New Scientist Live 2017
Last weekend I attended the New Scientist Live event, in the ExCel Centre, London. There was a lot to see and a lot of people to see it; the air buzzed with voices and noise. Here's a few exhibits that sparked my imagination. As I said to my friend, you can't put a price on the feeling of inspiration - that's why I love science.
Virtual Reality is amazing. Sensory Reality is astounding. SENSIKS offers a virtual experience that caters to all five senses, combining them into a 'sixth' full sensory experience. Visitors outside the SENSIKS booth queued impatiently; left with dreamy smiles on their faces and wistful remarks that their time inside the booth had passed too quickly. I spoke with Fred Galstaun, the CEO - see a short video below, and watch if you can spot him doing the logo for SENSIKS. More about the company and their platform on their website.
Another booth, holding a small cinema, was Axiom.
Axiom is a refresh of traditional healthcare debates through a sci-fi and storytelling medium. Visitors to the Axiom booth could settle down to watch a short film about a lost, lone astronaut in space. You can watch the film on their website here. With mounting fear, calling out to Mission Control, struggling to grasp control of her situation, the astronaut represents a patient in the healthcare system. How much are Mission Control willing to spend on bringing her home? What decisions should they involve her in? What resources do they have to use? I thought this was a great idea - a way to refocus and explore a sensitive issue that involves many players.
Axiom also invite you to share your own story of triumphs or struggles in healthcare, which could be featured on their website.
This is Axiom. Life. Above all else.
Back when I was a researcher for BBC Learning, one of my tasks was to make a detailed report of the new Computing curriculum. Of course the problem was that there was no Computing curriculum! Plans were moving ahead to bin the outdated IT / ICT curriculum (anyone else remember anything from their IT lessons other than blinding tedium and clicking of MS Word? Indeed) but there was no official Computing curriculum. The way it looked was that in autumn 2012, schools were going to start rolling it out... and it was up to their staff to implement it. There were a lot of passionate advocates of teaching computing, coding, and real programming skills to young people though, so I found a lot of optimism out there and even felt envious of the lucky students approaching this new age of mad computing skillz. (Still, some opinionistas believe it's just a cynical push to drag down high wages rather than modernise education for the 21st century). The push goes on, and the tools just get better and better.
Take NOVA. A DIY Artificial Intelligence Robot. And I thought home CRISPR kits were a perfect example of hi-tech biohacked for the public. NOVA is being developed by Creoqode, who have also developed an open source game console for you to program games on. These things aren't just for kids, but they are cheap enough, accessible enough, and fun enough for kids to learn. And they're bringing retro-gaming into the modern technology, by putting its creation literally in your hands.
I like to imagine an unspecified time in an alternative reality future, calling out to my offspring down in the American-style capacious basement we inexplicably have (guess I'm living in America). I'll have bought him a few hijinks and gadgets off Kickstarter, let him order a few innocuously ingeniously designed electronic AI projects, as you do...
"What are you doing down there, little Johnny?"
"Oh nothing Mom..."
iHuman. What is it to be human? This disruptive research institute at the University of Sheffield takes on this question. I didn't see fully what they had on display, but their leaflets were interesting. Their website hosts an eclectic range of events from multiple research projects. In particular, they want the public to chime in with their experiences of living with learning disability under austerity cuts in today's society.
AugmentifyIt - As we swirled out with the dregs of the crowd on the final day, someone flagged us over. There was time for them to fire up two more sparks of inspiration.
AugmentifyIt presents Augmented Reality learning designed for young children from 3+, using cards you need to buy and a free app. The presenter showed us a quick glimpse; in a casual wave of her phone over a card, a miniature, beautiful spinning galaxy appeared in the unreality of Augmented Reality. I also remember researching this at the BBC back in 2012, but back then the examples I found consisted of brightly coloured blocky 3D structures floating in the air. But even Pokemon Go shows the technology has come on in leaps and bounds. No, I've not played Pokemon Go. I hear it's silly. And addictive.
Rehabilitation Gaming System create VR games to rehabilitate patients who have suffered brain damage. Their system is already used in hospitals daily by stroke patients.
Updates from the Human Brain Project - six ICT platforms including the Neurorobotics platform and Medical Informatics.
Stuck for a Christmas present? Micro Drones! We're all going to be under surveillance anyway, right?
Not quite a blog, but things that I have written. Please note - these writings are unedited, for the purposes of flexing my fingers, and no doubt contain grammatical errors and carelessness of expression I wouldn't allow in professional writing.