Hearing without listening

I’m not a fan of the ubiquitous listening devices. Not that having a virtual assistant always on the standby to serve my every (ok, some) need wouldn’t be handy; it would be fun to be talk to my house. Seriously, I work from home. It gets lonely. But I digress.

It’s because of the growing interconnectedness of it all, combined with lax privacy laws and inadequate digital security. They *say* they’re only listening for your action word, but the Ts&Cs prove otherwise; as do recent legal events when it’s been shown that not only are they always listening, but always recording.

And the Amazons and Googles of the world will eventually be more than happy to sell your conversations to advertisers and others (yes, government – I’m looking at you. Who knows if  my recent (theoretical) conversations about microdosing LSD won’t some day be of interest to you, or the health insurance companies.)

So I recently revisited a favorite device, launched in 2005 (the ice age for digital devices). I  was rather obsessed with it at the time, but didn’t take the plunge  and have been sorry ever since.

karotzIt’s called a Nabaztag (rabbit in Armenian!). It was a listening device that wasn’t tied to any multinational conglomerate; it was an open source device that read your emails to you, the weather, stock market report, news, RSS-Feeds, MP3-Streams, acted as a walkie-talkie with another Nabaztag, and a few other things.

Point is: it did much of what Alexa and Siri do (other than order you things, although someone could probably program an app for it that would) without reporting back to anyone.

A device way before its time. And completely open source.

Why aren’t there any of these types of listening devices on the market now? Surely some independent company out there could come up with a current day equivalent? I bet it would sell like hotcakes – what an opportunity. I know I’d get one.

nabaztag fancy

And then kit it out like people used to do with the Nabaztags 😊 The viral potential for getting the word out about something like this is incredible.

Unfortunately I’m reduced to scouring Ebay for the occasional one that comes up for sale, and since the server’s been decommissioned, turning into a programmer to make it work (although there’s a very lively worldwide community of hackers/enthusiasts with a fair number of boards sharing code and “how to’s”). And that takes a LOT of time.

Someone get on this. Please.

Conductive Paint

Have seen this before, but it’s just so neat. I’d love to see it combined with silkscreening on fabrics; what would you do with it?

Five day VRaycation

I spent five full days over New Year’s playing with an HTC Vive. Which is interesting in NYC apartment, since half the furniture had to be moved to make room for the motion tracking units mounted on two spindly tripods! As an artist as well as a tech enthusiast, it was an interesting experience. So much to try out.

I have a book’s worth of impressions and opinions coming out of the experience, but quickly – my favorite: hands down, Blortasia by Kevin Mack, a neuroscientist and artist. It’s a psychedelic drift through an ever changing, pulsing, organic color blitz. Absolutely, mind bogglingly, surreally, beautiful. I love that he’s not adapting something to fit into VR, he’s actually designing something for the medium; one of the few, I think, who “gets” it.

His work is inspired by transcendent visions, nature, and technology, and is informed by research in a wide range of fields from neuroscience to artificial life. Not to mention, I’m guessing it’s a lot like taking mushrooms! Blortasia is being used in therapy and it’s effects are the subject of a medical research study. Now *that’s* a use for VR I can get behind.

The other favorite was (of course – as an artist): Tiltbrush. But I wasn’t as in love with it as I should have been….it’s purely a paint stroke program (I called it “the MS Paint of VR”) and I really missed being able to create actual solid objects. Perhaps a hangover from my CAD roots – nevertheless, I persisted, and determined to grok the program as best possible, after a while realized how to get the most out of it (hint: don’t try to be precise).

Tiltbrush: “Garden of Eden”

Here’s a glimpse of one of the worlds I created – a flock of beautiful glowing birds. I made another with huge pulsating jellyfish hanging from the sky, so you could stand in between the tentacles; that one’s for another day.

That book-length blog post is coming, about everything from the experience to the content, user interface to opportunities – just wanted to jot down some initial thoughts to start.