Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TED: Portable "Minority Report" interface!

For those of you haven't seen Minority Report, the movie showcases some seemingly futuristic gestural interfaces that Tom Cruise uses to control a complex computer system. Yet only a few years after it came out, we're already seeing just how possible this is. In this TED video, Pattie Maes from MIT demonstrates a low-cost ($350) system that lets the user use any available surface (a wall, a free hand (!)) as a multi-touch interface. Granted, it's a bit slower to use than Jeff Han's table or Microsoft's Surface, but hey, it's cheap and you can bring it with you.

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posted by Brian at 10:10 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 27, 2009

TED for Underprivileged Kids, and other Brainstorms

My girlfriend Tricia and I have both been enjoying the TED videos for a while. It's great that the otherwise expensive and exclusive TED Conference can be viewed by anyone with broadband Internet access, but this week was TED's first foray into bringing the live experience to a university setting, where students and some of the more general public can attend.

Still, something feels amiss. We had a conversation this morning -- what about the kids in bad neighborhoods, in bad schools? Who is bringing great ideas and inspiration to them? What TED-like experience could be brought to them and would it have an impact on their literacy, their motivation, and future success in life?

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posted by Brian at 6:46 PM 1 comments links to this post

Thursday, March 26, 2009

TEDx USC: The Bavard Hall Reception

After all that inspiration, motivation, and thought-provoking it was time to partayy! (Or at least, get something more substantial to eat than cookies and coffee.)

TEDx attendees (and staff) hob-knob and eat hors d'oeuvres, drink free wine and beer, and do some triadic networking...

Others look at the dazzling exhibits, like the eight-player tabletop retro arcade game unit, or ...

... Moldover's Synchomasher!

After scarfing down some egg rolls, mini-pizza things and a glass of wine, I explored a bit and mingled. Thanked various people who had made the event possible, shook hands with Junoon, and thanked Moldover himself for getting me in.

Looking forward to next year!

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posted by Brian at 9:19 PM 0 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Elizabeth Gilbert and Having Your Own Personal Genius

Moving talk shown at TEDx (which I had seen online before) from the author of the best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love. After the unexpected success of her book, the maddening pressure of coming up with a second success made her realize that perhaps the ancient Roman belief of "genius" being a voice in your wall that gives you great ideas wasn't such a bad idea after all. Keeps a creative person from going insane!

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posted by Brian at 8:38 PM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TEDx USC: Juan Enriquez

The folks in the TEDx booth fixed the audio glitch and played this TED 2009 video again. Ahh, much better.

It's a rare public speaker who can take an otherwise depressing topic (the collapse of Wall Street and the U.S. economy) and make it both humorous and hopeful.

I had no idea how far advanced organ regrowth technology has come, nor that Boston Dynamics (whom I've been following since the early 90s since hearing about them via Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers) now has a free-standing quadraped robot that walks freakishly close to a real animal. Wow!

Now if we can all get affordable health care and free robotic assistants, the future looks brighter indeed!

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posted by Brian at 6:36 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TEDx USC: Aimee Mullins on being "Superabled"

Reframing your situation can lead to opportunities and powers you never imagined. No legs? Build them. But why build them to be ordinary? They can jump higher, run faster, be beautiful sculpture, make you taller, shorter...

Great speech shown at TEDx by Aimee Mullin about not letting society's biases stop you.

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posted by Brian at 4:33 PM 0 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Kellee Santiago and Videogames as a Potentially Sophisticated Artform

Kellee Santiago is the co-founder of thatgamecompany and former Interactive Media graduate student at USC. Her excellent talk centered on the old debate of whether videogames are Art, or at least, can be Art. She showcased a few examples, including a game where the player gets to be the cult leader Dave Coresh, as well as her company's new downloadable PS3 game, Flower, where the player is the wind blowing flower petals over grassy hills. (Nice!)

I'm not sure she entirely made her point though I agree with it. Yes, videogames CAN be Art. Yes, we could be at the early stages of the Art form like we were with cave paintings or early live action shots of film. But I believe Truely artful games are a rarity still not because the medium is primitive. It's because most Game Designers are not truly great. In fact, most get their jobs by starting out as game testers who play the particular games being produced over and over again. This would be like Chefs becoming chefs by eating a particular food over and over. Granted, well acclaimed animation directors at Pixar DO watch old classics over and over, but a large breadth of them, not just the ones they worked on previously. And granted, there are IMHO some truly great Game Designers out there or now part of History. Will Wright, Peter Molyneaux, Shigeru Miyamoto, Keita Takahashi, Richard Garriott, Dani Bunten Berry, Sid Meier many more I don't know about, and perhaps the folks at thatgamecompany will be among them too.

