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Archive for the 'Gadgets' Category

How many #ifihadglass posts were there?

February 28th, 2013, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, Mobile Computing, Wearable Computing

UMBC CSEE department members submitted a number of #ifihadglass posts hoping to get an invitation to pre-order a Google Glass device. Several came from the UMBC Ebiquity Lab including this one that builds on our work with context-aware mobile phones.

Reports are that as many as 8,000 of the submitted ideas will be invited to the first round of pre-orders. To get a rough idea of our odds, I tried using Google and Bing searches to estimate the number of submissions. A general search for pages with the #ifihadglass tag returned 249K hits on Google. Of these 21K were from twitter and less than 4K from Google+. I’m not sure which of the twitter and Google+ posts get indexed and how long it takes, but I do know that our entry above did not show up in the results. Bing reported 171K results for a search on the hash tag, but our post was not among them. I tried the native search services on both Twitter and Google+, but these are oriented toward delivering a stream of new results and neither gives an estimate of the total number of results. I suppose one could do this for Twitter using their custom search API, but even then I am not sure how accurately one could estimate the total number of matching tweets.

Can anyone suggest how to easily estimate the number of #ifihadglass posts on twitter and Google+?

NFC and Google’s mobile wallet

October 7th, 2011, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, Mobile Computing

Yesterday I made a purchase at the CVS store on Edmondson Avenue in Catonsville using Google Wallet on a Nexus S 4G phone with NFC.

NFC is near field communication, an RFID technology that allows communication and data exchange between two devices in close proximity, e.g., within a few inches.

Several current smartphones have NFC chips including the Samsung's Google-branded Nexus S 4G and more are expected to include it in the coming months and years.

The first, and perhaps most significant, use of NFC will be enabling mobile phones to serve as "virtual credit cards", especially for small amounts that don't require a signature. The range of potential applications is much greater and will no doubt evolve as mobile NFC-enabled devices become ubiquitous.

Buying something at the CVS (OK, … it was candy) this way was fun. My phone made satisfying noises as it talked to CVS's payment station and the clerk, who had not had anyone use a NFC device, was properly mystified. Using it was marginally easier than swiping a credit card, but maybe even a small amount of increased convenience is worth it for such an everyday transaction.

One limitation of Google Wallet is that it currently only works with Sprint on a Nexus S 4G and with either a Citi® MasterCard® card or a Google Prepaid Card. You can load money into the latter with most any credit card and Google will get you started by adding $10 to it as an incentive.

By the way, for what it’s worth, I only recently realized that the robots in Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” were called androids and the dangerously independent new model was the Nexus-6, developed by designed by the Tyrell Corporation.

Baltimore + HTC EVO + Android + 4G = 3+ Mbps

May 28th, 2010, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, Mobile Computing, Social media

Baltimoreans are lucky to have access to the new droid-based HTC EVO and Sprint’s 4G service. 3-6 Mbps to your phone! Hiawatha Bray writes avout it in a story in yesterday’s Boston Globe, 4G phone will quickly change things:

“It’s called the EVO 4G, and it’s our first glimpse at the next big thing in smartphones. When cellular carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. begins selling the EVO on June 4, it will be America’s first 4G cellphone, capable of far greater speed than the 3G iPhones and BlackBerries we have come to love.

But why fly 360 miles to check it out? Because Boston doesn’t have a working 4G network yet. Baltimore is one of about two dozen US cities where you can find one. Sprint says it’s building more 4G coverage as fast as it can; Boston is on the list for sometime this year.”

I want the iPhone NG, but …

June 12th, 2008, by Anupam Joshi, posted in Apple, Gadgets, Mobile Computing, Technology Impact

I admit — I was following along on engadget’s liveblog of Jobs’ WWDC keynote, looking for iPhone news. Most of what he said, though, was fairly old news to those who had been reading the tech blogs for the last month or so — 3G and aGPS, besides of course the already announced software upgrades. The big thing was the $199 price, which was out of the blue it seemed. I figured I would go out and get one pretty much as soon as they were available without having to stand in a line. The teeny voice in my head however was expressing skepticism, which eventually was proven correct. The $199 cost factors in a subsidy from AT&T, and the phone now apparently needs to be activated when bought.  No more buying it without AT&T service and then getting it unlocked.

I wonder why that is, though. The big claim is that the revenue model has changed, and so Apple no longer gets an ongoing cut of the revenue from AT&T. If so, why not also sell unlocked versions of the phone sans subsidy, like every other manufacturer ? How will this work in other countries where handset subsidies are not common ? Apparently AirTel in India is the preferred partner and will launch this phone “soon”.  So will AirTel sell it for more than $199, but unlocked ?  Maybe I can get one from them ? Or wait for Xperia X1 ? Or for TouchPro ?

Bluetooth spy rocks replace pumpkins

January 28th, 2006, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, Humor, Mobile Computing, Pervasive Computing

Anand mentioned the (alleged) British spy rock as a good example of an advance that pervasive computing technology has wrought.

Russia’s state security service has accused British diplomats of spying in Moscow using electronic rocks. It’s an obvious hack, when you think about it — a bluetooth enabled PDA in a hollowed out rock could be used to drop off or pickup heavily encrypted documents from spys as they stroll by. The only problem would be power. Such a bluetooth rock would be much better than Alger Hiss’s pumpkin patch.

