Ericsson’s vision of the future-present smart home

Posted by on April 8th, 2011
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Of course, in the Philip K. Dick version of this scenario the devices would probably conspire against him.

via @bruces

Adam Greenfield’s Cognitive Cities keynote: On Public Objects

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s Adam Greenfield‘s excellent, thought-provoking keynote at the recent Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin – On Public Objects: Connected Things And Civic Responsibilities In The Networked City


The Invisible Wi-Fi Landscape

Posted by on March 1st, 2011

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi from Timo on Vimeo.

This project explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs.

A four-metre long measuring rod with 80 points of light reveals cross-sections through WiFi networks using a photographic technique called light-painting.

Link Dump 24-02-2011

Posted by on February 24th, 2011
  • Toward computers that fit on a pen tip: New technologies usher in the millimeter-scale computing era

    A prototype implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients is believed to contain the first complete millimeter-scale computing system…

  • Organs-on-a-Chip for Faster Drug Development

    The chips are still in their early stages, but investigators are translating more and more body parts to the interface. Last summer bioengineers at Harvard University..created a device that mimics a human lung: a porous membrane surrounded by human lung tissue cells, which breathes, distributes nutrients to cells and initiates immune responses.

  • The ‘core pathway’ of aging

    DePinho published a study in Nature in January 2011 that demonstrated it was possible to reverse the symptoms of extreme aging in mice by increasing their levels of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains the health of the telomeres.

  • Neuroscientists Create Perception Of Having Three Arms

    To prove that the prosthetic arm was truly experienced as a third arm, the scientist ‘threatened’ either the prosthetic hand or the real hand with a kitchen knife, and measuring the degree of sweating of the palm as a physiological response to this provocation.

  • Learning the Alien Language of Dolphins

    Herzing’s method is effectively the same as that used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The keyboard allows for dolphins to teach humans as much as the humans teach the dolphins.

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop

Posted by on February 4th, 2010

The latter half of the 20th century saw the built environment merged with media space, and architecture taking on new roles related to branding, image and consumerism. Augmented reality may recontextualise the functions of consumerism and architecture, and change in the way in which we operate within it.

Neat demo, I just pray the future isn’t so full of corporate logos.

Karl Schroeder on ‘Rewilding’

Posted by on August 1st, 2009

The following speech by Karl Schroeder is an excellent summation of the future we’ve been documenting here, the world that lies just around the corner:

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His thoughts on, well I guess you have to call it Nature 2.0, are a nice progression on some of Kevin Kelly’s ideas in his book Out of Control.

via BoingBoing | Futurismic

Matt Jones on the future of the city

Posted by on April 23rd, 2009

or as he subtitles this talk “the past and future of practical city magic”.

A fascinating look at how architects can be be considered software engineers and user interaction designers. And how we’re making cities a close to magical place.

thanks to Cat Vincent for the tip-off!

more details on MIT’s Sixth Sense

Posted by on March 11th, 2009

We mentioned MIT’s Sixth Sense project earlier. The full TED talk introducing and briefly demonstrating it is now online:

Via WIRED, here’s two more quick demo videos:

I want this now. Please! (Yes, a HUD would make this perfect.)

MIT’s Sixth Sense

Posted by on February 7th, 2009

From Blorge:

Researchers combined a mobile projector with a webcam and mobile phone to create a device that draws information from the environment. The wearer can also interact with the sixth sense device using touch gestures on nearly any surface.


The sixth sense gadget’s projector can turn anything into a touch screen and captures input via the webcam. The wearer can draw a circle on his or her wrist and the device will project a digital clock face.

The gadget can also take pictures of the wearer’s surrounding with very simple prompts. All the user has to do is frame out an area and the webcam will snap a frame.

MIT’s latest device can also provide additional information about a wearer’s surroundings. The gadget recognizes products on store shelves and can provide product and price comparison information.

The device can also retrieve flight information simply by viewing a plane ticket to let the wearer know about delays. When reading magazine articles, the device automatically pulls up related information from the Web.

The sixth sense device was cobbled together from common parts costing just $300. At the heart of the device is a smartphone that uses an Internet connection to retrieve information.

