Our little technology rituals don't do anything--or do they?

percussive-maintenance

At Vice, Leigh Alexander (recently at Boing Boing) writes about the superstitious rituals we all practice when it comes to technology. We do it whether we are conscious of the ritual or not, and we do it even when we are informed the ritual is harmful to the machines.

...blowing on cartridges may have actually caused more problems than it solved. But because collectively our anecdotal experiences had led us to believe that blowing had some positive effect—it seemed to work, even if it took an unpredictable number of puffs, amid all kinds of other unknown factors—we established a ritual. Our belief that blowing on cartridges does something is stronger even than evidence to the contrary.

Closing background apps on your iphone, wiggling accellerometers, tilting game controllers, double-tapping touchscreen icons, and rebooting slow computers: all modern equivalents to the ol' Nintendo Blow. But something has changed: now the designers of the technology can adapt to and integrate our rituals into how technology works. And once it's there, the technology can demand it. Read the rest

Machine-learning model fed web content makes racist and sexist associations

cat

Human biases exposed by Implicit Association Tests can be replicated in machine learning using GloVe word embedding, according to a new study where GloVe was trained on "a corpus of text from the Web." Read the rest

Flag's Kickstarter to build the world's best photo printing facility

flag_pics

Hey, it's your ol' pal Joel! Used to write a gadget blog that wasn't about gadgets? Man, great to see you. No, no, have a seat. Can we get a couple of...yeah, no ice, thanks.

So let's get business out of the way before we eat: One of my clients is launching a Kickstarter today and I hope you'll check it out.

(I have clients now! I started a company. It isn't a media company or even a gadget blog. Just a regular, ol' fashioned intragalactic-HUMINT-and-covert-ops-themed strategic comms company, where people hire me to help them solve problems. I like it.)

The Kickstarter is set at $500k, which is a lot of money; it's also how much is needed to build a dedicated printing facility under one roof that can provide 20 museum-quality, ad-supported prints to tens of thousands of customers for free each month. That's what they need to increase production, in both volume and speed. Bear in mind this is a company that took an initial $160k Kickstarter success and 1) made a functional iPhone app 2) established a printing process that exceeds all other consumer printing quality, and 3) spun up production that is putting out 80-100k prints a month. There were many pitfalls along the way—screwed up batches of prints that had to be reprinted before delivery, equipment that was promised that didn't work, greater-than-expected software delays—but they didn't walk away from it. They pushed through it and have built a company. They've got major advertisers lined up to start sponsoring prints. Read the rest

Halt and Catch Fire: The Most Relevant Show on Television is Set in the 80s

hfc

With the cacophony of an election year ablaze with unparalleled drama being fought on the front lines of Twitter, we find ourselves slowing down and staring at it like a bad accident. The need for escapist relief is perhaps more dire than usual right now. This fall, if it's drama you crave, but the Hillary v. Trump show is driving you to near-suicide, then the AMC series Halt and Catch Fire is your new best friend. Returning for its third season on Tuesday, August 23rd with a two-hour premiere, you'll still get your fix of intriguing plot twists, flawed personalities, and high stakes, but without the partisan tantrums and pre-apocalyptic anxiety.

What the Hell is this Show About?

The show's title refers to the computing term (HCF), "Halt and Catch Fire," an early technical command that sends a computer into race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained. The namesake series takes place in the personal computing boom of the 80s, when IBM was dictator, and before "website" was a word. Though HCF is categorized as a "workplace drama," you could say the same thing about Breaking Bad, and you'd be completely missing the point--and the thrill--of both shows.

To "break bad" is a colloquialism used in the American South meaning to challenge authority. Breaking Bad and HCF have three important things in common: obscure, nondescript titles that run the risk of losing potential viewers who need their plot summaries spoon-fed and hashtagged, a committed, forward-thinking home on AMC Networks, and the consistently visionary TV producer Melissa Bernstein. Read the rest

Startup aims to sell a brain implant to improve memory

brain-implant-hippocampus-usc

For more than a decade, University of Southern California neuro-engineer Theodore Berger has been working on an artificial hippocampus, an electronic aid for the part of the brain that scientists believe encodes experiences as long-term memories. Now Berger and a new startup called Kernel are confident that the device is ready for prime time.

"We’re testing it in humans now, and getting good initial results,” Berger told IEEE Spectrum. “We’re going to go forward with the goal of commercializing this prosthesis.”

In Berger’s approach, electrodes in the hippocampus first record electrical signals from certain neurons as they learn something new and encode the memory. These electrical signals are the result of neurons “firing” in specific patterns. Berger studied how electrical signals associated with learning are translated into signals associated with storing that information in long-term memory. Then his lab built mathematical models that take any input (learning) signal, and produce the proper output (memory) signal.

