Posts Tagged 'shameless'

Manifest Alert: Omni Consumer Products Corporation

omni corporation

Big heads up to all the future-watchers out there: I recently became aware of the Omni Consumer Products Corporation and its mission to realize fictional products from movies and other mass entertainment. One can only presume the cumbersome name is so in jest, as it is named after the malevolent corporation of the same name from the Robocop movies – which coincidentally are being honored in Detroit with a seven-foot-tall iron statue of the cyborg crime-fighter paid for by none other than the real OCPC.

Some background: As reported in the NYT (same issue as the Jeopardy report from last post, coincidentally), a group of web-savvy Detroit locals recently raised more than sixty thousand dollars online to build the aforementioned statue.  The website detroitneedsrobocop.com raised the money in a move that is being hailed and decried in conjunction with Detroit’s more serious economic needs.

Commentary:  The goal of literalizing filmic consumer goods, while cute, is predictable, immoral and as foul an action as those taken up by the company’s namesake.  The blind unalterable adoption of ideas from mass media is never a wise move, and it is especially so when the subjects are unchallenging supermarket tripe little different from goods already available to shoppers. If you’re going to bring some gadget from the silver screen to the street it had better be something worthwhile, or at least have a bit of the escapist zest that we love these movies for in the first place.  In peddling caffeinated marshmallows and brand-name  soft drinks, OCPC appears to be little more than a greedy and spineless startup, riding the success of other’s innovation. By funding Detroit’s Robocop statue the company has shown their firm support for neutralizing the distinction between fiction and reality – something this blog cannot accept – and appears more desperate for publicity than truly dogmatic.

Just Add Some Vectors and Squares and Things

minute to win newspaper add

Seen on the back of a fellow commuter’s Am New York the other morning, this ad seems relentless in its attempt to appear shiny and futuristic. Vector art has certainly taken over the vocabulary of printed and (particularly) digital advertisements due to its apparent perfection of line and lack of human error. A proper logo follows, but I rather enjoy the “imperfection” the ad gains from being printed on newsprint. I have no idea what this show/lottery is about and the grinning idiot on the less obtuse ads isn’t encouraging me to find out.

minute to win

From NYT Magazine

Here’s an ad scanned from last weeks New York Times Magazine, I just couldn’t resist posting it. I mean, really? An ergonomic toothbrush-cleansing egg?

futuristic toothbrush holder

And while not strictly concerned with the visual culture of the futuristic, that same issue did fulfill a bit of Sci-Fi promissory. In Gary Shteyngart’s recent (and fantastic) Super Sad True Love Story,  a near-future New York is littered with government propaganda urging Latino residents to save and for the Chinese to spend – cut to the cover of said NYTM cover:

new york times magazine cover shop cjina shop

And here’s a clip form the book. It’s worth noting that while humorous, Shteyngart’s novel is truly terrifying due to its spot-on depiction of a “post-literate” society in which books are seen as grotesquely uncool and acronyms rule the world’s language.  Language, which is of course online. Playing off of the common fears of today’s world – economic collapse, subservience to technology, growing old – Super Sad True Love Story is such because of its humanism, all the more noteworthy in the face of the vapid world we seem to fear. This sense of cultural collapse, is a driving issue here at Manifest Future, and ironically one of the most original ideas to enter our collective vision of what the future may hold.

super sad true love story

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.


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)

More Propaganda from Intel

Intell Add - August 2010

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

Asthetic Exploitation Roundup

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

Seeing Popular Support

Here is an interesting case. Having co-created a camera small enough to fit into a prosthetic eyeball, Rob Spence is the man with an empty eye socket to spare; his is the (unfortunately titled) “Eyeborg”. I’ll let IEEE contributor Tim Hornyak do the run-down:

The prototype in the video provides low-res images, but an authentic experience of literally seeing through someone else’s perspective. The image is somewhat jerky and overhung by huge eyelashes; a blink throws everything out of whack for a half-second.
The bionic eye is simply designed, and components are constantly changing. It basically contains a 1.5mm-square, low-res video camera, a small round printed circuit board, video transmitter, and a 3-volt rechargeable Varta microbattery. The components are contained in resealable clear acrylic used in false eyes, but it has two holes for wires to recharge the battery.
“I can recharge my eye via USB off my laptop,” says Spence.

