Test Room

January 6th, 2013

BLDGBLOG relates the story of a 'Test Room' in Eugene, Oregon:

In August 1965 […] "ads in the local newspaper… promised complimentary checkups at the new Oregon Research Institute Vision Research Center." But these promised eye exams were not all that they seemed.

The office was, in fact, a model – a disguised simulation – including a "stereotypical waiting room" where respondents to the ad would be "greeted by a receptionist" who could escort them into a fake "examination room" that turned out to be examining something else entirely.

I guarantee that you won't guess what they were testing for.

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Pinball wizardry

December 1st, 2012

Designer Sam Van Doorn has made a way to render your prowess at pinball in tangible form:

I deconstructed a pinball machine an reconstructed it as a design tool.

A poster is placed on top of the machine, which has a grid printed on it. Based on this grid you can structure your playing field to your desire. By playing the machine the balls create an unpredictable pattern, dependent on the interaction between the user and the machine. The better you are as a player, the better the poster that you create.

Pinball wizardry

[Via Flowing Data]

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Immaterial Weightlifting

September 5th, 2012

Dan Hill has posted an essay he wrote as an introduction to Curious Rituals, a project about "gestures, postures and digital rituals that typically emerged with the use of digital technologies".

For some years I've been collating a list in a text file, which has the banal filename "21st_century_gestures.txt". These are a set of gestures, spatial patterns and physical, often bodily, interactions that seemed to me to be entirely novel. They all concern our interactions with The Network, and reflect how a particular Networked development, and its affordances, actually results in intriguing physical interactions. The intriguing aspect is that most of the gestures and movements here are undesigned, inadvertent, unintended, the accidental offcuts of design processes and technological development that are either forced upon the body, or adopted by bodies.


Walking around "eating the world with your eyes", as the fictional design tutor in Chip Kidd's novel The Cheese Monkeys puts it, you can't help but observe the influence of The Network on our world. Yet The Network is often still spoken about as if it were somehow something separate to Us, as if it were an ethereal plane hovering above us, or perhaps something we might be increasingly immersed in but still separate to our bodies, to our selves. This doesn't feel accurate now. There is no separate world, and this list indicates how we are even changing what our bodies do in entirely emergent, or at least unplanned, everyday fashion, in response to The Network's demands. […]

The Curious Rituals team have created a video to illustrate how A Digital Tomorrow might work:

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Avengers Gowns

June 23rd, 2012

Some of kelseymichele's designs for gowns inspired by The Avengers are gorgeous. The Thor one is particularly stunning.

[Via io9, via Alyssa Rosenberg]

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Swiss is hardcore…

June 20th, 2012

At BLDGBLOG, evidence that the Swiss take the concept of national security very seriously:

McPhee describes […] how the Swiss military has, in effect, wired the entire country to blow in the event of foreign invasion. To keep enemy armies out, bridges will be dynamited and, whenever possible, deliberately collapsed onto other roads and bridges below; hills have been weaponized to be activated as valley-sweeping artificial landslides; mountain tunnels will be sealed from within to act as nuclear-proof air raid shelters; and much more.

[Via Bruce Schneier]

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History repeating

June 11th, 2012

Windows (2012) = AOL (1996)?

[Via MeFi user Jimbob, commenting in this thread]

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Designing the mobile (phone) wallet

May 24th, 2012

Designing the mobile wallet – A case study. Slide 59 is a particular delight, but this entire presentation by Tim Caynes is worth a look.

[Via currybetdotnet]

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There are five common toothbrush grips

May 4th, 2012

Mark Lukach profiles Roman Mars, creator of the truly excellent 99% Invisible podcast.

Roman seems to particularly delight in explanations of why you haven't heard of the object in the first place. Take, for example, an episode Roman collaborated on with writer Jon Mooallem. The two examined two children's toys, the teddy bear, and the billy possum; yes, the billy possum. Thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, the origin of the teddy bear is of course legendary. What you may not have known is the origin of the other toy, the billy possum, which is linked to Roosevelt's successor, William Taft. After a political dinner in the South, at which he ate homecooked possum, Taft supporters introduced the next president with his own children's toy, named the Billy Possum. Since he was going to follow in Roosevelt's footsteps as president, he needed a stuffed animal to accompany him. Which is ridiculous. And now the teddy bear lives on as a cherished children's toy, while the billy possum has faded into obscurity. Why? It's with questions like these that 99% Invisible's at its most fun. Roman and Jon conclude that the billy possum doll faded into obscurity because of the toy's lackluster origin story. Because honestly, who wants to play with a toy inspired by a president devouring a cooked possum?

Lukach notes that the radio version of the show is required to stick to a four and a half minute running time. I knew that the podcast was derived from a public radio show, but I hadn't fully appreciated that the podcast always acted as an extended edition of the radio version. I can't say that I've ever listened to the podcast and felt that it outstayed its' welcome, so I'm all for the extra little flourishes that make the podcast a different entity from the parent show. It's short enough to be easy to find room for, and long enough to intrigue the listener.

Seeing a new episode of 99% Invisible pop up on my iPod Touch is always good news: I know that I'm guaranteed to learn something new in the course of my 12 minute walk from the Metro station to the office.

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Companion Species

April 8th, 2012

BERG's Matt Jones on the human race's newest companion species:

They see the world differently to us, picking up on things we miss.

They adapt to us, our routines. They look to us for attention, guidance and sustenance. We imagine what they are thinking, and vice-versa.

Dogs? Or smartphones? […]

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Jittering and cheating

March 26th, 2012

Mike Solomon, one of YouTube's original engineers, has learned a great deal about scalability over the last seven years:

Jitter – Add Entropy Back into Your System
[…] Systems have a tendency to self synchronize as operations line up and try to destroy themselves. Fascinating to watch. You get slow disk system on one machine and everybody is waiting on a request so all of a sudden all these other requests on all these other machines are completely synchronized. This happens when you have many machines and you have many events. Each one actually removes entropy from the system so you have to add some back in.

Also (this one is my favourite)…

Cheating – Know How to Fake Data
[…] The fastest function call is the one that doesn't happen. When you have a monotonically increasing counter, like movie view counts or profile view counts, you could do a transaction every update. Or you could do a transaction every once in awhile and update by a random amount and as long as it changes from odd to even people would probably believe it's real. Know how to fake data.

[Via Snarkmarket]

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