Archive for May, 2007

A spying robot

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Presented in Liberation, a highchool in South Korea, Seoul, will adopt a new kind of robot, the OFRO to check on kids at school. Communicating with school supervisors via a video camera and a microphone, it can detect any suspicious activity. Thank you Olivier for the link!

I now hope for a subversive robot, much cooler, with fancier behavior, created as a response to this very scaring surveillance attempt.

Interactive surfaces

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Interaction with microsoft surface

Microsoft Surface, a finger interactive table to organize digital media, will be available on the market in winter 2007.

Microsfot surface table

This very neat idea of interactive surface is in the research market for a long time now: for instance with Diamondtouch, Ali Mazalek’s tangible viewpoints and James Patten’ sensetable from 2000-2001. It is exciting the process of this research being revisted by giant companies for mass production. I wish they would have kept the tangible quality of objects to control digital data. Maybe Pattenstudio will take care of that part!

Video of audiopad by James Patten and Ben Recht.

Renewable energy

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

Aurelius introduced me to Cool Earth, a renewable energy startup. It has patented a way to make solar energy more efficient than coal. Impressive …

Three years ago our top scientists and Nobel Prize winners met in Washington in search of a solution to energy-related Global Warming. Four points came from the meeting:- there is no solution available
- yet we must implement one by 2050
- the only power source that presents a viable solution is solar
- but solar energy is currently far too expensive.

Cool Earth was formed to solve this problem. Now. With currently available technology. We are working to reduce the cost of solar electricity by a factor of 25, making it cheaper to produce than energy from coal or other non-renewable sources. By developing a solution from minimal, low-cost materials, we aim to make solar generation as profitable as today’s best investment options.

This extreme goal has led us to exactly one real and viable solution: a solar farming approach, based on concentrated photovoltaic collectors, constructed from inexpensive, widely-available plastic films.

Here’s how the system works:

Inflatable concentrators gather light and focus it onto photovoltaic cells, increasing the energy impacting the cells many times over. Our design costs 400 times less per collected area than conventional mirrors, can withstand 100 mph winds, and can protect the mirror surface and receiver from rain, insects, and dirt.

Series of concentrators are suspended on support and control cables stretched between poles. By suspending the concentrators, vast areas of land can be easily converted for solar energy production with limited environmental impact. The ground beneath the concentrators remains free for other uses, such as farming or ranching.

The timing is perfect. Our technology is in place. And we have a plan to reach “grid parity” in three years, not thirty.

Super Hero and the Wii

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Now, one can almost fully be a Super Hero Marvel with the Wii. Thank you Olivier! More pictures.

Videogame controllers as ustensils

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Burger time place setting

Chris Dimino redesigns the classic place setting: fork, knife, spoon, cup, and plate using unconventional materials solution: the burgertime place setting, using videogame controllers as ustensils and a TV screen plate that plays the classic nintendo game “burgertime”

Facial corsetry and bioactive glass implants

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Discovered on the Body Modifications’s web site, these garnments temporarily alter the structure of the wearer’s face. They are created by artist Paddy Hartley and Dr Ian Thompson.

Project facade’s web site

They cast molten Bioglass© “into shapes up to 5cm long which can then be carved to a required shape and implanted into the face of a patient in need of repair of the nose or eye socket to name but two.”

Secret under my skin

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Today I met with Valerie Bugmann who works on the e-Skin project. She shared her ideas about the perception and simulation of touch for visually impaired persons.

I discovered her performance works and especially liked Secret under my skin. “With the Skin-to-skin communication the body stands as a medium between the technology and the world. In the performance, the participant exteriorizes inner thoughts by inputting them into the keyboard and interiorizes them into the body again with the use of Skin-to-skin communication for the purpose of transmitting them personally by touch to the performer.”

The performance takes place in the room of secrets where a skin-to-skin communication network is employed. Here, the performer and the space await the opportunity to become alive through the interaction with the participant who comes to intimately confess/convey a secret by touch. A lighted keyboard floating in the darkness invites the participant to type a secret into its glowing keys. Once typed out, by simply touching the keyboard the secret is reintroduced into the participant’s body in the form of its new physicality – an electric wave. The secret, now flowing from the keyboard into the participant’s body is ready to be further transmitted/confessed to the performer by touch. Once skin-to-skin contact is established with the performer, the participant will be able to see his/her secret revealed on a wearable display on the performer’s body; the participant is then confronted with a very intimate part of him/herself. Despite the secret being displayed on the performer, it remains unread by anyone expect the participant, or has the performer – this almost inert object of inscription, desire and redemption - actually become aware of the secret through the transmission?Skin-to-skin communication, as a suitable technology to express intimate thoughts, generates an intense effect as we recognize ourselves as part of the other through touch. Secret under my skin brings together different notions and implications of touch in this confession-like context, exploring new behaviors and novel parameters of social interaction that can develop out of this contact.

