Making the world “clickable”

New technology is being developed by a company called Nextcode that would basically allow you to use your cell phone or PDA to “click” on things you see in the physical world.

What they are developing is a way for phones to take a picture of a bar code on an item you find. The barcode is then interpreted by software designed by Nextcode, called ConnexTo, and serves up information about the item to your phone immediately. Information presented can be in the form of text, a web page, video, audio, or pretty much anything found online.

In Japan, real estate agents are already using this software on for sale signs so people can get information about a house without calling.

Currently, Nextcode is developing a project with Boston’s Freedom Trail and the Wentsworth Institute of Technology. The company plans to attach barcodes to important historic or cultural sites to help tourists and sightseers gather more information about an area or thing.

Here’s a demonstration of how it works:

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In Response: “Why I am not doing this… (as much as i should be)”

This blog is kind of in response to Andrew Pope’s blog post about the video game Call of Duty 4. Basically this is just another endorsement that you need to play this video game.

I too have been wasting many hours playing this game rather than doing homework and well, blogging on here.

But I completely agree with Andrew as to why. The game is seriously the most realistic game I have ever played. The graphics are the most realistic I have ever seen. People’s faces and the way they move and act are so realistic that it sometimes looks likes a movie. In fact, the game’s intro plays out like the beginning of a movie as you are driven through a city while the opening credits roll. This is another one of recent video games with a movie-like intro (skate being the other one I can think of right now). These movie-like intros coupled with more in depth storylines will hopefully help to establish video games as a viable art form.

Is it too soon? Is it too far?

I was made aware of a controversial video game recently through this Popmatters article. The video game I am talking about is called Super Columbine Massacre RPG!

The game is an RPG that is centered around the events at Columbine High School on April 20th, 1999. Players of the game play as either Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris and carry out the events themselves as they happened on that day.

To give you a little more perspective, here is the trailer for the game:

The Popmatters article addresses the issue of whether or not this game is appropriate and whether this tragic event can be examined seriously as a historic event by a video game.

Of course this event has been covered in many media outlets since, but a video game? I haven’t played the game but as far as I can tell from reviews and such the game seeks to put the players inside the minds of Klebold and Harris. It attempts to analyze why they did what they did and what were the real causes of what happened on that day.

The game’s website offers an account of some one who played the game:

“For me, this was one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. After 20 years of gaming, it’s almost natural at this point to try and immerse myself in what I play, but doing so in this case was impossible. If anything, the constant cycle of playing the game versus thinking about playing the game – the association, then dissociation – helped to sharpen the line between game and reality, not blur it. The striking grimness of the contained events, combined with the memory of their transgression, created a very real pathos towards the victims, their killers, and having to deal with consequences for those of us left in the wake. It was certainly not the self-indulgent killfest that many have deemed it.” – Dustin, SCMRPG player.

This game definitely raises a lot of questions and controversy naturally, but I really do think this was made for a positive cause of studying the psychological issues involved in that day.

The main question that we all have to ask ourselves I think is (from the website):

“Why is playing Columbine so controversial when watching or reading about it has become commonplace?”

Here’s a trailer for the documentary made about the game:

 

 


Aural drugs?

This past summer I came across a thread on a music forum that was titled “i-Doser – get high by listening to music!” Of course, my interest was piqued solely because of the ridiculousness of the concept.

I went on to find out that i-Doser is a program that uses binaural brainwave doses that when users listens to these doses they receive the same effect as taking drugs. The program has it all: heroin, cocaine, marijuana, opium, peyote, etc. The program can be downloaded for free but you have to pay for each dose

Each dose is usually about a half hour of drone noises. The doses are supposed to be listened to while laying down in a room with the lights off and through headphones. The headphones are needed because the sound alternates between each ear causing a sort of hypnotic drone noise.

I decided I should probably try one just to see what happened, so I chose the opium one and put my headphones on.

This is what it said opium would do:

“THE JOY PLANT! Opium is a naturally occurring analgesic harvested as a latex from ripe Papaver somniferum (opium poppy) pods. It has a long history of use by humans as an oral and smoked psychoactive. Opium can cause euphoria, followed by a sense of well-being and a calm drowsiness or sedation. Breathing slows, time reverses or stops… the world is a haze. While we have not been able to fully emulate the effects of opium, we have come pretty close. A favourite dose of the I-Doser technicians, this could very well be your favourite also!”

The dose starts off with an annoyingly loud beeping noise alternating between the earphones but eventually slowed down to a drone noise. During the dose I did experience a relaxing feeling but I’m pretty sure that was just from laying down with my eyes closed for half an hour. Also I thought I started to hear weird voices and music in the dose but I think that was just my mind imagining it from listening to the same droning noise for a half hour.

Overall, I didn’t really feel the way they told me I would feel. Honestly, I didn’t really expect to. I mean the whole thing seemed like a scam from the beginning especially since you have to pay every time you want to listen to a dose.