In addition, the device turns nearly any surface into a touch screen. If nothing else is available, the wearer can even project a screen onto a hand.

thanks to John English for the tip-off!

Pileus: the internet umbrella

Posted by on November 6th, 2008

From Planet Damage:

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Pileus (”the internet umbrella!“) is a joint project by Takashi Matsumoto and Sho Hashimoto – it’s basically an amped up umbrella with access to Google Earth and Flickr (also having a screen surface, a built-in camera, a GPS, a motion sensor and a digital compass). You see a bird’s eye view on your surroundings in the inside of the Pileus, GPS and the digital compass keeps the overhead display updated, whereas you can take images with the built-in camera and upload them to your Flickr account with context tags

Jan Chipchase on our multiple communication device future.

Posted by on September 22nd, 2008

Some people see the iPhone’s Airport mode as a way to save battery life.

For thinkers like Jan Chipchase it’s the indicator that triggers a flow of insight into the future of mobile device usage, in A Little Switch With a Big Impact:

The first is that there will be an increased inclination to carry secondary, tertiary, quaternary and even quinary communication focused devices. You might associate ‘multiple device ownership’ with the suits running around the Square Mile but multiple device/SIM card use is common enough in emerging markets – largely driven by cost, a desire to separate personal and work life, and the limits of network coverage. Ownership of a secondary, simple to use communications device was touched on by Christian Lindholm during his talk on bleeding-edge early adopting “techno nomads” at the LIFT conference and this broadly maps with behaviours we’ve seen on the ground – an extreme example being in Afghanistan – where the primary motivation was to build additional redundancy into communication systems. The impact of turning off communication through personal device A is minor when communication can be routed through personal device B, routed through friend’s device C or even infrastructure D. The channels through which we receive will multiply and to some extent commodify. At the very least – the cost of obtaining and carrying redundancy, a backup device will be low, not dissimilar to packing a spare pen.

Advances in miniaturisation, materials and manufacturing techniques will enable radically new and highly focused form factors. Seen from average mobile phone user’s perspective will appear to be a de-convergence of what they already know. The designer-zen within you will whisper that carrying more objects will introduce unwanted complexity into people’s lives – there will be more things to lose, damage, maintain – not least remembering to charge. Whilst these are non-trivial issues – they will start to fade as the objects are integrated, tethered and otherwise disappear into the other stuff we carry – in some some cases through straightforward re-convergence in other cases through seamless co-existence. Some of you I’m told believe in some form of communications implant but for most people a dedicated, unobtrusive device put on first thing in the morning and taken off last thing at night will suffice, meeting the very basic human need of being ‘in-touch’. (If you’re wondering about the feasibility of a ‘constantly’ worn communications device a useful comparison is to think of the range of contexts and motivations for wearing and temporarily removing a wedding ring).

Digest that part, then go back and read the whole thing.

thanks to Cat Vincent for the tip-off!


NFCs, tikitags; the Future is looking very Spimey

Posted by on September 9th, 2008

As the news out of Japan hinted, they’re already moving beyond the world of QRCodes. Just as the rest of us are starting to explore it with what we like to think of as ‘futurephones’ (or is it just me?).

And I was left with this question:

So what is different about this Near Field Communication? Is there some thin electronics being printed into the poster? More investigation is clearly required.

The obvious first stop is the wikipedia entry:

NFC phone readerNFC is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology which enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 centimetre (around 4 inches) distance. The technology is a simple extension of the ISO 14443 proximity-card standard (contactless card, RFID) that combines the interface of a smartcard and a reader into a single device.

So it’s RFIDs being integrated into our phones; yeah, I think we all saw that coming.

Of course now I’m wondering when we’ll see this outside of Japan. And then Bruce Sterling tweeted: “Wondering how spimey “tikitag” really is. They’re looking mighty spimed.“.

And what does tikitag use? NFC:

tikitag uses high frequency RFID (Radio Frequent IDentification) operating at 13.56MHz. tikitag uses passive RFID tags and active readers. tikitag is also compatible with Near Field Communication, a standard based on HF RFID and being implemented in more and more mobile phones.

