How artists add humanity to virtual reality

Sandy Cioffi
Seattle filmmaker Sandy Cioffi has a laugh over an experimental virtual-reality project that brought participants together in real life as well. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Virtual reality may have gotten its start with shoot-’em-up video games and porn, but now artists are making VR that puts the emphasis on reality as well as humanity.

And Seattle filmmaker Sandy Cioffi argues that the Pacific Northwest could well blaze the trail on the multimedia frontier.

“If anything is this powerful, you have to do something more with it than design it to make money,” said Cioffi, the founder and executive director of fearless360º, a new media and VR production company. “And Seattle is the place to do it.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Dreamliner jet becomes a canvas for Kung Fu Panda

Dreamliner color scheme
Illustrator Hannah R. Foss’ design won Hainan Airlines’ Dreamliner livery design contest. (Credit: Hainan Airlines / Boeing / DreamWorks)

It makes sense that a professional illustrator would win a contest to design a paint scheme for one of Hainan Airlines’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets.

But this isn’t just any paint scheme: The task at hand was to add some Kung Fu Panda razzle-dazzle, using characters from the animated movie series as well as graphic themes from the Chinese carrier.

Looks like Hannah R. Foss, a digital illustrator and CGI modeler at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks aced it.

“We look forward to seeing your design on one of our Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, and we can’t wait to have you onboard on your free business-class trip to China,” Hainan Airlines said today in a Facebook post announcing the winner.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Map shows where climate will move species

Image: Migrations in Motion
A visualization shows the likely routes that would be taken by mammals (pink), birds (blue) and amphibians (yellow) as they move northward in response to climate change. (Credit: Mapbox / OpenStreetMap / Migrations in Motion / Nature Conservancy)

A University of Washington professor’s research into climate-caused migrations has been transformed into a hypnotic map of the Americas that gets the message across.

The animated map, titled “Migrations in Motion,” shows the trajectories that species are expected to take in response to the warming trend that’s likely to unfold over the course of the coming decades.

“One of the nice things about the map is that it gives you a look at the main effects of climate change for animals: that species are going to move around,” UW ecologist Joshua Lawler told GeekWire.

Three years ago, Lawler and his colleagues published a study in Ecology Letters that laid out the likely impact of rising temperatures on migration patterns for nearly 3,000 species.

The study suggested that species in North America would tend to shift toward more northerly habitats, following routes that went through higher elevations and less developed terrain. In the eastern United States, the Appalachian Mountains stuck out as a superhighway for species shifts.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Cancer center puts the art of science on display

Image: Brain tumor cell
“Sunrise” is a microscopic image of a dividing human brain tumor cell. The red lines are tubulins, which act as guides for the transport of chromosomes along the cell’s mitotic spindle. The bright spots are kinetochores, which promote attachments between the chromosomes and the spindle. Researchers at Patrick Paddison’s Fred Hutch lab have found that kinetochore regulation is altered in brain tumors. (Credit: Paddison Lab / Fred Hutch)

Cancer researchers have to deal with some of nature’s ugliest diseases, but they do find bits of beauty along the way – and that beauty is the focus of an art walk presented by Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on Aug. 25.

The event features scientific images that were captured by researchers at Fred Hutch, and will be put on display from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Mundie Courtyard on the research center’s South Lake Union Campus, at 1100 Fairview Ave. N.

One picture focuses in on a single dividing tumor cell from a human brain, glowing red with bright blue spots called kinetochores. Another shows a burst of brain cells in the cerebral cortex of a developing mouse, illuminated in blue, green and fuchsia.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Microsoft and MIT unveil smart tattoos

Image: DuoSkin smart tattoo
A DuoSkin touch-slider tattoo uses gold and silver leaf. (Credit: Jimmy Day / MIT)

Smart tattoos made out of super-thin electronics have been a thing for years, but now the technology is getting closer to fashionable prime time.

Microsoft Research has joined forces with MIT Media Lab for the latest iteration, dubbed DuoSkin. The skin-friendly process is the subject of a paper to be presented next month in Heidelberg, Germany, at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers.

“DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry,” the research team reports in its paper about the technology.

The tattoos consist of artistic arrangements of conductive gold and silver leaf, plus tissue-thin electronics.

Apply an array of the circuitry to your forearm, using a water transfer method similar to that used for everyday temporary tattoos, and you have a trackpad or touchpad to control a music player or smartphone.

Other applications include tattoos that can change color or light up to reflect your mood, and an antenna tattoo that can transmit data via Bluetooth or near field communications (a.k.a. NFC).

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Space station’s 3-D printer will churn out art

Image: Internet visualization is working with Made In Space to have a 3-D visualization of global Internet connections turned into a plastic sculpture, using the 3-D printer that’s being sent to the International Space Station. The sculpture should look something like this. (Credit: Majestic)

The first objects to be created in orbit using the upgraded 3-D printer that’s on its way to the International Space Station are likely to be strictly utilitarian, but there’s fun stuff to come.

The Additive Manufacturing Facility, a 3-D printer designed for use in zero-G, was launched on Tuesday night along with more than 7,500 pounds’ worth of additional cargo aboard Orbital ATK’s uncrewed Cygnus cargo capsule. The bus-sized spacecraft, known as the S.S. Rick Husband, is due to rendezvous with the space station on Saturday.

This is actually the second 3-D printer to go into outer space. The first one was an experiment, built by a commercial venture called Made In Space.

This time around, Made In Space partnered with Lowe’s Innovation Labs to produce a more capable 3-D printer.  The main idea is to provide a way to fabricate plastic tools and spare parts by following computerized instructions that are sent up from the ground.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


DNA art honors genetic pioneer Francis Crick

Image: Kindra Crick
Portland artist Kindra Crick shows off “What Mad Pursuit,” a sculpture inspired by the work of her grandfather, DNA pioneer Francis Crick. (Credit: Alex Crick / @crickontour)

The granddaughter of genetic pioneer Francis Crick joined 20 other artists to create a series of 7-foot-high sculptures inspired by DNA’s double helix – and now those sculptures are going on the auction block to benefit cancer research.

Portland artist Kindra Crick told GeekWire she took on the project for several reasons: She’s trained as a molecular biologist as well as a painter, and her grandparents include the late Nobel-winning biologist and his artist wife, Odile Crick. What’s more, proceeds from the auction will go to the Francis Crick Institute, a London facility that’s due to open next year with backing from Cancer Research UK and five other leading medical research organizations. The two-week online sale begins on Wednesday.

Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize with colleague James Watson for revealing the double-helix structure of DNA, died in 2004 at the age of 88 after battling colon cancer.

“This seemed like the perfect project, not only to bring awareness to the institute, but also to use my skills and my background to present this beautiful union of art and science,” Kindra Crick said.

Get the full story on GeekWire.