This photograph shows Professor Chen Xiaodon from the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University talking to an AFP reporter regarding the development of a face mask that can monitor vital health information.—AFPFrom monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the coronavirus-fuelled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to both guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows people to have a conversation while keeping up to 10 metres (32 feet) apart.
“Despite the coronavirus, we sometimes need to meet directly with each other,” Donut Robotics chief executive Taisuke Ono told AFP. The lightweight silicone device could have immediate benefits for people such as doctors who want to communicate with patients from a distance, the company says. It can translate speech from Japanese into English, Korean and other languages-a function that will become more useful once travel restrictions are eventually eased. But it does not offer protection from Covid-19 on its own, and is designed to be worn over a regular face covering when it goes on sale in February for about 4,000 yen ($40).
research fellow from the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Nanyang Technology University wearing a face mask installed with sensors which transmit via Bluetooth readings.Donut Robotics raised nearly 100 million yen ($950,000) via crowdfunding to develop it, a success Ono believes was driven by a desire for innovations to make life easier during the pandemic. “We may be able to fight the virus with technology, with human wisdom,” he said. Another face mask developed in Singapore is aimed at protecting medics treating Covid-19 patients. It has sensors that monitor body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels, and relay data to a smartphone via a Bluetooth transmitter. “Many of these frontline workers will be exposed to patients when they are taking their vital signs,” Loh Xian Jun, one of the scientists behind the invention, told AFP.
“This poses a health risk to the nurses, and we wanted to think about a way to reduce such risk.” Its inventors say the device could also monitor vital signs of migrant workers in crowded dormitories, which incubated massive virus outbreaks in the city-state this year. They hope to trial it in the near future and market it commercially. For those seeking to combat the effects of pollution in smog-choked cities, South Korea’s LG Electronics has developed an air purifier mask.
The futuristic white device, which fits snugly around the wearer’s mouth, nose and chin, is equipped with two filters on either side and fans to aid airflow. The filters are similar to those in the company’s home air purifiers, and can block 99.95 percent of harmful particles. Thousands have already been made available to medical staff and it will also be rolled out in shops in the future, the company says.-AFP
A research fellow from the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Nanyang Technology University wearing a face mask installed with sensors.
Drake sides with The Weeknd, says Grammys ‘may no longer matter’
The rapper took to social media to complain about it.”I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones…
The rapper took to social media to complain about it.”I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after,” Drake wrote on his Instagram stories. “It’s like a relative you keep expecting to fix up but they just can’t change their ways.”Despite the commercial and critical success of The Weeknd’s “After Hours” album, and many industry observers considered his single, “Blinding Lights,” a frontrunner for song of the year, he did not receive Grammy nods.Drake wrote that he, too, had thought that The Weeknd “was a lock for either album or song of the year along with countless other reasonable assumptions and it just never goes that way.””This is a great time for somebody to start something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come,” Drake said.After the nominations were announced on Tuesday, The Weeknd took to Twitter.”The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency,” he wrote.Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s chair and interim president/CEO, said in a statement to CNN “We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated.””I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration,” the statement continued. “We were thrilled when we found out he would be performing at the upcoming Super Bowl and we would have loved to have him also perform on the GRAMMY stage the weekend before. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”For years The Recording Academy has been the target of criticism that it is out of step with the preferences of consumers and has failed to recognize women and artists of color equally.Nicki Minaj appeared to echo that latter point when she tweeted after the nominations “Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”Singer Teyana Taylor tweeted that there were no female nominees in the best R&B album category.Justin Bieber, who racked up nominations in both the pop and country categories, complained that he should be vying for R&B awards.”To the Grammys I am flattered to be acknowledged and appreciated for my artistry,” he wrote in a statement posted on his verified Instagram account. “I am very meticulous and intentional about my music. With that being said, I set out to make an R&B album. Changes was, and is, an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album which is very strange to me.”
