"indecision may or may not be my problem."
Oh god, it gets worse. A lamp that tracks your movements, illuminating the tasks you focus on. Seems fine, right? WRONG. Another mode causes a red glow to appear and an iris to focus the beam. They say it's to help you find things, but it looks awfully like a death-ray to us.
they even made an illustration.
that's it. my thesis is printed and signed by my advisor. still hunting for some signatures, but there's no more work to be done, and no changes to be made. i've uploaded the final pdf for your reading pleasure.
please don't point out any typos in the final version. at least not for a while. however, i might re-edit it for a celebratory binding ceremony held later this fall.
compared to the thesis defense, which felt great, this is much more of an anti-climax, not very special. just another night, another printing job. when all is said and done, it's just a pdf, and not a very pretty one to boot. i don't think i changed the face of science. at least i gave it a fair shot.
somehow this pdf doesn't capture the experience quite well.
if you're in southern california, check out time bracketing at siggraph 2007's art gallery. view a print of "stata latin" on display, and get a chance to play with the software that was written to generate the images.
i'll also be giving an art talk entitled "distort/rectify: questioning human perception", on thursday morning.
in accidental sync with the cuban revolutionary movement day, and after four years of work, my thesis defense is scheduled for tomorrow at 3:30pm in the bartos theater of the media lab (lower level of m.i.t building e15). here comes a date that for years was located "somewhere" in the muddy future, with often a day on which it didn't even seem possible.
for those out of town but who still want to watch, there will be a live webcast (the link becomes active only at the time of the event). 3:30pm boston time is 21:30h in europe and 22:30h in israel.
i'm still negotiating the possibility to have questions come in over skype at the q&a session. email me for my skype id, if you're interested in that.
other than that - see you on the other side.
eight (!) new phrases in the american phrase book. thanks to dan, shahar, and mikey.
as a background projection for a panel talk i gave on the topic of 'distortion', i made a quartz composer graphic of something that is intended to look like analog noise over text. the effect is quite fetching, if you're into that kind of stuff. it basically makes your monitor look broken.
if you have mac os x 10.4 or up, you can download the document and use it as a screensaver, and thus make sure to give your office mate (and IT purchasing guy) epileptic attacks while you're out for lunch.
text, font, and colors all adjustable.
among other obsessive behaviors, this means that i keep checking back on the official blog that trickles samples of the competing entries over the last few months. quite a collection of vastly different styles, i must say.
you can check them all out on this flickr photoset.
update: the jury is in, and it's a resounding 'no' for yours truly.
apparently doesn't work yet with IE before version 7. i'll have to fix that...
ok - this seems pretty fucked up. a friend just rang me and called my attention to the following g.m. superbowl ad:
a fake rating notice? a mock movie trailer? a sad robot all alone? and 'all by myself' as the backing music, kicking into the chorus just when the corny movie titles are over?
sort of reminds me too much of a little something i made back in 2004 with our own robot.
coincidence? you be the judge. i'd like to talk to the person who came up with the g.m. idea.
later, i discovered the full version:
update: this post has been updated since it was first posted - i've added embedded video for easier viewing. you can still follow the links, though, if you prefer.
i've just noticed that, if you tweak the characters just right, you can write '2007' in a way that's symmetrical to rotation:
yeah, procrastinating in illustrator.
funny how time changes things. there's this old thing i once did. more of an aborted experiment than a project.
but today i found it again, and i really liked it.
i guess the lesson is - hold on to your bad sketches.
yours truly has a piece in this small but eclectic show, which spans the spectrum from unsettling, through mesmerizing, to blindingly bright. my video projection is not quite fully debugged yet, but hopefully it will cause some interesting interaction with the audience.
so if you're in the area, the main event is tonight, thursday, between 6-9pm. 130 bishop allen dr., cambridge, ma. come have some wine and mingle with the local geek-art scene.
as part of my 'possibly last year in america' catching-up campaign, i made this the other day:
Theater actors have been staging artificial intelligence for centuries. If one shares the view that intelligence manifests in behavior, one must wonder what lessons the AI community can draw from a practice that is historically concerned with the infusion of artificial behavior into such vessels as body and text.
this work is based on the longer Four Lessons paper.
three new phrases in the american phrase book: "let's just say...", "not great / not the best", and the related "not a good / great / the best fit".
finally got around to making a webpage for my timewarping project from a couple of years ago.
to paraphrase tolstoy - successful prints are all alike; every failed print is failed in its own way.
i've uploaded photos of a series of attempts at xerox transfer printing a photograph i took. the result is actually quite fetching.
last year a chinese student asked me to clarify some terms in a paper andrea and i wrote a while ago. turns out he was translating it into chinese (for a class i think).
now he sent me the finished translation, and i gotta say, it's pretty cool to see your stuff translated into chinese.
