I just posted pictures from the wearable-technology fashion show that was part of the ISWC 2005 program, sponsored by the KANSAI IT Synergistic Society. This was the third ISWC to include such a show, the first being Beauty and the Bits hosted by the MIT Media Lab at the first ISWC, and the second hosted by Komposite at ISWC 2002 in Seattle.
There were a few practical application garments being shown at this show, but most leaned towards the fashion end, with dance, music and LEDs playing prominent roles. My apologies for the quality of some of the pictures — my little hand-held camera doesn't work well in low lighting.
Yesterday, Socket Communications announced a they'll be coming out with a Bluetooth barcode-scanning ring, with full production in Q1 2006. (No word yet on how it will compare with Symbol Technology's SRS-1 Ring Scanner, which has already been on the market for several years.)
(Thanks to Nerfduck for the link!)
Google Base is Google's database into which you can add all types of content. We'll host your content and make it searchable online for free.
Once again, Google proves they groks that the marginal cost of storage and file transfer is essentially free. By becoming the go-to place for everyone's content they draw more eyeballs for their web ads and position themselves to become the best aggregation service on the Net (if they aren't already).
Today we're marking the 2000th American military death in Iraq. It's important to recognize landmarks like this, even though 2000 is an arbitrary number and even though counting only American deaths is rather parochial of us anyway. But lest we get too caught up on numbers it's also important to remember that this doesn't count contractors and other "outsourced" military functions: men and women who were just as involved in fighting the war as their enlisted partners. That adds a minimum of 105 confirmed American casualties, but the simple fact is that nobody knows even how many contractors are working for us out there, much less how many casualties they've suffered. Landmarks are important times to reflect on where we are and the price we paid to get there, but let's not lose sight of the fact that the cost has been more than just what is easily counted.
Britain's National Archives have started putting their government-produced public information films online, starting with films from 1945-1951. Everything from a 1948 cartoon explaining the benefits of the newly formed National Insurance Act (Britain's welfare system) to a film showing how to use the pedestrian crossing (crosswalk).
Material is released under the Crown Copyright license, which is essentially a non-commercial-use license with the added stipulation that the material is "re-used accurately and not used in a misleading context."
(Thanks to Andy for the link.)
The winner of this year's best paper award at ISWC (the first ISWC to have such an award) was a paper by Don Patterson from the University of Washington called Fine-Grained Activity Recognition by Aggregating Abstract Object Usage. All the authors got certificates and Don took home a new video iPod as the prize.
This was one of several papers presented that used an RFID reader in a glove, in this case to classify what kind of activity a person is conducting based on the sequence of objects she has touched. This would be useful, for example, for alerting a care worker if a resident of an assistive-living home had stopped eating.
From the abstract:
In this paper we present results related to achieving fine-grained activity recognition for context-aware computing applications. We examine the advantages and challenges of reasoning with globally unique object instances detected by an RFID glove. We present a sequence of increasingly powerful probabilistic graphical models for activity recognition. We show the advantages of adding additional complexity and conclude with a model that can reason tractably about aggregated object instances and gracefully generalizes from object instances to their classes by using abstraction smoothing. We apply these models to data collected from a morning household routine.
Here are all six nominees for best paper from ISWC'05, which were the top 10% of full papers based on reviewer-rating:
Fine-Grained Activity Recognition by Aggregating Abstract Object Usage (author's PDF), by Donald Patterson, Dieter Fox, Henry Kautz, Matthai Philipose (U. Washington and Intel Research, Seattle)
ReachMedia: On-the-move interaction with everyday objects (author's PDF), by Assaf Feldman, Emmanuel Munguia Tapia, Sajid Sadi, Pattie Maes and Chris Schmandt (MIT Media Lab)
A Design Process for the Development of Innovative Smart Clothing that Addresses End-User Needs from Technical, Functional, Aesthetic and Cultural View Points by Jane McCann, Richard Hurford and Adam Martin (University of Wales)
Pictorial Depth Cues for Outdoor Augmented Reality by Jason Wither and Tobias Höllerer (University of California, Santa Barbara)
A Body-mounted Camera System for Capturing User-view Images without Head- mounted Camera by Hirotake Yamazoe, Akira Utsumi and Kenichi Hosaka (ATR)
The Impacts of Limited Visual Feedback on Mobile Text Entry for the Twiddler and Mini-QWERTY Keyboard (author's PDF) by James Clawson, Kent Lyons, Thad Starner and Edward Clarkson (Georgia Tech)
It's decided: next year's International Symposium on Wearable Computing will be in Montreux, Switzerland on October 11th-13th, with workshops and tutorials after the main conference on October 14th. This'll be co-located with UIST, which has their doctorial symposium on the 15th and main conference October 16th - 18th.
