Archived entries for tech

Told you.

Now this was obviously a publicity stunt for Dominos and something the FAA is preventing. But it shows a proof of concept, and something that I think will slowly be introduced as tech advances and legislation loosens.

Just remember what comes next.

As part of a new high-tech initiative, DC is going to be trying out a pair of new techniques with some of their future digital books.

First is DC2, which appears to be a new take at motion comics for tablet and mobile devices. It looks to be the next evolution from Marvel’s Infinite test during Avengers vs X-Men combined with some of the more interesting panel transitioning that some of the web comics are playing with. Basically, it turns comics into something more akin to an animatic with a sound track instead of static graphics on a page.

I’m skeptical about this one, mainly because I don’t know how they plan on delivering it and I’m still not sold on motion comics as a thing that needs to exist. Sort of like how dessert is great, and pizza is great, but dessert pizza is a thing that should never have been created.

The other part of it is DC Multiverse, which is essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure book in comic form. At some point in the story, you get to make a choice about what happens, and then the story unfolds from there. See the gif below for a basic idea of how it will work.

DC Choose Your Own Adventure

I loved Choose Your Own Adventure stories as a kid, and I think that comics can get a lot of mileage out of adopting that schema. Sure, it’ll increase the amount of leg work to get something in front of a customer, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. I know I went through each book several times, making sure I found each possible outcome. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on this than their new take on motion comics.


This petition appeared on the White House’s We The People section on Monday.

Make, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), a legal form of protesting.

With the advance in internet techonology [sic], comes new grounds for protesting. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), is not any form of hacking in any way. It is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting the refresh button on a webpage. It is, in that way, no different than any “occupy” protest. Instead of a group of people standing outside a building to occupy the area, they are having their computer occupy a website to slow (or deny) service of that particular website for a short time.

As part of this petition, those who have been jailed for DDoS should be immediatly [sic] released and have anything regarding a DDoS, that is on their “records”, cleared.

They make a curious argument about their preferred method of attack. DDoS attacks, after all, are the virtual equivalent to a sit-in protest, albeit one that you can’t call the in police to stop. Those kind of attacks don’t do any real damage to a website, and they aren’t violating any laws since they’re just banging away at the public side of a website.

But, an important counterpoint is that for a DDoS attack to be successful against most large websites, the DDoS’ers need to have control of thousands of systems. One lone PC isn’t bringing down PayPal. And, generally, the method of accessing and controlling those systems are completely illegal.

Which brings us to question if a form of protest can be legal if it is dependent on an illegal action to pull off. Sort of like the Mexican drug cartels buying anti-pot legalization ads (which may have happened in this last election cycle).

Personally, I’m fine with DDoS attacks as legal protesting, provided you’ve got an army of real people behind computers furiously mashing away at the F5 key. But, if you’re using malware to bot-out the machines of unwilling participants? Not so much.

Post Script: The guy that submitted this is probably utterly mortified that he misspelled technology, and is probably being hacked to all hell by the FBI and NSA right now.

You want to make your millions in the near-future urban sprawls of China, India, Europe and the States? Then make what I’m about to talk about into a reality.

It starts with cheap, easily assembled parts – ideally from an open-source 3D printer template – that form a basic, quad-rotor drone. Then, you source old cameras from cellphones. Stuff in the 640×480 pixel range, that’s pretty shit for quality but can get basic shapes in high contrast. Finally, you tack in a cheap cellular GPS unit. Not even one that talks to satellites – I’m talking about one that gets all of its location information from cellular data towers. Hopefully, a decent power supply will give the thing at least a 15 mile round-trip radius, which will can cover most major cities with just a few “base-nodes” for the drones to work out of.

This is your courier. It is cheap, highly mobile, and can transport small packages. Things like left behind cellphones or jackets, legal documents, hard drives, or lunch orders. Things, that for a few bucks a pop, it would probably be more convenient for some one else to move for you.

