The Future / Interactive Telecommunications Program Spring Show 2009

Entering the 4th floor at Tisch means confronting unbridled creativity. The spring show at ITP is wall-to-wall projects for bizarre futures. A lot of them are fruits from strange imaginations, others are really fantastic insights into the way the world could potentially work. That doesn’t mean they’ll actually float. Before these things really get out into the real world, I wanted to cast my vote and see what sticks.

Here are a few of the projects that I was particularly blown away by (in no particular order):

Emily and I testing A Fish This Big

Emily and I testing A Fish This Big

    • Wiki paths– – a hyperlink scavenger hunt game played on in which players try to find the shortest path between two, seemingly unconnected articles
      • My vote is that this will become a sensation. You can play, but it’s addictive. You’ve been warned.
    •– Teletales enables users to share stories via the telephone and download them online to keep forever in digital form.
      • Record your phone call and download it as an mp3 from their site immediately. No seriously, do it now: +1-646-918-5333. I see myself using this for conference calls, telephone interviews, calling my grandma, etc etc. The list goes on. Brilliant! Call now to test it.
    • kokoro– gets your music in sync with your body by choosing songs for your heart rate level.
      • My personal favorite. It literally connects my iphone to my heart and gives me the ability to increase or decrease my heartbeat. I spoke with its creator for a while about what she learned about herself by wearing it around, including a ride on the NYC metro. Amazing what one can learn about themselves from being so in touch and in control of ones own heart. Beware of it falling into the wrong hands.
    • Charity coin– networked coin donation system
      • By keeping track of the amount of money donated in different locations this adds a level of competition to charity. Well designed, well thought out, and with the support of charity:water, soon to be well marketed.
    • Big mouth – online chat software for democractic discussion
      • Ever been in a situation where someone talks too much during a meeting that is supposed to be more democratic than that? Find this to be especially the case online? Find it ironic that I’m the one telling you about this? This project ensures that everyone talks before someone talks too much. I’ll be incorporating this into some of the work I do with kids to see if it works. If so, perhaps incorporate it into some of the work I do with adults.
    • Mousepad Project– transplants the functions of a mouse onto a footpad as an interface that allows people to interact with their computers with their feet as well as their hands.
      • This reminds me of the first scene from Woody Allen’s “Bananas” where he, starring as Fielding Mellish, tests a work office gym (a reference to Chaplin’s Modern Times) – the Execusizer, a gym built into the desks of busy corporate heads. Unfortunately the woman in charge of the project had no idea what I was talking about when I referenced this. but this is another good example of reimagining how we interact with our technology. And I stand by the fact that it would be good to encourage a more physical approach to office computing.
    • I need you to need me – hug your alarm to silence it
      • Instead of slamming your fist into your alarm in the morning or aggressively swiping your iphone into silence, this forces you to get up and hug the annoying device until it quiets down. What a wonderful way to wake up. No more nagging tech?
    • Water Canary– device to test water quality
      • Part of UNICEF’s design class, an easy way for people in rural communities to test whether their water is safe. The kicker? It only uses a ray of light. What separates this project from the many others like it is the designer’s assertion that it will only cost $1 to produce. If so, it could be a game changer in communities that have water but don’t know if they should actually drink it. Brooklyn included.
    • antwarz
      • interactive video game with LEDs!
    • Humon– interact with other community members by merely calling a phone number
      • games that involve collective and public interaction with a screen need to be consider as we try to use tech for community instead of using tech to keep us separated from one another and stuck in our rooms.
    • Gotham Guide – snap a picture using the QR code software on your mobile phone to access multimedia content about your surroundingsanother interactive gaming project, in a sense. Find a QR code, learn something. This would be a great city investment. Particularly because it would inspire guerillas to add to it, thus really showing the creative spirit and history of a city.
    • Local roots gardening
      • sometimes reapropriating old technology is the best kind of innovation. This project works with kids to use old buckets to plant trees in their neighborhoods and schools. NYC gives them out at 10 cents a pop. So go plant!
    • you’re not brown just tan by/is Amy Khoshbin– investigates these perceptions of cultural heritage through exploring childhood memories, family legacy, and media imagery.
      • A brutally honest and personal portrayal about growing up “ethnic” that calls into question the viewer’s perceptions.
    • Twigsterstep-by-step visual key to identify an unfamiliar tree. The key calls out certain features– leaf shape, twig arrangement, etc– in helping users make an identification. The result, along with GPS data marking the tree’s location, can be sent from the iPhone to the user’s personal Twigster account.
      • Not only a good educational tool for city-dwelling people completely separated from nature (such as myself), it also has a good sense of how to get people excited about learning. The fact that users have a profile and collect points for their findings is a huge selling point to me. However, I think it needs to be for people who are interested in nature, thus supporting people well versed in it to express their knowledge, not only those who haven’t a clue.
    • Theequenther – An eight-step sample/sequencer that works over the telephone. You can also listen to your recordings on the web later
      • This tries to understand how to create a navigation system strictly via audio. Tackling some of the same issues that FreedomFone is in terms of collecting and distributing sounds. If it works, and depending on how they do it, this could be replicable in the small scale. Call +1-212-796-0961 x187
    • Urban Alpinist– A game where two teams race around a geographic area in a given time period to see which one can accumulate the highest collective latitude. It uses an iphone and a barometer to do so.
      • Gaming 2.0? It’s hard to make a good game and yet this seems like one that would be a fantastic way to spend a night. Very few games really encourage people to get out of the house and interact with their environment. This might just be the start of a new breed of gaming entirely, along with geocaching . As long as it doesn’t get marketed as “A game to get high with your friends.”

But my all time favorites are still:

  • Booty Dialer – Booty Dialer is an automatic booty call system which saves you time and embarrassment when trying to find a hookup at the end of the night. After setting up an account on the website, users can place a single call to kick off their search for love. Booty Dialer then leverages the power of Asterisk to call each of your contacts in turn, searching for the perfect match. When a contact tells us they want your booty, you’re immediately connected so you can sort out the details. You can sort your contact list manually, or let Booty Dialer do the work of finding someone likely to say ”yes” on the first call, or even the contact nearest to you.
  • A fish this big – go fishing with two green squares

Overall, this is a great program and I’m excited to see what my colleague Nathan Freitas comes up with for it. Next year he’ll be teaching Social Activism Using Mobile Technology. He’s currently at the forefront of the field, having just won the Soul of the New Machine contest with his Guardian project. It’s a perfect time for the subject matter and I’m interested to see what the students come up with, as well as how D2 can help with more case studies and guest speakers. We’re already talking to him about implementing that project in the field to leverage our 3rd place win, Handheld Human Rights. Time will tell where the field is and where it will go from here.

P.S. I forgot to mention Freshback – a therapeutic technology for women to verbally record their frustrations into an inconspicuous recorder that then links to an anonymous online profile. While I don’t think it can be used for the purpose it was built for, I think that a secret voice recorder that is cheap and connects via bluetooth to a profile can be an interesting tool for organizations around the world.

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