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Communications Technology

Quickies — MIT's Intelligent Sticky Notes 124

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the smarter-than-your-average-sticky dept.
Iddo Genuth writes to mention that MIT researchers have made their first pass at bringing the common yellow post-it note into the digital age. Using a combination of artificial intelligence, RFID, and ink recognition, the team hopes to make the digital version as ubiquitous as possible. "The Quickie application not only allows users to browse their notes, but also lets users search for specific information or keywords. Using a freely available commonsense knowledge engine and computational AI techniques, the software processes the written text and determines the relevant context of the notes, categorizing them appropriately. "The system uses its understanding of the user's intentions, content, and the context of the notes to provide the user with reminders, alerts, messages, and just-in-time information" - said the inventors. Additionally, each Quickie carries a unique RFID tag, so that it can be easily located around the house or office. Therefore, users can be sure never to lose a bookmarked book or any other object marked with a Quickie."
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Quickies — MIT's Intelligent Sticky Notes

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  • as ubiquitous as possible
    Ubiquitous means omnipresent.
    English, mon frer, do you speak it?
    If you make an intelligent sticky note that's so unique, it's one-of-a-kind, and you put it on Nigel Tufnel's [youtube.com] amp, and he cranks it up to 11, will /. editors suddenly become competent?
  • by nuzak (959558) on Friday May 02, 2008 @07:33PM (#23280918) Journal
    Apparently they're holding them over at the Human Resources department. I asked the receptionist for a Quickie and she had me sent there.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I had the same experience and in the end it cost me $50,000 in legal fees. This technology is way too expensive to ever take off.
      • I had the same experience and in the end
        Wow, I guess they'll do anything where you work.

      • by fbjon (692006)
        That's because you used a digital pen as suggested in TFA, when you really should use a cigar.
      • by bhiestand (157373) *
        Trust me, it could have been much worse. Try asking an undercover cop if you can buy a quickie from her!
    • At least you didn't have to go down to the legal department. Apparently that's where they keep the Bloh Jaabs (tm).
    • by DiEx-15 (959602)
      Thanks for the heads up! I'll be sure not to ask for them now!
  • by Hangtime (19526) on Friday May 02, 2008 @07:42PM (#23280980) Homepage
    is best. I have to write my sticky on a touch-sensitive pad which will then need to be transferred to the PC, undergo handwriting recognition and AI to try to ascertain what the heck I meant which will then try to organize that information.

    Or, I can continue using my sticky notes and organizing them on my cube wall (a much larger surface and higher resolution then my 19 inch monitor), freely moving them from one place to another, changing meaning through organization without having to worry about manipulating them on a computer.

    Forgive me but I believe this is a tool in search of a problem that does not exist.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by neokushan (932374)
      Or to put it in simpler terms...

      "if it ain't broke..."

      This does seem to be a prime example of over-engineering and tackling a problem that either doesn't exist or can be fixed via much simpler means, i.e. training the "user" to be better organised. It reminds me of NASA spending millions developing a pen that would work in space, while the Russians just used pencils....

      I'd rather they spent the money they used researching this to develop glues that have the same properties as that used on post-it notes, but
      • by evanbd (210358) on Friday May 02, 2008 @07:57PM (#23281072)

        Please stop repeating that myth. Snopes [snopes.com] says you're wrong.

        For those too lazy to read the link: Fisher spent their own money on the development, and the results were far better than pencils. Pencil leads break off and create an electrical and fire hazard, not to mention making dust. These are real problems in free fall that aren't present on the ground. Sorry, but your intuition of what works well on the ground will not translate in any meaningful way to free fall.

        • by neokushan (932374)
          Unfortunately I don't have the time to check out every single "fact" people tell me, particularly the common ones (like this) that get reiterated all the time. I apologise for spreading FUD and I stand corrected (Although my main point remains the same), however I AM only human.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Unfortunately I don't have the time to check out every single "fact" people tell me, particularly the common ones (like this) that get reiterated all the time. I apologise for spreading FUD and I stand corrected (Although my main point remains the same), however I AM only human.
            Perhaps you should write the facts a Quickie so that it can do the research for you :D
          • Unfortunately I don't have the time to check out every single "fact" people tell me
            Of course not, none of us do. The question is, why do we repeat them back anyway? :-/

