“What if you could remove all the ugliness in the world? It’s not a hypothetical question. Researchers at Ilmenau University of Technology in Germany have developed a new augmented reality technique that erases images from real time video. Called Diminished Reality, the software can take any area selected in a video feed and use photo-shop like adjustments to copy the surroundings into its place. Where once you saw an object now you see the object has been removed. A piece of your world has been erased. Diminished Reality records video from a camera and displays the modified result on a screen with only a 40ms delay. To your eyes it’s effectively instantaneous. Watch a demonstration of the augmented reality editing program in the video below. I’m blown away by how well it works in these early examples.”
Talk about giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Most of the applications I have come across for Augmented, and now Diminished, Reality are gaming / entertainment and advertising in the form of virtual pets, virtual LARP-type activities, and virtual advertising banners that can be highly targeted to individual persons. This demonstration seems closer to the espionage application of the really ugly shirt that played a key role in William Gibson’s novel Zero History (my review here) by rendering the character wearing it invisible to video surveillance by triggering a computer program deep in the London surveillance camera system (see questions five and six of this interview with Gibson) . It may not exactly be to that stage yet though it seems to me this is a very long step in that direction.
Considering this is a potentially very long, twisty, branching and strange road, the ability to modify reality in this way seems to have limitless implications. The 5GW theorist lurking in my brain (and clapping on the sidelines), also has to wonder about how easy it may one day become to seamlessly and unobtrusively cause distortion between perceived Observation and actual Observation before that information feeds into Orientation. Understanding the mechanisms of 5GW may be instructive in harnessing this type of power, it may also be vital in learning to protect against it.
Department of the Future: Office of Technology Forecasting
“A high power laser is used to melt metal powder supplied coaxially to the focus of the laser beam through a deposition head. The laser beam typically travels through the center of the head and is focused to a small spot by one or more lenses. The X-Y table is moved in raster fashion to fabricate each layer of the object. The head is moved up vertically as each layer is completed. Metal powders are delivered and distributed around the circumference of the head either by gravity, or by using a pressurized carrier gas. An inert shroud gas is often used to shield the melt pool from atmospheric oxygen for better control of properties, and to promote layer to layer adhesion by providing better surface wetting.
This process is similar to other 3D fabrication technologies in its approach in that it forms a solid component by the layer additive method. The LENS process is unique since it can go from raw material directly to metal parts, in many cases, without any secondary operations. It can produce parts in a wide range of alloys, including titanium, stainless steel, aluminum, and other specialty materials; as well as composite and functionally graded materials.”
From Fast Company
America in 2050: Urban, Suburban, or Both? by Greg Lindsay (7/12/10)
“Last Wednesday night, Joel Kotkin–a futurist and (sub)urban historian–squared off in a debate against Christopher Leinberger, a developer, consultant and proponent of “walkable urbanism.” The topic: “America 2050: What Will We Build.” The pair tangled on four key issues: demographics; housing supply & demand; transport; and density. Kotkin was in hostile territory: a roomful of Manhattan architects and academics belonging to the Forum for Urban Design.”
The next forty years is a compelling time frame in which to envision the ways in which where and how we live and work will change. It is the American Way to want things both ways. We glorify the energy and connectivity of the big city as much as we desire the comfortable isolation and quiet privacy of the suburb. We want the industry of the city, and also the suburbs that teem with tele-commuters who work in their pajamas. That in mind, it is likely that the future will prove both Kotkin and Leinberger correct. However, it is likely that the city and the suburb, as we know them now, may change dramatically to reflect demographic, environmental, professional and social shifts.
I think the trend on the horizon that will come to dominate the next forty years in the trend toward decentralization and self-containment. The city may some day come to resemble the BAMA (Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis) of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and the suburb may emerge in the form of the Holon from Daniel Suarez’s Freedom(TM), or the Resilient Community Development, but within each of those structures will be a decentralization of energy production, resource management, manufacturing and business, becoming self-contained yet interlinked, hubs for economic and physical connectivity and security.
In the past I’ve posted about the evolving technology of the 3D printer (a.k.a. Fabber) such as the RepRap, and in book reviews like Makers by Cory Doctorow. Mr. Chevalier’s idea of an artist’s co-op is an excellent one that, if it works, is the kind of thing that could have very interesting consequences.
However, I see the potential that in the developing world, these machines have an even more profound ability to provide the means to be a skip-over technology much like cell phones and satellite TV have, in some places, skipped over traditional land-line based telephone and cable TV systems. Instead of creating large mass-production facilities or arranging expensive transportation of inexpensive items into areas of the world not well know for their stability or safety, I would imagine nimble manufacturing companies with the ability to quickly respond to a wide variety of demands with very minimal infrastructure requirements. Even more intriguing is the possibility that, should the cost of these machines (the $1,000 figure in the presentation might be adequate) drop to the point that they can be purchased through a micro-loan program (or purchased and franchised / licensed to third parties), this could represent the start of a widely distributed / open-source / resilient economy, not inside the developed world, but well outside of it.
Some links from the video:
“We can’t afford just any old future.”
Directive 51 is one of those apocalyptic thrillers that, once read, leave me with the uneasy feeling that I should be stockpiling canned goods and firearms. The book is a good read even if it regularly takes some fairly dubious turns away from plausibility and requires quite a bit of the suspension of disbelief. On the other hand, that isn’t what has made it linger in my thinking. Aside from some of the 5GWishness, Resilient Community and Global Guerilla aspects it contains, the most interesting thing about the book is the organization the main character belongs to, a cabinet level governmental department called the Department of the Future. The Department of the Future (or DoF) is further divided into the Office of Future Threat Assessment, the Office of Technology Forecasting and the Office of Political Futurology. Now, I’m not certain that such a government department would ever really be able to exist, or even function if it did exist much less be the centerpiece for national disaster management and response that it is in the novel, but it is very intriguing as a virtual think-tank (or maybe better yet ongoing Blog-tank!) type institution dedicated to looking down the road to the what is not only ont the horizon, but over the horizon.
Any interest out there for such a project?
“As long as human beings have killed one another, theorists have struggled to forecast the nature of future slaughter correctly. Military futurism, however, is different from more popular forms of futurism. Speculation about future warfare inevitably garners more attention than debates over the nature of technological change and human civilization. One reason may be that people are particularly attuned to matters of life and death. But an emerging technology or social change may have just as” much long-term impact as a new kind of weapon or tactic. So why does Patton always flatten Schrödinger and his cat under his tank treads?”
A valuable insight by Adam Elkus, a co-blogger of mine at Dreaming 5GW, on the difficulty of peering into the crystal ball to determine the future of anything, much less warfare. I personally favor the approach of trying to find those elements of warfare that don’t change, that remain constant independent of technology or social change, to use as the basis for theory. I think this is one of the strengths of the XGW framework, that you can take any given situation in any given era and use the XGW framework to classify the gradient of the methods being used, the doctrines behind them, and judge if the response was appropriate or not, and if not, to use the framework to suggest what reaction could have been more effective.