Incantations

Incanting Incantations

All y’all regular Wetmachine readers please note Incantations, the new blog of my dear friend Helen Michaud, added to the masthead above. Helen’s inaugural Incantation will follow soon in which she’ll tell you what-all she expects to write about here.

Helen’s a geekoid technical writer with a very interesting background in the NYC and Boston publishing biz.

She is a kick-ass writer. She tends to specialize in the Nicholson Baker idiom of the precisely observed intimate conversation, but her range is vast. (See for example, her backwards-written twitter novel.) Moreover, like Wetmechanic Harold Feld, Helen has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, where all the smart people go to school, so you can rest assured that she is ipso-facto smart. (But unlike Harold, Helen was eligible for membership in the Princeton Asian Students Association as chronicled in Harold and Kumar go to White Castle Top that, Harold! . . . I digress. . .(by the way, were you guys (classmates???))

I met Helen nearly a decade ago on an open-diary site which has since fallen on trollish hard times, but which once rocked, big-time. I was a fan of her writing long before I knew her whereabouts on Earth. I just loved her stories– which were and are mainly micro-stories of overheard conversations, absurd encounters in public spaces, misunderstood marital exchanges, and similar. I was pleasantly surprised to find out, a while later, that she & I both resided near Boston, USA. Eventualy we met in meat-space. We became friends, and among other things, Helen went on to edit my book The Pains— not for any $$, mind you, but because she wanted to help me out. Whatever you may think of The Pains as a book, please take it from me that that book would have been a much, much less interesting effort absent her editorial ministrations.

Recently Helen has embarked upon a challenging, commendable, and daunting project — she’s editorial director of AE, an SF magazine a-borning; it’s devoted to Canadian Science Fiction. She’s raising funds for it on Kickstarter: please check it out and support her.

As a long-winded blabbermouth myself, I admire and envy those mininaturists who are masters of the apercu,
n 1.
A first view or glance, or the perception or estimation so obtained; an immediate apprehension or insight, appreciative rather than analytic.
The main object being to develop the several aperçus or insights which furnish the method of such psychology.
– W. T. Harris.
A series of partial and more or less disparate aperçus or outlooks; each for itself a center of experience.
– James Ward.
2.
Hence, a brief or detached view; conspectus; sketch.

I myself have four favorite miniaturists: Emily Dickinson, Beatrix Potter, Joseph Cornell and Helen. I would be hard-pressed to say which of these is my #1 favorite.

I try to keep my Wetmachine entries limited to a shorter first paragraph than this, but I’m indulging myself here, because I am delighted to announce Helen’s decision to join us here on Wetmachine. Now go check out AE, and pledge money.

Posted in Incantations, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

The precogs are here

In Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, police detect and arrest for pre-crime; crime that has not yet been committed. Pre-crime is detected by precognition, and the entities that perform this future-seeing are called “Precogs”. This goes one step beyond Orwell’s Thought Police, who prosecute for bad thoughts. In the land of Minority Report, prosecution is for thoughts and actions that have not even occured.

Here we have an article about Sigard(tm) precognitive hardware and software from an outfit called “Sound Intelligence” that, it claims, “can also detect verbal aggression with a high level of accuracy.”


Combined with closed circuit television systems, Sigard can quickly notify security personnel about loud, angry people in outdoor public spaces, public transportation, nightclubs and bars.

Here’s how it works. A single analysis computer accepts sensor input from a variety of locations. Once the software detects a verbally aggressive human voice, it activates the camera associated with that sensor, bringing it to a security guard’s attention. This helps cut down on the number of people needed to monitor CCTVs.

Sigard Sound Intelligence software imitates the way that humans deal with sound, splitting it into different frequencies with varying amounts of energy. Just as a person can immediately detect anger and aggression in the midst of background noise, Sound Intelligence software “listens” for the same parameters that humans use in detecting aggressive speech.

This system is already in place in a few locations in the Netherlands. Police in the UK are also considering installing the system.

If this seems creepy to you, Another Sign of Overmind Emergent (ASOE(tm)), then you too might be a technoparanoiac Wetmechanic. Welcome to the club.

Posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Touchability Cues

When I wrote “Touchability,” it had already been a while since a buddy had shown me a haptic mouse he was working on. For example, you could feel an actual bump when the mouse enters and leaves an object (a real version of what developers sometimes call rollover). Force feedback was such an obviously good thing that I didn’t even mention then the cool stuff that’s now happening in this area.

As much as I think physical touchability is good, I want to be clear that I want to make Croquet applications be emotionally touchable, too. I want to capture what it is that makes things seem (be?) real. Even without physical force feedback, it should still be fun to fondle stuff because of active visual and aural responses and good 3D design.

To be sure, I’d love to add to the effect with more sensory stimulus. There are huge possibilities, and I hope folks will explore them. This stuff is cool. There’s someone working on stereo display for Croquet. Others working on large screens in public spaces. I don’t doubt that we’ll see Croquet on small or cheap devices. There’s plenty of room for innovation.

Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed
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