Maine Winter Hackathon and Adventure Club

Dan Von Kohorn
5 min readDec 24, 2015


It’s become an annual tradition: come to the coast of Maine to work and explore. It’s a bit of a shock to the system and a time to focus and get perspective.

Camera Images and Video

I’ve been immersing myself in Wolfram Language and connected tech.

The language supports so many functions that it can be quick and easy to connect to cameras and work with images in both simple and advanced ways.

We can find all the faces in an image and extract them.

My fantasy is to connect this to wireless devices for security, home automation, etc. But only parts of it work so far.

Quickly subtracting 2 sequential pictures lets us work with motion. Can you see me waving my hand in front of the camera in the picture below?

Subtract 2 sequential pictures for motion

We can run math on those pixels to trigger other behavior — the more motion, the more pixel differences.

Running on video is fun.

Edge detection is fast. “Can you make me a cartoon again?” he asked!

By adjusting some parameters and adding highlighted edges back to the original image, the cartoon becomes colorized (Happily reminds me of Dr. Katz).

The Big Night Sky

With all the knowledge and curated integrations, it becomes a quick setup to project a sky map onto the ceiling.

You can see stars and constellations, the location and path of the moon, and little airplane graphics for the commercial airlines currently flying overhead.

It uses geolocation from your browser to get the right view of the sky and planes — it’s crazy the kind of data you can pull in and play with.

My ceiling has lots of angles and the picture is blurry. I deployed it to a cloud so can see the sky map over you.

Winter Solstice

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice and we have been keenly aware of sunrise and sunset here. The days are short. But how short? No programming is necessary for that one; Wolfram|Alpha provides an answer:

We can take it further, pulling data in and creating a chart of the hours of daylight through the seasonal cycle.

Of course, the seasons change because the Earth spins on its axis and we are standing on the surface.

This diagram shows our frame of reference and how the sun moves across the sky. The blue line shows the path of the sun during the Winter Solstice. Then we look outside and see that, in fact, the sun is where it should be. What a relief.

Speaking of relief, the next map shows a relief map of Maine, with light added based on the GIS topography and angle of incidence at sunrise.

It’s a ton of data collection and processing, made easy with simple high-level functions and visualization options.

We played around with much more data and visualization tools. This was my favorite, a map of building permits in Boston. There is much more to it… if you are interested, see Christopher Wolfram’s particularly fun analysis of the city building permits in Boston.

Raspberry Pi

Boom. It works at 5 Watts. Face detection isn’t supported, but I can make it work by sending the images to remote storage and processing them on a different machine.

With a wireless adapter, the code can access outside resources and send values to a private cloud. Mine keeps track of motion stats from the camera. It’s small, low power, and accessible by SSH. Win!

Accessing the cloud data is easy with Data Drop. Good tool.

Quiet Reading Time

Aside from playing with Wolfram Language, I read. 4 books in 9 days. Lucky me!!

Reading list:

“Superintelligence” — Just awesome. A calm and thoughtful discussion of the path and implications as we approach artificial general intelligence.

“An Elementary Introduction to Wolfram Language” — A great introduction to Wolfram Language and actually quite helpful for understanding more advanced techniques in functional programming and symbolic languages in general.

“Cabin Porn” — If you fantasize about getting back to nature or building community, this is a fun read.

“The User Illusion” — A somewhat dated but interesting perspective on consciousness and the complex processing it sits on top of.



Dan Von Kohorn

I build and invest in tech companies. Managing Partner at Broom Ventures.