Klokhuis on the brain

The Dutch children’s programme Klokhuis has an interesting series on the brain. We learn all about the major topics in brain research, which both shows that Klokhuis is master in explaining things in an accessible way and that the brain is still an extremely trending topic, pushed in particular by the flourishing of cognitive neuroscience studies in recent years.

The latest episode, however, deals with Artificial Intelligence: or, what is the difference between the human brain and the computer brain? A small test: what is the longest river in the world?, asks the researcher. Klokhuis presenter says: Amazone. The researcher Googles and says: no, you are wrong, it is the Nile. An interesting form of testing, where the performance of both contestants (the computer and the human) is tested against the knowledge of the computer (who says that the Nile is the longest river? How can we know?). Of course it was a human, at some point, who knew that the Nile was longer, and put it into a Wikipedia entry somewhere on the web, so that nobody would forget.

It suddenly struck me that comparing computer intelligence and human intelligence is essentially a category error. It is like asking the question: who’s the better carpenter, a carpenter or a hammer? Huh? The carpenter does his carpenting *with* the hammer. It is a tool that enables him to be the carpenter. Just so, are computers part of what makes us intelligent. They form a system, not opponents. Why is this obvious for hammers, but keeps on generating reasoning errors by Cognitive Scientists when it comes to computers?

Oculus Rift and Out of Body Experience

This is a video of an awesome project I saw at TEI’14 in München this year. Using the Oculus Rift (that freaked out show-host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk yesterday at ‘De Wereld Draait Door’) the user sees the world from another bodies’ ego-centric perspective. At minute 2.10 you see me and Ambra Trotto trying out the thing. It was a strange experience and it reminded me of the out of body experiments using rubber hands, mirrors, and what not.

The Machine To Be Another – Art investigation from BeAnotherLab on Vimeo.

Best paper award TEI’14

I have just heard that I have won the Best Paper Award at the ACM conference on Tangible, Embodied and Embedded Interaction, in Munich, (Feb 16-19, 2014). The paper has the rather cryptic title: Beyond Distributed Representation: Embodied Cognition Design Supporting Socio-Sensorimotor Couplings. It is mainly a summary of chapter 2 in my thesis and my supervisors Remko van der Lugt and Caroline Hummels are co-authors.

The main point of the paper is to show that tangible interaction can be more than creating physical interfaces to digital information, and that Embodied Cognition on a more fundamental level means that cognition is very much grounded both in sensorimotor couplings as well as in social coordination. And the challenge is to design interactive technology that connects to these couplings and coordinations, rather than to implement representations.

This is the website of the conference link:
The paper can be found here link

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

This monday I’ll be talking in Rotterdam about the ‘smart city’. In preparing I stumbled upon this fantastic (and famous) documentary, I had never seen. (I reached it through the website of Dutch philosopher Erik Rietveld, who combines Embodied Cognition theory and Architecture, together with his brother, who’s an architect). I agree with Erik that this documentary is a must see for anyone interested in ethnographical video observations of everyday behavior’s of people (in this case, in the urban, public space).


Today I was at the Postgraduate Embodied Technology Symposium organised mainly by Robb Mitchell of SDU Design in Sønderborg Denmark, for which many thanks to Robb!! The goal of this day was for students to practice giving talks and responding to them at a conference. But at the same time it was also a way for the researchers, together with the students, to explore this strange new topic we chose to name Embodied Technology or even Co-Embodied Technology. It was a nice day with talks and activities and demo’s. I will miss all these people when I go back to the Netherlands! It’s been a great time here in Sønderborg, with lot’s of space for thinking, doing, exploring, creating and interacting. Let’s try to create environments where there is much room for that: thinking, doing, exploring, creating and interacting. Think about how many spaces and situations there are in our lives where there is practically no room for any of those things. What you think is denied or forbidden. What you do is ignored or counter-acted. What you explore is deemed irrelevant or stupid. What you create is laughed at or broken. And the people you interact with seem to do everything they can to obstruct any smooth form of interaction. Too bad. At least in Sønderborg I experienced none of that. Something to be cherished!