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Twill #13: Tangible VR building blocks, smart Soba tattoos, new UI metaphors, Emojigeddon and decoding culture on the Chinternet.


Twill by yiibu

May 9 · Issue #13 · View online

An occasional dispatch on our evolving relationship with technology.

This week: Tangible VR building blocks, smart Soba tattoos, new UI metaphors, Emojigeddon and decoding culture on the Chinternet.

0.0 Tiptoeing into the world of VR for kids. Beautiful new product that blends the real, the virtual, and the experimental in a truly fun way.
We’re looking at helping children recognize the amazing tool that the device is, but recognizing it as a tool, not as entertainment, not as something you disappear into and never come back. We’re interested in pushing you out of the app, back into the physical world, just as much.
1.0 USB-pluggable image recognition smarts on a stick. So simple, and yet disruptive.
2.0 Is China getting ready to ditch typing? Baidu’s Deep Speech can recognize and transcribe both English and Mandarin with a recognition rate that is more accurate than most native Mandarin speakers. (Yet another angle to last week’s thread on innovation in Chinese text input). 
3.0 A Japanese agency has developed a temporary tattoo that—when applied to the skin after being dunked in soba noodle water—will detect whether or not the wearer is allergic to soba. (See also a “biological machinery” laced paper Zika test).
Bits of the illustration turn red if you're allergic :)
Bits of the illustration turn red if you're allergic :)
4.0 There’s something about drones that seem pre-destined to dig deep into popular culture. Like this example from Poland: 
- People steal coal from trains. 
- Police use drones to watch over the trains. 
- So people leave graffiti (that would totally confound time-travelling archaeologists) to warn others, of said drones. Courtesy @nraford.
5.0 Decoding culture on the Chinternet. Memes, hacks, self-censorship and the evolution of visual culture on the Chinese internet. 
Aesthetic trends are often influenced by Chinese specific photo editing apps that allow people to add stickers, animations or to paint over images. I also see that when users do want to censor images, they do so by using these apps to mask their own or other people’s faces, as well as the background sometimes.
6.0 When ‘because you can’ is reason enough: Tech savvy (or merely highly motivated) families are hacking together insulin dispensing devices rather than wait for products to gain regulatory approval. “Diabetes is dangerous anyway. Insulin is dangerous. I think what we are doing is actually improving that and lowering the risk”
8.0 The sound shirt turns music into sound sensations. 
9.0 If you’re not familiar with the very advanced state of Japanese flip-phones (many of which, despite this still qualify as feature phones) have a look at this simple but effective stereoscopic privacy filter.
10.0 An amazing pre-touch sensing prototype from Microsoft Research. Be sure to watch the whole thing. Seeing the technology extrapolated into novel UI examples is IMO the best part.  
11.0 Inside “Emojigeddon”: The fight over the future of the Unicode consortium“…historic language proposals are complicated — there’s lots we don’t know and the process takes a long time, while things like the bacon emoji are moving briskly through committee”
This week in robots
1.0 A trash sorting robot that works with human partner (who’s job has oddly been gamified) to improve throughput and accuracy. “…robots are great at manual labor—at doing the same thing a million times in a row. But humans are great at problem solving, classification, identification, and dealing with diversity.” 
2.0 An autonomous self-flying camera (…basically a drone, but one that hovers wherever you ‘drop’ it, doesn’t look as if  it might chew your fingers off, and is under the FAA’s 250-gram threshold so doesn’t require a permit!)
3.0 Continued advancements in operating room “supervised autonomy”: a robotic assistant now stitches a pig’s bladder better than a human.
Thing from the past. Thing from the future
From the past: Spotify on a wire. “Initially known as the dynamophone, the telharmonium made use of telephone networks to transmit music from a central hub in midtown Manhattan to restaurants, hotels, and homes around the city … The electrically generated tunes would then stream from their phone receiver, which was fitted with a large paper funnel to help pump up the volume.
Image courtesy
Image courtesy
From the future: SkinTrack, from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University enables you to swipe a finger across your arm to control a smart watch.   
That is all...
Our best wishes for a productive week.
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