For Your Consideration : 4 Links : 11/28/2014

A look at the names of classes taught at ITP is both intriguing and confusing. Some class names are puns, like “Cloud Commuting,” or “Drawing on Everything.” Some are poetic, like “Cabinets of Wonder,” “Sensitive Buildings,” and “Talking Fabrics.” And some are downright incomprehensible, like “Cooking with Sound,” and “Lean Launchpad.” One ITP class, called “Redial,” teaches students how to hack the phone system and requires them to sign a legal waiver before enrolling.

This playful, project-based approach to teaching tech literacy is how ITP itself operates. “I’ve always felt you’re going to get further with whimsy and hope, rather than fear,” O’Sullivan said. The challenge is to get the students to ignore their fear of failure and try as many new things as possible during their four semesters. “The key thing about play,” O’Sullivan said, “is that it makes failure look like a good thing.”

The trend among the students is to take not only what they’ve learned, but how they’ve learned it, package it as a gadget or an app, and release it to the world.

2. How Magic Leap Is Secretly Creating An Alternate Reality
With The Google Glass experiment winding down for an eventual retooling and Oculus Rift almost ready to make it’s appearance, the next generation is quietly toiling away to make something even cooler.


“It’s not holography, it’s not stereoscopic 3-D,” he says. “You don’t need a giant robot to hold it over your head, you don’t need to be at home to use it. It’s not made from off-the-shelf parts. It’s not a cellphone in a View-Master.”

The best description we have so far comes from the company’s press release: “Using our Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal™, imagine being able to generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world.”

In an article that largely flew under the radar, John Markoff of The New York Times actually went to see the technology in person back in July. He wrote that he did indeed see a 3D creature floating in midair, through “an elaborate viewer that resembles something from an optometrist’s office.” It’s big, in other words. Markoff also confirmed that the device projects digital light fields onto the viewer’s retina.

3. Fitbit Takes The Stand As Expert Witness

The first known court case using Fitbit activity data is underway. A law firm in Canada is using a client’s Fitbit history in a personal injury claim. The plaintiff was injured four years ago when she was a personal trainer, and her lawyers now want to use her Fitbit data to show that her activity levels are still lower than the baseline for someone of her age and profession to show that she deserves compensation.

Medical research on the relationship between exercise, sleep, diet, and health is moving extremely rapidly. The decisions about what is “normal” and “healthy” that these companies come to depends on which research they’re using. Who is defining what constitutes the “average” healthy person? This contextual information isn’t generally visible. Analytics companies aren’t required to reveal which data sets they are using and how they are being analyzed.

The current lawsuit is an example of Fitbit data being used to support a plaintiff in an injury case, but wearables data could just as easily be used by insurers to deny disability claims, or by prosecutors seeking a rich source of self-incriminating evidence. As the CEO of Vivametrica, Dr. Rich Hu, told Forbes, insurers can’t force claimants to wear Fitbits. But they can request a court order from anyone who stores wearable data to release it. Will it change people’s relationship to their wearable device when they know that it can be an informant? These devices can give their own interpretation of your daily activity, sleep, and moods, and that analysis may be seen to carry more evidentiary weight than the owner’s experience.

4. Flowing With The Stresses Of Others

Imagine you’re rowing a boat on a foggy lake, and out of the fog comes another boat that crashes into you! At first you’re angry at the fool who crashed into you — what was he thinking! You just painted the boat. But then you notice the boat is empty, and the anger leaves … you’ll have to repaint the boat, that’s all, and you just row around the empty boat. But if there were a person steering the boat, we’d be angry!

Here’s the thing: the boat is always empty. Whenever we interact with other people who might “do something to us” (be rude, ignore us, be too demanding, break our favorite coffee cup, etc.), we’re bumping into an empty boat. We just think there’s some fool in that boat who should have known better, but really it’s just a boat bumping into us, no harm intended by the boat.

That’s a hard lesson to learn, because we tend to imbue the actions of others with a story of their intentions, and how they should have acted instead. We think they’re out to get us, or they should base their lives around being considerate to us and not offending us. But really they’re just doing their thing, without bad intent, and the boat just happens to bump into us.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers” – Voltaire 

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