30 December 2007

Old Worlds and New Clocks

After an extended roadtrip enjoying the charms of Munich, Prague, & Heidelberg which included superb breakfasts, dozens of hours lost due to incomprehensible German & Czech roadsigns, and to my Kiwi/Cali thinned blood unbelievably cold -10C temps - it was with cozy relief that I logged on from home to boingboing's latest delightful post for "Old World craftsmanship meets state-of-the-art technology" DIY wooden clock kits.

Wooden-Gear-Clocks.com provides tinkerers and craft-y folks alike with kits to make their own family heirloom clocks in 2 different styles. The kits come in various stages of completion with plans & material sets for birch clock faces, gears, pendulum shaft and dowels from just $34! So even if you make a mess of the thing - as I inevitably will - you can start over for less than the price of a tank of gas.

Hopefully when I finally get started building that cute & sociable blubberbot, I'll get it right the first time, as the US$ isn't doing so well against the Euro these days.

via boingboing

08 December 2007

Bio Art - Labmade Life Forms in Art

As current technologies are changing our perceptions of the body, bioart, also called "wet" art, "moist" art or "biotech" art, is bridging the gap between science and art. Using biology as their medium, artists clone cells, grow skins, meats and livers. They explore issues ranging from the taxonomical crisis induced by life forms created through biotechnology, cultural cross-breeding and hybridization, the creation of new biological habitats, and the hymen.

For a taste of bioart, check out this BBTV video report on last week's tissue culture workshop hosted by LA's Machine Project. It was led by Oron
Catts and Ionat Zurr
of the biotech collective SymbioticA, which "creates new cultural experiments in the field of neurosciences, molecular biology, anatomy physics, anthropology and ethics."

via we-make-money-not-art

Touch | Sight| Relocated Self

By deliberately scrambling a person's visual and tactile senses, it is possible for scientists to give them an out-of-body experience.

Most popular of this type of perceptual illusion is the "Rubber Hand Illusion."

New Scientist cites the next demonstration, also performed by UCL's Henrik Ehrsson. Cameras and projections are set up to confuse subjects into experiencing that they are standing somewhere else in the room, reinforcing the idea that peoples' perception of 'self' is tightly bound to how information is processed by the senses.

In these experiments, the sense of touch is synchronized with visual movement. These perceptions are put in conflict with where the synchronization is happening. The brain defaults to vision, which is the most informationally rich sensory modality. As the self is no longer 'within its borders', subjects feel like they're having an out-of-body experience.

Here's a DIY version, brought to you from the guys at Mind Hacks:
"Sit at a table with a friend at your side. Put one hand on your knee, out of sight under the table. Your friend’s job is to tap, touch, and stoke your hidden hand and—with identical movements using her other hand—to tap the top of the table directly above. Do this for a couple of minutes. It helps if you concentrate on the table where your friend is touching, and it's important you don't get hints of how your friend is touching your hidden hand. The more irregular the pattern and the better synchronized the movements on your hand and on the table, the greater the chance this will work for you. About 50% of people begin to feel as if the tapping sensation is arising from the table, where they can see the tapping happening before their very eyes. If you're lucky, the simultaneous touching and visual input have led the table to be incorporated into your body image."

Beyond the practical applications of creating more realistic avatars in virtual reality games, and for doctors' performing remote surgery, these experiments explore the question, 'Why do we feel we own our body?' They indicates that "self" is closely tied to a "within-body" position, which is dependent on information from the senses. Swiss researcher Olaf Blanke concludes, "We look at 'self' with regard to spatial characteristics, and maybe they form the basis upon which self-consciousness has evolved."

Evolving Perception: Tele-Synesthesia and Touch Technology

via Mind Hacks

04 December 2007

Evolving Perception: Tele-Synesthesia and Touch Technology

How are human beings adapting to increasingly virtual environments? Belgian artist and founder of the Belgian Synesthesia Association, Dr Hugo Heyrman, has devoted 40 years to studying and experimenting with perception. His terms 'tele-senses' and 'tele-synesthesia' describe how our senses are merging with and enhanced by interactive technology.

In synesthesia, neurological cross-wiring causes senses to mingle, often with exotic effect. However, we also know that one sense links to other senses by association. In cybermedia, and touch-technology in particular, the boundaries between the internal and external, between the what is here and what is there, become confused. Our senses become 'tele-senses' - enhanced and extended in cyberspace ('tele' means 'far' in Greek). As interactive multimedia and electronic networks create uncharted possibilities of interconnection, we are enabled to expand the reach of our sensorial perception.

'Tele-synesthesia' is the synesthetic principle that is expanded and extended by means of new media: the traveling senses. It is defined as virtual interactions between the tele-senses, developed by means of new technological means in order to overcome the constraints of the human senses.

This is fast becoming reality, and in some cases, aesthetically and conceptually beautiful. Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel has developed a highly sophisticated, interactive multi-touch technology with multiple user capacity. Each pixel is a touch sensor, providing an infinite number of points that can be captured and manipulated by the user.

The user (or users) simultaneously employs fingers, hands and arms on large-scale screens, collaborating parts of the brain used for interaction with physical objects.
"By synchronising images, sound, movement and haptic experiences, electronic media are able to bring about the intermingling and fusion of one medium into another, resulting in making colours audible, visualising sound and making words palpable... Future libraries will become brain banks instead of book banks, synesthetic archives: an interactive multimedia integration of the visual, the kinetic, the haptic, the sonic, and the telematic."
In terms of adapting to virtual environments & multi-sensory learning, Heyrman concludes that synesthetes, 'Homo Futuris', have a head start on the rest of us: "because with the futuristic, telematic extension of the human senses, everything will become more and more synesthetic."

Customizing Sensory Reality
Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes
Fusiform Gyrus Sounds good

Eating Wikipedia

Charming mistranslations can work when you're back-packing through Europe or bargaining down birdcages in Hong Kong. But how hungry do you have to be to eat Wikipedia?

Other samples of dubious Chinese menu offerings here.

When you're in the lurch, there's always Alta Vista's realtime machine translation service, where Kentucky Fried Chicken's 'finger-lickin' good' translates to 'eat your fingers off.'

via boingboing

02 December 2007

Techno Fashion hits Ready-to-Wear

Once again, conceptual fashion designer Hussein Chalayan brought techno fashion to the masses for Spring '07. World politics, transformation and flux, fusing technology and science, fashion's cyclical nature, and the tendency to dress in response to the times are themes Chalayan has continued to reference throughout his career. In the S/S '07 show he created exquisitely delicate, layered pieces: five animated dresses, that twitched, folded and morphed through three decades apiece.

The artfully concealed technology of wires, corsets and pulleys was installed by London's 2DRD, who created the engineering and computer programming. For an automatically closing bodice, a magnet was gently drawn up a string. 2DRD's director, Rod Edkins expands in this MIT Technology Review article:

"Basically, the dresses were driven electronically by controlled, geared motors. We made, for want of a better term, little bum pads for the models. So on their buttocks were some hard containers, and within these containers we had all the battery packs, controlling chips--the microcontrollers and microswitches--and little geared motors. The motors we used were tiny, about a third of the size of a pencil and nine millimeters in diameter. Each of the motors had a little pulley, and the pulley was then attached to this monofilament wire which was fed through hollow tubes sewn into the corset of the dress.

"Some of the corsets were very complicated. They had 30 or 40 of these little tubes running everywhere, carrying these little cables, each doing its little job, lifting things up or releasing little linked metallic plates. There was a huge amount of stuff going on beneath the clothes."

via twenty1f

'Killer Threads - Clothing That Harms'