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From the New York Times Magazine:

Dream Life

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The cars now being tested by Google, BMW, Ford and others all see by way of a particular kind of scanning system called lidar (a portmanteau of ‘‘light’’ and ‘‘radar’’). A lidar scanner sends out tiny bursts of illumination invisible to the human eye, almost a million every second, that bounce off every building, object and person in the area.

This undetectable machine-­flicker is ‘‘capturing’’ extremely detailed, millimeter-­scale measurements of the surrounding environment, far more accurate than anything achievable by the human eye. Capturing resembles photography, but it operates volumetrically, producing a complete three-­dimensional model of a scene. …

The sensory limitations of these vehicles must be accounted for … especially in an urban world filled with complex architectural forms, reflective surfaces, unpredictable weather and temporary construction sites. This means that cities may have to be redesigned, or may simply mutate over time, to accommodate a car’s peculiar way of experiencing the built environment.

The flip side of this example is that, in these brief moments of misinterpretation, a different version of the urban world exists: a parallel landscape seen only by machine-­sensing technology in which objects and signs invisible to human beings nevertheless have real effects in the operation of the city. If we can learn from human misperception, perhaps we can also learn something from the delusions and hallucinations of sensing machines. But what?

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Dream 2

To see how driverless cars might perceive — and misperceive — the world, ScanLAB Projects drove a 3-D laser scanner through the streets of London.

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While artists once traveled great distances to see sights of sublimity and grandeur, equally wondrous and unsettling scenes can now be found within the means of travel itself. As we peer into the algorithmic dreams of these vehicles, we are perhaps also being given the first glimpse of what’s to come when they awake.

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Full story here.