            --Ted
            • by neokushan (932374)
              I've actually thought about this before. When you're growing up, as a young, naive kid, you tend to just believe what adults tell you. Then you get a little wiser and realise that not ALL adults actually know what they're talking about (and some just love to tell you complete lies for the fun of it, or to make you look stupid), so you typically start to question what most people tell you, but certain people (such as your parents or teachers) tend to keep a level of respect where you continually believe what
              • by bhiestand (157373) *
                I agree, actually, it's very interesting. This characteristic of human development is also one of the reasons there is such hot debate about religious indoctrination of children in schools. If you view religion as a vaccine against eternal damnation, you want children to hear about religion as much and as early as possible. If you think it's a bunch of bullocks, you absolutely don't want your children exposed to it until they're old enough to question it. Keep in mind how long it takes most children to
            • Because it makes sense.

              Like all urban legends, there's just enough truth to make you say 'wow, that makes sense' and ignore the silly/foolish bits.

              In that particular myth, it does seem like the sort of thing NASA would do - an engineer creates a problem which is waaay overengineered and the Russians, not bothering with any of that silliness, just uses the simple solution

              The fact that it's not what actually happened is irrelevant (to most people) - it could have happened, so why not believe it?
              • Huh. I'm going to have to completely disagree with you. There's nothing about that story that "seems" true or reasonable. In fact I'd argue otherwise, that an organization with the ability to put ships in space would be unlikely to make such a frivolous investment.

                Perhaps the reason urban legends "seem" true is because they justify a person's preconceived prejudices, opinions or conclusions.
                • Which is exactly what the gp meant, as I understood it. You say 'wow, that makes sense' not because it does, but because it fits some preconceived notion of truth and thus doesn't get examined further. And obviously, this makes sense to me because it fits a preconceived notion of truth I have. There's almost certainly a lot more to it. One major factor, as explained by another post somewhere else in this thread, is likely the fact that these things often get told to you by people you trust.
                • by bhiestand (157373) *
                  Actually it's closer to reality than you make it out to be. I don't know if you read the article, but the inventor of the space pen really did pour his heart into its development, and he did it with the space program in mind. There are, of course, legitimate needs for such a pen. The only difference is that he spent thousands, not billions, on its development, and, once he developed them, he promptly gave pens to NASA for free.
                  • Uh, no. The entire point of the myth is that a simple and inexpensive solution worked as good or better, which the pencil does not.
            • If you want a fairly comprehensive answer to muc of that, I can recommend "How we know what isn't so" by Thomas Gilovich. (Doesn't answer why we communicate about these things at all - I have only some partial answers to that, and they're still long...)

              Eivind.

          • by Kwiik (655591)
            maybe instead of bitching back and forth you guys should stop being retards and notice the real issues

            it's not that people aren't spending time developing better pens that work in space
            and it's not that we should have better glue for better post it notes

            the problem is that nerds at MIT are treating simple things from every day life as if they are "problems" that need to be "solved".

            The real PROBLEM is not that we need to upgrade post it notes, it's what post it notes solve: we need a way to remember things
        • Please stop repeating that myth. Snopes [snopes.com] says you're wrong.
          Ah, the pixels wasted in the name of pointless pedantry...
        • by nguy (1207026)
          Except that the Snopes story itself doesn't make much sense: there are plenty of cheap "pencils" that you can buy at the corner store that don't use graphite and that don't create dust.
          • by evanbd (210358)

            Are you sure? I've seen plenty with "polymer lead" in various forms, but that always seems to mean polymer-graphite composite. Are any of them nonconductive? Don't they still have issues with breaking?

            Remember also that pencil technology has improved in the past 40 years. Whether there are or aren't pencils that would work today, I'd be surprised if there were pencils that would have worked 40 years ago.

            • by nguy (1207026)
              Regular pencils are graphite and clay, but lots of other pigment/binder combinations have been used for a long time. Dyes and mineral pigments make pencils non-conductive and colored. Wax is often used as the binder (crayons, wax pens) and avoids dust altogether. Pencils leads can be made break-proof (stenographer's pencils). The outer covering can be replaced with something non-flammable.

