Thursday, January 26, 2012

Aeolian harps

This is an Aeolian harp, driven by the wind.  I talk about them a bit in the book, but you really need to listen to one to understand the description.
Steve Cameron is an artist who built one as designed by Athanasius Kircher. Here is a link to his videos.
Here is another one to listen to. Does it remind anyone else of the Myst games?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Natural magic

Ken Perlin (my advisor when I was at NYU) gave a talk recently in Hong Kong. Notice how the tech demo resembles a magic show.  The connection between stage magic and science/technology that was pervasive at the time of Athanasius Kircher and has never really gone away.

Cabinet magazine published an interesting interview on this topic with Simon During.  During contends that magic (in the sense of stage magic) has had a huge influence on the film industry, advertising, and art. All of these take advantage of illusions.

Friday, January 13, 2012


AARON is Harold Cohen's artistic program.  It was available as a screensaver from Kurzweil for a while. I mentioned in the book that Cohen didn't consider his program creative, but he is interested in figuring out what he would need to do to make it creative.  In an article in Wired magazine, he says:
"All the time in the back of mind is the question of machine autonomy. The problem I would face if I ever figured out how to do it, in giving Aaron as it were its own head, is I might hate what it does...If the program did a drawing in August that it couldn't have done when I stopped programming it in January, then I'll consider it creative."
It wouldn't be hard to achieve what he is asking for in a trivial way-- the program could take in new imagery from the web to learn new leaf shapes, for example.  But I suspect more than this would be needed for Cohen to feel satisfied. When he says, "I might hate what it does" that might be okay if other people liked it. The question is if we can set a program free and yet give it enough of a human sense of aesthetics that any people will like what it produces.
Another good article is from a course page at MIT about genetics and culture.  This describes a little of how the code works, and the design process behind the program.