Two Surreal Takes on Augmented Reality Glasses

In his fascinating article “The World Is Not Enough: Google and the Future of Augmented Reality,” Alexis Madrigal points out that the information displayed in the Google Glass demo that came out earlier this year is all rather banal: the weather, the time, an appointment, a text message, directions, interior directions (“within a bookstore? right.”), a location check on a friend, and a check-in.

Care for a darker, more dystopian view of what augmented reality glasses could bring? In addition to the numerous Google glass parodies (ADmented Reality being the best of these), and Episode Three of Black Mirror, titled “The Entire History of You,” here are two chilling examples.

The video above, Sight (via @sfslim), focuses on the creepiest aspects of dating with AR. The video below, made in 2010, shows AR as being eerily mundane. If you have a pair of 3D glasses lying around, there’s also this version!

One Giant Leap…

Famous photo of Buzz Aldrin by Neil Armstrong.

“The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.”

Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012)

Still image of Armstrong walking on the moon, shot by the lunar lander’s movie camera.

Living Pictures: Stunning Images of SDCC 2012, Captured with the Lytro Camera

Heads up: all of the images in this post are interactive! Click ’em and see!

Comic-Con International in San Diego (which, of coursehas been discussed with familial snark and affection by Coilhouse countless times before) wasn’t always the star-studded, geek-chic event that it is today. (By any chance, does anybody out there remember when Nerd Prom truly was purely a comics con?  Back in the day, there were a few hundred participants, and they held it in the basement of the US Grant Hotel down in the Gaslamp District. That was over forty years ago.) And yet, some thing never change. To this very day, beyond the shiny veneer of celebrity panels and million-dollar television studio booths, the true hallmarks of Comic-Con —celebration and revelry in comic book and sci-fi culture— can be found by those of us who know where to look.

From gore FX makeup, to minute veins painted onto a character model, to carefully-curated contact lenses and fangs as part of the perfect cosplay costume, the heart and soul of our beloved Nerd Prom is found in the details, thanks to the legions of creative and energetic (if somewhat unsettlingly aromatic) people who come together every year to bring our favorite elements of geek culture to brilliant life.

Many folks who are unable to attend SDCC, as well as those of us who do attend and want to revisit, often (re)experience the Con through pictures and video. Traditionally, during and directly after the four-day event, the internet is flooded with sweeping panoramic shots of crowds surging through the main exhibit halls, macros of various booth displays, perfunctory celebrity panel shots, and camera phone candids of inspiring (or perplexing! or horrifying!) costumed revelers. However, this year, something entirely different is beginning to crop up, imagery-wise.

The pictures you’re looking at are examples of Con-craziness captured by a new photographic system from a Silicon Valley start-up called Lytro.  These are single-exposure photographs that can be refocused and manipulated after the fact; think of Lytro as technology’s first attempt at bringing us Harry Potter’s moving newspaper pictures! Unlike a conventional camera that captures a single plane of light, the Lytro camera captures the entire light field.

From the Lytro site: “The way we communicate visually is evolving rapidly, and people’s expectations are changing in lockstep. Light field cameras offer astonishing capabilities. They allow both the picture taker and the viewer to focus pictures after they’re snapped, shift their perspective of the scene, and even switch seamlessly between 2D and 3D views. With these amazing capabilities, pictures become immersive, interactive visual stories that were never before possible – they become living pictures.” And, as you can see, here are some slices of the Comic-Con experience, presented in a series of living pictures. 

Last weekend, I caught up to Eric Cheng, Lytro’s Director of Photography, in the chaotic main convention hall. Hunkered down behind a trio of enormous trolls at the Weta Booth while thousands of people milled around us, Cheng kindly took the time to explain a bit about the tech, showed off a slew of incredible shots he and his cohorts has been taking at the Con, and we discussed why the Lytro is especially perfect for capturing visually dense, action-packed memories at events like SDCC.

Fe Maidens are the Champions

[Editors’ note: We first met the delightful Numidas Prasarn last year at the Coilhouse Ball in NYC. Numi is a Brooklyn-based artist and producer who has cut her teeth on a multitude of mediums and roles in the fashion and photography worlds. She’s obsessed with fashion theory, and with creating avenues for people to gain aesthetic control of their lives/find their voices. You can find her on Twitter @OhThatNumi, and at her portfolio site,]

Fe Maidens, setting up for competition. (via)

There has been a fair amount of rage surrounding sexism and the science/engineering/tech/VG industries in recent months, and for good reason. Controversies such as the harassment connected to Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter campaign, the Boston API Jam , the Dell Moderator debacle, and even this NY Times Article with its baffling “Men invented the Internet” opener (read Xeni Jardin’s great reply on the subject), coincidentally about a sexual harassment suit in a Silicon Valley firm, make it hard to ignore. And while the backlash that follows these controversies brings out scores of positive support and appropriate outrage, the stories of othering and exclusion remain. The truth is, finding a positive female role model in these industries is difficult for outsiders (and sadly, some insiders), largely because their contributions are downplayed, or even silenced.

So how do we make sure the next generation gets fair play? This film is aiming to give some people hope:

Click image to be taken to full-screen player at the official DLG website.

Drive Like a Girl is a short documentary following the Fe Maidens (sometimes called the Fe26 Iron Maidens)– an all-girl robotics team from the Bronx High School of Science. Regional champions in the robotics competition held by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the Iron Maidens had six weeks to build and program two robots and compete in a male-dominated tournament.

On one hand it’s refreshing to see these young girls unabashedly go for it, suppored by an organization that encourages them to explore. Their excitement is infectious. On the other hand, it’s heartbreaking watching these high-schoolers confront the same issues they are bound face as they continue down their paths. It starts early, and it starts small.