The conference, by the way, will be held in Casino Montreux. I wonder if we can get back to our roots and try out some roulette-wheel predicting wearables? ;-)
I've always pushed for more "artistic" papers at ISWC, but there's often a culture and communications gap between the technical and artistic communities. Joanna Berzowska's presentation on her animated kinetic dresses was a wonderful exception. The goal of her project was entirely aestetic — the hemline of one dress rises and lowers as if betraying (or thwarting) the wearer's secret desires, and broach flowers open and close of their own accord on the neckline of another dress. But her presentation was full of all the technical details and lessons necessary to accomplish these creations. A couple examples:
They used Nitinol (memory wire) sewn into felt to cause the motion. After trying many configurations, they determined that a tight coil was the best configuration to "set" the Nitinol, as it created the largest motion.
Felt was the perfect fabric for a number of reasons. It's sturdy, so when the Nitinol relaxes back to its non-set shape the felt will pull the dress or flower back to the normal position. It's thick, so circuitry and wires can be felted into the fabric itself. And it's a good insulator of heat and electricity, so the wearer is protected if there's a short. It's even fairly fire-retardant.
Osaka has great infrastructure for helping the blind find their way. Not only is the city covered in these yellow bumpy paths you can follow with a cane or your foot (with differently shaped bumps at intersections so you can tell where to turn), but they've also got braille signs in all the subway stairwells explaining where this passage leads. The best part is how they put the braille in the best possible place for it to be found just by feeling around: wrapped around the handrail itself.
Yesterday I took a tutorial on building a wearable computer from the Intel-based Stargate board. Both the Stargate and for that matter the iPaq have a good form-factor for a Tin-Lizzy-style wearable (small, low power and have USB-Host for a one-handed keyboard) except for the big problem that they don't have VGA-out to drive a head-up display. Kent Lyons has developed a nice hack to get around this limitation. (Technical summary follows.)
The hardware Kent's using is IO Data's Compact-Flash XGA card. Compact Flash doesn't have enough pins to memory-map, so the CFXGA card uses the BLT interface to send just the pixels that change. (The card is designed for giving PowerPoint presentations from your handheld so they're not worried about fast-changing scenes.) Kent leverages this by using his own modified X server that can use the BLT interface. It's only 640x480 at 16 bpp, but it's enough for text and simple interfaces on a head-up display. There's code and a brief how-to at Kent's website, as well as an email address where you can bug him to add more detail :).
I picked up an iPod Nano as a birthday gift to myself, and love it. It's small and light enough to fit in my shirt pocket, and I'm finding that even 2 Gig is enough for a wide range of my randomly-sampled music library (plus podcasts, which is really what I want to use it for).
The one big problem I have with it (besides still needing to buy some sort of sleeve to protect its screen) is what to do with the headphones when I'm not using it. The ones that come with it are always a tangled mess after sitting in my pocket, and the Javo Edge retractable kind seemed fine on my normal iPod but now actually takes up more room and is twice as thick as the iPod itself!
The problem of "what do you do with it when it's not being used" is one that watches and belt-clip pagers have solved but iPods and cellphones headpieces really haven't yet. Even wireless earpieces for cellphones don't have a place when they're not in use, though at least they don't get tangled. It's a harder industrial engineering problem than you might think, and one that I think often gets overlooked.
I'll be blogging from the 2005 International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Osaka this week. Please enjoy!
