Using a Robot to Ease a Child’s Pain –

The researchers randomly assigned the children to one of two groups: one with routine vaccination protocol administered by a nurse, and the other with the addition of MEDi in the room. In the MEDi group, the robot would converse with the child and pick up a toy, noting that it was dusty. As the nurse rolled up the child’s sleeve and swabbed the arm, MEDi would have the youngster blow on the toy to help clean it, timing the request to exhale for the moment the nurse injected the needle.

“The robot was distracting the child during distress, but also giving instruction for how to cope,” said Dr. Beran. “Deep breathing relaxes the deltoid muscle.”

I think this is fantastic. Sure, helping kids get injected is all well and good [there are other ways… and you can imagine non-patented ways to achieve this], but to me, this Soother-Bot suggests how robots will one day have a soul. [Or appear to have one (see Turing Test)]. It feels troubled, and it doesn’t presume it can solve all problems–these are, among others, fundamental qualities of beings that we can love. Why? Partly because we’re vain, and partly because we’re (rightly) scared by omnipotence.

It’s something like modern dogs, bred to be adolescent, eager but flawed. Needy. That’s how we’ll breed robots. Meanwhile, the government will keep doing this.

Share Button

Everyone runs out of disk space eventually. Even if you have exabytes of space, it’s good to cull once in a while. Here’s a simple, lightweight utility for Windows to see all the files you have as proportionally sized rectangles: WinDirStat. (On their site they recommend some alternatives for Linux and Mac.)

It’s not a beautiful visualization, but it’s fast and free. Tell it what drive or folder to analyze, and it’ll create a colorful summary of all the files, organized by folder. (Filetypes are color-coded.) A directory listing appears on top, with filenames and sizes. You can click either the text or the graphic rectangle to select a file. From there you can get Properties, open in Explorer, Delete and some other administrative stuff.

It’s a great way to spot the huge files (or folders made up of hundreds of small files). I just did this the other day when I saw my Dropbox was full.

There are other utilities that do this, but I love the raw simplicity and ugliness of it. But that’s me. At work I set up Windows 7 to look like 98.

Share Button

Hollywood and Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book, Save the Cat! – Slate Magazine.

How a single book on blockbuster screenwriting has taken over, uh, blockbusters. Sadly precise story beats, laid out to the minute. See them here.

So much more pernicious than Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which I actually do respect.

I imagine it’s just a matter of time before someone does a multiframe overlay of different movies illustrating how all the beats really are synchronized.

I once mapped out a biographical museum based on the Hero’s Journey. It would be funny to see someone try to apply the Save the Cat! formula to other kinds of experiences, like fine dining (All is Lost) or office buildings (Dark Night of the Soul).

Share Button

Two interesting and deeply considered theories on how everything is related. At least, in their own universes:

The Pixar Theory | Jon Negroni.

The unified theory of Quentin Taratino’s movie universe

Someone once told me as an architect you’re only every working on one design your whole life. Every project is an iteration on the same idea, hopefully a better attempt than the last to express a single concept. I’ve thought about this a lot. During school it seemed like a superficial remark, as you can look at most student portfolios and notice a tendency to return to the same cool idea. But over the years I have seen it play out, even when the projects look nothing alike. I’m not surprised that the ethos of Pixar or the movie-solipsism of Tarantino are so cleanly teased out.

Share Button

Do you hate the search “feature” they put in Windows 7/8? I think it’s terrible and slow. Since Google Desktop was discontinued–hold on, let me take a moment to grieve–it’s been a sad, slow, opaque world for me. While Outlook search has improved greatly, I think because they integrated LookOut, searching through Windows Explorer is painful. It takes too long, returns too many false positives and has a pointlessly complicated syntax for refined search.

I’ve looked around for a good free alternative, and I’ve come to rely on Agent Ransack. It’s zippy, bare bones ugly the way I like it, and has a great name to boot. Once installed, you can access it through the right-click menu.

Try it, I think you’ll like it.

Pro-tip: the hotkey is the letter “a” so you can right-click on a folder and type “a” to get to the search box fast. Or, if you’re in no-mouse/keyboard-only mode, hit the menu key to the left of the spacebar and tap “a.”

Here are some search alternatives, but I haven’t tried them myself.

And here’s the crazy syntax for making Windows search behave.

Share Button

Try this: when you hear something being described with two adjectives, add, “like some people I know.” It’s usually either spot-on accurate or just inappropriately funny.

Share Button

Kit FUI.

I’m so glad this exists.

Fantasy User Interfaces, Fictional User Interfaces, Fake User Interfaces, Futuristic User Interfaces. Regardless of what the F stands for, they all represent the same thing, the user interfaces and heads up displays found in many popular movies and television shows.

Kit FUI is an IMDb-like database that makes it easy to find screenshots, videos and the designers of these FUIs.

What I love about fictional UI is that the primary direction is to look cool. This is what people want to see, a sexy complexity. Put this at the opposite end of the spectrum from Windows98 GUI.

Sometimes people want to look at things that are intimidating yet waiting to be controlled. The Bloomberg terminal interface comes to mind.

The only valid reason explaining why the Bloomberg design will not change is the behavior of its users. Users who favor complexity and clutter over efficiency and clarity to sustain a fictive status symbol.

Share Button

It cannot, however, keep your cat from messing it up | MetaFilter.

Pretty clever. With tutorial.

Reminds me of two things: the useless machine and the barrier transfer machine, one of my all-time favorite vehicles.

Share Button

Sometimes you need to see what your fonts look like, and waiting for the preview in Word or Illustrator is just too slow. Try STC fontBROWSER (Flash). It lists all the fonts that are installed on your computer and gives you a quick preview at two different sizes.

There are other browser-based font viewers, I learned, with pros and cons to each. Read about them here.


Noggin Box Font Picker

I found this interesting:

note: How does a web app interrogate my fonts?
In a word: Flash. Most of these systems use a Flash applet to retrieve font names — even if the interface is primarily HTML.

The only exception is which relies on JavaScript. It uses a database of known font names and determines whether a font is installed by applying it to an element and detecting whether its dimensions change.

Share Button

9 Mind-Blowing Canvas Demos

Some jaw-dropping code that will run in essentially any browser–nothing more than HTML and javascript. Goodbye Flash.

via The Verge (they pick three favorites).

Share Button