Category Archives: Tech, Tools, Toys

#WHDemoDay and #ADAinitiative — Oh, the Irony

Welcome to Demo Day at the White House! (Megan Smith, the First US Chief Technology Officer)

“It’s a tradition in the tech community to show off amazing things that people have built. … All Americans do this. All American are capable of this. And it’s a big part of our future, and it’s always been a big part of our past.”

Yesterday was a landmark day in diversity and inclusion.

Yesterday saw the first ever White House Demo Day (#WHDemoDay), for women and minority entrepreneurs and innovators to ‘pitch’ their ideas to President Obama.

Yesterday saw the end of the ADA Initiative, “a feminist organization. We strive to serve the interests and needs of women in open technology and culture who are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression, including disabled women, women of color, LBTQ women, and women from around the world.” (Ada Initiative, About Us)

How enormously ironic to see the closing of the one with the opening of the other, and both with such closely related missions. I can only hope that this first White House Demo Day proves to be one of many, and that the effort continues to embrace and support diversity as essential to American creativity and innovation.

White House Demo Day

The White House Demo Day had demonstrations to illustrate the diversity of people contributing to the innovation that helps strengthen the American economy. Most of the companies presenting had at least one woman founder or co-founder. Almost as many of the companies presenting had a founder that is a person of color or who shows ethnic or cultural diversity. The two companies represented by white men were (1) military, and (2) a winner of the XPRIZE. There were a few wonderful presenters from Michigan, including Ann-Marie Sastry of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor talking about her innovations in batteries and power storage. Products presented included new search engines based on cognitive models, medical innovations in cancer / HIV / aging / asthma, parenting tools, strategies for empowering patients, creative ways to repay student loans, several on converting ‘waste’ to profit, and much more. There was even Zoobean, who partner with libraries to recommend books and apps based on children’s preferences.

White House Demo Day

Part of what made this so wonderful (and why I wish I’d heard about it sooner) was the move to encourage parallel events across the country. I wish we’d done this here! Here are some tweets about the high points.

Read about the presenters here. Listen to the pitches here.

President Obama Hosts the First-Ever White House Demo Day

White House Demo Day:

Ada Initiative

“When the Ada Initiative was founded in 2011, the environment for women in open technology and culture was extremely hostile. Conference anti-harassment policies were rare outside of certain areas in fandom, and viewed as extremist attempts to muzzle free speech. Pornography in slides was a regular feature at many conferences in these areas, as were physical and sexual assault. Most open tech/culture communities didn’t have an understanding of basic feminist concepts like consent, tone policing, and intersectional oppression.”

The Ada Initiative began by trying to change the world for women in STEM and tech. They stopped, but not without having made change, and not without leaving a permanent legacy. You’ll see tributes and comments below to testify to this, but you’ll also see links to some of the content they made open source and Creative Commons in order to help perpetuate their work, as well as work from some of their partners who carry on the good message and work. By the way, their open source toolkits are absolutely incredible and well worth downloading.

HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community
Code of conduct evaluations

Announcing the ADA Camp Toolkit:

ADACamp Toolkit:
– Inclusive event catering:
– Providing conference childcare:
– Quiet room:
– Supporting d/Deaf and hard of hearing people at an unconference:

UofM Student Research on 3D Everything (Except Printing)

#mlibres Students on #3d

Last week there was another of the wonderful Emergent Research Series of lectures sponsored by the University of Michigan Libraries Research Unit (2014 archive, 2013 archive).

Main topics covered were spatial tracking, 3d virtual reality, optical motion capture, holography, optical tracking, acoustic motion tracking. During the Q&A, a major diversion (at least for me) was “Sim-sickness”, in which 3d immersive virtual reality (think of Oculus Rift & Google Cardboard) make folk nauseous, some to the point of actually tossing their cookies. There are videos in Youtube. I don’t need to find them for you. Fun topics mentioned included virtual augmented reality, Hololens, holography for teaching anatomy, biomechanics, cultural preservation, robotics, aerospace engineering, body slicing with the Kinect, body tracking, and DIY arduino acoustic sensors and automated echolocation. There were lots of tips and tricks, what works and what doesn’t. Many interesting links in the Storify below.