One thought I had while watching: Is an edited screen capture of a game still a game? Or is it a form of cinema? (Indeed, there exists a spin-off artform based on videogame engines called Machinima, with its props, sets and actors based on game art but its grammar based on film conventions.)

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posted by Brian at 3:38 PM 2 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Dave Logan and Tribal Leadership

Dave Logan, Associate Dean and Executive Director of Executive Development at University of Southern California's (USC) Marshall Business School, gave an excellent talk about tribes, based on his recent book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization.

According to Logan, tribes are small groups (10-100 people) of people that form naturally. They tend not to be the same from each other and that difference is called "culture." A crowd or a business will likely contain many tribes. Tribes can be classified by one of 5 stages and each tribe can only hear one level below and above its own level. The stages are:
  1. "Life sucks" (ex. gangs)
  2. "My Life sucks" or "How can people so dumb live?" (ex. the DMV)
  3. "I am great (and you're not)"
    (ex. lawyers or doctors meeting in an elevator, conferences)

  4. "We're great!"
  5. (ex. a company like Zappo.com)
  6. "Life is great!"
  7. (ex. any tribe with positive members that has a positive impact on people)
According to research, only 2% of tribes are stage 5, with most hovering in stage 2, 3 and 4. Mr. Logan encouraged us to "nudge our tribes" towards the next level, and to start doing triadic networking, that is, introduce two people you don't know to each other (in effect, bridging tribes together).

Ultimately the point of the book is to dispel the myth and mindset that only Dog eat Dog cutthroat companies survive and grow big. In fact, cultures based on back-stabbing and fear and "cover your ass" (as so prominent in FX and game companies in my experience) are doomed to stagnate or die. Not surprisingly, Mr. Logan encountered hostility when speaking about his book on FOX News:

A lot of TEDxers enjoyed this talk a lot, citing it as one of the highlights.

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posted by Brian at 2:52 PM 0 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Junoon (Salman Ahmed) and Melissa Etheridge LIVE

Junoon and its lead guitarist/singer Dr. Salman Ahmad (part rock star, part U.N. Ambassador and humanitarian) performed twice at TEDx. Its music is a nice mix of South Asian and Western influences with a Sufi touch (think George Harrison). Later in the program though we were surprised by a special guest -- Melissa Etheridge! She and Dr. Ahmad met at Al Gore's Nobel Prize ceremony and became fast friends (meeting later for a "mind meld", according to Melissa). Both performed a special song together (accompanied by the audience ringing little white bells provided beforehand). Later in the day, he sang John Lennon's "Imagine" with some volunteers from the audience.

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posted by Brian at 2:08 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 23, 2009

TEDx USC: Natasha Tsakos

Very cool TED Video shown here at TEDx about Natasha Tsakos, a corporeal mime actress who combines nonverbal communication, Foley sound FX, and projected CG animations in her work, in particular her show called Upwake.

Reminds me of the work of Robert LePage, with more of a Charlie Chaplin / Buster Keaton performance style.

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posted by Brian at 2:27 PM 0 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Donal Manahan and the "Blue Revolution"

Donal Manahan (biology USC professor) demonstrates how the fishing industry is literally sucking the fish from the sea like a vacuum cleaner. The United States aquatic protein capacity is small (about the size of Greenland's), not the "bread basket" of the world. A solution? Hybrid organisms made to grow fast (i.e. slower metabolisms)

Arthur C Clarke:
"How innappropriate to call this planet Earth when it clearly should be named Ocean."

Sounds good, I love oysters! But all those giant half shells will make us much more attractive target to alien space otter invasion!


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posted by Brian at 1:56 PM 0 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Chris Anderson, C.L. Max Nikias, broken TED video, Jayne Poynter

Krisztina Holly, USC's MC for the program introduces herself and the first group of many guests, including Chris Anderson of TED.com himself:

C. L. Max Nikias (from USC) reads his speech about interdisciplinary communities and the importance of intellectual friction (that is, surrounding yourself with people with ideas not your own).

They try to show a TED video but it has audio problems... now we're hearing from Jayne Poynter, who has lived in an artificial BioSphere, or a simulated closed environment. Problems she dealt with: eating herself (i.e. exhaled CO2 feeds sweet potato, which she eats...), losing oxygen (7 tons) to compost and into the concrete, realizing how smelly we are on the outside, and losing touch with her impact on the Environment once she left the BioSphere.