Letter from Paris: French Universalism Shows its Limitations in the Art World—and Beyond
As the world came to a halt in the spring, I was reading two books simultaneously: How We Became Posthuman, a seminal work from 1999 by N. Katherine Hayles about transformation in the digital age, and Achille Mbembe’s Brutalisme, a philosophical volume on our tumultuous times that had just been published a few weeks prior.…
As the world came to a halt in the spring, I was reading two books simultaneously: How We Became Posthuman, a seminal work from 1999 by N. Katherine Hayles about transformation in the digital age, and Achille Mbembe’s Brutalisme, a philosophical volume on our tumultuous times that had just been published a few weeks prior. I opened both looking for material to back up some points in an essay I was writing. But I quickly realized that, taken together, they pointed to something crucial to an understanding of the workings of French institutions and how, in the art world, those institutions are positioning themselves in terms of exclusion, inclusion, and secession.
As France went into lockdown and resorted to a frenetic consumption of news, specific themes started to surface around questions related to what it means to be human and the long-debated concept of French universalism. Handed down through history as a remnant of the 1789 Revolution, French universalism is based on a belief that to be treated equal and be free, citizens should surrender their personal affiliations and that no group should be given special treatment. In the 1990s, however, universalism’s ideal of an abstract, essentialized citizen with no particularities collided with real bodies as women, queer activists, and immigrants started to organize, with support from multiculturalist politics gaining ground in Europe.
While the dominant political discourse in France remains conditioned by mutations of a universalist heritage, the pandemic shined light on a notable divide. In one camp were idealists hoping that a collective vulnerability to a shared, natural threat would revive the hope of building a world in common. In the other were more pragmatic observers who couldn’t help but notice how contamination rates among stigmatized minorities mirrored the results of years of politics based on an “indifference to difference.” (While statistics based on race, ethnicity, or gender remain forbidden in France, contamination rates in suburbs populated by a majority of residents of foreign origin with higher unemployment rates were soaring.)
In the context of the first camp, Hayles’s study of the posthuman can be read as an attempt to salvage a “critical universalist” position by foregrounding how the human stands in relation to other species and artificial agents. In April, Hayles herself published an essay, “Novel Corona: Posthuman Virus,” stressing “the commonalities that all humans share with one another, notwithstanding all the ethnic, racial, geopolitical, and other differences that exist between us.”
But, as reflected by the second camp, humans are mnemonic beings who reflect past and present living conditions, with vulnerabilities that affect some more than others. As Mbembe prophetically wrote in Brutalisme, humanity’s essence has been transformed and its existence threatened as a result of historically imposed Western dichotomies (nature/culture, subject/object, human/nonhuman) that erased ancestral African cosmogonies rooted in free-flowing and ever-reconfiguring flux.
Achille Mbembe with his award-winning book Critique of Black Reason (2015).
Matthias Balk/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Image.
During lockdown, Brutalisme—a dense and sinuous reconsideration of contemporary theories about technology, identity, and ecology—became one of the most-read books in France. While Mbembe was already a prominent public intellectual there (he graduated from the Sorbonne and the Paris Institute of Political Studies, and has frequently written for national newspapers), the book’s popularity can be pinned to a more specific cause. In April, Mbembe published a piece at the francophone website aoc.media (the acronym for “Analyse Opinion Critique”) that spread quickly as other publications shared extracts and responses translated in several languages.
The highly freighted term “universal” appeared in the article’s title, “The Universal Right to Breathe”—a gesture that was hard not to notice in a political context where the French president was rekindling the old debate over universalism by proclaiming “fighting separatism” as his priority. Before this moment, the Cameroon-born Mbembe had been known mostly for his analysis of contemporary power relations, widening the scope of “biopower” through his pivotal concept of “necropolitics,” or the annihilation of those considered enemies of the state. Sovereignty, he explained, equals the power to decide who lives and who doesn’t, as exemplified by modern states built on slavery, apartheid, and colonization—a power that, in recent times, has been extended on a planetary scale to include supranational entities such as corporations.
