Ornos: Prototype 02


Here’s the first test with Ornos. The compass readings are behaving pretty well considering it’s right underneath a spinning hard drive. The 1.2Ghz processor and 512 RAM don’t seem to be enough to download and render the image quickly enough, so I’m going to have to figure out how to speed things up.

Ornos : Prototype 01


I was going to cover the lasercut masonite with a leather sleeve, but I’m going to go with cnc milled RenShape with a painted finish for the next prototype. The compass needs to be calibrated to the offsets caused by the magnetized computer hardware and I need to tweak some code to get the frames to load faster and smoother. I’ll post a video as soon as that part is worked out.

Ornos : A View from Above


Since the first hand drawn maps of the stars to satellite imagery and GPS navigation today, our frame of reference and our perception of space has been molded into a view from above. Our understanding of place is often linked to an abstract representation on a map rather than a physical relational comprehension. You could probably point out Azerbaijan on a map, but how many of us can simply point in its direction across the globe? The image of the globe projected onto a vertical surface is so pervasive, we often associate “up” with north as we project ourselves into a mental image of map.

The accessibility of GPS and online map services have continued to reinforce the “up” vector while creating a greater divide between the physical world and its virtual representations. Today, we view from above, as primarily experienced on our screens, in an elevation view without any regard to its physical context. We project our presence into the screen through multiple translations of orientation. Viewing a map on a computer screen requires one to find a location on the screen that represents a position, then the abstracted orientation of the vertical screen must be translated and scaled into the physical context of the current position. We’ve lost a step in comprehension without the compass and the horizontal map. The traditional map and compass gave an intuitive understanding of a current position in relation to physical space by rotating the map to align with the space it represented. What appeared one inch to the left of my location on the map could be confirmed by looking up to my left.

Ornos is a telescopic view from above. The horizontal screen reconstructs a view from a position directly above itself using satellite imagery and maps. Exploring your current surroundings is as simple as sliding the device on any surface to pan across the globe. Zooming is controlled by rotating the device itself. The onboard digital compass and GPS modules orient the image on the screen to reflect your physical surroundings while satellite imagery and maps are dynamically loaded from Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo.

Ornos : Prototype 01 from che-wei wang on Vimeo.

Here’s the first test with Ornos. The compass readings are behaving pretty well considering it’s right underneath a spinning hard drive. The 1.2Ghz processor and 512 RAM don’t seem to be enough to download and render the image quickly enough, so I’m going to have to figure out how to speed things up.


Urban Computing : Window

window.jpg ((image: pmorgan ))

Windows give a frame of reference, crops a view, magnifies a perspective. It filters and blocks. Window is the opening that mediates here from there. I would argue that windows are what give walls meaning. Without windows, there wouldn’t be a notion of “there” since the possibility of something else on the other side wouldn’t exist without the opening. Windows provide a glimpse, a frame, a blur, a dimension of something more, a thought into a different time and space. A prisoner in solitary confinement opens a window in his mind to keep his sanity, while the Queen of England peeks out her picture frame window, checking the weather outside.

The biggest dilemma of the window is the opening itself. We’d like a filter. We want to see what’s there, but we don’t want to hear it, or feel it. Perhaps we have a level of control with the windows in our minds, excluding dreams, nightmares, and synesthesia (leaky mind windows), but physical windows are bound to the performance of material, a challenge since the beginning of windows.

Glass attempts to provide clear views, filter some light, block temperature, and baffle sound, all in the span of a 1/4″ section. We’ve come a long way since the small openings in 15th century castles, yet we still haven’t seen the holy grail of windows. Windows should be thin, structural, fully insulated, sound proof, malleable sheet material that can filter varying amounts of incoming light and views while remaining completely outwardly transparent. Oh, and it should be cheap, lightweight and sustainable. We have low thermal conducting material (Aerogel), fiber optic skylights (Parans Solar Lighting), lightweight skins (ETFE / Water Cube Skin), self-cleaning glass (Pilkington Activ), LCD privacy glass (Privalite), time-space warping windows (Khronos Projector), illuminating glass (Lumaglass), non-reflective glass (Luxar), breathing skins (Living Glass), living organic envelopes (Breeding Spaces), interactive storefronts (Displax), thin-shell frameless glass, the list goes on. So would a combination of these give us the ultimate window?


Urban Computing: What is a wall?

Wall, as a simple force of division, marks a boundary between here and there. How do we define our world through walls? One could argue that geographical boundaries act as walls defining spaces within which all forms of life acknowledge and encroach. But even geographic boundaries are crossed intentionally for a particular pursuit or by forces of nature outside one’s control. Political boundaries, drawn from geography, enclose a code of conduct and promote a unified culture and language, but are also fought over, erased, and redefined. Cities born out of geographic convenience and political strategy, like Pingyao once surrounded and protected by walls now grow amorphously, engulfing neighboring villages. The most conventional wall, the wall that divides home and nature, surrounds and protects us. This pervasive division between outside and inside, public and private is becoming unstratified as ubiquitous technologies seamlessly occupy both realms.


Shigeru Ban’s Curtain Wall House blurs the traditional boundary between inside and outside, private and public. Masaki Endoh’s Natural Ellipse seamlessly extends the topology of the interior private surface to the exterior. Increasing presence of public surveillance via webcams is creating a global neo-panopticon. ((Koskela, Hille . Surveillance & Society CCTV Special (eds. Norris, McCahill and Wood) 2(2/3): 199-215 )) Banksy reclaims private walls in public domains for public expression. The Great Wall of China is now a tourist attraction. The Principality of Sealand (a nation on a concrete and steel island) offers high security internet services. ((“The Principality of Sealand.” The Principality of Sealand. 30 Jan. 2008 <http://www.sealandgov.org/history.html>.)) Youtube is available on cellphones and cellphones can upload directly to Youtube.  Fred Sandback defines planes in space with a minimal trace of yarn, yet the division of space is respected. The threshold between here and there, yet devoid of any material to block, alter or reflect any of our 5 senses. ((Fred Sandback, “Remarks on My Sculpture 1966–1986,” in Fred Sandback Sculpture 1966–1986 (Mannheim: Kunsthalle, 1986) <http://www.diacenter.org/exhibs/sandback/sculpture/remarks.html> )) Architectural production now resides in the mass media, redefining our perception of space, once defined by walls, to images. ((Colomina, Beatriz. Privacy and Publicity. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994.))

The point of view of modern architecture is never fixed, as in baroque architecture, or as in the model of vision of the camera obscura, but always in motion, as in film or in the city. Crowds, shoppers in a department store, railroad travelers, and the inhabitants of Le Corbusier’s houses have in common with movie viewers that they cannot fix (arrest) the image. Like the movie viewer that Benjamin describes (“no sooner has his eye grasped a scene than it is already changed”), they inhabit a space that is neither inside nor outside, public nor private (in the traditional understanding of these terms). It is a space that is not made of walls but of images. Images as walls. ((Colomina, Beatriz. Privacy and Publicity. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994. p.6))