prepping for Maker Faire 2018, and had an idea: what if you made a machine that could take a selfie and then generate a line art version of the said selfie, that could then be printed out for participants like you and me?! Thus, the Art Printing Photobooth was born! This project was based on the Edgy Cam project by Ray Alderman. AMT created a special slack channel just for Bay Area Maker Faire 2018 #maker-faire-2018. Then members set about figuring out how exactly to make this art-generating-automaton and Rachel (Crafty) campaigned for having a ‘too-big-to-believe’ push button. They would need many maker skills: CNC routing and file design, woodworking, electronics wiring, and someone to art it all up on the physical piece itself. Bob (Damp Rabbit) quickly volunteered to take on the design and CNC cutting, while Ray (whamodyne) started to chip away at the code that would be used to convert photos to line art.


Then the trouble began. By mid-April, our intrepid troubleshooters were running into all sorts of snags – so much so that the original code needed to be thrown out and rewritten from the ground up! To add additional difficulty (and awesomeness!) the team decided to use a Print on Demand(POD) service to allow participants to have their generated art uploaded and available to be printed on mugs, t-shirts, posters, etc. Soon after, Ray wrote up a new digispark code for the big-red-button to actuate the script and convert and print the line art (code given below) using Python3, opencv library, printer library from https://github.com/python-escpos/python-escpos.


Meanwhile, Crafty Rachel and Bernard were configuring the TV mount that would be the selfie-display of the photobooth and Damp Rabbit was busy CNCing and painting up a storm to create the beautiful finished product – The Edgy Printacular! The EP was a hit and won three blue ribbons at Maker Faire 2018. Another happy ending that speaks to what a few creative makers can do when they put their heads together in a place with all the right equipment, Ace Monster Toys <3

Big empty room

AMT Expansion 2018

This month AMT turns 8 years old and we are growing! We have rented an additional 1200sqft suite in the building. We have a Work Party Weekend planned June 1-3 to upgrade and reconfigure all of AMT. All the key areas at AMT are getting an upgrade :

CoWorking and Classroom are moving in to the new suite. Rad wifi, chill space away from the big machines, and core office amenities are planned for CoWorking. The new Classroom will be reconfigurable and have double the capacity.

Textiles is moving upstairs into the light. The room will now be a clean fabrication hub with Electronics and 3D Printing both expanding into the space made available. Photo printing may or may not stay upstairs — plans are still forming up.

Metal working, bike parking, and new storage including the old lockers will be moving into the old classroom. But before they move in the room is getting a face lift by returning to the cement floors and the walls will get a new coat of paint.

The CNC room and workshop will then be reconfigured to take advantage of the space Metal vacated. We aren’t sure what that is going to look like beyond more workspace and possibly affordable storage for larger short term projects.

Town Hall Meeting May 17th • 7:30PM • Plan the New Space

What expansion means to membership

The other thing that happened in May is after 8 years our rent finally went up. It is still affordable enough that we get to expand. Expansion also means increasing membership volume to cover the new rents and to take advantage of all the upgrades. We are looking to add another 30 members by winter.  Our total capacity before we hit the cap will be 200 members. We feel that offering more classes and the best bargain in co-working will allow us to do this. Please help get the word out!

The New Suite in the Raw

Big empty room

AMT 360º Climate Control Upstairs

In the height of summer it can get mighty toasty upstairs. Here is how you can beat the heat with these different tools.

Fan and Heater Controls

switch-controls

Like all the things in the space we have hacked the environmental controls.

Exhaust Fan

ceiling-vent

This fan is a little loud but venting the air is a very important thing. If noise isn’t an issue or maybe even if some white noise would be a good thing this is the fan to use.

Cabana Fan

cabanafan

This is a standard cabana Fan. This is the switch. Not sure why but it is wired to go faster when sent to a lower number. Warning it gets really windy right under it.

Air Conditioner

swamp-cooler swamp-cooler2

This is a “swamp” cooler. That means that requires water to get the maximum cooling effect. You can use any vessel you like to fill it up on the side hatch and we use the tap water from the sink in the hallway.

If you use the 5 gallon drinking water container to fill it up, please refill it for your parched fellow members.

This air conditioner give the maximum effect if it is positioned in proximity to the running cabana fan. It also has a handy timer so you can set it and not have to worry about running down the water with nobody there to enjoy the cool air.

Project Wrap Up: Purge and Build Day

Our 2016 Summer purge was a great success. We cleaned out a large truckload of stuff and built out several areas. Here are just a few pictures of the upstairs. We have a few projects like building a supply closet to finish up but all in all everyone is pleased with the results.

Everything that had to go
Swanky new laser table
Swanky new laser table
No more piles and you can now easily access the pressure washer and vacuum
Clean and tidy in laser materials storage
Clean and tidy in laser materials
Fully functioning Member Services Desk
New filing and organization of supplies.
New way to organize member paperwork
All the pretty flyers
The new kitchenette complete with microwave and honor bar.
New project display shelves
We organized all the things!
Games and Library.
Looking for something? Look no more… all the forms and paperwork refills ever.
Office supplies all ready to go.
Our clean new after shot.