In such a context, “separatism” appears above all a vital reaction to the peril of death imposed on those treated, in Mbembe’s words, as “mere waste.” And the pandemic reveals political universalism as the material, structural construction of power that it is, regardless of whether citizens adhere to it or not. It is a kind of power that operates through what Mbembe describes as “fracturing and fissuring” and “expelling organic matter.” When he calls for a “universal right to breathe,” he simultaneously exposes how universalism has normalized its opposite.
In the institutional art world, metaphors of life and death prevail, and while most spaces survived the first phase of lockdown, those that did not offer a striking example of the unevenly shared “right to breathe.”
Above, a literary event organized by the publishing house Présence Africaine at La Colonie, Paris, October 2019.
Photo Alix Hugonnier.
In the middle of March, a multi–disciplinary space founded in 2016 by artist Kader Attia and restaurateur Zico Selloum to host exhibitions, critical debates, book releases, film screenings, concerts, and DJ sets announced that it was closing due to a funding deficit. Located near Gare de l’Est in central Paris, La Colonie (written so as to connote an anti-colony) was financed by income from a bar in the space, a model similar to the one Attia used in the early 2000s, when he financed much of his work through his bar Le Café Chéri(e).
Offering free entrance, La Colonie became a home for unheard ideas and, contrary to state-run institutions, did not impose translation on non-francophone voices. It played a major part in making decolonial thought accessible to a larger public by appealing to antiracist, militant circles as well as scholars and thinkers, threading together the two groups by hosting the likes of writer Françoise Vergès, artist and editor Pascale Obolo, philosopher Seloua Luste Boulbina, and economist Felwine Sarr.
When Attia launched a crowdfunding campaign to reopen the space elsewhere, Olivier Marboeuf, an artist, writer, and editor, wrote him a letter on Facebook stressing how they both create “organisms, collective bodies that grow, live and die” in the act of building “not monuments, but lifeforms.” In 2004, Marboeuf founded Espace Khiasma, a similar space dedicated to producing and exhibiting artists’ films until it was forced to close for financial reasons in 2018.
In an interview he was generous enough to grant me when Espace Khiasma was still running, Marboeuf explained how the “inequality, humiliation, and domination [is] disguised by the neutral figure of the citizen” and how universalist institutions have been preventing the emergence of a racialized intellectual elite. Regarding Khiasma, he emphasized how the space reflected the need for excluded communities to invent their own tools—as he himself had by refusing to become a curator in existing state-run institutions. “We don’t need them to validate what we create,” he said. “The [goal] is not to be against those big institutions, but not to depend on them anymore.”
Since early 2019, Khiasma’s former space has hosted new initiatives led by a collective structure of volunteers and various associations that gather different projects and undertakings. The name given to this experimental “house for all” is A Place to Breathe [Un Lieu pour respirer]. Marboeuf says such spaces mark “a new form of presence through flight.” The act of organizing independent, autonomous, and horizontally interconnected spaces that grow like mangroves puts different forms and practices on the agenda while transcending traditional cultural programs and politics.
Assa Traoré at a demonstration in memory of her brother Adama, July 2020.
Sipa via AP Images.
Even as the former Khiasma space continued to be A Place to Breathe, the “post-Covid-19” period that Mbembe wrote about in early April was tragically followed by what he called another “premature cessation of breathing.” In France, the wave of anger that spanned the world after the killing of George Floyd in America found its voice through Assa Traoré, who since her brother’s death in police custody in 2016 has managed to turn her advocacy group, Justice for Adama, into a widespread social movement and herself into an important political figure.
The protests in support of Black Lives Matter shined new light on questions of equality—something that riots in France in 2005 in response to the fatal electrocution of two teenage boys fleeing the police had not, or at least not to the same degree. In July, the New York Times published an in-depth article under the headline “A Racial Awakening in France, Where Race Is a Taboo Topic.” The author, Norimitsu Onishi, interviewed several key intellectuals and public figures—from Maboula Soumahoro and Binetou Sylla to Rhoda Tchokokam and Rokhaya Diallo—who represent a younger generation bringing debate over race to the fore.
