The sex Kinection

Paul Raven @ 30-11-2010

We’ve already looked at people with privacy concerns over Microsoft’s freshly open-source-driver’d Kinect controller, but there’s another end to the spectrum of attitudes to new technology: while some folk worry about what the Kinect might do in the wrong hands, others are busily and cheerfully working out what it could do while something more personal is in their own hands… or elsewhere [via grinding.be]. Look away now if geeky people discussing smutty uses of consumer electronics products is likely to offend…

So what can the kinect bring to sex? Well, probably not a good real time rendering of your cock, or strap-on, or really any genitalia a usable way for pornography. Why? Because that’s not really what it was made for.

Microsoft put a ton of work into making the kinect track the human body as a whole, so you can play games by jumping and running and generally acting the fucking fool and feel like you’re in the game instead of just sad. Genitalia, for the most part, are not a major geometric feature of the human body when taken in perspective of physical size (as opposed to say, genitalia perspective in relation to the ego, where they may actually make up more than 100%). Neither are they normally used in the control of video games, be they rated everyone or AO. Not to say that experiment hasn’t been tried, but it didn’t turn out too well, and we’re probably a few years off of the video game market being ready for Mike Tyson’s Super Cockslap-Out. So why even try to track that small part when you’re interested in the whole body? You may be able to see it, but it won’t work well.

[…]

The kinect alliviates the need for having hardware, because now as long as we have a shot of the “action”, as it were, we can use that “gesture” as a control. Not only that, the gesture itself is the toy. Or you could employ a toy under the gesture. The possibilities, they may or may not halt.

With masturbation, however, the kinect does not make this a trivially solved problem. Due to the close contact of the hand with the body, possibly with some inanimate object in between, there will still have to be some calibration and thresholding to figure out exactly where the genitalia versus the hand versus the surrounding body parts are. We’ll have the image and the depth data, but it’s not like the above above video where the hands are being held far out from the body, which is a situation the kinect is made for. Masturbation and general self-manipulation is something that’s out of the kinect’s normal operating procedure, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. We’re smart and bored, after all.

Bonus: here’s Penny Arcade with some, ah, commentary:

Fundamentally accurate - Penny Arcade

*ahem*

And here’s Jonah Lehrer at Wired talking about the Kinect in terms of less explicit – but arguably more fundamental – unions between the body and the machine:

For most of the 20th century, [William] James’ theory of bodily emotions was ignored. It just seemed too implausible. But in the early 1980s, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio realized that James was mostly right: Many of our emotions are preceded by changes in our physical body. Damasio came to this conclusion after studying neurological patients who, after suffering damage in their orbitofrontal cortex or somatosensory cortex, were unable to experience any emotion at all. Why not? The tight connection between the mind and body had been broken. Even though these patients could still feel their flesh – they weren’t paraplegic – they could no longer use their body to generate feelings. And if you can’t produce the bodily symptoms of an emotion – the swelling tear ducts of sadness, or the elevated heart rate of fear – then you can’t feel the emotion. As Damasio notes, “The mind is embodied, not just embrained.”

[…]

Although we might look a little foolish flailing around the living room, the game has managed to excite our flesh, and that means our emotions aren’t far behind. As a result, we are more scared by the possibility of virtual death (and more thrilled by the virtual victory) because our body is fully engaged with the game.

For decades, video game designers have been obsessed with visual realism, as if the eyeball was the key to our emotional brain. But accurate graphics have diminishing returns. At a certain point, we don’t need more pixels – we need more physicality. And that’s what’s so exciting about the Kinect (and the Wii before that): For the first time, video games are able to deliver a visceral emotional experience, as our body is tricked into confusing fiction with reality.

The Kinect is admittedly a pretty basic implementation of all this potential, but then the first product to market usually is. Interesting times ahead.


‘Mirror of emotions’ to ‘rationalize’ online traders

Tom Marcinko @ 17-11-2009

rationalizer_highres3“Curb your enthusiasm” seems to be the message of a new gadget from Philips Electronics and the Dutch bank ABN AMRO. They decided to collaborate on the “Rationalizer” bracelet system “after research confirmed that day traders sometimes act irrationally because their actions are affected by their stress level and powerful emotions such as greed or .”

The Rationalizer consists of an “EmoBracelet” and an “EmoBowl” and incorporates sensors and signal processors designed by Philips. The EmoBracelet’s galvanic skin response sensor measures the level of emotional arousal in a similar way to a lie detector. The result is displayed on either the bracelet or the EmoBowl as a light display that intensifies and changes to reflect the wearer’s intensifying emotional arousal. At the highest emotional the display has a greater number of elements moving at higher speed, and the color changes to a warning red.

The video is pretty entertaining. Yes, it does look like a phildickian update of the old mood ring. And it’s not just for day traders willing to admit that they sometimes get carried away.

Senior Director at Philips Design Clive van Heerden said sensing was becoming more important in today’s digital world. He also believes there are many other possible applications, such as game controllers, intelligent cameras to interpret social situations, or even dating sites that enable you to tell who is attracted to you.

