Author Archives: joybuolamwini

A Word Shaped Like Bones


It is the 23rd century. Maureen, an insecure artist (may be I just repeated myself) is on a voyage to the Planet Hippocrene  where her latest sculptures will be cast into resin by aliens on the planet. She is accompanied by a dead man whose head is eventually dismembered from the rest of his body as parts of the their spaceship begins to breakdown. Throughout the voyage he decays. Eventually when all that is left of him are his bones, Maureen uses his remains as part of her art. When finally, she reaches the distant planet, the aliens are no longer interested in her art. She ejects the sculptures as she grapples with her rejection. The man she had detached herself from was her husband. A soul who loved her and did not want her to take this journey and leave him. An accident at take off led to his death and for fear of not being able to embark on the mission, she launched with he husband’s dead body. This is the accident that started the journey and the accident that finished the journey brings her back to earth in the form of apologetic bones.


At first, I was not sure why the man had no identity. It seemed strange that a random dead man would just so happen to accompany someone on a voyage to another planet. Did he die during the voyage, or was he dead before it all began? When the man is later revealed to be the husband of the artist, her detachment became more understandable to me. How else can one stay sane in a tomb inhabited by one’s spouse without creating mental distance when physical distance is not possible.


Swim of Life


Suntanah believed she loved humanity and was the leading proponent of human-centered design. For her, immortality was the final frontier. Unlike her rival Laetitia, who held the ill liked view that death was a beautiful experience, Suntanah did not see a need to end a person’s existence voluntary or otherwise. She did know that we were exceeding the world’s capacity to sustain all humans on land. Perhaps there was a way to sustain humans in the seas. The Pacific ocean in it vastness had more surface area than all of the world’s continents combined. Its depths provided vast amounts of unused space. Perhaps if we used the oceans as a storage system, we could create a system where expired bodies could be stored, but then also revived when summoned by someone who valued the existence of the lost person.  Like Venus emerging from the froth of creation, the summoned would go through the Revival Coaster. In the Revival Coaster, the summoned person would undergo the Swim of Life, at each turn gaining what was lost in death and eventually arising anew on the shores of California. Suntanah had spent all of her time and resources to construct such a system. Today, she would see if her efforts would be rewarded. Before she went on the Ultimate Roller Coaster with Laetitia, she gave her brother the instructions to summon her, but she forgot to tell him how to turn on the machine.

Let there be Backlight! – Evolution of the Mirror of Possibilities


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Inspired by tales of shape shifting from movies like Transformers and the presence of emotional devices like the empathy box in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? , the Mirror of Possibilities is a device that enables you too look at yourself and see a transformation of your face based on what provokes you or what you hope to empathize with.


Like the first iteration, version two of the mirror uses

  • Beyond Reality Face NXT – Face Detection and Tracking
  • Vibrant.js – Color Extraction from photos
  • jQuery –  Animation

I added 4 viewing modes to make calibration and applying different masks easier.

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  • Mask View
  • Camera View
  • Combined View
  • Inspiration View

To get a better effect on the projector, the mask view is now displayed on a completely black background. In the prior version the mask was displayed with a galaxy in the background.


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  • Half silvered mirror
  • Projection screen board
  • Projector
  • Logitech Web Camera (Carl Zeiss Tessar)
  • Wooden and card board stand for mirror and  screen



To control the projection on the mirror  remotely, I use my phone as an input device. The Chrome Remote Desktop app for both Mac and Android enables this integration.

Does Iran Pray for Living Toads and “Undead” Goats?

While the movie Blade Runner and the book it is based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? loosely share a common plot, the film adaptation focuses more attention and android bounty hunter Deck’s pursuit of empathy for the Android Rachel Rosen and less on questions of existentialism and spirituality. Mercerism, the religion of earth dwellers in the book is not a focus in Blade Runner. In the book, Mercerism is supposedly outed as a fabricated construct meant to engender empathy among humans. The experiences shared through the empathy box which link humans to Mercer are allegedly based on a false idol according to researchers in the book.

The god like figure of Wilbur Mercer is exposed to be nothing more than the work of a retired bit player (actor) who recorded scenes on a common sound stage which are now incorporated into a virtual reality experience. Religion is presented as a sophisticated use of technology meant to control humanity and pass on desired values. The shared experience of the empathy box can be compared to ritualistic gatherings of many current world faiths. The humans in the box reach for the empathy box to seek advice, find solace, and voice their apprehensions along side their hopes. By feeling connected to other beings, the hope is that those who remain on earth will live peacefully with one another.

The idea of inducing empathy and other emotions is further explored through the Penfield  mood organ that is used mainly in the domestic life of Deck and his wife Iran in the book. However, this device is noticeably absent in Blade Runner. Like  Buffy the squirrel own by soul-less bounty hunter Rich or Euphemia Deck’s ill fated goat, the mood organ is left on the pages of the original book.


The movie also has a host of artifacts and character definitions that do not appear in the book.  For example J.R. Isidor who is a looked down upon as a chicken head (special) in the book is re positioned as a brilliant if somewhat socially awkward engineer behind some of the complex programming of the new Nexus-6 type androids. In his free time, he makes toys that keep him company in the movie though there are no such creations in the book.  Like many children and fans of Pixar’s Toy Story, I find the  idea of intelligent toys with animated bodies and personalities appealing. As the holidays approach, I am currently dreaming of a BB-8.