Design · Earthly/Geo/Astro · Eco/Adaptable · Technology

Robots Test Tools For Myanmar’s Farmers

Proximity Designs is a Myanmar-based social enterprise that designs products to improve poor people’s lives. Some of the affordable creations they’ve made include foot-powered water pumps, drip irrigation systems, solar lanterns and even infrastructure projects like bridges.

An integral part of their design and manufacturing process involves putting prototypes through trials with robots that use them until they break. The group says their line of farming aids all get pushed to failure by their lab’s robot farmers, which helps improve how they’re made.

Building a reliable product is important if it is to be used under the strain of daily life in rural Myanmar. A product like a manual water pump relieves farmers of the backbreaking work of carrying up to 10 tons of water a day on their backs from distant wells.
The country’s farmers are showing their approval by opening up their wallets—Proximity Designs reports that they will sell 31,000 irrigation products in fiscal year 2013. They say their work has also resulted in a 10 to 15 percent increase in rice yield.

“Including the newest one I bought, I have three treadle pumps,” said farmer Aung San. “I made about $1,200 last year, so I bought more land to expand my plot. That’s why I bought another pump.”

Architectonic · Human-ities · Technology

Think Your Office Is Soulless? Check Out This Amazon Fulfillment Center

Shining blue and bright above a subterranean labyrinth of hollow shafts, a warehouse sits upon the abandoned remains of a coal mine that once defined this working-class English town. It is as bright as the mines are dark, as vast as the shafts are claustrophobic, as clean as they are filthy. This warehouse represents a future of shopping that does to brick-and-mortar retail what it has already done to the coal mine that used to thrive in its place: Bury it without filling the hole it left behind.

This warehouse is the focus of one particular vision of retail’s future captured by Ben Roberts in Amazon Unpacked, a haunting series of photographs exposing the inner workings of Amazon’s massive fulfillment center in the English Midlands.

Text and Images via Fast Company. Continue THERE

Human-ities · Science · Technology

Infotainment: The need for critical science journalism

The bulk of contemporary science journalism falls under the category of “infotainment”. This expression describes science writing that informs a non-specialist target audience about new scientific discoveries in an entertaining fashion. The “informing” typically consists of giving the reader some historical background surrounding the scientific study, summarises key findings and then describes the significance and implications of the research. Analogies are used to convey complex scientific concepts so that a reader without a professional scientific background can grasp the ideas driving the research.

Direct quotes from the researchers also help illustrate the motivations, relevance, and emotional impact of the findings. The entertainment component varies widely, ranging from an enticing or witty style of writing to the choice of the subject matter. Freaky copulation techniques in the animal kingdom, discoveries that change our views about the beginnings of the universe or of life, heart-warming stories about ailing children that might be cured through new scientific breakthroughs, sci-fi robots, quirky anecdotes or heroic struggles of the scientists involved in the research – these are examples of topics that will capture the imagination of the intended audience.

Written by Jalees Rehman, MD. Continue reading at The Guardian

Human-ities · Science · Technology

Blueprint for the Brain

How can three pounds of jelly inside our skulls enable us to do everything that makes us human? For centuries, scientists have been fascinated and puzzled by the mysterious workings of the brain. Now, for the first time, they can re-create in the computer the shapes of every one of the billions of nerve cells that make up our brains, the component parts of the intricate neural circuits that allow us to move, see and hear, to feel and to think. Armed with this new tool, scientists are beginning to decipher the secrets of the brain’s architecture, which may one day enable us to build smart technologies that surpass the capabilities of anything we have today.

Text via Science Bytes. Continue HERE


Fifth-Dimension Dentistry Treatment – Tatsuyuki Tanaka

GIRL: Not yet?

GIRL: Are they really going to do it?
BOY: I’m telling you, they’ll do it. Watch.

DOCTOR: So… what seems to be the problem?

PATIENT: Uh, it’s just some pain in one of my back teeth. Uh…
DOCTOR: Mmm hmm.

DOCTOR: I see. The root of your pain does not exist in our dimension. Kishikawa-kun, go get the usual stuff.


DOCTOR: This machine will expand your body into the fifth dimension. Then we’ll get rid of what’s causing your toothache.


PATIENT: Uh… I think it’s just a cavity. What the hell is this?
NURSE: Please don’t move.

DOCTOR: Just relax. This is a long lost technique from the Golden Age that I managed to get my hands on. Trust me.

NURSE: Here we go!


NURSE: Heave-ho! Heave-ho!
DOCTOR: Looking good. Looking good.
PATIENT: Everything’s starting to look distorted.

PATIENT: I… I can see little people.
DOCTOR: That’s fine.

DOCTOR: Kishikawa-kun. See the toothache spores sprouting up over there? Cut them off.
PATIENT: Oh, that feels nice.