this must mean "robot task learning and collaboration":
and this is the buttons-on-and-off task:
while this probably means "on & off":
leo is so cute in chinese:
and i'm pretty sure means 'figure' and means 'leo'.
our lab's online robot teaching study is back, new and improved.
if you haven't tried it out yet, here's the deal: we're researching the way people interact with robotic agents (and more generally "learning agents"), and as part of that we're running an online study where you get to teach a robot game character how to bake a cake.
everyone with a java-enabled browser can try it out, so you should, too!
once you're done, you're asked to fill out a short survey. and this is not 'our check-in lines are short' short, it's really short. the whole thing (game+survey) shouldn't take more than 15-20 minutes. and you'll get to advance science from your bedroom (just think how much longer a ph.d takes), as well as a chance to win $100 on amazon.
if you don't have the 15-20 minutes now, come back when you do, because we can only use the data of people who complete the whole process.
if you're interested, i'm pretty sure we can send you the research results once we've finished analyzing and publishing them. the first pilot we ran already showed some pretty interesting stuff.
sort of sorted in reverse order.
page 1 - honduras
page 2 - all countries
page 3 - guate and mexico
page 4 - mexico
i'm going to attend a wedding in mexico, for which the hosts have asked us to bear as gifts 'trabajos artisticos como musica, fotos, videos, poemas y cuentos para poner durante la fiesta y todo tipo de objetos funcionales y no funcionales hechos con sus propias manos,' or in english 'works of art like music, photos, videos, poems, and stories that can be used during the party, as well as any kind of functional and nonfunctional objects made with your own hands.'
so i decided to draw a flipbook for the happy couple. i love the look of hand-drawn animation, and i hope they will, too. i animated the drawings and edited the clip to some music.
then i bound it with some loungy velour paper. you can see a gallery of crappy cellphone cam pictures here.
the radio show i'm co-hosting called 'the most merciful thing' now has online archives of the last 3-4 shows at any given time.
it's kind of a annoying audio stream (no, not the content, the format!) that you can't download, but in case you missed a show and are severely bored, this is the place to go.
the show airs midnight between wed and thu every week, and you can also listen live on the wmbr website
small versions of some of the videos i shot for the mit dance troupe are now online.
guess it's time to unveil a still under-construction side project of mine: american phrase book, aimed at teaching immigrants the nooks and crannies of american ideoms.
North American natives will usually phrase everything in a manner that creates the least social friction in any given interaction. In most cases this results in shying away from a negative description or opinion. Almost as often, it even means not saying anything definite, and instead just stating possibilities and options.
learn the real meaning of such gems as 'You might want to consider to do X', 'That's a great idea, but...', and 'I'll have to think about it'.
and please don't hesitate to contribute if you run into any others...
a significant part of my weekend was spent filming and working on video for the mit dance troupe's spring concert.
in the process i learned a lot about (the nightmare that is) shooting theater lighting on DV, and ended up shooting two versions with radically different settings, one on friday and one on saturday night. yesterday i watched both versions side by side and couldn't help but like how nicely synchronized the two videos were, even though they were shot 24 hours apart. in larger dances you can very clearly see which dancers are on the beat, and therefore perfectly aligned with themselves across days, and which are just somewhat precise.
check out this little clip from one of the dances.
possibly of very limited interest to most readers, i have put my thoughts from a month of reading about acting onto paper. h.r.i: four lessons from acting method is an informal paper describing some points of inspiration that robot designers might take from the way actors prepare and work. it is free-flowing, speculative, and forward-thinking. but after three days of tinkering around, i think it's in a distributable form, while admittedly not nearly finished or perfect.
Robot design should consider tearing down the implicit barrier between the motor system and the behavior system and think afresh about a combined architecture where both are sides of the same behavior. Motion should not only influence thinking (as it sometimes, but rarely, does), but should be the decision process.
after a hiatus (in which we shot the live action, and i was just busy), i've started to build a new miniature house for that music video. this time around it's a warehouse. watch it come together over the next few days.
also i heard a rumour that michel gondry will be checking out the project, which - while it's not really my own project - i still find mighty cool.
have been playing with implementing some morphing algorithms recently. here's a jar file with the most recent version if you want to morph some things.
to use: just run the jar, or if you want to specify a directory where your images are, so you won't have to navigate every time, run it like this:
java -cp Morph.jar MorphUI <path>
you need to define anchor lines around which the warping occurs. this is done by clicking on the source and destination images.
to add a point, left click. to delete the last point, right click. to clear all the point, press space.
note that you need to match up both the order (number) and the direction of the anchor points between the two images.
this is still under development, and has some bugs and annoyances, which i'll fix when i get around to it.
in the meantime, here is a resulting video clip.
all photographs by orit zuckerman.
here's a little wine and cheese graphic that i made. feel free to use. please give credit when you do.
pdf version for the pixel w(e)ary.
just finished my proposal for my general exams. it's still early, but it sort of sketches out what i'll be looking into for my ph.d.