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part Two, “Our New Technology”

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

To continue the series on “what I did for #ADA25,” I’d like to talk about the very exciting event here in town last week, in which Ann Arbor sets the stage for a national high speed rail system, and access for persons with disability is at the core of making this possible.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y


The event was the ribbon cutting for the new disability-accessible platform at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station.

“New disability-accessible platform opens at Ann Arbor Amtrak station”

The event started out with the mayor, Chris Taylor, describing the importance of the University of Michigan Health System and hospitals in providing advanced health care to the residents of the State of Michigan, and how critical accessible rail transport is for supporting this.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley noted, “Acceptance & awareness are important, but inclusion is a game changer.”

Richard Bernstein, Judge of the Michigan Supreme Court, waxed eloquent, clearly joyful and delighted with this innovation. You can hear his full remarks on Soundcloud.

Joe McHugh (Amtrak’s Senior Vice President) described this as “the flagship of our new technology,” continuing with the vision and possibilities that would come from this.

Joe really meant technology, too! The new boarding platform is retractable, and extends toward the train when in use. The Amtrak press release describes it as “The platform mechanically extends toward the train, bridging the gap created when a level-boarding platform is needed. This next generation of passenger-focused technology will allow America’s Railroad® to deliver a modern passenger railroad that is accessible to all.” That wasn’t the limit of the tech, either. In addition to designing the platform, the interactive portions of the tech, they also had to design manual tech to support the process in case of problems with the automated portions or for situations that require special extra support.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

As with all ribbon-cutting events, the actual story started long long before. Or stories, I should say. This event sprang from the intersection of many stories, many people’s experiences. There are the local folk who fought for a better way to take the train, and helped make people aware of the reasons why it should start HERE. There were wheelchair passengers who complained about being put on a jack, hoisted into mid-air, and left dangling in the rain while the station staff try to get the logistics sorted out. There were the Amtrak staff who helped people with luggage, moms with strollers, elderly folk climbing the narrow stairs into or out of the Amtrak cars.

The story that resonated most powerfully with me was told by Richard Devylder, the U.S. DOT’s Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

Richard was born without arms or legs. The combination of his experience, his intelligence, his connections with the community of persons with disabilities all help to inform his position and influence change. And when the opportunity presents itself, he absolutely will go for the brass ring.

That’s kind of what happened one day a few years ago. Richard described a room full of transportation higher ups. He asked, “Well, do you want to see high speed rail in the United States?” Yes, yes, yes, they all did. The next thing Richard said? “Then you have to find a way to let people like me board the train in less than 15 minutes.” BOOM.

That was one story. He had another good one. Richard described one day when he was trying to get on the train, and a ramp had been set up to allow him to board. But he couldn’t even get on the ramp because it was so crowded with people. Elderly with walkers. Parents with strollers. People with heavy rolling bags of luggage. Part of him thought, “Hey, why are all these people blocking my ramp?” Immediately he realized it is because all of them also needed a ramp, and the one provided for him was the only one there. BOOM #2!

We need ramps for boarding trains absolutely as much as we need curb cuts. The next ADA25 story I’ll be telling is about a group of people in virtual worlds. They were pretty impressed when I told them about this new Amtrak platform. Then they asked, “But why did it take 25 years? And why is there only ONE in the entire United States?” More on that in the next post.

The actual ribbon cutting, with Gary Talbot as the honored local person who pushed the hardest to make this happen.

And then people could board!

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y
#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

Updated to include Gary Talbot’s name.

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part One, “I couldn’t type a hug.”

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the signing of the American with Disabilities Act. I want to describe three technology events that happened around the theme of celebrating this milestone! These three stories include high speed rail, robots, assistive communication devices, virtual worlds, web accessibility, exoskeletons, 3d printing, and more. That’s the tech. But the touch is just as important, if not more so, and the question of what’s left that needs doing is the idea of defining and meeting our targets. Let’s get started.


