A Mirror on IoT and ourselves

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The SelfReflector is an internet connected mirror that is able to calculate your age, play music from when you were a teenager and print out this image on a TapWriter.

For centuries we have looked at ourselves looking back at us through mirrors. We all have our own very special relationship with ourselves through the magic of the ‘looking glass’. It might be a 3am reassuring conversation that all is well. It might be a motivational speech as we clean our teeth. We might give ourselves a telling off after an argument that we wished we hadn’t had. The mirror opens a mental world to our telepathic selves – after all it is only when we look at the person in the mirror can we truly read their thoughts. The mirror provides a space and time for being together with just yourself. Is there anyone that knows you like the mirror knows you?

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In SelfReflector we wanted to explore what this meant to people. We wanted to play with this sense of trust, with the sense of reflection, with the sense that a simple reflective surface opens up so much about who we are and what we think of ourselves. Yet we also wanted to reflect on what happens when technology comes into our lives in very personal ways. As an outcome of a research project exploring the Internet Of Things (IoT) in the context of the UK High Street we wanted to explore the ways in which the High Street supports our sense of self in a myriad of nuanced ways and create propositions of how technology can enrich this. Acknowledging the high street as a place where we find out about ourselves from our teenage years onwards we wanted to create ways in which the IoT goes beyond supporting the purchasing of goods, instead enabling more meaningful experiences in line with the realities of what we do in shops.

At a time when 30% of shops in general and 59% of fashion retails are using CCTV cameras connected to the web to covertly gather personal data on their shoppers, we wanted to offer alternative propositions that respond to the playful, exploratory nature of what humans do on the high street in social and personal ways to learn more about themselves.

SelfReflector is a mirror that takes pictures of people looking at it. It uploads the pictures to a webservice that uses image processing to estimate the viewer’s age, their facial expression and their mood. This data is then used by the mirror to select music from when the viewer was fourteen – an age that has been identified by Prof Daniel Levitian (director of Music and Perception, Cognition and Expertise at Mcgill University) as the “magic age for the development of musical tastes”. The image is then printed on the IoT social network system TapWriters for secure sharing with a small number of trusted friends. Beyond the low-fi printed image, there are no copies of the image stored. If you are in doubt about the ability of music to connect us to ourselves, you only have to read David Bowie’s letter to a 14 year old fan in America.
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SelfRelector is currently installed in a boutique glasses shop, SPeX PisTOls, in Dundee. It was designed with the owner, Richard Cook, as part of a research programme investigating the role of IoT on the high street. Richard has curated songs from 1925 based on knowledge of his customers and their musical tastes. The research is ongoing and you can visit Richard, play with the SelfReflecter and think about how you might want the Internet of Things to come into your life in the way you want it to.

Notes

Designed by Jon Rogers, Jayne Wallace, Mike Shorter and Pete Thomas.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of the Connected High Street project http://www.theconnectedhighstreet.co.uk/

The TapWriters
http://www.theconnectedhighstreet.co.uk/a-sense-of-me-on-the-connected-high-street/

Image recognition on the High Street
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/12/shops-could-soon-be-targeting-ads-according-to-your-feet?CMP=twt_a-technology_b-gdntech

https://csc.turtl.co/story/55ee93d8bbfd077f2d4e22ee

Fourteen is the magical age for music taste development.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/opinion/24hajdu.html

David Bowie’s letter to a 14 year old fan
http://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/read-the-letter-david-bowie-sent-to-a-14-year-old-fan

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