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Transformational Technology Conference and the Future of Human Well Being

I may live in an off the grid cabin the the wilderness of Oregon but once in a while I venture out for a little dose of technology, new ideas and social interaction. This weekend I’m in the Bay Area for a conference called TransTech which is “wiring humanity for future” by highlighting technologies and companies that are helping us increase our mental and physical health, improve our overall well-being and connect us more deeply with ourselves, others and the planet. Besides two days of inspiring programming, there’s an expo room that has booth after booth of products that seem like they hopped right out of a utopic sci-fi movie. Products that remind you to breathe more deeply, light therapy visors, heart rate variability monitors that help you get into a flow state, lucid dream activators and other sleep aids, and more than a few VR mediation experiences that promise deeper relaxation and improved focus, these are just a few of the real life products on display.
This morning’s opening talk, presented by Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen, was about creating a wearable, low cost way of seeing into our bodies that is a billion times higher resolution than MRI and has the potential to be cheap enough to be packaged into a consumer level device. The resolution is so high in fact that it can monitor chemical processes within our brains, including the levels of dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin and others that underly our emotions. OpnWatr.io is the company that is producing the technology and is led by Dr. Jepsen, former head of Facebook’s VR devision. OpnWtr employs near infrared light and LCDs worn near the skin to emit, receive and reconstruct scattered light with the use of well established holographic technology. Besides diagnosis and monitoring of all sorts of diseases and chronic conditions, such as clinical depression and Alzheimer’s, the technology could eventually even be used in non medical applications such as producing words and imagery directly from our thoughts. While OpnWatr’s technology is still some years away, it’s coming. In fact there’s already a developer’s kit in the works.
Every year we carry more sensors, more powerful computers and are producing an increasing deluge of personal data. While our digitally connected world has evolved at a rapid rate, our primate brains just simply haven’t been able to keep up. And it’s stressing us out, big time. Anxiety and depression rates are on the rise across the planet. The paradox is that with each app upgrade that promises to make us more connected, we are feeling more *disconnected*, even if we can’t quite figure out why or from what. Most people, besides those few who are are fully aware either through a gift of nature or practice of discipline, are still limited in our ability to deal with the growing onslaught of stimulation and distraction. While the term ‘mindfulness’ is beginning to appear with more societal prevalence, most humans are still primarily led by reactive impulse, survival mechanisms that are a relic of an old world. If humanity is to move beyond a culture rooted in fear and scarcity, and into a world that fosters self-actualization on a grand scale then technology will continue to play an important role in augmenting our existing senses. While the tools are constantly changing, this is nothing new. The most intuitive among us have always felt called to develop and deploy technologies that help us expand our consciousness. In Buddha’s time, his mediation teachings were the cutting edge, and continue to play an important role in our conscious advancement. It’s the experience age, and the ability to have your mind blown wide open has never been more accessible. But integrating these enlightening experiences into our daily lives is where our personal and collective work really lies. Well designed technological systems, systems that combine the best of the old with the best of the new, have the potential to upgrade our humanity in a huge way.
There are already products and services that are beginning to help us maintain and improve our health and well-being, as well as more effectively deal with the stresses and complexity of our modern world. But beyond mere survival and fulfillment of our basic human needs, beyond even the lofty be state of self-actualization, lies a future in which we may experience the oft omitted summit of Maslow’s hierarchy, self-transcendence. Some privileged individuals might have felt brief glimpses of this state through a variety of profound experiences, but what does the world look, and more importantly what does it *feel* like when these experiences and technologies are available to all? We can only begin to imagine.

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Syyner Eric Gradman Gets Kinect’d

Prolific Maker and Syyner Eric Gradman got his hands on a Kinect CV unit and within hours was “making art”, as he calls it. I always smile when Syyn Labs creators say that sort of thing. As another Syyner Dan Busby once said: “Some of us were trained in art formally, but the rest of us had to learn it on the streets…”. With a history of robotics and computer vision (not to mention fire spinning, circus performing, and professional whistling) Eric has quickly learned the joy of ‘making art’.

Describing one his first custom Kinect project, Illuminous, Eric says: “Remember that scene at the end of the matrix where glowing green symbols traced across an agent’s body? Well, this is just like that, but in realtime. What you’re looking at here is a particle system, where YOU are the source of the particles. Particles (seen on screen as dots) spring into being on the surface of your body. They then traverse the contours of your body until they reach an edge, at which point they’re flung into space and disappear. All this is possible because the Kinect lets me reconstruct the 3d geometry of whatever it sees.” More details here…

The Kinect also adds a new way of interacting with old projects: “Standard Gravity is an existing project of mine that until today pure image thresholding to determine where people are standing. I bought a new Kinect sensor this afternoon, and immediately set about adapting this code to use the new sensor.” More details here…

What will Eric come up with next? Keep in touch with him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/egradman and the rest of the Syyn crew at http://twitter.com/syynlabs.

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Syyn Labs Presents: A Night of Syyn

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Syyn Labs invites you to join us at our new warehouse space near downtown LA for a night of interactive art, DJs and VJs. We’ll be going from 9pm until late – drinks provided. More details at http://syyn.eventbrite.com.


$10-$15 RSVP here… // ABSOLUTELY NO TICKETS AT THE DOOR // REGISTRATION REVEALS LOCATION



Invite your friends via our Facebook event and we hope to see you here on the 6th!

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Syyn Labs DNA Sequencer at Santa Monica GLOW Festival



Syyn Labs had the pleasure of installing a new piece at the Santa Monica GLOW Festival this past Saturday – a beautiful, 100-foot-long double helix of colorful, synced lights.

There was over a man-year (more than 2000 combined hours) put into this project which used sophisticated custom software designed by our own David Guttman to control 512 computer controlled full-color LED’s, 32 LED controllers, 4 Arduinos, and 4 computers, with over 6000 wire interconnects and well over a mile of wire. This complex hardware configuration was masterminded by Chris Nelson and Eliot Phillips, based on a challenging design concept from the talented Eric Gradman who also developed a good portion of the support structure and final assembly.

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(under construction and LED testing…)

Once operational, it took inputs from the music for beat-matching and/or VU metering, a wireless iPad, and our beautiful 22-button console (also built by Gradman) – sometimes all at once! At the end of the night, our spectacular DJ Matt Davis had not only moved the crowd with his awesome music, but the twin-computer-based system be designed had processed and sent 53,477 beats to our tempo-synced light sculpture between 7:30 and 2am, when the excited crowd got a little “too excited”, and we were asked to leave the music off until we shut down on schedule an hour later.

We’re REALLY proud of how well received it was. Our favorite part? When our DJ would occasionally let a song end in silence, and it would be met with thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd surrounding the piece – sometimes as many as 7 people deep on both sides!

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(Being installed at the trellis on Santa Monica beach)

We’re planning to release a high-quality video, including a time-lapse of the build and operations. Until then, enjoy some of the videos that others took and posted online – mostly from the dramatic lengthwise view. A few of our favorites are here, here, and here.

Project leads Gradman, Guttman, Nelson and Phillips were supported by a herculean effort by Syyn Labs team members Dan Busby, Doug Campbell, Geoff Emery, Hector Alvarez, “Quin” Cabalquinto, Mat Heitel, Pehr Hovey and Richard Whitney and Sam Leventer, who put in many crazy late nights on this project. A very special thanks to Jennifer Jordan, Sena Koleva, Paul Grasshoff, and Kristy Hilands who pitched in at critical junctures. This really was a team effort.

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