When I say the words ‘deep thinker’, what springs to mind? Dolphins? Probably not, but these creatures can tell us a thing or two about how we might communicate with one another & with animals in the future, and when I say future, I mean within the next ten years. These clever things have developed an extensive communications system that doesn’t rely on technology; they don’t even use Facebook!
We are always talking about the possibility of living within a parallel universe, yet could this actually be with animals, rather than with ourselves. This might explain why we feel so close to our pets, I mean, take dolphins for example. Mothers look after their young before they are old enough to leave the nest; the same can be said for dolphins & even elephants. When we leave our parents, we stay in contact by telephone, whereas dolphins use signature whistles; we both even call each other by our names.
Hence, wildlife demonstrates that parallel communication can evolve in the unlikeliest of places, yet until recently, it has been confined per specie, compared to one another. Nevertheless, Louis Herman’s recent research from the University of Hawaii has highlighted that this might change within the next few years.
In 2010, Louis Herman realised that dolphins processed information in a similar way to human beings, resulting in strong memories that can differentiate between sounds and tone. Through a series of test, Louis found that 70% of Dolphins could correctly identify whether they had previously heard a sound track or not. Therefore if they could recognise sentences expressed within music, then what about in normal conversation? The results are still out, but this will not stop me getting excited about the prospect of having a civilised conversation with a dolphin, the next time I am lying on a beach in the Bahamas.
Nowadays, everybody is looking for something new and special; the same came be said for technology. Recently, ClustaLabs carried out some research into printing applications. 3D printers are basically used for the rapid development of industrial models, including razors, buildings and now clothing. The N12 Bikini is an interesting example of how 3D printing is entering into the consumer world. It was designed by Continuum Fashion and has become the first ever affordable, ready-to-wear item of clothing; surely there is more to come. This was produced using Rhino 3D CAD software and a specially written algorithm that creates a complex ‘circle packing ‘equation on an arbitrarily doubly curved surface, providing the flexibility required within the garment. Another printing application that is definitely worth a mention is the Nike Chalkbot, a recent Cannes winner. Naturally this application lends itself more closely to 2D advertising, yet with the ability to print texts, symbols and to be honest, pretty much anything, we are excited about seeing how this concept might evolve in the future.
Several other applications have arose from this relatively simple technology, including one of my favourites; the 3D Chocolate printer. Just like something that you would expect to see in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, users will soon be able to create their own pieces of confectionary; designing their own flavours, shapes, colours, anything that there stomach truly desires. Arguably, this was taken one step further with the CandyFab, an open source product that you can generally use within your own home. Although the software and hardware instructions are yet to be released, one is looking forward to tucking into my very own version of the next gob-stopper!
However, my personal favourite is Barcelona's BlablabLab, who piloted an attraction called "Be Your Own Souvenir" in Las Ramblas. The installation produced 3D-printed figurines of tourists that were scanned using 3 Kinect sensors in the dark. As a result, the user became part of the installation, whilst receiving a free gift. Custom software had to be created with open Frameworks in order to produce a full 360 degree point cloud that could then be processed by Meshlab and Skeinforge into a CNC file, creating a low resolution figure within the space of ten minutes. As this technology continues to evolve, it may become an ideal way of producing your own accessories or tailor-fitted clothes, yet with chocolate on the mind, I am going to leave it here for now and get some lunch.
Recently we have been working on two smaller projects, just for fun, that I am able to talk about; a smart toaster and a forecasting umbrella, so let’s start with the umbrella. The idea for the forecasting umbrella was that LEDs within the handle would be used to visually communicate if it is about to rain or snow to their owners. As a result, users would remember to pick up and take their umbrella out with them, yet had this been done before? After much research and deliberation, we felt that the concept was too close to Ambient’s umbrella, priced at £140. Naturally, ClustaLabs was thinking of producing such a product for the likes of Topshop, with a RRP of around £25-30, a more cost-effective and realistic pricing range for consumers. We decided that an Arduino BT (Bluetooth) board was one of two ways in tackling the challenging issue of getting the umbrella to download and display local weather information from the internet, quickly and efficiently.
Another long-term, yet more flexible option was to independently design a board, which included either an ATMega microcontroller or PIC microcontroller that would be programmed using C Language, along with the addition of a Bluetooth module & power supply. Ambient’s current solution is to use pulsating LEDs that indicate the likelihood of rain within the next 12 hours, but it does not go as far as predicting exactly when the event will occur or provide a sufficient enough warning, quickly changing from one setting to the next. Its limited setting solely provide one piece of information; to rain or not to rain, yet what if it snow or hails? Don’t all of these weather conditions warrant a setting? Hence, forewarning the user about the weather conditions that day, along with helping them to decide on what to wear would be a much more desirable solution for the consumer.
