Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Ideas of 2007

A few of the ideas I caught this year, a la New York Times Magazine's Year in Ideas:

- Computational Photography. This is a new photographic technique in which you can merge dozens or hundreds of different photographs (and angles, lighting, etc) into one composite image. “One powerful way to do computational photography is to take multiple shots of a scene and mathematically combine those images. […] Compared with a single photo, a sequence of shots taken with different exposures can capture a scene with a wide range of brightness, called the dynamic range.”

- Semi-Electronic Book, The. A new digital/non-digital book called blueBook, created by designer Manolis Kelaidis, was recently demonstrated at an O’Reilly conference on the future of publishing. If you find a word or image in a blueBook text that you want to know more about, simply touch the word/image and the electrically conductive ink sends a message, via Bluetooth, to a nearby computer/laptop, which then provides additional information. The idea is that the technology is a mix of ebook and paper book, instead of the usual either/or.

- Screen Clutter Detection. This is a piece of software that determines when a map, visual display (like say a radar screen), or a computer desktop is growing too visually complex to be navigated with ease. “A team of MIT scientists has identified a way to measure visual clutter. Their research, published Aug. 16 in the Journal of Vision, could lead to more user-friendly displays and maps, as well as tips for designers seeking to add an attention-grabbing element to a display.”

- Famous For Almost Nothing. A recent Sunday Styles article profiled someone whose fame (such that it was) was due to his clever and prolific comments on the blogs of others. Add to this list the “Don’t tase me bro” guy who was crowd controlled at a John Kerry event, and the YouTube video of the fellow pleading for people to stop being mean to Britney Spears. There is famous for being famous, but these examples demonstrate that even a microscopic accomplishment can be leveraged into the trappings of celebrity.

- Wireless Electricity. Scientists are now able to transmit/transfer electricity over short distances, safely, without wires. Recharging our numerous gadgets represents one large application of this breakthrough.

- Robot Code of Ethics, The. “South Korea is drafting an ethical charter to govern how robots will function alongside humans. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said the government plans to issue a "Robot Ethics Charter" for manufacturers and users to cover the ethical standards that must be programmed into the machines.” Such a notion was first articulated by Isaac Asimov in a 1942 short story.

- Convincing Corporate Apology, The. After the JetBlue debacle earlier this year, David Neeleman, the CEO of the airline sent a heartfelt, open and honest apology for the distress and inconvenience he caused customers. I have a copy of the email he sent to JetBlue customers, and it is striking for its lack of corporate speak (“We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry. […] Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. […] You deserved better—a lot better—from us last week.”).

- Interactive Movie, The. The film Late Fragment, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, revolves around different three characters, and viewers at a special console can decide which of the three characters they want to focus upon, along with choosing what order their stories are told.

- Risk-Taking is Situational, Not Personality-Driven. “New research shows that not all risk is created equal and people show a mixture of both risky and non-risky behaviors. […] The University of Michigan research refutes the standard theories of risk that group people as either risk-seeking or risk-avoiding, and suggests that we can have a mix of both risky and non-risky behavior depending on the type.”

- Talking Fashion Mirror, The. Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan launched a talking mirror this year. The interactive mirror features a camera that relays live video images to an Internet site where online participants can view outfits.

- Frozen Wall For Oil. Shell is attempting to get at oil-shale deposits in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming using a huge, frozen wall of water. “Shell is spending $30 million to create and test a massive "freeze wall" that would extend from the surface to 1,700 feet below the ground. The walls would be 30 feet thick in a shape 300 feet wide by 350 feet long. It is designed for a dual purpose: to keep groundwater from infiltrating Shell's oil-shale wells, and to prevent produced oil from contaminating nearby groundwater.”

- Waste Heat Makes Sound Which Makes Electricity. “A team of doctoral students led by University of Utah physicist Orest Symko have constructed a device that "converts heat into sound and then into electricity." They believe it could work as an alternative to photovoltaic cells and be in production in two years. The project was funded by the US military as a way to harness the waste heat produced by radar systems and power electronics in the field.”

- Prenatal Search Engine Optimization. Newest on the list of concerns for status-conscious parents-to-be is the search for a baby name that will Google effectively.