Sunday, February 25, 2007

Top Five Reasons Why Optimus Won't Sell

My last blog entry was first really popular one, attracting more than 1,500 visitors on the ByteSoul. You are welcome to send comments, suggestions, lucrative offers, hate mail and death threats to (See? I’m not afraid to give out my main mail address.)

Boys and girls,

Hype around Art Lebedev’s overpowered Optimus keyboard is rising, and I’m getting more confident in idea that it just won’t sell enough copies. Why? I’ve got five reasons for it. (For reference: Optimus is keyboard with little programmable LED screens for keys, designed by Artemi Lebedev, genius of creative thinking and my favorite designer).

5. Price

How do you think, how much set of 100+ low-res LED screens together with interface to bind them all will cost? $200? $300? $1000? $2000? Way too much for a keyboard.

Yes, I know that it really cannot cost less. Yes, I know that geeks worldwide are eager to buy it for any price, and yet I know that this is just too much for keyboard. Plain old keyboard.

Boo to the high price.

4. Half-measures

They just can’t make it and will go for any half-measures not to disappoint Optimus fanboys.

They don’t have personnel savvy enough – and they are hiring like mad to quicken up the pace.

They don’t have time enough – and they make lite versions of Optimus like weird but useful Upravlator or completely pointless Optimus Three to buy off time.

They know that final price will be crazy – and they offer standard keys instead of LED-powered ones to lower it a bit.

What will be next?

Boo to half-measures made and not yet made.

3. Style

Artemi Lebedev is real genius in design. His studio is full of real talents. Their hardware designs are really unique and catchy. And yet, no one has stopped man actually responsible for sketching it from making the design good, bad and ugly.

Imagine of cacophony of colors and shapes made by key-screens when user is able to completely customize them at merest whim, and add it to the awful design of keyboard itself. Yuck.

Boo to the poor style.

2. Delays

Nothing has stopped them from setting up release date at late 2011 or something and then making nice surprise for everybody by releasing it in 2008.

Yet, they moved on the flawed way and made ‘floating’ release date, pushing it by year… every year. Welcome to the Duke Nukem Forever of hardware, glorious Optimus, to be released in late 2007, or early 2008, or late 2008, or never.

Boo to the constant delays.

1. Soul

And the most important problem – Optimus is doesn’t have any soul, and will never gain any, just like every single built-for-customization piece of hardware. And this is the most important reason why Optimus won’t sell.

Boo to the complete and utter lack of soul.


PS. I still consider Artemi Lebedev as genius of design. His Optimus idea is brilliant, and his studio really should have sold this idea to Logitech or Genius or whatever.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why Song Hye Kyo Model is Breaking Rules?

Boys and girls,

Today I'll tell you something about what just every techsite in the Net wrote today. It is this picture:
It is Korean actress, Song Hye Kyo, and believe it or not, it is not a photo but CGI picture, made by very talented Indonesian CG designer, Max Edwin Wahyudi (for those interested, this is a text about making of aforementioned picture).

As my blog is about souls, and about computers, this topic has aroused my attention. Remember the Actroid, the first lifelike gynoid robot? (picture to the left, courtesy of Wikipedia) When it first came out, hypothesis about robotics concerning emotional response of humans to robots and other non-human entities, called the Uncanny Valley, came up to public attention.

To put it short, as a robot is made more humanlike in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes strongly repulsive. However, as the appearance and motion continue to become less distinguishable from a human being's, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-human empathy levels. This theory is not young, it was first coined by Masahiro Mori in 1970, but it was widely criticized as pseudoscience then.

For those of you, boys and girls, who are more interested in this theory, I'll point you to the Wikipedia article about it, but I want now to express my own opinion.

Close human likenesses are creepy because they are made to be creepy. When they are made to be beautiful, they are beautiful. And even they are made to be realistically beautiful, like in video game project Heavy Rain, they still look attractive.

Don't fear! The more life-like human likeness is, the better.

Song Hye Kyo model breaks the uncanny valley rule, Actroid does not (people who encountered her/it alive were often frightened and heavily disturbed by its lifelike appearance and actions). So, perhaps reason is in Actroid's bad make, not universal rule of repulsion?


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

PlayStation 3 Isn't Half As Bad

Boys and girls,

ArsTechnica's gaming blog Opposable Thumbs has posted an article by Jonathan Gitlin, called 'PS3: the skeptic's conversion'.

I won't quote this post, because story is short enough for you too follow the link and read it, but it basically supports PS3's #4 position in my Top 5 chart of soulful machines.

General notion of 'I wasn't too fond of it when I've seen its specs, but I am now when I've actually played it' conveys that PS3 is the console that has something that is immaterial, which is hard to describe in other words than soul, spirit, psyche.

Too bad it is too expensive to own and game lineup is still very, very bad. Thumbs up to Wii for price and games... and thumbs up to PS3 for magnificient, powerful soul it has.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Best Tips to Breathe Life in Your Computer

Boys and girls,

As some of you reckon, yesterday I spoke about computers with soul. But what if you bought no-name grey box, but still want to converse with your computer like it was your friend? Here are the essential guide how to breathe life in your computer… literally.

