Spark 175 - March 11 & 14, 2012

On this episode of Spark: Nature Hacks, Cyber Magic, and Body Interfaces. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

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On-body Interfaces

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We're so used to having our mobile technology with us all the time, but what if you didn't need gear at all? What if your BODY was the interface? Chris Harrison is a PhD student in human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon. He's researching "on-body" interfaces, where your body acts as the input and output interface. He talked to Nora from a recent Canadian conference. (Runs 9:24)

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Suspension of Disbelief in the Digital Age

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At the end of last year, we got to thinking about suspension of disbelief in our digital age. When we can find the answers to anything, is there anything mysterious left? Some people believe so. Spark contributor Tema Frank met cyber-illusionist Marco Tempest, at LeWeb, Europe's largest Internet conference, and tells us how he believes technology actually extends and enhances the magic experience, not destroys it. (Runs 9:04)

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Meeting Nature Through Technology

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Have you ever wondered what a tree sounds like? Bartholomaus Traubeck has created a record player that "plays" slices of tree trunks and translates the year rings into music. Kate Hartman is a professor at OCAD and thinks a lot about whether nature gets ignored in our increasingly technical world, and if the way to remedy this is to use technology itself. She co-created a device that allows your plant to text you if it needs watering. (Runs 7:46)

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Off-the-shelf Tech

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Remember Chris Harrison from the top of the show? He's a PhD student in human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon. Besides talking about how our bodies could become interfaces, he also discussed how off-the-shelf commercial technology, such as the Kinect gaming device, or the Pico micro-projector, are changing how research gets done, by making it much cheaper and more accessible. As the tools change, academics mingle with interested amateurs and break down boundaries in research. (Runs 3:34)

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Critical Making

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Matt Ratto is an assistant professor at University of Toronto, and director of ThingTank, an experimental space for hacking electronics. He's a believer in what he calls "critical making" - the idea that we don't really understand our technologies just by reading or talking about them, but by making them. He takes Nora on a tour of the ThingTank, and explains why we just might be in the midst of a groundbreaking era for critical makers. (Runs 14:39)

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