Tales of the Uncanny.

The Truth About Robotic's Uncanny Valley

Stick to Roombas and blue-skinned aliens and you'll be fine. But build a realistic feminine android or render a CG version of Tom Hanks in a train conductor's outfit, and the uncanny valley will swallow you whole. Unless, of course, it doesn't really exist. [...]

According to all of the roboticists and computer scientists we interviewed, the Uncanny Valley is in short supply during face-to-face contact with robots. Two of the robots that inspire the most terror -- and accompanying YouTube comments -- are Osaka University's CB2, a child-like, gray-skinned robot, and KOBIAN, Waseda University's hyper-expressive humanoid. In person, no one rejected the robots. No one screamed and threw chairs at them, or smiled politely and slipped out to report lingering feelings of abject horror. [...] The uncanny effect appears to be an incredibly specific and specialized phenomenon: It seems to happen, when it does, remotely. In person, the uncanny vanishes.


And the always-amusing OkCupid data-mining blog (previously) brings us the truth about the efficacy of using the "Myspace Shot" in your profile picture: The 4 Big Myths of Profile Pictures:

In terms of getting new messages, the MySpace Shot is the single most effective photo type for women. We at first thought this was just because, typically, you can kind of see down the girl's shirt with the camera at that angle -- indeed, that seems to be the point of shot in the first place -- so we excluded all cleavage-showing shots from the pool and ran the numbers again. No change: it's still the best shot; better, in fact, than straight-up boob pics (more on those later). At least from the perspective of online-dating, and perhaps social media in general, the MySpace Shot might be the best way for a woman to take a picture.

The male "Ab Shot" has the same reputation as the MySpace Shot -- it's an Internet cliché that supposedly everyone thinks is only for bozos. To wit: a journalist was visiting our office recently, and when we told her we were researching user photos, the first thing she said was "please tell me people hate it when guys show off their abs." We hadn't finished running the numbers yet, so we confidently reassured her that people did. The data contradicted us.

Of course, there is some self-selection here: the guys showing off their abs are the ones with abs worth showing, and naturally the best bodies get lots of messages. So we can't recommend this photo tactic to every man. But, contrary to everything you read about profile pictures, if you're a guy with a nice body, it's actually better to take off your shirt than to leave it on.

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DNA Lounge: Wherein the repairs are finished.

The repairs are pretty much finished at this point. Lots of sanding, painting, patching, more painting, and more patching. Now, we pretty much sit on our hands for a week before we let you miscreants back in to mess it all up again.

Most of the benches are re-upholstered, and all of the carpet has been replaced in the corner booths and entry halls:

We have a curtain behind the stage now. It's a subtle change, but I think it really reads much more as a "stage" than it did with just a flat black wall. Eventually we're also going to put some sound foam behind the curtain to help with audio reflections, which should make the room a little easier to mix.

The concrete at the back door is repaired, and it has a sexy new steel nose, to hopefully keep it intact for longer in the future as road cases and various other heavy things bang it (for example, your mom):

And something good has come of our recent miserable weather: the last week of nearly-continuous rain has already given our new sign exactly the kind of character that I had been hoping for!

There have been a few minor disagreements we still need to resolve, unfortuantely. For example, our plumber didn't quite understand what the minimum acceptable percentage of attempts to flush a toilet should result in an actual flush (my opinion being "100%") and our bar staff didn't quite understand what percentage of the surfaces behind the bars should be clean (again, I'm gonna go with "100%"). But the beatings will continue until hygiene improves.


Dear headphone manufacturers...

Dear headphone manufacturers who think it's a good idea to use straight plugs instead of right-angle plugs: What the fuck is wrong with you? Do you not own this invention called POCKETS?

Knock that shit off.

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Fuck "wifi_rail", srsly.

So, the pinheads who bring you that marvel of modern efficiency we know as BART have a wifi network on the trains now. They have, of course, managed to make it completely useless. (Even when it isn't over capacity.)

First, you need to sign up for a free account to use it, with an email address and a password. But they don't verify the email address at all! So it is in fact completely anonymous, there is just a pointless speedbump in the way. I guess it is for spamming rather than kiddie porn panic?

It makes you log in with your made-up email address and password before passing any packets, and they set the login page to not remember either the address or password even if your browser is set to remember such things. And, it has a very short time-out.

So, you open up yor mail reader, it tries to get mail, you are redirected to a "welcome" page in the web browser (not even the login page!) where you have to do a fucking lot of typing... And then maybe you can dow nload your mail. Maybe. By the time you are on the return train, you will have to do this login dance again.

Whoever is responsible for this stunning design failure deserves continuous cockpunches.

