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Wednesday, June 6


We visited Derek Kinsman in the Teehan + Lax lab, where he works as a creative technologist.  It was like walking into a different gravity.  The 3D printer was whirring, the desks were littered with circuit boards and transistors: something new was happening.  After launching into a tech-laden explanation of his current project, Derek caught on that we’re more Luddites than early adaptors and, in good humour, brought it down to our level.  We latched onto the idea that the technology he works with creates filters through which to experience reality. His latest project uses this technology to create a hybrid system that compiles 3D digital data from the tangible world and then presents it in a viewable, interactive analog format. In a way, the project completes a circle, moving from the real world to abstract data to representations of the original reality that are tangible yet wildly different from their source.

The lab is a classic workshop, complete with stacks of building materials, tools spread around, and masking tape holding prototypes together.  At the heart of all the glossy screens and fancy graphics are handmade components, the products of mad science tinkering. When we asked what these experiments and projects are working towards, Derek was evasive.  Ultimately, we gathered that the lab functions as an exercise in expanding ideas about technology rather than creating an end result or working towards solving a particular problem; it’s a loose and open space for discovery and possibility.

For most people, it takes a lot of self-discipline and motivation to remain focussed in a completely open-ended endeavour.  Some find it impossible, but self-direction seems to come naturally to Derek. He has an innate ability to store and access complex information in his mind, to think in the abstract, and to theorize about the future based on his understanding of human relationships -- relationships not only to one another, but also to technology and the digital realm.

We asked Derek about the changes in technology he anticipated in the next 10 years, leading to a discussion about robots.  Here are the facts; robots can now repair themselves, stand up when you push them down, and power themselves by eating slugs.  Somehow this doesn't bode well for our continued supremacy over our mechanical brothers.  However, this doesn’t seem to daunt or dissuade him from delving deeper. 

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