Cool sound sculptures, many made with motors and objects that collide to sound like wind and rain (and storms and crickets and a million other things that come to mind), and look like they would be fascinating to experience and see in real life. Every installation makes me wonder how Zimoun thought of and developed it.

The video is long but worth watching to get the whole experience of sound, motion, and environment (as opposed to just looking through the installation photos on the website). Each piece is unique but together they have a particular style, so the overall video is very enjoyable to watch.

“Using simple and functional components, Zimoun builds architecturally-minded platforms of sound. Exploring mechanical rhythm and flow in prepared systems, his installations incorporate commonplace industrial objects. In an obsessive display of simple and functional materials, these works articulate a tension between the orderly patterns of Modernism and the chaotic forces of life. Carrying an emotional depth, the acoustic hum of natural phenomena in Zimoun’s minimalist constructions effortlessly reverberates.”

Source, Video

The Chromatic Typewriter

Speaking of the difficulties of defining color in a discrete way (see my previous entry on Empirical Zeal’s great blog post about color naming), here’s a creative tool that gives us a new spin on blending and blurring the lines between color names and identities. I wish I had one of these!

“Washington-based painter Tyree Callahan modified a 1937 Underwood Standard typewriter, replacing the letters and keys with color pads and hued labels to create a functional “painting” device called the Chromatic Typewriter. Callahan submitted the beautiful typewriter as part of the 2012 West Prize competition, an annual art prize that’s determined by popular vote. I don’t know how practical painting an image with a color typewriter is, but if Keira Rathbone can do it…”

– Christopher Jobson at Colossal


1 Hour in Square’s World | Wired.com

Take a look at this infographic published in Wired last week that shows an hour of transactions that were performed through Square. Square is a rapidly-growing payments platform that makes it possible for anyone to accept credit cards, using their main feature, the free (yes, free) little white square credit-card-swiper that you might have seen at small businesses or places where people exchange money that has traditionally been more cash-focused because of temporary or mobile conditions (such as flea or farmer’s markets). Anyone can sign up and get a reader, and the app is free on phones and iPads, so if you lend out a lot of money to your friends and they never have cash to pay you back, here’s an option for you. The reader is free but every transaction gives a 2.75% cut to Square.

Square is also trying to push a mobile payments platform that lets you pay via your phone, without needing any card, at local businesses that you frequent or just want to check out. The businesses must be listed in the Square directory, meaning that they’re all set up to accept money that way, and you can just walk in and add purchases to your tab on your smartphone, which gets confirmed at the register (iPhone and certain Android devices only, at the moment). Not only does it cut out the need for carrying your wallet, as Square emphasizes, it also encourages recognition between local, smaller businesses and their frequent customers. Or even just any customers.

Square is definitely not the only mobile payments platform out there, but they’ve been pushing hard to get their little white block out there, and the map is fascinating to look at. I can’t say it’s a favorite device of mine, because I’ve used and experienced it before and it’s always been finicky and difficult to work with — mostly in problems getting the cards to swipe and register, which seems to be more of the hardware. I’m always scared it’s going to break, because it’s connected to your device through the headphone jack. While it’s great that they’ve worked so hard to get their product and app out, I think that their reader can probably be improved, and it’s interesting that they’re sort of letting everyone test-drive the hardware on such a large scale when it’s not quite reliable yet. But clearly that has been working for them, looking at this map.

1 Hour in Square’s World | Wired Business | Wired.com

What Are Those Circles?

The circles represent single transactions going through the Square payments system during a one-hour period on a recent Thursday afternoon–the larger the circle, the bigger the dollar amount of the sale. These transactions happened around 4 p.m. Eastern. So think happy hour in New York, and lunch hour in San Francisco, where Square is based. A busy period for Square and the merchants who use it.

The World of Wes Anderson

I didn’t grow up wanting to make movies; what I really wanted to be was an architect. I had this drafting table with all these little instruments I would arrange carefully around the edges. I used to draw everything. When I was in fifth grade, I started to make Super 8 movies, and I liked that very much. I also got interested in George Lucas at about that time, and then, by seventh grade, I became obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock. But I still wanted to be an architect. Sometimes I thought I might also like to be a writer. I didn’t settle on film until I was in college.

