Monday, February 28, 2005

[Cool] NYTimes: Einstein and Pop Culture

Great article on culture's need for the next Einstein. Now that I read this, I wonder if this whole mess with teaching evolution could be simplified if scientists said that Einstein believed in it (the problem being, of course, that this kind of proof by authority is counter to science).

He didn't look like much at first. He was too fat and his head was so big his mother feared it was misshapen or damaged. He didn't speak until he was well past 2, and even then with a strange echolalia that reinforced his parents' fears. He threw a small bowling ball at his little sister and chased his first violin teacher from the house by throwing a chair at her.

There was in short, no sign, other than the patience to build card houses 14 stories high, that little Albert Einstein would grow up to be "the new Copernicus," proclaiming a new theory of nature, in which matter and energy swapped faces, light beams bent, the stars danced and space and time were as flexible and elastic as bubblegum. No clue to suggest that he would help send humanity lurching down the road to the atomic age, with all its promise and dread, with the stroke of his pen on a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, certainly no reason to suspect that his image would be on T- shirts, coffee mugs, posters and dolls.

[Tech] [Ubicomp] Various Location Types

From the GeoPriv RADIUS working standard

| Label | Description | Example |
| country | The country is | US |
| | identified by the | |
| | two-letter ISO 3166 | |
| | code. | |
| | | |
| A1 | national | New York |
| | subdivisions (state, | |
| | region, province, | |
| | prefecture) | |
| | | |
| A2 | county, parish, gun | King's County |
| | (JP), district (IN) | |
| | | |
| A3 | city, township, shi | New York |
| | (JP) | |
| | | |
| A4 | city division, | Manhattan |
| | borough, city | |
| | district, ward, chou | |
| | (JP) | |
| | | |
| A5 | neighborhood, block | Morningside Heights |
| | | |
| A6 | street | Broadway |
| | | |
| PRD | Leading street | N, W |
| | direction | |
| | | |
| POD | Trailing street | SW |
| | suffix | |
| | | |
| STS | Street suffix | Avenue, Platz, |
| | | Street |
| | | |
| HNO | House number, | 123 |
| | numeric part only. | |
| | | |
| HNS | House number suffix | A, 1/2 |
| | | |
| LMK | Landmark or vanity | Low Library |
| | address | |
| | | |
| LOC | Additional location | Room 543 |
| | information | |
| | | |
| FLR | Floor | 5 |
| | | |
| NAM | Name (residence, | Joe's Barbershop |
| | business or office | |
| | occupant) | |
| | | |
| PC | Postal code | 10027-0401 |

Friday, February 25, 2005

[Tech] Interesting Mozilla plugins

Some dealing with privacy and security:
A P3P (Platform for Privacy Policies) translator
Secure display of logos, credentials prevent spoofing / phishing

Some are useful for hacking:
Add, Modify and Filter out any HTTP request headers

Some are just cool ideas:
Replaces the throbber with a foreign language/vocabulary builder

And a bunch of ones dealing with maps:
Send highlighted text to various map sites
Obtains a map based on selected text in browser.
Gives you a Google Map of selected text

Thursday, February 24, 2005

[Tech] [Ubicomp] Camera phones may make a doctor's house calls

Researchers in Switzerland reported Monday the devices could be used to help diagnose and suggest treatment for some serious wounds in patients in remote locations far removed from a physician.

The report from University Hospital of Geneva looked at leg ulcers in 52 patients that were examined both in person and remotely by doctors in a nearby room who had only pictures of the same wounds taken by a first-generation camera phone.

They found remarkably high agreement between doctors who looked at the wound in person and those who saw the image.

If visiting nurses in remote locations can send such pictures in for consultation, "the transport of the patient ... to the hospital or the physician's office could be replaced, and this approach could potentially save the health care system money," the report said.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

[Soc] NYTimes on Craigslist Missed Connections

Categorized under the label Missed Connections, the messages are posted by waitresses longing for patrons, customers lusting after shop clerks and subway passengers pining away for one another. Pessimists see the bulletin board, which gets about 7,000 postings per month, as an online repository for regret. Optimists see it as an opportunity for second chances and serendipity.

You know, I've always wondered how many people found their missed connection. Also interesting is how Craigslist decided to create the Missed Connections group.