An implant could help someone whose hippocampus doesn't properly turn information into memories. An implanted memory prosthetic would have electrodes to record signals during learning, a microprocessor to do the computations, and electrodes that stimulate neurons to encode the information as a memory.

For people who have difficulty forming lasting memories on their own, the prosthetic would provide a boost. “We take these memory codes, enhance them, and put them back into the brain,” Berger says. “If we can do that consistently, then we’ll be ready to go.”

"New Startup Aims to Commercialize a Brain Prosthetic to Improve Memory" (IEEE Spectrum) Read the rest

Meet the Megaprocessor: a 16-bit CPU the size of a room

megaprocessor

Chipmaking is a relentless competition to make transistors smaller and smaller. Such refined technology is as inscrutable to users as angels dancing on the head of a few hundred copper pins, so James Newman set out to make a working CPU whose every connection can be explored and understood by students.

"Like all modern processors the Megaprocessor is built from transistors," he writes. "It's just that instead of using teeny-weeny ones integrated on a silicon chip it uses discrete individual ones... Thousands of them. And loads of LEDs."

The resulting machine took two years to construct and recalls the earliest room-filling electronic computers, with banks of blinking lights and ropes of cable linking each refridgerator-sized peripheral. But this time, it's by choice rather than limitation: with a light on every connection, you can see the logic and movement of data through the chip in person.

Ten meters wide and 2 meters tall, the 16-bit Megaprocessor is deliberately simple and slow. Clocked at 20kHz, it could feel at home in an airport-sized Commodore Amiga or classic Mac, though it's not quite as complicated as the Motorola 68000 that inspired it.

There's already software to play with, though, including a rough implementation of Tetris. You can download an emulator to get started on making your own.

"I didn't plan on ending up here. I started by wanting to learn about transistors," Newman writes. "Things got out of hand. Read the rest

Temporary tattoos act as "on-skin user interfaces"

3class_nfc

MIT and Microsoft researchers demonstrated a system of gold leaf temporary tattoos for "on-skin user interfaces" including a touch sensor, near field communication antennae, and a low-res thermochromic display that changes color. From the research description:

DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry. DuoSkin devices enable users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style. We believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; instead, they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that it has seemingly disappeared.

DuoSkin (MIT)

Read the rest

If adblocking is dead, the future is brandblocking--and less appetizing things, too

ad-blocking

Facebook is at war with users who block ads, and battle proceeds apace. Just two days after boasting that it could serve ads that were undetectable by adblockers, Facebook got a rude awakening in the form of updates to AdBlock that detected them just fine. But it isn't giving up, and has already adjusted its code to once again circumvent the blocks.

A source close to Facebook tells me that today, possibly within hours, the company will push an update to its site’s code that will nullify Adblock Plus’ workaround. Apparently it took two days for Adblock Plus to come up with the workaround, and only a fraction of that time for Facebook to disable it.

Update: A source says Facebook is now rolling out the code update that will disable Adblock Plus’ workaround. It should reach all users soon.]

Still, the cat-and-mouse game is sure to rage on.

AdBlock is at a disadvantage due to Facebook's engineering resources and ability to update its site on-the-fly. That said, Facebook loses more money from each lost ad than AdBlock pays to remove it, which creates an asymmetrical fight. AdBlock is, of course, not a noble venture—it dominates the ad blocking market and whitelists ads from publishers that pay it protection money.

Adblockers generally distinguish ads from content by looking at how web pages are structured and where they come from. To those unfamiliar with HTML, web pages are a nest of boxes, each tagged as a <paragraph or a <division or an <articleor what-have-you, with each identified or classified so that other code can decide what it looks like, where it goes, or what content gets pasted into it as the page renders. Read the rest

See a coffee maker rebuilt into a "bionic" hand

screenshot

Maker Evan Booth transformed a Keurig K350 coffeemaker into a "bionic" hand. As William Gibson once wrote, "the street finds its own uses for things."

Read the rest

The “Emergency Mode” Every Smartphone Should Have

An emergency phone sign is seen next to the euro sculpture outside headquarters of the European Central Bank  in Frankfurt
Most phones already come equipped with an Airplane Mode for flights, a Do Not Disturb mode for watching movies or ignoring people, and a Low Power mode for when your battery is about to die. But what happens when you’re in an emergency? Read the rest

Meet one of the last jukebox repairmen

Perry Rosen turned his passion for jukeboxes into a career. This man knows from motors, vacuum tubes, and turntables. If I had a jukebox, I'd ask Rosen if he could mod it to play with a punch to the chassis, Fonz style. Read the rest

Wireless charger that levitates your mobile phone

landscape-1469783826-ovrcharge

Yes, it's a gimmick, and we've all seen it before on speakers, clocks, etc., but levitation is still magical to behold. The OvRcharge combines magnetic levitation with induction charging for your mobile device. It's available for pre-order via Kickstarter.

