Im waiting for the sun

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

From: Tom Whore (
Date: Wed Nov 01 2000 - 13:36:20 PPET

From: Bruce Sterling <>
To: Viridian List <>
Subject: Viridian Note 00206: The Sunburnometer

Key concepts: ozone exposure, health monitors,
photochromic stickers, Skyrad, Viridian Disasters,
Neologue contest

Attention Conservation Notice: It's some new gizmo
you've never heard of, plus the final gush of Neologue
coverage. Over 2,700 words.

It's up! It's tottering around on its baby feet!
Come have a look!

(Alan Wexelblat)

   Skyrad, an Israeli startup, is marketing a sunburn-o-
meter. This is a ten-cent adhesive patch that measures
the body's accumulated dose of ultraviolet radiation.
Should be on the market next spring.

    Presently, the average US increase in skin cancer risk
is 15 times higher than 60 years ago, due almost entirely
to thinning of the ozone layer.

   This leads me to think that in addition to imaginary
products, we Viridians should be promoting imaginary

   There should be a Viridian "SunBurning Man" festival,
scheduled for the first U.S. town/city/notable location to
be exposed by the expanding Arctic ozone hole. I can see
any number of sick puns and twisted humor opportunities

Here's a pic of the product.

Nice cheesecake of girl in swimsuit; relationship to
product only marginal, but what else is new. Also
includes pic of inventor holding device.

Some other links:

"Sample Stickers are available. Please call (212) 307-

Viridian Neologue Contest
This Contest Is Now Closed. (whew!) A Winner Will Be
Announced Presently.

The place to find Viridian competitions:

From:^^^^*** (Adam Pierce)

A box listens for particular phrases and then simply
plays a crowd sound effect.

"Applause please" = Applause
"C'mon, that was funny" = Canned laughter
"Here I am" = A fanfare

This enthusiastic personal audience keeps you the centre
of attention.

From:^^** (Dave Phelan)

The Viridian Disaster Alarm Clock is an elegant, stylish
bedside accessory. It monitors radio and internet
newsfeeds and weather reports, listening for travel
information and adverse weather warnings. Linked to your
personal diary system, it knows where you should be
travelling to, and by what means. It can check transport
information from relevant websites.

When your alarm goes off at the set time, the Viridian
Disaster Alarm Clock can tell you in soothing tones to
return to bed. An example:

"Good morning Dave. There are no northbound rail services
this morning owing to fallen trees, the roads to the
airport are flooded, and all flights are cancelled due to
heavy weather. Go back to sleep, you'll not get to
Germany today."

I could really have used one of these on Monday when the
southern UK fell apart quite spectacularly in an orgy of
Greenhouse weather violence.

From:** (Jeanine Christensen)

1. Smart luggage for the weary, jet-lagged and/or ill
I am tired of trying to remember what to pack in my
suitcase. I want my suitcase to remember for me and tell
me about it. I'd ask the chip "What did I pack when I went
to Shanghai for two weeks in October?" It would tell me
the full packing list, including remembering various
ambient temperatures (local time-date stamped), totals of
all the receipts I stuffed into its pockets, whether I
used up all the mosquito repellent last time, and whether
any food I packed into it would flunk inspection at any
customs checkpoints. My luggage would also remind me if I
forgot to pack my toothbrush before I zipped it up and
took it out of the hotel.

The bag would need voice-recognition, a speaker/alarm, an
electric eye to scan stuff (including anyone forcibly
opening the luggage), flash memory, and it should be
immune to international airport x-rays and abusive baggage
handlers. It would also contain a solar- and piezo-charged
power source that would power a transponder with a unique
electronic sig in the likely event that this luggage ever
got lost or loaded on the wrong plane.

2. Spam filter for annoying telemarketers, with scorecard
option. This Recognition Engine chip would answer my phone
with amazing lifelike repartee. The gaming aspect of this
chip would track my score in "The Telemarketer's Game," as
described in The Happy Mutant Handbook, 1995, Riverhead
Books: ISBN 1-57322-502-9. (N.B. the following point
system is *not* my own creation.)