But enough with the text quotes, what does it look like? Here’s an example:
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A simple, but powerful demo. For one, it’s far less obtrusive than having to scan the big graphic that a QRCode is. These can placed inside and behind things, so long as the reader can hit them.

And what sort of applications do they see for it?

tikitag applications

So just about everything in the modern consumer world then.

But we all just got QRCodes readers on our iPhones, N-Series Nokias, etc. They can’t be upgrading the tech already, can then? Of course they are:

What mobile phones are NFC enabled?

Today you can buy the Nokia 6131 NFC and in the near future as well the Nokia 6212 Classic. Other: BenQ T80, Motorola L7 (SLVR) NFC, Samsung SGH-D500E NFC, Samsung SGH-X700n (brick) NFC, Sagem-Orga my700X NFC, Nokia 3220 + NFC Shell and some Kyocera models.

So it’s just in new phones by most of the major makers then.

Alright kids, forget QRCodes then, get ready for NFC. I can’t wait to see what comes next; bring on the internet of things!

See Also:

Daniel Suarez’s Long Now lecture on our “Bot-Mediated Reality”

Posted by on August 23rd, 2008

Probably best to wait on reading this if you’ve a had big weekend, because this is the stuff to make the most sober tres paranoid.

Is our robot overlord future already here? Daniel Suarez thinks so:

Forget about HAL-like robots enslaving humankind a few decades from now, the takeover is already underway. The agents of this unwelcome revolution aren’t strong AIs, but “bots”– autonomous programs that have insinuated themselves into the internet and thus into every corner of our lives. Apply for a mortgage lately? A bot determined your FICA score and thus whether you got the loan. Call 411? A bot gave you the number and connected the call. Highway-bots collect your tolls, read your license plate and report you if you have an outstanding violation.

Bots are proliferating because they are so very useful. Businesses rely on them to automate essential processes, and of course bots running on zombie computers are responsible for the tsunami of spam and malware plaguing Internet users worldwide. At current growth rates, bots will be the majority users of the Net by 2010.

Here’s the full lecture, a meaty hour of knowledge (plus QnA) – so grab a coffee and sit down, ears ready or copy it to your mp3 player of choice. I really think this is one not to miss!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

All that being said, I’m not really sure I agree with the solution he proposes, to:

…build a new Internet hard-coded with democratic values. Start with an encrypted Darknet into which only verifiably human users can enter. Create augmented reality tools to identify bots in the physical world. Enlist the aid of a few tame bots to help forge a symbiotic relationship with narrow AI.

But there is definitely a lot to think and talk about, before we lose the reins altogether on our society!

IBM’s PENSIEVE – Next-Gen searchable outboard memory

Posted by on July 29th, 2008

This is the PENSIEVE user interface (click through for high-resolution):


This is IBM’s promo video for it:

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This is ganked from PhysOrg:

“This is like having a personal assistant for your memory,” said Dr. Yaakov Navon, the lead researcher and image processing expert from IBM’s Haifa Research Lab. “Our daily routines are overflowing with situations where we gain new information through meetings, advertisements, conferences, events, surfing the web, or even window shopping. Instead of going home and using a general web search to find that information, PENSIEVE helps the brain recall those everyday things you might normally forget.”

…By simply typing the person’s name into PENSIEVE, you can recall when and where you met them, and any related information garnered at that time. You could even browse forwards or backwards in time to find out what events transpired before or after the initial meeting.

Another use of this technology is in reconstructing and sharing an experience or memory. If enough media-rich data was collected about a particular event, it can be used to build a more complex visual associative representation of the experience.

“This is where the real power of collaboration kicks in,” said Eran Belinsky, research team leader and a specialist in collaboration. “You can recall the name of the person you met right before you entered a meeting by traversing a timeline of your experiences, or share a business trip with colleagues by creating a mashup that shows a map with an animation of your trail and the pictures you took in every location.”

This is the corporate future and it is only just starting to get messy. Let us just say I would be very careful now about using any company property for personal reasons.

Obviously this is awesome technology for personal use though, but I would want to be controlling the database. In a secure location. (According to CSI) Police already take people’s mobile phones in the event of emergency or tragedy. Would you want to hand over an indexed/tagged, searchable lifestream?