There were two reasons I became a filmmaker instead of, say, a novelist. I have always been interested in the visual composition of things. It’s part of why I liked to draw so much. But I also love to put on a show. In fact, I enjoyed that long before I even thought about making movies. I’m not essentially a camera guy; I don’t take very good still photographs and I never have. But I do feel comfortable with the other aspects of filmmaking.

People respond strongly to my work, one way or another. I care about critics in the sense that if you have a good review, it’s nice to hear about it, and if you have a bad review, it’s quite nice not to hear about it. When I am making a movie, I try to put all of that out of my mind and think just about the world I am creating. When people criticize my work, they often seem to say either that my worldview is too specific or, “Who needs your world?” Those are not criticisms that resonate with me, because what fictional world do you actually need?

To write a screenplay and not make the movie, or to make a movie from a screenplay I didn’t write, both seem odd to me; it’s hard for me to divorce the creation and direction processes. For that reason, I have never given up on a script. When I settle in on something, I just work on it until I kind of get it—though that can take a while. But as long as I have an idea in mind, I will pursue it. It just seems to flow: If I made the thing up in the first place, then that is a reason for me to direct it.

I have been asked why I don’t make a big-budget movie or what’s considered a Hollywood movie. I don’t feel particularly compelled to do that sort of thing. The more economical you can be, the more fun you are going to have. I find it all slows down when it gets really big. The process can be so much more light on its feet and inspiring when you are nimble.

I am not sure anybody knows what they are doing when they start out. That is probably true in any creative profession. I wrote my first film, Bottle Rocket, with Owen Wilson when we were still at the University of Texas. It started with the idea that we would make a full-length feature. But we only had enough money for a few minutes, so that was what it ended up being. We showed that short at Sundance, and then on a separate track, through Kit Carson and Polly Platt, to director Jim Brooks. He was immensely supportive and helped us get the movie made at full length. Jim was the person who gave Owen and me our careers.

It took me a long time to get to Moonrise Kingdom. I had lots of material, but after a year I had only a few pages of a script that added up to very little. Then Roman Coppola, whom I work with a lot, helped me figure out the story. A month later the script had gone from the 12 pages I had done in the first year to 100 pages, and it was done.

My writing process is mostly collaborative. I usually like it that way. In some situations, it takes the form mostly of consulting with somebody, and in other situations, it means sitting there all day long with somebody next to me. Right now I am writing a script on my own, but I talk to a collaborator for an hour a day. And then I go write. These discussions are absolutely necessary. At this point I could just finish the thing. But getting it going, getting it figured out—I usually need help.

I don’t write in any one place. Darjeeling we mostly wrote in India—that made it an adventure, and our writing process was affected quite a bit by what we saw. Mr. Fox I wrote with Noah Baumbach in England at Gipsy House, where Roald Dahl lived. This movie was written mostly in Italy, but we filmed it all and edited it in the U.S. And now I’m working on something that takes place in Europe, and will travel around and work on it.

It’s always hard to describe the process. I don’t sit down and plot things out. Not usually. Moonrise Kingdom didn’t come into my head in a conventional way. I had a very conceptual idea; I didn’t have a story. I had an idea of doing something on an island that was a romance between a 12-year-old boy and girl, that it was within the world of children, and I imagined different characters that were in the mix. But it was really much more about the atmosphere. My ideas were mostly of images and dramatic scenes. But I couldn’t tell you why they were up on the roof of a church in a hurricane. Or why the scout troop built a treehouse on the very top of a tree. I just saw it that way.

Once the script is finished, I have always done little storyboards—I have found over the years that I make more mistakes if I don’t plan it out. When we made Mr. Fox, as with all animated movies, we had a “sketch” version of the whole movie set to voices and so on before we shot a frame. On this new live-action movie, I did the same thing for many of the more complicated sequences.

Music is always important. On Moonrise Kingdom I wanted to use Benjamin Britten from before there was a script. There was also a French pop song by Françoise Hardy that I wanted to use. I had the idea of a theme with this song, but the rest of it sort of works its way in over the course of time.

I try not to think of specific people to play characters when I am writing. But it’s a hard trap to avoid. Sometimes an actor just seems perfect for a role. I don’t know who else could have played Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic except Bill Murray. And that is also true of Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums and Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore. In the end, though, if you just 100 percent cannot have the person you want, you have to figure out somebody else.

