Internship Update

Robin De Neef
Apr 25, 2018 · 5 min read
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It’s about time I gave I sign of life. I’ve been in Preston for more than 10 weeks now. I had planned to have a lot more blog posts by now but in my defense, it’s not that I’ve been slacking for the past months. In this post I will give a quick overview of the projects I’ve been working on during my internship at the Media Innovation Studio.


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NewsThings at TEI in Stockholm, Sweden

NewsThings is a Google Digital News Initiative funded project that tries to explore a collaboration between news distribution and Internet of Things. For this project the Media Innovation Studio worked together with Trinity Mirror and Thomas Buchanan to develop a series of prototypes trough user-centered design approaches and co-design.

This project was already going on for a while before I got the opportunity to work on it. Mark and I took the existing code for the devices and redesigned the program structure so that the devices work with a central server so that when the developer want to change the format of the content, it’s just a matter of changing the code on the server and the devices don’t need any updates.


Ever encountered an article or a blog post during the day but you didn’t have time to read it? Maybe you tried apps like Pocket to save your articles so you can read it later? But now you’re reading list keeps growing day by day like a tower of paper on your desk that keeps growing. PrinterThing can help you there! All you need to do is set your bed time on the device, or at least the hour you want to go to sleep. PrinterThing will collect all the articles you have pocketed during the day and compile it in a personalized newspaper curated for you! PrinterThing will print this newspaper an hour before your bedtime so you it’s waiting for you when you go to bed and you can use it to wind down before you hit the hay. Another bonus? It’s all paper based! So no phone or laptop screens you’ll be staring at that will mess up your sleep.


RadioThing is an object that can read your news for you! It works quite easy: you take a NFC card with your favorite publication, tap it on the head of RadioThing once for every article you want to hear. Easy right? Well there is more! you can twist the top of the device to select if you want to hear random news or if you want to hear the good news before the bad news, or the other way around. RadioThing will then poll the news websites and read your news out loud with Amazon’s Text To Speech engine, Polly. This device sparked some interesting conversations on how we could best design TTS (Text To Speech) content for users. This even led to the submission of my first ever research paper!


Full disclosure, I haven’t really done any development on ConeThing since this device was mostly done and was already deployed in a few newsrooms. But the concept for this device is that a news publication can link ConeThing to their social media feed. It then reads the reactions to the articles published by the publisher and tumble to the left or the the right depending to how people react to the article.

Bedtime Objects


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Nabaztag in it’s natural habitat.

Nabaztag, a robot bunny from the past that was to futuristic for it’s time. Nabaztag, apparently Armenian for hare, is a WiFi enabled, ambient, Internet of Things device build by Violet and first released in 2005(!). The version I got my hands on was the Nabaztag/tag, released in December 2006, and had almost all the features that a modern smart device like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home have now. It had an NFC reader so you could hold your keys with an NFC keychain to it and it would greet you. Or you could hold a book up to it with an NFC tag and it would read it out for you. You could send it messages and it would read them out loud. Play mp3 files and radio. It even had voice commands and people could write apps for it’s “app store”. Unfortunately the device used a central server hosted by Violet who couldn’t keep up with the cost of the infrastructure and went bankrupt. A company called Mindscape purchased Violet in 2009. They announced a third generation of devices named “Karotz” in 2012 and released the original source code of the Nabaztag. They stopped their services as well in 2015. Meaning the end of the robot bunnies…

And that we’re I come in! I’m trying to bring the Nabaztag back to life by trying to run it from a Raspberry Pi Zero. This has been a really interesting experience: disassembling the Nabaztag, trying to find out which wire is responsible for which component. The idea is to reprogram it to a companion for a child’s bedroom where the child can play with, but also informs the parents about their child’s sleeping patterns by using the ears and ambient light.


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A private secretary in the form of a thermal printer to help you keep track of all the things you shouldn’t forget.


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The night lamp is actually the only object that made it out of our original ideation session, 10 weeks ago, at the start of my internship. It’s still a pile of components at the moment, but the idea is to build a night lamp that can nudge a person to leave his phone out of his bedroom. The light will go on a certain amount of time before your bedtime to hint to the user that it might be time to prepare for bed, however the light wont go out until it detects that the phone is outside the room. It does this with the use of Bluetooth beacon technology. I already hear your excuses: “But I use my phone as an alarm clock”. No problem! The lamp will have a built in clock display and alarm functionality, so you will still get out of bed in time in the morning. Probably even more well rested than before since you didn’t waste a few hours of sleep to scroll trough your social media feeds in the evening and in the morning.

My name is Robin, Applied Computer Science Student and serial procrastinator. If you like what you’ve read you can find more at

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