Tag Archives: concept art

Recognition technology. We know who you are and maybe what you are thinking about.

New technologies are everywhere. They are being developed in labs every day—if not every ten minutes. If you are searching for them, like me, then you are likely to run across hundreds of techy developments that are on the cusp of being something mainstream within the next 10 years. Then, there are those technologies that we never hear about but that are fairly well developed, except that, as a society we’re not ready for them. So they sit in a lab until other developments come to pass or the marketing department decides that there is a high enough percentage of the population that will use or even accept them.

There is a great scene in the 2002 movie Minority Report where John Anderton (Tom Cruise) walks into a Gap store. Immediately upon entering, his irises are scanned and the resident hologram begins to make suggestions based upon his purchasing preferences. In the movie, Cruise has just had his eyes swapped out with someone else to disguise his identity. So the virtual sales person thinks he is Mr. Yakamoto.

That movie is 13 years old. Today, iris scan recognition is already widely in use and in case you missed it, retinal scanning is now obsolete. The United Arab Emirates uses it at border crossings, India has begun enrolling its 1.2 billion citizens by capturing individual iris data, and in at least a half dozen applications for security around the world. It’s only current drawback is that you have to be standing still and fairly close the scanner for an accurate read. 1

Fear not, however because for people moving about and not standing still there is facial recognition which is much less picky about the quality of the scan, or in this case, the image. Facial recognition algorithms have improved dramatically over the years now logging 16,384 reference points which are referenced against a database and, fairly quickly can identify a person with 80 -90% accuracy. Higher accuracy rates just take a bit longer. 2 Right now its in use by law enforcement in airports and high security areas, but also at retail locations to catch shoplifters. Now it gets interesting because, while we fine-tune the iris scan, the same facial recognition system that is used to identify ne’er do wells can also be used a la Minority Report to identify shoppers who are regular customers, or help them find the lingerie department. A quick cross-reference with their online shopping habits, Facebook page and their Google history can also tell them how much you are likely to spend, your favorite color, and the name of your best friend to remind you that their birthday is right around the corner.

Putting this in context with what we’ve seen in the last few weeks of The Lightstream Chronicles, the idea that Keiji-T, with access to someone’s memories can ascertain their guilt or innocence is a logical next step. Too far, you think? Brain implants are already in testing that can implant memories 3 and augment decisions. Commonplace in the year 2159, perhaps.

 

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iris_recognition#Deployed_applications
2 http://www.fastcompany.com/3040375/is-facial-recognition-the-next-privacy-battleground
3 http://israelbrain.org/will-human-memory-chips-change-the-world-by-dr-ofir-levi/
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The long litany of new and improved.

Artifact from the future.

Ed. note: I define an artifact from the future as something you might bring back as evidence that you were there. A sort of proof of what it is and what is there. Think Rod Taylor and the flower from The Time Machine.

 

Closing excerpts from a journal found in 2101.

I was born on this day in 1990. Somehow it seems as though my 111th birthday would be more auspicious, more cherished, more celebratory. They tell me I can live forever if I want. But the question that burns into my brain is, “Why?” What is left? What is there here that I should look forward too?

When I was a boy, before the surge, I remember  looking forward to going to the ocean. The trip couldn’t come soon enough and the days seemed like years until finally we would go. We would drive in a car, my parents and I, and I would stand there with my feet in the wet sand and feel the warm water lap at my toes. Perhaps it was the waiting that made it all so meaningful. We don’t wait anymore. We don’t have to. If I want the ocean to circle around my ankles and feel my feet sink into the soft, supple sand, I have only to plug-in. I can smell it, feel it, hear it, and see it. If I want, I can even dip my finger into the water and experience that unmistakably  intense saltiness. When I’m ready to come back, I simply unplug. I think that it is the ocean, but I know that it is not. I don’t have to wait for it.

Already I’ve had 3 organ replacements, grown from my own DNA, I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours in the V; the virtual world we have created out of our own fantasies, dreams and perversions. Nothing is real there, and there is no waiting. The crimes I have committed there are harmless they tell me, even therapeutic. It keeps us docile in the real world. But I think there is damage. I know there is.  It goes beyond the virtual. It wreaks havoc in my soul. People don’t believe in souls anymore. They don’t have to. If you never die, what’s the difference?

My avatar tells me that death is the final frontier the one thing you can’t experience in the V.

Soon I will know for certain. Here is my plan: It’s difficult to gain access to the mag train tunnel, but I’ve found a way in. They say that when a mag train hits you at 700 miles an hour you vaporize. I kind of like the thought of that.