NURSE: Doctor. The handle is stuck. It won’t turn back.
DOCTOR: Again? It’s such an old machine.

NURSE: What should we do?
DOCTOR: Just leave it. It’ll come unstuck eventually.
GIRL: Wow.
BOY: Amazing.

PATIENT: Doctor!!!
DOCTOR: Don’t worry. Don’t worry.
GIRL: Fifth-dimension treatment!
BOY: Yeah!

Amazon Reviews: Enthusiasts of contemporary comic art are in for a treat with this compelling collection of artwork from Tanaka Tatsuyuki, whose credits include storyboards for Gainax Studio’s Secret of Blue Water and work with Studio 4C. In the vein of progressive world class comic artists including Katsuya Terada and Mobius, Tatsuyuki’s illustration work ranges from the innocence of Moomins to nightmarish urban imagery of robots, punks, violence and weird and twisted indescribable beings.

Published in Cannabis Works (2003) // Scans via Digik Gallery. Translated by Pink Tentacle.

Film/Video/New Media · Human-ities · Performativity · Technology · Theory

Robot Women & Film: The Bad Girl ‘Bots

I was now about to form another being of whose disposition I was alike ignorant; she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate and delight, for its own sake, in murder and wretchedness…and she…might refuse to comply with a compact made before her creation…She might also turn with disgust from him to the superior beauty of man…trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged… I left the room, and locking the door, made a solemn vow in my own heart to never resume my labours (Mary Shelly – Frankenstein, 1818)

From the earliest days of film, story tellers have been fascinated with the image of the mechanical woman. Maria, the dark and destructive fembot of Metropolis (1927) requires little introduction and has thoroughly captured the cultural imaginary.

We may say that Maria is the prototype of all “bad girl robots” who follow her. Bad girl ‘bots seem to be pathologically preoccupied with the destruction of humanity and this remains a dominant character trait of robot women in film. Unlike her male counterpart (i.e. Bionic Man; Dekkard; Robo Cop; etc.), she is seldom charged with keeping/restoring order on behalf of the State. And if she is, she inevitably malfunctions or rebels (or both).

Andreas Huyssen argues that technology represented as female monstrosity or maschinenmensch emerged at the turn of the 18th century as the literary imagination appropriated the image of the human-like automaton, popularized during the 17th and early 18th century, and transformed it from the symbol of Enlightenment, “testimony to the genius of mechanical invention,” to an image of terror and “threat to human life” that is so familiar to us today.

Blade Runner’s (1982) Pris and Zhora are bad girl ‘bots in that one is a mercenary and the other a “basic pleasure bot” (prostitute: but without pay) who defy rules concerning replicant (cyborg) autonomy.

Contemporary films like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), continue this trend with such memorable female machines as the TX.

All text by Glenda Shaw Garlock from Intimate Machines

Relevant Info:

Push Comes to Shove: New Images of Aggressive Women by Maud Lavin (interview).

Performativity · Public Space · Technology

Big Dog and Guerrilla Depaving

Guerrilla depaving is an illicit form of urbanism wherein impermeable hard surfaces are wholly removed or perforated to reveal the underlying soil bed. This site preparation precedes the introduction of agriculture, ornamental gardens, cryptoforests and other pata-artisinal land-uses, which alleviate the urban heat island effect. However, the primary goal is to mitigate urban stormwater runoff by facilitating soil infiltration and seepage.

Pickaxes, sledghammers and elbow grease are the usual tools of the guerilla depaver, but these are being gradually replaced by robotics as fast as DARPA can declassify its research. A popular depaver is the BigDog, as it is cheaply available, easily programmable and configurable, and can traverse rough terrain en route to its target asphalt or while escaping. In the video above, a very early prototype can be seen tippy tapping on a parking lot, somewhat auguring its future reuse.

So far, guerrilla depaving activities are concentrated on medium-sized municipalities suffering from depressed tax revenues and minimal federal aid. These twin crises have left them unable to provide basic infrastructural services. Faced with the prospect of failed sewers, stagnant pools and destructive flooding, the guerrilla depaver works to knit an alternative urban hydrology.

Via Planet Architecture

Design · Digital Media · Games/Play · Performativity · Technology

Cubelets! Cubelets! Cubelets!

Cubelets are magnetic blocks that can be snapped together to make an endless variety of robots with no programming and no wires. You can build robots that drive around on a tabletop, respond to light, sound, and temperature, and have surprisingly lifelike behavior. But instead of programming that behavior, you snap the cubelets together and watch the behavior emerge like with a flock of birds or a swarm of bees.

Each cubelet in the kit has different equipment on board and a different default behavior. There are Sense Blocks that act like our eyes and ears, Action blocks, and Think blocks. Just like with people, the senses are the inputs to the system.

Get your Cubelets HERE