Anthony Almond and his Smart House

By: Niki Fritz

Ever since Anthony Almond was a little boy, he dreamed of one day being a real robot; like Pinocchio, but in reverse, and way cooler than a wooden puppet. This month he got a little closer to his dream when he not only got a Google watch to make him part bionic man, but also linked that watch to his house, making it an official smart house.

It all started when Anthony got a new phone over break. For the past year, Anthony has been living with a screen-shattered iPhone 5, which was not fitting for a tech star like Anthony. Finally, over break, Anthony was able to upgrade in a big way to a giant-screened Android phone. With his fancy new phone he decided to treat himself to the Google watch, a gadget he’s been eyeing for a while. And then came the tech-pimping of the house.

Anthony's multi-colored lights

Anthony’s multi-colored lights

Since Anthony’s roommate tends to leave the thermostat set at 74 when he leaves for work, Anthony wanted to be able to turn down the temperature of the apartment when he was at school to save on the electricity bills. So Anthony ripped out the old thermostat (well he was a little gentler and more precise) and reconnected his house to a new fancy wi-fi thermostat. Now Anthony can turn the heat up and down from his phone or his watch while he is in classes. But what really makes this a smart house is that the GPS in Anthony’s phone tells his house when he is close to home and automatically turns the heat back up.

What Anthony is really excited about though are his mutli-colored tech-saavy lights, which cost him a pretty penny. From his phone, Anthony can change the color of his living room lights from blue to red to orange and a whole host of fun combinations as well. If he knows his roommate is home, he sometimes likes to change the color just to see if he notices.

But the best part of the entire house is that the lights turn to the color “purple rain” when it is raining outside. Anthony has an app on his phone called “if this then that.” He set a recipe that notes: if it is raining then turn the lights to purple rain. Not only is Anthony part robot, he is also super hip.

purple rain

One might be asking, “How does a grad student afford all of this glam?!” One look into Anthony’s cupboards answers that.

“I only eat Campbell’s soup and drink Sutter House wine from Walmart so I can afford my smart house,” Anthony explained half-jokingly. He also notes he really does just like Campbell’s tomato soup.

Anthony even mounted his iPad to the kitchen wall! Now he can control the music in the living room from the kitchen.

Anthony even mounted his iPad to the kitchen wall! Now he can control the music in the living room from the kitchen.

Anthony has grown quite attached to this new smart house, so much so that he has named her (and yes the house is a her). The smart house is named Katie after the name of the actress who played a talking house in an apparently famous Disney show. If you ever are lucky enough to visit the smart house, just remember to address the house properly.

For now Anthony has limitations on his smart house project. Since he is renting, the landlords aren’t thrilled with the idea of Anthony ripping out the locks and putting in smart locks. The half-bot does want to extend the smartness of his life to his car though. There are devices that plug into your car port and tell you how to drive smarter. That is next on Anthony’s to-do-tech list.

“I want everything to be smart in my life,” Anthony says. “I’ve always wanted the best home I can, the most convenient home. I think I’m getting close.”

I guess for some little boys dreams really do come true.

Fourth Brown Bag of the Semester – September 26, 2014


Rob Potter, Associate Professor, Anthony Almond, PhD Student, Sharon Mayell, ICR Lab Manager, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

Tools Available for Researchers in the Institute for Communication Research

We tried to come up with a catchier title.  But, in the end, we are hoping that this is enticing enough for social science researchers interested in learning about the array of data collection measures available at the Institute for Communication Research (ICR).  The mission of the ICR is to enable social scientific research conducted by faculty and students in The Media School at IU.  Eventually, we will be located in Franklin Hall—very close to the action. But, until then we are in Eigenmann Hall.  Which means, we need to bring the action to YOU.

Come and hear descriptions/see demonstrations of these tools available for you to use:

  • Media Lab & Direct RT software for experimental design, questionnaire construction, and psychological measurements
  • Qualtrics software for online survey and experimental data collection
  • Tobii eye tracking hardware & software
  • Biopac physiology data collection hardware and software (that’s actually rather easy to use)
  • Emotiv 14-channel EEG data collection hardware

    Rob demonstrating some of these gadgets

    Rob demonstrating some of these tools.

