November 30, 2009
Mir:ror testing

I managed to get my hands on a Violet Mir:ror RFID reader this week (I briefly reviewed this in April) to evaluate it for use in teaching and possibly personal project use. While I still maintain that this is an interesting product which encourages it’s users to imagine how they could use this (and it does come with a variety of working suggestions) testing was for my purposes disappointing and here’s why – my reasons are threefold.

  1. Firstly the Violet website and the instructions that come with the Mir:ror state that you need a permanent broadband internet connection, in fact the instructions that come with the Mir:ror state that the internet connection is necessary to fully use the device, suggesting some things are possible without an internet connection. This is not the case, without an internet connection you simply can not use the device as every time you connect it to the computer it registers with Violet’s website – no connection = impossible to register. This isn’t too problematic, why after all would you not have an internet connection when the device is for the internet of things? What is more problematic is that the device makes its connection to the internet through a helper application called Mirware and this can not be configured to work through a firewall.
  2. My second issue is again with the Mirware software and what it does when an RFID tag (called zstamp for the Mir:ror) is detected or removed from sensor range. If you watch the video below you’ll notice that when the zstamp (rabbit zstamp in this case) is detected there is a little popup dialog on screen (bottom right hand corner) and a sound (the second sound on the video). This is useful for feedback but can not be disabled in the applications preferences. The popup is set to appear above applications (high priority window) so even if you have masked off the screen with a fullscreen application it will still appear above that. The sound is similarly impossible to disable.
  3. Last issue is with the device itself. The first sound you hear on the video comes from the device. It has no switch to mute this or to possibly turn off the flashing light.

Below is a video showing how the device works, looks and sounds.

All of this is a real shame, a consumer-based RFID product is always going to have a limited appeal as the author here notes, but it seems foolish to restrict through a lack of configuration options (all of the above is to do with configuration) what potentially could be an open piece of hardware for endless uses. Without firewall configuration you would not be able to use the device in any administrated network such as universities, companies, conference venues, institutions etc. Without preferences and/or physical switches to enable disable features students wishing to leverage the device for project work, artists creating art works or anyone employing it for presentation or teaching purposes simply won’t.

A final note, it seems that Violet, the French company who make the Mir:ror, Nabaztag and related products have gone bankrupt and are in the process of being taken over by Mindscape, a French CD-ROM / Game publisher. The Nabaztags future seems safe (in fact if you look at Mindscapes French homepage you can see they already list the Nabaztag) and there has been a user led ‘save the Nabaztag campaign‘ but unfortunately their is no mention of the Mir:ror so the future seems very bleak for this device.

I’m curious if anyone out there has tested the Touchatag device (formally Tikitag). It’s in the same price range and works similarly to Mir:ror (i.e. through a web service), does it have the same limitations?

Posted by: Garrett @ 3:41 pm
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November 29, 2009
Sensitive Rose

Sensitive Rose is the second work (see also ROSAdosVENTOS.mobi) by Martha Gabriel which attempts to create a sort of net.art / mobile type art work. It is:

an interactive compass rose formed by mobile tags that map people’s desires. The interactions happen via cell phone and the results can be seen in a large screen projection (or computer large screen). The work intention is to “navigate” in the desires of the people, in a secret way, through a ciphered poetics of tags, which can not be deciphered with naked eyes.

While feeling awkward (why interact with a screen through a mobile phone when clicking through using a mouse is more intuitive and quicker) in its use, the work is one of the few attempts I’ve seen by an artist to leverage this technology in a non gaming context.

Originally seen on 2d Code.

Posted by: Garrett @ 8:04 pm
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November 28, 2009
Are you ready for the Internet of Things?

Are you ready for the Internet of Things? is a conference this 4th of December 2009 at IMAL.org in Brussels. Organised by Council (a thinkthank on the Internet of Things) and Tinker.it the event will bring together leading experts, artists and designers such as Nicolas Nova, Rafi Haladjian (Violet) and Timo Arnall.

Unfortunately registration is already closed as the event is full and the event is not being streamed online but short videos of the workshops will be available after the event and notes will be on the Council website.

EDIT: An email from iMAL says their streaming video for the evening event will online here.

Posted by: Garrett @ 7:59 pm
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November 12, 2009
WINDscale

Another work to add to the list of wind influenced net(work) works is WINDscale (image above and below, video below) by Rob Smith which to date has shown in four locations and online. Described as a windcontrolled video artwork:

An anemometer measures the speed of the wind at each place and the data is used to control the frame rate and pixellation of a computer controlled video. The resulting video can [sic] viewed live at the venues and via this website as a time lapse film generated over the last twenty four hours.

For more video documentation of the work see the website.

Previous posts on wind related works include The Incredible Internet Flying Machine, InfoBreath, Twilight, Breath, Blow Up & Breeze Reflection, POD (Wind Array Cascade Machine), Wind and Éventée and Lightweeds.

Posted by: Garrett @ 4:41 pm
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November 10, 2009
SkypeMe!

SkypeMe! (image above) by Kim Asendorf and Philipp Teister is one of those works which is documented in print/video format, targeted at a gallery exhibition but uses a condition of the network, the tried and tested virtual identity game, as it’s premise. I’m mainly posting it due to it’s visual similarity to Hello process! and quite a lot of other new media/network related works that are using print as a means of embodying physicality (e.g. Murmur Study) and/or creating documentation which has permanence (flux or non-permanence being a network condition).

The work, also process based, is described by the artists as follows:

We created a character of a twenty years old girl for each of us: Silke and Sonja. Then we brought them to Skype. The idea behind that was to collect all incomming data to evaluate it at the end. We never opened the mic or the cam, we just used the keyboard to get in touch with all the strangers. We put the results together to a room-installation, consisting of a wall full of chatlogs, two monitors with the recorded videos and to pictures of ourself disguises as Silke and Sonja, which should show how easy it is to be someone else on the Internet. Basically we can say each guy who called us wanted to fuck with us.

Posted by: Garrett @ 12:06 pm
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