From: Bruce Sterling <>
Subject: Viridian Note 00200: Neologue Contest Entries
To: Viridian List <>

Key concepts
Viridian Neologue Contest, Natalie Jeremijenko

Attention Conservation Notice: This thing is huge, I have to be on a plane in an hour!


((("The Viridian Neologue Contest asks the cogent question: "When Things Start to Listen, what do you say to them?" Our aim in this design contest is to invent feasible, verbal/mechanical situations that carry this technology to fantastic, unheard-of, cyber-surreal realms.

((("This is a conceptual art design contest. You must coin some imaginative word or short phrase, and briefly describe its application to some real-world machine. Your phrase and its application should be so technically insightful and so artistically striking that they startlingly illuminate the vista of possibility opened by this new variety of human/machine interaction.")))

From:^* (Scott Gosnell)

1. When your phone hears the phrases A) "Would you like to buy...", B) "We would like to offer you..." or C) "We've

signed you up for..." it responds.

It fires back with A) an offer to sell the incoming telemarketing company some ozone-hole insurance, B) an airhorn, pitched at 125 dB, C) "We do not accept telemarketing calls, but YOUR number has been logged" or D) a request for a date "'cause I'm lonely".

(Michael Treece)

A gizmo is placed on the dashboard, wired into the car's fuel gauge and odometer. When the voice-recognition apparatus perceives the driver saying, "Damn! The price of gas is outrageous!", a projected display pops up indicating gas mileage, the price of operating the car, and the CO2 generated, year-to-date, by the vehicle.

The background of this display would show spectral bicyclists, happily plying the roads in their smog-free way, liberated from the tyranny of the pump.

Reminds drivers that it's time to fill the tank. Reminds drivers to purchase more BP stock.
Distracts drivers so that they run into pedestrians and bicyclists.

From:^^^* (Elie Greenwald)

An appliance loader installed in a wall plug would turn on various appliances when it's told to. A bonus would be a timer. You walk into a room and tell a light to come on for half an hour. It's a Clapper: The Next Generation.

From:* (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

Okay. Recognition Engines. Small gizmos. These are clearly what they used as the door-locking mechanism on the Gates of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. You could probably sell a few of those to Tolkien fans, who could thereafter take comfort in the thought that their apartment was burgled by a fellow enthusiast.

1. Build one into a microphone. If it hears you say "Is this thing on? (tap tap tap)", it automatically switches

on. Optionally, if you say "Can you hear me in the back?" [pause] "No?", it'll turn up the volume.

1a. Wish-fulfillment device: A microphone that slowly turns down the volume if it hears one of several designated words or phrases. You should be able to reprogram it on the fly, possibly by sampling a fellow- panelist saying that obnoxious phrase while you hold down the Reprogram button.

2. Hook up a Recognition Engine to the pickups on your musical instrument so it'll automatically readjust your

settings, filters, effects boxes, etc., when it hears the opening notes of your next song, or when you announce the title of the next song.

3. For the very deaf, a small gizmo that vibrates when you say their name. It cues them to turn around and look at

you so they can read your lips.

4. One application, not conceptual art, just really

obvious: safewording machinery.

Simplest version: you say "Off!", it goes off. This is suitable for dangerous machines you use one at a time.

Where lots of machines are being operated, you could tell the Recognition Engines to respond to machine-specific commands ("Off [lathe]!"), or to some uncommon word. You could also teach Recognition Engines to interpret your favorite profanities and obscenities as instructions to shut down dangerous machinery.

5. Safeword guns. If you don't know the code word, it won't fire. A second code word will turn the gun off if

someone takes it away from you.

6. It would be useful to have a voice-operable power strip with separately programmable slots. This isn't wildly

creative, but it would be easy to make and you wouldn't have to retrofit REs into your existing devices.

More notions may follow. This is fun.

From:^^* (Raul Miller)

"shut up" "stop" "quit" or "that's all" puts active device in standby mode

<name of device> puts standby device in active mode.

"help" lists major commands.

"xxx help" or "help xxx" gives canned presentation describing xxx == how to use it, options, that sort of thing.

Imagining that the device has some kind of mobility:

"left" "right" "forward" "reverse" "faster" "slower" "slow down" "slow" "speed up"

Note that standby mode should also render it immobile.

Imagining that it's the tv set:

"louder" "softer" "quieter" "next" [channel] "last" or "previous" [channel] <number> [also specifies channel]

More fun is imagining fine tuning == for this you want to do something like:

"tv" 'yes?' "fine tune" 'ok'

"up" [pause] "there" [pause] "back a bit" [pause] "there"

Here, "up" and "down" indicate which way to turn, "back a bit" indicates the reverse of the last explicitly stated direction, "there" indicates to stop tuning. It would probably be worthwhile conducting a few surveys to find commonly used equivalents.

