Archive for the ‘cool things’ category

“Alter Ego” Coming to Fox…

September 11, 2021

We’ve all probably gotten a bit weary of singing competitions, even the offbeat ones such as The Masked Singer where contestants perform in full body costumes that disguise their identity. Now in an attempt to pique our jaded tastes, a new type of singing competition has hooked into technology, and is allowing contestants to perform as their chosen avatar.

These are not static avatars, but 3D moving, full-bodied representations limited only by the imagination. Want to perform as a humanoid with purple skin? – – Got you covered! Prefer to be singing with butterfly wings? – – No problemo.

You can also be gender fluid on the show, looking like someone androgynous or other than your sex assigned at birth. Your performing avatar can interact with and respond to competition judges as well.

Performing in motion-capture suits, the singers will control their avatars and appear before the judges as them. It’s kind of like American Idol meets Ready Player One, and just when you thought singing competitions were old hat…

So September 22nd and 23rd on Fox, contestants “from all walks of life” will compete, but not as themselves. They will have such names as Lover Boy, Night Journey, and Fern. Cartoonish? Perhaps…but if you could perform as an avatar, what might that “alter ego” be, hmmm? I think that I should like to perform as a demonic fox, just to stretch myself creatively a bit…then if the judges didn’t like me, they’d be sorry, heheheh! “Mr. Producer, need a new panel of judges here, ASAP!” Oh well, singing was never my strong suit…

Autonomous, Ambulatory Robots…

February 5, 2019

Submitted for your approval is Marty, an autonomous, ambulatory robot deployed at my local supermarket to look for spills and trash. He approached me noisily from behind, beeping and flashing lights, and at first I didn’t know what was going on! Was someone pushing this thing, inside it, or remotely controlling it? — Nope, nope, and nope…but you don’t have to fear Marty.  They pasted on those ridiculous, googly eyes so as not to project a Darth Vader vibe, although that might be interesting…

Vader ‘Bot:  “I find your lack of fresh produce purchases disturbing…”

Customer:  “Alright,  just stop force-choking me,  jeez!  I’m throwing in cabbages, see?”

Vader ‘Bot:  “The General Manager will be pleased, but pray you do not require a further demonstration…”

While it will be some time before Rosie the robot from The Jetsons will be among us, the ‘bots are coming!    Marty is far from being C-3PO, but give it another ten years or so, and they could be seeking a piece of your action… 


“Fresh Step” DJ Cats…

September 9, 2013

dj cats— Love them or hate them, cats have been a powerful presence in advertising, and since at least the 20th century, they’ve also been associated with music, especially jazz. They’re part of the language; consider idiomatic references like hep cat, swing cat, cool cat, and the list goes on. Perhaps it’s because cats are independent and tend to choose their own focus that they’ve come to be associated with music forms that are cutting edge and a bit outside of the mainstream, at least at their inception and at one particular point in time.

It’s perhaps only natural then that cats should update and transition into studio and technology based forms of musical expression, functioning as disc jockeys and engineering today’s sound in a Fresh Step kitty litter commercial…

Artificial Meat…

August 8, 2013

artificial meat– – Few things are cool but creepy at the same time; artificial meat is one of them!  We had earlier posted about the possibility of artificial meat, a prospect which has now become reality…

Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, led the team that grew the meat from shoulder cattle stem cells in the Netherlands.  The cells were put into a nutrient solution to help them develop into muscle tissue, and they grew into small strands of meat, nearly 20,000 of which were used to make a 5-ounce patty, which was cooked and eaten by two volunteer tasters in London on Monday.  The tasters gave the hamburger good marks for texture but faulted it for taste, most probably due to lack of sufficient fat and commonly used seasonings.

The animal rights group PETA has gone in favor of laboratory-produced meat as it does not involve the slaughter of a complete living animal for food but rather the cloning of cells.  Lab-grown meat may eventually help feed the world and fight climate change, but artificial meat remains highly experimental and cost-prohibitive at the present time, however, so don’t expect to see it in your “Happy Meal” anytime soon…

The Feline Avenger…

January 3, 2013

Batcat – – If Batman and Catwoman had a child, the offspring might look something like this magnificent creature whose image originally came from Reddit and was popularized by the Huffington Post before spreading like wildfire throughout the Internet.  Thought by a number of commentators to be a Maine Coon cat, this Batcat might not have a Robin, but could probably bring you one…Meow!



Elephant Articulations!

November 3, 2012

– – We had earlier posted on how a Beluga whale had learned to imitate human speech, and now we may add the Asian elephant to the list of species capable of mimicking speech…in Korean, yet! 

