Plant Sex and Robot Operas

We are back after a bit of an absence! On this podcast, Cathi Bond talks about the Plant Sex Consultancy, a design concept for helping plants pollinate in an era of problems like bee hive collapse or changes brought about by commercial breeding (via PSFK). With a wink, the Plant Sex Consultancy aims to protect plants from STIs, give plants vibrators to shake pollen loose and more. Underneath it all, they seem to be making a point about the problems we humans create, and our anthropocentric approach to solving those problems. Meanwhile, Nora Young talks about composer Keiichi Shibuya's plans for an all-robot performance (via The Globe and Mail). It got Nora thinking about all the tech innovation happening in live performance now, such as the play Helen Lawrence, which was recently in Toronto. You can watch a sample from Shibuya's previous opera, The End, which featured the virtual pop star Hatsune Miku and computer-created music. You can watch a sample here. Nora also mentioned this post about public wifi insecurity. Hat tip to her colleague, Dan Misener.

Smartest Smart Watches; Wearables and Surveillance

We are back at last with a new podcast episode! This time around, Cathi Bond wants to talk smart watches. Undeniably a huge trend, with Apple Watch, Pebble, Android Wear, and more. Cathi talks about a new entry, the Puls 'smart cuff', brought to you by Will.i.am of Black-Eyed Peas fame. It has the notable feature of not requiring you to have your smart phone nearby. She also mentioned the very cool TinyScreen project, which you can hack as you like, or use it out of the box, as a watch, video screen, or gaming device (via Gizmag). Nora mentions her colleague, Dan Misener's recent column on the creepily named but practical "Skin Buttons" project, for using your arm as the input interface for those tiny little wearable devices. Meanwhile, still on the topic of wearables, Nora Young mentions this New Scientist article about the use of wearable in the workplace, in some cases just to encourage fitness, but in other cases used as part of coordinating the actual work flow. Nora wonders: if employers can already monitor what you do on work-supplied computers and phones, can surveillance via wearables be far behind?

Second Screens, Bot Etiquette, Free Images for your Blog

This time around on the podcast, Cathi Bond talks about an experiment at some movie theatres in China: allowing moviegoers to text comments about the film, which turn up on the side of the screen! The future of social moviegoing, or a distracting nightmare? (via The Verge). Nora Young talks about an intriguing personal assistant A.I. called Amy (read more at PSFK). The bot schedules your meetings and pops the time of the meeting into your calendar. Certainly a cool idea, but it had Nora wondering about future etiquette in a bot-ified world. Should you disclose to the person you're meeting with that they're about to be conversing with a non-human entity? Finally, quick source of free, public domain images for you. The Internet Archive has been taking images from the public domain books it has scanned and is posting them to their Flickr account (Via Ars Technica). The Flickr account is here!

A.I. Therapy and Singularity…or Skynet?

Yay! We're back for season ten(!) of The Sniffer, and excited about another year of trendwatching and sniffing out what's happening in the technoculture. If you're just finding us now, you can learn more about Cathi Bond here, and Nora Young here. Nora is fascinated by technologies of self-tracking, technology and the body, advances in A.I., and bicycle tech. Cathi loves to sniff out trends in arts, culture, and publishing, with a side dish of robots, rural tech, and wacky gear. Hope you'll join us! This time, Nora looks at the story of Ellie, the A.I. psychologist, and wonders if, nearly 50 years after Eliza, A.I. therapy might be ready for its closeup. Would you engage with an artificial intelligence therapist? (Via The Economist). Cathi takes a broader view with a recap and thoughts on Nell Watson's recent talk about the future of A.I (via Gizmodo). Have we reached a point where A.I. is actually ready to do the kinds of things the past ~50 years have promised? Will they take all our jobs? You can watch the video for Humans Need Not Apply here.

Will We See You in September?

Hi there, Cathi and I are taking a much needed break over the summer, but we'll be back for our TENTH(!) season right after Labour Day. Have a wonderful summer!

Print Your Own Makeup and Self-Promotion or Selling Out?

Hi there! On today's podcast, Cathi Bond wonders whether you'd print out your own makeup? Grace Choi wants to convince you to. She's the founder of Mink, which aims to market a 3D printer for makeup. Part of the reason, according to this interview, is that she wants to offer a broader range of shades to reflect the diversity of women's skin tones. You can watch the video of her speaking at TechCrunch's Disrupt NY below. Meanwhile, Nora Young talks about the trend towards authors getting fans and friends not just to buy their books, but to promote them as well. It seems like a trend for selling and marketing all kinds of things, but when does it just become too much? Are Cathi and Nora missing the boat by not doing this with their books?

Quantified Toilets and Boutique Health Clinics

Hi! This time, Nora talks about QuantifiedToilets.com, a project she encountered while at the recent CHI conference in Toronto. Art project? Provocation? What do you think of it? Meanwhile, Cathi discusses the Dean Street Express, a London UK clinic for testing for STI's that free and stylish (via Gizmag). Can it encourage more people to get tested for sexual health?

Art For Everyone and Fuel for Creativity

Hey, trendwatchers! This time on the podcast, Cathi Bond talks about "Stockholm is Your Canvas" a project of Stockholm Art Week, to make billboard space in downtown Stockholm available to anyone who wants to submit their digital art, in a revolving series of 30 second intervals (via PSFK). What would your ideas be for making public art more...public? Nora Young mentions an interview with Rick Barrack, Chief Creative Officer at CBX, a branding firm. He talks about bringing the physical and the tactile into the creative process (via Fast Company). Nora and Cathi love sticky notes (NY particularly likes ones from Muji). What are your physical cues for creativity?

Control With Gestures and Selfie Money

Apologies for the absence, but we're back! This time, Nora talks about Ring, a very cool project on Kickstarter (via Core77). You tap the side of the ring, then use finger gestures to control your various devices. Check out the video and let us know if you'd use this. Are Minority Report style gestural interfaces the future, or will we stick with our phones and purpose-built devices? Cathi brings you the story of "selfie money" (via PSFK). Artist Jonathan Keats has an ironic proposal for saving cash money: appeal to our narcissism by printing bills with 'selfie' images of individuals on it! Nora also mentions Duolingo, the fun, free online language learning website she's been using. Check it out!

Sustainable High Rise Living and Deceitful Data

Hey! In this trendwatching podcast, Cathi Bond talks about Clear Point Residencies, which takes the 'green roof' a step further by imagining a high rise with vegetation cladding. Check out the pics in the gallery Nora Young talks about lying with data, thanks to Mushon Zer-Aviv's post about how infographics can deceive.