In an infamous spy case from the early days of the cold war, US State Department official Alger Hiss was accused (by a young Richard Nixon!) of passing documents via rolls of microfilm secreted in a hollowed-out pumpkin on his Maryland farm. But, technology marches on, with wireless rocks replacing pumpkins.

The March of Progress
In 1948 Alger Hiss was accused of transferring secrets using microfilm in a hollowed out pumpkin.
In 2006 the British were accused of transferring secrets using a wireless enabled PDA in a hollowed out rock.
cost: low
encryption: no
durability: low
models: Jack-o’-lantern, squash
vulnerable to: rodents, fungus, kids
pluses: organic, biodegradable
negatives: decay, rot
cost: medium
encryption: yes
durability: high
models: igneous, sedimentary
vulnerable to: bluejacking, spyware
pluses: tetris, plays mp3s
negatives: heavy

xpod senses what music you’d like to hear

January 28th, 2006, by Tim Finin, posted in AI, Gadgets, Machine Learning, Mobile Computing, Wearable Computing

A group of UMBC students working with Professor Zary Segall have built a prototype music player that senses its user’s emotional state and level of activity and picks appropriate music. The prototype system uses BodyMedia’s SenseWear, which detects continuous data from the wearer’s skin and wirelessly transmits the data stream to the xpod prototype. The physiological data includes energy expenditure (calories burned), duration of physical activity, number of steps taken, and sleep/wake states. A neural network system is used to learn associations between these biometric parameters and the user’s preferences for music and the resulting model is then used to dynamically construct the xpod’s playlist. Read more about the xpod prototype in this recent paper:

XPod a human activity and emotion aware mobile music player, Sandor Dornbush, Kevin Fisher, Kyle McKay, Alex Prikhodko and Zary Segall.

Context aware ipod knows what to play

January 10th, 2006, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, Mobile Computing, Wearable Computing

XPOD is a prototype portable music player that can sense a user’s context — what she is doing, her level of activity, mood, etc. — and that to refine its playlist. The device monitors several external variables from a streaming version of the BodyMedia SenseWear to model the user’s context and predict the most appropriate music genre via a neural network.

New powerful GP2X linux handheld for $189

September 20th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, GENERAL, Mobile Computing

It can play games. It can play your Movies. It can play your music. It can view photos. It can read Ebooks. It runs on just 2 AA batteries – And it can do all this in the palm of your hand or on your TV screen. GP2X is a linux handheld with two 200mhz CPU’s with 64meg of RAM, custom graphics hardware and decoding chips and a slot for SD cards. Price? $189 US! (preorder).

NSA to develop a secure PDA/phone

September 19th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, Mobile Computing, Security

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is planning to build a secure wireless PDA that also does voice and data communications over public networks, including CDMA, GSM and 802.11. Dubbed SME-PDA (for “secure mobile environment – portable electronic device” — boy do they need better marketing!), it’s rumored to support voice and data communications up to Top Secret and email up to Secret. The device will be developed for NSA by L-3 Communications and another, not yet named company. Earlier reports named General Dynamics C4 Systems as being involved. …more…

Key in Disaster Management — Communication

September 14th, 2005, by Anand, posted in Gadgets, GENERAL, Pervasive Computing, Technology Impact, Technology Policy

Local governments and agencies are waking up with a start — could it happen here? If first responders cannot communicate with each other in the first 72 hours — how do they do their job?

The New Orleans tragedy manifested the worst communication nightmares imaginable — underground communication lines were disabled due to flooding, cell towers were blown over, backup generators ran out of fuel — or filled up with water. Radios of police, firefighters, ER couldn’t talk to each other. In some cases first responders were simply walking over to each other to talk!

Ad hoc networks boast of working in especially such situations … after more than 10 years and millions of $$ in research … where is the first deployed/working ad hoc network?

Baltimore Sun:

No sooner had a 46-truck convoy of Baltimore first-responders and equipment left for Louisiana on Sunday than it received an education in emergency communications: Even state-of-the-art systems can fail.

Grand Rapids Press:

“The lessons we can learn from the Katrina disaster is what happens to those with mobility and transportation issues. If there is a need for a mass evacuation, how would we get those without transportation?” 1st Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak asked.

Eyewitness News:

The Nevada Homeland Security Department is taking up the issue of disaster response. From their own experience and what they’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina relief, they’ve determined the channels of communication are broken.

User adaptive door from Japan

August 13th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, GENERAL, Pervasive Computing, RFID

This new automatic door from Japan creates a minimal opening for an object to pass through. The door is composed of a series of strips which open when activated by the infrared sensors on their edges. It’s said that the door also can identify people (RFID?) for security. Such doors can help manage energy loss in a a room, garage or freezer and protect a space from unwanted dust, pollen, bugs, and germs. Plus, they are cooler than the doors on Star Trek. See this video.

Here’s a marketing tip: get the door to occasionally say “Gee, you’ve lost weight, haven’t you?” and it will sell like hotcakes.

BlackDog USB key linux box

August 11th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, GENERAL, Mobile Computing

BlackDog is a a USB powerd linux server that’s about the size of an iPod mini. Plug it in to a host computer’s USB port and it takes over the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and network connections. Remove it and everything on the host is returned to its original state. It’s powered by a 400Mhz PPC running Debian with 64M RAM and 256 or 512 MB of flash memory. Cost? $240 for the 512M version.

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