NEXT ENTRY »
The Damien-Hirst-giant-squid connection
Wow: Margaret Atwood has become the first author to sign books in remote locations — via a telepresence robot! Last fall, she hooked up with a Toronto company called Unotchit (which sounds roughly like “you no touch it”) that developed a device that works like this: Unotchit sets up its robot in a remote bookstore. Atwood logs in from home, and using a webcam, talks to people who are attending the far-off book-signing. She chats with ‘em, asks what they want inscribed on their book, and they lay it in front of the Unotchit robot. Atwood writes on a screen, and the robot replicates her pen-strokes precisely, in real-time, on the book.
The idea apparently came to her when she was totally exhausted from touring, and wondered, man, there’s gotta be a better way to do this. As the Toronto Star reports:
“The reactions have been: That’s great. She’s mad. It’s a joke. She’s ruining (book tour) signatures. I can hardly wait to have one,” she said in an interview over coffee at a downtown Toronto restaurant.
There are so many excellent layers here. First of all, this confirms my growing sense that Atwood is among the biggest secret geeks on the planet. After all, she’s basically a sci-fi author masquerading as a writer of “serious” adult nonfiction. Her “what if” novels are so superb — and so manifestly superior to her other books — that I sometimes wish she’d just give up writing about the usual maundering-around-the-kitchen-
moaning-about-your-children/divorce/boring-ass-upper-middle-class-life crap that comprises 99% of all of today’s dinosaur literary fiction, and just throw it down old-skool in sci-fi and fantasy, and crank out a bunch of 4,000-page novels with, y’know, dragons and instellar spacecraft and shit on the covers. I would so pay for that.
Secondarily, the book-signing robot neatly — and possibly even intentionally — parodies the fact that the vast majority of authors are so thoroughly wretched at book-readings, and so achingly wooden in their delivery, that they might as well send robots in their stead. (Atwood’s pretty funny in real life, though, I must admit.)
Either way, when the Atwoodbot comes to New York, I am absolutely showing up to get a book signed!
(Thanks to my sister Christine for this one!)
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
El Rey Del Art
Frankly, I'd Rather Not
The Shifted Librarian
Howard Sherman's Nuggets
Donut Rock City
The Antic Muse
Techdirt Wireless News
Corante Gaming blog
Corante Social Software blog
Arts and Letters Daily
Alan Reiter's Wireless Data Weblog
Viral Marketing Blog