Missed Connections was created in 2000 after Craigslist employees noticed "I saw you" messages popping up in the personals section. The name of the category was chosen as a transportation metaphor. "Our motivation is simply that this is something that happened to all of us," said Craig Newmark, an Internet pioneer who started Craigslist in San Francisco.

Of course, here's the main problem:

Completing a missed connection is a challenge requiring that the desired person see the message, reciprocate the feeling and respond. People can be married or in committed relationships. Others do not share the appropriate sexual orientation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

[Tech] [Soc] [Ubicomp] NTT DoCoMo Pioneers 'Dark Side' Research On Mobile Phones

Interesting, I wonder what were the behind-the-scenes debate to get this going.

In a "fireside chat" during Tuesday's (Feb. 15) keynote session, NTT DoCoMo President Masao Nakamura cited the Mobile Social Research Institute, founded last year by his company, as a pioneer in measuring and ameliorating the implications for Japanese society of a population in which 85 million (out of 120 million) depend heavily on mobile telephony.

Citing the myriad forms of mobile phone misuse — ranging from bad subway etiquette to the exploitation of prepaid mobiles in criminal, or terrorist, conspiracies — Nakamura said, "Operators shouldn't escape this issue by just laying the blame on society."


Expanding on Nakamura's remarks, NTT DoCoMo spokeswoman Tomoko Homma said mobile phone users who talk too loud represent only the starting point for the Mobile Social Research Institute, whose purpose is "research and development into the impact of mobile communications on human life."

Among the gravest issues NTT DoCoMo social scientists are exploring is the use of prepaid phones by criminals. NTT DoCoMo has responded by requiring a form of "registration" for all phone buyers, so that no phone can be used in complete anonymity. The company is encouraging other Japanese operators to follow suit.

A new crime in Japan, inspired by mobile telephony, is the use of camera phones for "book piracy" — the photographing of entire books inside bookstores. Photo voyeurism, a longstanding problem in Japan, has been abetted by the convenience and concealment of mobile camera phones.

Monday, February 21, 2005

[HCI] The Future of User Interface Design Tools

Skimming over the papers, lots of interesting ideas. Interesting to consider the deployability issues behind many of these ideas, for example:

  • 80/20 (makes it easy to do the most common things, possible to do the difficult)
  • kool-aid factor (how much buy-in does it take to get things going?)
  • understandability and predictability (will UI designers be able to understand what's going on?)

This workshop aims to gather researchers in the field of user interface design tools to identify important themes for the next decade of research. User interface tools aid in the design and development of interactive systems. They include tools for designing the interface, development environments for writing code, and toolkits that provide software architectures and building blocks to aid development.

[Ubicomp] [HCI] The Meeting Machine: interactive workspace support for nomadic users

Meeting Machine = Projector + Media readers (USB, Compact Flash) + interactive workspace software (for connecting personal laptops to)

Saw this at WMCSA2003 a while back, found the reference to it again, it's a great paper.

Barton, J.J.; Hsieh, T.; Johanson, B.; Vijayaraghavan, V.; Fox, A. The meeting machine: interactive workspace support for nomadic users. Proc. IEEE WMCSA 2003. Page(s): 2- 12.

[HCI] List of Open Source Groupware Systems

Long list of open source software for groups. Wish this person also included commercial groupware in a separate page.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

[tech] Harnessing the Power of "Really Bored People" [tm]

Just saw an article on Wikipedia about Clickworkers, an app by NASA where anybody could come in and identify craters on Mars:

There are many scientific tasks that require human perception and common sense, but may not require a lot of scientific training. Identifying craters on Mars is something almost anyone can do, and classifying them by age is only a little harder.

Reminds me of the ESP game, where people play a game to label images on the web.

From a research perspective, lots of interesting questions:

  • What other kinds of apps fall in this design space?
  • How good are the results (generally speaking)?
  • Are there areas in ubicomp where we can apply these same techniques?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

[HCI] [Tech] Constraint-based systems in Laszlo

Comments from a cool programmer I know (Don Hopkins), on one of my colleagues (Brad Myers) and on constraints in UI programming.

Garnet [] is an advanced user interface development environment written in Common Lisp, developed by Brad Meyers (the author of the article). I worked for Brad on the Garnet project at the CMU CS department back in 1992-3.

One thing I like about Brad Meyers is that he's a strong programmer, as well as an excellent researcher, so he had a first-hand understanding of the real-world issues involved in programming languages and user interface architecture, unlike many academics who talk a lot of theory but never get their hands dirty. Brad Meyers understands where the rubber hits the road, and how important it is to have good tires.

