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May 30, 2011

Robot Film Festival

logo for the robot film festival
The slow steady takeover of all humanity by robots continues apace. They're all over outer space, becoming an ever bigger part of medicine, they're rocking the dance floor from one end of Japan to the other, and now they're getting their own film festival.

The Robot Film Festival is the brainchild of roboticist Heather Knight (who also has one of the coolest website names ever, Marilyn Monrobot dot com). The festival (which will be held July 16th & 17th in New York City) is still looking for submissions. Got a bot that dreams of being the next Clark Gable (or better yet, the first Calculon)? Submit a film! The films should be between 1 and 8 minutes long, and should feature a robot as one of the main characters or as a framing devices of the narrative.

You don't need to use a real robot, but you'll need to be able to attend the event with, or as, your robot if you want to take part in the Festival's red carpet award ceremony, known as the Botskers.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2011

Just Cause death video

still from Just Cause 2 death movie

Here's a brief bit of data visualization goodness for you all. Jim Blackhurst works for the company that makes the video game Just Cause 2 and his job gives him access to tons of (anonymized) data about the game. He took the three-dimensional coordinates marking where in the game more than nine million players died, and (with some help from the Processing programming language) used the data to create a haunting video showing the locations of all the carnage. Here's the video on You Tube. And if you want all of the geeky details on how the video was made, Blackhurst explains the whole process.

Thanks to Infovore for the tip.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2011

The turbine of BLOOD

photo of a pacemaker about to be implanted

While it's true that heart pacemakers have saved or improved millions of lives (not to mention qualifying millions of people for cyborg status) they do have downsides. High among them is the fact that pacemaker batteries eventually run down, requiring a surgical procedure to remove the old pacemaker and replace it with a fully charged one.

But what if the body itself could provide the electrical power the pacemaker needs? That's the novel approach being taken by a team at the University of Bern in Switzerland. They're developing a mini electric turbine that can be embedded in a major artery. As blood rushes past it turns the turbine generating more than enough electrical energy to keep the pacemaker fully charged. (In case you want the work details, a beating human produces between 1 and 1.5 watts of hydraulic power. The turbine only needs about a milliwatt to operate. It'll generate 800 micro-watts of electricity, and the pacemaker only uses about 10 micro-watts. (Which I guess leaves 790 micro-watts for our Matrix machine overlords)).

There are still details to be worked out (the biggest being making sure that clots don't form in the turbine) but it's a cool idea. Hell, I'd be up for a turbine in my thoracic artery just for the steam-punk cred of it. Details about the turbine here.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2011

Fixing Boston's potholes

data output from street bump

Man, do roads in Boston suck. I swear there are streets when it seems new potholes form in front of you as you drive, like some sort of cruel video game come to life. The city wages a constant war against fixing the potholes, but even just finding them all is a huge task.

To help with that, the city of Boston has rolled out an Android phone app called Street Bump. The app automatically records GPS and accelerator information and sends it on to the city. The idea is that if enough phones record sudden jolts at the same spot there's a good chance there's a pothole there.

Unfortunately, so far the results are mixed, and the data isn't doing a good enough job finding potholes. But they're not ready to give up yet. Boston's offering a prize of US$25,000 to the person who can use the existing data and do a better job predicting where in the cities the potholes are. If you'd like to try, here are the official rules.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2011

Technology Life Skills

photo of woman by Jenny Lee Silver. Used via a Creative Commons license

There may be no one who's thought more deeply, and from more different perspectives, about technology than Kevin Kelly.He's a founder of Wired, written books on everything from the history of technology to emergent complexity.

Kelly's written a practical set of rules for negotiating the ever changing technological landscape. Among his guidelines:

You will be newbie forever. Get good at the beginner mode, learning new programs, asking dumb questions, making stupid mistakes, soliticting help, and helping others with what you learn
Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. To evaluate don't think, try.

Read the full list here.

Photo "Learning" by Jenny Lee Silver made available under a Creative Commons license. Original and details here. Thanks!

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

Arranging the names on the 9/11 Memorial

Names from the 9/11 Memorial
This autumn a new memorial commemorating the September 11th terrorist attacks will open at the Ground Zero site in New York City. The memorial will feature the names of the 3,500 victims of the attacks, and THAT led to quite a technical challenge.

It would have been easy to just arrange the names in alphabetical order. But the designers wanted the names arranged by affinity... so friends would be listed together, as would co-workers, colleagues, etc. Families of the victims submitted nearly 2,000 different requests for names to be placed next to other names.

The task of arranging the names fell to designer and vizualization expert Jer Thorp. There's an article on how he did it on fastcompany.com.

Comments welcome via email to comments-at-spurgeonworld.com

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:21 AM | Comments (0)