Monthly Archive for March, 2009

UB tweetup #1: University at Buffalo folks on Twitter

UB Tweetup #1

With more of us from the University at Buffalo now on twitter, a UB tweetup was in order. Everyone met each other for the first time, and we exchanged ideas on how we used it for our various causes.

There are currently about 10 twitter accounts affiliated to the University at Buffalo. After our tweetup, these accounts were aggregated via CrowdStatus. This is the official list of UB faculty/staff on twitter, so feel free to follow them!

UB Tweetup #1UB Tweetup #1

Folks present at our first UB tweetup included:
@UBcfa – Joanne from UB Center for the Arts
@UBcommunity – Jessica from UB Community Relations
@UB_Alumni – Barbara & Gina from UB Alumni Relations
@UBLaw + @UBLawLib – Jim Milles & Kristina from UB Law Library
As well as Bridget (@bschu1022) from UB Libraries whose official twitter presence should be coming soon.

Those who couldn’t make it included:
@UB_SAS – UB Student advising services
@UBAcademies – Undergrad development beyond the university
@BuffaloBulls – our UB sports teams
@UBGreen – UB’s Green Initiative
@UBCitAlerts@jhsu‘s CIT computing network alerts

Watch our self-introduction video, as well as notes after the jump… Continue reading ‘UB tweetup #1: University at Buffalo folks on Twitter’

Notice to all employees (memo)

I’ve been stressed at work while my dissertation progress lingered back home. Supervisor Robin sends out the following email…

– – – – –
Notice to all employees:

Workloads getting to you?
Feeling stressed?
Too many priorities and assignments?

Due to the hard economic times and otherwise depressing state of the world today, all personnel will now be required to at least look happy while working.

Company-approved supplies will be provided to each employee at little or no cost. Here is the new low-cost, company-approved solution to cope with multiple priorities and assignments!

Each employee will be supplied 2 paper clips and rubber bands as shown in Fig 1 below:

Notice to all employees (memo)
Figure 1. Company-issued smiling contraption
– – – – -

Japan’s cyber homeless living on the net

BBC’s Matt Frei visits a cyber cafe just outside Tokyo, where some homeless young people are choosing to live in the tiny cubicles. Some take-aways from this short, depressing BCC report:

  • 60 x “coffin-sized” cubicles for rent at around US$500/month in Tokyo
  • No windows to the outside world, except for computer
  • Cubicle residents mostly young, intelligent, retrenched
  • Cubicle neighbors rarely talk to one another, no friendships
  • Sense of sadness and lifelessness. Respectful = silent?

Reviewing similar cyber-drifter reports from other news agencies:

  • Cyber-homeless are nicknamed “freeters” – a compound of “free” and “Arbeiter” (German for “worker”)
  • “Freeters” are a by-product of the economic crisis that hit Japan and its lifelong employment guarantees in the 1990s
  • “Freeters” drift between odd jobs, earning around US$8/hour (1,000 yen)
  • A modest 30 square metre (320 square foot) flat in Tokyo easily cost US$1,250/month
  • Living in such Internet cafes costs $12-$20 a night. Residents get free soft drinks, TV, comics and Internet access. This prices even beat those of Japan’s famous “capsule hotels”, where guests sleep in plastic cells.
  • Living in cybercafes also grants an official registered address to many laid-off contract workers. Critical for job hunting.

I’ve seen similar partitioned cubicles in cybercafes in parts of China, though I must say that the ones in Japan seem to have the most privacy.

I’d appreciate any photos / videos you might have taken or found of cybercafes around the world. I’d like to compare social conditions.

Here are more reports about Japan’s cyber homeless…
Reuters: Japanese find sleep, shelter in cyber cafes (Text / May 7, 2007)
Roadjunky: The Cyber-Homeless of Japan (Video / Dec 22, 2008)
Reuters: Japan’s Internet address (Video / Dec 24, 2008)

Update: BoingBoing mentions the exploitation aspect. Cybercafe owner makes a tidy sum from their plight: 60 cubicles x $500 rent = $30,000. The polar ends of socio-economics, aka the poor get poorer, vice versa. The inescapable, perpetual dilemma.

The DIY Phuket Simulator

The Phuket Simulator

I’m strolling along sunny Phuket beach in Thailand remotely from Buffalo, New York. Approximately 8651 true miles away, my holiday experience is mediated via

I asked friends to come along, by twittering where I was (via URL). @Prissyhan sent me a coconut to drink, but since it was viscerally lacking, I closed the loop by picking up a can of coconut juice for that buttery liquid flavor.

All I’m missing now is the feeling of warm sand and sea water flowing between my toes. Perhaps I should get a wash tub from Walmart…

Aside: “The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth–it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” – Poster, Mark; Baudrillard, Jean (1988) wearable street-view rig found…

Mapjacker finally captured...

I recently discovered the high-quality street view experience of, and learned that their virtual experience extended beyond the roads, and onto narrow alleys as well as even indoors.

That beats Google Street View which has so far been limited to vehicle-mounted panorama cameras as seen here.

