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Twill #15 - Web meets world, Alexa goes to the hospital, media-making AIs, bovine facial recognition, bicycle face…and more.

This week: Web meets world, Alexa goes to the hospital, media-making AIs, bovine facial recognition,

Twill by yiibu

June 14 · Issue #15 · View online
A weekly dispatch on our evolving relationship with technology. Topics: Near-future design, autonomous everything, design ethics, machine learning and the human impact of embedding technology into everyday life.

This week: Web meets world, Alexa goes to the hospital, media-making AIs, bovine facial recognition, bicycle face…and more.

Interesting things
0.0 We’re always excited to see new ways to connect the web with physical things (especially unusual or creative ones!) Google’s new Anypixel is an open-source software and hardware library that makes it possible to use the web to create big, unusual, interactive displays. 
“…build any display where each pixel is an interactive element…using light switches, lightboxes, or balloons….”
1.0 TreeWiFi wants to place inexpensive sensors in trees to motivate citizens to work together in tackling air pollution by offering free wi-fi when the nearby air quality improves.
The area's health is also ambiently discoverable thanks to the glowing roof.
2.0 The goal of Google’s ATAP group’s Project Soli is to “create both the industry and the design language for radar-enabled consumer electronics”. The early prototypes were amazing enough, but you can see the latest in this recent article and don’t miss this video demonstration (starts 10 minutes in) of Soli and Jacquard (smart fabrics) at Google I/O.
An older Soli prototype (see the video for a live example!)
3.0 From the department of technologies that sound like a sci-fi film plot: Google ATAP is also apparently working on a Trust API which could replace passwords by using biometrics like facial recognition, your typing pattern, even how you walk to help determine that you are who you say you areEach metric will contribute to an overall “trust score” that will let you unlock your apps. The program will run in the background of an Android phone, using the phone’s suite of sensors to continuously monitor the user’s behavior. If the trust score falls below a threshold, a user might be prompted for some form of additional authentication.
4.0 A 2008 Pepsi brand design document (PDF) that includes this charming exploration of the emotions that each Pepsi shape might conjure up. In a Minority Report future (or maybe next year) a logo such as this might adapt based on your culture or mood derived by an analysis of tone of voice, gait, the look on your face etc.
5.0 “Alexa, record duodenal bulb!” The Boston Children’s Hospital has released an Alexa-based app called KidsMD that gives parents advice when their children catch a fever and are exploring other ways to incorporate Amazon’s Alexa into hospital care such as “bring[ing] Alexa into patient rooms, help doctors take notes, and read back charts, among other things”.
6.0 A Boing Boing podcast on special pleading: “the human tendency to apply a double standard to the things we love, believe, and consider crucial to our identity”.
7.0 Elegy for the Capital-I Internet explores the ‘internet highway’ analogy through a history of other infrastructural technologies that eventually became mundane. 
“Outdated though it might be, the metaphor of Internet as highway helps explain why we it made sense to capitalize the term. A highway is a thing, for certain, but it is also a system—a system of routes and connections that work together to allow traversal of a large and complex physical expanse.”
8.0 A detailed explanation of the VR nausea problem (and how far we are from solving it) that involves caveman brains and rather disturbing historical anecdotes from the army. 
9.0 A glimpse of the future of media: 
Real and AI generated samples from the first half of Blade Runner.
10.0 Wafers, ‘soups’ and super clean rooms. Well-written and super interesting piece explaining how Intel makes a chip
 “Chips are made by creating tiny patterns on a polished 12-inch silicon disk, in part by using a process called photolithography and depositing superthin layers of materials on top. These wafers are kept in sealed, microwave oven-size pods called “foups” that are carried around by robots—hundreds of robots, actually—running on tracks overhead, taking the wafers to various tools.”
11.0 From Cory Doctorow at OSCON, a vision of a future with and without DRM: ’Open, closed and demon haunted things’. (Highly recommended if you’re not familiar with the DMCA anti-circumvention issue).
This week in robots
1.0 Would you trust a robot to give your grandmother her meds? An exploration of what would make us trust a robot. “a hard part of robot design is taking into account the difference between what people say they’d like a machine to do and what they really want it to do”.
Part of a larger series on Trusting Robots.
2.0 Would you trust a robot that gave you a cookie? A student tested our behaviour around un-trustworthy feeling robots (TL;DR we’re basically doomed).
“…a lot of people stopped to take pictures of the robot…In fact, in the follow-up interviews, one of the participants admitted that the reason she let it inside the building was for the Snapchat video.”
3.0 Related…we also already seem to have surprisingly firm mental models about bots (the kind in you phone), regardless of what we’ve actually been told any given bot is supposed to do.
Thing from the past. Thing from the future
Thing from the past: The next time you laugh at a photo of a VR helmet clad guy eating salad, spare a thought for the moral panic brought about by the lowly bicycle in the 1800s “Characterized by wide, wild eyes; a grim set to the mouth; and a migration of facial features toward the center, ’Bicycle Face’ was said to result from the stress of incessant balancing. A German philosopher claimed that the condition drained “every vestige of intelligence” from the sufferer’s appearance and rendered children unrecognizable to their own mothers” (excerpt from upcoming The Mechanical Horse: How the bicycle shaped American life). 
From the future: China is adopting solar power faster than any other country. The total installed solar capacity in the U.S. is 24.1 gigawatts while China’s total capacity was 43 gigawatts by the end of 2015. This article chronicles the growth of one tiny corner of a solar park in Qinghai province.
The month by month growth of a solar park on the edge of nowhere.
That is all
Our best wishes for a productive week.
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