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Felix // Vimeo
Felix // Vimeo

Sensory Fiction: Read Your Books and Feel Them Too

Felix // Vimeo
Felix // Vimeo

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, good citizens attend the feelies—movies that allow them to feel the warmth of a bear rug or the flutter of a kiss. While it might seem as if this can only exist in the fictional world of 2540, researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have created technology that might bring this sci-fi closer to reality: Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, and Julie Legault developed what they call "Sensory Fiction," a vest that hooks up to an e-reader and helps readers feel what the characters in a book experience.

The vest includes networked sensors and actuators, which change the reader’s mood and environment to match the book. Sensory Fiction has 150 programmable LEDs to change lighting, sound to create ambient noise, a heating device to influence body temperature, sensors to create vibrations to quicken or slow heart rate, and a compression system to restrict the chest. These work in concert to influence the reader’s feelings. When a character becomes frightened, for example, the vest increases the heart rate and restricts the chest so the reader experiences the feeling of fear, too.

They tested their technology with The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Tiptree.

SENSORY FICTION from Felix on Vimeo.

On the Sensory Fiction website, the researchers write, “Traditionally, fiction creates and induces emotions and empathy through words and images. By using a combination of networked sensors and actuators, the Sensory Fiction author is provided with new means of conveying plot, mood, and emotion while still allowing space for the reader’s imagination. These tools can be wielded to create an immersive storytelling experience tailored to the reader.”

They also admit that while they’re excited that the prototype works, they have no plans to mass produce Sensory Fiction. They think of it merely as a way to spark debate.

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The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo
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Jeff Bezos Is Helping to Build a Clock Meant to Keep Time for 10,000 Years
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo
The Long Now Foundation, Vimeo

Few human inventions are meant to last hundreds of years, much less thousands. But the 10,000 Year Clock is designed to keep accurate time for millennia. First proposed in 1989, the long-lasting timepiece is finally being installed inside a mountain in western Texas, according to CNET.

The organization building the clock, the Long Now Foundation, wanted to create a tribute to thinking about the future. Founded by computer scientist Danny Hillis and Whole Earth Catalog publisher Stewart Brand, the group boasts famous members like musician Brian Eno and numerous Silicon Valley heavyweights. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is putting up the $42 million necessary to complete the project, writing that “it's a special Clock, designed to be a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking."

Measuring 500 feet tall when it's completed, the clock will run on thermal power and synchronize each day at solar noon. Every day, a “chime generator” will come up with a different sequence of rings, never repeating a sequence day to day. On specific anniversaries—one year, 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years, 10,000 years—it will animate a mechanical system within one of five rooms carved into the mountain. On the first anniversary, for instance, the clock will animate an orrery, a model of the solar system. Since they don’t expect to be alive for many of the future anniversaries, the clock’s creators won't determine animations for 100, 1000, or 10,000 years—that'll be left up to future generations. (To give you an idea of just how far away 10,000 years is, in 8000 B.C.E., humans had just started to domesticate cows for the first time.)

Though you can sign up to be notified when the clock is finished, it won’t be easy to see it up close. The nearest airport is several hours’ drive away, and the mountain is 2000 feet above the valley floor. So you may have to be content with seeing it virtually in the video below.

Clock of the Long Now - Installation Begins from The Long Now Foundation on Vimeo.

[h/t CNET]

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Love Gordon Ramsay's Sick Kitchen Burns? Try His Insult-Loving Alexa App
Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images
Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

You can now invite Gordan Ramsay into your kitchen to evaluate your cooking. Or his voice, at least. Amazon Alexa’s new Gordon Ramsay skill features audio critiques from the notoriously foul-mouthed celebrity chef.

The interactive app was developed by the audio company Ground Control, which also produces podcasts like the former vice president’s news show, Biden’s Briefing, and various other Amazon Alexa skills.

For better or for worse, the Gordon Ramsay skill’s canned audio doesn’t actually require you to cook anything, as I found out when I decided to try it out on my own device at home. I was too busy (read: lazy) to actually whip up a dish, and decided to fool good ol’ Gordon instead.

“Alexa, ask Gordon Ramsay what he thinks of my lasagna,” I shout from my couch, take-out curry in my hands.

“The stench of your cooking violates the Clean Act,” he tells me. Rude! At one point, he calls me a doughnut. Somehow, this isn't a compliment. “I’ve seen better food in my dog’s food bowl,” he complains.

I try to take a different tack. “Alexa, ask Gordon Ramsay what I should cook for dinner.” Unfortunately, the chef has no suggestions—he only provides insults, not ideas. You have to ask something in the vein of “Critique my beef bourguignon,” or “Are my cookies bad?” (The answer is always yes, and probably will be bleeped.)

The virtual Ramsay will also get impatient if you don’t tell him to stop or ask him to judge another dish. “Wakey wakey,” he chides me when I don’t respond to his last sick burn. "Give me a f***ing question!" he yells at another point. If you want him to go away, you’ll have to speak up. “Stop!” I finally protest. Alexa asks me if I’d like to share my experience with my friends. No thank you!

“Try again tomorrow,” Ramsay signs off. “Hopefully by then, you’ll have learned how to cook.” Somehow, I doubt he'll like my lasagna any more than he does now.

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