I did some research and found out from this wikipedia article that the only thing binaural waves have been proven to do, in this sense, is help people dream lucidly.

Maybe it’s because I was skeptical, though, because they say this will only work if you want it to.

Here’s some guys reaction to a Nitrous dose:

Verizon’s iPhone

Verizon Wireless recently came out with their own version of Apple’s iPhone called the LG Voyager. Depending on the service that one has, the price of the phone starts at $349.00. Discounts can be received depending on service. The phone comes equipped with:

· 2.0 Megapixel Camera with Autofocus Camera & Camcorder

· microSD™ Memory Port, up to 8GB

· Dual Speakers for Stereo Sound

· Bluetooth® Capable*

· V CAST Mobile TV

· V CAST Music

· V CAST Video

One of the features that the phone has that the iPhone does not, is that the phone actually opens up to reveal as keyboard inside. Instead of having to type everything out on the actual screen, this enables one to type faster than they might on the iPhone.

Our real selves?

In a recent article on PitchforkMedia, Chris Dahlen talks about our imaginary friends online and how we ourselves create imaginary personas of ourselves online.

Dahlen talks about how jazz musician Eric Dolphy has a myspace and has over 3,200 friends. The catch — he’s been dead for forty years.

He goes on to talk about how even imaginary book characters have myspaces.

He comments on this phenomenon by saying:

“And real or not, those characters are walking around on the internet talking to all of us– like a Donald Duck at Disneyworld who can’t take off his suit because he isn’t wearing one. Having chugged some aspirin and gotten past the whole “they’re not real, but they act real, so let’s treat them as real” thing, we sit back and enjoy the time we spend with them. They’re our imaginary friends.”

He gets to the point when he says that we don’t play our true selves on the internet either:

“But here’s the best part: We don’t play ourselves on the internet either. If you take an alias in AIM or tell a white lie about yourself on your blog, you become a character. Like a lot of you out there, I keep a dozen fictional identities around the net, and it’s just no big deal. For example, in World of Warcraft, I’m a long-haired brunette who looks like Han Solo with breasts and likes to knit on the battlefield. Hey– that’s just what I see in the mirror. But you don’t have to be a gamer or a freak: As we slip deeper into virtual social experiences, online games, or just lying about sex on MySpace, we all gradually split from our real selves into our imaginary selves. Anyone with a desk job who spends all day online– talking to clients on the telephone, IM’ing friends out of town, or trolling message boards– has made the same dip into the shallow end of the virtual pool.”

I can only agree with what he is saying here. This is why I think social networking and virtual worlds can become an almost dangerous thing. Where is the line where we crossover from who we really are and who we “play” on the internet?

This is why I think virtual worlds like Second Life are, well, rather troubling. Have we really become so obsessed with this online persona we have created that we had to create a whole virtual world for them? Have we really become so bored with our own lives that we have to create new ones online?

What happened to the real world? Yeah, the one that’s actually outside all of our houses. The one where you can do pretty much everything you can do in Second Life (minus flying, of course).

I think we as people are slowly losing what we depend on: face-to-face interaction. The more we slip into these online worlds, the more we isolate ourselves from and lose sight of the real world.

I’m not saying all of these online networks and communities are bad, I just think we need to be careful.

Go outside, it’s good for you. (I really have had to tell myself that before).

This piggy’s gone to heaven

Last week police in Britain shut down the music torrent site OiNK. They also arrested the administrator of the site on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and infringement of copyright. You can read the BBC news story here. Or watch this:

This has had a huge effect on music fans as OiNK was considered the most elite of torrent sites with a huge database of pretty much all types of music. The site got by for a while because of its invite-only policy for users. Users also had to keep up good ratios (number of uploads = number of downloads).

Of course the blogosphere has been all over this and their have even been ridiculous memorial sites.

I was never a member of OiNK but I know from people on message boards that the amount of music and the quality of music on there was astounding. Many users used it for rare or out-of-print albums.

I think the artist DJ/Rupture summed it up nicely in his blog:

“In many cases, I believe that downloading an album from Oink would be both faster (more on this in a bit) and give you more information about the CD than sites like iTunes.Think about that… a free website, which gives fast downloads of music at equivalent or higher quality than the paid music sites. And this free site has an incredibly deep collection of both new and old releases, usually in a variety of file formats and bit-rates. It’s overwhelming! First thought: wow, Oink is an amazing library. Second thought: wow, I really need to start selling DJ Rupture t-shirts, CD sales will only continue to drop & I gotta make money somehow!

For fans, consideration of the music comes before questions of money and ownership – this is how it should be. Any system that doesn’t take that into account as a central fact is going to generate a lot of friction. When I say ’system’, I mean everything from Sony to iTunes to white-label 12″s that cost 8-pounds ($16.38!) in London shops and only have 2 songs on them. (I bought a bunch of these last week, and it hurt).

