Philips Hue ’16 Million Moments’

My mate Lucy Tcherniak has just mastered her most recent piece of work, for consumer tech giants Philips and their Wi-fi enabled lighting range Hue – which are remote control light bulbs that can augment the mood of a room via your mobile phone:

The blurb:

Discover just some of the millions of ways to use light with Philips Hue. from helping you relax or concentrate to reminding you of that perfect sunset or bringing a bedtime story to life. it can even tell you if it’ll rain later.

Earlier this year, Ars Technica ran a piece on the Hue’s free to use API & SDK, which have expanded the usefulness of these genius devices through third-party apps such as IFTTT. The article describes the full spectrum of 16 million colours, indicated below:

Philips Hue Full Spectrum

Now, of the available 16 million colours, Lucy chose to feature just 16 in her film, which highlighted at least a few cool use-cases for the Hue range. For example, adjusting from yellow to white light to improve concentration while studying, or the reverse when settling in for a quiet night on the sofa, sampling the colours of a vase of flowers to suit the room they’ll live in, reminding you to take an umbrella in the morning, or making home media more immersive for the viewer.

I can think of a few more, such as adaptive to music streaming from my Sonos, or as an alarm system for a gradual morning wake up, or flashing blue when I have a Twitter mention during a TV show. Cool system, cool advert. Not sure when it will appear on screen but I think it might make it onto a few people’s Xmas lists. I’ll certainly be asking for one!

Philips LivingColors Gen 3 Aura Black 70998/30/PU Colour Changing Mood Lamp with Remote Control  is £49.99 on Amazon.

First Contact with Galactaron

Girl meets synth-rock band from Outer Space; animated weirdness ensues. Well, that’s the elevator pitch, anyway. See for yourself:

Galactaron were dreamt up as an art/music project by Owen Dennis, a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation, and are comprised of Singer (centre right), Bass (bottom left), Guitar (centre left), Synth (right), Drums (top left) and their human friend Emily Wong:

Galactaron Album Cover
Album Cover as featured on iTunes

The virtual band have a presence across Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, SoundCloud and iTunes, with each platform offering new information and imagery to enrich Galactaron’s back story:

Drawn by radio waves, Galactaron focused in on Earth and they traveled a great distance to learn about us. When they finally reached our planet, they landed their massive, red, egg-shaped ship on a frozen lake in the upper Midwest of the America. There they met Emily Wong, a young Chinese-American woman who lives with her father. Emily quickly befriended Galactaron and decided to give them a personalized tour of planet Earth. That’s when they started to discover what earth is, what humans are, and what we have to offer.

A ‘sighting’ of their ship forms one of several on their website.

It’s an admirable project: the band have a truly unique sound, a strong visual identity, a cool backstory, and they’ve even sold a few albums.

Their creator shows real ingenuity, having formed a small yet growing community around snippets of content such as cosmic ring-tones; science-themed status updates; user-contributed artwork; merchandise and not forgetting the music itself.

But despite being an excellent case study in transmedia storytelling, their single ‘First Contact’ has reached a surprisingly low 20,000 plays on YouTube, and far fewer elsewhere. Mission aborted? Or as I suspect, are their thrusters still warming up?

The Skinner Box

In B. F. Skinner’s famous experiment in operant conditioning, a lab rat is placed inside a container and rewarded with a food pellet on completion of a task, triggered by an external stimulus such as a light, a sound or a shock. The pattern of reward becomes increasingly inconsistent, following a ‘schedule of reinforcement’ controlled by the experimenter.

Skinner Box (Operant Conditioning Chamber)

From Wikipedia:

Skinner’s operant chamber allowed him to explore the rate of response as a dependent variable, as well as develop his theory of schedules of reinforcement. If the event increased the number of responses it is said to strengthen its responding and if it decreased the number of responses it weakens the responding.

In short: a Skinner Box allows one to observe habits being formed, through control of the conditions surrounding a subject and their reward.

The lessons learned span far beyond Psychology: Education; Behavioural Economics; Interpersonal Communication and even Video Gaming have each benefit from an understanding of operant conditioning, so it is no surprise to see advertisers capitalising on our easily pliable behaviours.

One such experimenter, a brand of flavoured rice cake, posed the research question “how far will you go for Fantastic Delites” – their conditions, a large scale Skinner Box and the baying masses of an Australian shopping mall.

The results are equal parts twisted, fascinating and funny:

The evidence suggests human subjects will endure an embarrassingly strict schedule of reinforcement, especially in a public scenario.

At last year’s TEDxObserver Cory Doctorow gave a talk comparing the machinations of Facebook to operant conditioning of a more dangerous kind… and I can’t help but feel he has a point.

We will go pretty far for free rice cakes – but would we go further knowing we were in a Skinner Box?

Towards a Cyberpunk Sky

When plans for The Shard were unveiled my first thoughts were that its piercing aesthetic would be too harsh for the London skyline. But now it’s been ‘topped out’ and soon to open to the public, it’s time to get used to it.

I heard somewhere that Irvine Sellar, the property magnate behind the tower, intends for his creation to stand for more than 200 years. Well, of course it does, but this concept did the most to shift my perspective.

Imagine how this city will feel in two centuries: totally transformed, utterly modern and yet (hopefully) still uniquely London. The Shard is another step towards an exciting Future London.

To illustrate my point, here’s a video flyover showing the tower in context. Watch closely and you’ll see  London’s slow climb towards a cyberpunk sky:

Cockroach Leg Stimulated With Music

Here’s something you don’t see every day:

From the video description:

A simple plus/minus 1V signal from a beat-heavy song can be used to stimulate the motor neurons in the leg of a cockroach. This is an example of such.

Using setups like this can help us understand how neurons and muscles work, and can assist us in understanding our own nervous systems.

I’ll tell you what else this helped me understand: we’ve reached such mastery of nature that we’re now just having fun with it. I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but the above example is certainly a bit macabre.