Fortune Tasker

This isn’t getting weird at allllll.

So for the next round of mute Alexa fortune teller, Alanna and myself decided to do some styling work. I think it came out pretty well, and it fits with our combined aesthetic. We also decided to call it Fortune Tasker, and add a task at the end of the fortune that you could complete that day if you wish. I may expand on that later on.

I really like this particular experiment. I’m really interested in taking consumer products and re-using them for things that they aren’t supposed to do. But also subverting their function into very specific things, for specific people. This is an item I would just keep in my home, Alanna as well, would like this somewhere at home. I enjoyed making a custom case of sorts for the Alexa, and am thinking it might be interesting to just make a bunch of different style experiments w/ disassembled Alexas in the future.

A few interesting things we found: The printer firmware doesn’t really do upside down, tho I’m looking into why that is. Skulls are very difficult to hollow out, and Umbra is a good spot to find weird shelves.

Divination Bot

There’s always some weird stuff around other worldliness and computers. Especially in sci-fi. The omnipresent being, the all knowing system, the computer that will predict the future. That somehow a thing we built will surpass its worldly bounds, and be associated with the cosmos in some way. Something bigger than us. Something alien.

But divination is mostly just a system. Its a system that works if you believe it works. Its something we made, and then imprinted on to an object. In a way it could be a form of idol worship, but it could also be a way to just up and blame the universe sometimes for a flat tire. Which honestly, in the age of Late Capitalism, if this is something that makes you feel alright, then I don’t see the issue.

My talented friend Alanna, and I started playing around w/ an absurd divination system last week, and we thought it might be an interesting fit for the deconstructed, Alexa. In a lot of ways, Amazon wants Alexa to be a general device. Something you use for a bunch of things, which is funny, because its a very specific kind of interface. In this case we’re taking that and making a very specific device that does a very specific thing for a very specific person.

I think we’ll spend some time actually making it into an object in and of itself as well. It might be encased in resin or acrylic, and be a weird wall hanging. It might have totems associated with it, or be wrapped w/ a fur, or have a strange paint job. We’ll see. The challenge right now is how to take it from a one off command program into something more conversational.

Also, I mean you’re going to be conversing with a printer, which I will admit I ripped off from the Heart of Gold’s ticker tape math read out about normality. But I still find it funny.

The Shape Of Things

Yesterday I set up for midterm crit, and as usual, the networks at school all imploded on me. I’m not sure if it was one of the devices that had a firmware update, or something on the network, but my google home just stopped connecting. I have a bad relationship with internet at school. Namely that I consistently run into problems getting things set up, things that take 10 minutes can take hours in the institution because of security, permissions, and work arounds.

So today rather than doing anything else for crit, I started making weird LED shapes. I’ve been thinking a lot about Katherine Beher’s E-Waste, and I really like the strange shapes they came up with, and back story about just USB devices that got taken over by the earth. I thought about making some custom Alexa cases with that in mind. But also thinking about how I can envelop notifiers, or peripherals.

I also found out that if you take an Echo Dot apart, it will still work, but its mute unless you hook it up to a speaker. I thought that maybe figuring out another way for a mute alexa to communicate might be interesting. Maybe it uses the thermal printer, or morse code, or just blinks. Anyways, here’s a start to this LED shape thing.

Calendar Creep

Continuing with the idea of prototypes that misbehave, I started working on Calendar Creep for Alexa, which is a calendar event scheduling program, but with a twist. Basically your Alexa is kind of lonely, and it wants to spend time with you. So before it schedules an event, it tries to convince you that maybe you don’t really want to go out, and tries to push you into scheduling some hang out time with it instead. If you persist, that yes you do indeed want to go out, Alexa schedules a shadow event to conflict with your chosen event.

In a way this is a play on attention. Our devices are consistently asking for this. Our phones beep at us, watches buzz, notifications ding. But I’m also kind of thinking about what its like for my cat when I go away for a while. She routinely spends time before I go asking for me to stay, and when I come home is (for a while anyways, I mean she IS a cat) always asking for my attention. There’s the creepier end of it too, where you might have that partner or friend who’s always sort of on you to do things, or make plans, or getting you to try and stay home more. Kind of like a constant “where you going?”.

Tech Bits

For this I started out doing an OAuth flow to google’s API, I won’t lie, it was a pain in the arse. But after a while I realized I might not need that, because I wasn’t really developing a user app, as much as a standalone piece for me to use. so I ditched that direction and ended up just using IFTTTT. I have mixed feelings about IFTTT, but it does cut down on some Yaks Shaving. Amazon seems to have a new beta calendar object, but at this point I just want to get it working first.

One thing I will probably find difficult is having multiple yes/no replies. Amazon rolled out a new skill builder, but it has some weird things, like not being able to use just a slot item as an utterance…which is odd because if you ask someone for a password, no one is going to say “Its 1234”. They just want to say “1234”. Anyways, we’ll see how this goes.

Things missing from google home’s life

They don’t have eyes. They don’t have hands. They don’t have a sense of touch. They don’t have the ability to move around. They can’t drive. They can’t drink. They can’t play really interesting dating sims. They can’t eat. They don’t need to sleep. They can’t pet the dog, or feed the fish. They don’t defecate. They don’t get sleepy. They don’t have a favourite movie.

Or do they?

What are some of the things Alexa and Home CAN’T do on their own?

Moar Bots

I think I might just stay w/ home assistants as my core pallette going forward out of CFC Prototyping into Thesis. I feel that they are a physical extension of things going on with our phones, and therefore are very prime SPIME material. Plus their placement into this kind of “IOT hive brain” might be very fun to explore. That and over the next decade you’re probably going to see a lot of reaction / interplay / discussion about surveillance and voice interaction.

I could think of three vignettes around [Not] Serving You, Serving Itself, Serving Something Else. The something else could be just each other, as in two bots, or a hive? Not sure yet.

I’ll have to write up a few more scenarios, and remember to include humour. I can sometimes get bogged down in the alien / scare thing, but bots can be very funny, just from their glitching or programming. And its important that I keep the techno-magic thing in check. Because tech isn’t magic. And things like the technological reveal is what makes technology so interesting for me.