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)

Scientists tap the genius of babies and youngsters to make computers smarter

” ‘Your computer could be able to discover causal relationships, ranging from simple cases such as recognizing that you work more slowly when you haven’t had coffee, to complex ones such as identifying which genes cause greater susceptibility to diseases,’ said Griffiths. He is applying a statistical method known as Bayesian probability theory to translate the calculations that children make during learning tasks into computational models.” (Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley News)

Mario is hard, and that’s mathematically official

Mario is hard, and that's mathematically official - New Scientist

Image: Nintendo

“Many of the games in the Mario, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Pokémon series prove to be NP-hard. That means deciding whether a player can complete them is at least as hard as the hardest problems in NP, a complexity class involved in the tantalising problem of P versus NP (see ‘Million-dollar proof’). Not every game in each series was included in the proof, as they follow different rules.” (Jacob Aron, NewScientist)

IBM says future computers will be constant learners

IBM says future computers will be constant learners - Computerworld

Image: NYTimes.com

“The key to this technology, Ferrucci said, is that it queries both itself and its users for feedback on the answers it generates. ‘As you use the system, it will follow up with you and ask you questions that will help improve its confidence of its answer. In its work with you it will capture new information it can use,’ he said.

One field IBM is investigating is medicine. The company is working with medical researchers and doctors from Columbia University to adapt Watson so it can offer medical diagnosis and treatment.” (Joab Jackson, Computerworld)

The Industrial Robot Revolution

Stand-alone and embedded industrial robots are taking their place alongside humans

“One small step for man, a giant leap for robot-kind.  NASA recently launched Curiosity, the newest rover to explore Mars. Curiosity is a supercharged robot that can collect, analyze and transmit data about the experience on the Red Planet using environmental sensors, radiation monitors, chemistry instruments and more.  And although the project’s price tag – $2.5 billion – might seem staggering, it’s a clear statement to the world that the future is in robotics. A message that is not lost here on Earth.” (Sandra Gittlen, Network World)

(Note: The article is about more than just $2.5 billion dollar robots…)

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.