This message brought to you by the just-slightly-lesser failure that is the AT&T network.

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Poetica Vaginal

A short history of radio messages to ET

Joe Davis is an artist and a research affiliate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the mid-1980s, he became concerned that no image of humans had been sent into space representing the details of human genitals or reproduction.

So he led a project to transmit the sounds of vaginal contractions towards neighbouring star systems. To do so, he recorded the vaginal contractions of ballet dancers.

The messages were to be sent from MIT's Millstone Hill Radar to Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti and two other stars. However, only a few minutes of footage was transmitted before the US air force, which had jurisdiction over the facility, shut the project down.

Nevertheless, the vaginal sounds that were sent will have reached Epsilon Eridani in 1996 and Tau Ceti in 1998. It is unclear what sort of reply we should expect.

Joe Davis: Monsters, Maps, Signals and Codes

A "vaginal detector" was built in a laboratory of mechanical engineering and consisted of a water-filled polyallomer centrifuge tube mounted on a hard nylon base that contained a very sensitive pressure transducer. Dancers and other female volunteers (unsolicited) hygienically invaginated the detector in order to characterize vaginal contractions (the fastest was clocked at 0.8 Hz). The embedded pressure transducer was sensitive enough to detect voice, heartbeat, and respiration as well as voluntary and involuntary vaginal contractions.

Electronic music software was used to generate real time harmonics of vaginal contractions until that frequency matched one of the frequencies in the set of unique frequencies of English speech. A collaborating linguist bit-mapped those speech sounds (called, "phonemes") so that they could be generated in real time corresponding to vaginal "inputs." A digital map of the analog detector output was also made in real time. Thus, three forms of the message were simultaneously generated: 1) an analog signal directly generated by vaginal contractions; 2) a digital map of same and 3) voice (English phoenetic maps of vaginal contractions).

[...] The Vaginal Excursion Module was assembled at Haystack and preliminary test transmissions of vaginal signals were undertaken with sample vaginal signals recorded on audio tape. Then, on the eve before live broadcasts were to be made, the Millstone project Group Leader, a United States Air Force Colonel (Millstone Radar had been contracted tothe Air Force by MIT) terminated the project. Still, a few minutes of test transmissions were made to each of the four sunlike stars.

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Mom's first nude shoot

Like most of my social circle, I expose myself all the time anyway. I dwell in a world of people who write memoirs about our dysfunctional families and tell jokes about our awkward teen years and write songs about our heartbreaks. And you can't make a career of expressing the most personal, intimate aspects of life without developing extraordinary coping mechanisms. Or, as a playwright friend recently said after a particularly vitriolic critique, "And so, another little part of me goes dead inside."
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Dance, Stick-Man, Dance.

Previously, previously.


Xenu, Jesus, whichever one has the gun.

John Travolta to Airlift Desperately Needed E-Meters to People of Haiti
Anywhere people are suffering, Scientology's yellow-shirted "volunteer ministers" can be found lurking near news cameras and claiming to help people with their bullshit technology. They performed "purification rundowns" on recovery workers sifting through the ruins of the World Trade Center after 9/11, administered "touch assists" to victims of the tsunami, distributed literature after the Virginia Tech shooting, and are on the ground in Haiti right now warning the starving, dehydrated populace about the dangers of psychiatry.

Robot-missionaries prey on helpless Haiti survivors

A Christian group calling themselves Faith Comes by Hearing is sending not food or medicines to the needy population of Haiti, but 600 solar-powered digital Bibles that speak and proclaim the gospel in Creole.
U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the U.S. military. The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

Trijicon confirmed that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them.

Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is "not Christian."

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Unnatural Copulation

New Orleans city police and the district attorney's office are using a state law written for child molesters to charge hundreds of sex workers as sex offenders. The law, which dates back to 1805, makes it a crime against nature to engage in "unnatural copulation" -- a term New Orleans cops and the district attorney's office have interpreted to mean anal or oral sex. Sex workers convicted of breaking this law are charged with felonies, issued longer jail sentences and forced to register as sex offenders. They must also carry a driver's license with the label "sex offender" printed on it.

Of the 861 sex offenders currently registered in New Orleans, 483 were convicted of a crime against nature, and of those, 78 percent are black and almost all are women.

Tabitha has to register an address in the sex offender database. She also has to purchase and mail postcards with her picture to everyone in the neighborhood informing them of her conviction. If she needs to evacuate to a shelter during a hurricane, she must evacuate to a special shelter for sex offenders, and this shelter has no separate safe spaces for women. She is even prohibited from very ordinary activities in New Orleans like wearing a costume at Mardi Gras.

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