That being said, how rad would it be if it pulled-in CCTV images of you walking around?

Philip K Dick :- becoming more a prophet of the modern condition every second.

Doctorow and Steffen present: The Outquisition

Posted by on July 16th, 2008

freakangels gank

The Outquisition, it’s the alterna-post-apocalypse:

Because if the ruins of the unsustainable are the new frontier, and if, as is already happening, the various economic and environmental transitions we face will leave many people unmoored from their familiar assumptions at the very least and, at the worst, cut loose from their jobs or driven from their homes, a huge number of people are going to need help forging new ways of life.

Even if we do a pretty decent job of hugging the curve, and bright green innovation brings prosperity and security to a lot of people in many regions, some others will still suffer from ecological shifts, political abandonment, economic collapse or some combination of all three. Unless things change dramatically, we have not seen our last Dust Bowl, our last New Orleans, our last Detroit. What do the people who are left trapped in degrading places, who don’t get the green collar jobs, do?

And we got on this riff about heroes who got the paradox of the moment: that abandoned people and places are sometimes the ones who most need radical innovation; that, these days, new tools and models are practically scattered all over the ground, just waiting for people to pick them up; but that those who most need them are those who least know how to find them.

What would it be like, we wondered, if folks who knew tools and innovation left the comfy bright green cities and traveled to the dead mall suburban slums, rustbelt browntowns and climate-smacked farm communities and started helping the locals get the tools they needed. We imagined that it would need an almost missionary fervor, something like the Inquisition (which largely destroyed knowledge) in reverse, a crusade of open sharing, or as Cory promptly dubbed it, the Outquisition.

Am I the only one that gets a vision of these emergent posthumans wandering the Earth: helping set up clean water, spread knowledge, settle disputes, trade tech and then vanishing once things are stabilized? Terraforming the Earth as practice for Mars?

Or dial it back a bit – and flash on Gibson’s notion of everting (from Spook Country), as the internet continues to swallow the “real world”. People start doing, instead of (mostly) just talking about it. New communities form, and blogs become ways for them to share their results, as they attempt to brute force the problem space of climate change.


Rhode Island school turns kids into SPIMEs

Posted by on June 18th, 2008

From Natural News:

schoolA Rhode Island school district has announced a pilot program to monitor student movements by means of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips implanted in their schoolbags.

The Middletown School District, in partnership with MAP Information Technology Corp., has launched a pilot program to implant RFID chips into the schoolbags of 80 children at the Aquidneck School. Each chip would be programmed with a student identification number, and would be read by an external device installed in one of two school buses. The buses would also be fitted with global positioning system (GPS) devices.

Parents or school officials could log onto a school web site to see whether and when specific children had entered or exited which bus, and to look up the bus’s current location as provided by the GPS device.

I am all for the future, but not when it is being driven by Fear.

That being said, it would be cool to have a screensaver that shows your child and pet running around on a GoogleMap.

thanks for the tip-off Ryan Jarrell!

Urban Interventions

Posted by on May 9th, 2008

Situated Technologies: Toward the Sentient City

An exhibition critically exploring the evolving relationship between ubiquitous/pervasive computing and urban architecture.

The Architectural League of New York invites architects, artists, designers, technologists, engineers, urbanists, or teams thereof, to submit qualifications for an exhibition that will critically explore the evolving relationship between ubiquitous/pervasive computing and urban architecture.

The League will commission five to seven teams to develop urban interventions–to be installed in and around New York City in spring 2009–that will imagine alternative trajectories for how various mobile, embedded, networked, and distributed forms of media, information and communication systems might inform the architecture of urban space and/or influence our behavior within it.

Commissioned projects will receive support ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

Link via

It will be interesting to see what the artists develop, and how they will be applied to the urban landscape around them.

Bruce Sterling to Designers: “Don’t make me think!”

Posted by on May 6th, 2008

Another day, another edifying lecture. This one’s a little longer, and might seem a bit repetitive if you have already watched the earlier Spime lectures (see below), so keep skipping in to about half way if you get bored; that’s where the real meat is. But personally, I need multiple viewings of most of Sterling’s lectures, to absorb it all.

