More of this, please

Another day, another victory for Marxist/Critical culture theory, as seen in this excellent and very grumpy breakdown of a trip to The Crayola Factory: A Hands-On Discovery Center. Not often do you see so many serious theorists being invoked in the analysis of crayon production. But here it is, Marxist alienation, Baudrillardian Spectacle, Debordian Situationism and lots of other nice stuff. Old Frederic Taylor even pops up in some paragraphs:

Kids would take a ball from the bin, and walk it over to a hopper, where it dropped onto a lift, then transferred to a rail high overhead, before dropping back down a pegboard wall into the bin. Then they’d pick the balls back up and start the whole process over again. I noticed kids under 2yo–like K2–really were not following the ball and making the causal connection of their action. The ball would disappear into a box before hitting the elevator; the track was really, really high–like 12 feet high–and bright spotlights made it hard to see the small balls.

Here it was, I thought, the most authentic Factory Experience possible: setting kids to work doing a pointless, repetitive task they didn’t understand for little or no reward. And then just like a Taylorist consultant seeing an inefficient crayonmaking process, I found myself wanting to redesign the ball drop to give these ecstatic little kids a clearer, more immediate, and more visceral sense of accomplishment. In other words, I wanted to alleviate their alienation from the product of their labor.

Great stuff. Good times were had by little people, and equal amounts amusement and disgust was had by bigger people.


The future is tomorrow

I love this technophile stuff: Some scientists are constructing augmented reality contact lenses, Terminator style. As of yet, they’ve only demonstrated the principle (and made some cute little bunnies wear contacts with embedded wiring), but according to the guys themselves, it’s only a question of (little) time before this is a viable technology.

Conventional contact lenses are polymers formed in specific shapes to correct faulty vision. To turn such a lens into a functional system, we integrate control circuits, communication circuits, and miniature antennas into the lens using custom-built optoelectronic components. Those components will eventually include hundreds of LEDs, which will form images in front of the eye, such as words, charts, and photographs. Much of the hardware is semitransparent so that wearers can navigate their surroundings without crashing into them or becoming disoriented. In all likelihood, a separate, portable device will relay displayable information to the lens’s control circuit, which will operate the optoelectronics in the lens.

Looking at some of it, it really seems like the future is already there. They’ve managed to embed LED lights, a small power source (some sort of antenna), and a radio chip into the lenses, and managed to power it wirelessly from a remote source. In the future a small PV panel in the lens itself might provide internal power. All the world’s computer geeks are rubbing their hands, but as usual the major benefits will be in health. A contact lens that checks your blood-sugar, cholesterol, sodium and potassium levels? Yes please.

Conclusion: Go science!