This month we switched to the North Oxford Community Centre in Summertown, with its very modern décor providing a good setting for our technological theme. We gathered to learn how new advances in wearable computing are enabling us to bring fantasy to life. We now have the technology to generate quite convincing illusions of ghosts, fantastical creatures, telekinesis, levitation, and more.
We began by singing along to the catchy theme from Ghostbusters, with Sam busting out the riff on guitar. Altogether now: “Who you gonna call … ?”
We called Fridolin Wild, a researcher at the Open University. Using a standard iPad and some affordable wearable tech such as Google Glass and motion sensors, he conjured up some amazing phantasmagoria such as a reactive demon, a 3D beating heart, and disembodied ‘ghost’ hands that can be used for demonstrating intricate manual procedures. It was a fascinating insight into futuristic technology that will increasingly become part of our everyday lives.
The next song was “The Land of Make Believe”, a big hit for Bucks Fizz in the early 80s. It has a beautiful melody paired with surprisingly haunting lyrics.
Our host Rob Bailey then dazzled us with subtle illusions based on everyday psychology. He invited members of the audience to lift a stack of 3 matchboxes with their right hand, then set them down and pick up only the top one. Everyone testified that the single matchbox on its own felt significantly heavier than all 3 together, a conclusion that conflicts with simple logic. Everyone is susceptible to this invariant illusion whether they know how it works or not. (It turns out that the top matchbox is slightly heavier than the other two, but is also burdened by the weight of expectation.)
Rob then led us in a a moment of reflection before announcing some interesting upcoming events, including our next Sunday Assembly walk and a trip to Bletchley Park where the German enigma code was cracked during the Second World War by Alan Turing’s innovations in computing. For our final song David encouraged us to join Judy Garland in her classic aspirational appeal for fantasy to become reality: “Over the Rainbow”, from the movie The Wizard of Oz.
Most people stayed around for tea and cake, and a large group adjourned to the nearby hostelry, the Dew Drop Inn.
We hope to see a good turnout for our stroll along the Cherwell River on Sunday morning. We assemble at 10:15 at the South Park gates on Morrell Avenue!