This proposal lays the groundwork towards animatronic robots capable of high-level control robotic actors that can be directed to perform a duet in fluid sync with a human. My focus will be on the question of action timing in a loosely structured performance. It is my belief that the road to this goal passes through many of the core HRI challenges mentioned above, reaping benefits for HRI far beyond the entertainment industry.
you can also check out a longer version of the reading list as a good resource for a lot of the important or recent papers related to this topic (embodied conversational agents, synthetic actors, etc).
today was another work day on my miniature house for the stop-motion music video.
i finished the paint job, dirtied it up (too much) and made the windows and window panes, which was quite the strain on my patience, OCD or not.
sorry for the crappy cellphone camera pictures. real pictures will be up eventually.
on the official web site of the project you can see some photos from the very involved live shoot. it was quite surprising to work with very professional artists, who were not pretentious at all. professional + artists + not pretentious...i didn't know that existed. fun.
foreign films are great. they're so subtle.
but really, life's more precise than any script you can write. so let's hear it for cinema verité.
if you prefer size over quality, there's also a hi-res version that's a little grainier.
much of what you see and hear can be attributed to the fact that we just spent a night (not) sleeping in the car to save on hotel bills.
and the funny thing is that just because it's in a foreign language, these things are sometimes considered high art. if you ask me - 'y tu mama tambien' is basically this, in spanish.
the details are: thursday feb.3 4:30pm, pound hall 102.
i wonder if a second screening will be as impressive, the discussion should be fun nonetheless. chatting about how robots are going to change our lives has been a favorite pastime since homo sapiens started walking the face of the earth.
people tell me to wear a turtleneck and grow a goatie, but i'm not sure i can pull #2 off in time.
from my road trip to north carolina, painted on the back of a truck.
the short story, i didn't win the simplicity snowflake-a-thon this afternoon. not even close.
this was my entry for the simplest program creating the most beautiful snowflake.
if you can, it would be great to spread the word about the snowflake, i really think it's a good way to make snowflakes with almost no code if you ever need to.
oh, and next time i'm going for a square simple house with no towers or any such bullshit. because that roof was really a mean motherfucker. the seemingly nicely located 4 corners do not define a plane. close to the tower the roof is almost vertical, while at the other end it's much more horizontal. i'm thinking of maybe adding a rain pipe along the edge to tie it together a bit.
this month i'm helping out with a stop-motion compositing project here at m.i.t. yesterday i took a shot at designing and building a miniature apartment building for the set.
as part of the production email exchange, i got this link with the comment: 'if you'd like to see an example of how *not* to do compositing of live-action people into a non-live-action world, watch the trailer'.
my design for the mit homepage is up today.
update: severeal mit bright minds asked me what it was and correctly guessed that it's a model t engine. here's the original scan.
update: my 13 hours of fame are over. stupid of me to not have taken a screenshot. this is the best i can do.
update: the nice people of the mit homepage sent me a screenshot.
some preliminary pics from a wedding present i'm working on.
update: final pics online. tomorrow it's off to france to hand it over. i hope they'll like it.
went on that radio show again. gotta tell you, this improv thing is not easy. maybe i should think about what i'm going to say a little in advance the next time.
you know, for the listeners' sake.
little plug here for my main man josh kinberg from parsons' design and technology program, who is taking his project literally to the streets and releases bikes against bush to greet the rnc.
Bikes Against Bush is a one-of-a-kind, interactive protest/performance occurring simultaneously online and on the streets of NYC during the upcoming Republican National Convention. Using a Wireless Internet-enabled bicycle outfitted with a custom-designed printing device, the Bikes Against Bush bicycle can print spray-chalk text messages sent from web users directly onto the streets of Manhattan.
a stranger asked me for a story, and this is the only story i can tell today. sorry if it's a tad melancholic:
there once was a boy and a girl and they loved each other very much. but one day the boy heard the call of wilderness and felt he had to follow. so he took his bag and wandering shoes and went out to explore the world. when he came back many years later as an old man he met the girl again. she was still living in the same village, but by now was an old woman with a small loving family. the old man who was once a boy was still alone. and although he has seen the many wonders of the world, wherever he was he missed the girl very much and has thought of her ever since. but he was also old enough to understand that there was no other way.
and strangely, in the eyes of the old woman's son, who was now the age the boy was when he left the village, he saw a non-existent memory of himself.
a tree through venetian blinds
my room reeks retreat
rescued by the sun
to rot away tomorrow
foliage trapped in snow
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content here by guy hoffman .. as seen times since march 2004