Yesterday’s keynote by Janet Abrams of the Design Institute was a smack in the face to many UBICOMP attendees when she started asking questions like: “How do you translate UBICOMP into real life? If this work is supposed to be ubiquitous, why don’t go out into the real world enough? Who are these users? Why are they so flavorless?” Nice wake up call to the researchers here but did they get it? Not sure… She went on to describe the “Big Urban Game” event that took place in Minneapolis where online players voted to move huge game pieces around the city (pic above). Nice concept but the whole game seemed more like a publicity stunt / marketing gimmick (TARGET was a big funder) so it still wasn’t clear what the point of this game was in the long run. Afterwards, the “1 Minute Madness” session let posters, videos, and demo authors state their point in one minute! An interesting project was the “Z-Agon” a six-sided display device that uses densely packed LEDs. Pretty nifty looking, but kind of overkill. Atau Tanaka also showed me his “Malleable Mobile Music” application which allows people to login to a central server with their PDAs and they are assigned to a track of music (such as the drum track). When they areiption>
Australian artist Natalie Jerimijenko is attempting to make the movie “Babe” (about a talking pig) into reality. Her new project “OOZ” (Zoo spelled backwards) is a series of human/animal interfaces that provides communication channels between species as well as increasing our understanding of how we relate to our natural environment and the other “creatures” that inhabit it. Some examples include “GooseSpeak” (pictured above) which features a tele-operated goose that swims with the natural geese and allows you to communicate to them remotely. The “WaterStrider” is a remote controlled water bug with an embedded pager motor that allows people to send “mating calls” to other bugs over the water’s surface. A good start to some integration of robots into nature, but I’m curious if the effect will be much different than simple remote controlled boats, people in boats, people feeding the animals normally – or if the bugs, geese, and horses will actually respond to these interventions? I guess we’ll have to wait until results are posted or maybe we can just spend more quality time with our dogs and cats and ask them?

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