A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

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Evolution according to Tomas Persson & Co

[email] Hi Jeroen,
Happened upon your blog. Thought you might enjoy this paper on a proposed iconic-gestural origin of language. Or perhaps another of the publications [from SEDSU].
All the best,
Tomas Persson

SEDSU
Frontpage illustration from the paper.

Well, I checked it out and for all those interested in evolution it might be nice to do the same. The paper’s full title is ‘Bodily mimesis
as “the missing link” in human cognitive evolution’, by Jordan Zlatev, Tomas Persson and Peter Gärdenfors. First impression: Strange how people tend to think that the topic of their study (in Lund’s case it is a workpackage on ‘imitation and mimesis’) is the one decisive factor in human evolution. And I never have a shred of evidence to prove them wrong. But it will be interesting to read their case in more detail.

{I, for one, believe that it is our ability to blog that sets us apart from other animals. And, of course, I mean blogging in a broad sense. For what is blogging if it is not the continual provision of unelicited non-information on how we feel about things and about what we know. Humans have always ‘blogged’, even before the internet and before the alphabet. We filled the world with our own thoughts and listened to ourselves, not to anyone else. This constant egoistic reflection created an evolutionary pressure whereby only individuals who could sustain this confrontation with the inner blogger, were still confident enough to reproduce. Since then, most of the strains of humanity who had any shame or humility left have died out in (relative) silence. What is left is what we are now: wanderers of the web, captains of comments, and slaves to our next posting.}

[SEDSU’s main hypothesis:] There remains, despite centuries of debate, no consensus about what makes human beings intellectually and culturally different from other species, and even less so concerning the underlying sources of these differences. The main hypothesis of the project Stages in the Evolution and Development of Sign Use (SEDSU) is that it is not language per se, but an advanced ability to engage in sign use that constitutes the characteristic feature of human beings; in particular the ability to differentiate between the sign itself, be it gesture, picture, word or abstract symbol, and what it represents, i.e. the “semiotic function” (Piaget 1945).

Substantial work has of course been done on gesture (or sign language) with primates (see this entire issue of Gesture). In some cases chimpansees or gorillas were taught to use gestures or pictures as signs (with a semiotic function). How does that fit into SEDSU’s picture?

By intuition, I would sooner propose that it is our ability to create ‘systems of systems’ of signs that sets us apart. Or maybe our ability to create and remember such large quantities and varieties of signs. I think even most animals and perhaps (what the hell) plants can be argued to ‘gesture’. Do they differentiate between a signal and that which it represents? I think they do. Any animal that warns his group against predators is sending out a signal. The group members see the signal, not the predator, right? Or perhaps they can only communicate about what is actually present and not refer to things in other times and places?

Enough speculation. It is time to read. I expect your reactions to the paper within this week…

ps. Did you wonder about the semiotic function of the {curly brackets} as used above? Then you must be human. The answer: I signaled a humorous intermezzo.

The Int. Soc. on Gesture Studies

Sinds 2002 bestaat er een International Society on Gesture Studies Ze organiseren conferenties (Austin 2002, Lyon 2005, Chicago2007) en ondersteunen het internationale journal Gesture. Het Nijmegen Gesture Center is een van de steunpilaren (qua mensen en faciliteiten), alsmede de labs van Janet Bavelas, Susan Goldin-Meadow, David McNeill, en het Berlin Gesture Center.

Kids learn about Gesture

There’s a nice site in the Netherlands that teachers can use to get ideas for special classes. One of the themes is about gestures and sign language. Mind you, it’s for all children, not just deaf ones. There are great suggestions for each age group: 4-5 6-7 8-9 10-11. It is in Dutch. The author is Ben Verschuren. I tried to contact him at the publisher, but to no avail. If anyone could introduce us, I’d be grateful. The one I like best is for the oldest kids, who are invited to study gestures in art. I just recently started doing that, and I’m age 33. God, I wish my teacher had read this website when I was young.

Reality check for Mule-like Robots

In the news today: Marine Corps Shelves Futuristic Robo-Mule Due to Noise Concerns.

I always love it when robots and robotic solutions are actually evaluated in a reality check with the people who are supposed to use it in the future in a realistic scenario. Often, these people and these scenario’s have not really been involved in the development process.

In this case it turns out that the Robo-Mule was too loud and suffered from other real-world problems like dependability and subtlety. So, the military has decided to shelve the programme until further notice, meaning that the company developing the robot basically also stops the programme.

For other sectors, like healthcare, these kinds of reality checks are also important. Because, it the military finds the system unsuitable for real-world application then chances are that other sectors will also find fault with it. A similar case was the exo-skeleton. After initial pioneering work by the military it was also thought applicable in healthcare. But, after the military lost interest, the entire solution lost a lot of momentum.


