Fixing Fleeting Reflections: open science, 19th centry style

Did you know that photography was an early open science project? On 19 August 1839, the French government made the secret of making daguerrotypes “free to the world” as a gift. Daguerrotypes are specially-treated metal plates that can store an image it’s exposed to. Treating the plates with developing chemicals reveals the picture. Their name comes from their inventor, Monsieur Louis Daguerre. In the early daguerrotype days, you’d need to say cheese for around 10 minutes to give enough time for the image to burn onto the plates so it could be developed, perhaps why Louis looks a little bemused in … More

Dolphins can secretly use your phone to order 3,000 cans of tuna!

cartoon dolphin trying to eat a tin of tuna

Do you have a smart device or smart assistant on your phone? If you also have a pet dolphin, you might need to keep an eye on your shopping lists. Since some dolphin chatter is inaudible, Flippy may have been ordering tuna without you noticing. Researchers at the SSSLab in China have worked out how to use completely inaudible voice commands to activate smart devices and assistants. The commands are inaudible to humans because they are very high frequency sounds. Humans can hear stuff in the range between 20 Hz to 20 kHz, but we are especially attuned to sounds … More

Why is my cat green? Signalling danger to the future. With cats.

Imagine you’re 100 years in the future, exploring a deserted landscape with your trusty cat sidekick. Your cat suddenly turns green. What does it mean? Hopefully, you’ll remember the song your grandma taught you as a kid. Your cat is green because you have stumbled across some nuclear waste. Time to scarper, and maybe reward your newly green cat with some fish. More

Browser gender nudges?

Our culture is infused with stereotypes, and their ubiquity can make them hard to spot. But stereotypes contribute to solidifying the status quo and make things hard to change. For example, I’m interested in gender balance in computer science. If people tend to associate men with technical jobs more than women, they tend to appoint and reward men more. And if you’re female, you might unconsciously assume that technical jobs are not for you. More

Subliminal priming

At the MobileHCI conference this year, I talked about my research into subliminal priming as a potential vehicle for behaviour change. Subliminal priming is where you show someone a piece of information (the prime) that affects later judgements or actions despite them not being able to tell you what the information was. More

Anti-surveillance technology

I recently gave a talk at CHI, the big HCI conference that explored how advertisers are targeting our subconscious, and what technology can do about it. It was partly inspired by  some (old!) science fiction: Walden 2, a utopian science fiction book by the psychologist B F Skinner written in 1945, and Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited from 1958, reflecting on the real-world developments that echoed his dystopian classic written in 1931. More

Pervasive e-receipts: handy or ominous tracking?

When visiting San Jose for the CHI conference last year, I noticed that coffee shops and cafes tend to issue only e-receipts: tap your details into a little screen, and your receipt gets emailed to you. For the traveller who has to submit their expenses, and anyone who’s ever mislaid an Important Paper from a stack of random bits of paper (*cough*), this seems like a great idea. Technology can easily support purchase-tracking, it’s more eco-friendly, stores are more accountable. From the seller point of view, they get the opportunity to get some lightweight user feedback. What’s the problem? Sadly, … More

Anticipatory Banking: can FinTech feed forward?

Despite the clamour about FinTech innovation, there’s still a gap in the market for fully-fledged Anticipatory Banking: banking and financial services that accurately predict your money flows and nudges you to act to minimise disruption. For example, if my bank can accurately estimate that I’m likely to go into the red in the near future , I’d like a nudge to suggest I transfer some £ to my current account. The nudge should contain simple tools to customise the suggested action, and a “go” button that enables me to seamlessly authorise the suggestion. Is this too much to ask? Although … More

Cake holders

Now you’ve learned how to bake some delicious Cake objects (hop over here if you’ve forgotten!), we need something to put them in. Step forward arrays. Arrays are a special sort of list – they have slots in them, like an old-fashioned milk bottle holder, that you can place things into. The restriction is that you have to tell Processing when you create your list both how big you want it to be, and what sorts of thing you want to put into it. Afterwards, your array can only hold a maximum of that number of those particular objects. For … More