Out In The Open: The Free Tools That Let You Hack Your Whole Life

Klint Finley | Wired | October 7, 2013

Imagine a home speaker system that identifies everyone in the room and plays only the music they wanna hear.

Tapping into tiny RFID chips installed on people’s cell phones, this system would pinpoint each person’s Facebook profile, parse their music tastes by way of the streaming music service Spotify, and create a playlist on the fly. And as new people enter the room and others leave it, the system would adjust this playlist accordingly.

What you imagine is here today. Tim Ryan and a team of four other engineering students built such a contraption last year, as part of their senior capstone project at Olin College in Massachusetts, and if you like, you can build one too. Ryan and his team didn’t just create a new-age speaker system. They created a collection of hardware and software that let anyone build all sorts of physical devices that interact with the people around them. “We wanted to create a platform for building socially connected machines,” Ryan says.