First, President Obama celebrated, of course, with many people. One was Haben Girma, the first deaf-blind graduate of the Harvard Law School. The President would type words to talk with her, and she would listen with her hands on a machine that translated the typing into Braille. “I couldn’t type a hug,” he said.

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

Alice Wong, of the Disability Visibility Project, attended the event through her telepresence robot, and wrote about it later, here.

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

The White House has made available both the highlights video (under 3 minutes) and the complete event (about 1.5 hours).

President Obama Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the ADA

President Obama Speaks at the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Towards the end of his remarks, President Obama described the how his father-in-law’s experience with multiple sclerosis helped to shape his passion for reducing barriers for persons with disabilities, and his awareness of how access to necessary resources can help people grow into their potential, and how that helps all of us.

“And just an aside on this, for a long time, he would not get a motorized wheelchair because he had gotten this disability at a time when they weren’t available and it was expensive, and they weren’t wealthy, and insurance didn’t always cover it. And it just gave you a sense of — Michelle and I would talk sometimes about how much more he could have done, how much more he could have seen — as wonderful as a dad as he was, and as wonderful as a coworker as he was, he was very cautious about what he could and couldn’t do — not because he couldn’t do it, but because he didn’t want to inconvenience his family and he didn’t want to be seen as somehow holding things up.” Remarks by the President on The Americans With Disabilities Act

DARPA: Biology IS Technology, Biology is INFORMATION Technology #DARPAbit


This is possibly the coolest (or scariest) thing I’ve seen since I become an Emerging Technologies Librarian. I wanted to blog about it a WEEK ago (which is when I made the Storify, over the weekend because I was so geeked I couldn’t wait). The reason I didn’t blog it then was because our library is moving into our renovated digs TODAY and packing took precedence. Somehow that delay just makes this even more delicious. You MUST see this!

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is the branch of the United States government most directly and publicly associated with emerging technologies. You better bet that I pay attention to what they’re doing. I try to peek at the DARPA budget, go every so often and poke around on their site, and keep my antennae tuned for mentions of DARPA in the news. They are in the news basically all the time, so I can’t pay TOO much attention, and since in recent years they have been largely focused on robotics (a.k.a. the famous DARPA Robotics Challenge) and engineering, and I am focused on healthcare emerging tech, maybe I haven’t visited as often as I might if it was just for fun. That has changed, because DARPA is now officially into the idea of biology as technology. Check out their recent conferences on this topic: Biology is Technology!

“DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO) is bringing together leading-edge technologists, start-ups, industry, and academic researchers to look at how advances in engineering and information sciences can be used to drive biology for technological advantage.”

Oh, my, yes. Now, THIS is right on target for what I want to know about in my job. And I bet there are all kinds of grants coming around and possible partnerships that our faculty will want to explore. Here are just a few of the bits the news media picked up from these conferences: targeted antibody development and THoR (Technologies for Host Resilience); brain-computer interfaces; cortical modems & optogenetics; engineered biology and GMOs more broadly; exoskeletons; memory technologies; open data and open source; prosthetics; terraforming Mars with GMOs (and there was a LOT on this!).

Craig Venter on headless humans and predicting your exact face from your DNA

There are some topics that interested me that the news hasn’t seemed to talk about yet, at least not prominently. Aging and immortality. Biocomplexity and Crohn’s disease. Cancer. Innovative research methodologies. Microbiomics. Transplantation and organ farming. Future of scholarship. Oh, and there is SO much more. It was livestreamed, but I couldn’t free up the time to watch it, so I am trying to work through the videos now. Here, join me.

