Posts Tagged ‘Science’

I saw an amazing article in the paper a few days back about a new innovation in technology to improve sight for the blind.

A device called a BrainPort has been devised to provide sight to the blind, somehow using the tongue. I’m no science guy, but seemingly a camera is mounted on top of a pair of glasses which is then connected to to a sensor placed on the patient’s tongue. The camera collects visual data about the surrounding area which is then transmitted as electric signals to the base unit placed on the tongue. The base unit then translates these signals into a stimulation pattern which creates the visual image for the participant.

According to the official website, “the tactile image is created by presenting white pixels from the camera as strong stimulation, black pixels as no stimulation, and gray levels as medium levels of stimulation, with the ability to invert contrast when appropriate.  Users often report the sensation as pictures that are painted on the tongue with Champagne bubbles.”

How incredible does that sound? Still, I really have no depth of understanding about the technical performance of the device, but as a layman it sounds absolutely miraculous. For there to be any solution to blindness, not matter how vague, is an amazing innovation! Although, I would have called it ‘The Stevie Tongue-der’.

See more below:

 
The device is being trialed on PC David Rathband, who lost his sight after being shot in the face by gunman Raoul Moat. I can’t think of a more deserving candidate. Still only in its prototype stage the BrainPort is not yet available to purchase, but if the trial is a success it is sure to be a global phenomenon. Watch this space… (sorry if that sounds a little insensitive.)

For anyone that read my review of Life’s Too Short, you will be aware of how much I adore the co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

Mr Gervais has already plunged into stand-up comedy, forming another successful string on his comedy bow (to a point…. Fame began what was a downward spiral in his live shows. Animals and Politics were incredible. They were clever, thought provoking and above all, hilarious. Ricky certainly deployed a comical egotism in these shows, which was very likeable, but somehow in later tours it no longer seems like an act. He has become Brent, offensive and arrogant, but worse still, the shows suggest a laziness and complacency that can accompany award-winning success. He introduced Animals as a ‘lecture’, and it certainly had the feel of one, just hosted by the cool, young teacher in school. You leave the show having learnt something, a testament to Gervais’ comic writing and intelligence. But in his last 2 shows, you don’t. They didn’t really seem structured and barely skimmed their relative subject matters – Fame, for example, barely dipped a comic toe into the trials of being famous, a subject vast in scope and its potential for comedy).

Smooth operator...

Enough ranting…. It seems about time that Stephen Merchant took a punt too. I’ve always found him hilarious. He has proven time and time again, especially over the course of the XFM shows, that his Bristolian vowels and proficient improvisational ability are perfectly suited to the comedy circuit. However, a feeling of trepidation also felt entirely natural when I heard about the prospect of a live show. I mean, this man has been involved in the comedy industry for the best part of 15 years and only now is he getting involved in stand-up (this is not entirely true. Having committed myself to some research – or in other words, reading his Wiki page – I see that his career actually started in stand-up, although in his own words, it didn’t really set him on the path to stardom, “The first week I did really well …The second week I died on my arse. I realised that stand-up was not that easy after all.”) He certainly looks comical, with his squinty eyes and lanky 6ft 7″ frame, a physicality which he uses very effectively in the show combined with a close range camera and a big screen! He is also patently a very established comedy writer, but I was intrigued to see how well he could transfer his penchant for situational comedy to stand-up.

I was not let down.

First I must say what a tragedy it is that his tour sold so badly. We actually managed to obtain free tickets for the night, seemingly alongside many others up in the circle, for answering a simple question on See Tickets’ Twitter page (it was actually my girlfriend that did it <3). Having been asked a few hours before we (she) even saw the question, we really thought that there was very little chance of bagging free entry. To our toothy-grinned surprise though, See Tickets were not just giving out one set but multiple. Even better, they were simply tweeting the same download code to every ”winner” which was therefore visible to everyone! (Was this an administrative error, or a sign of how nonexclusive these tickets were?) We didn’t even need to enter the competition to obtain our seats! So my lovely purple-headed girlfriend clicked on the link and got us our tickets. Unlucky to everyone who paid £35 a pop to sit in the stalls, including my brother, ouch, sorry bro.

Watch a clip of the show below, as Stephen talks about venn diagrams….


It’s a real travesty that the show sold so poorly. I put it down to the fact that he has been marketed as Gervais’ sidekick, an almost anonymous face in comparison, when really he is a successful comedy creator in his own right. It must be really disheartening to Stephen Merchant, perhaps forming an insecurity about creating another tour in the future. I sincerely hope not because the show was great! Significantly, it’s his insecurity that makes him, and the show, so loveable. Stephen is innately awkward, bumbling around stage (apt considering his gaming cameo as the voice of Wheatley in Portal 2), much like his character Oggy ‘Nathan’ Ogmonster in The Office. This personality trait is even reflected in his management of heckles – as one unfair patron shouted that “No one gives a shit”, he charmingly responded with an almost childlike defensive torrent of “Just leave it mate”. In fact, the show is really devoted to this insecurity. ‘Hello Ladies’ refers to Merchant’s difficult search for a partner, with the content of the show detailing his struggles, from the obstacle of his height to the dangers of sexual endeavours.

Merchant is particularly likeable as a comedian. His delivery, accent and tone are all very engaging, supported by pacey and well-constructed jokes. He even ended the night on an impromptu reimagining of a play he wrote in school, entitled ‘Choices’. Although I felt that it dragged on somewhat, and would probably be more memorable if it was cut half way through, it was a brave success. Not many comedians would risk bringing on two strangers to perform with him on his first tour. The skit was thoroughly enjoyable, demonstrating a naivety of script and such a hilariously superficial treatment of potent social issues that it was believable as a childhood play. For me this was the real mark of its success, not only was it consistently funny, it was entirely feasible as a real play he wrote as a teenager.

It’s a bit of a spoiler but see the play below:


Generally, I have nothing but praise for the show, a very pleasant surprise indeed. However, I did have a few minor quibbles. Unfortunately, you can’t help seeing Ricky Gervais in his performance. There is a very similar style of delivery to many of his jokes that is inescapably Gervais. Although it still worked perfectly, I cannot help but think that he is doing himself a disservice by not distancing his act from his comedy partner. In fact, Stephen actually declares in Hello Ladies that a significant reason for doing the show in the first place was to get away from Gervais! Moreover, Merchant also has an egotism on stage, often referring to his Golden Globe successes. Somehow this manages to be endearing though as part of the act, like he is overcompensating for what he lacks in good looks or average height. It’s just worryingly reminiscent of Ricky. It has to be said that this was not at all damaging to Hello Ladies, but he must ensure that he does not let this egotism consume his actual character – like Gervais seems to have done – or he will lose the very thing that makes him so likeable.

Overall it was a top show, and a real surprise. Absolute bargain for free too!