Be your own CSI with GelSight

The guys at GelSight are on to something big – or at least, magnified.

Their specially designed rubber lens lets one see details as small as two microns thick, through their patent-pending and newly perfected approach. This video demonstrates how it all works:

And this video shows off the extent of GelSight’s sensitivity:

The stuff looks really cheap to produce, but with a wide range of applications, especially for ballistics or engineering. Personally, I’d buy some just to use as a desk toy, alongside my Intelligent Putty and other cool shit.

It’s the simple combination of rubber and reflective paint that makes GelSight’s patent so valuable, albeit so simple. Yet it took two MIT alumni to spot the gap and to productize. Goes to show what other great combinations are still out there waiting to be discovered!

MIT Propose A Digital Cloud for London

London invited the world to build them an addition to their skyline, in time for the Olympics in 2012. Their request has been answered by researchers from MIT. Here are some details of their brave response:

The structure, dubbed “the Cloud”, would consist of two 400-foot towers and a number of interconnected, LED-filled bubbles, including an observation deck and a series of digital displays relaying statistical information from the Olympics.

A clean-powered entity, solar panels would provide much of the power needed. It is proposed that other running costs would be covered by its visitors – invited to ‘sponsor’ an LED.

A quote from their website offers some insight into their mission statement:

The Cloud addresses our twin attention spans of the short-term desire for information and stimulation, and our growing longer-term consciousness about our impact on the future, and our productive role within a larger harmonious ecology. It provides two resources – energy and data – harvesting both the natural ecosystem and humanity’s complementary cyber-sphere, fusing the two.

Further technical details below, for those interested:

TheCLOUD Project  


So that’s it, my series is over. All that’s left to do now is credit the academic sources that influenced and aided in the construction of my argument. Thanks to everyone below, and thanks to you, dear reader, for coming along for the ride.


Baudrillard, Jean (1983). Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e).

Baudrillard, Jean (1988). Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Baumann, Jim (date unknown). ‘Military applications of virtual reality’ on the World Wide Web. Accessed 20th March 2007. Available at

Benjamin, Walter (1968). ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Walter Benjamin Illuminations (trans. Harry Zohn), pp. 217–51. New York: Schocken Books.

Bolter, J. D., B. Mcintyre, M. Gandy, Schweitzer, P. (2006). ‘New Media and the Permanent Crisis of Aura’ in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Vol. 12 (1): 21-39.

Botella, Cristina.M, & M.C. Juan, R.M. Banos, M. Alcaniz, V. Guillen, B. Rey (2005). ‘Mixing Realities? An Application of Augmented Reality for the Treatment of Cockroach Phobia’ in CyberPsychology & Behaviour, Vol. 8 (2): 162-171.

Clark, N. ‘The Recursive Generation of the Cyberbody’ in Featherstone, M. & Burrows, R. (1995) Cyberspace/Cyberbodies/Cyberpunk, London: Sage.

Featherstone, Mike. & Burrows, Roger eds. (1995). Cyberspace/ Cyberbodies/ Cyberpunk: Cultures of Technological Embodiment. London: Sage.

Future Image (author unknown) (2006). ‘The 6Sight® Mobile Imaging Report’ on the World Wide Web. Accessed 22nd March 2007. Available at

Genosko, Gary (1999). McLuhan and Baudrillard: The Masters of Implosion. London: Routledge.

Kline, Stephen, DePeuter, Grieg, & Dyer-Witheforde, Nick (2003). Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing. Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Levinson, Paul (1999). Digital McLuhan: a guide to the information millennium. London: Routledge.

Liarokapis, Fotis (2006). ‘An Exploration from Virtual to Augmented Reality Gaming’ in Simulation Gaming, Vol. 37 (4): 507-533.

Manovich, Lev (2006). ‘The Poetics of Augmented Space’ in Visual Communication, Vol. 5 (2): 219-240.

McLuhan, Marshall (1962). The Gutenberg galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

McLuhan, Marshall (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill.

McLuhan, Marshall and Powers, Bruce R. (1989). The Global Village: Transformations in World Life in the 21st Century. Oxford University Press: New York.

Milgram, Paul & Kishino, Fumio (1994). ‘A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays’ in IEICE Transactions on Information Systems, Vol. E77-D, No.12 December 1994.

Reitmayr, Gerhard & Schmalstieg, Dieter (2001). Mobile Collaborative Augmented Reality. Proceedings of the IEEE 2001 International Symposium on Augmented Reality, 114–123.

Roberts, G., A. Evans, A. Dodson, B. Denby, S. Cooper, R. Hollands (2002) ‘Application Challenge: Look Beneath the Surface with Augmented Reality’ in GPS World, (UK, Feb. 2002): 14-20.

Stokes, Jon (2003). ‘Understanding Moore’s Law’ on the World Wide Web. Accessed 21st March 2007. Available at

Straubhaar, Joseph D. & LaRose, Robert (2005). Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Thomas, B., Close. B., Donoghue, J., Squires, J., De Bondi, I’,. Morris, M., and Piekarski, W. ‘ARQuake: An outdoor/indoor augmented reality first-person application’ in Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Wearable Computers, (Atlanta, GA, Oct. 2000), 139-141.

Wagner, D., Pintaric, T., Ledermann, F., & Schmalstieg, D. (2005). ‘Towards massively multi-user augmented reality on handheld devices’. In Proc. 3rd Int’l Conference on Pervasive Computing, Munich, Germany.

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Williams, Raymond (1992). Television: Technology and Cultural Form. Hanover and London: University Press of New England and Wesleyan University Press

Further Reading:

Bolter, Jay D. & Grusin, Richard (1999). Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cavell, Richard (2002). McLuhan in Space: a Cultural Geography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Galloway, Alexander R. (2006). Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Horrocks, Christopher (2000). Marshall McLuhan & Virtuality. Cambridge: Icon Books.

Jennings, Pamela (2001). ‘The Poetics of Engagement’ in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Vol. 7 (2): 103-111.

Lauria, Rita (2001). ‘In Love with our Technology: Virtual Reality A Brief Intellectual History of the Idea of Virtuality and the Emergence of a Media Environment’ in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Vol. 7 (4): 30-51.

Lonsway, Brian (2002). ‘Testing the Space of the Virtual’ in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Vol. 8 (3): 61-77.

Moos, Michel A. (1997). Marshall McLuhan Essays: Media Research, technology, art, communication. London: Overseas Publishers Association.

Pacey, Arnold (1983). The Culture of Technology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Salen, Katie & Zimmerman, Eric. (2004) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

Sassower, Raphael (1995). Cultural Collisions: Postmodern Technoscience. London: Routledge.

Wood, John ed. (1998). The Virtual Embodied: Presence/Practice/Technology. London: Routledge.

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.