So after Margo "Book Babe" Hammond interviewed Atwood and insinuated that maybe, just maybe, this whole "tour at a distance" remote arm might just be a bunch of hooey, the 'sphere's been somewhat atwitter. But sometimes, you have to go to the source -- not Atwood, per se, but the original story that broke, way back on the first of January in the Canadian Magazine Quill & Quire:
On Nov. 29, CanLit giant Margaret Atwood convened many of the country's most important publishers in the basement of Toronto's Drake Hotel to show them her new invention - a device that will allow authors to sign books remotely.
The "gizmo," as Atwood and her team called it in material distributed at the event, was demonstrated by the author herself. Leaving the attendees behind for a moment, she rushed upstairs to a hotel room and sat before a live-feed video camera. On a monitor downstairs, everyone watched as she signed her name on an electronic pad with a laser pen. Then they saw the autograph appear on a piece of paper spat out by a nearby machine, replicated perfectly in ink. "It was like a magic act," says Random House of Canada's Louise Dennys.
Atwood has set up a company called Unotchit (pronounced You-No-Touch-It), of which she is the president. And she has a team of developers working on the project, under the direction of Matthew Gibson. Atwood's patent lawyer, Anthony de Fazekas of the firm Miller Thomson, says that he filed a patent request with the Canadian patent office on Nov. 24.
Thus far, Atwood has been closely involved in the project, even after developing the idea and contracting a team to develop it. But she hopes someday to be able to hand over the reins of the company to somebody else. At this time, she said there are no outside investors in the project, but she may find some interest from the publishers who attended the demonstration. Their response was very favourable, Atwood says: "One quote: 'Genius.'"
While it's entirely possible there's a vast conspiracy at work, I'm always inclined to go with the path of least resistance...
It's also worth bearing in mind that Unotchit has its very own website, and for the simple price of registering for a password, you can find out lots more about the product and Atwood's aims. They quite amused me, especially this:
Will people accept a virtual presence in lieu of a live body?
People are now familiar with this kind of interaction. They may even have a more intimate moment that way. Also, we predict five to seven years of novelty value. People love to see a doodad performing an act that real people do as a matter of course. We may even want to print a little logo on the book - "Signed at a distance via Unotchit."
A more intimate moment? Do we really want to go there? I'm really not sure I do...
UPDATE, 5:00 PM EDT: Louise Dennys, Executive VP of Random House Canada, responds with further confirmation that Atwood's idea is, indeed, reality:
Yes, I was indeed present, along with a number of writers and many key
members of the Canadian publishing industry. The Unotuchit development is a very real, exciting and serious new tool to take writers and their books directly to an even wider possible audience--serving both the writer and the reader. It's an innovative idea that could benefit writers and readers -- Margaret Atwood is truly to be applauded for not only dreaming up but seriously exploring the possibilities of this new venture.
Hopefully that should clear things up just a little bit for all the doubters out there.
UPDATE, 9:00 EDT, February 2: According to the Unotchit site, "The patent applications have been filed, so patent is pending." But as Nathalie points out in the comments to this and to the earlier post at Tingle Alley, she spent hours perusing the patent office files and hasn't found anything yet. Further investigation will be made and so...the plot does indeed thicken...