Anthony’s Trip To Cornell

By Mona Malacane

If you’ve been looking for Anthony Almond lately, you may have noticed that he has been rather scarce around the department. Other than travelling to Las Vegas for the BEA conference last week, he has also been busy jetting up to Ithaca, New York to visit Cornell University, where he had been invited by Dr. So Yeon-Yoon to help set up a research lab in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis. At the recommendation of one of Anthony’s professors at Missouri (Dr. Kevin Wise), where he did his master’s, Dr. Yoon contacted Anthony earlier this year for his expertise with psychophysiological instruments. He has helped set up several psychophysiology labs in the past and, of course, works in the ICR, so Anthony has years of experience hooking people up to machines and zapping them (Just kidding, he would never do that.)

Dr. Yoon’s lab is the Design User Experience Technology Lab (D.U.E.T Lab) within the College of Human Ecology. She plans to use the lab to develop “an exploratory design/visual merchandizing research line using psychophysiological measures.” In other words, she plans to examine physiological responses to different virtual experiences of, say, a restaurant or a retail store. The lab is about two times the size of the grad lab, with a screen on an entire wall. This screen is used for an immersive, life-sized, 3D experience “… to test emotional [and] psychological responses to designed environments while controlling any visual variable.” As an example, Anthony talked about how the screen could be used to show a doctor’s office with a TV in the virtual office that displayed health tips and then this set-up could be used to examine the reception and processing of health information.

The first day of his visit included a tour of the beautiful campus, while the second day was more hands on. In the workshop, Anthony showed Dr. Yoon and others how to use the machine software, the correct settings for their machines, how to clean and analyze the psychophys data, what certain signals meant, and also how to organize and prepare their lab space to be efficient and comfortable. Although the machines come with instructions, they don’t include settings that are specific to certain experiments or they may just be unclear, which is why it’s necessary to have someone experienced to help, Anthony explained.

trying to understand

The instructions don’t make no sense.

Because he has had the experience of setting up labs before, Anthony didn’t need to prepare much for the workshops he gave. He did, however, make sure to bring Rob’s textbook of psychophysiological measures, a kind of bible for all the different ways to zap people (Again, I’m totally kidding.).

Call Him Mr. Moneypenny

By Mona Malacane

You know that saying, “See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck”? Well Anthony Almond must be the luckiest person in our department because he has been picking up and saving pennies since he was a kid.

That feeling when you find a penny on the ground and think you'll have good luck.

That feeling when you find a penny on the ground and think you’ll have good luck all day.

Anthony started picking up pennies to give to his dad, who collected coins. “When I was a little kid, my dad would always pick up change and so he told my sister and I to start picking up pennies … Any time we found a penny, he would give us a nickel in exchange for the pennies, to encourage us to pick [them] up.”

Anthony's collector book of pennies

Anthony’s collector book of pennies

Picking up pennies became a habit for Anthony. So, when he started college, he began his own collection. By the end of his first semester he had filled an entire peanut butter jar (about 16.3 ounces) just with pennies he had found in the street. One summer, he decided to go through his dad’s collection – which consisted of about 8-10, five gallon jars full of pennies. Why? To see if he could find a penny from each year. “I had always picked up pennies. And then I decided, ‘let’s actually see how many I have of each one.’” It took him all summer but those pennies made up the majority of his own collection, which he has organized into collector’s books.

The oldest penny he owns is the 1909 VDB wheat penny, the very first of the Lincoln cent. His rarest penny? The 1913-D penny, of which only 15.8 million were minted. Coinstudy.com values this penny (in fine condition) at $3.51, a 351% increase in worth! His least rare penny is the 1983 penny, which has about 7.8 billion in circulation. Anthony’s favorite pennies are the three steel pennies that were minted in 1943, when there was a wartime shortage of copper.

The 1943 steel pennies

The 1943 steel pennies

These are the only pennies in his collection that he did not find, but instead bought on Ebay. Anthony explained that people often think steel pennies are more valuable and rare than the copper pennies, but that is completely wrong. In fact, over 1 billion steel pennies were minted in 1943. He also cautions against cleaning old pennies with vinegar, explaining that although it may make the penny shiny, it ultimately decreases its value.

