Technosis

There is a new mental condition to look out for, people.
Try this self-diagnosis and let me know how you did in the comments below.

Do you feel stressed if you haven’t checked your voice or e-mail within the last 12 hours? Yes/No
Do you feel as if you can’t cook a meal without technological gadgets? Yes/No
Do you become upset when you can’t find an ATM for quick cash? Yes/No
Do you have difficulty writing without sitting in front of your computer? Yes/No
Do you have a hard time determining when you are finished researching a topic on the Internet? Yes/No
Do you feel less adequate than your highly technologized peers? Yes/No
Do you rely on pre-programmed systems to contact others? Yes/No

In their book, TechnoStress: Coping With Technology @WORK @HOME @PLAY (available here), Michelle M. Weil, Ph.D. and Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D. assert that the growing dependence on technology affects us negatively.

We count on our machines to do so much that when something goes wrong with our technology we are thrown into a tailspin. According to Weil and Rosen (1998):

People allow themselves to be sucked into this technological abyss, and in doing so they become more machine-oriented and less sensitive to their own needs and the needs of others. Some people become so immersed in technology that they risk losing their own identity.

That’s Technosis, a condition whose victims develop an attachment to technology. It grows slowly, but before patients know it, they have lost sight of where they end and technology begins.

Symptoms of Technosis include overdoing work and never feeling finished, believing faster is better, and not knowing how to function successfully without technology. It’s now a peer-reviewed clinical condition, and almost everyone I know suffers from it – probably you, dear reader, too.

Happy Xmas!

Nearness: RFID in the Flow

Just a quickie: here’s an implementation of RFID tags that I thought was cool:


Nearness from timo on Vimeo.

Not bad, eh? Oddly satisfying. I love the little ‘click’ noises too.

The filmmaker Timo Arnall has done some other really nice videos that feature RFID as part of everyday life, including Skål and Sniff, as well as other pieces of interest in the ‘craft meets technology’ space. You might like to see his portfolio.

In the video, an Oyster card triggers the sequence. I found one designer’s cool idea for personalised images that appear when you pass through a gate:

Face Design
1. Design an image
Oyster Scan
2. Scan your card
Oyster Face
3. See your image

This idea came from Lee Washington, and I’m right behind you, Lee.
RFID has so much potential yet to be explored, this being one small example of how Near-Field Communication can add in some way to our lives.

I’m planning another piece on RFID tags and their future which will be ready soon, so look out for it!

Sticky Light

Ready for some frickin’ laserbeams to kickstart the week? I know I am.

A team from the University of Tokyo have conceived of several new applications for lasers, some of which are interesting to say the least, others potentially groundbreaking. These applications arise from their Smart Laser Scanner (markerless laser tracking) technology:

Essentially, it is a smart rangefinder scanner that instead of continuously scanning over the full field of view, restricts its scanning area to a very narrow window precisely the size of the target (from the Ishikawa Komura Laboratory)

So what this means for us is we could pretty soon have a low-cost and low-apparatus method to interface with a wearable computer, in multitouch, and without the need for any markers.

Potential form of laser inputA potential laser output
Potential forms of laser input and output
The project website features videos for all of their experiments, including:

  • Simple 3D tracking
  • Air writing
  • Multiple point tracking
  • Alphanumeric feedback
  • Video editing
  • Map navigation
  • Multiple users

I urge you to read more on the project website right here, but before you go, I’d like to feature one of the coolest applications I found for the Smart Laser Scanner. It’s called Sticky Light, and it’s an experiment in light interaction:

The question I want to ask is, wouldn’t this be the ultimate executive toy if productized in time for Christmas? I know I want one.

Five New Interfaces from SIGGRAPH 2009

Just saw these over at MIT’s Technology Review, and thought I’d share…

Touchable Holography:

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a display that lets users “touch” holograms. Virtual objects appear to float in mid-air thanks to an LCD and a concave mirror. The sensation of touching the objects is created using an ultrasound device positioned below the LCD and mirror, creating an area of condensed air.

Augmented Reality Toys:

One student of France’s L’École de Design has developed a way to ‘hack’ toys using AR. His Scope display automatically recognizes ordinary toys that have been mounted onto platforms covered with hexagonal patterns, as seen below. With AR, these hexagons become interactive buttons that are used to make virtual modifications to the toy.


Augmented Reality Toys.v2 (Work in progress) from Frantz Lasorne on Vimeo.

Hyper-Real Virtual Reality:

Another French project, this time from INRIA and Grenoble Universities, could revive the dying science of Virtual Reality. Their new VR system, Virtualization Gate, tracks users’ movements very accurately using multiple cameras, allowing them to interact with virtual objects with never-before-reached realism. This interface demonstrates true physics, as well as crispy graphics, so a cluster of PCs is needed to perform the necessary image capture and 3D modeling.

3D Teleconferencing:

Researchers at the University of Southern California will demo Headspin, a 3D teleconferencing system that maintains eye contact between a three-dimensional head and several participants on the other end of a connection.

To capture an image, a polarized beam-splitter “places” the camera virtually near the eyes of the speaker. The 3D display works by projecting high-speed video onto a rapidly spinning aluminum disk to generate an accurate image for each viewer.


HeadSPIN: A One-to-Many 3D Video Teleconferencing System from MxR on Vimeo.

Scratchable Input:

One researcher from Carnegie Mellon University will demonstrate his new scratch input technology. The system turns any surface into an instant input device by sensing the unique sound produced when a fingernail is dragged across it. The interface is small enough to fit into a mobile device (though I have concerns about calibration) and could thereby turn any surface the device is placed upon into an interface.

AR Hype Cycle

A great bit of work from SPRX Mobile has come to my attention:

Man, I’m looking forward to the Slope of Enlightenment!

However, I reckon we’re already at the Peak of Inflated Expectations, due a worldwide crash into the Trough of Dissillusionment within the next six months.

Thoughts?