Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

06 AUGUST, 2009

The Mother of All Demos


Geek history, or why 2009 has nothing on 1968.

Today always has a certain arrogance towards yesterday — each generation likes to credit itself with the invention of, well, everything that matters. But certain things — personal computing, social networking, digital collaboration — are surely the product of our contemporary era, right? Wrong.

On December 9, 1968, Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart of the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute staged what’s been dubbed “the mother of all demos” — a 90-minute public multimedia demonstration that debuted personal and interactive computing to the world.

It was the cultural grand entrance of many of the technologies we use today: the computer mouse, hypertext linking, real-time text editing, multiple windows with flexible view control, screenshare teleconferencing.

Cure your presentism bias with a look at the full 1968 demo and catch Dr. Engelbart’s talk at Google Authors, where he delves into 57 years worth of his fascinating work on social networking systems.

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03 AUGUST, 2009

The Future of Data Tags: Bokodes


Japanese blurs, or what amateur photography has to do wtih tech innovation.

QR codes may be a hot topic these days, but the MIT Media Lab, true to their penchant for one-upping innovation, have come up with a formidable QR-killer. Bokodes — from “barcode” and bokeh, the Japanese word for the blurred area around a photographer’s point of focus — are new camera-based data tags with the capacity to hold a few thousand times more data than traditional barcodes.

Ten times smaller than barcodes, Bokodes’ low-cost optical design can be read from as far as 4 meters away, much farther than barcodes, by taking an out-of-focus photo with any off-the-shelf camera. Bokodes can also encode directional and angular information — something barcodes can’t do.

With the proliferating implementations of good ol’ QR codes, we can only imagine the possible applications of Bokodes — from crowd gaming in public spaces to helping interactive interfaces like Microsoft Surface determine the position and identification of objects placed on them. And although we probably won’t be seeing them hit the mainstream anytime soon, we have enough faith in geek culture to trust that brilliant applications are already being cooked up.

Bokodes come from the Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab. The team is currently working on holographic Bokodes, which would greatly reduce the cost and size.

15 JULY, 2009

Technofuturism: La Vitrine


How 35,000 light bulbs are beaming our way into the human-algorithm future.

Interactive displays are nothing new, but as the technology behind them gets increasingly sophisticated, the boundaries of the possible expand to extraordinary frontiers. Case in point: La Vitrine‘s LED installation in Montreal.

As people walk by the display, 35,000 LED light bulbs respond to their presence and movement with a variety of shapes and patterns. Partly reminiscent of MIT’s Fiber Optic Cloud, the project is a reminder of our ever-deepening relationship with technology and the human-algorithm future that lies before us.

The installation, developed by Moment Factory, is part of the Quartier des spectacles lighting plan, a pilot project aiming to redefine traditional urban architecture. In 2008, it was awarded the Grand Prix Créativité Montréal for Urban Planning.