Shacktopus

The next step in applied technomadics.

This is a toolset for integrating a variety of communication, data collection, and processing tools into a consistent user interface. Development has moved from the 2005 backpack unit shown here to the Nomadness sailboat project, where it is becoming the backbone of the ship.

Nomadic Research Labs


The original Shacktopus, circa 2005
 




Shacktopus began as a sort of "communications laptop" that I built in 2005, inspired by the idea of decoupling a complete technomadic toolset from a specific substrate like my BEHEMOTH bicycle or the later Microship trimaran. Quite a bit of buzz built around the new project, including a Slashdotting and ham radio convention appearance, but my father passed away in the middle of that year and I went east to shut down the old family home. 

I never got back to building this as a stand-alone system, but the design principles have survived... and are now the core of my new expedition substrate: a 44-foot steel pilothouse sailboat named Nomadness. With the capabilities of today's smart phones, it would no longer make sense to put significant energy into the machine shown above (though of course it has the autonomy to provide a communication and data collection toolset without cellular infrastructure and monthly fees!).

The core concepts of Shacktopus, however, are extremely useful and still impossible to find in the broader marketplace. It's a way to avoid expensive wheel-reinvention by integrating a suite of commercial products into a consistent framework... a sort of giant interoperability hack. On the boat, this takes the form of crossbar networks, a USB hierarchy, about 15 Arduino nodes, an always-on Linux server, speech I/O tools, lots of communications, and whatever browser is handy.

Eventually, I'll document all this in a series of Design Packages with associated kits, but in the meantime, if you want to keep up with development (giving it a little boost in the process!), I publish a weekly PDF update called The Nomadness Report. For $20/year (only 38 an issue), this delivers system design details, technical articles about the countless sub-projects, and the whole gonzo engineering narrative.

Cheers,
Steve Roberts
Nomadic Research Labs