Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

13 AUGUST, 2009

Data Visualization Spotlight: In The Air


Carbon monoxide, spraying façades, and the art of seeing the invisible.

What an odd beast the air is — it slides below our sensory awareness, yet it’s the source of all life. But what if you could “see” the air and how it interacts with the rest of our environment?

That’s what In The Air, a fascinating visualization project, aims to answer by making visible the microscopic and invisible agents of Madrid’s air — gases, particles, pollen, disease carriers — and exploring how they interact with each other and the rest of the city.

The project includes a spectacular digital tool, which lets you play with and data-cross the various elements of the air in a way that makes behavioral patterns emerge.

The resulting data get fed into a physical prototype called a diffuse façade — an installation of colored water vapor diffusers informing passersby of real-time air contaminant levels. It doubles as a microclimate management tool, lowering the temperature in the summer and humidifying the air in the winter.

In The Air comes from Madrid’s Medialab-Prado and was developed for last year’s Visualizar seminar.

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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.