A wearable artificial skin

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

“Our own skin and hair is the largest organ of the human body: a tactile reactive interface which special metaphorical connotations of communication and sensitivity.” M. Lappe and J. Holt.

The e-Skin project aims at developing a novel type of wearable interface which mimics the sensory capabilities of the human skin. The interface consists of a multilayered flexible hightech textile and senses stimuli both on its outside and inside surface. At the same time the interface possesses actuation mechanisms to provide tactile feedback through its inside and outside surfaces.

“The ability of the skin to acquire and process information rivals our senses of sight and hearing.”

e-Skin is a research initiative to create an interface based on the modalities of the human skin (temperature, vibration, pressure, proprioception). It is a tactile interface consisting both of sensors and actuators, a wearable artificial skin and a navigation aid in space.

Touch: a meaning system socially and culturally located

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Today, I met with Anne Cranny-Francis based in the Department of Critical and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University. Her web site is a great ressource of references, hyperlinks to papers related to the meaning of touch.

I presented and discussed my research on touch simulation for persons with neurological and pathological disorders. She works on the touch project to understand touch as a meaning system that is socially and culturally located. “The project is concerned with the diversity and specificity of touch as it is experienced by people in their everyday lives. Touch is one of our fundamental ways of negotiating the world and each other. It is specific to different genders, classes, cultures, ages – for all of whom the same physical touch may mean very different things.”

She wrote a paper The Midas Touch to re-think the representation of touch. “Its essential argument is that touch defines our being in the world, so that touch is always already a cultural and political practice.”

A must-read paper for me as soon as it is published: somatic technologies

My argument is conducted via a series of encounters: a reading of the figure of Christ’s body in late Middle Ages devotional texts, in which the hybridity of Christ is both celebrated and fetishised; the recent appearance of hybrid and cyborg figures in the Stephen Sommers’ film, Van Helsing (2004) and the excess of religious (mostly Christian) references throughout the film; and a mapping of the homologies between the figures of Christ crucified and Sommers’ representation of Dracula, which suggests their interrelationship. This paper is based in a belief in the inextricable relationship between embodiment and the technologies (material, cultural and political) that generate it, the semiotic density of those technologies, and their iterative deployment to generate new ideas – about technology and about embodiment.

Psychophysical Elements of Wearability

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Looking for references on the relationship between specific mechanisms of the body and wearable computing, I never accross anything relevant to my research. During Chi 2007, I discovered the work of Lucy Dunne: Psychophysical Elements of Wearability. She has a large number of publications on the subject and her research is fascinating.

My primary research focus is wearable technology design, a new field that is only recently beginning to gain direction and depth. As a functional apparel designer, I approach wearable technology with the goal of expanding garment functionality through use of technology. One of the most useful and salient applications of technology to garment functionality is in the area of body sensing: knowledge of the physical, emotional, and situational state of the user is essential to many next-generation computing applications, particularly in the areas of ubiquitous computing and adaptive information delivery, as well as the more direct areas of medical and sports monitoring. However, while many sensing technologies are predominantly well-established and reliable, they have also emerged from an engineering tradition that rarely includes the geometric, dynamic, cognitive, and emotional unpredictability that is the human body.

One of the most significant themes in my work has been the importance of designing truly wearable technology: defining the elements that influence wearability and overcoming the technical challenges of gathering data in a comfortable and unobtrusive manner. Most of my recent work has been applied to deducing the position and movement of the human body by detecting forces and bends in worn garments, with a wearability focus on moving sensing technology out of the electronically reliable but often awkward and uncomfortable medical standard and re-designing it to function adequately in “normal” clothing.

My doctoral dissertation, Wearable Sensing of Body Position and Movement Through Body-Garment Interactions, establishes the psychophysical elements that comprise “wearability” of technology and argues that in wearable technology, the influence of wearability extends to the user’s physical functionality, cognitive processing, and acceptance of innovation in worn artefacts. The design considerations that are established in the theoretical portion of the work are then applied to the problem of sensing the movement and position of the human body by detecting the shape and dynamics of worn garments, rather than by sensing (unwearably) the body itself. - Lucy Dunne