Requesting a courier could be done through a simple web or device-based app. Give a pick up location, a drop off location and specify if it’s a rush or not. Then, you leave your package in a special pick-up grid somewhere that the drone can get to it – say in your backyard or on a balcony. The drone recognizes the patterning on the grid thanks to the camera, and it knows where to make the pick up. For drop off, it just finds the grid at the end location in the same manner. Clients can be notified of estimated arrival time by email, text message or phone call. And if a client puts out a package that’s too heavy, they can be notified in the exact same manner.

With this drone-based system, you’re cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions from car-base couriers and delivery drivers while opening up a whole new market for personalized delivery and convenience. Plus, as the economy of scale kicks in, the drones will become less and less expensive to manufacture and maintain.

Expect the urban spaces of the future to have a constant thrum of drone engines.


Of course, all of this brings up a whole other set of problems.


This is most likely Not Safe For Work, unless you have headphones or work in a place where they are perfectly fine talking about oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, sexually transmitted infections, 50 Shades of Grey, and Robots From the Future Built to Fuck Your Face.

(Hello, Google Search results!)

I am truly amazed Launch Memphis still let me do these things. And thankful, as well.

It is the near future, in an aging urban corridor where congestion brought on by antiquated city planning and high gas prices has destroyed the 20th century notion of the car as the great liberator of the modern American.

The city has become a near impenetrable bivouac of occupied human spaces. Residential mated to commercial, with storage and food spaces hanging off them like lampreys.

Between those spaces, there is a noise: the ceaseless thrum of plastic and metal rotor blades pushing against the air.

This is the noise of the drone swarm. Of a million wirelessly controlled delivery and service machines moving products for us. All on modular frames with solar panels and high density battery packs, and nary a carbon toeprint amongst them.

For they are the servant class of the digital age; ferrying our take-out food, our Amazon purchases, our dry cleaning, all of the consumptive bits of our lives, to and fro so we don’t have to. All of it controlled and maintained by a joint commercial and government cooperative to ensure that economic stimulation is as easy as it could possibly be.

But, there is something else in the skies, too. Something newer than the drones in the swarm…something malevolent.

Drone predators.

Instead of being simple pack mules, these drones prey upon their pacifist kin, seeking the profitable treasures held within their cargo nets. iDevices, physical media, designer clothing, anything that can be sold quickly and easily over the local Internet grey market is what the hunters are after, but, in a pinch, the prey drones themselves can be torn down and sold for parts.

Their method of capture varies wildly, from nets to signal scramblers to firewall-penetrating viruses. Some drone predators are even large enough to simply scoop up their prey whole and deliver them back to their criminal handlers, the smaller drone struggling the whole way.

Local and federal security agencies have fielded drone-hunting counter measures, with mixed success. Larger attack drones are able to eliminate the drone predators, but are hard to maneuver in tight urban spaces and destroying drones doesn’t generate leads toward finding the drone’s handler. Interdiction and tracking operations can score individual successes, but tactics used by the security agencies are quickly countered by the handlers and how-tos spread like wildfire through the darknets. Evasion is the most low-tech solution, but it remains the most effective countermeasure. Drone delivery paths can be randomized, destination data encrypted, and redundant protective systems installed.

It is still a numbers game, though. And some percentage is always going to get caught.

Which is why for a small service fee, most retail outlets will gladly insure your package against drone-theft.

This is the shape of the future, and  of the new ecosystems forming in its cracks.

In the future, to cope with the impossible torrent of data cascading down upon us, each person over a certain income level will be fitted with a social media simulacra. One part digital assistant, one part overly aggressive behavioral pattern algorithm, the simulacra will ensure proper filtering of the data stream so only relevant bits reach their users. Each simulacra will have a name, set by the user, and will react only to voice commands from that user. The simulacra will make up for the biological failings that keep a normal human from comprehending the data overload. Overtime, the simulacra will become closer to the users than real humans, possibly even supplanting their need for interaction.

All of this will be ad-supported, contractually bound, and requiring an early termination fee, of course.

Pity the alchemists of old couldn’t wait around another thousand years for us to make homunculi out of ones and zeroes.


That’s it right there. Molded plastic lady parts attached to a snap-on iPad harness.

If you’ve been paying attention to this blog today, then you’ll have learned three things about science and technology:

  1.  It can put a working rover on Mars for 8 years.
  2. It can be used to spy on the world.
  3. It can let you fuck your iPad.