DARPAtv: Biology Is Technology (San Francisco, February 2015)

Arati Prabhakar – Director, DARPA
Fireside Chat: Sue Siegel CEO GE Ventures
Geoff Ling – Director, BTO: Fomenting Technological Revolution
Phillip Alvelda – Program Manager: Beyond Prosthetics
Dan Wattendorf – Program Manager: Outpacing Infectious Disease
Jack Newman, Amyris
Alicia Jackson – Deputy Director, BTO: Programming the Living World
Fireside Chat: George Church interviewed by George Dyson
Justin Sanchez – Program Manager: Brain-Machine Symbiosis
Matt Hepburn – Program Manager: It’s the Host not the Pathogen
Stephen Friend – Sage Bionetworks
Barry Pallotta- Program Manager: A Wild Ride
Doug Weber – Program Manager: Enabling the Body to Heal Itself
Justin Gallivan – Program Manager: Embracing Biological Complexity
Keynote Craig Venter – Founder and CEO, HLI, JCVI and SGI
Keynote Saul Griffith – Otherlab
Karl Deisseroth, Stanford University
Will Old, University of Colorado at Boulder
Michel Maharbiz, University of California, Berkeley
Eddie Chang, University of California, San Francisco
Adam Abate, University of California, Berkeley
Scott Ulrey: Doing Business With DARPA

DARPAtv: Biology is Technology (New York City)

Alicia Jackson – Deputy Director, BTO: Programming the Living World
Welcome to DARPA BiT from Dr. Steve Walker, Deputy Director of DARPA
Dr. Geoff Ling: Fomenting Technological Revolution, DARPA BiT
Martine Rothblatt: Keynote at DARPA BiT
Dr. Phillip Alvelda: The Future of Neural Interface, DARPA BiT
Dr. Alicia Jackson: Programming the Living World, DARPA BiT
Jack Newman: Keynote at DARPA BiT
Zach Serber: Keynote at DARPA BiT
Dr. Elizabeth Strychalski: Biocomplexity, DARPA BiT
COL Matt Hepburn: It’s the Host Not the Pathogen, DARPA BiT
Dr. Doug Weber: Neurobiology as Technology, DARPA BiT
Kevin Tracey: Keynote at DARPA BiT
Dr. Justin Sanchez: Brain-Machine Symbiosis, DARPA BiT
MAJ Chris Orlowski: Optimizing Human Performance, DARPA BiT
COL Dan Wattendorf: Rapid Health Protection for the Population, DARPA BiT
Dr. Harvey Lodish: Keynote at DARPA BiT
Dr. Justin Gallivan: Building with Biology, DARPA BiT
Dr. Barry Pallotta: A Wild Ride, DARPA BiT
Dr. Geoff Ling: Day 1 Closing Remarks, DARPA BiT
Dr. Geoff Ling: DARPA BiT Day Two Introduction
Dr. Stephen Friend: Sage Bionetworks – DARPA BiT Keynote Speaker
Dr. Paul Cohen: DARPA Program Manager, DARPA BiT Keynote Speaker
Dr. Joel Dudley: Mount Sinai School of Medicine – DARPA BiT Keynote Speaker
Dr. Peter Sorger: Harvard Medical School – DARPA BiT Keynote Speaker
John Sculley: Former CEO of Apple and Pepsi-Cola – DARPA BiT Keynote Speaker
Scott Ulrey: DARPA Contract Management Office – DARPA BiT
Dr. Geoff Ling: Day 2 Conclusion – DARPA BiT

So much good stuff! I just had to make a Storify to integrate the videos with the pics and tweets.

And I made a big playlist with all of the videos so far, from all the sessions (partly because I started making this playlist before I found theirs, and because I want all of it in one place, easy for me to find).

Patricia Anderson: Playlist: DARPAbit:

REFERENCES (Chronological order)


Robbin A. Miranda, William D. Casebeer, Amy M. Hein, Jack W. Judy, Eric P. Krotkov, Tracy L. Laabs, Justin E. Manzo, Kent G. Pankratz, Gill A. Pratt, Justin C. Sanchez, Douglas J. Weber, Tracey L. Wheeler, Geoffrey S.F. Lin. DARPA-funded Efforts in the Development of Novel Brain–Computer Interface Technologies. H+ Magazine February 9, 2015.

Peter Rothman. Video Friday: DARPA Prosthetics Research. H+ Magazine February 13, 2015.

