I’ve grown fascinated by the technology of machine vision, but even more so with the haunting aesthetics captured through their eyes. There’s something deeply enthralling and existentially disruptive about the emergence of autonomous machines into our shared world, watching us, learning about us, and inevitably interacting with each other. It’s like a new inorganic branch of taxonomy is evolving into being. Anyway, two recent notes on this topic…
The first is this short series of images taken from a UAV drone and featured in the ACLU report, Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance [PDF]. There’s a decent summary of the report at the New York Times.
Makes me think of Ian McDonald’s excellent novel, Brasyl, and the ad hoc indoctrination of Our Lady of Perpetual Surveillance into the extended canon of casual Orishas.
The second item of note is this haunting video of a 3D Scanner wandering the streets of Barcelona. It’s not any sort of smart machine – it’s just a dumb handheld scanner hitching a ride on a creative human – but it again evokes the aesthetic of a world seen through eyes very different from our own. The video really grabs me about a minute in:
It seems to show a bizarre ghost world or a glimpse from another dimension into ours. The aesthetic (and the tech) is similar to LIDAR, which I had the luck to play around with a couple years ago – and which Radiohead employed to a very interesting end:
In some ways, I want to see these visions as analogous to the view through a wolf’s eyes in the 80’s flick, Wolfen (at 0:24 in this trailer):
Seeing through the eyes of machines isn’t especially new but it’s the awareness of the many adjacent, convergent technologies of pattern recognition, data analysis, biometrics, autonomous navigation, swarming algorithms, and AI that adds pressure to the long-held notion that machines might someday walk our world of their own accord. It seems much closer than ever before so it’s fascinating to watch the new aesthetics of machine vision move into the popular domain.