Robots, Embodiment and Mediated Virtuality

This is a long (50:16) video, that may be too esoteric for some visitors, but I recommend digesting it by segments for some interesting insights(esp. for museum curators/educators). Danny Bazo provides a low key articulation of some of our recurring themes of embodiment, virtuality, robots, human/technology binary, anthropomorphism, etc.. from perspective of a robotic scientist with a genuine appreciation of the arts’ contribution to science. It is a testament to role of engineers in exploring and pushing the boundaries of understanding the human – technology interface. Consider his commentaries on: embedded/embodiment systems (starting from 3:30 mark); designing facial expressions of humanoid robots (8:50); ‘PolarM’ project (10:00), an assemblage of devices that makes the imperceptible perceptible such as ‘background noise’, the invisible visible with a ‘bubble chamber’, and (16:00) how we attribute intelligence to robots through human-like gestures such as ‘head-cocking’ (“oh, the robot is thinking”); swarm cameras that produce art (17:30); collective interrogation of the environment (18:00) by a handful of different actual and virtual robots with different computer algorithms produces a generative visualization (an ‘artwork;”painting of memories’) within a room that demonstrates ‘level jumping’ of virtuality (22:00) to open door between art and science. The most intriguing segment is “The New Dunites” project (23:00) which was a ‘media archeology’ to explore the buried site of Cecil B. DeMille’s silent spectacle “The Ten Commandments” movie set (1922-23) using ground-penetrating radar to create 3D visualizations. The later segments focus on the engineering challenges of navigating 3D worlds. Robots may be conceived as ‘mediators’ between humans and the digital/virtual world(s). Presentation ends at about 38:40 mark. During Q & A session, the notion of “uncanny valley” is questioned (40:25-42:50). Bazo thinks more research is required, as he views “uncanny valley” as a theory; maybe it is not really a “valley”, perhaps multidimensional. Tough question and response (46:30) about human-robot interface – biology and technology are “isomorphic”; consider the robot as a ‘teacher’ to enhance understanding ourselves.

Technology Will Blow Your Mind

There are several “Technology Will Blow Your Mind” documentaries available on YouTube. Most are long, one hour plus. I think it is informative just to sample them to extract some of the major themes of human – technology interface. Some are utopian (e.g.medical applications), others dystopian (e.g., scary advanced military technologies). One of the questions that I have considered this week is who regulates, controls and/or determines which technologies are “appropriate?” What are educators’ roles in influencing the positive, constructive use of emerging technologies? What are the implications for learning?

We are all cyborgs now

I was introduced to this Amber Case TedTalk (7:53 min) in a previous MScDE course and I found it helpful to review it again as a departure point for this EDC course.  Case defines cyborg” as “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments.”  Case describes her as a “cyborg anthropologist.”

One of her themes that resonated with me this first week of our EDC course is that we all now are compelled to manage our ‘second self,’ that is, our ‘digital self.’  She observes that “anybody coming in new to technology is an adolescent online right now.” I have been thrust into sensations of what Case labels a “panic architecture” – a feeling that I can’t keep up because the tools are unfamiliar and my Twitter “embed codes are not available.”  I’m hoping this post will set me off on a more constructive trajectory.