What a Brave New World we live in.

Image borrowed from They’ve got more facts about the Fleshlight iPad Abomination Thing if you are interested.

You may have seen the story already, about how a consumer-grade aerial drone with a camera mounted to it captured shots of a Texas meat-packing plant illegally dumping cow blood out the back of their facility.

It’s here if you want more information.

The interesting thing in this for me is how common the usage of drones like these is becoming. The #Occupy movement’s got one. The ship from Whale Wars does, too. You can buy them on Amazon and control them with your phone.

A few years back, drones were things the military used to kill people in places where they didn’t want to risk losing a hundred million dollar fighter jet. Now, they’re something you can mount a webcam to and take a remote tour of your next apartment with.

As their cost decreases and their technology level increases, these drones are going to start posing a real problem for personal privacy. They’re already working on one that you can mount a DSLR to. Which will pretty much turn it into a flying peeping-tom.

In my head I can see swarms, utter swarms, of these things clogging the skies over Beverly Hills as paparazzi use them to try to snap of picture of the celeb du jure in the middle of something embarrassing. Or in a vertically oriented city like New York or Hong Kong or Tokyo, they will be the 21st century equivalent of spying on your neighbor with a telescope.

And these are just the annoying downsides. What about when stalkers use them to harass their victims? Or pedophiles use them to get a view your kids changing at the pool. Things get very real and very scary, very quickly.

I bet within a few months, a year at the most, we start seeing technologically progressive cities passing zoning ordinances that forbid the use of drones in certain areas. Like near schools or residential areas, hell maybe even banning them within city limits altogether.

But they’ll never be able to full stop them. Pandora’s Box has been opened when it comes to these things, and there’s no putting them back in, they’ve already flown off.

You’ve heard the name in passing, friends or coworkers talking about the curious new artist with the disastrous performance on Saturday Night Live, so you look her up on YouTube.

This is what you find.

A beautiful young girl with a sultry voice that evokes the best moments of Tori Amos from the 90s.

But, there’s something wrong.

The beauty is artificial. Sculpted with a surgeon’s knife and approaching the alienating expanse of the uncanny valley.

The music is crafted so she won’t have to push out of her vocal range, organized into easily editable phrases that can be cut together from multiple takes and written by song writers that know just what strings to tug in their audience.

The video is just like a few others she put out, a mix of public domain footage and moments of her mouthing the words at the camera, head askew in an awkward attempt at demure sexuality.

If everything about Lana Del Ray smacks of artificial, untenable perfection because that’s just what it is.

Her real name is Elizabeth Grant, and she’s a millionaire’s daughter. Her father made his money by jumping on thousands of domains in the early days of the internet and charging people to lease them from him. Which meant that he had the capital to indulge his daughter when she wanted to become a star. He’s hired managers, producers, song writers, stylists and god knows what else to turn his daughter into this impossible thing.

Elizabeth’s been at this for years, trying to find the right combination of things to fit her unique style of might-be talent. It took them five years and who knows how many marketing reps to settle on the Lana Del Rey name

She released her first EP in 2008, then a full album in 2011 – neither of which are publicly available any more because a decision was made by her “team” to pull them so they’d have a clean field for the newest iteration of the Lana Del Rey construct.

Which about catches us up to the slow motion car wreck that was her on SNL.

Normally, I’d be at head of the pack, racing into savage a pop star for their hubris and lack of talent. But, there’s something different here. To me the story isn’t about how she can’t perform live, the story is about how she was made.

With digital recording technology we can already create singing computer programs to power virtual pop idols. With Lana Del Rey, though, we’re now coming at it from the infinite-number-of-monkeys-with-type-writers direction. Provided a person hits every note in a song just once while be recorded, the song can be sutured together with ones and zeroes into something that sounds like it was done in a single take.

And when a creation like Lana Del Rey steps out onto a live stage, how can you expect such a meticulously crafted illusion to hold up? It would be akin to asking Peter Jackson to do The Lord of the Rings live…in one take.

Lana Del Rey does give me a bit of hope, though. Hope that the same technology that was used to build her will be used by more interesting people to do more interesting things, and they’ll be the ones that push the horizon out just a bit more.

