Week 1 ~ What Is Physical Computing

Homer Simpson on a personal computer

Some questions I had upon leaving class:

Sometimes I wonder why this thing or that thing gets automated or digitized. For example, when you a write an email with gMail there are a clickable pre-written suggestions to choose from. Who asked for this? What is its fundamental purpose? For how many people is a need met versus for how many people does it just make their lives “faster” and “easier”.

Our lab today was to quickly prototype a fantasy device. Each group’s idea was awesome and provided fertile ground for some really interesting conversations. My group made a prototype of telepathic transporter. The distribution of the devices would be similar to that of citi bike. A user could find a transporter, look at a kiosk, choose their destination, enter a 5’ x 8’ chamber, and tell the chamber that they were ready to depart. At this point a microphone would pick up their command and a speaker would countdown to 0. The door would lock and the person’s body would be transformed into bits of data, uploaded to a server and sent over wire to the chosen destination. My favorite problems with this design are:

What happens if your “metro card” for the Telepathic Transit Authority (or the TTA) runs out while your in transit…does some of your data get lost therefore producing a less you you on the other end?

What happens if someone slips in to the chamber before you but the computer is ready to use your data? Do they become you on the other side?

How could the TTA be different and better than the MTA?

What are the implications of having a public facing kiosk for someone who is inputting information for the telepathic trip? What needs to be or should be private? How does privacy changes the user’s experience of the thing?

Reminder to self (thanks to a peer whose name I can’t remember…actually one group came up with a pretty good device that solves this name memory problem):

Octavia Butler’s characters and the worlds they inhabit can provide interesting ways to think about interaction between humans and non-humans, and in the case of this class, computers.