At the time I worked on it, Garnet didn't have pretty graphics like Flash, but the underlying programming system had some advanced features that are sorely lacking from most modern user interface development environments.

Laszlo [] is an modern open source GUI programming system, with many of Garnet's advanced "natural programming" features like prototypes [] and constraints []. Laszlo currently uses Flash as its virtual machine, but it's a much higher level way to program dynamic interactive web based applications, without using the proprietary Flash authoring tool.

Garnet had a true prototype based OOP system (somewhat like Self), which is great for gui programming, because guis have so many objects that look and behave like each other except for a few little customizations (like the layout, graphical style, data source and call-back behavior).

Garnet also had an automatic constraint [] system, which enabled you to simply define any attribute as a formula that depend on other attributes, without needing to worry about how and when the values were calculated. Garnet's constraint system automatically figured out the dependences of each formula, and automatically and efficiently recalculated and cached any values that needed to be updated, but only when necessary.

With constraints, you can make a button inside a window, and define its left edge to be ((parent.width - self.width) / 2), and it will automatically remain horizontally centered in the window from then on, without you (the programmer) having to worry about what to do when the parent window's size changes.

Without constraints, you have to manually write all the code that changes the button position whenever the window size changes, which results in code scattered all over the place in different classes and handlers and intermediate objects.

Constraints are much easier to use and more general purpose than resize handlers, springs and struts, complex MVC [] updating schemes, and other Rube Goldberg devices.

Constraints are especially useful for user interface programming, because they save you from having to write lots of annoying boiler plate and error prone code for handling updates (registering, chasing down dependencies, detecting changes, notifying updates, all happens automatically).

Constraints make GUI programming much easier, but they're also useful anywhere in your program where one value is defined in terms of other values that might change at any time.

Once you've tasted a programming language with constraints, you will not want to go back. Programming without constraints is like writing in machine language: error prone, low level, tedious, inefficient and mind numbing.

Constraints are like structured programming for variables: In the same way that it's better to use loops and conditionals instead of gotos, it's also better to use declarative programming [] that says what you mean, instead of imperative peeks and pokes and side effects.

Constraints let you write easy to read code, and concentrate on the interesting high level stuff that matters. You can go back later and change the layout of a complex GUI, without rewriting lots of fragile layout and event hanling code. Look at any MFC program to see how bad it can get without constraints.

Constraints are natural and close to the way you think, because they let you declare a variable and the formula that defines its value in one place, instead of scattered all around the code. They off-load the tedious task of tracking down and maintaining all the dependencies from the programmer to the computer, which is much better at that kind of stuff.

Garbage collection is like constraints: the computer can do a much better job than the human at performing the task perfectly, so spending some cpu time on automatic garbage collection and constraint maintenance is well worth the significant increase in programmer productivity and software reliability.

Garnet had a prototype based object system. It was implemented in Lisp with a system called KR (Knowledge Representation, classic AI "frames" with slots and inheritance). KR was extended with an automatic constraint system that parsed the formula expressions (written in Lisp macros), figured out the dependences, wired up and maintained the dependency graph.

An expression like "((parent.width – self.width) / 2)" would depend on self’s width slot, self’s parent slot, and parent’s width slot. If any of them changed, then that formula would be automatically invalidated, and only recalculated on demand when it (or something that depended on it) is required.

The cool thing was that you can make a prototype object, like a button, which has sub-structures like a label, border, drop shadow, etc. The sub-structures can be constrained to the button’s dimensions, the label is centered in the border, and the drop shadow floats below and to the right, so the button's layout is automatically updated when it moves or resizes.

The text color and border fill can depend on the button’s "state" variable, so they automatically switch between bright and dark when you press the button (the input handler just toggles the "highlight" variable, and the graphics that depend on it are automatically updated).

Now that you've composed and constrained a button to look and feel how you want, you can use it as a prototype to make other similar customizable buttons instances. Each instance can itself override the prototype's graphical properties, label text, action, etc.

Instances of a prototype all magically inherit (instances of) the sub-structure of the prototype! It all just works the way you’d expect it to (with a lot of plumbing going on automatically behind the scenes). There’s no need to make a separate class for each different style of button or action – prototypes let you customize any instance itself!

Like Garnet, Laszlo [] is an advanced open source user interface development environment that supports prototype based OOP with constraints.

