Monday, February 23, 2015

Digging Up Diamonds: The 3rd Rock from the Sun

Dear Readers 

Welcome to the to the first ever installment of Digging up Diamonds. 

I didn’t have to dig deep to find today’s gem of a TV show pertinently and poetically phrased 3rd Rock from the sun.  Now I know you might say that this is quite a popular serial but sadly it is unheard of amongst our current generation and that is an injustice I must seek to right.

3rd rock from the sun tv show best sit com comedy scifi aliens

 3rd rock,as it is lazily referred to as, is a sitcom about a group of alien explorers that have come to earth (the 3rd rock from the sun) and disguised themselves to blend in amongst us and observe humanity.

3rd rock from the sun tv show best sit com comedy scifi aliens John lithgow joseph gordon levitt kristen johnston french stewart

Their short assignment becomes extended as they soon find themselves not only liking their own meat suits but the ones around them as well.  

 Now that the premise is set let me tell you what the show actually is.
It is an amalgam of science fiction and comedic genius with an anthropological overtone that makes us stop and think about how silly we all really are.
It is a coming of age story relatable to all ages; Encompassing topics such as sexuality, stereotypes,gender equality, self-identity, fitting in, addiction, family and life itself.
It is the quintessence of romance as by the ill timed end of the show you will have fallen in love with every character that you meet on their journey.
Strap yourselves in for a maelstrom of emotions where you’ll be shedding tears, laughing out loud, screaming at the screen with frustration and anger or just dancing because you’re  happy.

The novel ingenuity of the directors coupled with a demiurgic script and the passion, the talent and the chemistry the cast bring to their roles make this the perfect polygamous marriage between director, actor and author. The show won countless awards, beating out the infamous “Friends” series on many an occasion.

If you haven’t watched 3rd rock I suggest you do so immediately. I mean it. Right now. Go. Stop whatever it is that you are doing; blow off study or just quit work. Give your stereotypically autocratic boss the bird or perhaps even ask him to join you in watching the TV show because it is way more life changing than your jobs ever were. Go on Netflix or YouTube, what have you, and correct this colossal flaw of yours. 

Trust me when I say that it will be an out of this world experience for you, with an introspective twist.

That I can guarantee.  

Disclaimer: Although the article above is irresistibly persuasive, I advise you not to forego real life responsibilities just for the sake of watching a TV show. Follow a proper code of conduct, stay in school and don’t do drugs. But it is your life after all and the decisions you make are yours alone. I am not the king of you nor do I claim to be.  

Post Scriptum:  Apologies are in order. I’m sorry that my schedule’s been off to say the least what with work, my social life and a lot of unexpected deaths (as is their disposition) in the family. 

I apologise on behalf of humanity, its nature and norms.   


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Techs-Tiles: From the Titilating to the Terrifying to the not very well Thought out

Dear Readers

Since its inception in 30,000 BC Clothing has been one of the defining pinnacles of human civilization. The evolution of the utility of clothing started from humble Paleolithic beginnings as protection against the elements and transformed to encompass uniformity, self expression, culture, religion and many other facets.   

We are now reaching a milestone of great proportion as we seek to further add to its utility a wide range of functions by meshing clothing with circuitry.

The age of wearable technology is at hand. 

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen the Intel Edison powered ,3D printed spider dress, indefinitely one of the highlights of CES 2015.

CES 2015 Intel Edison powered Spider dress Anouk Wipprecht 3D printed wearable technology fashion inventions and smart Clothing

With its proximity sensor and collar of robotic claws ,which stab anyone invading the personal space of the wearer, Designer Anouk Wipprecht takes the concept of “playing hard to get” to a whole new level. Jokes aside, there is no arguing that this work of art is as mesmerizing as the creature of nature after which it is modeled. 

Some of her other notable work include:

  • A smoke dress which ,as advertised, creates a smoke screen if the wearer feels threatened. If the idea was to stealth however I have to say that a running smoking person would grab quite alot of attention.Other than that my main concerns would be smoke alarms,choking hazards and no smoking areas.  

 Smoke Dress Anouk Wipprecht Wearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology inventions and smart Clothing

  • A biometric dress called  Synapse which monitors moods and also has a proximity sensor ,similar to the spider dress but instead of claws has lights which flicker and increase in intensity depending on stress levels and invasion of privacy

  •  And the last,and frankly the least in the sense of body coverage, is a fantastical article of clothing dubbed Intimacy composed of smart e-foils that ,depending on heart rate and certain sensual social interactions, turn from opaque to transparent. 

