Saturday, March 27, 2010

new concepts for 3D displays

As our bodies all want to get out of the flat computer paradigm, with our minds on the other hand desperately liking all the discoveries and freedoms that the window into the virtual offers, new ways have to be found to merge the virtual and the physical. We are seeing an uprise of 3D display technologies, as well as augmented reality, but this is all still kinda fake. What if the physicality of the display itself becomes programmable in space?

Underneath are a few ideas as to how that could look. Flyfire is an idea to have flying light emitting objects that can intelligently rearrange themselves in space and by changing color act as a true 3d display. 'Curious displays' by Julia Tsao is another project that shows how small display modules can be empowered to form a 3d display fragmented in space. Imagine your TV crawling onto your ceiling, dispersing its modules over it to show you a full starscape during a reflective moment in a movie. Of course - as I know from some experience - this will be very hard to realize on a large scale, but it is exciting stuff indeed.

Curious Displays from Julia Tsao on Vimeo.

Math in nature animated

This scintillating animation is definitely the most beautiful one I have seen showing mathematical concepts in nature. In a lively way it shows how we can find the Fibonacci number in snail shells, the number phi in the distribution of sunflower seeds, and delaunay triangulation in the wings of a dragonfly.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Real baby starves, virtual baby survives

Virtual baby? Yes, one apparently can, as a virtual character in several game environments, give birth to a baby, feed it, and raise it.

Of course escaping the oh so limiting constraints of what we call 'physical reality', this baby can definitely have two heads.

Something about virtual babies gives me the creeps though. It just takes a lot of forced imagination to actually think this is cute and loveable - not that the appearance of a baby should influence the love it gets shared, but this still seems a common perspective. Anyway, if there were a lake in the uncanny valley, this for me is definitely deeply submerged in it.

But, people fall for the traps of the virtual world, especially when it allows them escape from hard situations in the 'real' world. Today, a baby in Korea has died from neglect by its parents. They were busy, as in, 12 hours a day busy, raising a virtual child in the game Prius online.

I do see the temptation; it is safe, it looks and feels good to be in the virtual world, it allows you to somewhat live out your dreams of a harmonious, peaceful life in an idyllic realm with purple skies and what not, and time is not an issue. The real world is dirty, messy, chaotic, and it for sure doesn't care about your emotional system. Virtual world are so great because we can control them, and in case it gets uncomfortable we can just get out in an instant.

We need to come back to the physical world though, and learn to appreciate its characteristics, as well as coming to see that we ourselves are not different. But this needs to happen through more virtualization, more cyborgization, until even the physical world can be digitally controlled. In this case, what would have happened if the virtual and real child would have been intrinsically linked - maybe even in the most superficial way with a few parameters - ? I think the love for both would only have increased. Let the world become more like a game, make real life attractive again, and then guide people towards living in line with physicality again.

Skinput, or "Look mommy, I am an interface!"

GUI's on your skin, that's 'Skinput' as developed by Chris Harrison at Carnegie Mellon. I heard about it before but only now I found some interesting visual material actually showing how Skinput is used. It works with an armband that through a picoprojector shines a display on the user's forearm or hand, and it senses where the user taps through acoustic vibrations within the body. Finger gestures like pinching can also be sensed for special actions.

This is definitely going to the ultimate seamless wearable technology, where the body becomes the technological medium. To see Skinput for yourself, get your body over to CHI2010, April 10-15 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Living Dress

Lady Gaga has recently set foot on the stage wearing a mechanized dress with several moving parts, reminding us once again that the image of the cyborgized human is gaining foothold in popular culture. The mechanics of the dress seem not too complicated when compared to, say, Hussein Chalayan's creations, nor does it seem to be very stable as the singer had to stand still during the performance. Nevertheless the choreography makes this performance have a great impact in simply burning an image of a human on our retina that we would more relate to a virtual character in your average MMORPG.