EyeSkills Newsletter – Prototyping Madness 20.03.2019

6 min read

Hiya!

So much has happened in the last two weeks that I barely know where to begin…. but I must begin with a wave of gratitude.

First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Holger Hahn and Andreas Freund, who have both donated to the project (https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8byPUuuQ1D).  I’m utterly blown away.

Thanks to these donations I have built up a cheap Ender 3D Pro (cheap, but with quite astounding print quality) which has already been massively helpful in speeding up prototyping.

The emerging hardware team has also been spending a fair amount privately buying and testing different endoscopic cameras and nano/micro usb hubs (more on that in a bit) so this support will help us cover those costs (and upcoming costs). Again, thank you.  It’s so inspiring to receive energy coming back into the project.

Secondly, I would like to express my deepest respect and thanks to (left to right in the picture below) Johann, Rene, (Iana, who sadly became ill on the first weekend), Flo, Andre, Asieh and Cong… and the main organisers Cong, Isabelle and Daniel, for their incredible efforts over the last three weekends of the Berlin Hackademy.  When I got back on Sunday from the final weekend, I didn’t get back out of bed until Tuesday – there was just nothing left in the tank. It’s been intense, but worth every Joule.  The team feels like family, and what we’ve built in such a short space of time is really something to be proud of.

The headset is something, in and of itself, that deserves a crowd funding.  The world needs an ultra-low cost eye tracking solution which isn’t just on paper, but which is actually being used and developed.  I hope we can do this from within the EyeSkills project, as eye tracking is critical to enabling us to operate safely and effectively, whilst generating the quantitive evidence we need to modernise medical approaches to Lazy Eye.

Here are some more notes on the second weekend if you’re interested 🙂

Here is also a quick look at a video we put together covering the output of the project, and a website (which I’m still trying to complete as I find an hour here or there) with the open-source open-hardware designs available for you to download – https://eyetracktive.org.

Thirdly, I would like to welcome four new volunteers to https://chat.eyeskills.org.  To handle data, balancing respect for privacy and security with benefits for the whole community, is at the core of the project.  Our new volunteer Martin lives and breaths these concerns.  I’m very happy to welcome his voice to the community.

Making EyeSkills really usable (moving it away from an experimental platform which is hard to understand at first) is my main focus for the coming few months, and that requires input on the User Experience and User Interaction side of the system.  Flo (from the Hackademy) has offered to keep an eye on the process, while Guneet from India and Ant from the UK are both getting more actively involved.  I’m very grateful for their more expert input.  Rework is so time consuming, I hope we can make less mistakes and get to a really good experience more quickly than otherwise possible.

On the privacy front – as some of you may know, I made a big effort at the start to host almost everything we use ourselves – from RocketChat, GitLab, the Website to Sendy and so on.  When the CCC talk suddenly generated the resonance it did, however, I needed to respond quickly to setup some kind of volunteering form and a project specific email address (I just wasn’t prepared at all!).  I did this quickly with a Google Form and setup a Google email address. These are both quite secure, from everybody except Google – and the question arises, how much do you trust Google?

Hosting our own mail server for the core team (i.e. email addresses which end in eyeskills.org), for instance – is a non-trivial thing to do.  I have had offers from within the community to do this, but I worry about maintenance and all the associated potential problems with blacklisting/spam etc.

As far as I see it, we have three choices : Keep using Google, self-host, or use a secure email provider.  If we use a secure email provider then it needs to be paid for each month.  I think this is a question which I would like *you* to answer.  Please indicate what you would prefer for now :

https://app.tomvote.com/answer/41a930ba1552a7f6fda6ffa65c8dbd15

You will be asked whether you would prefer us to use a paid email service, switch to self-hosting, or keep using google email. Remember, this is about what the core team will use to communicate with you, not about what you have to use personally.

Right now I’m busy refactoring the Framework for a better experience (thanks again to the amazing prototypefund.de for their support!) although I’m *very* sorry that I don’t have a build ready to show yet.  I ran into a few technical blockers (like this one) and over-estimated how much time I’d have with the Hackademy running in parallel 🙁  Nevertheless, there will be something soon, progress is being made one step at a time.  Before you know it 🙂 we’ll need input from the EyeTracking cameras in the headset… but there is still a lot to do there.

Our amazing electronics expert Moritz (who it turns out has a super powers in soldering things so small you can barely see them with the naked eye):

…is taking charge of harassing Chinese camera manufacturers for more detailed camera specifications and quotes for parts, because the amazing Rene, Andre and Johann have discovered in their deep dives into the android usb layer, that the supported image formats of different chips are critical as to whether or not we can get two cameras working simultaneously.

I also want to give a special shoutout to Rene for putting aside three weekends back-to-back, away from his family, on top of an incredibly stressful managerial day job.  He’s seriously determined.

When we get far enough to have the first working prototypes, I will call out to you for TEN alpha-testers.  We will ask you to cover the raw costs per headset (around 100EUR, as they are based on “samples” with high shipping and unit cost) and if you would like to offer us something for our time that would also be appreciated.  HOWEVER, if you do sign up for this, it will be on condition that you take it really seriously – that you use the system every day for at least a month, and give the most detailed and considered feedback you can about the performance of the system, where it is weak, and what you think we could improve.  We want *real* testers 🙂

We still have a way to go, but I’ll circle back around to this when the time is right.

I’m sure there are other things I’ve forgotten,  but I cannot resist the urge to get coding any longer, so ciao for now… and again, thank you for being here!

Ben

Would you like to beta test EyeSkills* or just follow what we are doing?

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