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MASDAR

just look at the little guy...

More future cars! Spotted in The New York Times last week, the “carbon-neutral” city of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, has been infested with subterranean driverless cars. The city is apparently raised  23 feet off the ground to catch the desert breeze, and to make room for the local network of robot cars. Ostensibly little different than a subway, the very private personal transports took their design – it seems –  from well, every clean Utopian Sci Fi film ever made. Norman Foster, lead designer for Foster & Partners, who helmed the UAE’s new eco-mecca is supposedly a “lifelong tech buff who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller” – so that explains a few things.

Nicolai Ourorrsof from NYT explains:

But Mr. Foster’s most radical move was the way he dealt with one of the most vexing urban design challenges of the past century: what to do with the car. Not only did he close Masdar entirely to combustion-engine vehicles, he buried their replacement — his network of electric cars — underneath the city. Then, to further reinforce the purity of his vision, he located almost all of the heavy-duty service functions — a 54-acre photovoltaic field and incineration and water treatment plants — outside the city.

The result, Mr. Foster acknowledged, feels a bit like Disneyland. “Disneyland is attractive because all the service is below ground,” he said. “We do the same here — it is literally a walled city. Traditional cars are stopped at the edges.”

Driving from downtown Abu Dhabi, 20 miles away, you follow a narrow road past an oil refinery and through desolate patches of desert before reaching the blank concrete wall of Masdar and find the city looming overhead. (Mr. Foster plans to camouflage the periphery behind fountains and flora.) From there a road tunnels through the base to a garage just underneath the city’s edge.

Stepping out of this space into one of the “Personal Rapid Transit” stations brings to mind the sets designed by Harry Lange for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You are in a large, dark hall facing a row of white, pod-shaped cars lined up in rectangular glass bays. (The cars’ design was based on Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for a compact urban vehicle, the D-45, which helps explain their softly contoured, timelessly futuristic silhouettes.) Daylight spills down a rough concrete wall behind them, hinting at the life above” [emphasis added].

The first 13 cars of a proposed fleet of hundreds were being tested the day I visited, but as soon as the system is up, within a few weeks, a user will be able to step into a car and choose a destination on an LCD screen. The car will then silently pull into traffic, seeming to drive itself. (There are no cables or rails.)

 the fleet in stationCheck the diagram and slideshow for more.


Umbrella Luminosity

blade runner umbrellas

Old news, really, but something that struck me as worth sharing here. The above image is, of course, from Blade Runnner (1982) and something that has been replicated in the real world fairly successfully – likely because it’s pretty easy to build compared to the film’s flying cars. You can pick one up over at Thinkgeek for a reasonable $25 plus shipping (also available are samurai and broadsword umbrellas if you prefer fantasy to your Sci Fi).  Practical value would be, I suppose, illuminating your way through a gloomy rainstorm, but we all know it’s just cool because it’s like that one movie, right man? Novelty or familiarity?

think geek futuristic umbrellaHere’s a cool homebrew one from Plecter Labs with some nice videos of things lighting up.

Fresh Scan: Sync-bot

and what's with that stadium in the background...?

Another magazine find, this time from the back cover of Make – which is coincidentally the subject of a large-ish essay I’m writing. Not strictly concerned with depicting the future, makers certainly affect aesthetics and the philosophy of progress, so I might throw it up here when it’s finished in addition to over on the parent site. Anyway, here we have anthropomorphic qualities being projected onto an what looks to be essentially an mp3 player. Personalizing and familiarizing yourself with such technology is fine, as long as you’re aware that you’re closing the gap between people and machines. When you call your car (or especially mass narcissistic tech like an iPhone) a she or a he, you are, as RAF member Jaron Lanier wrote in his 2010 book, perpetuating a” reduced expectation of what a person can be, and of who each person might become” (You are Not a Gadget p. 4)

Field Report: Household Discovery

What the?

the subject.

A can opener, apparently. This sublimely ergonomic device was a recent gift from a friend, and it is easily the most futuristic thing in my kitchen drawer. Let’s pretend for moment that we hadn’t seen the instruction booklet that came with it (which, it totally is complicated enough to warrant having one). As watchful citizens, or pseudo archaeologists, or at least someone used to the long-standing history of the common can opener, we have to ask ourselves what this strange device is. At first glance, more in line with electric razors or luxury motorcycles, the can opener belies a clear inspiration from both Modern design and the sort of hi-tech sleekness pioneered by Science Fiction. Feel that history.

ventral view.

More Propaganda from Intel

Intell Add - August 2010

Online Slang. College life. Textbooks. The cool kids have a robot.

The Maps of Captain Future

Captain Future pulp cover

This is the first of a new series of posts, here, on Manifest Future.  As part of the ongoing efforts of the Rebellion for Autonomous Future (RAF), I have previously displayed excerpts from a pseudo-fictional archive of documents pertaining to the depiction of the future. Exhibited in January as The Tomorrow Archive, these documents come from an ever expanding collection – some of which I will start sharing here on the blog.

Following, we have some antique maps of off-planet settlements from the 1940-50’s pulp Captain Future. I ran across a book recently while perusing a Pittsburgh bookstore, called The Atlas of Fantasy (J.B. Post – Ballantine, 1979). Totally worth tracking down. These maps are the most relevant to the RAF due to their alluring visions of what the future holds, but the book chronicles all sorts of fascinating fictional cartography – from Burroughs to Lovecraft.

I’ll start posting more archival material in the future (ha).

Scanned fresh and posted large for your enjoyment. Note the predominant geometry of Futuria’s layout, an early emphasis on rockets, and the familiar domed cities of Pluto



The Future of the DJ

Well I guess it maintains the physical link between DJ and music, but “All you need is your flash drive!” does encourage the spread of poor quality mp3’s. Still, more minimal touch screens. Designed by Greg Kaufman.

[FLYLYF via Holy warbles]

Asthetic Exploitation Roundup

“Hey, this product will bring you into the effortless world of the technological sublime!”

An Unsettling Glimpse of an AR Breakfast

Keiichi Matsuda shows us his vision of where widespread Augmented Reality might lead us.

Yeeeeaaahh… We’re back baby!

America. Sending androids to the goddamn moon.

That's right, "robonaut"

Check it.

Quick thoughts:

Seems like a potentially good balance of private and federal space programs.

I get the inspire-the-kiddies idea, but do we really need to make them look so shamelessly futuristic? I mean, the unnecessary fact that they’re humanoid kind of irks me(despite being totally awesome), but can we at least paint them bright red or something? What do you think? Is proliferating the accepted future aesthetic more legitimate if it’s done to impress the youth at large?

Details:

The proposition is simple: land an operational humanoid robot on the moon in 1000 days. The humanoid will travel to the moon on a small lander fueled by green propellants, liquid methane and liquid oxygen. It will preform a precision, autonomous landing, avoiding any hazzards or obstacles on the surface. Upon landing the robot will deploy and walk on the surface performing a multitude of tasks  focused on demonstrating engineering tasks such as maintanence and construction; performing science of opportunity (i.e. using existing sensors on the robot or small science instruments); and simple student experiments

The mission is also about inspiration, streamlining agency practices and processes and using unconventional partnerships, and building a better workforce and demonstrating technologies to enable the continuation of exploration beyond low earth orbit.

This last part is my favorite.

This mission will change perceptions and attitudes about what can be done, what should be done, and what is possible.

Whoa.

See previous coverage of the “Robonaut“.


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