Thursday, May 31, 2007

A spying robot

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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Interactive surfaces

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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Renewable energy

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.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Super Hero and the Wii

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

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Videogame controllers as ustensils

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"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Facial corsetry and bioactive glass implants

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

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

"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

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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Psychophysical Elements of Wearability

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

Shadow monsters

I saw the shadow monsters at the RCA in 2005 and loved them. The creator Philip Worthington has a lot of other neat projects on site. I just refer to this specific work as a reference in motion and interaction design.

Singing Sock Puppets

Singing Sock Puppets by Matthew Brown

This is a MIDI controller sock puppet. Opening and closing the mouth bends a flex sensor and makes the puppet 'sing' up and down a scale. He can be tuned to sing in any scale - blues, pentatonic, chromatic and so on. These puppets could be used to help illustrate relatively complex musical theory - such as the differences between blues, chromatic and pentatonic scales - through play; this type of musical terminology doesn't normally enter the school music curriculum until GCSE level in the UK (ages 15 - 16).

Motion mapping

Enlighted by Marc Downie's work at the MIT Media Lab, I just checked his company Openended Group where he co-creates digital artworks for stage, screen, gallery, museum and public spaces.
His PhD thesis (459 pages) on choreographing the extended agent is available for download online.

I selected this quote that I find particularly interesting regarding my current research ...

If you cast your mind back to childhood, you will soon discover our topic – motion-mapping – most clearly and imaginatively revealed. There in the games and pursuits of your earliest years you can distinguish this phenomenon in its three most basic forms. You can also follow each form forward in time to find out what they grew into -- forms of art.

You might start by bringing back the movement games you played so ardently as a child – in particular the games of imitation and mimicry, like Copycat, Follow the leader, Charades, Simon Says, and the innumerable variants you and your friends would improvise. These games had you map the movements of others onto your own body, sometimes in the simplest one-to-one transformations (as when you followed the leader), but sometimes more intricately, as when you mimicked a lion, or a horse, or a gladiator...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Design thinking: exhibition by Ideo

The Divisumma 18 Calculator by Olivetti and designed by Mario Bellini, 1973.

An exhibition I cannot miss ...
IDEO Selects: Works from the Permanent Collection On view June 22, 2007–January 20, 2008 at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

IDEO, a leading innovation and design firm for more than 20 years, is the fourth guest curator in the exhibition series presented in the Nancy and Edwin Marks Gallery. IDEO organizes works from the permanent collection around the theme of "design thinking," displaying objects such as an array of flashlights from the 1940s-1990s, showing diverse designs for portable lighting; a 19th-century textile panel with instructions for making hand shadow figures; a cane with pull-out map; the 1940s “Silver Streak” glass iron; the "Divisumma 18" calculator, designed by Mario Bellini; and a child's chair, designed by Charles and Ray Eames.

Informational diagrams

Another master piece in the domaine of graphic representation of information. Best informational diagrams edited by Pie Books

Graphs, charts, maps, schematics… a collection of the latest in graphics that visualize complex information thus making it easy to comprehend. This wide range of diagram masterpieces from around the world documents the state of the art.


[The other's eyes] turn to me a liquid pool waiting for unforseeable disturbances. They are more naked than the flesh without pelt or hide, without clothing. ... They are more naked than things can be, than walls bared of their adornments and revolvers stripped of their camouflage; they bare a substance susceptible and vulnerable. Their nudity exposes them to whatever message I may want to impose, whatever offense I can contrive - Alphonso Lingis, Foreign Bodies, p171.

In shell, I tailored a plastic envelop of a human body, envelop that is then discarded. The plastic fabric is carved with textural information. Its transparence resembles a ghost, its undefined junctions and closed top suggest a metamorphosis rather than a piece of clothing. It is an object that has been depersonalized by being discarded in public.

Attached to a long stick, it floats in the wind, linking the experience of the playground (yard), the uncomfortable cocoon (the shell) and academic knowledge (the Widener library at Harvard University).

Social subjectivity?

Should we design for everybody within a consensus or should we find a new line of products outside of the consensus? Should we go for the consensus and define what this consensus is or should we rethink the interaction with products itself? When researching on interaction design and defining visionnary work, I found the following quote to be inspiring:

Is it really so sad and dangerous to be fed up with seeing with your eyes, breathing with your lungs, swallowing with your mouth, talking with your tongue, thinking with your brain, having an anus and larynx, head and legs? Why not walk with your head, sing with your sinuses, see through your skin, breathe with your belly.
Where psychoanalysis says, "Stop, find your self again," we should say instead, "Let's go further still ... we haven't sufficiently dismantled our self." Substitute forgetting for anamnesis, experimentation for interpretation. Find your body without organs. Find out how to make it. It's a question of life and death, youth and old age, sadness and joy. It is where everything is played out. (150-151) - Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Mille Plateaux: Capitalisme et schizophrénie, 1980.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Visual Communication bible

The bible in visual communication Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann.