Oink didn’t offer solutions; it highlighted the problems of over-priced, over-controlled music elsewhere. Oink was an online paradise for music fans. The only people who could truly be mad at it were the ones directly profiting from the sale of digital or physical music. (Like myself! F%5k!)

Oink had everything by certain artists. Literally, everything. I searched for ‘DJ Rupture’ and found every release I’d ever done, from an obscure 7″ on a Swedish label to 320kpbs rips of my first 12″, self-released back in 1999. It was shocking. And reassuring. The big labels want music to equal money, but as much as anything else, music is memory, as priceless and worthless as memory…About a week after I shipped out orders of the first live CD-r Andy Moor & I did, it appeared on Oink. Someone who had purchased it directly from me turned around and posted it online, for free. I wasn’t mad, I was just more stunned by the reach… and usefulness of the site.”

In Rainbows

Today will hopefully go down as an important day in musical history.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about: Radiohead announced last week that their much anticipated seventh album was done and was going to be released directly through the album’s website. Fans were given the option to pre-order a discbox for 40 pounds or download the album digitally for however much they wanted to pay. That’s right you could pay however much you wanted including nothing at all.

Radiohead has been out of a recording contract since their last album and many weren’t expecting the album till late next year after the band signed to a label. Radiohead has completely sent their fans and the recording industry for a loop by completely surpassing a record label and releasing their music directly to their fans.

The album came out last night and activation codes for the download were sent out sometime around midnight. Music bloggers and fans stayed up all night and the reception has been nothing but positive, not just because of how good the actual album is but also because of how Radiohead went about this whole situation. People were actually paying more for the download than they would for a regular CD just because of how much they appreciate what Radiohead has done.

Radiohead has taken the control away from a record label and basically put the control in the hands of their fans. As far as I know, a band this large and popular has never attempted something like this. They essentially leaked the album themselves.

The blog You Ain’t No Picasso summed it up very nicely:

“By offering the album in the way they did, Radiohead gave us a bit of a gift: universal excitement. This effectively brought back the joy of album release day — millions of people hearing the record for the first time at once — and combined it with the our modern ability to instantly gush to all of those fellow fans online. It’s the best of all worlds.”

Technology adopter

I would like to consider myself as being hip and on top of things when it comes to technology, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I came to the game late on quite a bit of new technologies.  Case in point:

– I didn’t have a cell phone till my senior year of high school while most of my friends had them two and three years before that.  I was never really opposed to them, I just didn’t really see the need for it.  I still kind of hate the fact that anyone can come into contact with me at any point, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t last a couple days without my cell phone.

– I didn’t buy an iPod until the third generation, which is surprising because listening to music is what I spend the majority of my time doing.  I was always a “CD purist.” Yes, I am one of those elitist audiophiles who thinks the sound quality on a CD is better than on a compressed mp3.  But once I got my iPod, I never parted with it.  It seriously changed the way I listen to music.  My iPod was stolen last fall and I thought the world was over.  I still believe CDs have much better sound quality but the fact that I can take my entire CD collection anywhere and listen to it at anytime has made my iPod basically my most valuable possession.

– I just recently got an Xbox 360 last week and its the first gaming console I have bought since Nintendo 64.

I’m not really sure where this puts me as far as technology adopter goes.  I’m not really opposed to new technologies, usually I am pretty fascinated by them.  I just am always really skeptical at first.  I like to wait a couple months or years and gauge people’s reactions to the new technology and figure out whether or not it is worth my time.

Why I’m doing this

I remember when Livejournal first came out and how opposed to blogging I was.  Upon discovering the site, I found out from a friend that my ex-girlfriend had a blog on there.  I had just broken up with her so, as you can imagine, I had to know what she was saying about the breakup and me.  I read pretty much every post and it was basically all hate speech directed at me (which, of course, I found to be highly entertaining).  The thing that struck me about it though was that I couldn’t believe how honest and open she was being on a website that basically anyone could find and read if they wanted to.  She had basically uploaded her entire diary and personal thoughts onto this website for everyone in the world with an internet connection to view and mull over.

This is pretty much why I was opposed to blogging in the beginning.  Why would someone want the whole world to have the opportunity to find and know their most personal thoughts? It seemed absurd to me.

I soon came to realize that the blogging world is a whole lot bigger than just the “My boyfriend broke up with me! :-(” diaries that were basically every teen girl’s blog who originally signed up for Livejournal.  Blogging has turned into a way for every person with an internet connection to have a voice.  So of course, with that you’re going to get a lot of bad, but you’re also going to get a lot of good as well.  There are pretty much blogs about just about every subject you can think of now and a lot of them are quite useful for gathering information.

Blogging is important because it has made possible the transfer of thoughts and ideas from many different types of people who, before blogs, didn’t really have a resource for doing this.  Blogging helps us as humans to communicate and learn from each other.

This blog hopefully will be of some use.  This will be my first real blog ever and I hope to provide useful information and thoughts on modern innovations and technologies.