Spark 168 - January 15 & 18, 2012

On this episode of Spark: Eye Tracking, Virtual Work, and Total Capture. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

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Alternative Interfaces at CES

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This week the biggest buzz in tech is in Las Vegas at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. It's the place to see the latest in electronic products - some ready for market, and others still light years away. Spark contributor Peter Nowak has been there all week, and has a debrief on the exciting new alternatives to traditional computer interfaces on display. (Runs 6:44)

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You Haven't Come A Long Way, Literature

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Paul La Farge is the author of Luminous Airplanes, a hypertext novel. It unfurls a branching, non-linear story based on the links you click. The genre was all the rage in the 90s, but quickly puttered out. Now that we're in the age of Kindles, microblogging, and iPads, are there any bold experiments in literature? Why are we satisfied with porting the same old-fashioned novel format to futuristic gadgets that are capable of (almost) anything? Nora speaks with Paul about why literature seems stuck in neutral. (Runs 10:50)

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Gait Fingerprinting

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On Spark, we always like a good talk about monitoring and tracking. From your web browsing fingerprint to facial recognition and retina scans...it can get kinda creepy. Now there's another way computers may be able to identify you in the real world - your gait. Nora Young speaks with Todd Pataky, a researcher who is teaching computers to identify individuals by the way they walk. Yup. (Runs 4:34)

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Virtual Work

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Working from home -telecommuting- is a dream scenario for many people, and advances in technology have helped that dream become more realized. Nora speaks with Ian Cook, director of research and learning at British Columbia's Human Resources Management Association about what's fueling the trend towards telecommuting, and then she speaks with Shawn D. Long, a communications studies scholar at the University of North Carolina, about how telecommuting can end up leaving people isolated from office politics, gossip and camaraderie. (Runs 15:28)

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Total Capture and Human Memory

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So here we are in the age of life-logging, with more and more people recording every bit of information daily. This behavior is also called total capture and Facebook's latest Timeline feature has introduced the idea of total capture to mainstream audiences. A Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Abigail Sellen is critical of the modern conversation on life-logging and total capture and argues this technical handling of memories through indexing and metadata is just not how memory works. (Runs 10:04)

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