A Visual Communication Manual for graphic designers, typographers and three dimensional designers. Considered by most to be the definitive book on grid systems. This book is a must for any designer. From concept to instructional, this book covers typography through grid systems used in design both 2D and 3D.

Richard Saul Wurman

American demographics

Richard Saul Wurman is a classic reference in information design recommended to me by Mirja Leinss.
He created the online content understanding USA, a celebration and a visual demonstration of questions and answers leading to understanding.

Information Anxiety

He also created a comprehensive online content on understanding healthcare.

A human dashboard

Interactive dresses

Hexagram is an institute for research and creation in media arts and technologies. They present “Indice de l’indifférence: Walking City”, an exposition by Ying Gao.

The vernissage of the latest exposition by Ying Gao, “Indice de l’indiférence : Walking City” an installation featuring her interactive dresses, will take place at Galerie Diagonale on May 31, from 4 pm to 6 pm with the exposition taking place from May 29 to June 9.

Two beautiful examples of breathing dress

More of Ying Gao's work

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Glass fabric lamps

Santa maria della Luce

Intriging angel-like lamps made of glass fabric and aluminium by designer Ingo Maurer.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Anthony James

Anthony James, Bachelor 2x4x2, Holasek Weir Gallery

Anthony James on artnet

Friday, May 18, 2007

Chapi Chapo

The ultimate mobile shopping experience

I discovered Caravan the ultimate mobile shopping experience: A store on wheels in the streets of new York.

Web site

Method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body

Method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body, United States Patent 6754472, by Microsoft 2004.

Methods and apparatus for distributing power and data to devices coupled to the human body are described. The human body is used as a conductive medium, e.g., a bus, over which power and/or data is distributed. Power is distributed by coupling a power source to the human body via a first set of electrodes. One or more devise to be powered, e.g., peripheral devices, are also coupled to the human body via additional sets of electrodes. The devices may be, e.g., a speaker, display, watch, keyboard, etc. A pulsed DC signal or AC signal may be used as the power source. By using multiple power supply signals of differing frequencies, different devices can be selectively powered. Digital data and/or other information signals, e.g., audio signals, can be modulated on the power signal using frequency and/or amplitude modulation techniques.

Patent available online

This patent grant the company "exclusive rights to the body’s ability to act as a computer network" via David Adam, “Computerising the Body: Microsoft Wins Patent to Exploit Network Potential of Skin, ”The Guardian, July 6,2004, 3; David Concar, “The Boldest Cut, ”New Scientist, May 29, 2004, 32-37.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Augmenting our collective IQ

Augmenting our collective IQ by Doug Engelbart, invited by MIT.

Throughout human history, new artifacts and the training and culture associated with them have served to augment human capabilities. In recent years, the computer and Web have played a central role in the enhancement of human capabilities. This discussion will explore what we can do next to facilitate the human and tool co-evolution to augment our collective capability to serve humankind.

Speaker bio
Doug Engelbart is the inventor of the computer mouse and led research teams at Stanford Research Institute that developed hypertext, networked computing, and early graphical user interfaces. At the 1968 Fall Computer Conference in San Francisco, he presented what became known as the mother of all demos. For a Wired article on this demo, see Engelbart is a recipient of the Lemelson-MIT Prize, the Turing Award, and the 2000 National Medal of Technology.

Also available online, mp3 of "Collective IQ and Human Augmentation", Interview with Douglas Engelbart, April 4, 2007.

Douglas Engelbart's definition of augmentation: "everything we have done to increase our capabilities (...) from the tool to clothing".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Machine Therapy

I mentioned the work of Kelly Dobson about a year ago. Today, I attended her VERY inspiring thesis defense at the Media Lab, researching on Machine Therapy. I love her personal relationship to machines. I cannot wait to read her thesis!

In this thesis I describe a new body of work called Machine Therapy, a methodology for revealing the vital relevance of subconscious elements of human-machine interactions that works within art, design, psychodynamics, and engineering. This practice highlights what machines actually do and mean, in contrast to what their designers consciously intended. Machine Therapy is a cyclical process that alternates between discussion of and sessions for empathic relationships with domestic appliances, personal extension and connection via wearable and prosthetic apparatuses, and the design of evocative visceral robots that interact with people's understandings of themselves and each other. Combining research and practice in digital signal processing and machine learning, mechanical engineering, and textile sensor design, I have been able to create new objects and relationships that are unique in some aspects while maintaining quotidian familiarity in other aspects. This is illustrated through the documented construction of several projects including re-appropriated domestic devices, wearable apparatuses, and machines that act in relation with users’ autonomic signals. These Machine Therapy devices are evaluated in studies of participants' interactive engagements with the machines as well as participants' affective responses to the machines. The Machine Therapy projects facilitate unusual explorations of the parapraxis of machine design and use: these usually unconscious elements of our interactions with machines critically affect our sense of self, agency in the social and political world, and shared emotional, cultural, and perceptual development.