(I will admit I’ve found myself humming the hook to Video Games without realizing it.)

Sourcing New Scientist to give you a rough over view of this:

Joe Davis is an artist and a research affiliate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the mid-1980s, he became concerned that no image of humans had been sent into space representing the details of human genitals or reproduction.

So he led a project to transmit the sounds of vaginal contractions towards neighbouring star systems. To do so, he recorded the vaginal contractions of ballet dancers.

The messages were to be sent from MIT’s Millstone Hill Radar to Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti and two other stars. However, only a few minutes of footage was transmitted before the US air force, which had jurisdiction over the facility, shut the project down.

Nevertheless, the vaginal sounds that were sent will have reached Epsilon Eridani in 1996 and Tau Ceti in 1998. It is unclear what sort of reply we should expect.

Got that? So, Joe Davis, a full on bat-shit insane mad scientist, was pissed off at the lack of female genitalia on Carl Sagan’s Pioneer 10/11 plaques. Davis felt that we were basically throwing “monster versions” of ourselves out into space, and he felt something should be done about it.

Like convincing a bunch of dancers from the Boston Ballet to insert a device of his own design, record their vaginal contractions, and then have an equally bat-shit insane linguist translate those into recorded patterns into the basic phonemes of language.

Which he then beamed at two of our nearest neighbor stars.

Which I think might make Joe Davis the world’s first interstellar pornographer, but that’s neither here nor there.

Well, once they finish learning how to juggle, at least.

And, yes, this is being developed for military application.

Now that we’ve been over the “What” of Hatsune Miku, let’s go over the “Why”. As in, why she’s important.

Pat commented yesterday that on stage Hatsune’s not that different from The Gorillaz live shows, and that her voice is still based on a real person’s voice. And he’s right about both of those things. The Gorillaz project animated performers onto a screen that masks human musicians, and Hatsune’s voice is built up from the phoneme recordings of a real person.

But her key difference from previous, similar things is that her plasticity, her artificiality, is COMPLETE. Absolutely nothing about her is real.

First, let’s think about her as an animated character.

Animated characters are tied to visuals and to voices. It can be argued that Mel Blanc was more key to popularizing most of the Warner Bros characters than their visual representations. The problem here is that Mel Blanc is a human, and humans, well not to spoil the end of your life for you, die. And when Blanc finally did expire, Warner had several years where they had to convince people that Bugs Bunny really sounded like this new guy, and not at all like that old, dead guy. Same thing with Kermit the Frog, or Tony the Tiger, or any character that’s deeply engrained in the social consciousness and voiced by a real human with an expiration date. Hatsune Miko has no expiration dates. Because her voice is created in a computer by the clever application of a few billions ones and zeroes, she’ll never get die. She’ll never get old, go through puberty, or ruin her voice with smoking and whiskey. A thousand years from now, she’ll sound the exact same as she does right now. She is the first voice of the future, because in the future she’ll sound exactly the same.

Now, let’s think about her as a commercial character.

Ultimately, Hatsune Miko was created as a bit of stunt by Crypton Future Media. They’re sound technology people. So, they made the apex of current sound technology. She was meant to raise awareness of the company that created her, and I’m sure her records sales are a nice bonus. Like Pandora and her box, Crypton’s unwittingly unleashed something on the world. There is no question that most Disney pop stars are trained and groomed from a young age to become billion dollar industries. There is also no question that Disney would probably love to not have said pop stars taking a chunk of their revenue and then spend it on things that get them plastered all over the front of grocery store tabloids. Making a pop star out of ray tracing and vocal synthesizers is one way to do that. And it doesn’t have to be Disney doing it, either. If a relatively small company like Crypton can do it, anyone can. Every new product or initiative could have a fake pop star attached to it, filling the air waves and fiber optic cables. And speaking as a guy in advertising who could pitch that to a client, this is fantastic and frightening

Lastly, let’s think about her as a musical character.