For each minute spent telemarketer is kept on the phone:
10 points
Getting transferred to someone who makes more than minimum
wage: 15 points
For each minute spent on the phone with person making more
than minimum wage: 25 points
=== Bonus Points ===
Getting them to repeat part of the "script": 5 points
Getting answers to stupid questions: 5 points
Changing the subject: 50 points
Making the salesperson angry: 175 points
Making the salesperson use profanity: 750 points
Getting the boss on the phone and telling him/her that the
salesperson used profanity: 1500 points
Getting their 1-800 number: 10 points
Posting their 1-800 number to as a free
"Phone Sex" line: 50 points
Checking the number a week later and finding it busy or
disconnected: 5000 points

From:* (Kevin Marks)

The Aspidistra

When writing software, the best way to find a logical flaw
is to sit down and explain what the code is supposed to
be doing, line by line. Usually, the very act of
explaining it is enough for you to realise what you have
done wrong, so the listener doesn't need to comment much.
My colleagues used to refer to this as 'being an

The Neologue Aspidistra is a potted plant fitted with a
speech recognition chip. When it hears the word
'Aspidistra' it settles down to listen to you explain
code. It makes appropriate 'uh huh' and 'I see' sounds.
If it's more advanced, it might ask a few cogent questions
such as 'where do you dispose of that?', then go
quiescent again when it hears your response 'oh, I see
now, never mind.'

From:^*** (Mita Sen-Roy)

(a) Pee-Wee's Playhouse Secret Word of the Day

Every day, your house chooses a word randomly from an
abridged dictionary. If your house overhears that word
being said in conversation during that day, the house
responds with screams of delight.

(b) Portable backup singers

When activated, this device will doo-wop behind your vocal
stylings. Even better, a singing machine automatically
harmonizes with your singing voice.

From:* (Julian Brown)

A device that can be attached to a VCR, or other recording
device. Rather than listening for words, it listens for
the silences caused by pesky censors. It's programmed to
contextualise profanity and to reinsert appropriate
cursing into those imposed bleeps or gaps.
From: "Brandon Keim" <>

1. Sensor embedded in the collar of a shirt. It regulates
current flowing through a network of wires woven into the
shirt fabric. Shirt changes color according to voice
commands; perhaps patterns could be downloaded to the
shirt. The sensor's vocal capabilities would also emit a
soft hum in conjunction with shirt color, a sort of
personal sound environment, with people wandering in their
tonal coccoons and encountering others to create a new
sonic atmosphere.

2. A gadget jacket operated by spoken commands. Contains
and carries a lie detector, directional microphone,
camera, recorder, GPS, heating and cooling systems,
speaker phone, etc. etc. When this multitude of gizmos is
united into one garment with one control interface, they
become practical and inconspicuous.

Caveat: If either of these two items happens to be made,
PLEASE let me be in on the fashion end. I have yet to
see a piece of cyberwear that wasn't painful to look at.

3. Baby multimedia crib. In response to the tone of the
baby's cries/gurgles/laughs/sounds in general,
mobiles are activated/songs are played/video is
shown/stories are told/songs are sung/parents are
notified and so on.

Djinnetically engineered by Brandon.

From:^* (David Jennings)

#1 Babyminder Blobby


It's nine in the evening. You're sitting downstairs
enjoying a beer with your partner and a couple of
friends. You have one of those little intercom things
linked up to little junior's bedroom. The evening's
going well, some raucous adult laughter as you reminisce.
But every now and again someone goes 'Hush == did I just
hear a noise on the intercom?' Everyone goes quiet, turns
down the stereo; waits. False alarm.