There’s really no one to say goodbye to. If anyone wishes to pursue the vapor trail to me, my memories and persona are in the vault at the IABank on Prosser Strasse. My account number is #459LK077JE28977. If anyone wants to know.

Good luck with all this.

Alphonse

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In the future, synthetic humans are as common as automobiles today.

Don’t lie, wouldn’t it be fun to kick the tires?

In a previous blog, I posted a rambling essay on roboethics and the misuse of synths. However, in the world of The Lightstream Chronicles, most synths are used well within the limits of the law and those like Marie and Toei are almost ubiquitous. As we can see in page 79, Lee Chen’s houseboy is a synth, and a masseuse. People in the 22nd century look at synths the way people in the 21st century looked at cars. The wealthier you are the more likely you are to have more than one synth and probably more sophisticated in their design and feature set. Those in the lower income brackets might have an older or more basic model. You might even find those who are strapped for New Asia credits to be doing their own synth repairs and cobbling together parts from scrap or other models.

The average future family has one synth, like Marie, usually a domestic who doubles as a nanny, cooks cleans, and handles a variety of household chores. The price for a domestic synth varies based upon what the unit is capable of doing. Slightly analogous to the smart phone of the 21st century, the feature set of a synth can be augmented or uploaded with apps, called scripps, that could include features such as language proficiency, and levels of expertise such as in medicine or music. Scripps are moderately priced, but based on the model there are limitations to scripp memory. Special functions such as sex organs are another optional feature.

There is also a booming business in synth companions. At the top of the line are recent improvements on nearly human characteristics such as those present in Keiji-T. Keiji’s T-Class designation is, of course, reserved for the police force, however the domestic counterpart would be an H-Class. This class of synth can also be modeled to a near-exact visual duplicate grown from its owners DNA.

Synths can also be built to resemble any species or even combination of species. Nearly half of all domestic pets are synthetic. Popular cross-species varieties are Homo sapiens crossed with Canis Lupus Familiaris, Reptilia, Felidae, Ursidae, and Delphinidae. Many of these blends can also be done in the lab combining human DNA though the variations are considerably fewer.

 

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If you could, would you erase a memory from your past?

Erasing memories

Back on page 55, we discussed the idea of erasing memories. But here are some things to ponder along those lines.

In 2159, the process of medical erasure is common, though not without risks. As reported earlier,

“… Under normal circumstances, portions of the brain that house memories can be accessed and much like tracking through a DVD selectively erased, but the procedure is more difficult than it sounds. Memories are stacked, like thin layers and they are not always sequential. If the procedure samples too deeply, or grabs a snippet that doesn’t belong, the subject can awaken missing key components of their personality or identity map. In extreme cases, illegal intrusions using cheap, makeshift headjacking devices can disrupt the autonomic nervous system affecting heart rate and respiration and ultimately resulting in death.”

In Sean’s case, the consulting physician has already recommended erasure. This is probably due to the severity of Sean’s injuries, the fact that he was raped, and based on the evidence, probably by a synth. This presents a problem for the police who, with access to Sean’s memories, could replay the whole scene (from Sean’s point of view) and identify the perpetrator(s). While that sounds like the fastest and easiest solution to finding the bads, it might not be that easy. The brain, all by itself, may have already suppressed the memories deep into Sean’s subconscious and digging them out might cause more damage. Some latent memories, may linger, remnants of what was sent into cold storage by the brain, but they may be erratic and fractioned. Playing around with memories can be a challenge.

However, non-trauma-based memories have been routine medical procedures for a long time. If you would prefer to wipe out most of your memories of your ex, other than a familiar face, it’s possible. Of course, the more you wish to erase the more likely you are to experience subtle behavioral changes. Whether we like it or not, what happened yesterday or last year or twenty yeas ago affected you and possibly helped to define portions of the personality you exhibit today — both good and bad behaviors. Most people in the 22nd century, however — possibly realizing that they have a couple hundred years to get over it — have adopted a casual attitude toward messing around with the body and the mind. If it’s a quick fix for momentary discomfort, most people will opt for the change.

What do you think? Would you erase a memory from your past?

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In the cyberpunk future: A day in the life of our domestic android (synthetic human).

2159: Journal entry (excerpt)

Ed. note: Ever wonder what the average day is like for a domestic synth? Since we met Marie-D last week, here is an excerpt from her memory logs, in synopsis style removing the technical details.