Having heard that Mapjack’s street-view rig was wearable, I was determined to find pictures of their setup. After a bit of flickr diving, I hit the jackpot…

On the left is a photograph of whom I believe to be the “mapjacker” (hat tip warzauwynn). You see him complete with his wearable computer setup, overhead panoramic camera, video monocle, and a Playstation controller at his waist. Recently the military mentioned that game controllers make for ergonomic input devices. Here’s a closer image of the “mapjacker” captured by davidyuweb.

The capture even shows the junction he was at, so I went on Mapjack to find the actual panorama captured by him. Aside from a time difference between both images, I believe what you see on the right is exactly what was being captured by him that day.

As expected, Mapjack experienced the same ethical and privacy issues as Google. Just check out the images they had to remove from their trip in sin city Pattaya, Thailand.

If they ever need more cyborgs to capture the lay of the land, I’d gladly help! Definitely wish I could build one.

theorycast.55 :: Touring the Retro-Media exhibit @ UB

Talk about Geek Nostalgia! Walk with us in this 20 minute historic journey into memory devices lost and found.

Science librarian Ben Wagner gives us a tour of their new Retro-Media exhibit which features all kinds of recordable media over the past century.

Everything from computer punch cards, to floppy disks, to magnetic tape for data storage, to vinyl, 8-track, CDs for music recordings, to 8mm film, U-matic, laserdiscs for video media, and so much more.

The UB Libraries have put together a wonderfully comprehensive history of recordable media on the Retro-Media web site.

Twitter + Augmented Reality + Facial Recognition = Nineteen Eighty-Four?

Squidder's facetweet

While @briancaldwell of Squidder thinks that their latest creation reeks of “Big Brother / 1984” overtones, I beg to differ… it looks incredibly useful (and fun)!
Continue reading ‘Twitter + Augmented Reality + Facial Recognition = Nineteen Eighty-Four?’

GE’s “augmented reality” campaign

GE Augmented Reality

I know GE’s augmented reality marketing gimmick works because I’m seeing at least 35 Youtube video submissions from folks amazed by it (many more blogging / tweeting). Here’s a great video demo from DoobyBrain.

Try it with your webcam at
Tip: Try blowing into your webcam and see what happens…

Augmented Reality has been used in a number of places, but is particularly seen in marketing campaigns (Nissan Cube 3D Reality brochure, Volvo Ocean Race 3D Yachts), as well as video games (Sony PS3’s Eye of Judgement, and a bunch more).

I’m more interested in how it would allow us to merge both online and real-world environments in the same place, through the use of location-aware smartphones and video goggles. Applications would include the ability to recognize people and objects, help us find our way around and to help us make highly informed decisions based on our current situation. How Stuff Works has some examples.

Update 1: New York Times today features the release of Topps 3D Live baseball card. Put the card in front of a webcam and collectors will see a three-dimensional avatar of the player on the computer screen.

Update 2: Trying to figure out the magic? GE Smart Grid Augmented Reality makes use of FLARToolKit and PV3D to create a digital hologram of Smart Grid technology in your hands [via Papervision3D].

BarcampBuffalo: How it went… a narrated slideshow (voicethread)

Thanks to the WNYmedia folks, I totally enjoyed Barcamp Buffalo. You’ll see and hear why from my voicethread above.

I decided to use Voicethread to show Buffalo News journalist, Michelle Kearns, how she could take her trans-media story DVD project a step further. Voicethread makes multimedia storyboards accessible (embed anywhere) and collaborative (allow viewers to add audio/visual comments).

BarcampBuffalo #1 panorama
Barcamp Buffalo panorama captured using the iPhone

If you prefer, higher resolution photos are available in my BarcampBuffalo flickr set. Also, WNYmedia has produced a promotional video with clips from this Barcamp.

BarcampBuffalo: @jhsu’s LiveStreamMonitoring + @MikeCanz’s Codeswarm (Visualization)

As a sneak peek at BarcampBuffalo, UB undergrad and web developer Joseph Hsu of demos his prototype Live Stream Monitoring webapp written with Ruby on Rails. Yes, he says it’s an untitled work.

It’s very alpha right now, merely aggregating information streams (kinda like His next phase would be to process these streams in order to abstract our personal social web behavior / trends. Ultimately, it’s to become a form of social intelligence dashboard.

As you can tell by now, there’s a small visualization trend going at this Barcamp. Kicking things off was @MikeCanz’s Codeswarm demo as shown above (it’s open source). Since the crowd consisted of business folks as well, much of the conversations highlighted concerns about these tools being more frivolous than functional. Often heard was “what’s the point of this?”.

I argue that if we frame ideas in terms of monetization, we’d be extremely short-sighted. By the time an idea becomes obviously millable, it would be way too late. Instead, I believe that visualization tools provide a crucial way for to us humanly graze from the increasingly denser information environment we live in today.

Historically speaking, lots of popular web services we use today came by accident, including blogger, twitter, Youtube, flickr, just to name a few! Just look up their origins on Wikipedia.