Imagining it's the coffee pot, you'd want to come up with a vocabulary describing how dark, how much, and optionally, when to have it ready. The coffee pot would initially have to ask for each of these that are unspecified, but could use "same as last time" as the default. However, I don't drink coffee.

Finally, imagining it's the garage door:

"open" "close"

Note: [1] people should be able to name their doors, and

  1. this doesn't constitute a locking mechanism.


From:^^* (Carl Boyd)

JellyVision" allows people in compromised environments to communicate through voice recognition, using a microphone inside a scuba mouthpiece. It presents the response as text on the screen, as well as in earbuds.

From:* (Andre Frech)

My first thoughts turned to medical applications that 'listen' to you and respond appropriately.

Bloodflow, for example to the temples, exceeds a threshold. The device whispers "relax," dims the lights a bit, and releases soothing aromatherapy.

Bloodflow to other, uh, sensitive areas occurs. The lights dim again, and your abode is prepared for company.

Your breathing is ragged, with a disturbing rhythm. Your device states that you should seek your medication and lets you know that it is contacting the doctor with your present location.

That creaking in your bones causes your electronic companion to advise you to slow down your activity and possibly seek help.

Other "mobile" applications:

Your car is acting up. The device samples the sound so that you can replay it for the mechanic.

Your vehicle's handling has degraded. Based on the sounds, your device soothingly remarks: "Don't worry. The road is being repaved, and there's nothing wrong with your car."

You're feeling unsafe in the parking lot. You vocalize "Protect me," and your vehicle starts up, blares the horn, and if you have one of those South African carjacker deterrents, it ignites the flamethrowers.

The possiblities are truly endless. Good luck in your endeavors to sort out the best entries!

From:^^* (Paul DiFilippo)

The Anti-Ego Reinforcer

  1. Assume the voice-recognition chip can learn to distinguish one individual's particular pronunciation/intonation == ie, be trained to its "owner".

  2. Then, take a dog-shock collar off the shelf (available in catalogs and pet stores as anti-bark devices).

  3. Wire voice-recognition chip to collar.

  4. Train chip to trigger when it hears the name of its "owner", but only as spoken by the owner himself/herself.

  5. Secure collar irremovably (by force if necessary) to desired egomaniac.

  6. Wearer receives educational shock whenever he/she mentions own name in full.
  7. Useful for training politicians and movie stars, etc., not to speak of themselves in the third person.

From:^^^^^^* (Spiff)

A cellphone kill switch terminates cellphone use for an hour upon hearing the following phrases:

"Yeah, I'm on my cellphone." "Yeah, I'm in the village." "I'll see you in a minute." "Oh wait I can see you now, do you see me?" "Dude..."


From:* (Michael M. Butler)

I have an idea for conference rooms. A small battery operated device the size and shape of a USA residential smoke detector. When a sound resembling flatulence occurs, the device apologizes politely, so that no person present has to take the blame. Refinement to include methane detection triggering.

I deserve extra Viridian-application points because methane is a greenhouse gas.

Idea 2
The device says "gesundheit" whenever it hears a sneeze.

Idea 3
When it hears profanity in traffic, a transponder sends a soothing anti-road-rage suggestion in my own voice to my car's stereo. As an added bonus, it could spread the karma outside my car via FM.

From:^^^^* (Vaclav Barta)

A clock which can tell the time when asked can be used by an insomniac who doesn't want to turn on the light.

I'd love to say "shut up" to my TV set.

If these chips can recognize the sound of wind and rain we can incorporate them into an Internet-ready weather station for the home user.

From:^^^^^^^^^^*******? (J. Lasser")

OK. Here's my entry. Imagine it stuck to the dashboard of a car, or inset like a radio. The dashboard-radio model can hook into the car's audio system (and might even be the radio/cd-player/mp3-player), while the external model can have its own speaker.

When someone in the car (the driver, presumably) says, "Pray for me," that's exactly what it does.

Of course, you might want different models to say different things; a good popular version might recite Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd...") though certainly other religious traditions will want it to say something else. Cynical hipster types might want their in-dash prayer boxes to recite William S. Burroughs' Thanksgiving Prayer ('Thanks for Indians, to provide a modicum of challenge and danger... thanks for a nation of finks...' etc.) and some guilty white liberals (some Viridians, even) might want theirs to apologize for driving around in a vehicle spewing noxious fumes into the atmosphere.

The internal and external models each have advantages: the ability of the in-dash model to hook into the car's audio system, so that it can pray loud enough for other people to hear, is pretty nice. But the external model can be shaped; Christians could have cross-shaped prayer boxes, Muslims could have Crescent moons, Jews could have the star of David, various Hindu versions can have different gods on theirs and so on. These would probably be light enough to be strapped to a bicycle in other parts of the world.

