Syyner Eric Gradman Gets Kinect’d

Prolific Maker and Syyner Eric Gradman got his hands on a Kinect CV unit and within hours was “making art”, as he calls it. I always smile when Syyn Labs creators say that sort of thing. As another Syyner Dan Busby once said: “Some of us were trained in art formally, but the rest of us had to learn it on the streets…”. With a history of robotics and computer vision (not to mention fire spinning, circus performing, and professional whistling) Eric has quickly learned the joy of ‘making art’.

Describing one his first custom Kinect project, Illuminous, Eric says: “Remember that scene at the end of the matrix where glowing green symbols traced across an agent’s body? Well, this is just like that, but in realtime. What you’re looking at here is a particle system, where YOU are the source of the particles. Particles (seen on screen as dots) spring into being on the surface of your body. They then traverse the contours of your body until they reach an edge, at which point they’re flung into space and disappear. All this is possible because the Kinect lets me reconstruct the 3d geometry of whatever it sees.” More details here…

The Kinect also adds a new way of interacting with old projects: “Standard Gravity is an existing project of mine that until today pure image thresholding to determine where people are standing. I bought a new Kinect sensor this afternoon, and immediately set about adapting this code to use the new sensor.” More details here…

What will Eric come up with next? Keep in touch with him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/egradman and the rest of the Syyn crew at http://twitter.com/syynlabs.

Science Meets Design Under the Manhattan Bridge

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If the 20s were all about parties, the 30s are so far all about soirées. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good hedonistic gathering, devoid of anything other than youthful celebration, but as I enter the second year of my 30s I crave a little more substantive return on my time and energy expenditure.

Enter the soirée. More than just a motley mish-mash of bobbing heads and grinding bodies, I’ve begun to take pride in organizing, smaller, more intimate gatherings. Whether it’s bringing together a few people that you think should meet, or creating a focused theme, it brings me great excitement to consider all of the possible serendipity that can emerge from the unpredictable encounters.

And so, as is customary on my NYC trips, I planned to organize a little soirée. This time I wanted to focus on making some good east coast connections for Syyn Labs, and so my favorite social roboticist and fellow Syyner, Heather Knight, introduced me to a Canadian data viz expert called Jer Thorpe. Jer is in town for a few months on business and rents a large, beautiful loft in Dumbo. More importantly he is a social character and was more than happy to host an informal, Sunday night soirée themed around ‘Science Meets Design’.

With only a day or two notice, we collectively invited around 20 interesting characters for cheese and wine at Jer’s warehouse space. As we entered the building, 4 people covered in paint exploded through the door, yelling “Paint fight on the roof!”. We slid past the dripping nut cases and deeper into the building, down corridors that faintly smelled like garbage while admiring the rugged, not-quite-legal charm that only a gritty warehouse like this can possess.

Jer led us into his loft which had an unparalleled view of the east river, and as people gathered, there were more than a few people who no one knew.

“Kevin invited us!” They said and then as an answer to our confused look: “You know, Kevin Balktick from unit 500. This is his place, right?”

And so it seemed like they’d ended up in the wrong place but as it turned out, the next door neighbor was having a party too. And guess what, it was a bunch of event engineers and creative types celebrating a recent project called the Lost Horizon Night Market that included installations inside a bunch of parked box cars. So we just opened our doors and combined our parties and everyone left with a whole bunch of new friends.

Aaah, the joy of the unpredictable, alive and well in NYC!

Wild Things Sanctuary in the Woods of Ithaca, NY

Baby. Animals. Everywhere! By the time I arrived, Victoria’s Wild Things Sanctuary (501c3) had multiple raccoons, 2 baby deer, innumerable squirrels, a couple of day old skunk, groundhogs, a vocal crow, 6 baby ducklings, 2 angry possums and a chipmunk. Understandably she was a bit spread thin to entertain me, but fortunately I had enough on my plate. The day after I arrived I realized that my website had been hacked and become a Wachovia Bank phishing trap. All my files were gone but luckily after a couple of very anti-social days I managed to restore my blog’s pictures and writing.

Also, Josh was more than happy to entertain me, visiting his friends who were playing a game of ‘Smugglets’ which involved tossing two croquet balls connected by a rope (AKA ‘the whore’) into goals by the use of curved sticks called Smugglets. We also took a road trip to Jeffs farm, to catch a successful glimpse of a reported pilated woodpecker, to shoot some guns and pieces of wood floating on a lake and then to go fishing in the same lake. On a hike afterward he took me to a cabin that he’d used as a basecamp in hunting season and where a young deer head was still hanging from a tree. Joshua also took me to a local farmer’s market and we hopped a fence near a gorge to relax at one of his favorite chillin’ spots.

Sudden rise in gorges suicides prompts ugly chain link fences on all the bridges in close proximity to the school. In truth, the shear drops do make spontaneous suicide that much easier, although they’re no match for a really dedicated jumper. (Perhaps that’s just enough of a deterrent though…)

Late night Law and Order marathons with Bubba the rabbit and Picchu the chinchilla became the norm. By the end of the week the animal situation was so hilarious that I offered to make a video of “A Day at Wild Things Sanctuary…”

It was then back on the opulent Cornell “Campus to Campus” bus that delivers you directly, pampered with Wifi, hot drinks and snacks, to downtown Manhattan in under 4 hours.

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Victoria rehabilitating two young fawns at WTS. As a struggling non-profit organization – she could always use your help!