When Screens Touch Back

“As students of media, however, we are (rightly) trained to be suspicious of technofetishistic and deterministic narratives. Instead of grounding our analysis in what tactile touch screens promise to do later, we should rather try to understand them for what they are being asked to do, to understand the desires embodied in the various attempts to give touchscreens a dynamic tactility. The following questions then come into view: what economic imperatives are steering and configuring this project of making tactile? What sensations does the screen allow into the tactile field, and which ones does it shield the user from? What sensations are desirable, and which are to be marginalized? What sorts of new intersubjective contacts are opened up? When the screen can touch us, whose touch is it acting as a surrogate for? (Or, “who penetrates whom” through tactile prosthesis?)” (David Parisi, FLOW)

Also check out the Popular Science clip on “Haptics” that Parisi references.

Image: Immersion Corporation: TouchSense® 5000

Image: Immersion Corporation: TouchSense® 5000

Disney researchers add sense of touch to augmented reality applications

“Disney researchers employ a newly discovered physical phenomenon called reverse electrovibration to create the illusion of changing textures as the user’s fingers sweep across a surface. A weak electrical signal, which can be applied imperceptibly anywhere on the user’s body, creates an oscillating electrical field around the user’s fingers that is responsible for the tactile feedback.

The technology, called REVEL, could be used to create “please touch” museum displays, add haptic feedback to games, apply texture to projected images on surfaces of any size and shape, provide customized directions on walls for people with visual disabilities and enhance other applications of augmented reality.” (Science Codex)

Computer modelling: Brain in a box

Henry Markram wants €1 billion to model the entire human brain. Sceptics don’t think he should get it.

Computer modelling: Brain in a box - Nature

Image: BBP/EPFL

” ‘Brain researchers are generating 60,000 papers per year,’ said Markram as he explained the concept in Bern. ‘They’re all beautiful, fantastic studies — but all focused on their one little corner: this molecule, this brain region, this function, this map.’ The HBP [Human Brain Project] would integrate these discoveries, he said, and create models to explore how neural circuits are organized, and how they give rise to behaviour and cognition — among the deepest mysteries in neuroscience. Ultimately, said Markram, the HBP would even help researchers to grapple with disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. ‘If we don’t have an integrated view, we won’t understand these diseases,’ he declared.

As the response at the meeting made clear, however, there is deep unease about Markram’s vision.

Genetics inspire cyber-security research

Genetics inspire cyber-security research

Photo: Wake Forest

“Cyber attacks usually take place in two phases, says Fulp. In the reconnaissance phase, a virus or other threat simply observes the landscape, identifies possible defense mechanisms and looks for the best way in. If nothing has changed since the reconnaissance phase upon return, the virus strikes. But security experts say even the slightest change in environment can make a huge difference in deterring a potential attacker.

‘Just as one might try to prevent a home robbery, our goal is to create a ‘moving target defense’ that detects cyber threats when they first case the house,’ explains Fulp. ‘If we can automatically change the landscape by adding the technological equivalent of security cameras or additional lighting, the resulting uncertainty will lower the risk of attack.’ ” (Katie Neal, Wake Forest University)

New Software Designed to Improve Politics

New Software Designed to Improve Politics“Until 2015, a team of experts in political science and simulation and computing technologies, belonging to a consortium of 17 partners from Europe and China, will be developing advanced artificial intelligence tools to collect, analyse and interpret automatically the opinions expressed by users through the internet with the aim of assessing politicians in the design and implementation of social policies.” (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Check out the FUPOL website for more details.

Leaping lizards and dinosaurs inspire robot design

” ‘We showed for the first time that lizards swing their tail up or down to counteract the rotation of their body, keeping them stable,’ said team leader Robert J. Full, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. ‘Inspiration from lizard tails will likely lead to far more agile search-and-rescue robots, as well as ones having greater capability to more rapidly detect chemical, biological or nuclear hazards.’ ” (Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley)

Kilobots are leaving the nest

Kilobots are leaving the nest

Photo courtesy of Michael Rubenstein

“One key to achieving high-value applications for multi-robot systems in the future is the development of sophisticated algorithms that can coordinate the actions of tens to thousands of robots. ‘The Kilobot will provide researchers with an important new tool for understanding how to design and build large, distributed, functional systems,’ says Michael Mitzenmacher, Area Dean for Computer Science at SEAS. ‘Plus,’ he adds, ‘tiny robots are really cool!’ ” (Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)