The 2022 Fiction Issue

Metro Detroit writers and artists take on the theme ‘Conjuring Future Visions’ and meditate on what lies ahead, guest edited by Nandi Comer and deputy editor Zig Zag Claybourne

Page 5 of 21

Daedrīm D4 Field Test: A Hike up Mt. Detroit

By Jack Cheng

Daedrim D4

Pros:
• Higher-resolution Évoke2 engine
• Same great crowd-cancelation
• USB-K charging
Cons:
• Pancake design stands out at first
• Blankness of pure being feels like a bug

μTimes Rating: 6.⅞

In 2041, Daedrīm rocked the Experiential Capture world with its revolutionary D1. The device had none of the typical outward-facing cameras or sensors. Instead, it used a proprietary electromagnetic halo to capture the emotive content of experiences, which when played back could summon the corresponding sights and sounds. To wear the D1 was a revelation. It felt like Experiential Capture the way it was always meant to be: a flesh-colored blister on the side of your neck.

Eight years and three models later, Daedrīm is finally releasing its long-awaited D4. To see if it’s worth the upgrade, we took it for a hike up Mt. Detroit.

Our field test happened on a mild March day. The afternoon clouds had started to clear, and we hoped that the sun would show by the time we reached the summit. From the trailhead through the first gentle stretch, our review unit detected our low-level anticipation nicely. But as soon as we passed our first group of hikers, the device also picked up our self-consciousness in wearing it. The reason? The D4 is actually larger than its predecessors – less a thumb-sized blister and more of a mini pancake.

Our contact at Daedrīm says this was in order to accommodate the brand new Évoke2 sensor, but we suspect it has more to do with recent congressional hearings on where ECs fit under federal surveillance law. Regardless, we didn’t want our thoughts about the new form-factor to interfere with the remainder of our test, so we double-tapped our pancake to turn on meta-awareness cancellation.

We followed the trail up a steeper incline, and the D4 registered our mild satisfaction in feeling our exopack actuators actuate. Around the next bend, we were rewarded with a view angled north up Woodward Avenue – along with an informational plaque. A century ago, Mt. Detroit was the site of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Then for a brief span in the early 2020s, it housed a fulfillment center, which later shuttered as a result of the Warren-Klobuchar Deplatformization Act. The site lay mostly abandoned until a push by the Detroit Greenways Coalition to transform it into usable public space. As we read the plaque, the D4 captured a flash of warm recognition: we remembered learning all this on a field trip in fifth grade.

About that new sensor: the D1 was notorious for its erratic behavior. Some moments it would miss altogether, while others it would blow out, turning, say, slight hangriness into a bottomless pit of longing. Subsequent models resolved these issues, but their recordings often felt too clinical and sterile. And while the D4 lacks the “wildness” of the original, its ability to convey nuance is truly unmatched. The Évoke2 sensor can register emotive content at far-higher resolution – not just social boredom but the jittery ennui of an over-long first date. Not just disappointment in a bad meal but the self-critical regret of going to a restaurant and ordering something different from what you always get, only to have it be not as good.

We picked up our pace, winding back and forth up a set of switchbacks. Around the next bend, we encountered a gaggle of blister-less teenagers wearing vintage late-20s go bags and rubber flood boots. We recognized the boots; they were the same kind our parents kept in the closet by the front door. The teenagers all laughed at something – except for one of them, who was admiring wildflowers along the trail’s edge, and who, upon noticing us, told us we didn’t have much further until the top. Then they went back to the flowers.

The D4 captured this entire interaction well, from nostalgia for a difficult but more purposeful past to anxious wondering if you have something on your face (that isn’t a mini pancake), through to a rueful longing to slow time’s relentless march.

One last bend and we’d finally reached the top. The summit was packed with people, their blisters glowing softly in capture-mode. Here we finally turned on the D4’s crowd-cancellation, so as to filter out our mild annoyance at not being the only one who had this idea. We looked for a more solitary place to sit, and found a spot on a rocky outcrop, overlooking the eastern face of the mountain. It’d rained the night before, and the retention pools were still full. In one of them, we spotted what looked like a new art installation. But then it moved. It was not a sculpture, we realized, but a living animal. A blue heron.

We’d heard about such animals. They were subjects of childhood drawings, the mascots of our schools. But we had never seen one in person. We weren’t even sure if they were extinct, or endangered, or what era they’d roamed wild here. Wind rippled the water’s surface. But the heron, unfazed, bowed its head, and lifted one leg, almost like a dancer at a slow-rave. We thought about the prepper kid staring at wildflowers. Some time passed. Then the heron, in a riot of feathers, took flight. It skimmed the retention pools and climbed up, cutting across our view of Hamtramack’s canals, and North End’s rice paddies, past the gleaming fern-spilled towers of Highland Park, over the creeks and capillaries of the teeming Rouge, under pink and purple contrails and mottled clouds, toward the already-set sun.

We were eager to see how the D4 had rendered our sense of awe. But this portion of our recording was blank. We thought it had to be some kind of malfunction with our review unit. We reached out to our contact at Daedrīm, who told us that our unit had worked exactly as intended. When pressed further, they offered the following explanation: Awe, as an emotion, was a function of memory – it only appeared in hindsight. What the D4 had captured was what we had actually experienced in that moment: the blankness of pure being.

Our contact acknowledged that the effect could be quite jarring, and said that the company was already working to blend in synthetic awe to better match users’ expectations. They assured us that within a week of the D4’s release, the issue would be addressed in an over-the-air software update.

Jack Cheng is a 2019 Kresge Artist Fellow and the author of See You in the Cosmos, a novel for young readers.

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