I am glad to be part of a university that develops crazy ideas. In the latest crazy research here is a screen which is used for interactive kissing.
By sensing the distance between the user and the display, this photo of a person reacts when kissed. This system is currently under development by a research group at Keio University and they are also considering how to utilize this system in a commercial context.
“I’m a big fan of pop idols, and I have posters of them in my room. It bugged me that the posters didn’t move at all. We built this system because we thought, if a poster could move to match people’s movements, that would be interactive and fun.”
“This system is very simple. There’s an ultrasound sensor here, to detect how far away your head is. As you approach the sensor, the picture changes. When you get closer, the picture becomes a kissing face, and when you move away, it becomes a blushing face.”
“The current system only produces visual changes, but we could also include the scent of shampoo from the person’s hair, or a lemon-flavored film on the lips, or a speaker that whispers “I love you.” People who’ve tried this system advised us to do those things, so we think there’s still plenty to be done. We’ve learned a lot from talking to users.”
From now on, the researchers plan to develop an iPad application. For this, they’re considering other sensing methods, such as using image recognition via the camera, or using a light sensor that reacts to the shadows created when the user approaches.
“We think we could get pop idols to actually pose for this, and sell it as an application, or it could be used in digital signage. I think people would be really attracted by a face that gives a kiss as they walk past.”
Another wonderful and weird work from Japanese media artist Daito Manabe. By using electrodes one can moves one’s face and control another person’s face. I really like the use of haptics for affective communication. This is a comment on how we can often wish we can influence other people’s mood and therefore bodies directly.
One of our KMD students, Kensuke Fujishiro, worked on this project. It is a beautiful work which I think is a wonderful analogy of the importance of physicality and being analog even in our modern computer world. It combines the light inside a physical ball with a track and all connected and controlled wirelessly by a computer. Somehow the physicality and analog nature is so much more beautiful than seeing a particle cloud on a computer screen.
vThis work was done by one of our Keio Media Design students when he was on an internship. It is a very cool example of food media. It is done for Glico a sweets maker in Japan. The system captures the face and then prints it in chocolate on a cookie. It is a great example of edible interface and food communication.
A few years ago, Isaac Kohane, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, published a study that looked at scientific research conducted by groups in an attempt to determine the effect that physical proximity had on the quality of the research. He analyzed more than thirty-five thousand peer-reviewed papers, mapping the precise location of co-authors. Then he assessed the quality of the research by counting the number of subsequent citations. The task, Kohane says, took a “small army of undergraduates” eighteen months to complete. Once the data was amassed, the correlation became clear: when coauthors were closer together, their papers tended to be of significantly higher quality. The best research was consistently produced when scientists were working within ten metres of each other; the least cited papers tended to emerge from collaborators who were a kilometre or more apart. “If you want people to work together effectively, these findings reinforce the need to create architectures that support frequent, physical, spontaneous interactions,” Kohane says. “Even in the era of big science, when researchers spend so much time on the Internet, it’s still so important to create intimate spaces.
The more I work with the internet, and the more I do research in interactive media, the more I have realized, and seen studies, which show that interaction through internet has some basic limitation. It seems that even in today’s highly connected internet society, physical presence is critical. This study shows that for academic collaboration the best research occurs when the authors are highly physically present in the range of metres. It is my hypothesis (and this needs further academic research) that this is partly because we communicate through all of our senses (including touch, taste, and smell) and through non-logical emotions. These still cannot be communicated effectively through the internet.
Jones’s explanation is that scientific advances have led to a situation where all the remaining problems are incredibly hard. Researchers are forced to become increasingly specialized, because there’s only so much information one mind can handle. And they have to collaborate, because the most interesting mysteries lie at the intersections of disciplines. “A hundred years ago, the Wright brothers could build an airplane all by themselves,” Jones says. “Now Boeing needs hundreds of engineers just to design and produce the engines.” The larger lesson is that the increasing complexity of human knowledge, coupled with the escalating difficulty of those remaining questions, means that people must either work together or fail alone. But if brainstorming is useless, the question still remains: What’s the best template for group creativity?
This very interesting article in the New Yorker succinctly summarizes why interdisciplinary fields are the most interesting in today’s society. This is because we have effectively solved most human and technology problems that are important in the industrial age of the 20th century. In the 21st century the remaining problems are very challenging, and are at the boundaries of disciplines. This is why areas such as media design are much more interesting that traditional disciplines. When I used to read some of the research output or attend some faculty talks in my Electrical and Computer Engineering department, I found most of it mind-numbingly boring. The kind of academic papers and research topics that were so incremental and of almost no interest or impact to general society. Now I find I am constantly challenged and amazed and presented with new ideas by both faculty and students who come from diverse areas such as design, business, management – and technology as myself. I still find hard core geeky hacking interesting for myself, but now I know the problems in society that all of society talks about are the most interesting and most important.
I have been teaching a class on multi-sensory communication, with a focus on how smell and taste can be used for a new generation of communication media. Smell and taste are senses which are highly affected and cross related with the other senses such as vision and sound. This work, made in Japan, which I showed in the class changes the appearance and smell of a plain cookie, and the person can experience a different flavor.