The Valley of the Lamb

Posted in art, personal, technology by johnsnavely on October 31, 2010

As most of you know, I am obsessed with the Uncanny Valley. I want to live there.

Actroid F is a modified version of the Geminoid F female robot that we discussed earlier. A lot of effort has gone into making these robots simpler, cheaper, and easier to power. The air compressor and valves that control Actroid F’s motion can run off of household electricity. Actroid F is also 30 kg lighter than other full scale robots in the Actroid/Geminoid series. The webcam setup for telepresence is meant to be as simple as possible while still providing the right experience for the user. To talk through Actroid F you need three cameras: one aimed at the speaker to pick up facial expressions and movements, another camera showing the Actroid’s face so the user can see how the robot is conveying her emotions, and a final camera that shows a panoramic view of the robot interacting with people in the room. A little more complex than your standard Skype portal, but that’s to be expected when you are speaking through a robotic avatar. Pay attention in the videos below to see how Actroid F can clearly pick out face and head movements, and adjusts its eyes to follow sound. This is a very life-like robot…which, again, is probably why it can be so eerie to watch.




Posted in projects, technology by johnsnavely on September 12, 2010

Google has a new website out called Google Scribe. I’m using it to write this entire post. Basically, it’s an autocomplete field for general writing, not just the search box. The algorithm isn’t published, so I’m not sure how it exactly works. I think it samples from the “great” writing found on the web, but no idea if it turns you into a more generic writer or a better one. But there’s a lot of different uses for this thing, and google has made it easy to place it into any website with a text field.

Here’s a couple experiments that other people have done with the writer. You can start it out with just a phrase and then just let it go. It doesn’t support link suggestions, which might make the tool go from being a clever toy to the most awesome thing I could use to write. When I’m writing, I need an autocomplete that goes beyond words– it needs to include documents, links, contacts and content (preferably scraped from my copious online output). I’m building all these loose associations in my brain by collecting things in delicious, in blogs, other social networking websites…but tying them together is something that I do when I sit down and write. A tool that could effectively sit in my idea-flow and help finish my thoughts would be a piece of software that I would pay for.

Yesterday on NPR they announced this weeks new 3-minute story contest. This weeks contest gives you the first and last sentences and lets NPR listeners send in the remaining 600 words. I’m going to have google scribe write the in-between and see what comes out. (Shhh, don’t tell them that I’m doing this.) I hope it’s funny enough to win something. Maybe Michael Cunningham deserves to be Sokal-ed? I’ll publish the story here when I finish it.

Fog of More

Posted in architecture, technology by johnsnavely on August 24, 2010

Keiichi Matsuda, a student at Bartlett School of Architecture, has produced a set of slick visuals.

The in-air displays and gestures reminded me of this video, which is an interesting study of what your hands are doing when you read a book, minus the book:

This stuff seems a little far-fetched, but with a small, portable Kinect and some display glasses or contact lenses, it’s not that far off.

Heck, Pranav Minstry is doing it right now with a webcam and a pico-projector:

The strange part about these scenarios is the disappearance of physical objects, which I question. What would we covet and conspicuously consume? User Interface Designs? That doesn’t quite make sense.

Wish I had an Xbox

Posted in videogames by johnsnavely on August 7, 2010

I watched the trailer for this game a couple years ago. Last month it came out for xbox. It still looks amazingly beautiful.

All that Glittered

Posted in architecture by johnsnavely on July 30, 2010

Nicholas Cage

Posted in technology by johnsnavely on July 27, 2010

From BBC News:

A team of 30 Spanish doctors say they have successfully performed the world’s first full face transplant.

A man injured in a shooting accident received the entire facial skin and muscles – including cheekbones, nose, lips and teeth – of a donor.

Please combine this with the previous post and imagine your new personal robotic face, configurable in real time.

I’ve been reading “The Shadow of the Torturer” by Gene Wolfe, lent to me by a co-worker. It’s an usual book set in the “future middle ages”. There’s a passage where the main character (Severian) learns the origins of one of his friends (Jonas). Early in the novel it’s revealed that Jonas has a steel, prosthetic, hand and one normal hand. Later, the Severian realizes that it’s not just Jonas’ hand that is made of steel but other parts of his body as well. Jonas explains that he was in a terrible accident where he lost much of his body. Jonas’ friends had tried to repair him, but they ran out of metal; they had to use biological parts to finish the job.

Ghost in the Shell

Posted in culture, fashion by johnsnavely on July 21, 2010

Envisioning Lab

Posted in architecture, work by johnsnavely on July 15, 2010

A project I’ve worked on, The Envisioning Lab, opened a few months ago. We finally brought in a professional photographer (Paul Warchol) to take some pictures.

Here’s a couple:

More here.

Inside Out

Posted in architecture by johnsnavely on July 13, 2010

I’d like to make a building which does this:

I could spend all my time designing a crazy interior. And still tap the zeitgeist of funky envelopes. Sweet!

Nobody Lost, Nobody Found

Posted in technology by johnsnavely on April 29, 2010

I had a chance to take home an iPad from work yesterday. I had spent some time with the device in the store a few weeks before and held off on writing a review. My reluctance had less to do with the iPad, than with my general feelings as a designer working in technology towards Apple’s cultural dominance in my field of choice.

I’ll use the iphone as an example of  The-Inner-Conflict, which goes something like this:

1.) These days, the iphone is basically the social equivalent of a Jersey Shore tan / tramp stamp, they have same sort of allure that most of pop-culture does to designers.

2.) The iphone is the best phone available out there. Period. And it pretty much brought the mobile revolution to America, by building a phone that made everything easier on a phone but phone calls.

So maybe that gives you an idea of what kind of person I am, and thus, which grains of salt you’d like to keep on the table.