Category: Technology

The future is now

It is a regular occurrence for our two boys to want to come into our bed in the mornings.

This morning Ben wanted to join us and for me to get “daddy’s phone” and then to do “pictures”.

This is because he knows I can take, edit, view and upload all from the phone.

I realised once again this morning how much we were in the future we were promised an how the world is so different a place for my children. (By the way, this post is being composed and uploaded from the same device).

Also I had the fun of running a photo through four apps and changing the experience, all of this took less than ten minutes.

So with the camera, then into Snapseed to edit, then PhotoBokeh to add stage one image effects and finally Phoster to make it into a poster.




Brush Bot Mk I

Last Thursday Shadowcat hosted the first Maker night of the Lancaster Lab (I like to call them Lune Lab) Maker/Craft group.

I was there not just to represent the company but to try and get some more technical skills and abilities. I love making things, love tech, love toys, have no measurable skills whatsoever at the construction side of this, and little knowledge. So this is a chance for me to learn and to perhaps gain some skills so one day i can play with this stuff with ben and Elliott.

My first project is a brush bot. A relatively simple device made from a motor (pager/vibration), a battery and the head of a toothbrush. I wanted to add the extra component of a switch so the battery could be permanently attached in a holder at some point.

On the way to building this I learned about a 3 stage switch, and how to solder – I have to thank Ian Norton for patiently showing me these skills. So now I know about switches, flux, solder and sticking them together.

The first test was successful but the battery drained pretty quickly. So for next time we investigate current restricting resistors and the idea of having multiple batteries to hold the power for longer.

I’ll get to learn about them as well, and maybe construct Brush Bot Mk II.

Pictures follow:

Testing stage of components

Testing stage of components

My setup

My setup

Close up of a circuit - LED to test current

Close up of a circuit – LED to test current

Temporary blue tak version

Temporary blue tak version

Brush Bot Mk I

Brush Bot Mk I

Grandfather’s Bollocks Drive the Bus

T’other day, as we colloquially state here in the North of England, I was cut up, another idiom, by an old lady riding on one of those mobility scooters. Let me describe the scene to you. I was stood at a set of pedestrian crossings waiting for the lights to change, and just as they did a figure sped past me and cut across where I was walking so they could go at a right angle to my direction. It was an old lady, I would hazard at least an octogenarian, on an electric scooter.

There is a growing usage of this type of device as the cost is driven down by availability and numbers. For those who genuinely need them, because of limited mobility or health, they are a godsend. There is though a growing usage of them by the terminally lazy or indolent as well, with a particular problem with obese people, where does one draw the line, should they preserve their health by being carried everywhere resisting stressing their organs, or is this causing further health issues as they have a lack of exercise?

I also cast my mind to the thoughts of science fiction and science fact.

There are many films showing the usage of electronic devices to control and support us, from the chairs in Wall.E to the support unit that does everything in Roujin Z sic-fi authors have predicted the reliance on, and shown us an issue with, our fascination with technology as an aid to our lives.

Recently science has shown that we can start to map language using electrodes attached to the skull, as predicted in the Clint Eastwood vehicle Firefox. Charlie Brooker predicted that this form of technology would lead to the end of the world within six months. His basic premise is true, the randomness of thoughts that go through the head could imply that you’ll be sat next to your child watching kids TV and then suddenly an Internet search will reveal something similar Teletubby Porn just as an ageing relative walks in, then within six months our basic nature will lead to the end of everything.

However, I am not convinced that the researchers will not encounter this issue themselves and have to build in specified content filters. You can see the scene, the first time they hook this up to a young male researcher and tell him to think randomly or relax and let his mind wander you are going to be presented with a variety of images including such possible delights as a giant paedo bear urinating over the felating corpse of a zombie Queen Mother. So there will be restrictions and filters, there will be controls to help prevent this event from occurring.

So we will go into the future with machines increasingly being controlled by impulses from our bodies and replacing bodily functions. To be honest once we have the basic biological form we can start to replicate out the need for certain elements. We can replace lower limbs with wheels for motor location, we can take away most of the torso in fact, the only thing we really need are the brain, the spinal cord and the reproductive and sexual organs. We can feed the organs that remain using a suspension liquid with nutrients inside it, there can be electrodes that provide external stimulus such as sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, heat etc., directly to the brain. We can recreate direct visual worlds similar to proposed in the Matrix right into the brain.

