Media Technology

Microsoft Office Labs vision 2019

Microsoft Office Labs has come out with a very nice “vision of the future video” called “2019” — Long Zheng over at iStartedSomething has posted both a short montage and longer 5 minute version (I recommend the longer).

I’ve always loved these sort of concept videos from corporate reserach labs, and as the medium goes I’d rate this one pretty high. The production value is top-knotch (as are most other such videos from Microsoft). As you’d expect, there are many kernels of ideas that have been around — I was especially reminded of Hiroshi Ishi’s ClearBoard, Jun Rekimoto’s Pick-and-Drop and various aspects from Bruce Tognazzini’s Starfire concept video — but there were still many concepts that were new to me. And unlike so many concept videos out there they seem to have mostly avoided the trap of assuming that devices will have a combination of strong AI and psychic powers.

New media criticism blog: is a new media criticism blog started by Geoffrey Alan Rhodes (my brother), Blinxia Yu and Christopher Ernst:

:|: is a new net criticism initiative publishing micro-essay insights into current trends in media and visual culture. It is an open forum for new critical voices; we are continuously seeking articles and comments with fresh perspectives on emerging media phenomena. was begun with the desire to distribute, expand, and textually manifest a rolling conversation between young media researchers and artists globally networked through the university and gallery system. We seek to match a cynical perspective with critical intelligence, and a constant willingness to pull down old paradigms and icons of media philosophy and cultural criticism.

It’s especially interesting to see discussion about the same media trends and subjects I tend to link to (OK, when I’m posting at all), but from the perspective of people who come first from the media side (in this case film) and second from the technology side rather than the other way around.



My lab has just released a beta of iCandy, an application for Mac and PC that lets you associate an image and a two-dimensional QR bar code with any iTunes song, YouTube video or Flickr photo, and to print them out as postcards, business cards, posters or photo albums. Then you can just hold the barcode up to a webcam to automatically bring up the photo or play the song or movie.

The app itself is pretty cute (we’ve been using it internally for a few months now) and they’ve recently set up a community network site for sharing your playlists and media pics with others too. The online Flash-based version seems to be broken at the moment, but check out the app.

52-card Psycho

There are exactly 52 playing cards in a standard deck. There are also exactly 52 shots in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho. From this amazing coincidence comes 52 Card Psycho, a new augmented-reality experimental film piece my brother recently designed in collaboration with the Future Cinema Lab at York University:

52 Card Psycho is an installation-based investigation into cinematic structures and interactive cinema viewership; the concept is simple: a deck of 52 cards, each printed with a unique identifier, are replaced in the subject’s view by the 52 individual shots that make up Hitchcock’s famous shower scene in Psycho. The cards can be manipulated by the viewer: stacked, dealt, arranged in their original order or re-composed in different configurations, creating spreads of time, and allowing a material interaction with the ‘cinema screen’— an object which normally is removed and exalted, and unchangeable in its linearity.

New York Times is developing an API

This may be old news, but it looks like the New York Times is developing an API for accessing their content:

The goal, according to Aron Pilhofer, editor of interactive news, is to “make the NYT programmable. Everything we produce should be organized data.”

Once the API is complete, the Times’ internal developers will use it to build platforms to organize all the structured data such as events listings, restaurants reviews, recipes, etc. They will offer a key to programmers, developers and others who are interested in mashing-up various data sets on the site. “The plan is definitely to open [the code] up,” Frons said. “How far we don’t know.”

Pilhofer and Frons both declined to give any specific dates, but Pilhofer said the API itself will be done “within a matter of weeks.” In the next six months, “we’ll have some of the major pieces — a restaurant guide, weekend events listings and books,” Frons added.

(Link by way of the IdeaLab Blog.)

Kindle playing the game backwards?

My coworker Steve Savitzky has some interesting musings on the Kindle, Amazon’s new ebook reader:

If you want everyone else’s opinion, see the links after the cut. Here’s mine: interesting play, but it’s in the wrong game.

You see, Kindle is Amazon’s attempt at an iPod for books. They’re using what they hope is an elegant, convenient, and reasonably-priced piece of hardware (which I’d guess that they’re selling at pretty close to cost when you factor in the pre-paid data plan) to sell digital copies of books (which are fairly expensive considering all the atoms they don’t have to handle compared with their dead-tree counterparts).

Apple, on the other hand, is using convenient access to an extensive collection of audio tracks (which they sell at pretty close to cost) to sell a particularly elegant and convenient, but overpriced, piece of hardware. Apple isn’t even in the hardware business, really: they understand that they’re in the fashion business, and have made it really easy for other companies to sell accessories for iPods.

Hands up, who’s going to build fashion accessories for the Kindle? Don’t all speak at once… How many people are going to buy a Kindle for each of their kids? Is anybody going to let their kids loose on a piece of hardware that lets them buy books at $10/pop at the click of a button? That’s what I thought.

Sounds pretty spot-on to me…