Tuesday, 27 March 2012

From Box Files to the British Science Festival: Part Four

I’ve been reminded (several times) that I haven’t updated this for a while, so here, at last, is Part 4 of Box Files to British Science Festival.

Part 4:

Mark 3 fell down like a three year old child’s tower of bricks and we realised that my incompetence with a saw was no match for years of experience with slow-grown Swedish pine. The trip to IKEA bought us Mark 4, which consisted of a bookcase frame that we hoped wouldn’t fall down quite so easily as my previous efforts. We also replaced the projector hanging from the ceiling with a large 28 inch imac computer, which was a bit of a nightmare to begin with because it meant that anything we tried to do on the screen was upside down and back to front (due to having to view everything in the mirror). At the same time, the School of Psychology very kindly took a punt on me and gave me enough money to buy a proper camera, one that could take images at 60 frames a second and feed them straight into the computer. This, coupled with a software upgrade, finally allowed me to do what I’d dreamt of all along: take live video feed of the real hand, present it in the same place as the real hand, and then add left or rightward shifts to its visual location. The IKEA bookshelf was starting to get a bit wobbly by this time, due both to the weight of the imac computer and me banging my head against it in frustration at having to work upside down. So, when I saw an old workshop cabinet about to be skipped, I took it along to one of the techies and asked him to modify it for me. This he did with the aid of a size 10 boot that he used simply to kick the back off. ‘There you go’, he said, ‘That should do it.’ And it did. Mark 5 was born: the first proper prototype MIRAGE which still lives under a desk in the lab as a safe place to crawl in an earthquake. I have a soft sport for Mark 5: not only was it indestructible, but it also triggered the realisation that I’d been making the wrong thing all along.

Next time:
Next time: MIRAGE, Multisensory illusions, Manchester, Mark 6 and the Media.

Written by Dr. Roger Newport

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