SixthSense

The SixthSense device, developed by PhD student, Pranav Mistry and his colleagues at MIT Media Lab in Boston, is a pendant-like instrument slung around the neck, capable of projecting an interactive interface that recognizes hand gestures, on to any surface. The components of the device consist of a projector that displays visual images thus enabling any surface to be used as an interface, a camera that captures and recognizes hand gestures made by its user through the use of computer vision technology, and finally the software program that translates motion of the hand into instructions in the manipulation of the interface. The program tracks the positions of coloured finger caps placed on the tips of the user’s hands. The camera and the projector are connected to a mobile device that can be placed anywhere on the user. The host of videos showcasing the applications of the device and the inventor’s future plans for it can be viewed HERE.

SixthSense technology as it has come to be known, deals with bridging the divide between the physical world and cyberspace. By projecting interactive information onto real physical surfaces upon recognition, the device frees our experience of cyberspace from its virtual confines and “seamlessly” blends it into our experiences and encounters within the physical world. In doing so, it compounds our understanding and treatment of reality by redefining our dimensions of sense experience. Katherine Hayles draws attention to the “flowing” quality of the electronic image and its capabilities for manipulation and mediation. Hayles would point out that the SixthSense device invigorates her claim that our experience of reality is becoming more to do with pattern and randomness than presence and absence. The projection of virtual terrain upon physical objects, that interacts intuitively and subjectively throws into speculation the notion that reality is founded on materiality, by initiating constant interaction between the real world and cyberspace enclosed within a “feedback loop”, mediated by the user. The device translates real world image into information and code to be processed in the production of relevant output, all through intuitive gestures and actions. With reference to Hayles’ proposal that the body “warrants” subjectivity contained within it, the SixthSense technology allows an interactive subjectivity to paint itself around the environment of the user thus redefining our bodily interaction and experience with space itself. By delimiting the material confines of information, the device sparks a reality dominated by pattern rather than presence, with the user playing only a participatory role within a grander information cycle. Information may be encoded and projected on any material ‘body’ changing the ways in which humans interact with information media.

Mcluhan discusses media forms as ‘translators’ that are “technological extensions of consciousness”. His view that media technologies allow for an exploration and new experiences of human knowledge through a multitude of representational modes sits well with the philosophy behind the SixthSense technology. As he remarks, “ Under electric technology the entire business of man becomes learning and knowing”, he manages to characterize the effective purpose of the device, in allowing its user to make quicker and better-informed decisions with regard to the physical and social world. The device restructures the characteristics of existing technologies like the camera and the projector to augment reality in a new and fluid form that transcends the experience that either singular medium can provide. Bolter and Grusin discuss the goal of remediation as a ‘refashioning’ or ‘rehabilitation’ of previous media in a process that effects change on our perceptions of reality.  They argue that mediation is treated as a ‘real’ process in that it evokes an authentic personal or social response and “is treated much like a physical object.” SixthSense, technology, under this lens, then becomes a remediation of previous media experience in a process of reformulating the boundaries of reality. The device combines the mediation capacities of older media to remediate reality itself.  The authors also discuss the reformative dimensions of remediation by referring to an evolving property of representational technology that subjects it to a never-ending cycle of betterment and change. In providing its user with a visual interface that is not limited to the spatial boundaries of the monitor or the mobile screen, the SixthSense transforms our experience of the real and ushers in a new paradigm of technology that alters the way humans understand their environment. The device allows for an expansion of the ‘locus’ of digital technologies as Bolter and Grusin propose, by removing the need for discrete physical media as portals to cyberspace. By enabling any physical object to become a web browser or a canvas( in essence a link to the virtual realm), the device offers a more liquid and flexible relationship between technology and the material world.

Bibliography:

McLuhan,Marshall. “Media as Translators”, in Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man,56-61. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994.

Bolter, Jay D. & Grusin, Richard. “Mediation and Remediation”, in Remediation: Understanding New Media, 52-62. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.

Hayles, Katherine. “Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers”, in The Visual Culture Reader, 152-156, Routledge, 1990.

Mistry,Pranav. Fluid Interfaces, Group.”Sixthsense”. MIT Media Lab, http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense/

Wikipedia contributors, “SixthSense,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SixthSense

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~ by Shiv Nalapat on March 31, 2010.

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