Touched on this a bit in the first one, but Hatsune and the future things like her, are fixed point in space. The point can be fixed as a 16 year old pop idol, or a 60 year old torch singer, or a 20 something folk-rocker. And since they are artificial, and built up by a team of people, they’ll never go off on some bizarre introspective tangent and make a record like Pet Sounds. Their music will be consistent, uniform across all of their releases. And if the people behind them ever get bored or want to try something different? They’ll just whip up a new vocaloid and create a new artist.

Hatsune Miko is important because of the simplicity of what she represents: The idea of an unchanging, easily replaceable commercial entity that you owe nothing to and will never do anything to embarrass or betray you.

While I could put money on their never being an indie-rock vocaloid success (ONLY because the hipsters won’t allow it, not because it couldn’t be good), I can’t put that same money on idorus like Hatsune Miko carving out a niche for themselves in pop music.

I give you Hatsune Miku.

A teal-green haired Japanese school girl that’s apparently holding a leek or onion or something in this picture.

She’s fake. Completely not real. She’s the intellectual property of Japan’s Crypton Future Media. And probably the most crystal clear vision of the future that I’ve ever seen.

Crypton Future Media makes sound…things. Mainly digital libraries of sounds or programs to generate those libraries. They’ve sold their products to video game companies, software developers, and even Japanese government agencies. After looking over the list of companies they’ve done work for, I’d be willing to put money that everyone with a toe in the digital world has probably heard their stuff.

So what is a glorified MIDI card of a company doing whipping up an anime character with an apparent obsession with vegetables of the Alliaceae family?

The answer lies in a translation of her name.

Hatsune Miku can be loosely translated to mean “First Sound of the Future”.

And that’s exactly what Hatsune Miku is. She’s a completely artificial anime-esque pop sensation. In a world where pop stars are more often than not manufactured people with equally fake personalities and musical talents, Crypton Future Media has taken a visionary step and gone ahead and cut out the fleshy animal medium entirely.

Here’s the result, performing live in concert:

Hatsune Miku’s voice is created through the use of Yamaha’s Vocaloid voice synthesizer technology. Crypton took the vocal patterns of a young female anime voice actor, Saki Fujita, and through some technical wizardry and the Vocaloid synthesizer, created their most important product yet – a pop star.

God, I can’t tell you how surreal typing that line was. Anyway.

When she…err…it preforms, it’s a pre-rendered holographic projects done against a semi-permeable screen that lets you see the band behind her (featuring some of the crew from Crypton Future Media) and gives an illusion of depth.

Check out this longer video:

William Gibson, the Father of Cyberpunk, was speculating about creatures like Hatsune over a decade ago in his novel Idoru. But some how, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. While she’s not the first, she’s the biggest and most popular digital synthetic artificial whatever pop idol created yet. Hatsune Miku really is the first voice of the future.

Albeit a very, annoying, grating, saccharine future.

More on this tomorrow.

Here’s the video from the talk I gave last week about Nerd Rapture.

I wish they’d have inter-cut the slides so you could see what I was yelling about, but whatever.

I honestly have no memory of what happened once I started the talk. Muscle memory or something took over and I just ran through my paces until that last slide ticked over. Had a blast with it, though.

Let me know if you’ve got any questions. The talk is fast and without the slides, you’re probably missing a lot.

Wouldn’t kill me to lose a few pounds, would it?

Don’t answer that.

That’s the HRP-4C. Some kind of crazy Japanese robot. Sex robot, probably, considering the Japanese do everything they can to have sex with anything but each other.

Honestly, though, I can’t find a damn reason for them building this thing. They’ve been working on it for years, and so far they’ve taught it to walk like a model, and prance like a pop star.

Which considering both of those are completely pointless activities, gives credence to my sexbot theory.

Robots are a Big Thing in Japan. They’re so scared of dealing with an entire population of infirm elderly, they’re dumping hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to build a robot that can change out grandpa’s bedpan. And so far they’ve really only succeeded in doing things like the above. Oh, and building tech that lets people control robots with their brains. Which, admittedly, is kind of cool – and also really fucking scary.

It’s always amazed me that they can’t get robots to move right. In animation terms, there’s no ease-in/ease-out. The motion curves are essentially straight lines, and their platforms are so unstable they wobble like palsy case every time they finish a gesture. With just a little bit of collaboration from some one who understands how to make motion look good, they’d be able to fix a lot of the Uncanny Valley problems they are running into.