There is, by the way, a good reason to save the reproductive organs as this allows us to have a good mix of DNA for the continuation of the species, but we need only keep them until they reach maturity and then the necessary parts can be harvested at regular intervals in the male and removed entirely for offsite storage if wanted by the female. We must save the sexual organs as this way we can feel actual stimulus of a pleasurable or painful nature. Although I am sure we can simulate the sensation to the brain of an orgasm it will be far better to continue to feel it. Sexual interaction forms a strong part of what defines us as a species and as individuals so losing this would be facile, especially when it can be utilised.

I don’t see the need for their to be a conscious decisions in this future made by people.  So we are developing cars that can park themselves, that can measure distances and adjust their speed, that have emergency braking systems and collision alerts. Cars and vehicles will soon drive themselves, but we as humans will worry that humans have been taken too far from the mix. We should have some form of an override, and this cannot be just a thought as you may randomly think don’t brake, or wish in a moment of anger on a phone call to a distressed lover that you would rather the car crash itself and at which point you are suddenly driving at one hundred miles an hour into the nearest concrete pillar.

The safest situation would be to wire the response to danger mechanism to the humans central nervous system. It would also be faster. If all that is needed is an affirmation, then why not have the pain or pleasure response mechanism affirm it. If it is a recognisable danger the human is alerted via the means of an electrical impulse and if it responds the action to negate the situation is taken. That way we can have no need for a conscious decision, there is in fact no need for a brain at all. We just need an acceptable organ to be in control, something that will give a response to stimulus.

The sexual organs being the part of humanity we have saved after the birth and cyborg process would be an ideal component to wire into this. Driving well, doing one’s job well, in fact any interaction that requires a human decision as a failsafe or affirmation would be a sexual sensation.

Therefore one day grandfather’s bollocks may indeed drive the bus.

Shiny, shiny, shiny toy

Like the steaming great hypocrite that I am I went out and got myself the Fondle Slab MkII. If you have been listening to me for a year I have been resisting this piece of technology with the claims that I prefer my laptop, it didn’t have enough functionality and what could it do that my phone didn’t do.

All of those were valid points and were true at the time, and still true now.

I was however seduced by the sheer experience and shininess of the iPad2, and so was Leigh. Then that was the end of my resistance and I caved in and we got two of them.

Of course, since getting it I have now found many ways to integrate it into my life. I am currently sat in a coffee shop, Ben has a book, Leigh is out shopping and while I wait for her I am writing this. Normally I would be reading on my phone or playing Angry Birds, but now that I have the slab and it is easy to carry about I have an electronic device to write with.

I know that I could use a notebook, my laptop is 17 inch and not easy to carry around for just typing notes, but these days I prefer to type out my thoughts as I have them. I have become used to using the action of my fingers typing on a keyboard to lull my sense of sight and allow my brain to de-focus the world and concentrate on the subject I wish to examine.

But, there is a sense that I am just finding ways to make this expensive, and did I say shiny, toy a valuable part of my life. Though, on the flip side, if it makes me write more and helps me with the organisation of my thoughts and my life then it is already worth the price I paid for it. 

It is also a really nice size for interacting with the web and social media, also nice for watching movies on, and the battery life is just great. So, there is a lot to value in the device. It is never going to replace my laptop, and if I need to do serious work I will pull out that or sit at a desktop where I can be far more productive. It is never going to replace my phone for instant always on convenience and five minute distraction filler in a small item, though the iPad is a very fast and smooth user experience.

It is however yet another tool in my burgeoning gadgetry arsenal. I love my gadgets, I always have, and to be honest using this pad makes me feel like I really am in the future, we may not have the rocket pants but we do have the always on world with a vast storehouse of always-on information, user interaction, the ability to talk or see almost everyone you will ever know and to share your life and experiences to a vast audience. That is e future, and it doesn’t feel anywhere near as stark and unemotional as some sic-fi would have had us believe.

This is how’ve me being euphoric about the new toy I have, in a future piece I may examine the cost of our increasingly connected and observed world and why, one day, grandfather’s bollocks might drive the bus.