A similar conclusion was considered when analysing Robin Southgate’s smart toaster. There have been numerous renditions of this innovative concept over the last ten years, but no one has been able to produce a mainstream product that taps into the online weather system since. Surprisingly, we also came up with endless other possibilities, including developing a registered site where brands could pay to be entered into a lottery to feature on UK’s toast the following day. Just imagine waking up, making toast and seeing the Marmite or Clover logo burnt onto it; what topping would you choose then, Bovril? I doubt it. Hence how could we achieve this?
Our first task was to analyse how the connection between the toaster and advertising website would work. Secondly, how could the toaster randomly print any symbol onto the bread, without the use of stencils? As we discussed previously within the forecasting umbrella project, wireless connection could only be provided from the internet by either creating our own board or by using an Ardunio BT (Bluetooth) board. To print any symbol or writing, laser etching seemed the most plausible solution, as aluminium stencils would not suffice in providing the flexibility that was desired. Both of these concepts have been fully developed into in-house prototypes at ClustaLabs, so if you are interested in finding out more, then please contact me at: Mandana.Ardeshir@clustalabs.com
Midlands-based Alison Smith of Pesky People and Birmingham’s ClustaLabs have emerged from an exceptionally strong field of creative businesses and developers as winners of Nokia’s Pitch ‘n’ Win mobile app development competition. Following an initial written application process that attracted entries from across the UK, teams behind the eight strongest ideas were invited to an exclusive one day event at Birmingham’s Zellig building at the Custard Factory, featuring top level speakers from Nokia and international creative agency, Wieden + Kennedy.
After keynote speeches from international guests including Nokia’s Head of Content and Partnerships, Keith Varty, and Wieden + Kennedy’s Interactive Creative Director, Andy Cameron, the eight teams each pitched their ideas to an expert panel, who were then faced with the difficult decision of picking just one winner. In fact, the quality of ideas presented was so strong that the judges ended up picking two.
Talking after the event, Nokia’s Keith Varty said "The panel was blown away by the breadth and quality of ideas presented at the Pitch ‘n’ Win event in Birmingham; we look forward to working with Pesky People and Clusta to deliver truly innovative apps for Nokia smart phones."
Birmingham’s ClustaLabs presented a groundbreaking app idea capitalising on Nokia’s exciting developments with NFC technology (Near Field Communication). This proved an irresistible proposal for Nokia, who decided to present a second award with an offer to take the app into further development. ClustaLabs’ Innovations Manager, Chris Harkin, said “Clusta was delighted to attend The Nokia Pitch ‘n’ Win event in Birmingham. We were proud to be announced as the winners and are now eager to continue our relationship with Nokia. As a leader in digital advertising, we understand the potential of designing NFC Apps for Nokia and hope that our concept will become a unique feature within Nokia’s Store. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and are very much looking forward to seeing how this project continues to evolve over time.”
Presenting the awards, Nokia’s Head of Developer Relations, Greg Merten, said “Alison’s Go Genie app will be a great example of ‘connecting people’ through innovation. We are also excited about developing Clusta’s innovative NFC app, and look forward to seeing both apps available to Nokia smart phones owners.” For further information, please visit: http://goo.gl/bo8Pl
Mind control, of electrical objects that is, is not an all powerful technology as of yet. Ask someone on the street and they probably think that floating a ball with a large headset above your help is the extent of it, or that it is total fiction, but it’s not. In fact, two big names in the production world are developing mind control applications, right at this very moment.
Emotiv Systems have just released a number of different applications; a mind controlled photo viewer, a mind controlled synthesizer and of course, the more commercial games like Cortex Arcade and Spirit Mountain. Here players can live out the dream of having supernatural powers, without even having to lift a finger.
InteraXon takes a very different approach, examining the electrical waves emitted from your brain to levitate chairs, dodge flying discs (The Game) and even control musical outputs from instruments. Nevertheless, for the more casual gamer, InteraXon have now teamed up with Secret Exit, the game developers who brought us Zen Bound and Zen Bound 2 to create the Brainwave enabled Zen Bound 2 iPhone and iPad app, an indicator that mind control will be going mainstream in years to come.
Currently the technology can only be used to convert electrical activity into binary code; 1s and 0s. Hence, at the moment, all you have to do is relax or focus, stop or go. Nevertheless, how may this expand in the foreseeable future? Will mind control technology be restricted to the gaming world or will it break out into the social. Could this technology help to note down all your thoughts and post them up on Twitter for all to see? How would this be vetted and most importantly, could you even think in 140 characters or less? I know I couldn’t. Imagine if people could actually real your thoughts at present, like a modern day lie machine. It’s a bit scary, but the technology is there, it might be unwanted, it might be underdeveloped, but the potential is still there.