Microsoft Surface, Minority Report realized

I saw and blogged about an early prototype of this device back when I saw it demoed at eTech last year. It blew people away back then and is even more impressive today. The video below shows some new enhancements such as the ability to drag photos from a digital camera to the table for preview and then again to your Windows Mobile device.

Combine this UI with Sony’s recently announced flexible OLED displays and one can only imagine the possibilities – a multi-touch jacket which animates itself based on RFID and Bluetooth signals around it, call it a high tech chameleon.

Very, very cool.




Tango, the world’s fastest (and thinnest) urban car

So I was at Maker Faire this past weekend which I cannot recommend highly enough. There were so many cool things to see and a really wish I hadn’t lost my camera at the Web 2.0 Expo otherwise I would have been posting tons of pictures of all the wild and crazy things I saw today. If you’ve never been, go next year and if you have kids, bring them along for sure. I went when the gates opened at 10 in the morning thinking we’d pop by for a couple of hours and poke around but ended up having to drag them out at 3pm while they were both in the middle of creating their own board game. My 5 year old daughter left decked out in a tin foil cap with Mickey Mouse ears, a crumpled sheet of mylar strapped to her back as makeshift fairy wings, along with a wand of rolled up magazine paper and lace and tinsel fixings – it was a day well spent!

I could write about the fantastic Neverwas Here Victorian landship, the 200 lbs. battling robots, the standup acoustic bass made from the fuel tank of a Triumph motorcycle, or the dude who was teaching my son the art of hydroponic farming but it is hard without photos to capture the image.

I saw the Wrightspeed electric car but what caught my eye was the Tango. Made by an outfit in Spokane, Washington, this electric car is so thin and short that it can park between cars making it the ultimate urban car. Seating two (one behind the other) it can get from 0-60 in 4 seconds and, because of the weight of batteries in the floor, can turn corners as smartly as a sports car.

Check out the image below taken from the Commuter Cars website – no, that’s not a distortion!

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How to lose friends and influence competitors

Gamers are sniggering behind Sony’s back as they roll out an advertising campaign for the Playstation that uses game images from Project Gotham Racing 3, a game made exclusively for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Schrankmonster Blog has the details here, and here:

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First on their website

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Then on their partner’s website, Kia

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Then in print.

Bebo’s “Invite Your Friends” a tad aggressive

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As competing social networks vie for my attention, I notice that the email outreach campaigns have kicked into gear. Maybe they want to catch the kids before they head out for Summer vacation but it seems like all the services I signed up for back when I was doing some research are reaching out for some love.

I just received Issue 1 of Bebo’s email newsletter, Spotlight. Among a couple other new features including a Facebook Status clone, they also are promoting an “invite your friends” feature. I’ve seen this on a number of services including LinkedIn and it is often included in the sign up flow as a way to quickly bring along all your friends (and so on, and so on, just like the old shampoo commercial).

Basically the service uses your Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, or GMail address book and compares it to their membership database to see if they’ve got a match and prompts you to connect with people you already may know. Bebo takes this one step further by then listing up all of the friends of people in your address book.

In my mind this is going a little bit too far. I don’t really want to know about all the people I *might* want to connect to because they happen to be friends with people that happen to be in my online address book. It’s a bit shocking to see who some of these second degree characters are and I feel like I’m taking a quick peek and rifling through someone’s black book.

I know, you could get at this information anyway by browsing their profile and checking out their friends but it somehow doesn’t seem as bad if you’re browsing around. When it’s one huge data dump with a “check all” box, it just feels wrong.

David Weinberger on the Miscellaneous

weinberger_cover.jpgOne of the great things about working at Yahoo is that on any given week there’s a brown bag lunch with someone interesting or provocative. Posters around campus promote these bigger draws and I subscribe to an internal mailing list which lets me know of the others. I try and make it to as many of these talks as I can or, if I’m remote, will at least try and tune in via an internal streaming server they have set up.

For David Weinberger’s chat with Bradley Horowitz last week I made a special trip down to Sunnyvale to see him and I’m glad I did – the talk was fantastic.

He’s on a speaking tour for his new book, Everything is Miscellaneous so if you get the opportunity to catch him speak, do try and make it. I’ve read The Cluetrain Manefesto and was deeply influenced by Small Pieces Loosly Joined which I picked up after seeing David speak at an early BloggerCon in Cambridge. I confess that I have not yet picked up a copy of but am looking forward to digging into it soon.

