How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad… 23 years ago

How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad… 23 years ago is an article in Ars Technica about the design of the iconic Star Trek interfaces from those of PADDs (Personal Access Display Devices) to the touch screens used on the bridge. It turns out that one of the reasons for the flat touch screen interfaces was that they were cheap (compared to panels with lots of switches as contemporary spacecraft had.)

What could be simpler to make than a flat surface with no knobs, buttons, switches, or other details? Okuda designed a user interface dominated large type and sweeping, curved rectangles. The style was first employed in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home for the Enterprise-A, and came to be referred to as “okudagrams.” The graphics could be created on transparent colored sheets very cheaply, though as ST:TNG progressed, control panels increasingly used video panels or added post-production animations.

TRAFFIC: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980

Gordon Lebredt Get Hold Of This Space 1974

Go see the TRAFFIC: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980 exhibit at the Art Gallery of Alberta. It is a dense exhibit with hundreds of works and relevant documentation. It is organized by cities (a room for Halifax, one for Montreal …) and seems carefully researched. You will find yourself bewildered and amused at the variety of conceptual art projects executed in Canada. You will notice that everything was done back then with typewriters, video and tape recorders. The colors look bleached the way old and cheap photographs are. The aging of all those postcards and paper forms dates the works as if they were brought out of the attic or from the back of the family station wagon left in the sun.

This show was developed by a number of museums (from Vancouver to Halifax) and is touring those museums. You can read about the show when it was in Toronto. Or you can read about it in Magenta.

Institute of Making

Thanks to @karikraus I came across the Institute of Making. They have a materials library that sounds fascinating (and they take good pictures of it.) I am also struck by how the Institute is a “club”.

The Institute of Making is a multidisciplinary research club for makers, and those interested in the made world: from makers of molecules to makers of building, synthentic skin to spacecraft, soup to clothes, furniture to cities. (About page)

This Institute strikes me as a model for what we are doing with the Interactives group and our Dorkbot.

5 Companies Building the “Internet of Things”

ReadWriteWeb has a nice article on 5 Companies Building the “Internet of Things”. I like the phrase “internet of things” – it gives a sense of what we might achieve if objects could be networked. The cool part is that there are now affordable kits that use RFID that can you can buy to start connecting things. I am reminded of a project I learned about at the GRAND meeting called The Reading Glove. Wearing the “reading glove” users pick up “narratively rich objects” that then trigger audio clips that then weave a puzzle narrative.

NFB: Out My Window

Joyce pointed me to a National Film Board (NFB) interactive work, Out My Window: Interactive Views from the Global Highrise. The work, directed by Katerina Cizek documents the lives of people in apartments through their apartments. For each apartment there is a 360 degree view that you can pan around (sort of like QuickTime VR.) Certain things can be clicked on to hear and see short documentaries with the voice of the dweller. These delicate stories are very effective at giving us a view of apartment life around the world.

SnapDragonAR from Future Stories

Mo pointed me to an announcement that SnapDragonAR has been officially released. This comes from work at the future cinema lab at York University. SnapDragonAR is a simple way to get augmented reality – you have a deck of cars with glyphs on them that the computer can recognize and replace with media clips (video shorts or images.) The glyphs can be put on things or you can just use the cards. The sofware then takes the video from a webcam and replaces the glyphs with the media objects you want and projects the resulting “augmented” video onto the screen (or projector.) It is neat and works with any current Mac.

Troika Ranch

Folks in the Interactives Lab introduced me to Troika Ranch a dance team that performs with multimedia. You can see examples of what they do on their YouTube channel or on Net Television. They have created a real-time media tool called Isadora:

Isadora is the award-winning, graphic programming environment for Macintosh and Windows that provides interactive control over digital media, with special emphasis on the real-time manipulation of digital video.

Because every performance or installation is unique, Isadora was designed not to be a “plug and play” program, but instead to offer building blocks that can be linked together in nearly unlimited ways, allowing you to follow your artistic impulse.