Sunday, December 18, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Just found out about the #SciFund Challenge, in collaboration with Rockethub, to fund scientific research via crowdsourcing. I think it's currently only set up for the month of November.
It would be interesting to see how initiatives like this develop, whether an approach like this could be sustainable, and what would be the mechanisms to ensure the money is actually used for the right purpose...
|Image source: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/scifund|
Scientific American Article
Sunday, October 9, 2011
This new Google Chrome Remote Desktop extension just came out on Friday, and it could really come in handy.
A large part of my work these days is done on a remote server (mainly due to sensitive data analysis and computation power needs). Sometimes an SSH terminal is sufficient but many other times I find the graphical interface more productive, at least for me.
There are always issues with setting up remote desktop connections, especially across different operating systems - To connect to a Windows machine I use MS Remote Desktop Connection, for linux I use NX and sometimes VNC (less secure, more bandwidth cost, but simpler to set up), etc. One of the most recent issues is OS-X Lion breaking compatibility for the existing Free NX / Nomachine NX client setup, and so on.
So you can understand my excitement about this new extension. Finally, Chromoting, for real! I can't wait to try it out.
And who knows, maybe my Chromebook will be useful for doing something other than browsing after all!
To download from the Chrome webstore: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/gbchcmhmhahfdphkhkmpfmihenigjmpp
Via CNET: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20117619-264/chrome-extension-enables-remote-computer-control/
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
- Cudos to developer Andy Smith for stitching these two APIs together!
- Back in 2009 Spotify and Echo Nest announced collaboration on Spotify's playlist and music discovery functions, and even showed a prototype of this ( http://the.echonest.com/company/press-release/10/). This was way before Spotify hit the US. I'm not sure if they already launched anything public yet, but I would not be surprised if they are cooking something very similar to Echofi. If so, it will probably be baked into Spotify in a much more integrated manner.
- Yet more respect to Andy Smith for actually doing something public and working before an official thing is launched. And respect to the two companies for exposing the API that enables apps like this. Lets just hope the app isn't found to be violating some "terms of service" and will be shut down. Open API = Innovation.
- Pandora - Be afraid, be very afraid. This type of service was one of the key things I was missing in Spotify. Combining auto playlists with the ability to also play any specific song that comes to mind makes for a really powerful service, and Pandora's radio-station-like model of operation just can't compete with that.
- I really like Echo Nest, and not just because it was founded by two Media Lab alums. I really like them because they released the public "Million Song Dataset", and which even made it to as a public dataset on Amazon web services. I played with it a bit during the Boston Hack/Reduce Event in June and its really neat.
- This app could be a great opportunity to compare two competing approaches: Pandora's manually generated "music genome" vs. Echo Nest's algorithmic machine approach to understanding music and generating its feature space.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Om Malik and others have recently blogged about the emergence of the "Alive Web" - which is all about the live interaction with others, the real-time, the here-and-now. Turntable.fm has been one of the representative example of it, and also Chatroulette.
What we're seeing here is the Alive Development of the Alive Web.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
My SXSW plug:
I proposed a talk for the upcoming SXSW based on my PhD research and the work we are doing at the Human Dynamics group at the MIT Media Lab. I think its going to be awesome, and I'm not biased at all.
Details below, Please Vote!
At the MIT Media Lab, we have built the beginnings of what we call “The Social MRI.” You don’t need a huge chamber – just a bunch of modern smartphones. Using our mobile sensing software, we transformed a residential community into a living laboratory for over 15 months. Many signals were collected from each participant, altogether comprising what is, to date, the richest real-world dataset of its kind. As part of our continuing research, we are developing new tools to realize "the quantified self", and architectures to do all of this from a user centric perspective – where individuals own their data, and privacy is embedded into the framework.
This talk will highlight surprising results from the study, introduce our open source tools developed for data collection, and discuss how the lessons learned could extend to improve the consumer and business worlds.
- How can we design new mechanisms of social support (e.g. for increasing physical activity), and measure their performance with a real community?
- How can mobile phones be used to infer real-world social signals, relationships, and other personal and group characteristics?
- How is it possible to preserve user privacy while still enabling today’s data collection and advertising-driven business models?
- Who has more influence over the mobile apps that you install on your phone – your friends on Facebook, your “real” friends, or the people you just hang out with?
- What tools can we provide to developers and researchers to build apps for smart mobile sensing that are both secure and battery efficient?