 

Marie-D

Domestic Au Pair in the employ of CSO Kristin Broulliard, New Asia Police, Residing at 180-22 Carrillon Tower, Hong Kong, New Asia

Activity log for 7.11.2159.

0445

Disengaged remote power restoration and diagnostic. OK. Internal systems check. OK.

0449

Systems check for Carrillon Tower. Floor 139 power surge. Relayed to building management. TG-7AK. 180-22. OK.

0451

Activated Maitre-deux™ kitchen food and beverage replicator. Model FVX-GNN42H71000. Configured French Roast Beans, ground semi-fine. Settings: French Press. Temperature: 92.6 C. 325.309 ml. Bone China tea cup with Heather motif, and matching saucer, serving tray, ebony.

0457

Kristin Broulliard’s Bedroom. Actuate sound system on 30 second fade. Mozart – (K.622) Clarinet Concerto in A.

0501

Miss Broulliard awakes. Recommend chem adjustment to alleviate grogginess. Coffee meets her approval.

0503 

Miss Broulliard requests 2840 ml. non-fat Greek yogurt, slightly sweet with almonds (toasted and salted on top), and a refill on coffee

0505

Prepare requests at thé Maitre-deux refilling the coffee and serving the yogurt in small ceramic bowl. Garnish with orange zest.

0511

Return to Miss Broulliard with breakfast. I inquire as to which of her NAP bio-suits she would like to wear. She requests pearl. I lay this out on the aqueous mattress and complete a systems check on the bioware sensing of the suit. Diaphoresis sensors are not functioning properly. Diagnostic reveals that axillary nodes require replacement.

0517

Replacement nodes are replicated and replaced while Miss Broulliard stretches and does yoga routine. Observe.

0542

Prepare steam bath for Miss Broulliard.

0557

Towel Miss Broulliard and help her into her bio-suit.

0600

System check for mag shuttle. No delays this morning.

0600

Miss Broulliard asked about the success of Chloe’s trip to the Luminous Implants store with me on 07.10.2159. I told her that Chloe was shy at first but the Sales ESS put her at ease and the installation took only a few minutes. Chloe was surprise because it didn’t hurt. Later that day we practices the hand gestures from the infusion program. Chloe knew all the child programs. I told her she would be very proud.

0601

Miss Broulliard enters Chloe’s bedroom and wakes Chloe. They talk about Chloe’s trip to the Luminous Implants store. Chloe shows Miss Broulliard her new implants. They talk for several minutes. Chloe tells Miss Broulliard that I replaced the eye on Mr. Hall the teddy bear. Miss Broulliard and Chloe agree that Marie-D is, “the best”.

0618

System check for mag shuttle. An accident is reported at the Old Bailey Station and there is an 8 minute delay on the Charter Road Line. Miss Broulliard mumbles, “Another suicide,” and says she should get started for Police Headquarters because of the delay.

0622

Miss Broulliard leaves for work.

0622

I inquire as to what Chloe would like for breakfast.

[END OF EXCERPT]

 

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The Lightstream Chronicles, online graphic novel and web comic: a design fiction medical chart.

p52

“Leon Kass, a member and former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics and professor at the University of Chicago, argues that ‘victory over mortality is the unstated but implicit goal of modern medical science…'”1

By the 22nd century, society has, for all intents and purposes, achieved this goal. Death is optional. Only the most severe injuries or deliberate suicides achieve the status of non-retrievable. Although a deceased individual can be replicated (replication in humans is called “progenation”) it is under strict government control to insure that only fully enhanced, and socially beneficial humans are replicated and to insure that population planning limits are enforced. Therefore, many accident victims and their injuries can be repaired, their body parts replaced, or regrown and their virtually lifeless bodies, regenerated using advanced stem-cell-based biomedical treatments. Because of the gravity of Sean’s injuries he will most likely receive an immersive regen. Patients treated with immersive regen are often coherent and functioning in a day or less.

This week, on page 52, we can see the extent of Sean’s injuries. It’s times like these when I wish the graphic novel were a movie, so that we could see exactly how I envision Doctor Hayes’ chart/screen expanding.  It starts out about the size of an iPad mini, but is the thickness of a credit card. With a touch from his luminous implants the chart “unfolds” to reveal the full view of Sean’s status. It is something like a hybrid of a futuristic coroner’s report and and a medical chart. Perhaps one day, in my spare time, I will animate this.