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posted by Brian at 1:22 PM 0 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Qi Zhang opening

Qi Zhang opens sitting at an unusual organ-like instrument with foot pedals. However, the music being played sounds nothing like an organ, it's a symphonic tune reminiscent of a Walt Disney World fireworks show. But all being played by her! Whoa! Drums, percussion, horns, strings... Incredible.

UPDATE: The piece played is Prokofiev's The Love of Three Oranges. (Ménage à troi l'orange?)

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posted by Brian at 1:09 PM 0 comments links to this post

TEDx USC: Parking, Registration, Seating

Arrived at 11:30 AM at the USC parking lot. Really warm today, left leather jacket in the car. Followed the signs to Bovard Hall, where a set of tables were set up for registration. Asked somebody where comp tickets were picked up -- around the corner, where a few folks were setting things up still. Registered without a hitch, other than they needed to get more plastic lanyards.

Looked in vain for something to eat. No luck. Back to the front of Bavard Hall to read the program. Paul Debevec (Benjamin Button FX), Moldover... Met a radiologist who has attended many TED conferences, and other gatherings.

Found a seat, 2nd row. Hope laptop battery holds out! Guy next to me and woman next to him are Twittering on their iPhones. They showed me how to sign up and use it, although it's a little cumbersome on the website itself. We'll see how it goes. (How interesting is it to read 1200 "I am at the TED conference" messages?)


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posted by Brian at 12:40 PM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Attending TEDx tomorrow...

Whohoo! I have always wanted to attend the TED conference (the videos of which are often blogged about here).

There's a talented electronica mash-up performer (and self-proclaimed controllerist) named Moldover whom I've seen perform at a NAMM after party and at an Ableton Live user's group. Anyway, he sent out a mailing list announcement that he'll be showcasing his multiple user musical instrument (the Octamasher) at TEDx, a smaller version of TED over at USC tomorrow, and mentioned that he might be able to invite people to the otherwise invite-only event. I emailed him back and luckily they had space for one.

So you'll be getting full coverage tomorrow on this blog. The guest list and range of topics look intriguing:
This year's TEDx USC speakers and performers include the street artist who created the Obama "HOPE" poster, a worldwide rock star who has sold more than 30 million albums, one of the creators of the most complex scientific instrument in history, and an inventor who is restoring sight to the blind. Also on hand will be several USC innovators who are changing the world in gaming, immersive environments, bioengineering, animation and music.

Stay tuned!

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posted by Brian at 5:10 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 25, 2008

TED: The Price of Happiness

Author Benjamin Wallace talks about his quest to sample 10 outrageously priced objects of pleasure to see if they lived up to their cost.

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posted by Brian at 2:50 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 24, 2008

TED: Dave Eggers and his After-School Pirate Supply Store Writing Center

A few years ago I went to a Revenge of the Bookeaters fund-raising event for Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia project, an after school writing program for kids. Dave put both a magazine and a tutoring center in one place so that kids could have one-on-one access with professional writers. What's novel about the San Francisco location is that it's not "Center for Teaching Kids Writing" or some dull name -- it's a crazy cool pirate accessory store! Having that sort of atmosphere expands kids' imaginations, and writing just becomes a means to express and dignify children's ideas. Other places have opened around the country and even Ireland, all with a nifty theme. One is time travellers accessory store, another a superhero store with a capery... I love it!

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posted by Brian at 9:00 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, March 03, 2008

TED Talk: Purple Cows, and Being Remarkable To Those Who Care

Marketing expert and Author Seth Godin talks about the changing landscape of creative success. The old model was to spend millions on interrupting people with the message about your product, a product that is "safe" and appealing to the masses. The new model is to recognize that "the idea that spreads, wins" and that this idea must be remarkable ("easy to remark about"), different, not boring, and appealing to people who care ("otaku"). If you let these people work for you, you win.

(The R.I.A.A raises its hand.)

"But can't we sue them? I mean, come on. They're ruining our old business model, and this new one where we can bully them into paying up is pretty neat. And we save so much $$$ not paying artists--"

Seth Godin stands up, answering "Well you can, but you'll lose. People will either get their intangibles for free or they'll care enough to buy them, preferably from the source. And anyway, you're boring now."

"Aww man."

(R.I.A.A stands up, sulks, walks out as Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and I escort him out, consolingly)

"There there, cartel. It'll be all right. Have you ever considered a new career? Prison management maybe? Or smoking ban enforcement? I hear that's big in Europe now."

(R.I.A.A smiles hopefully) Ohhh!

To be continued...

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posted by Brian at 10:22 PM 0 comments links to this post