All posts made in Mar. 2005:

The world would swing, if I were king.

My notes file has been filling up:

  • It'd be funny if, after centuries of map projections, the world really did turn out to be flat because of the mountain and valley wrinkles.
  • If we have no expectations, there are no surprises; that's why it's hard to tell jokes to dogs. -- Peter Turchi, Maps of the Imagination, p183. I play a chasing game with my dogs, involving double-crossing and expectation. It tickles both of our expectations. A joke?
  • Godel counting is everything. IPs as extension of memory space (from Edge #155). Shift from memory as copy-representation to memory as facet of the actual thing, which is looked up from a pointer. Big trend of addressability, replacing navigation as implicit in the landscape.
  • File email with Powerbook accelerometer. Back for trash, towards you to keep. Metronome: one email a second. Uses both the blink response and good/evil priming.
  • Three killer apps for rapid prototyping to hit the mainstream: Sex toys (opendildonics meets fleshlight interactive etc); downloading, printing, painting craft objects at local fairs; short-run printing of house accessories, eg matching soap dish. Local 3d printing shops.
  • Ultrasound fingertips, microphones on the ears, known position of hands (in front), it's a drawing interface. Contact lenses with transparent screens that know what to display from PAN. Inductive loops in fingertips to move stuff on computer screen, and get haptic feedback. The bodymod crowd clearing the way for this with novelty.

Coming up (and this is why I need to dump my notes now): Mind Hacks has an outing in London on Wednesday night--we're speaking at Foyles (get a ticket); More evnt; [Chasing] consultancy jobs on physical computing, social software (esp. situated), software design, so-called psychological ergonomics, opportunity spotting (the emerging mass market, differentiated along axes we can barely see yet). Etc.

Emerging Technology Conference 2005. My notes online.

Currently: Packing. It would've been done already except my server picked today to throw a grumble (an aftershock of the power outage a few days ago, my colo having the most non-U UPS in the world), and I spent 3 hours going there, moving all the important data to the safe drive and coming back. I'll be in the desert over the weekend, at Etcon 2005 next week (speaking once; twice, no less), and then in LA with no plans the following weekend.

Come say hi if we overlap. Even if you've emailed me and I didn't reply. Especially, in that case. Don't be put off - we look at everything you send us, as they say.

Thinking more about bumptunes, as I sit here with my PowerBook balanced on my lap: My hands are always on the keyboard, so a good interface to jump around tracks would be to rap sharply on the right with the base of my palm to go to the next track, and knock the left to go to the previous one. Because my legs are crossed, pushing my knee up is actually quite a careful and controlled movement, and so that forwards/back tilt is more suitable to a one-way adjustment... say, scrolling down in whatever application is active.

Also, the interface shouldn't look at absolute tilt--it should look at changes, and the rate of change. A sharp tilt to the right which goes back to normal quickly should advance to the next song, but a slow tilt which continues for a while should fast-forward (perhaps). I also quite like the idea of pattern matching, like with gestures: a double knock is like a "can I come in?" so maybe that should sign you in to IM. And, like gestures, tilt/knocking is not a digital action (like a button: press it or not), it's analogue. A soft knock could start iTunes player with the volume low; a hard knock could start it with the volume high. And then there's tapping rhythms... so much potential! And I don't have a PowerBook capable of it to play around with, gah!

What I love about embodied interaction is that the rules of thumb haven't been discovered, so you find out what's best by making it work and trying things out. It feels so natural.

Apple's PowerBook laptops now have a little accelerometer inside that's used to protect the hard drive if you drop it (it notices the sudden speed increase and parks the drive heads). This guy has found a way to tap into the sudden motion sensor, and Timo was just round my house with his brand new PowerBook, so we spent a few minutes of looking at the stuff on that site (a window that rotates so it's always the right way up). Then we saw there was a little tool that gives you the angle of the machine in three dimensions. Aha. (I love accelerometers.)

After a few more minutes, we had the tilt sensor controlling Timo's music. You rock the machine backwards for the next track, and rock it forwards for the previous track. Then we realised that you rarely need "previous"--you just listen to music, and when a track comes on you don't want to hear, you jog your laptop and it bumps on to the next song (and you don't need to be in iTunes). Wicked. Tasty microembodiment.

Here's the script: Download amstracker, put both files in the same directory, go to that directory in the Terminal and type:

./amstracker -u 0.1 -s | python

That amstracker tool is absolutely fantastic, I can think of a thousand things I want to do with it: Bumps that are application-specific, that take into account context, length of bump, slower tilts. You could extract some very nuanced input, and do some very detailed things with the computer. Drawing, rapid-fire email filing (tilt right to delete, left to keep, like you're driving through time through your mail inbox).

But Timo's gone home and I'm using my older PowerBook sans bumptunes. I feel kind of indignant, like my laptop is wilfully ignoring me. It seems inert, a lump of metal deliberately cutting itself off from the rest of the universe. A deaf, dead machine.