Recently I went along to the ‘Talk to me’ symposium evening session. An entertaining journey through things that have blurred our relationship with machines; from healthcare chatterbots to the promise of everyday flirting with Apple’s Siri.
The session was set up as a record party, with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich of Radiolab, exhibition curator Paola Antonelli and author Steven Johnson invited to take turns and share machine stories.
Here are my favorite records from the night.
Chatterbots made lousy therapists
In 1964 MIT, under the direction of Joseph Weizenbaum, Eliza the robot therapist was brought into the world. Eliza was a computer programme that played scripted responses to patients questions. Initial hype for Eliza died down quickly as patient questions outside of her programming exposed her limited soothing powers.
Booking trains got romantic
In 2001 Amtrak replaced their ‘dial 1, dial 2’ train booking phone service with ‘Hi, this is Amtrak. I’m Julie’. The recorded tone’s of Boston’s Julie Stinneford powered the Amtrak customer service system to provide some much needed relief to the maze of number based phone services. Thanks Julie.
Steve Jobs was programming the human OS
As operating systems to new technologies are getting simpler, so are we. In 2011 baby girls are swiping away at print copies of Vogue magazine only to be disappointed it doesn’t come up to scratch mom’s iPad.
Handmade interactions delight
'Hi, a real human interface' is a portrait project from Multitouch Barcelona that put one of their team in a box to simulate the perfect interface, one which understands our deepest needs. Entertaining start-up sequences and penis extension emails aside, human gestures will always win for machine based user experiences.
Wires vs Dolls
In 1999 grad student Freedom Baird wanted to see what toy kids had most emotional connection too, a doll or a robot. He invited four 6 year olds to hold a barbie doll, a hamster and a furbie upside down for as long as they could. It turned out the biting hamster could be held upside down for 8 seconds, barbies forever, but after just 1 minute the children gave into the cries and moving eyes of the furbie. The wires won, the kids felt tricked.
Art by eyes
Eyewriter is the modern day diving bell and butterlfy; an amazing story of how a group of programmers and designers got together to help street artist Tempt One, an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patient, create dynamic art projections with his eyes using an eye-tracking system they created called Eyewriter.
No more fake smiles
Auto Smiley is an application from Theo Watson that runs in the background whilst you work; constantly analyzing your facial expression in the hunt for a smile, once a smile is detected an ascii smiley face is sent to your app. Honesty is now being enforced in our online conversations. No more fake smiles friends : )