Friday, April 30, 2010

Living chairs

Too astounding to remain in the unblogged realms of the datasphere is Arthur Bodolec's living chair. It seems to be a black box, but when you sit on it, the backrest and even armrests pop up. What I particularly like is the chair being independent of stored energy in the chair itself, being powered completely by the sitter-to-be. And so the evolution towards a living world is slowly seeping ahead still. To see a prototype of the 'Jack' chair in action, skip the following movie to where the marker reaches 1:00.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Planet of the Pixels

The world is virtualizing quickly, and at the same time we are starting to look at the world more as a virtual reality, created by our own consciousness and alterable to our liking. In his animation 'Pixels', Patrick Jean takes it to an extreme and shows what happens when the world starts to pixelize, to ultimately end with the planet being one black pixel. And it all starts in New York City.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Patricia Piccinini's predomesticated scooters

Patricia Piccinini, one of my personal favorite artists, has done a series of sculptures that I for some reason never have come across. It is equally stunning as her other works, and perfectly fits the theme of a 'liquifying' world, where things cease to be things, but become part of an ecology where technology and biology are freely shapeable. Her sculptures of Italian Vespa scooters sitting in animal-like postures conjecturally show technology in its raw, predomesticated form.

Farmer Cyborg

Most of you, thinking of the word 'farmer', will probably associate towards a curmudgeonly scruffy old man with large hands and little to say. But behold, the future farmer is a superstreamlined sleek cyborg, as light, crispy and fresh as sunrays scattering under the surface of a grape's skin. No more automation, we want sensory connection to our food again! Man becomes machine, rather than a consumer of the machine.

Who would have thought that the Japanese would target their amazing robotic exoskeletic power-assist suits to a user group so underpopularized as the farmers? But it makes a lot of sense. Especially considering that our populations are becoming more and more silver-haired, with over two thirds of Japan's body of farmers being over the age of 65. The heavy version of the suit, developed by Shigeki Toyama, a professor at Tokyo Agriculture and Technology (TAT) University, weighs about 72 pounds, and can empower the wearer with 62% of added strength. I know it all looks strange, but I truly believe that this is the way to go, and we will see a lot of improvement once materials become more adaptive and we can miniaturize this technology.

Skon: a light emitting hoodie

Very interesting piece of digital fashion done by Paula Kassenaar and Paula Segura Meccia from the design department I once was a part of myself: Wearable Senses at the Eindhoven University of Technology. To me, this piece is pure aesthetics. And in that respect, it shines. Interact with the shape of the hoodie, and the light reacts. As a one-week assignment this project hasn't strewn its full potentials yet, though already it can be felt how the aesthetics of soft technology could influence our lives. I would love to see a next version of this, maybe one in which the shape of the hoodie is more kneadable, and the light reacts in ways clearer corresponding to the wearer's actions. One interesting aesthetic use could be to use the light as a body movement trail: store activity patterns of the wearer throughout the day, and create an animation from these that continuously updates. This way, technology can become a peripheral awareness system we don't necessarily interact with consciously, but that more or less creates a dynamic field that filters our incoming perceptual data, setting the tone for how we act, like a gearbox that always runs on the background and evolves over time.

( Random train of thought: this is interesting stuff for a PhD work. A fundamental question then is: what is the parameter the system optimizes itself towards? I tend to say happiness. Then, define happiness. Do people know what happiness is, i.e. would we use it as an intrasubjective concept, do we treat it as a social construct, or can you even objectively define happiness? I always say that happiness is something people can only recognize when they have experienced it enough. People can say they are happy without knowing that there are even more supreme states of being. For me, pure and utmost happiness is the being rid of worry, frustration, irrelevant thoughts, so that you are in control of your mind, and instead of identifying with the mind you are the controller of the mind. Could you steer people towards this state of being in various situations? Since this work concerns the hoodie, what would be the power of visual neurofeedback in everyday life?)

a high-tech bank visit in Santander; autonomous robots, information decoration, and augmented reality

Ciudad Group Santander has enhanced the visitors center of a bank with state of the art interactive technologies. Interactive displays will enter a dialogue with the visitor to prompt him about his intentions. Then, one of a swarm of red robots that look not unlike shelled sea creatures will come up to the visitor and guide him to his destination. Another highlight is a model of Santander's financial city with movable screens on the side of it. Sliding these screens across the model will reveal specific information about the space behind the screen at its current position. Check out the movie below.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

State of the art robots

Oftentimes, new robots are just not blogworthy enough. Most projects have too much of a technoprogressive aftertaste to it, and fail to recognize that the beauty of robots and the field of robotics is not in technological achievement solely, but more than that, in the trend that we are externalizing ourselves by creating a myriad of embodiments we can become conscious through, as hybrid beings. Technology melting into organic life. Sure, first it entertains us, then it engages us, and in the end can elevate us towards this new state of being where we just are, beyond thinking of who we are, without the social insecurity. You dissolve into the superorganism, you leave your old shell behind, you learn to love the being of all things and the everythingness of all beings.

That having been said, here is some fairly recent material showing what robots nowadays can do, and what they are envisioned to do in the future. Forget clunky, slow, stuttering collections of metal. Robots of the future are fast, adaptive, versatile, precise, and organic.

Most interesting are Dennis Hong's biologically inspired creations with names such as RAPHaEL, HyDRAS, CHiMERA, and DARwIn. Embedded with ingenious mechatronics, these can walk, climb, crawl, play soccer, and in the future even jump over trees. The exact purpose of these is still relatively obscure, but I'm sure we'll find out uses for what we now just see as cool or awesome. We know we have to do this, and as long as innovation stays diverse and we also develop technologies to augment our own bodies, open ourselves up psychically to live in a brotherhood of man and machine, as well as set up visions for the future, I guess we are relatively safe and this will all uplift us in the end.

What about this industrial robot serving ramen to restaurant customers?

Are we ready for artificial hands that look and behave just like ours, but are not controlled by humans at all?

And I wouldn't be too surprised if our current paradigm of manufacturing things in black boxes called factories, essentially based on centralizing and hiding industrial bodies, slowly transforms into a decentralized production system, where embodied agents go into the human jungle, and will be able to make our stuff locally such as the CNC milling robot shown above.