Making the improbable possible – When technology becomes magical experience

What has always secretly stirred in me a passion for new technology is wrapped up in a well-used quote from Arthur C. Clarke

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

And I guess I always wanted to make magic.

It seems that sense of magic, made possible through sufficiently advanced technology and access to new avenues of funding (ie. crowdfunding), is on an acceleration curve. Sensors, actuators, communication and energy cell technologies have gotten to a stage where they are reliable, affordable and accessible to amateur tinkerers who are combining raw technologies faster and more creatively than large-scale manufacturers. Its in these clever combinations that whole new experiences arise. At the same time, platforms like kickstarter and indiegogo offer access to new avenues of funding leveraging the power of small sums of money on a massive scale.

The amazingly thin CST-01 watch, a side-project from my colleagues Dave Vondle and Jerry O’Leary, pushes E-Ink technology to the edge by creating a watch that is only 0.8mm thin. It is, in fact, the world’s thinnest and seems to magically defy gravity as it balances precariously on two business cards.

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I’m really interested in magic as an experiential quality and this is something that is difficult to pin down. The dictionary definition of magic is, “The power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.”

Magical experiences are ones where the improbable is made possible. They are about defying our perception of the world, bringing what we might imagine or dream into reality.

The 3Doodler 3D printing pen literally lets you conjure objects out of thin air. It extrudes melted plastic out of the nozzle as you write with it, which quickly dries into a solid shape.

The Myo armband literally gives you the ability of telekinesis. Worn as a cuff on your arm, the device reads the electrical impulses being sent through your muscles and can distinguish between different kinds of gestures or movement you’re making. Thus giving you the ability to control computers, toys, devices with a single gesture.

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Magic is also about being seamless and effortless as we transition from one moment to another. Like a great magic act, our performers are well-rehearsed and slick, seemingly without the need for earthly necessities such as wires or power. Such is the case with Shine by MisfitWearables. Carved out of a single piece of aluminium, the Shine device stays with you through the day and detects your movement. It’s a way to keep track of how much exercise you do similar to the FitBit or the Nike+ Fuelband. When it comes time to sync this data, and here’s the kicker, the user simply places the aluminium pebble on their iPhone screen and the phone will automatically detect the Shine and start receiving the information it has captured.

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These are some of the magical technology experiences I’ve been excited by this week. Where are you seeing the magic in technology? And how is it magical to you?



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One Comment

  1. Brenda K. Oswalt says:

    I saw the article in the Examiner on the watch you made for Emma Lawton for her tremors. What a wonderful help you were to her.

    My husband has benign essential tremors of the hand.
    Could I order a wrist band like Emma?

    Would love to purchase one to help my husband. He used to be an electrical engineer.

    Thank you in advance for getting back to me.

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