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March 2004

Serendipity: A Wireless, Proximity-Based Dating Service

The New Scientist has a recent article on an MIT Media Lab project called Serendipity, which seeks to enable people to discover potential dates in their vicinity. According to the article, people would be able to subscribe to a service in which they would create a personal profile and then associate that profile with their bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. Whenever a subscriber's phone detects another bluetooth phone (within a ~10m range), it checks with the service to see whether that other phone is also associated with a subscriber profile, and if so, and their profiles are compatible, the service would issue alerts both phones.

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Toothing: Mobile Phones as "Adult" LoveGety's

Once again, sex proves to be a driver for new applications of technology. A Wired article on "toothing" reports on a new use for bluetooth-enabled mobile devices: "strangers on trains and buses and at bars and concerts hook up for clandestine sex by text messaging each other with their Bluetooth-enabled cell phones or PDAs." [Gizmodo posted a report on this practice on March 8.]

The Wired article focuses on this practice as it is emerging in UK. I cannot find any reference to the practice in Japan (though there do seem to be a few other places where people are at least talking about toothing), but I am reminded of the LoveGety craze, and wonder whether "toothing" represents a [natural?] extension to the "get2" setting of those earlier, simpler devices. I'm sure there are cultural issues of which I am herewith exposing my ignorance.

[Update: it appears that toothing is -- or started as -- a hoax (more on the evolution of toothing can be found at Wikipedia) ... leading me to wonder about the extent of the original Lovegety craze, also originally published in Wired).]

Internet use in "Third Places"

A Pew Internet Project study on the use of the Internet outside of the home (first places) and work (second places) reports that 23% of the 128 million US adults who use the Internet have gone online in third places. While the report lists the top places for access -- school (27%), friend/neighbor's house (26%), library (26%), relative's house (9%), hotels (3%) and cyber cafes (2%) -- it does not report the number using WiFi hotspots. I suspect this is largely due to the time of the study (the location portion of the study was done between May and October 2002); it certainly contrasts with predictions in a recent Gartner Group report that the number of WiFi hotspot users will reach 30 million worldwide by the end of 2004.

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More Artful Displays

The NY Times reports on Roku, another company providing digital artwork intended for large plasma displays. Roku sells a device, HD1000 (US$300), that can collect digital images from a memory card or your home network (through what is described as a tedious connection process). Roku also sells collections of artwork (e.g., nature, space, classic works) on memory cards called Roku Art Packs for US$40 to US$70. "The HD1000 can detect when there's no signal or a motionless image on the screen - when you've paused a DVD, for example. It can automatically begin a slide show or aquarium loop after a specified period of time, making it the world's most expensive screen saver." One can imagine extending this capability via a wireless link that allows visiting friends to commandeer the TV when the DVD is paused to show some of their latest photos from their cameraphones.

Nuvo, the Walking Robot

Tokyo-based ZMP has announced Nuvo, a human-shaped walking robot they plan to mass produce and offer commercially by the end of 2004. The walking, remote-controllable robot can pick itself up and send images of its surroundings, but it's not clear whether this level functionality will be judged useful enough to justify its US$6000 price tag, or whether this will be mostly a curiosity / novelty product.

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