Intimacy Smart Transparency clothing Anouk Wipprecht Wearable techWearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology inventions and smart Clothing

I’m all for the integration of wearable technology but having your clothes in essence reveal your inner thoughts and moods will indefinitely lead to conflict sooner or later and in a dynamic world with many external factors that affect your body and your mood this seems like  another avenue for misinterpretation. 
Speaking of which, the people of Japan have been the subject of constant misinterpretation; although they can’t really fault anyone but themselves. 
From their eerie tentacle featuring manga and anime to their bizarrely sexualized commercials it isn’t a wonder that they are considered, a little odd. However it is especially Japanese fashion and technology that go above and beyond the boundaries of norm to bring us creations that are magnificently and wondrously weird.  

One such creation is the Necomimi.

Necomimis are strap-on animatronic ears which claim to move in different ways by using brainwave sensor technology and translating your brain activity in order to determine your current mood, be it ear flopping calm or ear perking focus.

Necomimis come with interchangeable animal ear pieces and are utterly pointless.  

But wait! If you thought those silly accessories were a meow and a half then this next contraption is just purrfect for you.

Introducing Tailly for those of you who were just dying to get the complete outfit and just didn’t think you looked asinine enough. Tailly is a wearable belt that has sensors that measure your heart rate and as it increases the attached tail starts moving. So if by chance you see a person on the ground with a Tailly furiously wagging behind him, he or she is probably having a heart attack which leaves you with the following options. To take a selfie next to this unusual occurrence , to leave the weird sod to die there, or perhaps even to ease its passing.

I would recommend buying this if you are Japanese, a furry fetishist, making a glorified cat costume for Halloween or if you are Hugh Hefner (I know you are an avid reader buddy and I would love to see these on some playboy bunnies, live long and prosper!). 

Liz Katz playboy bunny Necomimi animatronic ears Emoki  Wearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology inventions smart clothing
But it is simply a ridiculous thought that anyone would wear this on a regular basis as their creators intended.

Fabrican Spray-on clothing Manuel Torres Wearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology inventions smart clothing
In Fashion the greater the reward the higher the risqué. In 2010 Manuel Torres proved just that as he revealed to the world a whole new form of fashion, spray-on clothing.

His invention the Fabrican used a customizable polymer based liquid fabric which could be sprayed via an aerosol can or a spray gun onto a surface to create an overlapping non woven cloth.

The demonstrations showed the fabric being spurted onto models framing every crevice, cleft and curvature of their body to create clothing that acted like second skin. But for those of us who are not yet comfortable in our own skin let alone a second layer molding it for the world to see, Fear not. The material can be pulled and tugged into less form fitting shape to save us our modesty.  The apparel is washable and ultimately re-usable and it can be recycled by dissolving the material and using it to create new clothing.

But Fabrican’s utility goes far beyond fashion. Manuel envisions his invention being used in the fields of medicine, from casts and medicine laced bandages to spray on trans-dermal drug delivery systems; Hygiene, from creating waterproof mattress coverings for use in hospitals to sponges to towels, etc; and Design as this can be sprayed onto any frame or surface from walls and floors to the interior of cars and many more, even giving 3d printing a little jog for its money.

However there are a few apparent issues with Fabrican.The First would be customization, which is key to Fabrican’s success. Unless there is a customizable refill system aerosol cans only offer so much customization, hence you will have to buy a spray gun.  Secondly; although the notion that you could create your own clothing with Fabrican is exciting unless you are a contortionist this seems like a two person operation .Creating your own clothing will indefinitely require a different process (possibly with frames) than is shown in the video demonstration. Finally the big question is: Would the whole process be more cost and time efficient than going out and buying retail clothes?

Fabrican’s Commercial launch is yet to be announced  

Wearable Solar is a prospect that utterly excites and enthralls me. Project Leader Christian Holland not only shared my passion; it would appear that we both approached the concept with the same vision.

Woodstock and Coachella.

Whether it is to know what band is playing when, to find out where you are, to call up your friends and let them know your location or to take those all important photographs which basically double as  bragging rights, a Smartphone becomes quite important at these festivals. Ergo Battery life becomes very crucial and charging becomes an issue, but not anymore.

