Author Archives: ahope

LuvLuv: An Experiment in Modern Dating

This book was not our our class reading list, but it was released halfway through the semester and we were inspired by its near-future musings on the state of social media.

The Circle, by Dave Eggars, follows 24-year old Mae Holland as she starts her new job at The Circle, a mix of Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media and advertising companies. The Circle campus is inspired by modern technology company campuses, where buildings are named after historical periods like Renaissance and Enlightenment and employees are encouraged to have all their social activities on campus.

The Circle’s main product is TruYou, a unified operating system that links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing resulting in one online identity. According to the company’s public rhetoric, this kind of transparency will usher in a new age of civility.

One of the main principles guiding the Circle is that ‘ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN’ and for that reason they never delete anything. They implement a CCTV system that covers both private and public spaces, as well as full ‘transparency systems” where people wear a streaming camera, on the principle that  “SECRETS ARE LIES, SHARING IS CARING, PRIVACY IS THEFT.”

One of the technologies in the book, LuvLuv, captured our attention because it seemed to be something that could easily be implemented today. LuvLuv is a dating application that scrapes all of the known data about an individual in order to provide the searcher with information to help them plan good dates and win over the object of their affection. For example, LuvLuv could advise you of where to take your date to dinner based on their history of allergies, or suggest conversation topics that they would be interested in. This also reminded us of a great short film called Sight, which combines these kinds of dating suggestions with an augmented reality display and gamification elements.

Our incarnation of LuvLuv was an interactive website where we used search results of the online activity of one of our classmates to construct a profile where someone looking to impress him could find out everything they needed to know. Part of this project was to see how he and the class reacted to this information. Although our (awesome) classmate consented to taking part in some sort of experiment, he did not know the specifics of our project. He was surprised to see how much could be learned about him based on only information he had put up willingly online. We may have gotten him to consider changing his privacy settings! Of course, in the world of The Circle, there are no privacy settings…

Below are screenshots of LuvLuv in action:




by Alexis Hope & Julie Legault

Sensory Fiction

Sensory fiction is about new ways of experiencing and creating stories.

Traditionally, fiction creates and induces emotions and empathy through words and images.  By using a combination of networked sensors and actuators, the Sensory Fiction author is provided with new means of conveying plot, mood, and emotion while still allowing space for the reader’s imagination. These tools can be wielded to create an immersive storytelling experience tailored to the reader.

To explore this idea, we created a connected book and wearable. The ‘augmented’ book portrays the scenery and sets the mood, and the wearable allows the reader to experience the protagonist’s physiological emotions.

The book cover animates to reflect the book’s changing atmosphere, while certain passages trigger vibration patterns.


Changes in the protagonist’s emotional or physical state triggers discrete feedback in the wearable, whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localized temperature fluctuations.



Our prototype story, ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’ by James Tiptree showcases an incredible range of settings and emotions. The main protagonist experiences both deep love and ultimate despair, the freedom of Barcelona sunshine and the captivity of a dark damp cellar.

The book and wearable support the following outputs:

  • Light (the book cover has 150 programmable LEDs to create ambient light based on changing setting and mood)
  • Sound
  • Personal heating device to change skin temperature (through a Peltier junction secured at the collarbone)
  • Vibration to influence heart rate
  • Compression system (to convey tightness or loosening through pressurized airbags)

View more photos of Sensory Fiction on Flickr

– Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, Julie Legault

Rodent Sense

Inspired by the protagonist in Kill Decision’s reliance on a trained pair of ravens (as opposed to drones), and by the SimStim in Neuromancer that allows Case to tap into the sensory experience of another, the Rodent Sense project links its wearer to the world of animals.

We drew on Umwelt theory to imagine how a human might make sense of the world if given the opportunity to to switch between various animal sensory inputs and augment (or diminish) their senses in particular ways. For the demo, we focused on allowing the viewer to see through the eyes of a hamster.

As hamsters can only see 2 inches in front of their eyes, the view offered to the wearer is a quite distorted one. To create this experience, we attached stereoscopic cameras to a carriage and hamster-ball device that the hamster pulled, and processed the resulting video feed so that it could be seen by the viewer in 3d while wearing an Oculus Rift. The carriage and wheels were laser cut from 5mm mirrored acrylic and 25mm clear acrylic.

We also recorded fictional promotion material for our product:

Thank you for purchasing the Rodent Sense™ Virtual Reality expansion pack. Now you can have the sensory experience you’ve always wanted.

For example, with the Rodent Sense™ pack, you can focus sharply on objects that are two inches from your nose, perceive time in slow motion, and feel infra red lights. With the Reptile Sense™ pack you can hear through vibrations and discern the body heat of others. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not see through the hundreds eyes of the sea scallop with Aquatic Sense™.

Setting up is easy. First, catch an animal or grow one in your household hatchery. Next, simply attach the Sensory Transmitter™ to your desired animal. The Transmitter will anchor to the neural system of its host and manifest pathways necessary for wireless communication. Initiation will take a few days. Once your augmented animal system is ready, you can begin to immerse yourself in this animal’s senses using your VR unit.

Collect multiple expansion packs to switch between a fleet of your favorite animals. If you want to experience our new, multiplayer product, try Swarm Sense™. You and your friends can experience what it is like to be part of a hive of bees, a school of fish, or a flock of seagulls. Experience communication on an animal level.

Warning: Death of host sometimes occurs during Sensory Transmitter™ installation. If you a experience a sensory malfunction lasting more than 4 hours, call a doctor. Sense Co. will not be held responsible.

Sense Co.

Feel Everything

Black Mirror — dark, twisted, satirical sci fi show

I want to recommend an amazing British television show called “Black Mirror” to everyone in the class. Each episode (6 in total) has a different cast, and feels a bit like Twilight Zone narratively. Stories range from very near-future scenarios, to far-future ones. Some particularly interesting technologies depicted in the show include a grain implanted in your head that records all of your life for playback whenever you want, and artificial intelligence recreations of dead loved ones.

The first episode is both a bit weird and not particularly sci fi (just to warn you) but the rest of the series is amazing.

Not available on on TV or streaming online in America (yet), so you’ll have to find it some other way… :)

Quote from Neuromancer

Here’s a quote from Neuromancer that I thought was interesting — especially given our conversation about Stelarc, who sometimes operates outside of the law to bring his art to fruition, as well as hackers and makers who push the legal boundaries of technologies all the time.

“…burgeoning technologies require outlaw zones…Night City wasn’t there for its inhabitants, but as a deliberately unsupervised playground for technology itself.”

Are ‘outlaw zones,’ or a lack of supervision in general, necessary for innovation? I recently read a book called Biopunk that took on this question in the context of the DIY biology scene. Happy to loan it to anyone interested!