As 2018 is still just getting started, I wanted to take a look back at the things I did last year, partially to remind myself what’s possible to do in a year, but also to think about how I’ve been spending my time and how I might want to change that going forward. The biggest shift in 2017 was that I spent a lot more time on art and Making Things, and that definitely had a positive effect on my baseline happiness throughout the year. So, what have I built?
A large part of my energy over the last four years has gone into building Orion Labs, both the company and the products. As Head of Product, I was the product manager for all of these things that we shipped in 2017:
- Improving the power button interaction on Onyx
- Complete re-design of the iOS app (UI design credit goes to Elise Lawley)
- A pretty magical voice translation bot
- Our first public platform integration, with IFTTT
- App Talk on iOS (launched to Pro users in December)
- The initial set of Orion Pro features, encompassing firmware, iOS, Android, web, and services
- Plus several critical internal contract deliverables
It’s hard to enumerate the things that go into “building the company”, but I’m proud of who we are and I’m very grateful to be part of such an awesome team of people.
I spent most of my evenings and weekends from March through June creating Memoraudia, an interactive sound piece. It’s probably one of the most complex things I have built entirely on my own, and then it also got an extremely nice upgrade in the form of custom woodworking from my dad. So far it’s been seen at Audio Garden (more on that below), Priceless (thanks to an art grant), a company party, a weekend retreat, a strange punk art/science fair, and a hackers conference, where it even won a prize!
I was looking for more non-festival events that featured interactive audio pieces, and I didn’t find any so I decided to host my own. I conscripted a bunch of sound designer friends of various levels and areas of expertise to contribute pieces, and gave them two guidelines: 1) no video screens, and 2) use as your inspiration something that you feel doesn’t have enough of a voice in the world. We converted my house into an audio gallery space for two evenings to show off 12 pieces that were each unique and amazing, and both nights were sold out well in advance. As an experiment, it turned out to be even better than I had hoped and I definitely want to do it again.
Postcards from Dreamland
Priceless is by far my favorite festival of the year, not just because I enjoy being there but also because I’m easily inspired by the venue and the community to make art that will bring joyful surprise and whimsy to the event. After taking Kodama-sama (another sound piece) to Priceless for two years in a row, I wanted to do something different. I came up with the idea of building miniature detailed scenes inside of mailboxes, and with the help of numerous friends, a Priceless art grant, and collaborator Marissa Emmer, we built scenes inside four mailboxes, each totally different and delightful. Since Priceless they’ve also traveled to a weekend retreat and a Light Salon (inspired by Audio Garden).
In the second half of the year, I started spending more time with the Explorers Guild. They had recently started adding waymarks to places they visited, and at one campout we started talking about ways that people who came across them could hear the story about that waymark. I designed and built a phone system where people can text in the index code from a waymark to 678-WAYMARK, and then get a response saying they could call the number to hear the story. You can also just call the number to hear more about waymarks and listen to some of our stories. Credit also goes to Justin Oliphant for most of the writing and voicing and general artistic collaboration.
Plus other random bits & pieces
Throughout these projects and other activities I’ve been able to level up my skills on a bunch of different things, including Python, deploying code on the internet, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, motors, electrical engineering, dremeling, papercraft, felting, making mashups, singing, and tango.
I’ve got some nebulous plans and ideas for 2018, some of which involve learning totally new things, but I seem to enjoy that so bring it on!