Monday, May 31, 2004

Wireless: local and global

This morning, I see that Howard Rheingold is asking if location blogging will take off. Oh probably, in some form or another. But until GPRS rates come down significantly, the opportunity for public authoring will only be available to a select few (which, of course, is not very public). And ever-skeptical, I do wonder if never missing a friend (or always knowing if you have a friend nearby) is better than not.

Shifting from local to global scale, check out Message in a Bottle: From Ramsgate to the Chatham Islands.

On 25th May 2004, fifty bottles were released into the sea off the south east coast of England near Ramsgate Maritime Museum, Kent. The intended destination of the bottles is The Chatham Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The islands, which are 800km east of mainland New Zealand, are the nearest inhabited land to the precise location on the opposite side of the world to Ramsgate Maritime Museum ... Several of the bottles are being tracked automatically using GPS technology and are programmed to send their longitude and latitude coordinates back to Ramsgate every hour. The data they send has been used to create a live drawing which is automatically updated in real time. (Scroll down this page for another map.)

But oh no! It seems that on Friday the automatic reports stopped and they now have only a "few days to recover them, diagnose then fix the problem, then put them back into the sea." So if you find one of the GPS bottles, let them know!


This reminds me - in researching ubiquitous/pervasive computing the past few years, I have rarely seen or heard public discussions about how these technologies often don't work, and if they do, they often don't work well. (Just one example: GPS doesn't work well in dense urban areas where buildings block the signal.) A couple of months ago, Gene Becker wrote: "Ubicomp is hard, understanding people, context, and the world is hard, getting computers to handle everyday situations is hard, and expectations are set way too high. I used to say ubicomp was a ten-year problem; now I'm starting to think that it's really a hundred-year problem." Indeed!

Update - The Feature: These Streets Were Made for Talking. An article on, you guessed it, the Talking Street project.


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