To achieve altitude and be able to charge wirelessly, phone requires a special case. that consists of two main parts, electricity receiver from the base and a Magnet to hold its position mid air. so we design ultra thin case to not only protects your investment but to go some levels and also powers it up all at same time. This case has a magnet that will help it to levitate & it also has induction receiver for charging without cables.

OVRcharge (Kickstarter)

Read the rest

TV Dreamland

Version 2

This week on HOME: Stories From L.A.:

When TV producer Phil Savenick started collecting vintage TVs and TV memorabilia, he didn’t anticipate that he’d end up with what he now calls a “dreamland of televisions” in the living room of his West Los Angeles home — or that he’d end up helping the family of the man who invented TV heal some old wounds.

HOME is a member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network. If you like the show, take a minute to drop by the iTunes Store and give it a rating and/or review. 

NEW: Subscribe to the HOME newsletter for bonus content and instant-ish notifications of new episodes.

Subscribe: iTunes | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS Read the rest

The coolest portable record players in the world

recordplayerex_06

Fumihito Taguchi's fantastic collection of vintage portable record players, including the wonderful specimens seen here, will be on display at Tokyo's Lifestyle Design Center from July 30 to August 28. See more at this Fashion Press post and in Taguchi's book "Japanese Portable Record Player Catalog," available in the US from my favorite vinyl soulslingers Dusty Groove. (via #vinyloftheday)

Read the rest

How floppy discs worked

animation

The 8-Bit Guy's 15-minute explainer on floppy discs is a great potted history of 80s- and 90s-era storage media (it follows his segment on tape-drives) and the way that competitors learned from each others' mistakes and dead-ends, and engineered clever solutions to one of computing's most serious challenges. (via Motherboard) Read the rest

Beautiful artwork plays the UNIX timestamp on cymbals

6

Mexico City-based artist Pablo Dávila's "Living in time believing in the timeless" is a beautiful, compelling installation in which the UNIX timestamp triggers drumsticks, via an Arduino and custom code, to ping crotales (aka antique cymbals). It makes the ephemeral (and digital) visceral. The work is simultaneously jarring and meditative, a rather odd and provocative state to maintain.

"As each second of UNIX code is inherently unique, the drumming pattern of 'Living in time believing in the timeless' never repeats," Dávila says. "The UNIX timestamp will end on the year 2038, and the sculpture will die with it – a conflation of past-future time."

Dávila's work -- from light installations to kinetic sculpture -- lies at the intersection of science, technology, and wonder. You can experience his first solo exhibition in the United States, including "Living in time...," at San Francisco's CULT Gallery through next week. The show, curated by Aimee Friberg and featuring Dávila's magnificent works inspired by the thinking of Marshall McLuhan, Tibetan Buddhist/yogi Milrepa, and minimalist composer Steve Reich, is titled "Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space."

"Light rays manifest themselves in a way in which our brain must process what is captured by our eyes for us to comprehend what we are seeing," Dávila says. "I believe we are disoriented in our comprehension and perception of time and space, I am attracted to particular objects that confront this deception and speak to me to me with distinct speeds, aesthetics and spaces."

PABLO DÁVILA, Ad libitum (piano phase), 2016, Print on cotton paper, aluminum frame, LED’s, 35 x 158 x 6 cm, 13.75 x 62 x 2.5 in (Triptych), Edition of 2 + 1 AP:

PABLO DÁVILA, Constant (phase), 2016, Video projection on canvas, 175 x 175 x 5 cm, 69 x 69 x 2 in, Edition of 2 + 1 AP:

PABLO DÁVILA, Living in time believing in the timeless, 2016, Drumsticks and custom electronics, 85 x 147 x 13 cm, 33.25 x 58 x 5 in:

Read the rest

What if school was out, forever?

FF16_crop-600x350

Today a future without schools. Instead of gathering students into a room and teaching them, everybody learns on their own time, on tablets and guided by artificial intelligence.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon | Reddit

In this episode we talk to a computer scientist who developed an artificially intelligent TA, folks who build learning apps, and critics who wonder if all the promises being made are too good to be true. What do we gain when we let students choose their own paths? What do we lose when we get rid of schools?

Illustration by Matt Lubchansky.

▹▹ Full show notes Read the rest

More posts