Sunday, August 14, 2011
"Epidermal Electronics" - Remember this term, because I am sure we'll be hearing more of it in the future. Ars Technica writes about this amazing new technology of "Epidermal Electronic System" (EES). Basically, its a "technology that allows electrical measurements (and other measurements, such as temperature and strain) using ultra-thin polymers with embedded circuit elements. These devices connect to skin without adhesives, are practically unnoticeable, and can even be attached via temporary tattoo."
Check out the cool video by Northwestern:
Tattoo electronics could have medical applications from Northwestern News on Vimeo.
For an in depth read and pictures that "show a lot of skin", I recommend diving into the full Science paper, and this Science perspective article that talks about the potential of the technology for medical applications.
What I thought was way cool is how they show proof of concept for solar power or inductive power sources (read: wireless power up, like RFIDs). I wonder if piezoelectrics could be used to power such epidermal devices from the motion of the wearer, or maybe harvest the person's body heat... (did anyone say Matrix?)
The authors discuss and show feasibility of RF based wireless communication, but I wonder if you can also do something like Body Area Networks where multiple epidermal devices could communicate with one another using the human body as its medium - so that you could have one device responsible for aggregating the sensor data and transmitting it out. And if we go this far, why not person-to-person communication, ala Jay Silver's ok2touch, but with all epidermic computing:
How about epidermal peer-to-peer music sharing?
And can you imagine how the TSA would react to this tech?
Do you have other ideas for EES applications?
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
In the Human Dynamics group at the MIT Media Lab, under the direction of Prof. Alex (Sandy) Pentland, we work on sensing, learning, and gaining a better understanding of people and social systems.
For those of you who don't have the patience to wait, and following many requests to try out the platform, we decided to do an early release of a "sneak peek" version so that you could get a feel of funf while we work to refactor the full source code for public consumption. We will gradually be adding functionality and tutorials, and of course the source code...
So here we go: World, meet "funf: Open Sensing Framework", currently tailored for Android devices.
We hope you find it useful!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
- Temporary Identifier Workarounds: Like the saying "The 'temporary' becomes the 'permanent'," many times it is possible to use "temporary" identifiers to uncover a permanent one, or link them together to create a persistent chain of temporary identifiers. There is the famous case of Internet IP addresses not being on the PII list. Many times, there is some second temporary identifier that remains constant between IP address changes that make it possible to link the old and new IP addresses together - like a website cookie or a site't internal username identifier.
- New and changing identifier types: Is your Facebook ID PII? More and more so. And you should be very wary of apps and referrers who leak it. By the time legislators add it to the PII list, Facebook might not even be that relevant (depending who you ask...). And what about your Android ID (unique identifier based on the specific handset and your Google account) or the iPhone's unique device ID (UDID)? Its hard to keep up with new services and their proprietary IDs.
- "Joined Identifiers" (for lack of a better name): This is when pieces of information that seem innocuous when considered independently, generate a not-so-innocuous identifier when combined together. For example, a set of properties that your browser advertises, and could be used to "fingerprint" your computer, like this, or this (seriously, try it). There's also work like Sweeney's on how simple demographics like gender, date of birth, and zip code, could be used to uniquely identify a large percentage of the US population. This data-combo essentially becomes PII, and should be treated with the same respect.
- "Inferred Identifiers": Big Data also means big data-mining and inference. Some of it can be very revealing about a person's identity, and can even be used for de-anonymizing users. Golle and Partridge show how people could be uniquely identified if the approximate locations of an individual's home and workplace can both be deduced from a location trace, combined with public US Census data. Narayanan and Shmatikov show how the supposedly anonimyzed Netflix Prize dataset could be deanonimyzed. These are just a few examples.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Apparently, the marathon itself is not the only race in this story. What I wanted to focus on is not the marathon day, but the events surrounding this year's marathon registration back in the fall. The 2011 marathon was sold out in a record 8 hours and 3 minutes, compared to the 2010 marathon which sold out in 65 days, also a record at the time. Many long-time Boston Marathon runners, and many others who prepared for this marathon for months, even years, and made the required qualifications preliminary competitions, were not able to register. Some complained about the fact that thousands of non-qualifying runners who signed up to promote various charities and fundraising efforts were taking spots that should have been reserved for the competitive runners. The organizers of the marathon even made raised the bar for the qualifying scores of next year's marathon. However, I am not sure that the issue is with the Boston Marathon's organization. This is part of a much bigger trend.