Drone Garden: robot plants struggling for resources

Drone Garden by Martin Reiche is an installation that addresses the issue of naturality in a networked and virtualised environment. It offers a speculative insight on a future where even robots will fight for vital resources (such as bandwidth as in this case). According to the project page:

[…] As a series of interconnected hybrid “plants”, the installation creates a utopian garden through wires, circuit boards, cables and other circuitry – a garden in which all of their inhabitants, the plants (drones), are constantly fighting for resources (network bandwidth). This fight, happening on packet level on the network sockets and in the memory of the “plants”, is fueled by an instinctive codified behavior which is visualized on the screen. The installation raises the question if it is ethical to interfere with such a confined microcosm, which, even though carefully designed and therefore artificial, nevertheless behaves and fights for its existence.

Seen on Cretiveapplications.net

DORA: a robot as physical avatar

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a new physical-virtual interface (PVI). DORA – or Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton – combines the Oculus Rift and teleoperated robotics to offer unprecedented  immersion within the environment. The robot can mimic user head movements and literally see around streaming stereoscopic live images to the user.

Find out more on IGN.

Want to see more about DORA? Don’t miss the official VIMEO channel.

VEST: a wearable device to add new human senses

Some weeks ago, the neuroscientist David Eagleman gave a TED Talk on sensory substitution. Human beings are able to sense and interpret a very small portion of the world. When they lose a sense, they can try to replace it or rely on another one. By studying this process, Eagleman and is team designed a device capable to add senses instead of simply replace them. VEST or the Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer is:

[…] a wearable tool that allows the deaf to, as Eagleman puts it, “feel” speech. An app downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet with a microphone will pick up sounds and send them via bluetooth to the vest. The vest will then “translate” those sounds into a series of vibrations that reflect the frequencies picked up by the mic by using a network of transducers—devices that can convert the signals into vibrations. So, if you spoke to the person wearing the vest, that person would “feel” what you’re saying through vibrations on their back, instead of through their ears.

Read the article on The Atlantic.

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SmileSuggest: a free Chrome plugin to save bookmark with a smile

Martin McAllister has created an easy and smart way to bookmark what’s on the Internet. His SmileSuggest is a free Chrome plugin that uses a facial recognition algorithm to save a page by simply smiling at it. The app can also “measure” your smile, so to let you decide the threshold of  “joy” beyond which a page is bookmarked.

Find out more.

Seen on FastCoDesign.

[Paper] Acoustruments: Passive, Acoustically-Driven Interactive Controls for Hand Held Devices

A new research project called Accoustraments shows how 3-D printable plastic accessories can lead to new interaction patterns for handled devices.

No electrical signals required. Accoustraments accessories are like instruments with a hollow chamber. They simply produce ultrasonic sound that the smartphones mic can “ear” and “translate” into commands.

We introduce Acoustruments: low-cost, passive, and powerless mechanisms, made from plastic, that can bring rich, tangible functionality to handheld devices. Through a structured exploration, we identified an expansive vocabulary of design primitives, providing building blocks for the construction of tangible interfaces utilizing smartphones’ existing audio functionality. By combining design primitives, familiar physical mechanisms can all be constructed from passive elements. On top of these, we can create end-user applications with rich, tangible interactive functionalities. Our experiments show that Acoustruments can achieve 99% accuracy with minimal training, is robust to noise, and can be rapidly prototyped. Acoustruments adds a new method to the toolbox HCI practitioners and researchers can draw upon, while introducing a cheap and passive me

Read the full paper.

The study was presented at CHI 2015 (South Korea).

[Paper] NailO: Fingernails as an Input Surface

Nailo is a wireless nail-mounted gestural input interface designed in the MIT Media Lab. Sort of decorative nail stickers inspired trackpad on top of a thumbnail, it allows to control other digital devices.

According to the abstract:

We present NailO, a nail-mounted gestural input surface. Using capacitive sensing on printed electrodes, the interface can distinguish on-nail finger swipe gestures with high accuracy (>92%). NailO works in real-time: we miniaturized the system to fit on the fingernail, while wirelessly transmitting the sensor data to a mobile phone or PC. NailO allows one-handed and always-available input, while being unobtrusive and discrete. Inspired by commercial nail stickers, the device blends into the user’s body, is customizable, fashionable and even removable. We show example applications of using the device as a remote controller when hands are busy and using the system to increase the input space of mobile phones.

The project will be presented at CHI 2015 (South Korea).

You can read more on MIT News.

Droplet: a button to remember your duties

Droplet by Sohan Japa is a wireless button – with a dedicated hub and a mobile app – you can attach to any objects around you so to remember daily tasks. According to the project page:

Droplet is a wireless button that can be attached to anything that needs a reminder. Whether it’s a reminder to take your medication, feed the fish, floss at night, or take out the trash, simply attach Droplet to an object and tap it when you complete the task. Droplet will record it through the dedicated app so you can keep track of your activities and goals. Droplet can be set to only remind you if you have forgotten the task and won’t bombard you with unnecessary notifications and reminders.

Find out more on Kickstarter.

Seen on FastCoDesign.

[Paper] Cruise Control for Pedestrians: Controlling Walking Direction using Electrical Muscle Stimulation

In this study, a group of researchers presents the result of an experiment conceived to control walk direction using electrical muscle stimulation. From the abstract:

Pedestrian navigation systems require users to perceive, interpret, and react to navigation information. This can tax cognition as navigation information competes with information from the real world. We propose actuated navigation, a new kind of pedestrian navigation in which the user does not need to attend to the navigation task at all. An actuation signal is directly sent to the human motor system to influence walking direction. To achieve this goal we stimulate the sartorius muscle using electrical muscle stimulation. The rotation occurs during the swing phase of the leg and can easily be counteracted. The user therefore stays in control. We discuss the properties of actuated navigation and present a lab study on identifying basic parameters of the technique as well as an outdoor study in a park. The results show that our approach changes a user’s walking direction by about 16°/m on average and that the system can successfully steer users in a park with crowded areas, distractions, obstacles, and uneven ground.

The research will be presented at CHI 2015 in South Korea.

Read the full paper.

Found on MiT Technology Review.