Archive for the ‘Living in the Future’ Category

“The Future’s Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed”

And right now, South Korean shoppers have a little more of it than we do:

A new virtual store developed by Euro grocery giant Tesco for its line of South Korean Home Plus supermarkets lets customers browse store shelves for the products they want just as if they were in a physical store. But they’re not. They’re on a subway platform. …

Tesco has simply plastered the walls of a subway station with visual recreations of grocery aisles. Each item has a QR code emblazoned on it. Snap that code with the Home Plus smartphone app, and it goes straight into the virtual shopping cart.

Customers can then check out via their smartphones as they step onto their morning trains. The groceries are delivered to their homes that evening at a specified time, saving office drones the added hassle of braving a crowded supermarket during the late-day rush.

Art in the Future

Welcome to the future, where one passionate, committed person can create works of art like this:

ROSA from Jesús Orellana on Vimeo.

This is the work of Spanish artist Jesús Orellana. He did it over the course of two years, debuting it at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. He’s currently in talks to turn it into a full-length, live action feature film.

I’m absolutely blown away by how much computer graphics has developed in just a few short decades. Ten years ago, I doubt you could have made a film like Rosa for less than millions of dollars. Twenty years ago, you couldn’t have made it for any price at all. Today, it only took one artist and (I would imagine) some modest, “pro-sumer” grade equipment.

I can’t wait to see what our digital art looks like in another decade.

For more information, check out the film’s website.

Edited to Add: I love the “behind the scenes” images Orellana made:


Click for Full-Size

Medical Science: 1, Horrible Freak Accidents: 0

Dear Dude,

Have pruning sheers shoved hilt-first through your eye?

No biggie.

You’re welcome,
Medical Science

I Love Living in the Future

This video is of a woman who, deaf since birth, has just gotten her first cochlear implant. Up until this video, she’d relied on hearing aids, which do a poor job of addressing the needs of the deaf.

We live in a future in which deafness is a reversible condition. Perhaps not perfectly so, but close and getting closer all the time. And what cochlear implants have done for hearing, we’re just now starting to do with sight. So welcome to the era when human beings have deafness and blindness on the ropes and look poised to add them to our long list of defeated ailments.

God I love living in the future.

XBox Kinect and Metaphors

We had a party yesterday at work. The director of the group brought in a bunch of televisions, XBoxes, etc. and we knocked off a few hours early to drink beer, eat nachos, and play video games, all on the companies dime.

One of the XBoxes was set up with a Kinect and a few games. I’d never used a Kinect before, so I was curious to try it out. The game itself (featuring Sonic the Hedgehog on a hoverboard) was unimpressive, but the Kinect technology was very interesting. There I was, standing in the middle of a bustling room, waving my arms through the air, effortlessly controlling a fairly complex interface.

Our everyday experience of computers is really a huge mess of metaphors and abstractions. I don’t think it’s particularly controversial to say that the more seamless and less frictive a metaphoric experience gets, the better an interface it makes. In that regard Kinect is one of the best interfaces I’ve ever used. After a very short learning curve, (a couple of minutes of confused flailing that prompted one of my Australian coworkers to exclaim “lawd, mate, dawn’t hut yaself!”), I was navigating a system quite literally by point at what I wanted. It was slightly buggy and a very little bit sluggish, but it was fundamentally intuitive and fluid.

Kinect is a fantastic first iteration of kinesthetic interfaces, and I’m incredibly excited to see where they go in the future. The idea that HCI research has evolved to the point where selecting a menu option is as simple as pointing at it just blows me away. I imagine it won’t be too many more years before the kinds of interfaces seen in Minority Report become quaint in the way that only the future-that-was can be. (Cf. the newspads in 2001: A Space Odyssey that bear such a striking resemblance to iPads that some people are trying to claim they represent prior art.)

Ultimately, our tottering pile of metaphors and abstractions will reach such a scale that interacting with computers won’t be fundamentally different than acting in the real world. People like Jeron Lanier and the super-smart HCI folks at the MIT Media Lab are already trying to tackle this, and the XBox Kinect is evidence that the research, while far from complete, is much farther along than most people imagine.

Great Moments in Globalization, Part n+1 of a Series

So programmers based in Russia, Argentina, Pakistan, and America log into a forum…

It’s not the start of a bad joke, I promise. It’s just the kind of thing that happens now. In this case, the four programmers, all located in different quadrants of the Earth, got together because they all had a common code problem that none of them had figured out on their own how to solve. For three days, they swapped ideas, source code, jokes, etc. until eventually they were able to find a clean, efficient, elegant solution to their shared problem.

None of them were working on the same project. None of them had ever met before, nor probably ever will. And yet they were all able to get together and work together towards the resolution of a common problem, in nearly real time.

Do these globalization effects show up in GDP figures? In aggregate, maybe, but it’s far more likely that such meetings of mind do nothing but marginally improve the lives of the four individuals involved.

And really, that’s more than enough.

Take That, Disease!

Hey guys, remember when people used to die of Chickenpox? That sucked, right? Good thing it doesn’t happen so much anymore.

And did you ever hear of the rinderpest thing that killed, like, millions of cattle over the course of centuries causing suffering and starvation? Turns out that that doesn’t happen at all, anymore.

God, I love living in the future.

Keeping Dry in the Future

My friend Jonathan recently sent me a link to this article in which Bryan Caplan mentions “ideas behind their time.”

Surely this is one such idea. Living as I do in oft-rainy Seattle, I’m sore tempted to get one.

Comparative Urban Odorology

We live in a world where people do things like this for a living.

Those of you in the UK on 19 July can take a “smell walk of Sheffield’s University Quarter followed by a presentation on the role of smell in urban design.” You’ll learn about “the unique qualities offered by smell to placemaking; contemporary experiences of odors in town and cities; [and] design issues and tools relating to smell.” Read more at Urban Design Group. Meanwhile, for some background on comparative urban odorology, check out the work of Sissel Tolaas.


More Wolfram Alpha Love

Want to know how much a 100m spool of 1m wide 8mil vinyl will weigh?


God I love living in the future.

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.