Unlike Garnet, Laszlo deeply integrates recent trendy technologies like XML, JavaScript, Flash, data binding, networking, XML/RPC, SOAP, ReST, Java and Tomcat.

Laszlo has a class/prototype based object system [], and it (currently) uses the JavaScript runtime in Flash as its virtual machine. But it's more than just another way to program Flash.

Unlike raw Flash, The Laszlo language is easy to learn [] and Laszlo programs are easy to read and write [] thanks to prototypes [], constraints [], declarative programming [], and instance-first development [].


[Ubicomp] [Tech] WaveMarket Location Services

Interesting stuff, wonder how well it works, in terms of usability, scalability, etc?

Map.Me is a mobile phone map interface that allows users to pan/zoom and experience dynamic mobile city guides. Subscribers can download the application on their mobile phone to locate themselves, find addresses and businesses, and show directory listings on a map. Users can also request driving directions on how to reach their desired destination. is a location-aware mobile social network that allows friends to locate each other as well as share location-tagged blog posts. It turns mobile handsets into location-enabled broadcasting and viewing devices. It is where you go to see postings from anywhere that interests you. The number of posts, pages, and channels we host is unlimited, but it’s all organized by place and time so you get where you want in just seconds.

WaveAlert enables wireless operators to notify you when are near something important to you, like a speed trap before its too late, or a good friend who happens to be in your area. Now you get the information you want when you need it based on your location and interests. For the first time WaveAlert solves the tremendous technical challenges required for these services by dramatically reducing location polling rates while also efficiently scaling to millions of subscribers.

[Policy] [Tech] Stallman on Intellectual Property

Richard Stallman makes very intriguing arguments in favor of scaling back copyright protection. It makes sense for the big media companies to keep pushing for stronger copyright protection, because it's in their selfish best interests, but
it's likely this will hinder innovation that would create an even larger pie that more people could partake in (though whether that's true or not, my magic eight-ball can't tell).

The article misstated my views when it said I am "against intellectual property". That term has no meaning except a confused mishmash of copyright law, patent law, and trademark law, and using the term leads people to simplistic, extreme, confused views. To be either for or against "intellectual property" is equally foolish. We can encourage careful thinking by rejecting that simplitic slogan.

In US law, copyright is a deal between the public and authors: the public sold the freedom to republish, which only publishers could do anyway, and gained more progress. Progress is valuable, but freedoms that we want to use are even more valuable. Nowadays, that includes the freedom to share copies on the internet. To make copyright law a good deal for the public, we should scale it back. If this means some companies and a handful of superstars make less than their wildest dreams, Prendergast may be shocked, but Adam Smith would not have been.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

[Just Plain Weird] Beer Retrieval Machine

I guess I spoke too soon about the auto-beer application. I forgot that one of the guys down the hall in Berkeley CS made a Universal Planar Manipulator that could send a beer down a table into your hand.

[HCI] [Ubicomp] The Design Challenge of Pervasive Computing

John Thackara was the plenary speaker at CHI2000, lots of interesting thoughts here.

But do all these chips make for better products? Or a better life? Let me tell you a strange thing. Hardly anyone is asking that question. When it comes to innovation, we are looking down the wrong end of the telescope: away from people, toward technology. Industry suffers from a kind of global autism. Autism, as you may know, is a psychological disorder that is characterized by "detachment from other human beings." This autism probably explains the fiasco over third-generation (3G) Internet. In the United Kingdom alone, the auction of radio spectrum raised $25 billion. That's an awful lot of money to pay for fresh air! And what did these companies think they were buying? They thought they were buying the latest technological Holy Grail—the capacity to send broadband "content" to people on their mobile phones. Did these companies talk to people in the street, to their future customers, about this fantasy? No. They went to Comdex and talked to each other. Talk about the blind leading the blind. This whole sad 3G story is an exact repetition of 1993 when everyone said that the destiny of the Internet was to transmit Hollywood movies into our homes.


We are designing a world in which every object, every building—and nearly every human body—becomes part of a network service. We may not have set out to design such an outcome, but that's what we're going to get. Unless things change, we'll achieve pervasive computing and ubiquitous networking without having forethought the effects this will have or the quality of life we are bequeathing our children.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

[Privacy] [Ubicomp] States Mull Taxing Drivers By Mile

Interesting, a dis-incentive to get hybrid cars. But now that I think about it, wouldn't it be far easier just to raise gas prices?