Strangest of all is the 'silent prayer' version, which copies the audio and sends it to the audio chip, but cuts it off between there and the speaker.^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^**?
(Bob Morris)

Here's some entries ( and I have a new page for the Neologue Contest on the Repository site).

The solar-powered grid imbedded in the rear window of my hybrid Toyota Prius flashes "50 miles per gallon" when I say "Annoy SUVs". This concept, of course, could be expanded so the rear window has a robust vocabulary, perhaps even being multi-lingual, and could possibly cut down on road rage incidents, as people now could just insult each other via their windows.

When I say "Litter box, clean yourself", the robotic cat litter box wheels itself outside, then using the telescopic legs, empties itself in the garbage can, stops on the way back to clean itself with a garden hose, then, just prior to returning to its base, fills itself with the proper amount of cat litter.

"Feet don't fail me now" while backpacking up a steep grade with a heavy backpack will activate a special bouncing mechanism in ones' hiking boots, giving that needed extra boost to climb the final pitch. Warning: This technology will be met with suspicion by traditionalist backpackers, and will no doubt, lead to deep rifts in the mountaineering world.

From:^^^******** (Joel Westerberg)

My girlfriend(*)'s entry to the contest:

TYPE OF EQUIPMENT: Green party-gear Placement: On inner roof Voice command & function: Say "Candy" beneath a CandyRain 2000 unit and you will instantly be showered by a burst of candy. Ammo: 23 different types of nonlethal green candy candy- colored candy. Power source: Spring-loaded enjection mechanism good for several candy bursts. Voice recognition and activation of mechanism: solar charged power cells.

From:^^^* (Chuck Hinckley)

This could be installed on a boat, car, bike or scooter. When the user screams "Where the hell is that ___________?", the onboard GPS would kick in to find said location (theater, club, hotel, etc.).

From:^^^^^** (Warren Apel)

  1. I want to know where my dog (or cat) is right now, so I have a talking food dish. I ask it "where's Cleo?" and it can tell me. The pet's collar (or heck == a subcutaneous implant!) has a location tracking device, and the food dish knows the name of the ten or twenty most likely locations. "outside", "up the tree", "stuck in the closet" , "sleeping on the porch."

  2. I'd like to secretly record conversations that people have with me in case I want to listen to them again later. But I don't want hours of tape to deal with. I'd like an MP3-based audio recorder that fit in my shirt pocket capable of storing ten hours of spoken dialogue. It would be triggered whenever anyone said my name in conversation, weeding out background noise. It would also be triggered when I said a keyphrase. So if my boss said "Hey Warren!" it would kick in, but if he didn't I would say "hey there, how's it going?" or "what's up, amigo?" and it would start to record. I could modify the keyphrase whenever it got too obvious.

  3. I want to teach my parakeets to whistle. I need an intelligent bird trainer clipped to their cage. It would make certain whistles now and then, and listen for responses. If the birds made the right noise, it could move on to new ones. Ideally, it would reward them with food treats as positive feedback.

More to come!

From:^^^^** (Brandom Keim)

My first entry in the Viridian Neologue Contest: the Tree of Knowledge (aka Project Ent, aka Johnny Appleseed v2.0, aka the Philosotree.)

Sensors subtly embedded in a tree trunk would respond to verbal cues. These could be very simple == "wisdom," for example == or more specific: say, the name of a poet or philosopher. These would activate the playback of a corresponding sound file, stored upon hardware inside or even underneath the bole. Not in a tinny, overtly synthetic way, but using the finest audio components available, with speakers perhaps distributed throughout the canopy; and not a few canned seconds, but entire canons.

Granted, this mayJseem to be rooted (ha) in the talking Coke machine or seat-belt matron. However, future advances in wireless transmission, voice recognition, data storage, AI, bioengineering, and even robotics make enormous the potential for refinement and evolution.

(Here my imagination, always characterized by the excessive, kicks into overdrive. Part tree, part code, given consciousness and the ability to recreate itself== but always in sapling form, clone of the previous; nature v.s. nurture, subtle variations increasing exponentially unil the far range of diversity at which point?--twenty- first centure Johnny Appleseeds, planting these intelligent trees which (x) has forbidden--symbiotic relationships with creatures bred/engineered/coded to live within the the tree--dryads, sylphs given reality--)

Project Ent is particularly satisfying in its synthesis of organic and artificial within the human-engineered environment.

Ideally, the tree would grow around/with its synthetic components. However, I'm sure the wonks at NYU could find a way to rig up a tree. A Joshua tree, perhaps, even just a pedestrian oak or maple.

Brandon Keim

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Jet Fuel
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