Three companions of the imaginary variety.

February 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is Ovie.

Ovie leans towards things that it likes – such as this attractive leaf. This is how Ovie communicates.

Ovie’s owner started a garden and developed an interest in botany. To reflect this new hobby they changed Ovie’s appearance. It looked like a pear.

As a result of all this botanical exploration, Ovie increasingly resembled a plant.  Its eyes looked like seeds and it became known as Corm, which is similar, but not to be confused with a bulb.

Here is Myo. Myo’s creator has intended to make an endearing  heart-shaped companion with beautiful expressive eyes. There were problems. The mechanics never functioned correctly, which meant that Myo couldn’t move, and faulty engineering made the components heat up and become hazardous. The only things that moved were Myo’s eyes, which looked helpless and desperate as they slid back and forth in their large glassy membranes. Myo’s creator did not particularly enjoy being in its presence, but felt guilty for not displaying a higher quality of workmanship, so tried to interact and spend time with Myo often.  

This is Humble Robot. Or at least it will be. Humble robot does not yet exist beyond being a coordinate on a screen that will eventually grow into something. In theory Humble Robot will consist of many parts, all of which perform their own tasks and work as a whole. They will talk to and protect each other. Humble robot has a solid understanding of electronic components and is aware that they can be sensitive and are not to be touched. It may over time development intelligent mechanisms to protect these parts from a damaging human touch…


A tale of two Furbies.

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have owned two Furbies in my life.

The first was a birthday present when I was 12 and Furbies had just arrived on the toy scene. The second ( I am slightly ashamed to admit) was my Christmas present at the age of 21. (there is extensive documentation of my 21 year old self tearing through the packaging on Christmas morning, which actually devalued the object significantly so I’m told. whoops.) My experience with Furby no. 1 was standard to that of most electronic pets. It had a few days worth of novelty appeal before we locked it in a cupboard never to be activated again. At the time Furbies were everywhere, just another electronic product that failed to live up to its promise. 10 years later it was a collectors item (especially the gizmo one) and obtaining one involved purchase from an online nostalgia toyshop. I think differently about this Furby, it is a piece of design, a moment in the evolution of technology and  in my own history and life story. I had no qualms about dissecting the first Furby during the first wave of my inquisitive robot obsession, but couldn’t imagine destroying the second. So many outside factors effect our relationship to objects. Even two Furbies that are essentially exactly the same can be viewed and treated in a completely different way when impressed upon by time and circumstance, one was an expendable piece of consumer culture, the other, a treasured artifact that is imbued with meaning beyond its basic companion function. I am still me, but my knowledge and understanding of the physical world changes and allows me to see old Furbies in new ways.

Hobby love.

November 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is my Knitting machine. I love it.

This was my fourth year sculpture project. It is a children’s toy knitting machine that I modified and motorised. Making this was a hideous ordeal which involved buckets of tears and more money than I care to think about. To me (and my non-existent electrical skills), this was a feat of engineering that made me miserable for several weeks of my life. For some sadistic reason, I had decided that a part of this work would be a performance where I spent 12 hours straight monitoring the machine while it knitted piles of wool into a never ending tube. As time passed and the machine kept working, I felt increasingly proud, it became a bonding experience, I alone knew how to fix jams and untangle mistakes. After two years, the knitting machine still goes and I am always proud to say, “I made that”. On the other hand if the whole thing had failed miserably I would have undoubtably ended up in an ultimate shame spiral, vowing to never attempt something mechanical again. In DIY the successes and failures are felt ten-fold.

DIY Mechanics (or just anger management).

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today we finally took our car to the dealership to (hopefully) be fixed. This particular vehicle suffers from the most irritating fault; serious unreliability. It has an amazing tendency to chug along fine, then just die. you turn the key and…. nothing. Not even a half-hearted cough. This makes driving in rush hour traffic a pretty daring feat. As all humans have a tendency to do, we have conceived of several tactics that we are convinced help re-start the car. At first it was opening and slamming the bonnet as hard as possible, then it was jiggling random wires. We progressed to using a severed mallet head to tap (or bash) the starter motor, and finally and most amusing of all, shaking the steering wheel as violently as possible. This is somehow the most effective.  This week, car related stress has reached new heights and I cannot help but think about it in terms of all the reading I’ve been doing about technology and objects. I know that being furious with ones vehicle is hardly revolutionary, but it seems to be a human/object relationship right of passage that everyone experiences. The realisation that you are stuck, away from home with a tonne of metal that you can’t afford to get towed is grave indeed. The point I always come back to is that technology doesn’t owe us anything. The car, which we take care of and spend time with everyday, doesn’t feel indebted and therefore want to get us safely home before refusing to start. We can come up with all the affectionate nicknames we want (Marco, and the last one was Fifi) but we’ll still end up stranded in the supermarket parking lot, missing dinner reservations. Yet another personal example of the cognitive load and opportunity cost we shoulder to engage with gizmos (I’m sure that a 1997 hatchback counts as a gizmo, it has a computer in it after all).

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