In case you missed it. We’re cyborgs now. Is this how all human evolution goes from now on or am I still losing my small toe?
A conversation about the state of video conferencing, presented in chronological order…
30 years later, are we FINALLY entering the video chat era?
I don’t see video chat taking off anyway. It’s uncomfortable. Voice is easier/better b/c you can divide your attention without harming communication.
Maybe the kids will like it…
I agree with Dennis and I think the shift away from telephone calls to texting shows that most people, even the kids, want to multitask or have asynchronous communication. I’m sure there will be a good number of people and some interesting uses for video chatting but I don’t think its going to become the dominate communication form we originally thought it would be.
and thanks Greg from starting a conversation on gmail instead of g+, I feel like i’m missing the party.
It’s funny you say that. As I was writing that email, I stopped and said to myself, “Should I turn this into a blog post? Nah” “Hmm, I don’t want to post to Facebook, because I’ve already posted something today…” “I’ll just send an email.”
With all of these broadcasting options, I went with email. Go figure.
FYI, I’m about to tweet it.
I might have already sent this once before (or twice…?), but the great, late David Wallace nailed this topic in his 1998 near-future, quasi-scifi, novel, Infinite Jest: A Novel.
The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.
First, the stress:
Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation [...] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.
[...] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.
And then vanity:
And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.
I just saw your tweet! Whoo hoo!
is Infinite Jest 1000+ pages of shit like that?
Actually, I think it’s just shy of 1,000 pages. But there are footnotes.
Bryan, when you say “shit like that”, is that good or bad?
I think it’s the shit.
I guess without seeing my face you could not tell that I was using the word “shit” in the positive light.
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks to Dennis, Bryan, and David Wallace for participating.
Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. With the shuttle retiring in June, this might be the first time in human history our species is decelerating. What gives humans? Check out the entire article here.
Working during the week between Christmas and New Years, at least for me, means cleaning out files and long lunches. During one such lunch, a few collegues and I went around the corner to FoodParc. FoodParc is the future of lunch dining. Quick, easy, and pretty much self-servicing.
You walk into the restaurant (err cafeteria) to find a bright and sterilized atmosphere. White and neon. Like the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange. Minus the nude statues and LSD. A human greeter points you to the computer kiosks where you order your food. On the touch screens you are given a choice of several cuisines with the option to highly customize each one. When you are satisfied, slide your credit card through and take your ticket. While it’s unclear whether or not they actually take cash here, it’s definitely frowned upon. A welcome policy. Cash is clumsy, slow, and unsecured. Let’s embrace credits people.
With ticket in hand, you wait at the designated location for your meal to be prepared. A human behind the counter calls your number and gives you your lunch. No waiters. No tipping. A quick turnaround. I am a bit conflicted by this. On one hand, I’m a friend to the waiter/waitress. I’ve been in the trenches. I know what it’s like to deal with the dregs of the Earth while you’re finding your way. At the same time… not having to deal with a cranky post-graduate lazy bastard who would rather be smoking weed then waiting on you is welcome. Or worse, dealing with an overly bubbly and scripted automaton that has been drinking the company kool-aid and revels in his/her flair. Either way, there’s really no sure technique for figuring out which one will spit in your food, so better to take them out of the equation altogether.
There is ample seating for you and your friends to sit down and enjoy your lunch. When you’re done, leave it on the table. A human busboy will take care of it.
None of this is especially groundbreaking. You can find self-order kiosks at Quick Chek. But I do appreciate the way in which FoodParc has organized it. A nifty, interestingly-designed restaurant. An intuitive traffic pattern. And food that is decidedly not bad. The food is cheap. Probably savings passed on by not hiring workers in a recession. The way I see it, you have to start somewhere. If we are indeed going to live in an advanced society, we are going to need advanced food service.
Ever since I went to Disney World for the first time, I’ve been intrigued by futuristic animatronic spectacle. There’s something about the innocence in the first half the 20th century, especially when it came to postulating the future, that is really endearing to me. Of course I didn’t live through it, but going back to look ahead is a strange and wonderful exercise.
General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair is the best example I can come up with. The General Motors Pavilion was a beautiful art deco experience and it’s main attraction was Futurama. The exhibit envisioned a world of tomorrow (the ’60s) with interconnected superhighways and futuristic urban landscapes. Visitors were strapped to a conveyor belt and shuttled around fully functioning miniatures in a model of the United States. Exposed to a wonderous and achievable world of the future. A lot of it was ultimately realized, but a lot still remains science fiction.
