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space3008: What’s Next in Science and Technology

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Last Friday, space150 assembled to listen to three of our own present on the topic, “What’s Next in Science and Technology.”

Todd Bartz kicked it off with a presentation on the Science of Emotion, asking the question, “Can you measure great creative?” This part of the presentation was primarily concerned with testing emotion, otherwise known as perception research. Basically, this is the scientific measure of emotion, using data-gathering equipment such as electrodes hooked up to a person’s skull.

The theory posits that when you place an object in front of someone, you get an automatic, physiological response. These are built-in biological responses that humans have – hard-wired reactions, such as sweating, changes in brain chemistry, and pupil dilation that affect how you think. Sensory Logic, for example, uses a facial coding system to map points on the face that correspond to one of seven emotions. These are instantaneous, involuntary, universal responses – fleeting changes in expression before their more apparent articulation. There are practical online implications for this method of inquiry, such as eye tracking for testing users’ response to web pages.

Andrew Christensen presented on the new technologies that allow robust graphics in Flash. He began by comparing the current polygonal computation powers of the current version of Flash to the original Sony Playstation. Flash 10, however, will constitute a quantum leap, as the tech begins to catch up to next-gen 3D graphics.

Andrew showed off many demos that talented code poets have used to showcase the possibilities for online graphics. The Magic Carpet demo shows off the open source library Papervision3D. Just check out 360 degree video of New York built using Papervision3D. 3D graphics are used to significantly enhance the appearance of websites such as WHITEvoid and VaryWell. The 3D space found in Nike’s Suite 23 resembles that found in older video games like Doom – now such 3D capabilities are possible and efficient in Flash. 3D graphics are also getting more elegant: this demo applies blur to denote the depth of field in real-world vision.

Physics engines have also made significant advances. For a glimpse at the potential, here’s a rather spartan 2D engine in Flash, running at a high, smooth frame rate with startlingly lifelike physics. The Phun beta allows users to draw and manipulate objects using real physics in real time, with no plug-ins needed. The tech is finally getting to a point where it’s smooth, efficient, and feasible. Thanks to open source libraries, you don’t need a Master’s to program a nice-looking Flash app.