              Most of the problems Fisher claims pencils had could have been solved by picking one of thousands of commercially av
      • from Snopes - "NASA never asked Paul C. Fisher to produce a pen. When the astronauts began to fly, like the Russians, they used pencils, but the leads sometimes broke and became a hazard by floating in the [capsule's] atmosphere where there was no gravity. They could float into an eye or nose or cause a short in an electrical device. In addition, both the lead and the wood of the pencil could burn rapidly in the pure oxygen atmosphere. Paul Fisher realized the astronauts needed a safer and more dependab
      • Stop using that story! NASA never spent millions developing a space pen, and the Russians never used pencils. NASA might be stupid, but not that stupid, and the Russians are cheap enough to do something that stupid. Break the tip and your screwed. Not to mention wood and graphite catch fire. Both space agencies were happy to use grease pencils for quite a while. The Space Pen that is use now was developed independently by a independent inventor/businessman. Only after making that did NASA end up using some
      • "if it ain't broke..."

        To summarize the change they made in a form Slashdot would understand:

        s/st/qu
      • "if it ain't broke..."
        If it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday May 02, 2008 @07:53PM (#23281048)
      They really are missing the point. The point of a stickie note is to put information where there was none previously. I don't need the bottom edge of my monitor for anything, but it's really handy for reminding me about the tasks I need to do before I leave. Putting it on the monitor (physically or through this software) takes up space that I do need for something else, meaning I'd only look at them when I thought I'd need the reminder...which means that I wouldn't need it.
    • by Speare (84249)
      Plus, you wouldn't want to waste an RFID-based memory circuit to disable the faulty little motion sensor in the toilet stall that causes the toilet to flush every time you are on the throne. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hojima (1228978)
      I'm pretty sure its development was for the sake of progress rather than the replacement of an already loved product. Remember this is MIT that developed it, not some commercial entity. I'm pretty sure that the main reason for its conception was another baby step towards creating a system that assists humans with their means of communication, which may seem trivial, but it is a crucial step towards modernizing the way humans interact with machines. FTA:"The scientists say Quickies can be used to seamlessly
      • "The scientists say Quickies can be used to seamlessly blend the old-fashioned and modernized ways of communication". I'm sure the next step is to have the system analyze the code that the programmer is developing, and based on the comments and general coding habits, lay out the skeleton of the program (or perform some other vital function, like warn the coder of a possible logic error with his objective).

        That's quite alright, and the next step I envisage is that, based on the comments of the program, the system not only warns about possible logic errors, but in fact fixes them. They could develop a language for communication with the computer in which one would only describe objectives and goals, and then the system would translate that into some low-level language, understandable for machine but hard for humans to use it for direct communication with machines.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by glitch23 (557124)
      To make them true to life, the digital ones have a setting which is customizable that dictates how long the notes can stay stuck the screen before their 'glue' wears off. A spin-off game is also planned to allow you to practice your basketball skills by throwing the old Quickies into the Recycle Bin.
    • by Threni (635302)
      > Or, I can continue using my sticky notes and organizing them on my cube wall

      You'll need to use sellotape/blu tack if you want them to stay on for more than 10 minutes, or when someone walks past, generating a slight breeze.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jartan (219704)
      Did you even RTFA?

      1) You write your note on the same kind of pad you'd buy in your local office supplies store (it just happens to sit on top of some sort of pressure scanner)
      2) The cheap ass pad of post-it notes has cheap ass RFID's on them so it's a pretty simple step to make the computer know exactly where they are on your wall whenever you want it to.

      Where in that whole process did you have to do something you wouldn't of normally done? Do you need to move around your post-it note pad constantly or som
      • by dbcad7 (771464)
        I was going to question the logic of needing to find an original post-it note, when there is a digital copy.. but I actually imagined a legitimate use. The only thing the RFID would be useful for is for labeling documents that you might misplace.. but I would think there might be a more professional way to label than a post-it, not to mention that it might detach... RFID folders maybe...

        We could have used RFID document storage boxes at the last joint I worked at.. accounting had all the boxes numbered but

        • yeah, that's just someone who's never learned how to create an index for anything. If your solution for archiving files is to lace them with a thousand rfid tags, you're going way too far. it's not hard to log an index of where you've put things. rfid doesn't scale as well as people think. it's great for inventory when you're holding one item or one container at a time. you can't walk into a room of ten thousand items and do anything with rfid.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pipingguy (566974) *
        "wouldn't of"

        Aaaaarrrghhh! One doesn't even have to be a junior high school graduate to be annoyed by this misuse of the language. Or is being ignorant about language "cool" now, similar to the way that ignorance of math is "cool" for those that can't program computers?
    • The AI would also have to do basic spatial recognition to categorize my sticky notes, as well as assess their colour-coded difficulty.

