• "I wonder if the use of the calibration pose will fade to the point where it becomes retro, included only by nostalgic programmers who that want to create that old 11-bit flavor of early depth cameras in their apps. Will we eventually learn to accommodate ourselves to a world where we’re invisibly tracked and take it for granted. Will the pose fall away in favor of new metaphors and protocols that are native to the new interface world slowly coming into existence?"

Waving at the Machines

21 May 2011

There was a line in this blogpost about what it’s like to QA Kinect games that really caught my eye.

The cameras themselves are also fidgety little bastards. You need enough room for them to work, and if another person walks in front of it, the camera could stop tracking the player. We had to move to a large, specially-built office with lots of open space to accommodate for the cameras, and these days I find myself unconsciously walking behind rather than in front of people so as not to obstruct some invisible field of view.

(my emphasis).

It sounds strange when you first read it: behavioural change to accommodate the invisible gaze of the machines, just in case there’s an invisible depth-camera you’re obstructing. And at the same time: the literacy to understand that there when a screen is in front of a person, there might also be an optical relationship connecting the two – and to break it would be rude.

The Sensor-Vernacular isn’t, I don’t think, just about the aesthetic of the “robot-readable world“; it’s also about the behaviours it inspires and leads to.

How does a robot-readable world change human behaviour?

It makes us dance around people, in case they’re engaged in a relationship with a depth-camera, for starters.

Look at all the other gestures and outwards statements that the sensor-vernacular has already lead to: numberplates in daft (and illegal) faces to confuse speed cameras; the growing understanding of RFID in the way we touch in and out of Oyster readers – wallets wafted above, handbags delicately dropped onto the reader; the politely averted gaze whilst we “check in” to the bar we’re in.

Where next for such behavioural shifts? How long before, rather than waving, or shaking hands, we greet each other with a calibration pose:

Calibration pose

Which may sound absurd, but consider a business meeting of the future:

I go to your office to meet you. I enter the boardroom, great you with the T-shaped pose: as well as saying hello to you, I’m saying hello to the various depth-cameras on the ceiling that’ll track me in 3D space. That lets me control my Powerpoint 2014 presentation on your computer/projector with motion and gesture controls. It probably also lets one of your corporate psychologists watch my body language as we discuss deals, watching for nerves, tension. It might also take a 3D recording of me to play back to colleagues unable to make the meeting. Your calibration pose isn’t strictly necessary for the machine – you’ve probably identified yourself to it before I arrive – so it just serves as formal politeness for me.

Why shouldn’t we wave at the machines? Some of the machines we’ll be waving at won’t really be machines – that telepresence robot may be mechanical, but it represents a colleague, a friend, a lover overseas. Of course you’d wave at it, smile at it, pat it as you leave the room.

If the robot-read world becomes part of the vernacular, then it’s going to affect behaviours and norms, as well as more visual components of aesthetics. That single line in the Kinect QA tester’s blogpost made me realise: it’s already arriving.

  • Now that Net Yaroze has closed its doors, Edge catch up with some former Yaroze developers; they have some interesting things to say on the state of games education in particular.
  • "[Our heroine's] name is Marta Louise Velasquez, and she’s quite possibly the most unpleasant female lead character in the history of gaming. She’s also what makes TD2192 worth remembering." Indeed, I have many. She did not lead a happy life, I'll give Richard that.
  • "Critical thinking is the key to success!" Professor Layton is on Twitter. Officially. This is good.
  • why do it? To borrow from the site's About pages: "First, it will help you find shows that others have not only watched, but are talking about. Hopefully it'll throw up a few hidden gems. People's interest, attention and engagement with shows are more important to Shownar than viewing figures; the audience size of a documentary on BBC FOUR, for instance, will never approach that of EastEnders, but if that documentary sparks a lot of interest and comment – even discussion – we want to highlight it. And second, when you've found a show of interest, we want to assist your onward journey by generating links to related discussions elsewhere on the web. In the same way news stories are improved by linking out to the same story on other news sites, we believe shows are improved by connecting them to the wider discussion and their audience." Dan Taylor explains Shownar from the BBC's perspective
  • "Shownar tracks millions of blogs and Twitter plus other microblogging services, and finds people talking about BBC telly and radio. Then it datamines to see where the conversations are and what shows are surprisingly popular. You can explore the shows at Shownar itself. It’s an experimental prototype we’ve designed and built for the BBC over the last few months. We’ll learn a lot having it in the public eye, and I hope to see it as a key part of discovery and conversation scattered across BBC Online one day." Matt talks about Shownar on Pulse Laser.
  • "Shownar tracks the online buzz around BBC shows. It's an experimental prototype and we want your feedback." What I've been working on in the first three months at Schulze & Webb, and is now live. Exciting!