Mass is a Home Automation software system that really concentrates on what the name implies (Multimedia Automation Software System). This rich interface allows graphics, full motion animation, live video overlays, sound and more to be imbedded in your control interface. It supports such controllers as JDS TimeCommander, JDS IR-XP Xpander,X10 CP290 & CM11A, VAUX M.A.R.K., ACT – TU102M, HomeVision and more. MASS can also be used with Dragon Dictate to achieve full voice control (see article in this issue).
MASSCOMMThe central control module in MASS is called MASSCOMM. From MASSCOMM you set up your system and call the various modules or graphical interfaces used to control the sytems in your home.
MGE – MASS GRAPHICAL EDITOR
The MASS system allows you to import graphic screens (floor plans, house and room photos etc) to use as the control interface. The graphical editor is used to “activate” these graphic screens.
Similar to image mapping, you can define each room area on your floor plan and program actions to occur when the room is clicked with a mouse (ie … click on the family room and up pops a photo of the room). The room photos can also have active areas which when clicked will perform control functions such as turning on the lights or opening another graphic such as a television remote control to change channels etc. Objects such as buttons, list boxes, combo boxes, pictures and images etc. may also be added to any screen image. A special type of object (FXImage) can be animated to give your screen variety and action. These objects can then be programmed to carry out commands (X10, IR, sound etc). Another type of object is the “Control and Indication” object. With this feature you add guages, LED’s, thermostats etc. to actively indicate variables in your system.
As you can see, MASS is extremely rich and flexible in presenting your automation system on screen. Now, what can we control with all of these fancy “objects”.
The answer is … almost anything. Each object that is defined carrys a set of “properties” which tells MASS what to do when the object is clicked (activated). Commands can include:
* X10 commands
* IR commands
* Activate a Relay
* Start a Timer
* Run a script
* Send ASCII string
* Launch a Program
* Dial the Phone
Triggers are set up to tell MASS to perform a certain task when the object is activated (ie button is pushed).
Other properties allow you to define sounds (.wav or speech string) and multimedia (ie run movie files etc).
MGI – MASS GRAPHICAL INTERFACE
Once your system is defined using MGE (a daunting task if you want to use all of the fancy options available to you), the MASSCOMM panel is used to call up your MGI (Mass Graphical Interface). Up to 5 interfaces may be defined however because any screen can jump or transition to another the system is infinitely expandable…like five incarnations of netscape running silmultaneously. Typically, an interface is simply the floorplan or elevation which you wish to use to control your system. From the main floorplan (MGI1) for example you click whichever room you wish to control and the object screen (ie room photo) appears. Clicking on the control objects in the room photo activate the command associated with the control object etc. etc. etc.
Control4 Home Automation
Other MASS network modules (some availaable now and others to be introduced soon) include:
* MASS TCP – Links MASSCOMM’s via TCP/IP network for MAXIMUM expandability…255 sockets per MASSCOMM!…MASSCOMM’s acutally talk to each other over the internet.
* MASSLINE – allows you to define commands right on the desktop.
* MASS TAPI – Anwsering, DIaling, CALLERID, DTMF Menu Module.
* VAUX Remote – A popup of the actual Vaux Remote Control with all built in features.
* X10 Monitor
* MASSIVE-MASS – Interactive Virtual Engine will use VRML 2.0, and Panoramatechnology for the ultimate interface….a navigable interface. The editor will use the MGE principles, except the objects will be hotzones placed over a stitched panorama….Move in Quicktime VR and click on lights to turn on or off, or on keypads to popup MGI of Keypad.
* New logic engines will employ VB Scripting so users can actually build REAL Basic Logic Modules!
MASS is definitely not for the kiddies. It’s a feature rich software package that gives you a vast array of visual and multimedia tools to play with. The software that I was given to review consisted of the Version 1 CD, 6 disks to upgrade to version 2 and a manual (for version 1). No online help is provided at this time (and you need lots of it). Once loaded and somewhat understood 🙂 I did have a few glitches occur while running MGI’s. This generally had to do with graphic screens bouncing from on top of the floorplan to behind it etc.
I gotta say this is a powerful software system and if you’re into controlling the house via your PC you’ll have a ball with it. This is another of those systems that rely on your PC to be on at all times and available for tweeking. In addition, the program uses a fair amount of your windows resources while its running so a resonably powerful PC is needed.
MASS retails for $199 and is available at Phoenix Development or Worthington Distribution.
For more information on MASS be sure to read the article in this issue entitled Using MASS and Dragon Dictate for Voice Control … Larry Graham’s House which gives you insight into how an MS sufferer uses it to control his house verbally.