Created by Shanghai based design studio automato.farm, ‘BIY™ – Believe it Yourself‘ is a series of real-fictional belief-based computing kits to make and tinker with vernacular logics and superstitions. The team worked with experts in fortune telling from Italy, geomancy from China and numerology from India to translate their knowledge and beliefs into three separate kits – BIY.SEE, BIY.MOVE and BIY.HEAR. They invite users to tinker with cameras that can see luck*, microphones that interpret your destiny*, and compasses that can point you to harmony and balance*.
The fast spreading and ease of access to Machine Learning and Cloud computing has brought to a boom of experiments and excitement around our ability to build machines that make sense, learn, measure and predict the world around us. Moreover, with enough examples, we can train a tool or a ‘machine’ to recognize or quantify pretty much anything we want. ‘Beauty’, ‘Hotdog-ness’ or the more problematic ‘Criminal-ness’ and ‘Sexual orientation’ can be now measured within a few frames, based on a model, a probability, determined by a set of arbitrarily collected data. Subjective judgments and biased datasets can easily be turned into objective measures and potential truths, which will then be embedded in devices around us.
* Like all work by automato.farm, they develop possible future products and interfaces, sometimes real, sometimes fictional and sometimes in-between to explore the next evolution of what interaction design might mean. Their work should not be understood literally.
BIY.MOVE is designed to help you build your own projects to move around following harmonious paths. The BIY.Move kit reinterprets location and context awarness through the logic of Chinese Geomancy and Fengshui. The board uses its own GPS coordinate to calculate whether it’s in a good location considering the Fengshui rules of positions of Mountains and Rivers nearby. It also comes with a distance sensor, calculating constantly the most optimal distance to be at, based on the auspiciousness rules of Chinese Geomancy. Also included is a “harmonious compass”, translating the antique knowledge of the Bagua and the balance of the personal and natural elements into directions and paths for people and robots.
BIY.SEE is designed to help you see good and bad luck in everything around you. The BIY.See kit reinterprets Object Recognition trained on vernacular Italian Superstisions and through the logic of the Smorfia, Naples’ book of dreams. The camera interprets what it sees according to the “smorfia” a book that details the old Neapolitan tradition in which dreams are analyzed and converted into numbers. The board also uses a camera to interpret its surrounding and inform the user of very unlucky configurations (e.g. a black cat crossing the street – 13 people sitting at a dinner table, or a person opening an umbrella indoor). Finally, their facial recognition is trained on specific facial physiognomies of people that normally bring bad luck (known as Jettatore)
BIY.HEAR is a numerological language processing kit to find meaning in every name or object. The BIY.Hear kit tweaks natural language processing to recognize and calculate the destiny hidden in words, trained on Indian numerology and Astrology. The microphones on the board listen for every name of a person, animal or object into to then calculate a lucky number and a destiny based on the word letters and conformations. The board also generates prophecies based on the lucky and destiny numbers that can be heard from its speaker or also printed out with our Destiny printer extension kit. It can also interpret the date and time in which is turned on to constantly determine a Lucky numbers and Destiny number for the board itself, that can be used for your projects.
All three kits run on a Raspberry Pi Computer and include a range of devices to provide services as mentioned above, including Atmega328, custom PCBs, Google AIY Vision Bonnet, Camera, GPS and IMU, Distance Sensor, Neopixel Leds, Electrat Microphone, Speaker, Solenoid and a Sound Card. Software used includes Python, Arduino, custom NLPs and of course custom consulted belief based algorithms.
Commissioned by “Uncanny Values” exhibition at MAK Vienna for Vienna Biennale 2019.