The latest buzz buzz in FM music formats is Jack-FM, a nationally syndicated format that eliminates DJs and replaces them with essentially random shuffle-play (the rough transitions between radically different songs is part of the charm). The playlist is pulled from a library of around 1,200 songs, about 3-4 times that of a traditional station, though all songs have to have been in the top 40 in the last 40 or so years. Jack-FM's website attributes their success to the iPod making people comfortable with shuffle-play:
Random acts of greatness “jack” radio. Several kajillion iPod users can’t be wrong. Thanks to the shuffle feature, hearing different styles of music one after another feels completely natural, and desperate radio programmers have taken notice. The “Jack” format—so named for its Everyman inclusiveness—is popping up in every market to save commercial radio from obsolescence.
I'm skeptical about Jack "saving commercial radio from obsolescence" — it sounds more like the blowing of taps to me. Way back when, before the days of top-40 or Clear Channel, DJs actually added value through their extensive record collections and expert knowledge of who the hot new groups were. But that was then, and by eliminating DJs altogether, Jack is declaring that the job music-radio DJs do today can be done just as well and more cheaply by a random-number generator.
That may be true, but I have to wonder if the radio stations embracing this format have thought this cynical line of thinking all the way to its conclusion. If Jack is so wonderful because it emulates my iPod on shuffle play, then why the heck do I need their advertisement-filled, frequency-hoarding broadcast at all? Sure, 1,200 songs is better than 300, but my iPod holds over ten times that many songs, lets me skip songs, lets me pick my own formats and lets me share my playlists with my friends — all ad-free. The only advantages broadcast has over the iPod are expert DJs (which they're eliminating), installed base of radios (which iPod-like technology will eventually match), and the arcane copyright laws that give radio broadcasters a way to legally broadcast without needing to pay the RIAA or recording artists (though they still pay song writers through BMI or ASCAP.) Even in the slow and bloody copyright wars, that third advantage is also slipping away. Today I can fill my iPod from an all-you-can-eat subscription service, from Creative Commons and other legal free-download sites, or from a number of less legal sources, and other sources keep rising. Once it becomes ubiquitous, why would we as a society keep granting exclusive rights to scarce public radio frequencies for such an archaic way to transmit music?
The audio archives for the Accelerating Change 2005 are now available from IT Conversations (all 25 sessions for $25 via PayPal), and will be published for free on the site at a rate of about one per week.. (They also have an RSS feed).
Wondering why your daughter, wife or girlfriend stays out so late? Wonder no more with new forget-me-not panties, the underwear that gives her comfort and you peace of mind:
These panties will monitor the location of your daughter, wife or girlfriend 24 hours a day, and can even monitor their heart rate and body temperature...
These "panties" can trace the exact location of your woman and send the information, via satellite, to your cell phone, PDA, and PC simultaneously! Use our patented mapping system, pantyMap®, to find the exact location of your loved one 24 hours a day.
(Thanks to Dan on the wearables list for the link.)
Siemens is showing off a paper-thin electrochromic display that they hope will eventually lead to an all-in-one device that uses printing technology to lay down the display, circuits and even the battery. According to the New Scientist:
The display is controlled by a printed circuit and can be powered by a very thin printable battery or a photovoltaic cell. The goal is to be able to create the entire device – the display and its power source - using the same printing method, so that manufacturing costs would be as low as possible. Siemens expects to achieve this by 2007.
Also impressive is that the display cost about £30 (just over $50) per square meter of materials.
Update 5pm: added link to Siemens announcement.
Looks like JHymn is not able to strip the DRM off of any music or video purchased through iTunes 6.0, and that the new videos purchasable from the iTunes Music Store can only be played using iTunes 6. (Also note that you can't easily revert to iTunes 5 after upgrading to iTunes 6.) Music that has already had the DRM stripped by JHymn will still play in iTunes 6.
It could be a bit of a wait before they reverse-engineer the new iTunes protocol. and until then I think I'll pass on making purchases from their music store. If I'm going to give my hard-earned money for music, it'll be a form where I can play it where I want, loan it to a friend or sell it to a used record store when I'm tired of it. The iTunes Music Store is great for convenience, but it's short-term convenience in exchange for long-term pain.