But then you can't remember where you left off the
discussion, the pace of your friend's funny story is
disrupted, and you just missed the great twangy guitar
bit. You don't even dare turn up your music again, as you
feel the need to monitor the intercom more closely for a


Babyminder Blobby is tuned to recognise the various noises
specifically made by your infant. It can distinguish
between murmur, yell and call for mummy/mommy/maman etc.
(Localisation for different cultures will be important.)

It responds appropriately:
* murmur: increases its own sensitivity ('gain') for five
minutes, going on alert for follow-up noises, but not
doing anything
* minor disturbance: pulses a gentle light, softly
recites a nursery rhyme
* major disturbance (defined as repeated yelling or five
calls for mummy in less than a minute): increases volume
on nursery rhyme, sends alert to remote Blobby downstairs
to alert parent or babysitter.

Blobby also keeps statistics for 'management reports',
e.g. "In the last week, Junior did an average (per night)
of 5 murmurs, 2 yells and 1.5 repeated calls for mum. The
worst night was Thursday with 4 cases through the night
where human intervention was called for. The best night
was Saturday with just 2 murmurs."

A deluxe babysitter version is available. When Blobby
sends an alert to the babysitter, it also sends a text
message to your mobile phone or PDA. The babysitter may
then alleviate your anxiety by using Blobby to send an
update status report.

Design features:

* Blobby sets come as readily anthropomorphised pairs of
toy-like objects, designed to look like your older sister
and brother. At bedtime, junior is encouraged to 'say
goodnight to Blobby: she's going to keep you safe through
the night'. This reinforces the comforting impact of
Blobby's responses to minor disturbances.
* Blobbies come in every colour from loganberry to
greenhouse to sleet, but the child's unit has transparent
plastic casing (since, for infants, looking good with a
range of iMac peripherals is not yet essential).
* Physical robustness is also essential for infant's
Blobby, because inevitably there are times when junior
craves to throw 'big sister' across the room.

#2 Walk-to-School Guardian


In the UK, in 1971, 80% of 7-8 year olds walked to school.
By the mid-1990s, this figure had dropped to 9%. Most
commonly cited reasons are fears of abduction and fears of
traffic accidents while crossing roads. Traffic related to
taking children to school is blamed for much early morning
and mid-afternoon congestion.


School guardians are portable blobjects used as child
docking stations. When they are active they ask the child
every 2-5 minutes "Everything OK?" or some alternative
that is culturally acceptable in the region. Each child
has a specific voice response which the guardian expects
to hear within 20 secs. If there is no verbal response,
the guardian asks again, more persistently == also
flashing and vibrating to attract child's attention. If
the chip hears nothing after a further 20 secs, the
guardian raises an alarm at the home and school docking

If the child feels under threat by a possible abductor,
they simply throw the guardian away.

Each guardian is programmed with an upper limit journey
time between school and home. Docking stations at either
end will go into an 'amber' or 'red' alert if they don't
receive and dock the portable guardian.

At road crossings, the child simply states "road" and the
guardian recites standard safety instructions. In the UK,
this has become known as the Green Cross Code: look left,
look right, look left again, if all clear, start to cross
and keep looking and listening. Again. cultural
localisation will be important (e.g. driving on different
side of road).

Design features:

* This use of this technology has potentially serious
impact on the civil liberties of children and young
adults. A key design consideration is to make sure that
the children concerned feel safer and stronger with their
guardians, not like prisoners subjected to electronic
surveillance. The child user should decide how much slack
to give for trips to local shops en route, or the
occasional diversion to the playground with friends.

* Other docking stations can be placed in private and
public spaces as 'safe ports': a friend's house, the local
mall. The home docking station displays current status of
the guardian.

* Use of guardians may disrupt child's use of portably
minidisk players, mobile phones etc. Many parents will see
this as a feature, not a bug.

* Guardians are themed for tie-in with "responsible"
characters in the latest movies. They may have
interchangeable 'skins' (like some mobile phones).