  1. Design rules.
    Have you ever had this irresistible urge to buy one of those transparent, liquid-cooled boxes? Do you have a knack for weird mouses or USB flashlight? If anything, remember, design rules. You may have suppressed the wish to buy them, but no longer. If you’ll buy/build machine that looks how you want it to look, it will feel more alive to you. But no fear! Both my computers are standard grey boxes with no in-built decoration. Still, paint, foam, stickers, etc etc are your best friends.

    When in doubt—design rules.

  2. Naming is primary.
    Always name your computers and your peripherals. Refer to them by their names. ’Shit, my box ain’t running’ won’t lead you anywhere when related to computer’s soul. ’Keening is unwell today… I will be busy curing him all day’ is much better. You can almost feel lad’s heavy breathing.

    Someone may like to name software. In my opinion, it is lame, but if you feel that this will allow you to feel the machine better—go for it.

  3. King Customization.
    To finally breath life into your box, you need it to be unique. If you are graphical and programming guru, you can create the skins, icons, etc for your preference.

    If you’re in 99.99% who aren’t such, you can use multitude of customization programs to do your bidding (kind of easier on Linux, kind of harder on Mac, in-between on Windows). Still, even minor changes (like changing color scheme from blue to silver on Windows XP) allows your computer to have a little bit livelier appearance. And as we know from rule #1, design rules.
These are main tips to breathe life in your computer. Know of something I forgot (or intentionally left out) and wish to share? Go on and comment, I want to hear your opinion.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Five Computers That Have Got Soul

Boys and girls,

Today I will tell you about five computers (in fact, two computers, a video game console, a MP3-player and a cell phone) that really have got the thing that most others lack—the soul.

How often did you wonder—what distinguishes classy iMac from standard gray box computer out of Taiwan? Design? Wrong. Taiwanese no-name boxes have often imitated iMac’s design, but never had the same feeling. Usability? Stability? Power? You can often get more, but you’ll never compensate lack of spirit by spare megabytes of RAM.

So, today I present to you five pieces of consumer electronics—that really have got soul.

5. iPod

iPod isn’t great because of 80Gb storage or big screen. It isn’t great because of flashy features. No. iPod is great despite DRM obsessiveness of Apple, despite little customizability and despite high price.

It was the first and only MP3 player that has got soul.

Its little brethren haven’t got any; its imitators hasn’t got any, but iPod has the character of classy prostitute—expensive, stylish and damn sexy.

You never thought that music player can be your friend, but pals at Apple show you the contrary.

4. PlayStation 3

I don’t want to participate in holy war of next-gen (or better to say, current-gen) consoles. Xbox 360 is insanely cool and Wii is my personal favorite (for having first innovative control scheme in last 20 years of console development).

But what Xbox can compensate with power and Xbox Live, and what Wii takes with quirky controllers, Mario and Zelda, PlayStation can quickly reclaim with soul. Wii has spirit of its own — childish, quirky and cartoonish, but PlayStation’s psyche is of real video game hero. PlayStation’s design was created by God’s hand, PlayStation’s CPU actually is mini-supercomputer of sorts, having eight independent cores, it’s HD is large enough to last forever, and so on and so on.

But what you feel when you turn this god-machine on? Strong, silent guy that will spend countless hours with you, real friend whom you can trust. This is PS3’s soul. Sony wasn’t first one to create a friend-console, but PS3 is the only one that can be included in this Top 5.


3. iMac Core 2 Duo

Even if Apple products feature prominently in my blog, I’m not an Apple fanboy. My main desktop is Windows-based, and I have many complaints for Macs.

Even more, I disregard Mac Pro (which I still remember as Power Macintosh back from G3 days) as one of the most disgusting leviathans in computer industry.

But iMac… iMac has got soul, soul very powerful and still innocent. iMac’s spirit is one of geeky schoolboy that got rid of acne and bought some stylish clothing, but still is very geekish inside. With each year iMac grows wiser and more powerful; it loses its teen innocence of early iMacs.

But what it doesn’t lose—it’s its spirit.

2. iPhone

Let’s admit — iPhone isn’t that great. Clumsy touchscreen and draconic deal with Cingular are only the tip of iceberg.

In fact, iPhone’s greatness consists of two parts—one being heavy marketing hype and other being soul of this cellphone.

iPhone is hybrid between iPod and iMac with some GSM adaptor thrown in, and its spirit is Frankensteinic mix of its parents. iPhone is female geek, and not just female, but feminine, and it tears itself apart between lipstick and calculus, perfume and Star Trek.

Perhaps it will grow up and lose teenage paradox of its nature… but for now, iPhone’s psyche is most complicated and problem-ridden of living, breathing, thinking machines from 2007.

1. Cray SX-6

Thinking about #1 machine with soul almost drove me mad. And what saved me from life spent as drooling vegetable, you’d ask?

It was this machine.

To my shame, I’ve never seen it in action. I’m only fed with talks of those who did. Supercomputers are boring, admit it. They are as lifeless as machine can get… But this one got spirit of its own.

What brought it on the number one spot is its infinite power. I won’t describe it to you — you know it yourself, and if you don’t, you’ll never imagine it.

But with great power comes great responsibility, and this chap bears all of the responsibility. It is wise and stalwart, akin to PlayStation 3 grown twenty years older, but it also retains some basic pleasures of youth. God help you to use this masterpiece as weather calculator or something akin to it… But I think that it is the machine is exactly one that can host artificial mind.

Too bad we haven’t got any at the moment.