The elephant, named Koshik, had been the only elephant living at the Everland Zoo in South Korea for about five years with only humans for company during what had been an important period in the animal’s life for bonding and social development.  Cognitive biologists have speculated that Koshik started to adapt his vocalizations to his human companions to strengthen his social affiliations.  The process of speech imitation even involved the elephant sticking his trunk into his mouth to help form the sounds. 

Koshik has a vocabulary of five words in Korean, including the words for “hello,” “sit down,” “no,” “lie down,” and “good.”  Unfortunately there is no evidence that Koshik understands the meaning of the words that he is employing.  There have been reports of elephants imitating the sounds of truck engines, and additionally of an elephant at a zoo in Kazakhstan reported to say words in Russian and Kazakh…


Giant Mystery Eyeball Discovered!

October 15, 2012

– – I’m always glad when giant eyeballs wash up on beaches, bringing to mind as they do such vintage sci-fi classics as 1958’s The Crawling Eye.  Eyeballs by nature tend to make people squeamish, especially disembodied ones…and in time for Halloween, too!- -What a gift from the sea!

Anyways, this treasure was found Wednesday by a beachcomber on Pompano Beach, Florida.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is preserving the eyeball, termed the “mystery eyeball,” which is slightly larger than a baseball.  Speculations as to what kind of species the orb hails from include a bigeye thresher shark, a whale, and of course, a giant squid. 

It will be several days before a precise identification is made by the agency’s research lab in St. Petersburg, so we’ll just have to wait and see…ahahahahaha!

UpdateIt would now appear that experts are tending to believe that the eyeball was hacked out of a swordfish by an angler.  This determination was made based on a consideration of the eye’s size, color, and structure…

The Meshworm Chronicles…

August 13, 2012

– – I, for one, will sleep more easily tonight knowing that engineers have finally built a better worm!  Your tax dollars have been hard at work as engineers have created a robot that mimics a worm’s movements, and is capable of crawling along surfaces by contracting segments of its body.

This is not a genetic engineering thing as the creation, called the Meshworm, has no organic components; rather, it is a machine constructed of soft materials that can squeeze through tight places and mold its shape to rough terrain.  The Meshworm can also absorb heavy blows without sustaining damage with the worm-like motion reducing noise, making it suitable for reconnaissance purposes.

Work on the machine was carried out by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in the U.S., and Seoul National University in South Korea.  The Pentagon’s Darpa research unit supported the Meshworm project, suggesting a potential military use!

Robotic military worms!–What won’t they think of next?!  As this mechanical worm uses an artificial muscle made out of nickel and titanium wire designed to stretch and contract with heat, don’t expect it to be an effective fish bait…but wouldn’t Robotic Worms be a great name for a band, or a Dark Horse comic?

Artificial Jellyfish!

July 28, 2012

– – I’m sure that you’ll all be pleased as punch to learn that scientists in the U.S. have created a free-swimming artificial jellyfish!  I, for one, know that when at the ocean, I can never have enough of them bumping against me in the tide or lying on the beach.

It gets stranger, too; the team members built the replica using silicone as a base on which to grow heart muscle cells that were harvested from rats.  They then used an electric current to shock the created Medusoid into swimming with synchronised contractions that mimic those of a real jellyfish!  I swear that I am not making this up…

The finding serves as proof of concept for reverse engineering a variety of muscular organs and simple life forms.  As jellyfish use a muscle to pump their way through the water, the way that they function is similar on a basic level to that of a human heart.  Such similarities reveal what you need to do to design a bio-inspired heart pump.

Synthetic life is an emerging field of science that until now focused on replicating life’s building blocks.  Now instead of just building a cell, researchers at Caltech and Harvard University have built a beast!  

The Great Emancipator, and More!

June 7, 2012

– – Before there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was…Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter!  In one of the strangest, genre-blending movies since Cowboys & Aliens, the film to be released June 22nd will mix incidentals of the American Civil War era with the gothic.  Based on the 2010 novel of the same name and co-produced by Tim Burton, it seems that the mother of the 16th president was killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels Lincoln’s passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers!  Lincoln therefore assumes a secret identity as a vampire hunter, brushing elbows during the story with a variety of historical notables, including in the book Edgar Allan Poe.

– –Ha, and you thought that history was a dead subject!- -Well, in a sense, part of it is, at least where the vampires are concerned.  The book has generally received favorable reviews, and been described as being an original vampire tale with heart, humor, and (–of course!) bite.  I’m encouraged by the fact that the vampires in the film will supposedly be presented as fierce, visceral, intense, and bloodthirsty rather than as the insipid pretty boys that they’ve recently morphed into elsewhere.  Lincoln will supposedly prove himself adept at wrestling and with an ax…and John Wilkes Booth wouldn’t have dared to take on this president in a fair fight!

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