* Retail and dining outlets aimed at the 6-12 yr age
group will have their own special 'docking stations'. If
you dock your guardian at a particular outlet several
times within an 'offer period' you qualify for special

From:^** (Tim Lovitt)

BlobPoll: a bit big-brotherly, but a voice activated li'l
blob that could sit in public spaces and just pick up
proper nouns would do wonders for our opinion polling
systems. Interesting for parents too: want to know what
was said around or by your child today?

ExpletiveDeleted: lapel pinnable device with an extremely
foul vocabulary that happily plays a bleep when it
detects the first syllables of any expletive. Protects
speaker and listener alike, but could provide for some
discomfort when watching Tarantino movies.

TheExcuser: A desk based system detects your verbal
reticence in any conversation (physical or phone) and
provides an immediate excuse for you by dialling other
line to your phone, providing you with the opportunity to
excuse yourself for that "urgent conference call," etc.

From:* (Bonnie K. Johnson)

(1) "Nocturnologue" for eavesdropping on your own
nocturnal conversations. The device records a sleep
talker's discourse. As it's voice activated, only actual
talk is recorded, eliminating any need to listen to hours
of tape. For the extremely self-curious, a camera could
be triggered as well, recording associated sleep motions
with complete sound track. Could be a useful safety
device for sleep walkers.

(2) ROX-BOX: Ever get a tune stuck in your head and not
been able to identify it? This tune recognition device
has all the answers and can even replay your tune
correctly, making for a very cool Jam session with you and
your machine.

From: (Bruce Sterling)

The Alexander Calder Tribute Site

A Calder-style mobile sculpture has flexible piezoelectric
elements built into its joints, and wired to a
Recognition Engine. The mobile wafts gently around from
the "pressure" of people talking about Calder or mobiles.

The Man Ray Tribute Site

Man Ray's "Object to Be Destroyed" (a ticking metronome
with the eye of Lee Miller attached) has an engine chip
inside. When the names "Man Ray" or "Lee Miller" are said,
the metronome stops dead and utters a surrealistic cry of

The Marcel Duchamp Tribute Site

   An inverted men's urinal is hung upside down on a
gallery wall. Whenever anyone says the keywords "Marcel,"
"Duchamp," or "conceptual art," the Recognition Engine
chip sends a sudden terrifying spray of yellow soap
bubbles out of the urinal and straight into the audience.

Conversational Fans

    Dozens of colorful ceiling fans, equipped with chips,
are attached to a tall ballroom ceiling. The chips count
audible phonemes in the immediate area below the fan, then
cause their fans to revolve quickly or slowly, in direct
proportion to the density of conversation. Lively
conversations can therefore be quickly spotted from
anywhere in the room. As a byproduct, talkative cliques
at the event generate their own cooling breeze.

The Jargon Strobe

A darkened discussion space is lit only by strobe lights.
The strobes are wired to Recognition Engines, which fire
off bursts of enlightenment according to a specialized
glossary: say, hip terms from cybernetic techno-art.
Therefore a lively and knowledgeable lecture will steadily
light the whole area, whereas a halting or off-topic one
leaves the crowd in spasmodic darkness.

The New World Order Firing Squad

An automated firing squad confronts a large, bounding
balloon in an installation shooting gallery. The guns
dramatically respond to the keywords "Ready," "Aim," and
"Fire." On "ready" the guns chamber a round, on "aim"
they unsteadily converge at the target, and at "fire" they
shoot pellets. But the cybernetic guns cannot be directly
touched, are unbearably quirky, and are frequently
disobedient. Furthermore, the balloon itself is
surprisingly tough and slippery, bounding around at random
directions and speeds. The intent of this installation
is to increasingly excite and frustrate an ever-growing
and ever-more-bloodthirsty crowd, demanding the balloon's
annihilation. The frantic voices are recorded and played
back after the balloon finally meets its end.

O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Nov 01 2000 - 13:41:35 PPET