The collaborative process doesn’t end for me with writing. If anything, it intensifies when we are on the set. Even if I know exactly what I want when I am filming, I need people to help me figure out how to get that across. Sometimes knowing what you want doesn’t mean you know how to make it happen or how to communicate it to an audience. There are any number of people whom I rely on to different degrees—the cinematographer Bob Yeoman; Roman, in the past; Jeremy Dawson, who produces, is very involved. And of course my editor, Andy Weisblum, is a key person for me. A good part of what I want them all to do is to prevent me from making mistakes.

I don’t really know what I want people to take away from my movies. Nothing specific. People’s experiences of the same picture can be radically different. It would be nice if people like the films I make, and hopefully they have a real life span, but once I am done with a movie, my energy needs to go into the next thing.

I am thrilled that Moonrise Kingdom opened the Cannes film festival. It’s the world’s biggest festival and I care deeply about French cinematic culture. But I was also terrified because it’s a lot of attention. Of course, whenever anybody asks me if I’m excited about anything, I tend to not want to say yes. I don’t know why.

source: The Wall Street Journal

The Vertical Forest

“More and more people believe that access to a garden, and to gardening, is a basic human need. But is the answer a traditional house and garden or should we be looking at gardens in the sky?”

Dubbed “Flower Towers” by the Financial Times, these fluffy green buildings designed by architect Stefano Boeri are currently rising in Milan. Photos show that the skeletons of the buildings are up, an intricate maze of balconies and jutting gardens designed to insulate the building, counter air pollution and support reforestation, work towards sustainability, and maintain biodiversity and a functioning ecosystem, all suspended 110 meters into the air. These microclimates ideally would maintain their own energy and water usage and recycling, including using repurposed grey water from the building to feed the plants.

The floor layout with plumbing detail makes the building look like an Escher piece. 900 trees of varying heights and structural types will be used to make a diverse wall, both for the biology of the building and for coating the sides of the buildings more fully. The finished product, which when flattened, is equivalent to 15,000 square meters of land and 10,000 square meters of forest, and is intended to counteract the growth of Milan’s rapid urban expansion.

Eco-cities coming of age?

NYU ITP Spring Show 2012

My roommate, a graduate student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (and computer science / engineering / robots / circuitry / electronics / art&design extraordinaire, and overall awesome person), invited me to the ITP Spring Show this year, where ITP students display and demo their projects from classes, independent research, and theses. It’s a two-day showcase, spread out among the classrooms and lab spaces of the ITP floor within NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The students are all intensely innovative and creative, but also skilled in the technical background needed to carry out their ideas, and most importantly, very interested in how to connect to people and how to use technology creatively (ITP has proclaimed itself the “Center for the Recently Possible”). The show happens twice a year, at the end of the fall and spring terms.

There were many, many favorites, but here’s a small sampling:

Descriptive Camera, by Matt Richardson

“The Descriptive Camera works a lot like a regular camera—point it at subject and press the shutter button to capture the scene. However, instead of producing an image, this prototype outputs a text description of the scene. Modern digital cameras capture gobs of parsable metadata about photos such as the camera’s settings, the location of the photo, the date, and time, but they don’t output any information about the content of the photo. The Descriptive Camera only outputs the metadata about the content.

“As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly—information about who is in each photo, what they’re doing, and their environment could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and cross-reference our photo collections. Of course, we don’t yet have the technology that makes this a practical proposition, but the Descriptive Camera explores these possibilities.”

Cool new way to approach photography, especially as all of your photographs become digitized and trapped onto your spare hard drives. Even analog photos that get printed on film get digitized, as if to save them in some way that seems more permanent to us (even if it isn’t). The camera works by sending the image to workers who have signed up for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system, which feeds Human Intelligent Tasks (HITs) to other people over the internet, for a fee. The people who get these tasks send back a short descriptive text about the image. The Descriptive Camera makes it a fascinating study in what we see in images that don’t come with any context, and how people choose to tell stories or color what they see with their personal viewpoints.

Here are some descriptions collected from the show, as posted to Matt’s blog:

A thoughtful gentleman in a pink and baby blue plaid shirt stands next to a lovely woman who appears to be impersonating an orangutan.