While the tech here is certainly intriguing, what I’m enjoying so much (despite the ham-fisted promo vid above) is just who the first person to don the eye-camera is.  Spence is apparently a filmmaker with a vested interest in Science Fiction, and specifically The Six Million Dollar Man. In the IEEE report, Spence references Star Trek’s Seven of Nine and the Borg. “In today’s world, you have Facebook and camera eyes,” he says. “Tomorrow, we’ll have collective consciousness and the Borg. It’s a collective robot consciousness. I believe that’s a genuine modern concern.”

A concern it may be, but judging by the blunt references in the video to The Six Million Dollar Man and his addition of a red LED light to the eye piece, Spence doesn’t seem worried, per-say, about any so-called “collective robot consciousness”. Indeed while his jokes and the video itself are blatant grasps at publicity, it can’t be denied that Spence is enjoying himself. Having been exposed to bionic men sine he “was a kid”, Spence obviously appreciates the allure of cyborg enhancements, and is hoping to tap into the (most definitely collective) appeal of the futuristic.

And then there’s the fact that he’s a filmmaker. Certainly there are creative possibilities for filming from such a natural vantage point,  but doing so does return us to last weeks post on the dangers of total simulacra. Film has always tried to recreate the effects of natural vision, and if we see the Eyeborg as an early culmination of the growing portability of camera technology, then it becomes easy to imagine people sharing and transmitting their personal vision. This leap of intimacy would be comparable to the one between cinema and the comfy home video of Youtube.

If 60% of the world already has a cellphone (and even half of those are equipped with cameras), it isn’t hard to imagine a loss of distinction between meaningful and carefully selected presentations of images and the pure flow of personal vision. No longer, “What if everyone was a filmmaker?”, the question now becomes “What if everyone’s life was a film?”.

[IEEE Spectrum via Boing Boing]

Shanghai Expo 2010

From the Ottawa Citizen

The Shanghai 2010 Expo is now underway, having initiated a summer of spectacle with the largest fireworks display in history. The fair is the latest in the long history of World’s Fairs whose recent and less gratuitous iterations have passed unnoticed during the last few decades. But not China. Having spent either $4 billion or $58 billion (depending on the source) on the expo, the city of tomorrow is making an appearance that is hard to ignore.

How is the vision portrayed in Shanghai today different from the World’s Fairs from the dawn of industrialization?  Here’s the New York Fair from 1939:

Now here’s Shanghai 2010 as seen in the Guardian:

Not much has changed at first glance, but the city surrounding the Expo is dramatically more technological than New York was in 1939 (here is Wired’s roundup of images from the 1939 Fair). More than specific advancements, today’s city is built upon the legacy created by those early World’s Fairs.  Together with the Modernist idea of elevated aesthetics, the visual history of World’s Fairs has helped shape our understanding of what the Metropolis should be.

As more and more of the world’s population migrates into urban settings, the city reflects more than ever the social practice of its inhabitants and the esteemed value of technological progress that has ruled for so long. Look at this poster for the 1933 Chicago Fair and see how hard they’re pushing the new technology of the day:  the steam engine.

If technology is key to social progress, is there anything else to consider as we build our future?

The official motto for Shanghai 2010 is “Better City, Better Life”, presumably to enforce the total dominance of urban living. The spectacle of the World’s Fair serves to showcase the emerging technology of the time. This focus on emerging inventions ostensibly serves to cement the host nation’s status as a world power. Indeed nationalism is the real purpose behind these things, but what I’m interested is how these displays of technological dreamscapes affects the city surrounding the Fair. As shown repeatedly on this blog, even the mundane has been modeled after Science Fiction. And it seems to me that the larger-than-life quality of these Fairs literally allows them to transcend architectural status and become futuristic beacons – stated goals for the everyday.

The following images are from The Big Picture’s fantastic series on Shanghai 2010. They’re previously featured the construction of the thing, and I’m already looking forward to their documentation once things really get under way.  And for a good collection of each country’s pavilions I recommend the Ottawa Citizen page linked to above.


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