Here is Sterling working his way up to basically condemning much of current interface design:

Bruce Sterling from Innovationsforum on Vimeo.

While that’s digesting, let’s pause for a little AC Clarke quote:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

OK, now cometh the rant.

You know what I want? I want to buy something and it just works. None of the RTFM bizzo. No looking up obscure error message in forums, paging through, searching for a clue. No “oh, that’s fixed in the next version” bullshit. Just do what it says on the label already!

But our current technological society is feature obsessed. Everything is “now with extra this and that”. It’s one of the engines of capitalism. Built-in obsolescence. Buy, consume, upgrade. But don’t ever expect it to just work, no questions asked. Hell, I still haven’t explored the full feature set of my futurephone, it’s no wonder Mr Joe Public is confused.

And where does the Cognitive Overload spill onto? US! It’s the alpha-testers, braving the products of tomorrow today that get all the phone calls. “Yes, dude, I’ll swing by and fix your iPod/Windows Installation/Robot Butler”. But for how long can we be bothered to do this? Something has got to give!

Now, don’t worry, I am not talking about stopping Progress. I am talking about real progress. Let’s quit dumping feature-incomplete and bug-filled software and hardware onto an unwilling market and convincing people they have to have it.

In fact, why should we continue to be unpaid support for so many products. Would it be that hard to identify the real powerusers/early-adopters, and treat them as the beta testers they really are, rewarding them with new Shiny for their efforts? Paying through the nose for barely functioning Shiny is just masochistic.

Now look into the near-future. A robot-assisted future is being built for the Greying Nations. Design will never be more imperative for this to work. You can’t get the almost-senile to read a manual.

Likewise, how can we help the illiterate of the world leapfrog into the 21st Century?

We need to re-orient our thinking. Stop testing if products break, and start testing if it breaks us. That it works should be secondary. Firstly, it should afford users finding the feature in the first place.

And how do we start fixing Cognitive Overload? By harnessing the power of the Cognitive Surplus to find better solutions to all our problems.

Now think about this: as we use the Cognitive Surplus to reduce the Cognitive Overload of our tools, we further increase the Surplus! Just as we do by helping our brethren level-up and join in the fun. This is the best kind of Network Effect!

Now, don’t get me wrong. None of this means my love affair with the Shiny is about to end; especially in the area of the futurephone. Just that I want the other 95% of my devices to do be practically magical.

Let’s stop settling for the Future as it has been handed to us so far, and start daring to dream of a better one!

See Also:

Eye-tracking interface means gamers’ looks can kill

Posted by on May 5th, 2008

Technology is being developed to allow people with severe motor disabilities to play 3D computer games like World of Warcraft using only their eyes.

Users typically guide a cursor with their eyes, staring at objects for a time to emulate a mouse click. But that is too laborious to let users to match the speed and accuracy of real-time 3D games, says lead researcher on the project, Stephen Vickers, of De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

Eye-gaze systems bounce infrared light from LEDs at the bottom of a computer monitor and track a person’s eye movements using stereo infrared cameras. This setup can calculate where on a screen the user is looking with an accuracy of about 5 mm.

Vickers’ software includes the traditional point and click interface, but includes extra functions to speed up certain commands.

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Link via

HP creates new electronic component: the ‘Memristor’

Posted by on April 30th, 2008

From PhysOrg:

In a paper published in today’s edition of Nature, four researchers at HP Labs’ Information and Quantum Systems Lab, led by R. Stanley Williams, presented the mathematical model and a physical example of a “memristor” – a blend of “memory resistor” – which has the unique property of retaining a history of the information it has acquired.

…a memristor-based computer would retain its information after losing power and would not require the boot-up process, resulting in the consumption of less power and wasted time.

…Memristor-based memory and storage has the potential to lower power consumption and provide greater resiliency and reliability in the face of power interruptions to a data center.

Another potential application of memristor technology could be the development of computer systems that remember and associate series of events in a manner similar to the way a human brain recognizes patterns. This could substantially improve today’s facial recognition technology, enable security and privacy features that recognize a complex set of biometric features of an authorized person to access personal information, or enable an appliance to learn from experience.

Awful name.  Much needed technology.  Go Science!

See Also: