Photosketch

PhotoSketch: Internet Image Montage from Tao Chen on Vimeo.

Photosketch: Internet Image Montage provides a simple way to make image composites by doodling a picture, adding labels and then letting the engine scour the Internet for suitable photos. Once it has found the most appropriate matches, it composites them together.

I can see lots of awful e-cards and Powerpoint presentations coming out of this, but it would be very useful for putting together prototype sketches for installations and services and it is a pretty remarkable bit of technology.

(Via Richard Banks)

Sixth Sense. Only Slightly Lamer than VR.

Pattie Maes is a smart woman. She’s behind some research projects that I wish I had been part of. But the above presentation at TED of Pranav Mistry’sSixth Sense‘ system gave me flashbacks to bad VR demos in the 90s and Steve Mann’s sad exploits as a cyborg.

800px-Wearcompevolution.jpg

Sometimes the focus on technology for the sake of technology just gets in the way of thinking about how people actually live. Any mobile device I carry around will have a screen and a camera, whether it be an iPhone or a projection onto my retina. There are ample uses and opportunities for augmented reality with these, so why would I want to carry around a tiny projector too?

In the ‘Sixth Sense’ set-up, I would need to keep my body still to keep the projected image from moving all over the place and I need to have some kind of tracking blobs on my fingers too. Let’s assume the devices are combined. Again, why the projector when I already have a screen? So that I can wave my arms about as a gestural interface? In public?

Like VR, the central paradox of ‘augmenting the senses’ is that the technology cuts back the senses. We’re not just heads floating around without bodies, we interpret the world through our entire bodies. Anything that reminds you that you’re using a mediating technology gets in the way of those senses and what you’re trying to do.

The success of multitouch interfaces is that they make the interface invisible. It’s still there of course – someone has to set up the metaphors of ‘pinching’, etc. – but when it works well, you don’t think about it. But they have to work well too – the slightest lag or misinterpretation of a drag as a click soon becomes a frustration.

Clever(ish) as it is, Sixth Sense doesn’t make much sense. I get a bit sad when I see these kinds of demos get such a big response at TED, because it’s an audience who should know better and should be in front of the curve, not behind it. This should be especially true from Maes, whose MIT page quotes her as saying “We like to invent new disciplines or look at new problems, and invent bandwagons rather than jump on them.”

(And Pranav should spend some time working on his MIT Web page).

Beyond the Fold, Print Lives On.

Although newspapers are struggling to work out what to do about the decline of the printed sheet, the death of print doesn’t seem to be anywhere near happening. The rise of self-publishing and print-on-demand services like Lulu and MagCloud are probably the everlasting afterlife of traditional publishing models. Less risk, less waste.

Despite Amazon’s Kindle 2, the popularity of Classics, the iPhone eBook reader and Amazon releasing a Kindle reader for the iPhone, it is still pleasant to touch and smell a paper book or magazine and there are some things only paper can still do, like folding.

Onlab have collaborated with illustrator Tobias Krafczyk to create a special Intersections supplement for Domus magazine.

The march issue discusses the mechanisms, strengths, frailties and possible scenarios on the eve of Web 3.0. For us, the tools, services and problems of the new or other internet are commonplace and part every day life – both at work and in private. From personal experience we know that the Web is a powerful medium, but it is not the only one. To contrast with the discourse about the impact of the web, we decided to produce an Intersections that only the printed form of a magazine could create and a possibility for tactile interaction by the reader.

The result is in the above video – the reader must fold all the pages of the magazine in to turn the somewhat Cubist looking shards of image into “Miss Web 2.0”.

It’s a nice idea and a clever take on the issue, but I can’t help feeling there are similarities to cinemas installing seat-rumblers or 3D glasses in an attempt to halt the rise of TV in the 40s and 50s.

It also reminds me of Mad magazine’s famous Fold-Ins, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

The Network Generation is in The White House

obama.jpg

Photo: barackobamadotcom on Flickr

It is hard to overstate just how different these US elections were and what a shift in thinking Obama and his campaign signify. Is this the dawn of a fourth republic, whose cycles are “linked indirectly to stages of technological and economic development,” as Michael Lind argues? Or is this the rise of a kind of new informality or informalism, to bastardise a perfectly decent word into another -ism?

Just four years ago, at the time of the previous US election, the blogosphere consisted of around four million blogs, now it’s difficult to even count, but it’s possibly 133 million. In those four years we have, of course, seen blogging become and integral part of mainstream media culture. As The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss noted, this was a truly cross-platform election, with TV woefully slow to catch up with calling the election win for Obama compared to those online.

But what was impressive and very different about the Obama camp approach was how much they clearly get these new media forms.

Twitter’s election feed was – and still is – a torrent of posts and opinions, but during the voting we got to hear people’s accounts of waiting in line, the excitement the atmosphere. I’m not American, what should I care? And yet. And yet, it was hard not to be drawn into the sense of shared experience.

Obama has (or had – it’s been a bit quiet since the elections) a Twitter stream and being on Twitter during the vote was a shared experience. The Obama camp made great use of Twitter to push for support, to spread the message. The exit poll stats show just how much the 18-29 year old turnout had increased from 2000.

What is essential to remember here is that Twitter isn’t just a computer-based chat space, it is completely integrated into mobile devices too. That means Obama’s tweets, and those of his supporters, reached people on the way to or in the waiting lines of polling booths. It’s direct and intimate.

The world has become cynical of politicians who have long since appeared to ignore the protest and voices of the people who elected them. Whether Obama himself wrote his Twitter tweets we will probably never know, but the fact a presidential candidate is aware of it shows a much more direct connection with people – and not just US citizens. Even if there’s a lowly paid intern tweeting on his behalf, there is a sense that it might filter up. And, of course, there’s always the secret hope that Obama himself is doing the tweeting.

The Flickr photo set above show’s Obama with his family and aides watching the results of the election, watching McCain’s concession speech and being congratulated by his family. They’re intimate, often off-guard and in many he looks quite nervous as if he’s thinking “Oh God, now I actually have to be president”. It’s like looking at post-ceremony, pre-reception drunkenness photos of a freshly minted bride and groom.

The most striking thing about these pictures, though, is that they’re covered by a non-commercial Creative Commons licence. These photos (by David Katz) that picture editors all over the world would love to use to sell their papers remain out of their reach. But they remain usable by the millions of bloggers around the world.

The difference in approach is striking – these aren’t polished, selected, vetted images, tightly controlled by a PR office. They’re informal and out there for the world to see and use. It’s unthinkable that Bush – or any other major politician – would have done anything remotely similar on the “internets“. (The cynic in the back of my mind wonders if they maybe are vetted – there are no photos of Obama shotgunning a beer and flicking the Vs at McCain on TV, after all. But that doesn’t seem like his style.)

A day after the election, Obama’s campaign set up change.gov with, naturally, a blog. (Compare it to the stiffness of whitehouse.gov).

So, now we have a US President who blogs and twitters – or whose staff do at least – and appears to be open to opinions and voices from all over the world. In an age of increased surveillance and control, of clipped civil liberties, of an attempt by the previous generation to hang onto control at all costs, this different attitude and use of technology signifies a much bigger, generational shift. It is a shift to a mindset in which collaboration, conversation and the network mind are much more powerful than spin and top-down control ever can be.

It’s what anyone using Twitter, Facebook or writing a blog has known for some time, but now it’s as mainstream as it gets. The network has grown up. The network generation is in The White House.

Lost in Text

Lost in Text 1

I managed to catch a few people lost in texting whilst I was in Brighton, so I made a Lost in Text Flickr group.

I find the look on people’s faces, both absent and engaged at the same time, fascinating. I especially like these people who were working in these tiny booths on the pier, with absolutely no business going on. They seemed both trapped in little boxes and yet freed by their phones and engaged in other lives.

I’m sure there are plenty of others that people have out there, so feel free to add to the group and tag any images with “lostintext”.

Enhancing Videos with Spacetime Fusion


Using Photographs to Enhance Videos of a Static Scene from pro on Vimeo.

This technology from Pravin Bhat over at the University of Washington is pretty impressive. It uses high resolution still images to enhance video footage. It also enables dynamic masking and all sorts of other goodness. The interactive cutout video is interesting too – unlike most compositing ways of thinking, which are pretty much working in 2D on a frame-by-frame basis, their system looks through the pixels temporally and allows you to select through them by time in a kind of time smear fashion.

It should make a big impact in post-production, but I can imagine it might come into all sorts of use for both devious manipulation of video, fixing up crappy YouTube clips as well as crime-scene investigation. And “Spacetime Fusion” is such a great name.

(Via Iain at Crackunit)

MacUpdate Promo Bundle includes Parallels

macheist.jpg

After the disaster I had with MacHeist I decided to go for the new MacUpdate Promo Bundle, mainly because of Sound Studio and Parallels. The last MacUpdate Promo worked well for me – none of the billing hassles of MacHeist, nor the arrogance of John Casasanta.

There are a couple of lame apps in there like Art Text and BannerZest, but also a bunch of useful utilities like Typinator, Hazel and Leap. I’ve also heard some writers rave about Story Mill. An added bonus is WhatSize, a little app that clearly shows up what’s guzzling your disk space (more useful than I had imagined).

I’m guessing that Sound Studio, at least, will get unlocked, which will save me much paid with my podcasts even if Parallels fails to make it, and the other are useful (I used to use Textpander and now Typinator all the time).

Anyway, stop reading this and go buy a bundle so that Parallels gets unlocked!

[tags]macupdate, macheist, bundle, parallels, sound studio, apps[/tags]

I Want You To Want Me by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar

iwantyoutowantme_thumb.jpg

Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, who created one of my all time favourite interactive pieces, We Feel Fine, have a new piece called I Want You To Want Me commissioned for MoMA’s Design and The Elastic Mind show.

I Want You To Want Me explores the world of online dating, scraping data from thousands of online profiles all in search of love. As with We Feel Fine the interaction is simple, but allows you to view the data in lots of beautiful, emotional and meaningful ways. The interface is made up of balloons representing each person and each one has one of over 500 specially shot video silhouettes inside it.

The ways of looking at the data are described as movements and include things like “Who I Am” and “What I Want” along with “Openers”, “Closers” and “Taglines”, which are used in the profile descriptions. There’s also a matchmaker section:

Matchmaker algorithmically pairs people based on their descriptions of who they are and what they’re looking for. Balloon couples emerge on the horizon and drift to the foreground, before pausing side by side for a few seconds and then floating off together.

The project’s website explains it all in detail with some great images from it. A real treat is that they also documented their process with sketches, photos, etc.

[tags]Jonathan Harris, Sep Kamvar, MoMA, installation, dating[/tags]

Podcast interview with Jason Bruges

broadcasts_bruges 1.jpg

My latest Core77 Broadcast interview with Jason Bruges from Jason Bruges Studio is now online.

In a slightly echoing room in Jason’s studio, accompanied by the usual sirens and car alarms of London’s Shoreditch, he talks about his roots in architecture, the journey to interactive surfaces, sustainability and his thoughts about giving this emerging area a proper name.

Hope you enjoy it.

The next one, coming soon, is with Troika.

[tags]Core77, Jason Bruges[/tags]