And of course, the 1939 World’s Fair had robots. Elektro was a gold-plated terror standing nearly 7 feet tall designed by Westinghouse Electric. Sure it was a bunch of parlor tricks and by all accounts benevolent, but Elektro must have blown minds back then. They didn’t know any better in 1939. I suspect many a child left that World’s Fair with nightmares after meeting Elektro. This thing could recognize voice commands, blow up balloons, and of course smoke cigarettes. Watch the video below. After counting on it’s fingers, Elektro is rewarded with the following command; You. May. Now. Smoke. This. Cigarette. Go. On. To which the presenter lights his cigarette and says to the crowd, “And folks he’s only two years old too. Just learning.”
I don’t know what Elektro did to piss off his makers, but eventually, his head was given to a retiring Westinghouse engineer and the rest of is aluminum body was sold for scrap.
I bet you didn’t know that there’s a World’s Fair going on right now in Shanghai. When’s New York going to have another?
What you knew is that Stephen Hawking is a brilliant mind who thinks about science in ways that you can’t begin to comprehend. What you didn’t know is that homeboy is also into girls and champagne.
I admit it, I’m kind of obsessed with the iPad right now. Forget the fact that it’s a foxy little gadget. I’m obsessed with this paradigm shift to the touch interface. This reach out and touch the internet thing. Yes, Apple is more guilty of wild hyperbole than most, but it’s claims that this product is revolutionary are undeniable. We are now computing with our fingers, folks. They are not the first to do it, but they are the first to do it right. It is time to reevaluate how we use our computers. The Apple vs. Adobe row is bringing a lot of things to light. Some even related to design! Can we live in a world without mouseovers?
Flash design is a rich affair where the user accesses web content through beautiful menus and animated graphics. Among the many techniques employed is the use of mouseovers. A surfer puts their mouse… over buttons on a web site and other actions are triggered. Additional information is usually presented, such as a drop-down menu. Or maybe a new window is popped up. All without clicking. A truly novel way of doing things. And it’s been a ubiquitous part of the browser user experience (UX) for more than a decade.
But mouseover and hover actions don’t work with touch interface. You do not have a mouse pointer to hover over buttons, you have a dirty finger. There have been suggestions to replicate the behavior, like a “finger-aware” screen that can tell if you’re about to touch the screen. But for now, the functionality is simply not possible. Acceptance of touch UI means design principles like these will have to change or risk being left in the dust. Why would design be dictating what devices we buy or how we consume media? Shouldn’t designers be figuring out how to use this new method in beautiful and creative new ways?
The iPad is a really futuristic device. If you’re a professional/power user, a mouse and keyboard still work best. If you’re a media consumer/communicator, which I think most people are, the touch UI is way more fun, intuitive, and powerful. So why not embrace the future? If not with Apple, than with someone else. But embrace it no?
Focus your eyes on the true jewel of the Jupiter system. A gorgeous world called Ganymede. As a cherub of Jupiter, Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system and one of a few potential spots for life beyond our own planet. Sure, Europa gets all the press and Io gets all the googily eyes, but Ganymede is like the shy pretty girl that does all her homework and still knows how to party.
Or one could say Ganymede is George Harrison of the four Galilean moons. She quietly waits in the background with her sparkling channels and her wonderous craters, while John and Paul get all the adoration. Until you realize that, she’ll probably make the best solo record of all of them.
As a testament to it’s beauty, Ganymede was believed to be a star upon initial discovery.
Missions to this gem have been proposed and canceled due to budget cuts (read: Iraqi War) with the next mission tentatively scheduled for 2020. Attention to Ganymede will be at a minimum with Europa being the main focus of that mission, but at least we’ll be able to take a closer look with better tech.
Colonization of the Jovian moons has always held a special place to futurists because of their size (Ganymede has a larger diameter than Mercury) and captured heat from the gas giant. Like Europa, a liquid ocean is believed to flow beneath it’s surface, further adding to the fascination. Ganymede is one of the few celestial bodies in the solar system to have it’s own atmosphere and magnetosphere- two things that make Earth so perfect for life. Though it’s oxygen atmosphere is thin and tenuonous, knowing that a moon can have such things tickles the imagination.
Imagine sitting on a rock where the moon, in this case Jupiter, takes up 80% of the night sky. Walking freely like Superman in a gravity 1/10th that of which you are accustomed to. An artificial and transparent dome above your head to keep in the oxygen/carbon dioxide/nitrogen stew that gives you life. Just protected enough from the radiation your mother planet continuously emminates. Perhaps you’ll take a road trip around the globe. It only takes a couple days in your high-speed tumbler. Thoughts like these make me giddy.
This concludes today’s astronomy class.