Peter Rothman. Biology is Technology — DARPA is Back in the Game With A Big Vision and It Is H+. H+ Magazine February 15, 2015.

Max Plenke. These Are the 7 Ways the Government Wants to Change the Human Body for the Future. Tech.Mic June 26, 2015.


Peter Rothman. Restoring Active Memory Replay — DARPA Seeks Super Learning and Enhanced Memory Technologies. H+ Magazine April 28, 2015.

Maxx Chatsko. Can DARPA Change Your Mind on Engineered Biology? The Motley Fool interviews DARPA’s Dr. Alicia Jackson from the Biological Technologies Office. The Motley Fool April 30, 2015.


Sara Reardon. The Pentagon’s gamble on brain implants, bionic limbs and combat exoskeletons. Nature News June 10, 2015.

Lily Hay Newman. Researchers Sharing Data Was Supposed to Change Science Forever. Did It? Slate: Future Tense June 24, 2015.

Brian Wang. DARPA wants to engineer from millions of organisms and not just yeast and ecoli. Next Big Future June 25, 2015.

Carl Engelking. DARPA Is Supposedly Engineering Organisms to Make Mars Livable. Discover Magazine June 26, 2015.

Carl Tanaka. DARPA Genetically Engineering Organisms for Terraforming Mars into Livable Planet. ReliaWire June 27, 2015.

DARPA to terraform Mars with human-engineered organisms. Business Standard June 28, 2015.

What’s New, What’s Hot: My Favorite Posters from #MLAnet15

Part 3 of a series of blogposts I wrote for the recent Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association.

I had a particular slant, where I was looking for new technology posters, emerging and emergent innovations, but then I was so delighted with the richness of systematic review research being presented, that there is a lot of that, too. The chosen few ran from A to Z, with apps, bioinformatics, data visualization, games, Google Glass in surgery, new tech to save money with ILL operations, social media, Youtube, zombies, and even PEOPLE. What is it with medical librarians and zombies? Hunh. Surely there are other gory engaging popular medical monsters? Anyway, here are some of my favorite posters from MLA’s Annual Meeting. There were so many more which I loved and tweeted, but I just can’t share them all here today. I’ll try to put them in a Storify when I get back home. Meanwhile, look these up online or in the app for more details. By the way, they started to get the audio up, so you can use the app to listen to many of the presenters talk about their poster.

Poster 14:

Poster 28:

Poster 30:

Poster 38:

Poster 40 (and that should read “Twitter”, not “Titter”):

Poster 43:

Poster 54:

Poster 65:

Poster 83:

Poster 100:

Poster 121:

Poster 125:

Poster 130:

Poster 157:

Poster 202:

Poster 224:

Poster 225:

Poster 228:

Poster 238:

Poster 243:


GPII Introductory Video

We all use technology every day. Well, people reading this blog, anyway. We use it, and everywhere we go, we either carry our own devices or spend time fiddling and fussing to make it work right. Or both. So, … have you heard about GPII?

Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII):

It gives me goosebumps, it really does. I’ve been hearing about this via Jane Vincent, author of “Making the Library Accessible to All” and a colleague here at the University of Michigan. Jane has been working on this project for a long time, before she came here. We are so very lucky to have her here and be informed literally at the ground level as this evolves. So what is it? What does “Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure” actually MEAN? It is the ultimate (for now) in portable technology personalization. Basically, how do you prefer to set up your computer? Now, code that into a little snippet, kind of like a credit card, and you take that with you wherever you go. Want to use a computer? Wave your magic card, and voilà! It’s set up just the way you like it.

I am, of course, oversimplifying, so here is a video introduction, and a video demo. Watch them both, and see if they don’t give you goosebumps, too!

Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) w/captions and description:

Human Rights Museum Demo Instructions:

A big part of what I like about it is the community behind the idea and the process. Here’s a grateful nod to the following engaged and supporting organizations.

Cloud 4 All
FLOE Project
FLUID Project (which is worth an entire blogpost on their own!)
Prosperity 4 All
Raising the Floor
TRACE Center, University of Wisconsin