I’m rambling now.

One last look at the HRP-4C, showing us some of her its emotional range.

I mean, who doesn’t love that freaky, pore-less, super Muppet face?

Via Pink Tentacle



“Do we know what happened to them?”

“No idea. They were making all sorts of racket for about a century then they went dead quiet all of a sudden.”


“Bad choice of words, man.”

“What? I didn’t mean…goddammit.”


“So, if it wasn’t nuclear war, or a plague or a something big – what the hell happened to them all? What kills a planet full of over-evolved apes?”

“Ahhh….sir? I…I think I found it.”

“What’ve you got?”

“An Internet, sir. Looks like it spread into everything. Entertainment, vehicles, appliances, communication, medicine, military, it integrated itself into all of it.”

“Those poor bastards. They never stood a chance.”




Carribbean Island to Offer Rides Into Space – (note: that’s their typo, not mine!)

XCOR Aerospace is teaming up with the southern Caribbean island of Curacao to develop a space port for future suborbital tourist and scientific flights. The agreement is with the territorial government of Curacao and a group of Dutch investors with the hopes of offering flights in 2014.

The joint venture is known as Space Experience Curacao, or SXC. The group will lease one of XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft. The Lynx is a small two-seat spacecraft (pictured above) designed to launch to more than 100 kilometers (about 328,000 feet).

The pilot and passenger would experience weightlessness at the apex of the flight. And from that altitude they will be surrounded by the darkness of space and see the curvature of the earth with the sandy beaches and turquoise waters of Curacao 62 miles below.

The cost of a single ride is expected to be $98,000.

I’ve been wondering why it’s taken so long for a small nation to try something like this. You’ve got an isolated landmass, limited international treaty recognition, and not much else. They’ve got billions of dollars of investment money to try out some crazy tech idea. Why don’t you two get together and party like mad scientist from 1967?

Now, commercial space launches are nothing new. All sorts of developing nations partner with telecom companies to put communication satellites in orbit, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a small country partner with such a big idea.

My hope is that it leads to a hole in the dam. Maybe make some small nation realize they’ve got nothing to lose by taking partnerships like this even farther. Make protected enclaves for gray-market tech research.

Feel like studying human cloning for organ harvesting? C’mon down to Nauru! Want to develop new wireless technologies but don’t want to bother with all of those government licensing restrictions? The Marshall Islands are here for you! Want to offer quick turn around experimental medical treatments in FDA-free research environment? Tuvalu has everything you need, and miles of tropical beaches!

I’m being a bit hyperbolic here, but I’ve always wondered why a small island nation never just went and gave the rest of the world the finger then threw their doors open to bleeding edge, morally ambiguous research. I mean, in a lot of ways, it is their right. We’re causing the ocean levels to rise, fucking them over, so why should they give us any mind?

That’s a demonstration of the Telenoid R1, a telepresence communication robot…thing.

The idea is that the R1 will act as a physical, minimalist representation of a far, far away person sitting in front of a computer. Through a webcam, the R1′s software tracks the physical movements of said person, and moves the R1 robot accordingly. That’s the rationale to blame for the creepy as shit movements of the wormbot that you see in the video.

Right now, porn’s tech heads and lawyers are exploring the real time, peepshow-esque things that came be accomplished with the iPhone 4′s Facetime application. Just think of what they could do with the R1′s hardware slapped into something like a RealDoll. Dial into a pay per minute/pay per act service and have a real human being digital service you through nothing more than a webcam and a broadband connection.

Who needs a virtual sex doll when science is bringing real ones to our doorstep?

The worst part of this?

The really creepy people are the ones that want fuck the damn thing as-is.

Story is everywhere today, but give Pink Tentacle your traffic. They are awesome.

From Wired’s Danger Room blog:

Pain Ray Recalled From Afghanistan

Well, now the so-called “Active Denial System” has been recalled. It’s headed back to America, without ever being fired in hostility. “The system will not be used here and is being sent back to the States,” ISAF spokesman Lt. Col. John Dorrian tells Engadget’s Sean Hollister.

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