Locative Lab

researching locative media

Mobile avatars will become commonplace

recently signed up to IMVU 3D chat. It’s worth a spin. Instead of the
relatively mundane text interface on most IM services, users chat via
avatars. The text appears in speech bubbles that slowly float upward. A
range of expressions and moves are available, such as a handshake, hug,
break dance, hi-five and many more. Some moves, like more intimate
hugs, are only available between users already connected as buddies.


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Motion sensors – the next big thing in mobile phones?

I have a hunch, which unfortunately I don’t have time to research &
turn into a full report at the moment. So rather than let someone else
steal my thunder, I’ll blog about it instead.

I think the
coolest thing about the iPhone isn’t the multitouch screen or the
industrial design, it’s the motion sensor. No, the iPhone isn’t alone –
the Nokia 5500 has one too (“Nokia plans to introduce other phones that use 3D-motion-sensor technology in the near future”),
and I’ve seen references on the web to some others – in particular, it
wouldn’t surprise me if some local-only Japanese or Korean devices have
them. Then of course there’s the Nintendo Wii as well.

I’ll take
a punt here & predict that motion sensors will become pervasive
surprisingly quickly, and that we’re only at the tip of the iceberg in
understanding the applications. Sure, we know we can use it as a gaming
controller, or to detect which way up the screen should be displayed if
the device is held horizontally/vertically, or to monitor your sporting
achievements. But I reckon there’s a lot more to come.

I’ve seen
quite a few references to motion sensors being used to recognise
someone’s walking pattern. The suggestion is to use this as an
anti-theft “locking” function – someone half-inches your dog &
bone, and the tea leaf’s different gait alerts the phone to prompt you
for a password. (OK, sorry about the rhyming slang, it’s Friday…).

But I reckon the biggest thing is that it could appeal to operators
as well as being used for “local” uses like the ones above. Given that
operators specify (and certify and often subsidise) many handsets,
having something that has dual-appeal both direct to the end-user for applications, and to the operator for services
as well is likely to be a winner. It’s why cameras took off (User:
takes snaps; Operator (in theory!) gets MMS/email revenue) or even
Bluetooth (User: use headset in car safely. Operator: more minutes of
use). And it’s one of the reasons why WiFi attach rates in handsets
haven’t grown faster – it’s often difficult for the user to exploit the
WiFi for their own purposes as well as the operator’s (more on this in
another post).

So, what could be motion-sensor based services? I reckon it comes back to a theme I’m developing about “context” being more important
than “content”. If operators get access to the sensor APIs, they could
determine a lot more about how you want to communicate. It should be
possible for an advanced presence function to have status descriptions
like “walking”, “on a train”, “in a car” and so on. How about a service
which uses multi-context data – if the phone’s on charge and there’s
been no vibration consistent with footsteps for an hour, then there’s a
good probability that the user is either out of the room, or asleep. Or
which detects the combination of a car’s movement “fingerprint” plus
registers a Bluetooth headset being used – inference being that the
user won’t be able to look at the screen, and therefore sends video
calls straight to the mailbox.

These are just of the top of my
head. Yes, all of these could suffer horribly from false-positives and
false-negatives. I’ve said before how much I hate technology which
tries to second-guess me, unless it’s done really well (eg Google’s
“did you mean….” mistype-correction function).

I’ll keep
watching on this, as the more I think about it, motion-sensing is a key
part of the multicontext environment which will swiftly replace the
current narrow obsessions with content & multimedia on mobile
devices. If I was part of the Symbian or Windows Mobile teams, I’d make
sure I had an open sensor API on my near-term roadmaps, and I’d suggest
the JCP gets working on a Java one too….

PS – just noticed that this handset-centric sensor company
got more funding 2 weeks ago. Nice to know I’m looking ahead at the
same time as the VCs (who include Qualcomm, interestingly)….

PS2 – just seen this very detailed article
– if the price point is already at the $2 level, and they look small
enough to fit in a phone, I reckon this is a done deal. I can see this
getting to 10-20% penetration in the next 3 years, ie >100m devices.
Get writing, apps developers…..