A woman in a black top looks terrified by the gentleman in a grey shirt who seems to be telling a story about an enormous fish he once caught.

A woman in a black tank top stands in the foreground. Behind her, it appears as though there is a beard convention taking place.

Two men are fighting over the honor of this lady with bangs who is standing the background. She actually looks really excited about this fight. DRAAAAAAMA!

Added bonus: NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me show featured the Descriptive Camera in a recent limerick.

Chairish, Rocking Chair for Two, by Annelie Berner

The Design for Digital Fabrication class produced some great pieces on display made with laser cutters and 3D printers. This shareable chair was whimsical, functional, and beautiful — sit down with a friend and sway in unison on the carefully cut wood frame, which was made on a CNC router.

Rehuddle, by Philip Groman and Robbie Tilton

Rehuddle is a very simple conference-call site that makes it ridiculously easy to set up group calls. You can invite friends through calls, texts, or emails, and you even get those iconic little Turntable.fm avatars.

“Our target audience is small creative businesses that cannot afford expensive phone systems and are looking for a free, easy and fun solution. Our secondary target market is for anyone looking to speak and share information with two or more people.” – Project Description

BurritoBot, by Marko Manriquez

Laser cutting and 3D printing come together to yield…the evasive perfect burrito. The evasive perfect 3D printed burrito.

“Burritob0t is a platform for rapid prototyping and tracing the source of food in our lives to reveal hidden issues revolving around fast food: labor practices; environmental consequences; nutritional values. Mexican fast food is emblematic of the assembly line, mass produced era of modern consumables – appropriating the authenticity of the ethnic food sensibility it purports to embody while masquerading as an edible like substance.  Because the burrito is a mass market consumable, it lends easily as a way for examining and stimulating discussion on various aspects of the food industry including: how and where our food is grown, methods of production, environmental impact, cultural appropriation and perhaps most importantly – what our food means to us. By parodying the humble burrito’s ingredients and methods of production we can shed light on these exogenous factors and interconnected systems surrounding the simple burrito.”

Galapagos, by Ann Chen and Danne Woo

This is a typeface designed with the help of genetic algorithms. As someone who has worked on evolutionary biology and spent a lot of time looking at these sort of patterns and trees, it was particularly cool to see how people found them both beautiful and inspirational for design, especially as the principles of evolution and feedback were incorporated into each iteration of a font:

“User Scenario: We will have the program set up on an iPad. User approaches iPad, directions on how to begin generating typeface will be clearly presented. When user generates first evolution of the typeface, they have the option of either printing and saving what they’ve created or creating another generation. The characteristics of the next font generation (color, shapes, size, etc.) can be determined by the user depending on how long they hover over each example. The longer they hover over one, the higher ranked that letter’s characteristics will be and the more likely the next generation will look like that character. User saves the print and can email print to themselves.”

Dinosaur Treasures, by Anh Ly and Ji Hyun Lee

Who doesn’t love digging around in a sandbox? Let’s be real. This highly interactive piece encouraged the curious to pretend to be an archaeologist and hunt for dinosaur fossils…yep.

One part that seemed to capture everyone’s interest was how the sensors could tell how deep you were digging — the idea of depth adding a new element to your interactive, 3D space archaeology adventure. The sensors could tell where you were digging and how far down you were going, and dinosaurs (and lobsters) would pop up accordingly. I thought it would be pretty awesome to have an underwater deep-sea explorer version of this, like putting on a suit and floating around in a pool that gets magnified into a giant ocean? And whales and squids come at you? Is that too crazy?

Call Your Sequencer, by Byung Han Lim and Dong Ik Shin

This seemed complicated from far away, but you’re quickly drawn in by the visual/audial mix going on, and a bunch of very concentrated people staring at the screen, bobbing their heads, and poking their cell phones. A group of users calls up a phone number, each on their own cell phone. Once you get into the system, your number shows up on the grid, a whole row of cubes to yourself as your own personal 8-step music sequencer — within the 8-member-maximum band. You can control your beat and rhythm, which cycles automatically, by pressing numbers on your own phone’s keypad, which turns the steps on and off and animates (or stills) the corresponding cube. Once you get more comfortable, you can mix in the ability to change the pitch and instrument with the pound and star keys, and the flashing colors synching with your inner dial-pad-music-genius.