A number of life-support machines are connected to each other, circulating liquids and air in attempt to mimic a biological structure...

The Immortal - preview from Revital Cohen on Vimeo.

Revital Cohen managed to track down and acquire a Heart-Lung Machine, a Dialysis Machine, an Infant Incubator, a Mechanical Ventilator and an Intraoperative Cell Salvage Machine. She connected the discarded organ replacement machines together and had them 'breathe' in closed circuits. The machines of The Immortal keep each other alive through circulation of electrical impulses, oxygen and artificial blood.

Salted water acts as blood replacement: throughout the artificial circulatory system minerals are added and filtered out again, the blood gets oxygenated via contact with the oxygen cycle, an ECG device monitors the system's heartbeat.

As the fluid pumps around the room in a meditative pulse, the sound of mechanical breath and slow humming of motors resonates in the body through a comforting yet disquieting soundscape.

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Photograph by Revital Cohen

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Photograph by Revital Cohen

Cohen has long been investigating how machines, peripherals and even animals can work as extension of the body or substitutes of body parts. This time however, the human body has been removed from the scene. Yet, its presence and fragility can still be felt...

The medical machine - whether in use or not - is an object which transcends its materiality. Designed and created to perform a single, most meaningful function, we never subject these devices to a critical investigation as industrial products within the context of material culture.

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Photograph by Revital Cohen

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Photograph by Revital Cohen

Far from being just assemblages of tubes and circuits, the machines intersect with our culture, fears and beliefs. The Cell Salvage Machine, for example, blurs the boundary between technocracy and the metaphysical. The machine suctions, washes, and filters blood so it can be given back to the patient's body. The cell saver is used on patients, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, who have religious objections to receiving blood transfusions. As for the infant incubators, they used to be part of freak shows before being adopted by hospitals.

But more tellingly, each of these objects is the product of our attempts to conquer biology (and our own mortality) with engineering.

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Photograph by Revital Cohen

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Photograph by Revital Cohen

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Photograph by Revital Cohen

The Immortal will be part of Superhuman, an exhibition exploring human enhancement that will open at the Wellcome Collection in London on July 19 and run through October 16, 2012.

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Aristote believed that laughter is what separates us from the beasts. Today, scientists argue that non-human species, such as primates and even rats, do giggle, guffaw and burst into laugher.

So if animals laugh, how about technological devices, the species we like to surround ourselves with? That's what an Interactivos? two week workshop held last August at the Centro Multimedia - Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexico D.F tried to understand.

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The event, lead by Zachary Lieberman, Leslie García and Alejandro Tamayo asked participants to come up with ideas and prototypes that engage with a series of questions:

What mechanisms lead to laughter? What are the social and political implications? What happens if we understand laughter as a possible form of communication between humans and machines? Can machines have a sense of humour? How can machines make us laugh? What is a machine or software programme's cultural milieu? How can a machine handle the unexpected? What kind of narratives/machines can be built to provoke various feelings related to laughter?

The 8 projects developed over the workshop use hardware and software tools to create prototypes that explore the relations between machines and humour/laughter.

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Moyote I, by Christian Saucedo Rodríguez. Image by Alejandro Tamayo

Participants developed computers that tell each other silly jokes once you've turned your back, images that follow you as you walk, an absurdity tracker, a robot that replies to users with media sampled memories, a machine that likes to be tickled, etc.

I asked Alejandro Tamayo to give us a few details about the workshop:

One of the questions that the Interactivos? workshop wanted to explore in Mexico was ' Can machines have a sense of humour?' Did you find any answer to that demand?

I don't think we found an answer for that, instead we came up with more questions and ideas for future projects to explore. For me it seems possible to create machines that understand human sense of humor, as humor follows certain rules it can be abstracted and implemented into some complex algorithms that machines can follow, but creating machines with their own sense of humor is another thing. If we design a machine with a sense of humor it seemed unavoidable that we will inject our humanity into it because it is the only reference about humor we have in hand. On the other hand, humor and true laughter bring lots of benefits in terms of health to us, i wonder how this can also be applied to machines. But any way, if we were to create machine humor, will we understand it? How would we define it as humorous?

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Building Catty CPU Cliques. Image courtesy Jenny Chowdhury

In concrete the projects of Jenny Chowdhury (Catty CPU Cliques), Carla Capeto (Sensitive Water) and Leonor Torres (J.A.-J.A. Jockey Action-Jolly Answer) raised questions related to non-human approaches to humor and laughter.

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Catty CPU Cliques. Image courtesy Jenny Chowdhury

For Jenny, the idea of machine humor was directly addressed because her office computers were to make fun of their users when they were left alone. At the end Jenny came up with funny jokes, for and about humans, being told by computers.
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Sensitive water. More images

The case of Carla was different, she proposed an aquarium that would laugh when being touched, so we were all confronted with the question of how water would laugh. There were many approaches to it and many of us suggested different options ranging from timid laughter to hysterical. As a matter of fact, we are starting to discover that we are not the only exclusive animals that laugh, apparently rats do it as well when they are tickled.

Finally, the project of Leonor Torres investigated the idea of a strange piece of metal that responded to tickles. Leonor recorded her own voices and reactions to tickles, so when people touched a rusty piece of metal extracted from a de-mantled car they got the strange reaction of a female giggle.