Brick-and-mortar spaces like A Place To Breathe have recently been joined by virtual spaces working toward a shared cause. In March, Seumboy Vrainom :€, an artist and self-described “digital shaman apprentice,” put up on Instagram and YouTube the first video in what he called his Histoires Crépues (“frizzy histories”), a series meant to explore “our shared colonial history” as “complex and frizzy” as his hair. Each video explains a concept or event through cross-reading sources and references accessible free online; collectively, the videos will eventually form a database.
Screengrab of Seumboy Vrainom :€’s Instagram page.
In French schools, Seumboy Vrainom :€ recalled, the only education he had about racism referred to American history, as though French and European colonization had never happened. In Histoires Crépues he analyzes such topics as Africa’s debt, police violence, and racist monuments, showing how French colonial history still shapes society—all while avoiding American and African-American concepts as sole references.
Another example of an alternative digital space is Qalqalah قلقلة, a curatorial platform founded by independent curators Virginie Bobin and Victorine Grataloup in reaction to “a political and intellectual context and media coverage marked by reactionary, authoritarian, and discriminatory speeches and acts.” Dedicated to the production, translation, and circulation of artistic, theoretical, and literary research in French, Arabic, and English, the site’s online editorial space launched in March with the mission, as expressed by writer and theorist Sarah Rifky, to expand beyond “monolingual activists.”
Initiatives of the sort show how a younger generation continues to move beyond universalism by encouraging alternative, collective discourse and by refusing to surrender to total legibility. The pandemic allowed nimble experimentation to take place, as state-run institutions struggled to adapt.
It has also made only more clear the importance of Mbembe’s “universal right to breathe.” The global crisis, he writes, should be an opportunity to “reclaim the lungs of our world.” To do so, the voices of those already suffocating should be those we listen to more and more. For all of us, this is vital if we are to survive.
A version of this article appears in the Winter 2021 issue of ARTnews, under the title “Breathe In, Breathe Out.”
Apple Patent Application Shows It Could Bring Force Touch to MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar
Apple could make a new MacBook Pro model that would come with a Touch Bar supporting pressure sensing Force Touch. This has been suggested by a patent application that was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. Apple introduced its Force Touch technology on the first-generation Apple Watch back in September 2014.…
Apple could make a new MacBook Pro model that would come with a Touch Bar supporting pressure sensing Force Touch. This has been suggested by a patent application that was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. Apple introduced its Force Touch technology on the first-generation Apple Watch back in September 2014. It, however, reached the iPhone lineup as 3D Touch and debuted on the MacBook family through an all-new trackpad in 2015.As spotted by Patently Apple, the US Patent and Trademark Office has featured the patent application on its website that suggests an upgraded Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro with support for Force Touch. There are apparently new circuits to detect different levels of force being applied to the Touch Bar.“The secondary display and force-sensing circuitry may be encapsulated between two glass layers that are bonded to one another by a frit. In some embodiments the force-sensing circuitry is formed from, or constitutes part of, the frit,” reads the abstract of the patent application.Apple has submitted a patent application for bringing Force Touch to MacBook Pro’s Touch BarPhoto Credit: USPTO Apple has revised the original Force Touch technology with some upgrades in the past and even transformed the experience into Haptic Touch for the newer iPhone models. But the purpose of the technology has remained the same — which is to trigger certain features on long pressing on the screen.The newly published patent application was filed by Apple in May 2019. It is unclear whether the update will be available across all new MacBook Pro models or limited to a particular variant.Some recent reports suggested that redesigned MacBook models will be arriving in 2021. However, there is no clarity on whether any of those models would feature the new Touch Bar with Force Touch. It is also not clear that Touch Bar, which is essentially an OLED strip above the keyboard for multitasking, will remain exclusive to MacBook Pro or also debut on MacBook Air in the future.That being said, Force Touch may help Apple bring some new use cases for the Touch Bar that is currently not all that productive for many MacBook Pro users.Will Apple Silicon Lead to Affordable MacBooks in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.