DOW Senses: North Sense

The North Sense is a device which is embedded onto the body of the user and imbues them with an artificial sixth sense, which essentially turns the user into a human compass. It connects the user to the Earth’s magnetic field, giving them an extra acute sense of space and direction.

The attachment of this device to the human skin is similar to receiving a bodily piercing. Two titanium metal bars are inserted under the skin and act as the anchoring system for the device. It is discreet at around a square inch in size, enclosed in body-compatible silicone and anchored onto his chest via titanium piercings. By mounting it to a piercing, the user can feel the vibrations of the device under their skin rather than just on the surface.

The device connects to mobile apps through Bluetooth, and how it functions is that it vibrates/buzzes when it is faced in the direction of the strongest electromagnetic force around it (usually facing North). Rather than merely being a compass, it causes the user to be hyperaware of the magnetic forces surrounding them, and to experience the forces physically rather than just knowing that they exist.

Since the forces are being sensed through vibrations, they are technically felt through a sense of touch, however, people who have had the North Sense implanted have stated that it is much more than a directional indicator. For them, it has become a way for them to amass mental images and memories, and have a different marker/instigator for memories, much like how we would trigger memories when we experience a similar related stimulus through one of our five senses. So basically, it is making use of one of our existing senses (sense of touch) to give us an entirely new sense and experience something that humans do not originally get to experience.

This reminds me of Neil Harbisson’s EyeBorg, which perceives colours in the world around him and translates them into different sounds in order for him to be able to perceive colour (Harbisson is severely colour blind). If we as a society come to accept and explore different ways in which we can interpret our senses, I think it would also come to benefit those who are disabled by giving them other sensorial alternatives to use and explore.

Hyperessay: Public Surveillance

For this final project, I aim to explore and question the concept of public surveillance, especially with regards to surveillance cameras. At what point does public surveillance cross over the boundaries from being a security and safety feature, to becoming something intrusive that strips us of our personal freedom and privacy?

The topic of public surveillance is one that has been heavily debated, especially recently with the announcement of a social credit system to be implemented in China. The system will place citizens under heavy surveillance via their digital footprint, as well as physically via facial recognition on public surveillance cameras. The social credit system has sparked worldwide outrage and debate on various topics such as whether personal privacy is a human right, and the possibility of a dystopian Black Mirror-esque future where Big Brother has control over all our actions and thoughts.

As undesirable as it would seem to live in a surveillance state, would it truly be different from how we live now? In this day and age where almost everyone willingly posts their personal information on social media, can we really fault the government for putting an eye on us when anyone else can also do so? As stated in the above video by Chinese citizen Fan Dandan:

For me, the Social Credit System isn’t a totally new thing. I think it’s always been there. Now it’s just in a more efficient format. An online or digital format. But it’s based on the system we already have.

Even devices which are supposedly used for security purposes are not safe from infiltration from other parties. My project is largely inspired by my research on IP cameras, which have largely replaced CCTVs as the choice of surveillance camera as they are able to be accessed remotely via network connection. They are widely used, not just in public but also in private spaces like offices or homes. However, they can pose a serious threat to one’s personal privacy if not used correctly; IP cameras are notoriously susceptible to hacking, giving rise to websites such as Insecam which feature live footage gleaned from unsecured IP cameras around the world. As shocking as it may be to realise that strangers could be unknowingly watching you in your private spaces, this is the reality of our world today and this kind of voyeuristic surveillance is what we make ourselves susceptible to whenever we use such devices.

Through the use of a disguised camera placed somewhere with high human traffic, I aim to give my live-stream viewers an opportunity to see things through the eyes of the voyeur, to experience being the person behind the camera rather than being the unsuspecting passer-by in front of it. Drawing reference from Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron’s installation Hansel and Gretel, and Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu’s article The House That Spied on Me, I aim to use face-recognition via Processing linked to the webcam to show the audience the ease of which they can be “spied” on.

Click here for my presentation slides!

Micro Project 6: Glitch

The 1969 Apollo 11 Moon Landing was considered to be a momentous occasion in the history of humankind, marking the first human landing on a body in outer space, and one of the most widely broadcasted and watched televised events in the history of the world. But did we really land? Since then there have been numerous theories claiming the moon landing was a hoax due to analysis of footage and photographs of the event. Has all of mankind been lied to all this time, and is the moon landing just another one of the numerous staged television productions that we love so much?

DOW 2: IoT

Most of us are familiar with IP cameras, even if we have not specifically heard of this term before. While most of us may refer to them as CCTVs, they are actually not the same thing. IP cameras and CCTVs roughly serve the same purpose, however the difference is that IP cameras can be accessed over a network connection which means that the live footage can be viewed remotely from any location with a connection, as long as one has the login credentials to the camera.

In recent years, many companies have switched to IP cameras rather than CCTVs as their choice of surveillance camera, for several reasons. Firstly, as mentioned, the IP camera can be accessed remotely from a different location. This makes it more convenient, especially for home use, for example if a parent wishes to view live footage to check on their child while they are at work.

On top of live video footage, the IP camera also have live audio functions and some of them even have 2 way audio which means on top of hearing live audio from the source of the camera, the viewer can also relay audio to the source, so the IP camera in essence also can double up as a communication device.

The IP camera also does not require a power supply to operate. Similarly to WiFi routers, it is able to source power through ethernet cable in order to function. This is known as Power over Ethernet (PoE) and it means that the IP camera will require only 1 cable to provide both data connection as well as electric power.

Despite all these, there are also major down sides to using IP cameras, which some users are not even aware of. The biggest concern with IP camera is safety and security concerns. While IP cameras are considered security devices and are typically used by people who want to increase security in their home or store, in actual fact IP cameras can be dangerous if not used properly because they are easily accessible by strangers as long as they can obtain the IP address and guess the login credentials of the camera. What’s concerning is that many people do not even realise that this is possible, hence they do not set a password when setting up their IP cameras and continue using the default login credentials set by the camera manufacturer. This makes it even easier for the camera to be hacked into by absolutely anybody across the globe and poses serious security threats.

There are websites such as Insecam which contain live footage sourced from unsecured IP cameras all around the world. In many cases, the owners of these cameras are not even aware that their IP camera is being accessed by thousands of strangers and some of them are even showing footage of the inside of people’s houses. This is why when we purchase an IP device, we must always be aware of the potential risks and downfalls and take measures to keep our device secure, such as by changing the default login settings. With any IoT device there is always a risk and sadly many people are not aware of it.

Despite this potential security threat, IP cameras are definitely useful to have as long as one is using it in a safe manner. One thing that they could be very useful for is in instances such as for teaching purposes or for customer service. Since the IP camera also doubles up as a two-way audio device, the person using it can show what they are doing to an instructor/customer service provider while the person at the other end can take a look at what they are doing and provide instructions. Also for emergency situations, for example if someone is defusing a bomb they can use a high resolution IP camera to show what they are doing and a bomb defusing team on the other end can see and relay instructions to the defuser through the microphone.