Wearable Solar powered clothing Pauline Van Dongen Wearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology inventions smart clothing Pauline Van Dongen with the aid of physicist Dr. Gert-Jan Jorgerden, who specializes in Solar cell engineering, designed clothes that have solar panels integrated into them and can essentially power small gadgets. They claim that their dresses can restore a dead phone battery up to 50%, with only an hour of soaking up the sun.
Wearable Solar powered clothing Pauline Van Dongen Wearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology inventions smart clothing The main objective of all wearable technology is to find the perfect equilibrium between fashion and functionality. The Wearable Solar project is no different. Seamlessly fitting flexible solar cells into clothing to make them fashionable was quite the challenge but with flexibility came a price. The energy output requirements couldn’t be met by the thin flexible solar cells that were installed and thus the clothes had to be mounted with rigid solar cells (meant to be stationary) which left the designs looking too peculiar and conspicuous to go mainstream.

 A fabric comprising solely of advanced power generating solar cells would be ideal for making clothes but this only exists in the lab and is extremely expensive to fabricate let alone commercialize. The solar powered clothing of today is a tradeoff between flexibility, power production and cost. However, as with all technology, the outlay will go down and the future of wearable solar looks bright.

But if you are like me, impatient that is and think the future should be now, then perhaps you’ll be intrigued by this. A collaborative effort of Mobile Phone Company Orange and Got wind (a group of experts on renewable energy), Orange power Wellies are thermo electric Wellington boots which have a ceramic sandwiched thermocouple system that uses the heat from your feet to generate electricity.

However this is far more inefficient when compared to solar wear as you need 12 hours of loitering under your boots to have enough power to charge your Smartphone for an hour. But bear in mind that the hotter your feet get the more energy you produce. So to increase efficiency the creators of Orange Power Wellies encourage you, to get jiggy with it.

Sadly though, Power Wellies are still unavailable to the public.

Arduino Lilypad Leah Buechley inventions smart clothing Wearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology

The Arduino Lilypad created by Leah Buechley at MIT, is one of the first commercially launched wearable microprocessors.

Its ability to easily link with sensors and actuators and its low cost spurned an array of innovative, homespun and factory made creations.

The turn signal bike jacket is one such invention. Designed by Leah Buechley herself the jacket has LED lights attached to it which allows bikers to signal if they are turning left, right, going straight or at night just alerting traffic to their presence. Buttons are mounted onto the right and left sleeves of the jacket which when pressed; activate the LEDs on the back of the jacket. Biking can be quite dangerous especially in the later hours of the day and creations like this make it safer for all involved.

Among such useful and helpful items such as a bag that senses if your valuables are within its confines or if you didn’t pack them, etc, there are several Tech fashion Faux pas that are just wonderfully confounding. 

Design company Diffus has its own line of fashion technology. Using Arduino Lilypad microprocessors to power their fabrications they’ve come up with quite a few novel clothing items. The acclaimed Climate Dress is their most prized product. It responds to carbon dioxide levels in the air around the wearer using a sensor and lights up LEDs woven into the outfit. If you are aiming to be the Harbinger of a “carbon fuelled end of the world” scenario or you are just curious about your carbon footprint or those of others, I simply couldn’t recommend this enough.

Arduino Lilypad Climate Dress Diffus inventions smart clothing Wearable Tech weird wired wondrous Fashion technology

Another of their creative designs is the UV Dress. As the name would suggest it measures light intensities and responds by closing and opening apertures inserted into the dress itself. Again if you are a vampire or you have a horrid skin disease (in which case I’m truly sympathetic) I still wouldn’t recommend buying this. 

Other less known but more bizarre inventions are a matching pair of his and her underwear which vibrate when the wearers are around each other and a sound projecting strap article which is designed to keep the dancing wearer out, I repeat, OUT of synch with the music. 

Although these clothes seem silly, we mustn’t forget that novelty usually precedes norm, and the initiative these designers have, deserve appreciation.
There are countless other fascinating smart clothing products that I would’ve included from an electrocuting anti-rape bra to a sad hug-simulation vest to life saving heart rate monitoring cardigans for the elderly and diseased to smug smart socks and so many more, but alas time being the stern mistress that she is simply would not allow it. 

But there is no doubt that the amalgamation of circuitry and couture edges us towards the science fiction fantasy that we all dream the future to be like.