Space tourism is going to be synonymous with space hotels. When everyday people decide to pay good money to go into orbit, they will first fly to a space hotel. Essentially a space station with more entertainment than science. A floating structure orbiting Earth approximately 300 miles straight up. Although it is called a hotel, it is really much more like a cruise. But with no ports-of-call, the hotel will provide your entertainment, dining, site-seeing, and overall experience. There are three main reasons why people will want to go into space for vacation:
First is the experience of zero gravity (0g). Being able to float freely in the air is by most accounts an extraordinary sensation. It’s a power you’ve never possessed. Handicapped people will be able to leave the chair at home. The feeling of weightlessness has been compared to “floating in water without the sensation of water on your skin.” And the “realization of a dream.” You feel like Superman. There is no up or down either. You have complete control (or lack thereof) over direction and movement.
Another reason will be for the extraordinary views. Mostly of Earth, but of Luna and the stars as well. Watching the Earth will be how you spend a lot of your time. Great viewing rooms, several stories high, will be created to enhance the experience. Weather patterns change the Earthscape continuously. You will see the flash of lightning almost every minute. You’ll be able to see the energy of human civilization as you pass through to night. Viewing the blue ball we call home is a humbling experience. You finally realize how small you really are. You finally see your place in the universe. Similar rooms will be scattered about to provide for moon and star viewing as well.
The final reason to go to a space hotel will simply be for the adventure and story. The first people who will buy tickets are the people that have dreamed about going into space their entire lives. It is the thrill of a lifetime. Hopefully the welcome outcome of countless hours spent staring up at the sky and wondering.
But what will we really do when we get there? Along with these viewing rooms and other areas to play in 0g, there will be loads of entertainment. You’ll buckle up and watch shows put on by the entertainment staff. You’ll see live music. Drummers will play upside-down. Theatrical productions will inherently utilize the 0g. New forms of dance will be created. Spectacles you never dreamed possible.
Naturally, there will be a large dining room. However the romance is completely gone when you have to eat your food from a straw. Imagine drinking wine with a straw? And there are safety issues as well. Utensils would float freely around the room. It would be a slight problem if you were eating dinner and a steak knife floated past your head. For these reasons there will be rotating sections which create artificial gravity for the dining room and other areas. Along the side of this room will be large windows to offer additional Earth-viewing while you dine. Music will fill the air.
The bedroom won’t be just the place you retire to. This is where you’ll be able to check out 0g more personally. Brothers and sisters will wrestle all night. Portals will provide more stargazing opportunities. Here you’ll find your 0g toilet. Interior designers will have another dimension to use when creating modular bedrooms for space. Beds can be oriented any which way. One on the ceiling, one on the wall. Sex in space will be a hugely enjoyable activity. The floating beast with two backs. Honeymoons will presumably be a major source of business.
In the future, separate orbital stadiums will be flown in synchronous orbit. You’ll take a taxi over to the stadium where a variety of activities will be available. A zero gravity pool, playground, and new “space sports” are just some of these. 0g adaptations of common sports such as tennis and soccer will quickly arise. In a 0g pool, large “bubbles” of water float in the air. You’ll float in and out of one bubble to the next. Artificial gravity pools will be just as intriguing. In this case, the water will line the sides of a cylinder. Creating a donut of water. Those who seek real adventure will sign up for tethered space walks. Of course, there will also be malls and casinos. What would a vacation be like without bringing back souvenirs? I went to space and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.
So start saving now. This is all coming. The Japanese have just announced that they are planning on creating a space elevator to get stuff to orbit cheaply. They’re actually gonna try to do it! Once cheap space flight becomes available, the sky is no longer the limit.
Space Future is a terrific website and was consulted heavily for this post.
Well we’re going from ultra-hi-rez to ultra-low-rez. Yesterday was the future of digital video. Today is a bunch of crap I put together a long time ago. Tidying my computer last night, I came across two videos I made a few years back.
At the time I was experimenting with mood. Not having access to good footage, I did what anyone would do- stole it from The Discovery Channel. It’s basically a music video cut to Bjork’s Heirloom. Our Icelandic princess has always been a different breed of artist. I think her music fits perfectly with what I was trying to do. I thought these sounds with these images had a certain cyberpunk, urban wasteland, numbing feel to it. Not explicitly cyberpunk, but I thought it felt cool. A little too bright for dystopia.
Heirloom has been up at miabifilms.com before. People were giving me compliments on how good the footage looked, so I decided to take it down. The folks at Discovery never called, but I felt weird getting credit for something I didn’t shoot. I guess I don’t feel so weird anymore? This was made around 2002. Just having some fun.
I never really did anything with this and was about to toss it when it hit me… YouTube!