To the surprise of few, today Steve Jobs announced a Video iPod at his "One More Thing" press conference today. The main iPod now supports H.264 and MPEG-4 video formats, with a capacity of around 150 hours worth on the 60GB. You can also download movie trailers and purchase music videos at the iTunes Music Store for $1.99 each, and it looks like ad-free episodes of shows from ABC and Disney television are coming soon.
(As is traditional after Apple announcements (regardless of how good the news), AAPL is down five and a half percent so far today.)
Update 3:09pm: TV-show purchase is now up, with episodes for $1.99 and a full season for $34.99. And they've got Pixar shorts up for only $1.99 too! (Not sure if JHymn will work with video like it does with audio — I'll try it out tonight.)
Ignore the fact that podcasting isn't a new medium (it's called audio guys, it's been around a while). It's also not that different from seven years ago when people just linked to MP3s on their webpages, and search engines like Scour.net and Lycos MP3 Search would find them for you. Technologically the only difference is a little bit of XML to help machines know what's being linked, plus a few tweaks (like RSS subscription) that make the experience more user-friendly.
What I think has changed in the past 7 years is the number of people producing and distributing their own amateur and semi-pro content, and the accompanying infrastructure to support them. In 1998 almost all the MP3s available on the web were copyrighted songs people had ripped from their CD collection, and so the RIAA and other members of the content cartel could squash whatever infrastructure cropped up in the name of stamping out piracy. Today there're countless MP3s online that are completely legal to download, and that primes the pump for for inventing the infrastructure to make it even easier. Moreover, piracy has largely gone to the P2P networks, so now MP3s on the web are harder to paint with the sweeping "it's all piracy" brush.
And that all leads to podcasting, which I'm hearing the media describe as "making your own radio programs for broadcast over the net." This is, of course, the big long-term competition for the content cartel — their big-advertising, mass-produced one-size-fits-all model will have trouble competing with thousands of niche narrowcasts that each have a small personal audience. More importantly, podcasting is online audio that finally isn't being linked with piracy — it's good, happy audio on the web, not at all like those nasty pirated MP3s in the previous decade.
And just think, it only took us seven years to get here...
I don't get it. With all the credentials Karen Hughes has, including managing Bush's already stellar communications, ghost-writing his autobiography and of course her Bachelors in Journalism and 7 years as a local TV-news reporter, how could she be having such trouble mastering the subtle diplomacy and cultural differences involved in Middle-Eastern politics?
Maybe if she had more experience with Arabian horses...
(Thanks to Dorothy for the link.)
There's a myth I keep hearing that downloading copyrighted music without permission is perfectly legal under US law, and that only uploading is illegal. (I just got an anonymous comment on an old post to that effect, which is why I bring it up now.) I gather the myth spread after the RIAA decided to go after big uploaders but not big downloaders in their jihad, and was bolstered by a NYTimes piece that starts with the line "Downloading music from the Internet is not illegal."
Unfortunately for would-be downloaders, this is just a myth, as the 9th Circuit's ruling in A&M Records v. Napster makes clear:
We agree that plaintiffs have shown that Napster users infringe at least two of the copyright holders’ exclusive rights: the rights of reproduction, § 106(1); and distribution, § 106(3). Napster users who upload file names to the search index for others to copy violate plaintiffs’ distribution rights. Napster users who download files containing copyrighted music violate plaintiffs’ reproduction rights.
The US Copyright Office's FAQ also puts it quite plainly:
Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner's exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution.
So what did that old NYTimes article mean when it said downloading is legal? Simply that there is plenty of music available where the copyright holders have already given permission for you to download, share and enjoy. And that, Virginia, is why there is a Santa Claus.
Here's what Alexander Hamilton had to say on the purpose of Senate confirmations:
To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.
It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entier branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure.
Of course, if the president has no shame then all bets are off...
(Thanks to Jay for the quote.)