Also, you have to love the name of the division of the bank that worked on this device: the Dialogues Incubator.

[Story and image: PhysOrg.com]


EmoBracelet to remind traders not to be dicks

Paul Raven @ 19-10-2009

The *other* sort of emo braceletsBoy, those stock market trader guys sure can get the rest of us into a mess with their crazy high-jinks. But it’s not entirely their fault, you know – they just get a bit carried away in the heat of the moment. C’mon, we’ve all been there – emotions run high, you have to make a snap decision, and sometimes you get it wrong. Granted, for most of us there’s little chance of shafting the entire planet in the process…

But wouldn’t it be good if we could keep those traders calm? If we could lay a metaphorical cool hand of reason on their shoulders every once in a while and say “hey, maybe you’re thinking with your heart (or your dick) rather than your head”? Electronics giant Philips and financial behemoth ABN Ambro seem to think it’s a great idea, and have hence teamed up to develop a conceptual device called the EmoBracelet, which should achieve the same effect:

The gadget […]measures electrical signals from users’ skin to assess their emotional state. The technology is similar to a lie detector recognising the nervousness behind a fib.

The announcement by the two companies said online traders had nearly double the number of deals as those who traded through a broker and that online traders earned lower returns because of poor decisions.

”Driven by fear, they may sell too hastily when share prices drop. Driven by greed, they may be overenthusiastic,” the announcement said.

The EmoBracelet and another device, an EmoBowl, use electrical displays to show a person’s emotional intensity. The two items were designed to warn traders to step back and take a breather by alerting them to their heightened emotional state.

As a wearer’s emotions grow more intense, lights flicker faster on the bracelet and the colours inside the bowl change from a soft yellow to orange to a deep cautionary red.

Nice idea, guys, but I have to say that I’m not sure the EmoBracelet is going to prevent traders doing dumb things. After all, most of the folk I’ve worked with who were prone to agitation or emotional overinvolvement with their work would react rather badly to having their “heightened mental state” pointed out… and some of them would probably carry on pushing the envelope just to prove how on top of things they really were (in their minds, at least).

A version of the EmoBracelet that injected the trader with a hugely powerful soporific at the pertinent moment might be a little more useful, however… [story via Technovelgy; image by McWilliams Graphics]


NEW FICTION: A PROGRAMMATIC APPROACH TO PERFECT HAPPINESS by Tim Pratt

Paul Raven @ 01-04-2009

I can’t tell you how proud I am to be introducing a story by Tim Pratt at Futurismic. Seriously; this isn’t a man short of professional venues for his wide-ranging fictional output, but he tells us he’s been keen to sell us a story for some time now, and “A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness” rang Chris’s editorial bell in just the right way. It’s something a little different to our usual house style: a little Gonzo, a little retro, but all Tim Pratt. I hope you enjoy it!

A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness

by Tim Pratt

My step-daughter Wynter, who is regrettably prejudiced against robots and those who love us, comes floating through the door in a metaphorical cloud of glitter instead of her customary figurative cloud of gloom. She enters the kitchen, rises up on the toes of her black spike-heeled boots, wraps her leather-braceleted arms around my neck, and places a kiss on my cheek, leaving behind a smear of black lipstick on my artificial skin and a whiff of white make-up in my artificial nose. “Hi Kirby,” she says, voice all bubbles and light, when normally she would never deign to utter my personal designation. “Is Moms around? Haven’t talked to her in a million.”

I know right away that Wynter has been infected.

I carefully lay my spatula aside. “Your mother is… indisposed.”

She rolls her eyes. “Whatever makes you two happy.” She flounces off toward her bedroom, the black-painted shadowy forbidden portion of our home that my wife April calls “the tumor.”

I go to our bedroom door, push it open gently, and say, “Darling, your post-coital brunch is ready, and I believe Wynter has been infected by the H7P4 strain.”

A groan emerges from the pile of blankets, straps, and oddly-angled cushions that constitutes our bed. “Oh, god. Which one is that again?”

“The one that makes you happy,” I say, and close the door on April’s sardonic laughter. Continue reading “NEW FICTION: A PROGRAMMATIC APPROACH TO PERFECT HAPPINESS by Tim Pratt”


Writing a diary makes you happier

Paul Raven @ 16-02-2009

hand-written journalBrain scans suggest that daily writing about your emotions can help you feel better about things; writing by hand is apparently more effective than typing:

The psychologists investigated the effect by inviting volunteers to visit the lab for a brain scan before asking them to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Half of the participants wrote about a recent emotional experience, while the other half wrote about a neutral experience.

Those who wrote about an emotional experience showed more activity in part of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which in turn dampened down neural activity linked to strong emotional feelings.

If pouring your heart into dreadful poetry and song lyrics really is an emotionally beneficial outlet, does it then follow that MySpace deserves some sort of award for keeping teenagers from committing suicide? [image by Boa-sorte&Careca]