Tag: Digital-Presence


Google’s Shoes Talk to Runners

After Google Glasses, the electronic ring and the self-driving car, Google just presented this new surprising product in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Interactive conference. The “talking” sneakers, designed by Google in collaboration with the artist Zach Lieberman and the collective YesYesNo, act like a training coach. Fitted with a whole package of electronic devices like a speed detector, pressure sensors in the soles, a gyroscope, a tiny screen and speakers, the shoes also contain a Bluetooth connection. Therefore, they can provide the runner with information and advice about their activity. Like a real coach, they can also motivate or reprehend you if necessary.

The information is then shown on the tiny screen, which is quite inconvenient for those who aren’t able to look only at their feet while running. But Google has thought about everything: the Bluetooth connection also sends the data to a smartphone app and automatically publishes messages on the user’s Google account, so that anybody can check if you’re taking a sneaky break during your jog. This might be worse than an actual coach!

From Future Sciences.

Paul Miller, back online
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Exploring the Offline World, if It Still Exists

Even though the world wide web has steadily penetrated each aspect of our life since its inception at CERN, it seems that today we still refer to digital technology as existing in a world other than our own. Instead we inhabit the seperate realms of ‘digital’ and ‘real’. Although we focus on bringing down the barriers between these worlds, it may be they’ve already totally merged, without us even noticing. Has the digital fabric of technology inextricably integrated with our lives, or might we still be able to live without it?

Last year, Paul Miller, a tech blogger at The Verge, asked himself a similar question. He disconnected himself from the internet, kicking off a year of ‘offline’ existence. A year of unbridled potential, away from the ‘unnatural’  internet. Miller set to discover what the internet had done to him, by studying it from a distance. He would try to understand the ways in which internet was corrupting us, and enable us to fight back against its influence.

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Boomeranged Metaphors

Google Birdhouse Shows Birds Their Way

Maybe the Taiwanese artist Shuchun Hsiao was inspired by a cold winter day to reinvent the common birdhouse in the shape of the Google Maps icon. The designer understood the importance and the omnipresence of Google Maps in our society and created the Google Birdhouse Project, a modern way to accommodate birds in urban spaces.

The iconic symbol references the “surfing” of flying birds to find their arrival point, just like Google Maps does for humans. As Shuchun Hsiao explains: “Birds have the most real experience of Google Maps. Birds can fly through the city, through streets. A birdhouse becomes their destination”.

Eye-catching, but not intrusive, these niches are also interesting urban decorations. The micro in the macro, the abstract becoming material, the virtual in the real: the result of the Google Birdhouse is bewildering and strong. Perhaps something dealing with Twitter would have been more predictable.

mind's lianas

Anthropo-scene #2: The Mind’s Lianas

When Édouard Le Roy, Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin started to describe in the 1920s how the “noosphere”, the sphere of the human mind, grows into the geosphere and the biosphere, they were already talking about something very real. Yet until today we continue to talk as if our global systems for communicating and exchanging thoughts are somehow immaterial and other-wordly. Today’s “clouds”, in which our data are kept safe, create the metaphor that information turns ethereal once it is stored. Yet the opposite is true. With a multitude of cables, electromagnetic interventions and very material computers, the noosphere is a geological reality of increasing volume and it is increasingly a part of Anthropocene nature. This is what Anthropo-scene #2, on the Indonesian island of Bali, shows: A new species of vine-like plant which could be aptly called Liana noospherica by a new, yet-to-come breed of naturalists that give the new entities of the noosphere scientific names.

This is the second in the Anthropo-scene series. For the first post, click here

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The Hedonometer Uses Social Media to Measure Global Happiness

Are you using Twitter? Then you might be measured as part of the world’s happiness. A team of scientists from the University of Vermont and The MITRE Corporation have developed a tool to measure global happiness, the Hedonometer.

The Hedonometer is based on people’s online expressions, capitalizing on data-rich social media, and measuring how people present themselves to the outside world. Right now, this research is updated every 24 hours, but eventually it will be updated every minute. Soon the Hedonometer will draw on other data streams, like Google Trends, the New York Times, blogs, and broadcast news. It’s already been used to measure the happiest and saddest American cities (Napa, California, and Beaumont, Texas, respectively) and will eventually provide real-time comparisons between cities’ moods. Additionally, the Hedonometer will help to determine if small-scale events, such as the recent Boston bombings, have an impact on the global psyche.

The Hedonometer is just one more step to merging the technosphere with the biosphere. Check it out to see if the rest of the world is aligned with your feelings.

Photo via Phys.org


Electric Skin Could Allow Robots to Feel

There are plenty of robot arms out there, but what about the skin to cover them in? A new kind of piezotronic transistor mesh could make for robotic skin that’s as sensitive as your own is, covered in thousands of tiny mechanical hairs.

The inventor of the technology, Zhong Lin Wan from Georgia Tech, says it has immediate applications in human-machine interfaces. It could for example be used to capture electronic signatures by recording the distinctive force an individual applies while signing. In due time, Wan expects the pressure sensor arrays could equip robotics and prosthetics with a human-like sense of touch.

Via Gizmodo, via Techreview.

Image from Shutterstock
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Deliver us from Digital Bluntness

The internet is a wonderful tool, with huge potential and is often used with positive results. But more recently it is becoming apparent how, as a tool, it dehumanises and makes people lose a grip on the reality of their actions and the implications of their voice.

Take for example a social tool such as Twitter. It’s mission statement is simply ““To instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them.” with 140 characters it does this quite well. But at the same time things can also go wrong. Being such an open platform it allows for anyone to read anything you write (assuming your settings aren’t set to private) and yes, that includes your boss!

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cow fitted with GPS device to control its behavior

Bye Bye Barbed Wire: Cow-Mounted GPS Will Enable “Virtual Fencing”

Vast and sparsely populated, the rangeland in the western US is managed on horseback, on ATVs, and with thousands of miles of barbed wire fencing. Fencing is both a vital and imperfect technology. In the arid regions that stretch from Texas to Idaho, grass that is thick and green one week might be dust and tumbleweeds the next. Patches of poisonous plants come and go. Endangered birds might nest along a lush river for only a few weeks out of the year.

Put into widespread use in the late 1870s, the barbed wire fence destroyed one quintessentially American “technology” – that of the cowboy. It may now be time for a new technology to usurp the reign of barbed wire. Using GPS and a “bovine interface”, Dean M. Anderson, a scientist at the US Department of Agriculture, is hoping to transform the way we manage cattle, and by extension, the entire ecology of the American West.

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Floppy wha?
Boomeranged Metaphors

Design Looking Backwards

Why do phones make the noise of a camera shutter every time a picture is taken, the save icon remain a floppy disk, your email have an envelope and your iCalendar look like its made from a cow?

On the one hand, being the creatures of habit that we are, we find comfort in the familiar. But does that come at a cost and limit functionality, as well as cheapen our experiences?

In products the real material generally costs more and (arguably) is perceived as better. (Think solid aluminium Macbook Air vs Ultrabook) but in the digital we’re already aware that the form is generally 2D and not physical.

In a sense skeuomorphism makes the digital more approachable and understandable, the argument remains as to whether we now need our digital technology to imitate that which exists, or on the other hand do we expect our technology to surpass the physical?

Handwritings great, but I guess most people bought a phone to type, and reading “marker felt” on a 4″ screen in pt. 7 size font is painful at best. Bring on Helvetica. Or better yet Newvetica.