Some images of the Robo-Mule.

Dutch News / Nederlandse vertaling
http://www.nu.nl/gadgets/4189827/marine-vs-stopt-ontwikkeling-robotezel-vanwege-lawaai.html

Item over Zora en andere robots in de zorg bij CampusTV Utrecht

Naar aanleiding van een grote proef met de Zora robot (eigenlijk NAO met wat extra programmering door een Belgisch bedrijfje) was er een item op CampusTV van de Hogeschool Utrecht over robots in de zorg.

Ik was uitgenodigd als expert om commentaar te geven over robots in de zorg.



Zie Campustalk 07 Winter 2015-2016 https://youtu.be/qd8txYpq9GM (actie vanaf 3:30). Het verhaal van de verzamel-expert is trouwens ook leuk (aan het eind).


Gareth Bale’s Free Kick Thwarted by Magic Spell Caster Tal Ben Haim

Just when you think you have seen it all:


Watch Israel’s Tal Ben Haim bewitch the ball about to be kicked by Wales’ Gareth Bale

Interestingly, there are more examples of magical gestures being used on the pitch, in sports. For example, there is a story about anchor gestures used in cricket to relieve stress. You can even invent them yourself, much like one can create one’s own mudra. And all of those examples have a lot in common with the creation of magical spells

This player, Tal Ben Haim II, is worth a google… according to Wikipedia he has only played for Israeli teams and has played for Israel a number of times. Well, nothing else really stands out, so this incident with Bale is really his best claim to fame so far.

Gun gesture not so innocent after all

In the news today in the UK Daily Mail:

Brother of ‘hoodie’ who mocked David Cameron with a gun gesture in 2007 has been shot in the legs after a doorstep attack (link)

Now, this is a sad story about a young man who was named in the media, Ryan Florence, see my previous post here. At the time it seemed like it was a fairly childish gesture that people overreacted to. Perhaps I was wrong. It turns out both he and his brother are involved in illegal gun posession and now his brother has been shot in both of his legs…

The infamous gun gesture aimed at then prime minister David Cameron

New Publication about Design Methodology

I just added a new publication to my publication list:

Marc Steen, Jeroen Arendsen, Anita Cremers, Arnoud de Jong, Jacomien de Jong & Nicole de Koning (2013). Using interactive model simulations in co-design: An experiment in urban design. CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts. Volume 9, Issue 1. (Purchase online at the publisher)

Title: Using interactive model simulations in co-design: An experiment in urban design
Abstract: This paper presents an experiment in which people performed a co-design task in urban design, using a multi-user touch table application with or without interactive model simulations. We hypothesised that using the interactive model simulations would improve communication and co-operation between co-design participants, would help participants to develop shared understanding and would positively affect the co-design process and its outcomes. However, our experiment (involving 60 people in 20 co-design sessions) only partly confirmed these hypotheses. People positively evaluated the interactive model simulation tools (an interactive map of an urban area, interactive models for traffic, sound, sight and safety, and ‘tangibles’), and these tools promoted communication and co-operation, and the exploration of design solutions. However, people’s experiences of social cohesion and their satisfaction with their own contribution to the co-design process were better without these tools, possibly because using these tools drew people’s attention towards these interactive model simulations and away from the dynamics between the participants. We therefore advocate using such tools selectively, for example, early on in a co-design process, to improve shared understanding of the contents of the problem, rather than later on, when people need to focus on their fellow participants and on the processes of communication and co-operation.

My contribution was the setup of the experiment, the definition of measurements and the analysis (statistical and discussion) of the results. It was work done while I was working at TNO.

Interesting CHRIS video

An important European robotics project called CHRIS (Cooperative Human Robot Interaction Systems FP7 215805) has received its final review last april. They have also created a very nice video that summarizes their work:

As the video show, the work includes the recognition of speech, gesture (pointing), actions, and objects. All within a context of cooperation and safety. But, I will not try to summarize their work. Just watch the video.

A Human-Elbonian Handshake

Coincidentally, the daily Dilbert comic also features a somewhat alien handshake, as was the case with Robonaut’s handshake.

A Handshake or a Mitten Kiss?

Wally nicely takes advantage of the gullibility of his Pointy Hared Boss, who, like so many induhviduals, apparently believes in what one might call ‘Inter-Cultural Gesture Determinism’. It is one of the The Biggest Misunderstanding About Gestures that you should be wary of using gestures when talking to strangers. I believe that, generally speaking, when you meet people who speak another language or come from another culture, gestures are your best friend in communication.

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