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Slap your buddy with a motion sensor

Dean Bubley
is getting excited about putting motion sensors in phones. I think he
is right to get excited. If you’ve followed my blog long enough, you
will recall various postings on this topic. My favourite idea a while
back was to use motion sensors to navigate a web page
using a “peep hole” interface. I once went as far as trying to patent
the idea and talking to the likes of Gyration about the cost/power
characteristics of motion sensors (their “air mouse” is still one of my
favourite gadgets). I also thought about “dragging and dropping” content directly from my mobile to my desktop, dragging the content through the air!

I am an advocate of alternative user interfaces for P2P messaging, “avatar chat
being one of them. Avatars can do things, besides just chat. They can
hug each other, slap each other on the back, shake hands, even blow a
raspberry! Motion sensors could translate real physical movements into
actions. Motors and gyros can also be used to create movement in the
recipient’s handset, which is what haptics is all about.

Think of the hours of fun to be had with a virtual version of ball-bearing maze!


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Children film sex on their mobiles

Children are using mobile phones to film each other having sex and are then sending the images to classmates, reports The Sunday Times.

“Experts say the trend is growing and draw comparisons to the “happy slapping” craze in which children use mobile phone cameras to film assaults on members of the public.

Two weeks ago a 13-year-old boy was caught with footage on his mobile phone of two fellow pupils aged 15 having sex near their school in Warwickshire.

In another case last summer a 16-year-old boy used his mobile phone to film a 14-year-old girl having sex in a bedroom at a house party in Perth and sent the images to his school friends.

Some blame the trend on the ease with which children can access pornography on the internet or mobiles, so they become desensitised to images normally regarded as shocking.

Andrew Durham, a consultant practitioner at the Sexualised Inappropriate Behaviours Service, which deals with children’s sexual problems, said: “It is now a feature within young people’s culture that these incidences get filmed. It is similar to the way people use phones to film others being assaulted.


.. Experts believe many children are unaware that sending pornographic images can fall foul of the law .

Last month, in one of the first such court cases, a 16-year old boy admitted passing on video footage of a friend having sex with an underage girl. “


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New chip enables one-second GPS tracking

Chip uses two satellite navigation services and will operate in indoor environments; company will unveil it at 3GSM next month

A new chip designed for portable wireless devices combines the coverage of two satellite-based navigation services to offer
a location tracking time of less than one second.

The u-blox 5
chip, which Switzerland’s U-blox plans to unveil at the 3GSM World
Congress event in Barcelona next month, uses two global navigation
satellite services: GPS, which was developed by the U.S. Department of
Defense, and Europe’s Galileo, the vendor said Wednesday.

The technology has a tracking sensitivity of -160 dBm, which enables indoor coverage. The abbreviation dBm represents the
power ratio in decibels (dB) with respect to 1 milliwatt (mW).

With a power consumption of less than 50 mW, the u-blox 5 chip allows GPS-enabled mobile phones and other wireless devices
to operate in difficult indoor environments, such as shopping malls and train stations.

addition to its satellite-based navigation chip, U-blox will use the
3GSM event to show several other new products, including AssistNow
Offline, which stores data in the GPS receiver for up to two weeks. The
technology allows the receiver to compute a position instantly without
having to connect to a mobile network at startup to download the data,
as is the case with typical GPS services.


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Location-Aware Services on the campus

Ask any college student attending a university
in the Northeast or Midwest, and you’ll discover that in the world
of frigid-winter academia, there is nothing worse than just missing
the campus shuttle bus in 12-degree weather. Today, however, students
at a handful of colleges can stay warm and cozy inside their dorm
rooms while they track the location of the shuttle bus on their cell
phones—all thanks to the implementation of location-aware services
(LAS) on their campuses.


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web2.0 in 5 minutes movie

a (infographical?) movie, constrained to just text & pictures, explaining Web 2.0 & how it effects affects global society.

[link: youtube.com|thnkx Pwakman]

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Cityscape LocativeLab.org is Ronald Lenz's research website on locative & mobile media. This is mostly an archive of blogposts I find inspiring and interesting and an overview of my work. I'm a strategist, technologist and researcher in the field of Location-Based Mobile Services and work at Waag Society, a medialab in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where I head the Locative Media research program and at 7scenes, a platform for GPS games and tours as creative director. Picture 4 Find me at Twitter, LinkedIn or via ronald [at] waag [dot] org.

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