Officials in car-clogged California are so worried they may be considering a replacement for the gas tax altogether, replacing it with something called "tax by the mile."

Seeing tax dollars dwindling, neighboring Oregon has already started road testing the idea.

"Drivers will get charged for how many miles they use the roads, and it's as simple as that," says engineer David Kim.

Kim and his team at Oregon State University equipped a test car with a global positioning device to keep track of its mileage. Eventually, every car would need one.

"So, if you drive 10 miles you will pay a certain fee which will be, let's say, one tenth of what someone pays if they drive 100 miles," says Kim.

The new tax would be charged each time you fill up. A computer inside the gas pump would communicate with your car's odometer to calculate how much you owe.

Friday, February 11, 2005

[Ubicomp] [Rant] Jason's Rant on Smart (and Not So Smart) Homes

Just presented my rant on smart homes to some faculty and students in architecture here at CMU.

My main points:

Research community should focus less on gizmos, more on existing activities
  • Child care: getting kids to school, caring for babies
  • Home maintenance: lights, termites, bills
  • Family coordination: kids, grandparents, friends

Research community should also remember that houses are part of a bigger picture
  • Part of the local environment
  • Part of the local community
  • Part of larger activities (work, play, health, family)

Think about merging liberal democratic goals with good marketing and good tech
  • Environmentally “green” houses
  • Strong vibrant communities
  • Stronger family interactions

Smart homes aren’t just about the house!

[Web] To Pop-Up, or Not To Pop-Up, That Is the Question

My co-author on The Design of Sites answers about web popups.

Recently, while replying to e-mails from readers of my book, The Design of Sites, I came across a comment from a designer who claimed that my recommendation to use pop-ups was hopelessly out of date.

Did this reader not understand me, my recommendation -- to use pop-ups primarily in situations when people are asking for more information or when trying to better serve customer needs by asking survey questions? Or had I lost touch with reality and slept through a transformation of the industry?

To answer these important questions, I set about re-examining the best practices around the use of pop-ups on the Web.

[Research] U.S. Scientists Say They Are Told to Alter Findings

LA Times article

More than half of the biologists and other researchers who responded to the survey said they knew of cases in which commercial interests, including timber, grazing, development and energy companies, had applied political pressure to reverse scientific conclusions deemed harmful to their business.


The two groups that circulated the survey also made available memos from Fish and Wildlife officials that instructed employees not to respond to the survey, even if they did so on their own time. Snow said that agency employees could not use work time to respond to outside surveys.


One scientist working in the Pacific region, which includes California, wrote: "I have been through the reversal of two listing decisions due to political pressure. Science was ignored — and worse, manipulated, to build a bogus rationale for reversal of these listing decisions."

More than 20% of survey responders reported they had been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information."

However, 69% said they had never been given such a directive. And, although more than half of the respondents said they had been ordered to alter findings to lessen protection of species, nearly 40% said they had never been required to do so.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

[HCI] [Ubicomp] Smart Homes? A Stupid Idea.

Thought provoking article.

Based on extensive research by anthropologists watching how people live (not just talking to them about how they say they live), Doblin Group predicts that key areas for innovation will relate to six activities: child care, cooking, group entertaining, family coordination, learning, and home management. This is where the action is for future products and services.

[Cool] Beer and Ben Franklin

Saw a good quote today, wonder if he really said it?

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." (Ben Franklin)

[Ubicomp] [Soc] Smart Homes and Smart Marketing

For the majority of voters...the phrase [energy conservation] conjures "sacrifice, deprivation, Jimmy Carter in a cardigan telling you to turn down the thermostat." ... But they do like to be told they're smart... [P]roducts, programs, and politicians that have substituted "energy efficiency" or "smart shopping" do dramatically better than those urging abstinence. "So the environment is not a primary motivator," she concludes, "but if people can help themselves first and help the environment too, they feel they're being smart shoppers and good citizens."