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J.A.-J.A. Jockey Action-Jolly Answer. Image courtesy Alejandro Tamayo

Leo's project can also drive us to think about the opposite: can we be tickled by a piece of metal? In fact during the planning of Interactivos? we found some early experiments conducted by psychologists in this area: some kind of tickling machine was developed back in 1997, it worked more or less like The Turk: there was a hidden person in a room in charge of doing tickles to other psychology students with his arm and also with a robotic arm. Apparently "the machine" was as effective as a human tickler because the patients couldn't differentiate the robotic arm from that of a human (some kind of a Turing test but for ticklishness!) but there are still some doubts about the way the experiments were conducted because after all there was a human behind.

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Photo by Alejandro Tamayo

I followed the workshop from afar by looking at the flickr images of a few friends who happened to participate to the workshop. It seems that there's quite a high dose of sense of humour in Mexico. Can you tell us something about it?

Oh i don't know, i think all starts with the metro safety guards.

Images of the workshop on the Medialab set and on the ones made by Alejandro and Jenny.

On February 1st, a workshop organised by Nicolas Nova and Julian Bleecker about Blogjects and the new ecology of things was held in Geneva. The purpose was to discuss usage scenarii of Blogjects, the design issues they raises as well as their significance in various contexts. The description of the scenarios helped us refining what would be the Blogjects features and capabilities.

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Nicolas has just posted the report (.pdf, 18.6Mb). It summarizes the topic discussed, presents the main characteristics of Blogjects and four potential scenarios elaborated by the groups formed during the workshop.

Unfortunately i couldn't make it to the workshop. I would have talked about stuff that would have bored everyone anyway. My idea at some point was to make the blog of my AIBO public. I wouldn't have been the first to do so of course. But what if i added ads to that blog? What if i had several aibo blogs or object blogs that generate loads of money? At some point it would bring about interest from, say, Sony or the manufacturer of the blogging object. Can we imagine that in the future there will be some disputes about who owns the the blog content? Would i be allowed to keep all the money generated by my blogging slaves? What about the copy rights?

Check also: Manifesto for Networked Objects; Bruce Sterling's talk at eTech + at Siggraph in 2004 and Anne Galloway's Internet of things: working bibliography.

Image from flickr tag blogjects.

InstantSOUP is a cookbook to make electronic prototypes, an introductory path into Physical Computing through a series of examples. Each example is a step-by-step recipe to follow leading to a working prototype ready to be consumed. Each recipe introduces a new physical computing element and builds on the previous ones learned.

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After completing the basic set of InstantSOUP examples you will be able to create your own yummy prototypes.

InstantSOUP has been developed for students of interaction design, product design, architecture to explain them how to prototype concepts that involve digital behaviours, to produce interactive artifacts that give a direct experience of your concept.

InstanSOUP is a way to connect Flash programs with the physical world. You can make physical input devices for games, connect hacked electronic gadgets to Flash, or do anything else that connects the virtual and physical
worlds.

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Existing recipes include a NetBell that informs you whenever a visitor enters your site, a physical version of the 'Color Picker' on the computer, a digital Etch A Sketch tablet, a sound toy with four pads, etc.

Developed by Yaniv Steiner, with Massimo Banzi, Giorgio Olivero, Hernando Barragan and Paolo Sancia.
Seen at the Greenhouse effect show, during the Salone del Mobile.

German firms Vorwerk Teppichwerke and Infineon Technologies have created a "Thinking Carpet", equipped with sensors that can control a whole range of functions.

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A self-organising network of microchips integrated into the flooring can register several sensory signals and analyse them correspondingly.

For instance, pressure sensors can send an alarm as soon as people enter a security zone. The software can analyse the signals individually. Thus an alarm is triggered, say, only when traces of movement commence on a window, but not at free-access entrances. Pressure sensors in the carpet can also be utilised as door-openers and light switches, or as electronic counters for people.

Besides, temperature sensors are able to sport a fire alarm, control the climate, making it possible, say, to regulate humidity.

In combination with LED modules, the carpet can turn into a controllable guidance system: light-emitting diodes in the carpet could mark the way to an emergency exit. The combination of different sensory functions (pressure, temperature and motion) can enable the detection of people lying motionless on the floor, triggering a call for emergency help.

Via PhysComp Notes < Inteletex.

Thanks bev.

Related: interactive walkaways, the healing floors, flying carpet, and the sausage carpets.

Jeremiah is a virtual face that you can install for free in your computer. It watches what's going on and make decisions based on that.

"When he sees children running and laughing and waving at him, he smiles at them. If you ignore him, he gets angry. If you leave, he gets sad. And you can also even surprise him," says his creator, Richard Bowden, lecturer at the University of Surrey.

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Jeremiah works on vision, reacting in a preset way to the data sent by a surveillance system. It is not yet able to talk or to hear you.

Bowden believes virtual humans could be a natural way to interact with all the new hi-tech gadgets.

"If you get up at three o'clock in the morning, and you go downstairs, there are probably two things you are going to do: either going to the bathroom, or maybe you are going to make a cup of tea," said Dr Bowden. "Now if the system can watch your behaviour over time, it can learn this, so it would predict what you are going to do, turn on the lights for you, or, before you even get to the kettle, it could have switched it on."

You could even tell your home surveillance system that you will be going away on holiday, and ask if it could make sure that the house is secure.

"When we put the surveillance cameras in our centre, a lot of people were very unhappy about the fact that there was a system watching them," said Dr Bowden.

"But when Jeremiah's camera went in, nobody minded, because although it's still watching them, they could see what it was watching."

Via BBC News.

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