Archive for April, 2009

Long-distance sex with lights

April 30, 2009 Comments off

Stuck in a long-distance relationship with no “action?” Well, Scottish researchers have got something for you: introducing Mutsugoto, or the ability to get it on by drawing light on each others’ bodies.

Scotland’s Distance Lab is looking to test out Mutsugoto, which involves installing an electronic light system in the bedroom, this summer. It’s a tough concept to explain, so here it straight from the Mutsugoto website:

A custom computer vision and projection system allows users to draw on each other’s bodies while lying in bed. Drawings are transmitted “live” between the two beds, enabling a different kind of synchronous communication that leverages the emotional quality of physical gesture.

You really have to see this in action in order to actually get it, as it’s kind of a spacey concept. Here’s a video:

In other words, the system tries to introduce a more complex feeling of “touch” to long-distance communications than is normally found with phone sex (i.e. wanking it). It’s an interesting idea, but I have a feeling many people are going to find it a little too “touchy-feely” for their liking.

Categories: sensors, sex

The book drops in March

April 29, 2009 Comments off

I swung by Penguin Canada yesterday to give a brief presentation on my book to the sales team. These would be the folks who will end up trying to sell it to Chapters, Indigo and other bookstores across the country. They were a nice group of people who come from all walks of life: some worked in bookstores, some came from marketing backgrounds while others were even horse jockeys!

In any event, I picked up Penguin’s new Fall 2009/Spring 2010 catalog and it’s got some publishing details on my book: the hardcover is scheduled for publication in March 2010 and will go for $32 (subject to change), so start saving up that cash! Here’s the catalog blurb (which I did not write):

In this surprising history of technology, Peter Nowak argues that most of the innovations that make modern life modern can be directly traced to one of three aspects of human activity - war, porn and the fast food industry. Following developments in technology from the 1940s to the present, Nowak reveals the links between Barbie and U.S. missile systems, how the porn industry killed Betamax, and why Niue, Polynesia, is the phone-sex capital of the world. He exposes the unexpected origins of many common household items, such as cellphones, microwave ovens and plastic packaging, and raises the disturbing question of where we would be, technologically speaking, without our basest desires. 

A broad-interest technology book revealing the surprising roots of the technology around us. For fans of Michael Moore, Eric Schlosser and Thomas Friedman, a book full of who-would-have-thought-it facts. No previous book has considered the combined impact of these three industries.

Sounds cool, huh? I better get to writing the damn thing…

Categories: food, penguin, sex, war

Dogs: a robot’s best friend

April 28, 2009 Comments off

Cleaning toilets, doing dishes, mopping floors - all are tasks many people wish could be done by robots. Well, add dog training to that list. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the same people who brought you the internet and stealth aircraft, are now looking into automated ways of training Fido. Apparently, it’s too tedious a job for humans. According to DARPA’s proposal:

The development of an automated mammalian training device would significantly reduce the need for human involvement. In addition, it may enable the ability for remote on-site training in potentially limited access areas. This device would also have the ability to better and more rapidly train an animal through the collection of performance metrics that indicate subject intelligence, capability, and progress.

But will the dog develop the same bond with its robotic trainer? What happens if, as Wired puts it, the dog pees on its trainer?

Some animal lovers will be shocked to learn that the military is using dogs in the first place. Rest assured, poochies have had a long service history, as this site illustrates. Be sure to click on that link if only to hear the tribute song playing in the background - it had me crying tears of laughter.

Categories: army, DARPA, robots, war

Porn business in decline

April 27, 2009 Comments off

Just how much money does the porn business make? According to a recent report from the E-Commerce Journal, about $10 billion a year, which is more than the NFL, MLB and NBA combined. Here’s the catch though: the industry is, by just about all reports, in decline.

First up, some more amazing stats. According to the Journal’s report, about 25% of searches are porn-related. Up to a third of all websites are estimated to be porn, and they get up to 68 million hits a day. That means that every second, 28,000 people are watching some sort of porn online.

Here’s a recent nifty video from Good Magazine that spells out some of the numbers in a very interesting way:

Now the downside. The Journal report pegs online porn revenue at about $2 billion a year, which is about the same level it was earlier this decade. According to this report, DVD sales are down about 15%. The culprit is the same as it is for the music industry and Hollywood: piracy. A crop of “Tube” sites, like YouPorn, RedTube and Tube8 are hosting tons of copyrighted content for free. At first it was stuff from big U.S. producers like Vivid and Hustler, but after legal action from those folks the ‘Tube sites have shifted to hosting more foreign stuff. Nevertheless, for people looking for a wank, porn is porn, and several ‘Tube sites consequently rank within the top 100 trafficked websites (YouPorn is just behind Twitter, believe it or not). No wonder Playboy is in danger of being de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange.

What are the big porn companies doing about it? There’s a range of answers, all of which I’m covering in my book. For a good overview of the situation in the meantime, check out this piece in Conde Nast’s Portfolio magazine.

Categories: AVN, internet, sex, Twitter

Should we be creating super cows?

April 24, 2009 Comments off

In a relatively big announcement, scientists on Thursday said they have fully decoded the cow’s genome, which is going to open up a whole barrel of questions. According to the National Geographic story, having the entire genetic map will allow for selective breeding - scientists will be able to breed out diseases, match genetically suitable males and females to produce hardier calves and create cows that require less feed. The potential advantages of all of this are numerous - cheaper cows, stronger cows, healthier cows.

But the National Geographic story doesn’t even touch on the ethical issues, which, when you’re dealing with genetically-modified anything, are always there. Substitute the word “human” for “cow” everywhere it appears in that paragraph above and there would obviously be very serious problems. It’s an issue that is likely to go beyond just animal rights activists.

Europe has been particularly hard on genetically modified foods of any kind. It was almost fully ten years ago that McDonald’s announced it would no longer use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the United Kingdom after coming under pressure from consumers there. I’m just beginning my research on GMOs so I’ll have plenty more to say on the topic in the upcoming weeks.

Categories: burgers, food, GMO, mcdonald's

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