December 13th, 2005


Fuck Fuck Revolution

I Dance, Therefore I Am is my new column at Wired. It describes a party at Anne Laplantine and Xavier's place last week where we danced around in front of an EyeToy camera hooked up to a PS2 and a video projector. The article is about how computer user interfaces might better incorporate the fact that we humans have a corpus, a body. It's also about the way Western philosophy (Plato, Descartes) has viewed the body as an obstruction, illusion or distraction, and how this attitude may have led us to shape our technology in ways that minimize physical involvement. Only games and children's culture have escaped this cerebral scourge, the kind of thinking which leads Paul Bloom, in the current Atlantic Monthly, to say "We don't feel that we are our bodies. Rather, we feel that we occupy them, we possess them, we own them..." (reported by uberdionysus here).

I certainly think we are our bodies, and I think we think with our bodies as much as our minds. Tomorrow's computer interfaces are likely to look more like today's games, which escape mind-body splits better than office applications. Tomorrow's computers will look and feel more like today's games consoles than today's office computers. (Maybe tomorrow's movies will look more like today's games too.)

By co-incidence, BBC World tech show Go Digital broadcast a feature today on new interfaces which touched on some of the same themes. Reporting on the Siggraph 2005 computing show held in August in the LA Convention Center, the programme looked at two new ways of interacting with computers, Microsoft's Touchlight screen, a transparent screen with a camera built into it and motion detection software (pretty much what the Playstation with EyeToy already does) and an amazing thing called the FogScreen, a computer screen that users walk into, effectively enveloping themselves in the content. Tobias Hollerer of the University of California Computer Science department explained the FogScreen as a computer screen made of water that falls from the ceiling like a paper-thin sheet of mist. Computer images are projected onto the mist from either side, and the light is reflected back, with the particles making up the fog scattering the light. Onto this thin, dry vapour cloud are projected two images, a bright image at the back and a dim one at the front. These can be projecting different views, making a 3D effect. You can also walk right through the screen without getting wet. Multiple layers of images would create a full 3D effect (for everyone except one-eyed pirates, unfortunately). Eventually, they want to incorporate objects into the FogScreen, to give a sense of touch as well.

Ah, I forgot the third "embodied" computing area; children, games... and porn. The future of ordinary domestic computing will no doubt pass through some kind of "Fuck Fuck Revolution" game. Our lazy bodies need some sort of incentive to get back to work—I mean play—after all.