This sounds fun: The ROBO CAFE [jp→en] has just opened up in Osaka, Japan, where customers can watch Nuvo dance, view a Segway of course have their crumbs cleaned by a Roomba. Sounds like a perfect place to unwind after a day at the wearable-computing conference I'll be attending there in a couple of weeks :).
(Thanks to Rebecca for the link!)
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have determined that it's possible to launch an effective denial of service attack on cellphone networks, either in a localized area or nationwide, by flooding known cellphones in the area with SMS messages (see summary, paper and NYTimes article). The attack relies on using web and Internet-based SMS portals to overwhelm the wireless data-band, which is also used for connecting voice calls. Since only messages that are actually delivered over-the-air contribute to the network congestion, attackers would first need to generating a "hit-list" of known-valid cellphones (for example, by scraping websites for cellphone numbers in a given prefix and then slowly testing those for SMS capability before starting the attack).
One snippit from the paper I found interesting was how different cellphone providers deal with a backup of SMS messages awaiting delivery to a single user (e.g. when the cellphone is turned off): AT&T buffered all 400 test SMS messages, Verizon only kept the last 100 messages sent (FIFO eviction), and Sprint only kept the first 30 (LIFO eviction).
The Electronic Frontier Foundation just celebrated their 15th birthday this past weekend. I swear it seems like just yesterday when our biggest worries were 14-year-old hackers getting arrested and whether it was legal to export crypto. Since then we've seen the DMCA, RFID, UCITA, CALEA, CAPPS, FTAA and LBJ on the IRT.
Today we need groups like EFF more than ever — if you want to help build a cyberspace where freedom to speak, associate and create are protected and expected, please consider becoming a member.
WNYC's On The Media has a great interview with Joe and Shirley Wershba, two of the journalists at CBS working with Edward R. Murrow when he took on Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954. They're talking about the new film about the confrontation, Good Night, and Good Luck [trailer, review].
One quote from Murrow that I love, in response to the fears a lot of people at CBS had about the consequences of taking on McCarthy: "Terror is right here in this room. No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices."
Sun Labs have developed a cute little Java-programmable board called the Sun SPOT (Small Programmable Object Technology), along the lines of the Berkeley Motes project and other small Ubiquitous Computing sensor boards:
Based on a 32 bit ARM-7 CPU and an 11 channel 2.4GHz radio, Sun SPOT radically simplifies the process of developing wireless sensor and transducer applications. The platform enables developers to build wireless transducer applications in Java™ using a sensor board for I/O, an 802.15.4 radio for wireless communication, and use familiar Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), such as Net-Beans™ to write code.
The system uses the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standard that's designed for short-range (< 10 meters, same as Bluetooth) with low data rates but also low latency and ultra-low power consumption — pretty much what you need for individual sensors.
This Friday through Sunday is the First Annual Berkeley Juggling and Unicycle Festival:
Now, rest assured, the title may say "Juggling and Unicycle", but this is an inclusive event — contact juggling, poi, staff twirling, bullwhips, plate spinning, devil sticks, cigar boxes, diabolo, yo-yos, and that funky thing that one guy does with the rubber chicken — all are welcome here.
Perfect! I've always wanted to learn rubber chicken...
(Thanks to Glitter Girl for the link...)
Bob Park over at What's New sums up the trouble facing those who still try to insist that global warming is just a hoax:
fiction n. Imaginative creation that does not represent truth. For weeks the news was dominated by Katrina and Rita, which drew their energy from the record warm waters of the Gulf. The news this week included satellite images of an open ocean. What made it news was that it was the Arctic Ocean, where the ice cap is rapidly shrinking. What do you do if you're Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and you've assured people over and over that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people"? If you're Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), you hold a full committee hearing and invite a science fiction writer to testify. Michael Crichton, author of "State of Fear," an environmental thriller in which environmentalists cook up evidence to keep federal bucks coming, was Inholfe's expert.
It must be tough for global-warming skeptics now that they can't find who actually has credentials in the field to back their side. (If only they'd prepared ahead of time like the New-Earth Creationists did, and started their own "degree" programs...)