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Gordon Culshaw

Microsoft Sam

A primitive attempt to give the computer a level of self-awareness.

On the computer screen is a ‘screen saver’: an image which ‘bounces’ off the edges of the screen as it moves around in a seemingly random manner. The image on the computer screen is monitored by the webcam. A simple program has been introduced which causes the pitch of the synthetic voice to rise as the screen saver logo moves towards a predefined base, or home, point.

The input from the webcam is analysed by a software program. This piece of software can only understand the signal from the webcam because of an overarching computer operating system and a software driver which translates the webcam signal into readable data. The image on the screen is put there by the computer operating system communicating via a monitor software driver. These layers upon layers of coding, made up of vast arrays of intertwined algorithms, means that this monitoring of an image on the screen, by a camera from which it is separated by only a few centimetres, requires innumerable calculations every second.

To the viewer the tone of the synthetic voice rises, as if more cheery, as the logo moves towards ‘home’. Any happiness is short-lived as the logo’s never ending journey takes it back away from home towards the unknown.