Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TED: Portable "Minority Report" interface!

For those of you haven't seen Minority Report, the movie showcases some seemingly futuristic gestural interfaces that Tom Cruise uses to control a complex computer system. Yet only a few years after it came out, we're already seeing just how possible this is. In this TED video, Pattie Maes from MIT demonstrates a low-cost ($350) system that lets the user use any available surface (a wall, a free hand (!)) as a multi-touch interface. Granted, it's a bit slower to use than Jeff Han's table or Microsoft's Surface, but hey, it's cheap and you can bring it with you.

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posted by Brian at 10:10 AM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Bourne Ultimate Frisbee

My Israeli friend Danny from Sony and I saw The Bourne Ultimatum today.

Jason Bourne sends signals to a targeted journalist, in hopes of navigating him to safety outside the Waterloo train station.

Plotwise, this movie is about signals. The CIA sends signals to an "asset" (i.e. assassin) to hit targets. A CIA team searches for relevant signals that might reveal Bourne's location, be they cel phone messages, GPS coordinates of phones, trips taken, passports stamped, or visual clues from security video feeds. Meanwhile, Bourne sends false signals, even spoofing signals on behalf of CIA folks, using old passports, giving false meet-up locations, and doing his best to avoid sending overt signals of any sort. He also sends signals in specific languages, like when he calls the Spanish police as an obstacle against encroaching CIA gunmen.

Visually, this movie is about whiplash. Unsteady camera moves, insanely fast fighting choreography and editing, cars and motorbikes racing through skinny Moroccan and congested New York streets, all coming to rapid, neck-wrenching smashes against walls.

Well, neck-wrenching for everyone except Bourne, who had some pretty amazing training it seems. He can survive 10-story falls into water, 60+mph car crash impacts, cel phone-triggered explosives less than 10 feet away... Hell, he can even get a brand new mobile phone activated in minutes!

But overall, I thought the movie was tight -- most of the signals were clever, made sense, were well-motivated and didn't come from out of nowhere. In this surveillance world we live in, it's time we got used to having all our signals captured and potentially scrutinized (done East German Stasi-style gone high-tech). We need heroes like Bourne to remind us that fighting for privacy is a good thing, dammit!

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posted by Brian at 11:07 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 08, 2007

PhoneZoo: Make Your Own Ringtones

Despite being enthralled with technology, I typically hang on to a cel phone until it becomes unusable. That is, it's lost, its battery life is pathetic and no spare ones are sold anymore, or it just won't turn on. My Samsung A460 (age 4?) replaced a Samsung 3500 when it broke, not because I chose it but because I have phone insurance, and 3500s were extinct by then. Both of these ought to be extinct -- monochrome screens, no camera, no SMS, text-only web-browsing, and bulky. I could have done the insurance route again when I lost my A460 a couple of weeks ago, but I found a deal online to get a brand new Motorola™ KRAZR K1m for nearly free.

Suddenly, I have features that everybody else has enjoyed for years! Mp3 ringtones, photo & video mailing, SMS, Google Mail, Google Maps, Skype (using a website called EQO) plus IM, games, and even television (if I want to pay Sprint™ a lot per month).

The nagging question on my mind today was how to get my own ring tones into this phone without paying $1-3 a song. Supposedly there are manual ways involving cables and software. But then I found this website PhoneZoo that offers a YouTube-like service where you upload songs and have them beamed to your phone automatically. Cool! Also like YouTube, you can have your song listed for others to hear, though interestingly, the songs that you tag as "copyrighted" (which nearly all will be in some form or another) cannot be downloaded to other people's phones. Other folks can, however, listen jealously and upload their own renditions if they have them.

I can tell I'm not going to get a lot of sleep this weekend -- I'll be sifting through my modest CD and DVD collection looking for audio gems.

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posted by Brian at 2:06 PM 0 comments links to this post