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Tangibles

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As seen on the Heathrow Express this morning.

I’m in Lübeck, Germany for the intriguingly-titled “Cognitive Design” conference, where Doors of Perception’s John Thackara will be giving the keynote tomorrow morning.>

I’m going to be giving a Post-Nintendo-Revolution remix of the talk Chris and I gave at Etech this year, with plenty of play in there.

In moving back to the UK, I forgot to bring any of the Nokia NFC phones with me. So unfortunately I won’t be able to demo them which is a pity – I’ll have to wave my arms about twice as much as usual.

There’s also a keynote by August de los Reyes of MSN / Microsoft on “The future of the PC” – which should be interesting given the very recent reorganisation of MSFT.

One upside of being down for the count over a long weekend is that there’s no guilt in eating an entire boxed set of TV all at once.

I sat down (well, lied down) to take in Joss Whedon’s aborted cowboy space-opera, Firefly; and was pleasantly surprised.

It’s no wonder it was cancelled – it takes ages to get going, it’s got a huge cast each of whom “have a secret” and some of the best lines are in Mandarin it seems.

One thing that did strike me about a couple of episodes was how very few ‘screens’ feature in Firefly’s vision of the future – and in general how tangible and situated digital technology seems in that universe.
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Andrew Losowsky has posted the full, unedited version of an article he wrote for The Guardian last year on Eyetoy and embodied interaction, including comment from Ludology.org’s estimable Gonzalo Frasca and an interview with Richard Marks – who pioneered the tech behind Eyetoy for Sony – and what he’s doing next: The Clam…

Some excepts:

"EyeToy relies on the most basic interface ever invented – the human
body. Graphics may get photo realistic, but there’s nothing real about
bashing X to run faster, or clicking the mouse to jump. If your
character needs to run faster, run faster. If it needs to jump, jump.
The interface gap is suddenly made all but irrelevant. Look at the
screen. You see you? That’s you, that is.
"

and… The Clam!

"The Clam a single U-shaped squeezable piece of fabric you put in
your hand and when you squeeze it, it changes in aspect ratio very
fast. So you can use it as a mouse cursor. You squeeze to click and
drag, and then let go to release. Because you can monitor the direction
of the aspect ratio, you can also use it to rotate objects."

"His lab has developed a simple photo storage/manipulation program to
use The Clam with – and it works so simply, it seems almost too
obvious."

And finally:

"Touch is one of Sony’s four Interface Research Areas (the others
being Inertial, Video and Audio – the EyeToy has an in-built
microphone, by the way). Tilt-based gaming, through handheld games such
as Wario Ware, are also becoming successful. And there’s potentially
much more within our grasp.

"If you look at mobile phones now," says Ron Festajo, "practically
every one has a camera. You can take photos and use it as an input
device. It’s very exciting."

People understand cameras. And cameras open up all kinds of possibilities. The revolution is already upon us, comrades."

A great article, and a good intro to the already-happening-ness fun of tangible computing.

Preacher Sterling sermonises Siggraph:

“Having conquered the world made of bits, you need to reform the world made of atoms. Not the simulated image on the screen, but corporeal, physical reality. Not meshes and splines, but big hefty skull-crackingly solid things that you can pick up and throw. That’s the world that needs conquering. Because that world can’t manage on its own. It is not sustainable, it has no future, and it needs one.

It is going to get one from you.

Now let me briefly tell you how I think this process will play out.

Listen to this: ProE, FormZ, Catia, Rhino, Solidworks. Wifi, bluetooth, WiMax. Radio frequency ID chips. Global and local positioning systems. Digital inventory systems. Cradle-to-cradle production methods. Design for disassembly. Social software, customer relations management. Open source manufacturing.

These jigsaw pieces are snapping together. They create a picture, the picture of a new and different kind of physicality. It’s a new relationship between humans and objects.”

Can I get a…

Hell.

Yes.

It’s a tubthumping tour-de-force arguing for tangible computing, transparent technological change and sustainable society. Oh, and “Spimes”.

See also McCullough’s “Digital Ground” (or Andrew’s excellent review), and my “Remap” riff.

» When Blobjects Rule the Earth by Bruce Sterling
[via foe’s del.icio.us]

Jan Chipchase asked me to create a visual diary of everything I touched for a day, much like this chap did.

Technical snafus meant that I only managed it from waking-up to going out of the door to get to work in the morning, but it still made me think more carefully about the qualities of the things I touch.

Perhaps you’d like to do the same thing, then trackback to this post…
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