Anthony's pet Chinchilla named Penny. RIP.

Anthony’s pet Chinchilla named Penny. RIP.

Even though there are older and more valuable pennies to collect—like the Indian and Flying Eagle pennies—Anthony prefers the Lincoln pennies because Abraham Lincoln is his favorite president. “I don’t really care about the other pennies or any other coin, like nickels with the silly Jackson on it. Who cares about him? What did he ever do for the country?” he laughed.

Anthony has no plans to cash in his vast penny collection. And why should he? He literally owns pieces of history. His oldest penny has been on this earth for 104 years! Only 89 years younger than IU. If you want an interesting history lesson, go into your wallet or piggy bank and find your oldest coin and then look up important historical moments that occurred in that year. If you happen to have a 1914-D penny, I would highly recommend holding onto it because it is valued between $105.83 and $706.25.

New Lab Rats, New Lab Equipment

By Edo Steinberg

Last Spring the College of Arts and Sciences gave the Institute for Communication Research money to buy new lab equipment. The two main purchases were the BIOPAC physiology system and the Tobii Eye Tracker.

The fearless reporter and his fearless eyeballs, as seen by the Tobii Eye Tracker.

The fearless reporter and his fearless eyeballs, as seen by the Tobii Eye Tracker.

“They arrived at the same time,” says Rob Potter, director of the ICR. “I had familiarity with physiology, I had familiarity with the BIOPAC system and I knew I had to teach using that system in an Intensive Freshman Seminar (IFS) in August. When they both arrived at the same time, I hooked the eye tracker up and made sure that no parts were broken and essentially we could pay the bill. Then I turned it on and it looked terrible. The fidelity of the screen wasn’t right.”

Because time was pressing, Rob decided to focus on the BIOPAC first. He put the eye tracker in the corner. Vacation, the IFS course and a conference led to the eye tracker being left alone until late August.

Then incoming graduate student Anthony Almond asked Rob if he could spend some time in the lab. “I said to myself, ‘I better grab Anthony while I can, before another faculty member does,’” Rob recalls. “I said, how about Tuesdays and Thursdays. I shot for the moon. He said yes. Then, I was lucky enough to get Niki as my AI. Later, Glenna came up to me and said ‘I hear you have this meeting.’”

During these new students’ first meeting with Rob at the ICR, Anthony took a look at the eye tracking system, which he had some experience with previously. After about an hour, he figured out the problem and fixed it by installing updated video drivers.

Rob says that the ICR is the place for students who wish to get experience with lab equipment to come, if they ask Rob or lab manager Sharon Mayell to come. “Anthony was able to come in and try to troubleshoot stuff. That’s exactly the type of environment we want to have. All the way back when Annie Lang was the director, that was the environment she tried to instill. Bring your ideas to the ICR and work on investigating questions that interest you.”

Now, Anthony, Glenna and Niki spend time at the ICR, getting to know the equipment and preparing for future participation in research projects.

“I’m continuing to figure out what acronyms stand for,” Niki jokes.

Niki sees where she looked when she watched a video.

Niki sees where she looked when she watched a video.

“The eye tracker can do more than just see where you look,” Anthony says. “It can also measure the size of your pupil, and when your eyes are moving rapidly across the screen. You can also use it in combination with other physiological measures. For example, if someone is looking at a website and their heart rate decelerates, is it because they were looking at the ad on the side, because they were reading the text or because of something else entirely?”

Other applications include whether or not people notice certain things on the screen, as well as implications for design. For instance, website developers can see if the audience is looking at what they want to show or something else is distracting people.

“I’m here for a crash course in both physiology and eye tracking research,” says Niki. “I want to see what others are doing and throw myself into the world of research, to see what’s possible.”

Glenna has used the BIOPAC system before. “But I haven’t done a lot with it,” she emphasizes.

“I used the BIOPAC before, as well,” Anthony says. “And this morning Rob showed me something about it I didn’t know. Now I have to show him how to do fancy software stuff.”

“It’s been really cool to see how everyone comes together and collaborates with what they know from the past,” Niki says. “Anthony, Glenna and Rob all have these interesting areas of expertise.”

If you also want to be a lab rat, as people conducting research in the ICR are affectionately called, get in touch with Rob!