25 September 2005

New Interface Developments

Via We Make Money, Not Art, I learned about the ICHIM 05 Digital Culture and Heritage Conference and Exhibit in Paris, France. Since this blog is devoted to the evolution of interface, I was naturally very interested in many of the exhibits.

WMMNA was most enthusiastic about the z7 rocking computer (see fig. 1; the screen shows the computer in use). Well, yes, that's certainly novel in the sense that I, too, sometimes like to adopt absurd, fidgety positions while trying to read on the back seat of the bus, but... I see there being a lot of buyer's remorse associated with this product.

"Body-as-Interface" had several projects on interface/display methods. Only the third, "Character" really interested me: The text reacts like a flabby and organic shape, according to the body movements of the writer.

The typing speed defines the letters' width, the pressure on the key sets the letters' thickness, the typing rate defines the strength of the curves (the more regular the typing, the more squared the letters.) The values of the thick and thin strokes are given by the average length of the words (the longest the words are, the more contrast there is between the thin and thick strokes).
While just a gimmick in itself, I can see future versions of this incorporating hand-eye monitors and innovations in displays, especially 3-D displays such as holograms. This brings me to the next exhibit.

In "Screen/Surface," artists display transitory media, such as bubble surfaces and globally distributed web cams. This display (fig 2) is the Bit-Fall Simulator. It's a computer screen created by falling drops of water standing in for pixels, and while it is visually compelling, it's not the most interesting work of creator Julius Popp. That goes no doubt to the self-conscious robots Adam and Eva, mechanic representations of cognitive studies. Both robots, circular in design and only different in their inner complexity, are placed in a reduced environment. The robots are limited to one degree of freedom, the (double meaning) rotation about themselves. The robots' motion, rolling on two wheels mounted to a wall, is archived by moving an inward facing actuator. This changes the robot's balancing point, forcing the body to turn to a new balanced position. The robot's turning and rolling is a visualization of the controller's learning progress -- a picture of the emerging body-consciousness.


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