Sean's medical chart
Sean’s medical chart

The bigger question appears to be his illegal “brain intrusion” which we have discussed previously, known as headjacking. if Sean’s attack is associated with the recent series of rape/headjackings in DownTown, and he is the only survivor to date, his ability to remember the attack could shed some much needed light on the perpetrators of the crime.

 

Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Circa 1490.
Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Circa 1490.

A note on nudity. As I have mentioned in multiple previous blogs and on the web site, the story contains adult themes like rape and prostitution and it takes place in another century. I did my best to add a degree of modesty to the comic but I am also trying to stay true to the context of the story, the time, mores and conventions of a future world. It is not meant to offend or shock. however if that sort of thing does offend, then you may want to reconsider continuing with the story. For historical context you won’t see anything that is more risqué than Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, circa 1490.

 

1.”Go Gently into That Good Night.” Christianity Today 51.1 (2007): 26-27. Online.
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Living forever is not for everyone. New character intro. The Lightstream Chronicles online graphic novel and web comic.

p51

This week in The Lightstream Chronicles online graphic novel and web comic, we meet Detective James John (Jack) Guren. Yeah, he looks a little like Jason Statham. The best description for Jack is hard ass. He is smart, rugged, capable, and full of attitude. From Australian New Asia, Jack was born into a military family. His father Frank was a professional soldier who worked for Backbone Corporation, a New Asian government-funded military contractor. He and his fraternal twin Jake spent their childhood adjusting to their parent’s frequent relocations around the world. At age 15, the brothers asked to be enrolled in the New Asia Military Academy in Brisbane where they graduated with honors. Jack went on to National Taipei University to study synthetic criminology and Jake joined the New Asia Military special ops. After two tours, Jake took an honorable discharge but had trouble adjusting to civilian life. A couple of years later he just dropped off the grid. Jack has not seen or heard from him in almost 20 years.

After an advanced degree in synth crime, Jack joined the New Asia Police Academy and then the Hong Kong 2 Police. He was instrumental in busting a synth ring known as The Ranch, the largest bust of its kind. Jack uncovered nearly 150 reprogrammed (twisted) synths, and more than 30 human hostages who were used to record deviant experiences (headjackings). The experiences were sold on the black market. For his work on the case and wounds received during the bust, Jack received the Chancellor’s Medal of Valor. The following year, he was appointed to the Chancellor’s Task Force on Synth Crime.

Hopeful that his new appointment would enable him to cut through the oppressive government bureaucracy and make a significant dent in synth crime, Guren began challenging many of the government officials that he saw turning a blind eye to the lucrative black market in experience trading. His efforts, however, met with repeated obstructions, including magisterial reprimands. Multiple investigations turned into dead ends. As a result, Detective Guren has become increasingly embittered and cynical. His frustration is multiplied by his latest investigation: a series of rape/headjackings in DownTown, all of which conveniently occurred during strategic mesh outages, free of any surveillance. Guren’s investigation has remained unsolved for more than 200 days, making it the longest unsolved crime spree in recent memory.

Detective Jack Guren
Detective Jack Guren

 

The victims were males between the ages of 16 and 20 and all were fatally headjacked. More on headjackings here. While the rape death of a DownTown street-teen is not unusual, these seem more insidious and devised. Sean Colbert’s attack, which bears many of the same characteristics, marks the twelfth unsolved incident. Detective Guren is at the crossroads of apathy and rage.

Another unique attribute to Detective Guren is the fact that he is an ager. This is the term given to people who opt out of genetic manipulation to prolong their life indefinitely. In other words, at 38, Detective Jack Guren is aging and on track to die in what might be considered a blink of an eye in a society where most people opt to live indefinitely.

 

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Web Comic Comments on the Cyberpunk Future

As many a CG artist will tell you, finding something productive to do between renders can be a real challenge. I’ve manage to submit an article to a magazine and an abstract for a conference in Berlin this summer, but that seemed too go awfully fast. To make the time a bit more productive, I have been immersing myself in the world of cyberpunk, via Tumblr. I’ve managed to post and research quite a few images, and there seems to be no end to the creative visions of whoever my fellow Tumblr’s are. The hashtags are pretty consistent: #dystopia, #cyberpunk, #urban, #urban decay, #architecture, #futuristic, #transhuman, #sci-fi, #science fiction, #tech, #cyborg, #android, #crime thriller, #design fiction. But the well is very deep. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve compiled thus far stop on over to The Chrons.