Dissertation Committee

Christopher Csikszentmihályi
Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Muriel Cooper Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Program in Media Arts and Sciences
MIT Media Laboratory

Rosalind W. Picard
Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Program in Media Arts and Sciences
MIT Media Laboratory

Edith Ackermann, PhD
Honorary Professor of Developmental Psychology
University of Aix-Marseille I, France
Visiting Scientist, MIT School of Architecture

Kelly's Web site
Computing Culture research group

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Music performance: water walk

In 1960 John Cage appears in a popular TV show and performs the music piece water walk. He uses sounds of everyday objects to compose. His carefulness and very precise actions show that he must have rehearsed hundred of times to perform his piece. Via multimedialab.


Recently, Nicholas Knouf created an interactive version of John Cage's graphical score Variations 2, called Variations 10b. I tried it during an exhibition at the Lewis Music Library at MIT and found the interface very convincing. The interface allows a performer to change the score and get immediate feedback as to the result. Nicholas hopes that both listeners and performers will develop a more nuanced understanding of the score through the use of the interface.

Paper on variations 10b.

Three dots activated in a performance

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's next with social networks?

I recently thought of creating a social network for dead people. Everyone could provide their digital representations, biometry information, simulation of personal touch that would only be revealed when dead. However, Mission Eternity is a similar concept that Regine Debatty noticed at ISEA.

The M∞ ARCANUM CAPSULES contain digital fragments of the life, knowledge and soul of the users and enable them to design an active presence post mortem: as infinite data particles they forever circulate the global info sphere – hosted in the shared memory of thousands of networked computers and mobile devices of M∞ ANGELS, people who contribute a part of their digital storage capacity to the mission.


Arcanum Capsules contain digital fragments of the life, knowledge and soul of the users and enable them to design an active presence post mortem.

Almost Safe

Deconstruction, 2007; Low Tide, 2007 by Anthony Goicolea

In his new show "Almost Safe," photographer Anthony Goicolea presents digitally-composed, black-and-white images of a shattered earth. The artist portrays a world that bears the wounds of globalization, war, and a crippled environment. Only these wastelands are left in their wake. Goicolea has composited images taken at several disaster sites, adding elements (like power lines across an ocean rock formation) that seem out-of-place or just barely plausible. In Deconstruction, ominous dark clouds form over an office building that's been halved in two and thrown across a beach. In Black Ice, a car is shown leaving a post-apocalyptic cityscape that's maybe part-New York City and part-Oz. This world is only half-real, but the more you look at Goicolea's constructions, the less impossible they seem. - Christopher Bartley

"Almost Safe" opens April 28 and runs through June 2, 2007 at Postmasters Gallery, NYC.
More info

Via V magazine

Thursday, May 10, 2007

We Will Become Silhouettes

Created by Elena Corchero, we will become silhouettes is a collection of fashion accesories that explores delicate ways of incorporating organic solar cells into textiles in which technology meets tradition. The pieces are charged while used outdoors during the day. When brought indoors in the evening they transform into a decorative ambient light display for the home, powered only by energy stored earlier.
Electronic components like solar cells, resistors, and LEDs are integrated directly into the textile and wired together into working circuits using conductive thread. Organic prints and embroidery motifs recall endangered birds.

Enabling musical expression

Rachel's graphical representation of Dan's musical composition

During the H2.0 event, Adam Boulanger, researcher at the Hyperinstruments group with Professor Tod Machover presented their most impressive latest research: enabling musical expression.
Dan Ellsey, who has cerebral palsy, has been composing with the Hyperscore environment for almost two years. Adam developed a head-set and supporting software so that Dan could expressively perform his hyperscore compositions as a soloist. Dan worked closely with the team to perform his “eagle song” using head movements during the event. Rachel Roppolo worked on translating the sensor inputs from Dan into minimal graphics. Zach Watts worked on the curve algorithm to determine the type of shape Dan was making.
The performance was clearly impressive, very detailed and empowered the public.

I later talked to Adam about the project. He explained that the project necessitated a number of important steps. The team initially built on the commercial head tracker that Dan usually uses. However the commercial tracker was unsuccessful for a performance because it is not fast enough and is not reporting continuous data. Adam had to create a continuous head tracker.
Regarding the design aspects of the system, Adam had to work closely with Dan to come up with the algorithm that he needed to get clean data from Dan’s head movements, the team later calibrated the sensors for Dan.
The other step consisted in designing a controller that could run a performance. The team designed a new software that could take Dan’s range of motions and velocity of movement. They also had to do curve analysis to determine the type of shape Dan was making. Adam had to also figure out, based on his piece and movement, how this would be represented as an expression of the piece. The whole process was a discussion back and forth between Dan and the team. The system being done, they went through the piece of music and defined the type of movement needed for expression.

The performance was incredible. I cried, impressed by what the team had achieved.
The speakers were all impressive, I missed a few of them that I have to catch up on the archive. The webcast of the event is available online.

Adam, Dan and Tod