  — Who's got the power?, Christian Science Monitor Aug 28 2003

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction Department - When Chat Rooms go Bad

A budding romance between a Jordanian man and woman turned into an ugly public divorce when the couple found out that they were in fact man and wife, state media reported on Sunday. Separated for several months, boredom and chance briefly reunited Bakr Melhem and his wife Sanaa in an internet chat room, the official Petra news agency said. Bakr, who passed himself off as Adnan, fell head over heels for Sanaa, who signed off as Jamila (beautiful) and described herself as a cultured, unmarried woman -- a devout Muslim whose hobby was reading, Petra said. Cyber-love blossomed between the pair for three months and soon they were making wedding plans. To pledge their troth in person, they agreed to meet in the flesh near a bus depot in the town of Zarqa, northeast of Amman. The shock of finding out their true identities was too much for the pair.

[Ubicomp] [Tech] [Privacy] RFIDs in Schools

Same old story with ubicomp technologies:

  • No real value proposition
  • Even worse, exposes students to new risks
  • Probably no real thought on how to protect the data
  • Very likely little thought on how to scope the system properly
  • Doubtful if they considered alternative architectures that collect the minimum amount of data to get the desired benefits

"Forcing my child to be tracked with a RFID device – without our consent or knowledge – is a complete invasion of our privacy," said Michael and Dawn Cantrall. "Our 7th grader came home wearing the ID badge prominently displayed around her neck– if a predator wanted to target my child, the mandatory school ID card has just made that task easier." The Cantralls filed a formal complaint against the Brittan Elementary School Board in Sutter, California on January 30th after meeting with several school officials.

"The monitoring of children with RFID tags is comparable to the tracking of cattle, shipment pallets, or very dangerous criminals in high-security prisons. Compelling children to be constantly tracked with RFID-trackable identity badges breaches their right to privacy and dignity as human beings. Forcing children to wear badges around their necks displaying such sensitive information as their name, picture, grade and school exposes them to potential discrimination since the name of their school may disclose their religious beliefs or social class," said C├ędric Laurant, Policy Counsel with EPIC.

Needs Selling Satisfaction

Have to admit, this is a nice way of communicating a value proposition.
From "Confessions of a Car Salesman"

Roy taught a total system for sales, called "Needs Satisfaction Selling." You found out what the customer's needs were and then you presented the car in such a way as to meet their needs. This meant you needed to know the car's features so well you could present it in a number of different ways. If the customer wanted safety you had to talk about ABS, airbags and crumple zones. If the buyer wanted performance you talked about the V6 engine, the silky-smooth tranny and the platinum-tipped spark plugs.

The selling system was built around a progression of questions we were told to memorize. That night I took these questions home and my 9-year-old, who loves role-playing, helped me practice using them.

I'd shake my son's hand and say, "Welcome to the dealership! And your name is?"


"Good to meet you Freddie. Are you familiar with our product line here?"

"Uh uh," he'd say, trying to be serious like an adult.

"Fine. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions? That way I can better understand which cars on our lot to show you."


"Freddie, let me ask you, what are you driving now?"

"A BMX bike."

"OK. And what do you like about that bike?"

"Goes real fast."

"So Freddie, what you're saying is performance is important to you. Is that right?"

"I guess."

"Well, we have a model over here with a V6 engine that puts out 210 horsepower. Follow me."

He always followed me when I turned and walked toward the imaginary cars. I wished all the customers were like Freddie.

Edmund Burke on Society

Pure genius from Edmund Burke.

[Society] is a partnership in all science, a partnership in all art, a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.

[Tech] Technology Wishlist for Emergency Response Teams


  • Personnel locator / monitor
  • Approaching Traffic Warning Device for Emergency Response Vehicles
  • Building and Facility Emergency Response Information/Survey Tool
  • Casualty Locator
  • Chemical and Biological Contaminants Neutralizer
  • Colormetric detection capability for all chemicals
  • Enhanced Multi-mission Structural Firefighting PPE
  • Enhancement to the Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) to allow for two-way emergency alerting

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

[Cool] Lego IPods

One artist is selling tiny Lego people carrying ipods. Very stylish.

[Tech] [Ubicomp] How Smart Dust works

A nice, basic explanation of Smart Dust motes from HowStuffWorks.

You could attach motes to the water meters or power meters in a neighborhood. The motes would log power and water consumption for a customer. When a truck drives by, the motes get a signal from the truck and they send their data. This would allow a person to read all the meters in a neighborhood very easily, simply by driving down the street.


