Affetto: Child of the Uncanny Valley

Paul Raven @ 15-02-2011

You can thank IEE Spectrum and a bunch of roboticists from Osaka University for this excursion into the Uncanny Valley. Meet Affetto, a robot child designed for research into social development psychology. The fully-skinned version is moderately disturbing:

But the skinless facial motion test? Aaaaaaaarrrrgh!

And now I’ve been reminded of it (and we’re all in that creeped-out-by-supposedly-cuddly-technology frame of mind), bring some nineties-retro toy-based trauma to your Tuesday with the naked Furby orchestra:

Bonus material: mechanical “FurbyGurdy” sequencer/synth with MIDI control.

Enjoy your nightmares!


MetaDick

Paul Raven @ 14-01-2011

This is not an android copy of Philip K Dick; it’s an android copy of an android copy that mysteriously went missing from an aircraft cargo manifest in 2006, which strikes me as just the sort of weird occurance the man himself would have started a story from.


Welcome to Uncanny Valley

Paul Raven @ 06-11-2010

Thanks to regular reader Sarah Brand for the tip-off on this one; Tokyo-based entertainment company Kokoro has been uploading videos of Actroid F, their android actress, and they’re simultaneously impressive and creepy. Voila:

See what I mean? I’ve spoken to hotel desk staff and shop assistants less realistic than that! (Which probably says a lot about my shopping and travel habits; so it goes.)

[ Bonus aside for the rock fans in the readership, who may have noticed the album-name allusion in the title of this post: maybe the not-really-entirely-Kyuss-actually cash-in reformation could get an android stand-in for Josh Homme? I’d be more interested in catching the shows if they did, to be honest… ]


Cheaper, more open tablets: this is exactly why I had no interest in buying an iPad

Paul Raven @ 13-07-2010

No, I’m not about to start bitching about Apple’s flagship gizmo and what it can or can’t do (although, if you want to buy me a beer or two in meatspace, I’d be more than happy to give you my two uninformed but moderately passionate cents on that).

Instead, I’m just going to point to evidence of exactly what I’ve been saying would happen: that within a very short amount of time after the iPad’s launch, you’d be able to get cheaper hardware with the same or greater functionality, and run a FOSS operating system on it that lets you get applications from anywhere you choose. So, via eBooknewser, here’s a guide to hacking the US$200 Pandigital Novel tablet device so it’ll run the Android operating system. Come Christmas time this year, there’ll be dozens of machines just like that kicking around all over the place, only cheaper still.

Speaking of Android, there’s a lot of noise about the way that Google are working on a kind of visual development system that’s designed to let folk with minimal coding knowledge to develop apps that will run on Android – again, a stark comparison to the walled-garden quality control of Apple’s development kits. Sure, the Android market will be flooded with crap and/or dodgy apps as a result… but letting the good stuff bubble to the top is what user rating systems and [editors/curators/gatekeepers] are for, right?


The dangers of cloud computing

Tom James @ 21-07-2009

cloudJonathan Zittrain explores some of the downsides of the incipient cloud computing revolution in this article at the New York Times:

If you entrust your data to others, they can let you down or outright betray you. For example, if your favorite music is rented or authorized from an online subscription service rather than freely in your custody as a compact disc or an MP3 file on your hard drive, you can lose your music if you fall behind on your payments — or if the vendor goes bankrupt or loses interest in the service.

The crucial legacy of the personal computer is that anyone can write code for it and give or sell that code to you — and the vendors of the PC and its operating system have no more to say about it than your phone company does about which answering machine you decide to buy.

This freedom is at risk in the cloud, where the vendor of a platform has much more control over whether and how to let others write new software. Facebook allows outsiders to add functionality to the site but reserves the right to change that policy at any time, to charge a fee for applications, or to de-emphasize or eliminate apps that court controversy or that they simply don’t like.

As useful as storing links, calandars, emails, and documents in the cloud is I like to keep local backups of all my stuff (where possible). The further threat to the decentralised innovation that has characterised software development over the last several decades is another reason to be sceptical of the benefits of the cloud.

[image from Dan Queiroz on flickr]


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