Page 27

Need some cheap replacement retinas, a refurb on your artificial skin, a 50 finger massage, virtual, synthetic, or any other kind of sex you can imagine (or would rather not)? You’ve come to the right place: DownTown, Hong Kong 2, in the Mong Kok sector. Sean has arrived as of last week, his location logged by cyber-surveillance, and in panel 1, he has just crossed the street where he encounters throngs of people (using the term loosely) as well as all of the diversions DownTown has to offer. Sometimes I wish this really was a movie instead of still images, because in panel 1 the woman to the left of Sean has programmable skin that shows live action video of… whatever.

The 50 Fingers Massage Parlor. Therapeutic.

But Sean is on a mission and in panel 2, “A few minutes later” he has walked to a less crowded alleyway. Sean is a bit of a fish out of water here and the locals know it. A street urchin goads his friend to hit on the guy who looks like he’s from TopCity. Maybe the boots are a dead giveaway; too clean.

In panel 3, Sean has arrived a his destination, an antique electronics store that looks like it has all the most popular antique brand names from the 20th century (zoom opportunity).

What or who awaits him?

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Sci-fi web comic. Page 22. Director’s commentary.

Today the title has been shortened from “sci-fi, CG, crime thriller, web comic laced liberally with design fiction overtones” to the title above. What other choice did I have?

Page 22

The scene in Sean’s lab continues. He has just authorized erasure of a select set of memories from Keiji-T, his ultra-sophisticated synthetic human. As we saw on pages 17 & 18 Keiji has been commissioned by the New Asia Police Hong Kong 2 division as a state-of-the-art detective. Keiji reports to work at Police Headquarters first thing in the morning, though Sean remarks that he will be sleeping a bit later than that. We can gather from page 20 that Sean has an appointment with the face on the screen, on page 20.

Design fiction diegetic prototypes

Aside from the design of the cascading visual interface that Sean uses to erase Keiji, and the other props that make up this scene, there are a couple bits of visual design fiction that happen on page 22, and in true form we do not obsess over them or really even call them to the foreground in any overt way. As true diegetic prototypes, they blend into the background, not particularly magical and part of everyday life (at least Sean’s everyday life.) This first is the way Sean makes his worktable and chair disappear while simultaneously enclosing his work in a transparent crypt. This will keep his work off limits to his lab assistants until he gets back. The second visual trick is not so obvious and you have to be paying attention. The difference is Sean’s bodysuit. Not that in p22, panel 3 Sean is wearing his grey, AHC uniform. In the final panel, the style has changed to a digital-camo look (very fashionable in 2159). How did he manage this, you ask? Thanks to programmable fabric and the commands from his luminous implants changing your clothes is virtually instantaneous. For more on luminous implants, see this post.

In the final scene, Sean exits through a huge , aperture-like vault door to the rear of the lab. It’s interesting how so many of these props are designed to be functioning elements but are seen only as a glimpse from a distance. This is a lot like a movie production where enormous amounts of detail are built into the sets since you never know where the camera will end up pointing or how close the director will decide to get to said prop. Alas, so much of it ends up as only a passing glimpse, part of the texture and context of another world.

Comments welcome. Cheers.

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Hi-res CG Web Comic – Page 21

Good morning (depending on what part of the globe your are in). Here is this week’s commentary on today’s new art for The Lightstream Chronicles web comic.

 

Set up

If you are new to the director’s commentary for the web comic and want to know more about what has happened before, make sure you check out previous posts to get up to speed.

Page 21

Last week it became evident that we are in Sean Colbert’s private lab in the penthouse of Building 3 of the Almost Human Corporation high -rise complex. Page 21 is actually one of my favorite pages and the image of Sean looking in at his creation, who we now should recognize as Keiji-T from the scene on pages 17 and 18. (As you know, all these panels are rendered in high-resolution CG). In panel 1 Sean flicks aside the holographic screen projection that was his center of attention on page 20. If the reader zooms in on this you should be able to see the motion in Sean’s hand and the dissolution of the screen. In panel 2 we have what I call the Man and Creation image with Sean staring at Keiji-T floating in a stasis container. Panels 3, 4 and 5 show the “reset” process. Here, Sean basically wipes clean any memory Keiji hold of Sean from this point back in time. When Keiji awakes in the morning, he will have his assignment to report to police headquarters, and should hold no memory of his creator. It would appear that perhaps Sean has grown fond of his creation and regrets the idea that they will never meet again.

Enjoy. Cheers.

You can read more about Sean, Keiji and the rest of the characters on the cast page of The Lightstream Chronicles.

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