David of course talked about his book, the central argument being that as we move information from a physical world (books on a shelf) to a digital realm (bits striped onto a raid drive) the very nature of how we store information is strained. Dewey’s Decimal system worked fine when there was only one place to put a book but when you need to classify data and could support multiple tags that pointed to the data, traditional hierarchical taxonomies break down. Pointing to shifts such as how people used to organize their CD collection to today when we create playlists of our digitized music on the fly and the recent hand-wringing over the question of Pluto and the qualities that make up a planet are shaking our very core understanding of knowledge.

David gave the example of The Library of Congress, the bastion of this old world order as perfectly tuned for the world of print. 7,000 books arrive each day and are cataloged and assigned their place in the great category tree which is our modern library system. Meetings are held when anomalies occur but are quickly resolved at weekly meetings.

Yet, this method quickly breaks down when we try and apply it to the internet. First there’s just the scale of it all. Over 100,000 blogs are created each day and Technorati’s latest stats show over 15 posts uploaded each second. Not only is it impossible to categorize something that is growing at this rate, it’s also a lost cause to try and filter it for quality. Instead of catching things on the way in as the Library of Congress is doing, in this day of cheap storage and bandwidth, it’s better just to chuck it all into the digital equivalent of a shoebox and let the algorithms sort it out later.

As the grand index of everything we know grows larger, it’s going to be vital that we build better tools around this data to help us find what we need. In the world of photos and music we already know the importance of good metadata. Geo-tagging, date-stamps, EXIM, and BPM data are useful in helping us make sense of what we have. Social interactions with data also add valuable insight. Tagging add a layer of intelligence that a simple algo cannot.

David also believes that your social network will also add an important filter on a generic dataset to help you locate something relevent or interesting. The news this week that Facebook is adding classifieds is important because something for sale by your Facebook friend is an order of magnitute more compelling that a generic Craigslist listing by someone you don’t know.

Our schools are not very well equipped to deal with how we need to work in this new world. Testing in schools is still a, “face forward, solipsitic experience” which doesn’t take into account how we learn things today. A more appropriate test of your child’s understanding of Roman History would be a collaborative project. David suggested that the teacher work with the class on creating a wiki on their topic. The process of hunting, gathering, verifying, and collating information from across the web would prepare them much better than any multiple choice test could today.

What was most interesting in David’s talk was that he also tempered what he said with warnings not to jump too far in one direction. Sometimes, especially in Silicon Valley, we get all wrapped up in the new and shiny and too quickly leave behind the tried and true. There is value in a top down taxonomy on which to hang your folksonomic tags. The examples of Amazon suggesting books on “adoption” for those searching “abortion” and the more recent Google’s autosuggest snafu kicking over “she invented” and suggesting “he invented” as a more appropriate are examples of what happens when you let the ants design the castle. A blended approach is more sensible in the long run.

He also touched on the value of mediated experience. There is a great filtering process that takes place when a book is published. Thoughts are collected, sentences are composed. The investment in putting words to print is an important quality filter. As we move to the digital world where it becomes possible to record every waking moment of your life, it’s important to hang onto that filtering process. Despite it’s banality, Twitter is still compelling because there is ultimately someone at the other end; it is, “mediated by human meaning.” JustinTV, on the other hand is just a pure stream without edits, a capture device at best and one that requires 1:1 time and attention to extract meaning from what is captured.

I obviously need to read his book. After I read Small Pieces, I was sufficiently inspired to quit my job at Dow Jones to join the blogging revolution at Six Apart. Lord knows what will happen after I read Miscellaneous.

Further Reading :

  • Great review by Ethan Zuckerman
  • The entire talk is available on video on the YUI blog (where I snagged the book cover image, thanks Eric!)

YouTube Active Sharing

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First time I noticed this but there’s an icon up by your profile next to “History” that lets you know about YouTube’s Active Sharing feature.

When you start Active Sharing, your username will appear to other users on the videos you watch. A list of videos you’ve recently watched will also appear on your profile page.

Is this new?

Mike Nolet on Ad Exchanges, a great primer

If you’re coming up to speed on Ad Exchanges and how they are fundementally different from Ad Networks, Mike Nolet of Right Media has a great soup-to-nuts primer across three posts.

Mike’s only been blogging for a couple of months but he’s got a ton of really interesting posts that I look forward to digging into when I have a bit more time. 

To my readers that work in the financial markets, tell me where you see Ad Exchanges in the next five years and do you think that ad units and the attention that they represent become a traded commodity such as stocks, bonds, and indexed futures? Heady stuff.