Imagine a suburban neighborhood or an apartment complex with motes that monitor the water and power meters (as described in the previous section). Since all of the meters (and motes) in a typical neighborhood are within 100 feet (30 meters) of each other, the attached motes could form an ad hoc network amongst themselves. At one end of the neighborhood is a super-mote with a network connection or a cell-phone link. In this imagined neighborhood, someone doesn't have to drive a truck through the neighborhood each month to read the individual water or power meters -- the motes pass the data along from one to another, and the super-mote transmits it. Measurement can occur hourly or daily if desired.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

[Cool] [Tech] [HCI] Cool InfoViz - State of the Union Parsing Tool

Very cool infoviz tool for seeing the frequency of words in the past few State of the Union Addresses.

The main web site,, also has some other nice visualizations as well.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

[Ubicomp] Japanese Smart Home

Sounds very interesting. Of course, the real question is how well it works in practice, and what happens when inevitable errors arise. Though I have to admit I really like the auto-beer application.

# No keys are required to unlock the front door. Instead, the house relies on a fingerprint scanner to identify the person who wants to open the door. In a personal touch, the fingerprint data can also be sent to Aibo, which can perform a unique "welcome dance" to greet different members of the family.

# No more waiting at home for the delivery of a parcel. A box for parcels is located just outside the front door. A family member can check on the arrival of package using a cell phone and open the box remotely.The box is able to recognize the identification of the delivery and issues a signed receipt to the deliverer.

# Everything from opening curtains to turning on lights or the air conditioner can be controlled from the plasma-display television in the living room using a single remote control.

# The house never runs out of beer. When there are only three cans of beer left in the refrigerator, an e-mail order for more will be sent to a store. The house can also order more rice -- an important daily staple in Japan. A censor attached to a rice container detects when rice is running low and automatically orders a new bag via e-mail.

# The garden is equipped with a cell phone-controlled system that waters plants and feeds pets, allowing family members to take care of plants and pets while away on vacation or out shopping.

# For elderly family members, the house incorporates censors to monitor health conditions in a specially modified bed. When the censor detects something unusual, such as an irregular heartbeat or breathing cycle, it automatically sends a message to other family members' cell phones.

# On the balcony, a clothesline monitors changes of weather. When it starts raining, it automatically pulls a covering sheet over clothes that have been hung out to dry.

# Each room in the house includes a hands-free speaker/microphone with voice-recognition capabilities that allows family members to stay in contact. For example, instead of a mother having to yell for the kids when dinner is ready, the system can make a phone call or send e-mail using a voice command.

# The house can learn and adapt to the habits of each family member. For example, if one family member often goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night, the system is able to adapt to this habit. When the person gets up from bed, the house automatically warms up the toilet seat and lights up the way to the bathroom. The house will also turn the toilet-seat heater and lights off as the person is going back to the bedroom.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

[Cool] [Tech] Jiggy Phone

Tired of pushing all those buttons on your cell phone? Some Japanese handsets slated to hit stores next month are designed to solve that problem: They respond to shakes, tilts and jiggles.

The new phones come equipped with a tiny motion-control sensor. Just jerk your cell phone in the air in a variety of two-step patterns -- such as left followed by down -- to program your phone to scroll or jump to e-mail or other features.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

[Tech] IP Address Geolocators

Three different online services for doing lookups from IP Address to location information (roughly at the postal code level)

Inspirational Talk by Muhammed Yunus

Dr. Muhammad Yunus is the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank, or as he calls it, a bank for the poor. The insight he had was that small micro-loans, less than $100 each, could bring Bangladeshi families out of poverty in an economically sustainable manner. He also has an amazing program for using mobile phones to help improve information and communications as well. Bill Clinton wasn't kidding when he said that this guy deserves the Nobel Prize in Peace.

[Ubicomp] Videos of Ubiquitous Computing

Cool ubicomp vids:

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

[Ubicomp] Revenge of Geography

Great article in the Economist about location-based services. Talks about uses of location information, geotagging, geoencryption (cool idea, but sounds tough to do well), geomarking ("I'm over here, meet me").

Best quote:

The internet is an open platform, but it lacks ubiquitous wireless coverage and proper positioning technology. Only when openness, ubiquity and GPS-grade positioning are available in the same handset will it be possible to realise the true potential of location-based services.

Wireless Network Visualizations

Cute idea, overlays WiFi signal strengths on top of aerial maps.

[Cool] M&M Sorter

Parallax has an interesting kit called the M-Sorter. It really sorts M&M candies, and even Skittles. The device is incredible and ingenious in it's simplicity and design, in that the whole project runs with only 1 moving part!