Friday, October 29, 2010

Ubicomp at UW

This is a lab that I am very psyched about.  Here's their website.  I was lucky enough to see a bunch of these guys give talks the other day on campus.

I feel like they've got 2 main focuses: house-level stuff, and person-level stuff.  House-level stuff is really mind-blowing: you put a single sensor by your main electrical box, and it tells you which device you're using.  Or your gas meter.  Or your water meter.  And shoot, you've got water rushing through here, why not use it to power the measuring device?  Or maybe you want to put out a bunch of sensors for some task, but you want them to be wireless, but it takes a lot of power to transmit to the central base station.  Why not transmit to the nearest wall instead, and let the power lines in your home take it to the base station?  Whaaaa?  This is some kind of magic.

Slightly less magical, but more interesting to me in its applications, are their personal things.  What if you wanted to get some info from your phone, but your eyes and ears were busy?  How about squeezing it?  There's a surprising amount of info you can get from that.  Or maybe something that generates its own power?  Or, okay, we have a powered computer in our pockets... maybe you forgot something you just heard a few minutes ago.  It'd be nice to press rewind on your auditory life, wouldn't it?

What if a human could wear something like this all the time?  What could you do then?

It's all low-power and low-setup-cost, and it all hacks the physical world in cool ways.  Getting information that you wouldn't think you could get.  Allowing more sensors to be deployed more easily.  Maybe with personal health applications.  Maybe with personal mental health applications...

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