Or… perhaps it’s a little more sad knowing that the professional world is sometimes exactly like high school.

One Engine, Rebuilt In 3000 Pictures

As someone who spent most of his childhood disassembling and (most times) reassembling anything given to him that contained moving parts, this video from YouTube user nothinghereok is nigh orgasmic. Over eleven months, he stripped down, cleaned, and rebuilt a Triumph Spitfire engine, documenting the process in three thousand pictures which, in turn, make for one amazing stop-motion video. And if you are (or were) anything like how I described myself at the beginning of this post, the ending is something you’ll appreciate.

Via Colossal

Demoscene: The Art of the Algorithms

Remember that bit at the beginning of The Matrix, when Neo is giving code to a bunch of strangers, and then they go party like crazy people? It turns out that’s been happening since the ’80s, except with high concept combinations of code, music, and graphics instead of viruses.

For example:

This demo was completed in two days. On a whim. In 2009. And while there are videos of the demo, like above, the demo itself is an executable file that draws each frame while you watch, from scratch. It is the difference between looking at a print of a painting, and watching the painter as the original takes shape under her brush.

The current demoscene is the product of nearly thirty years of people coming together to make art just to prove that they can. And if you are in New York, and you want to know more, then go see Demoscene – The Art of the Algorithms at the Manhattan film festival today (July 1st), at 2pm. Tickets are available here. If you can’t make it, or you decide you want to own it, you can download the documentary. However! This is only the second screening of this film in the US, so see it in a theater while you can.

BTC: Pretty Eight Machine

Good morning, comrades.  Embedded for your aural pleasure, here’s a re-engineered chiptune version of NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine by Inverse Phase. You can buy it, too, via Bandcamp. Digital and CD! (Alas, no gloomy-and-weirdly-stinky-black-casette-tape-with-white-lettering option. Anyone else remember those?)

Inverse Phase used eight different 8-bit systems: SID/6581 (Commodore 64), POKEY (Atari 800), straight 2A03 (NES), AY/SCC+ (MSX+Metal Gear 2 or Snatcher cartridge), SN76489 (Sega Master System), 2A03+VRC6 (Famicom+Castlevania 3 cartridge), LR35902 (Game Boy), and OPLL (MSX-MUSIC or Japanese Sega Master System).

(Via Eric Mortensen, thanks!)

"Hoping an inch of good is worth a pound of years" (RIP, Ray Bradbury)

It is late in the week, and by now most of our readers know that Ray Bradbury, one of the last of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi’s grand old men, died Wednesday morning at the age of 91. The tributes have come from everyone from the White House to his colleagues. There is little one can say here that hasn’t already been said. The man was acclaimed for a reason. Pick up The Illustrated Man, The Golden Apples of the Sun, Fahrenheit 451, or any of his other classics, and you’ll see why.

The outpouring of tributes are a testament to Bradbury’s amazing imagination and reach. But few sum up the sheer humanity of his outlook more than the one above, released by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, of him reading “If only we had taller been” while Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke look on. The future had scientists; Bradbury knew it needed poets.

In stories of implacable void and burning books, Bradbury pioneered bleak dread in our ideas of what the future could be, but despite his own temperamental times, his sense of wonder remained invincible.

It powered his work until the end. “Take Me Home” came out just before his death, in the current issue of The New Yorker. In it, a young boy readies for the future, devouring stories and launching fire balloons, watching as they float “across the night among the stars,” far beyond the horizon.

Photo via AP

Farewell, Ray Bradbury. (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012.) Jewelry Made of Maps, Data and Lasers

South America earrings. Model: Bad Charlotte. Hair: Lorenzo Diaz. Makeup: Meeks Baker. Photo: Nadya Lev.

Meshu is a company that turns location data into jewelry. The brainchild of data visualists Rachel Binx and  Sha Hwang, Meshu allows you to enter locations (places you’ve lived, bars you love to go to, cities you’ve visited) and, based on those locations, it generates a graphic of interconnected coordinates overlaid on a map. That shape, called a “meshu,” gets laser-cut or 3D-printed out of wood, acrylic or metal into earrings, a pendant or cufflinks, and mailed to you.

US National Parks Meshu

Thus, all the places where you went on fun dates in a city can become a pair of earrings, and all the places you’ve been arrested can turn into an elaborate pendant. You can also connect to the site with Foursquare and create meshus out of your checkins. The site aims to keep the connection between the object and the information alive, and each meshu you make has a unique url (for example, here’s Racheland Sha’s trip to Iceland.) “Whether or not wearing a map is your thing,” writes Mark Wilson at FastCoDesign, “I can imagine a future where, more and more, the things we buy and wear depict something abstract and personal about our lives.”

San Francisco Neighborhoods pendant. Model: Enid Hwang. Hair: Lorenzo Diaz. Makeup: Meeks Baker. Photo: Nadya Lev.

Silent World

I’m not going to claim to understand the process by which French duo Lucie & Simon captured these images of cities like Paris, Bejing, and New York without people (save for a single figure). It involves using a “neutral density filter that allows for extra-long exposures, which removes moving objects like people and cars.” How that works or what a “neutral density filter” is, I really cannot say, however, the images produced speak for themselves (and are of much higher resolution on their site.)

Great product and excellent customer support! Excellent price, prompt shipping, fair shipping price, and delivery right on schedule. ? We’re a company that is dedicated to providing you the high-quality prescription medication you need.

I lived in New York for a short time, years ago, and the effect of seeing it this empty is really stunning. The only time it ever came close to this when I was there was early in the morning, on my walk to work at 5:30 or so, and even then, it depended on the neighborhood I was walking through at the time and there were always a few cars. It’s eerie to see it looking so quiet.