      Come back when you can recognize a pair, MIT.

  • Passwords (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anti_Climax (447121) on Friday May 02, 2008 @07:45PM (#23281008)
    So instead of keeping your passwords under the keyboard they'll be on the screen?
  • by notsoclever (748131) on Friday May 02, 2008 @07:46PM (#23281018) Journal
    Mac OS Stickies [wikipedia.org]
  • >> The system uses its understanding of the user's intentions, content, and the context of the notes to provide the user with reminders, alerts, messages, and just-in-time information

    "It looks like you're trying to: Post a Quickie."

    "Would you like a Quickie?"
  • There's one that involves an optical pen that works with specially marked paper printed with a very fine pattern that it uses to get fine enough resolution for handwriting. The pen stores a number of notes and lets you upload them to your computer or transfer them to your PDA.

    That solution works better because the paper (the consumable part) is just ordinary paper printed with the micro-pattern. I suspect that you could in principle print it on a color printer.

    The trick is to make the notes compatible with
    • by Smauler (915644)

      I actually use these at work. They're annoying. My pen's flaky anyway (sometimes doesn't vibrate), but the worst thing is the time it takes. You've got to do every document seperately, so that if you've got a customer with 4 or 5 invoices, you've got to sit down for 10 minutes filling them out one by one. Before you could just get the customer to sign them all then sort out paperwork on your own.

      I guess if you were using them for personal notes this wouldn't be a problem, though them being a little fla

  • I am all for the legitimate, open, and personal use of RFID tags, but the limited stickiness of post-it notes does not fit with the long-term usefulness of the app. It would make more sense for personal RFID tags to be in the form of fobs with magnets or velcro.
  • by bill_kress (99356) on Friday May 02, 2008 @08:14PM (#23281162)
    but everyone seems to have beaten me to it.

    So how about instead of bitching I try to come up with some constructive criticism. How about the opposite, a little sticky-note printer that will spit out whatever is highlighted on your current screen and apply a little glue to the back side on the way out, ready for immediate deployment.

    The form-factor should be such that it can fit into a hard-drive slot on your PC--and it can slide open like a CDROM for refilling consumables.

    It should work both vertically and horizontally.

    There, run with it and make your $millions.
    • The only problem is you need a roll of pressure adhesive backed notes because, amazingly, a glue dispenser is just incredibly hard to miniaturise and make reliable.

      Look at Dymo labelling machines. They are almost there, just so close. They spit out a label in just over a second. Imagine a yellow version with a weak glue that does exactly what you suggest.

      I do wonder if Dymo have already thought of this and it is impeded in some way by patents.

  • I may be old-fashioned, but I see no need to use more than the assortment of paper I have on my desk for notes.

    Paper costs ~$40 for 20 pounds; and I can pick it up, put it in my pocket, and take it to the grocery store. And if I drop it, its not damaged. An equivalent computerized system costs ~$300 (PDA) and does not respond well to being dropped. I would also have to remember to check my to do list. A note on a desk/keyboard/table/whatever is much more likely to be seen.

    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      But if you're using paper you're killing trees, and that's bad.
    • I may be old-fashioned, but I see no need to use more than the assortment of paper I have on my desk for notes.

      Paper costs ~$40 for 20 pounds; and I can pick it up, put it in my pocket, and take it to the grocery store. And if I drop it, its not damaged. An equivalent computerized system costs ~$300 (PDA) and does not respond well to being dropped. I would also have to remember to check my to do list. A note on a desk/keyboard/table/whatever is much more likely to be seen.

      You are not old-fashioned, you are just the modern man who knows ubiquity of gravity which is after all the ultimate measure of all things in this world, no? Plus, instead you to have to remind yourself to check todo list of the reminder you made of what to do, they could devise AI post-its with a little hammer, and when the time comes, DANG!

  • MIT (Score:5, Informative)

    by El Cabri (13930) * on Friday May 02, 2008 @08:38PM (#23281304) Journal
    People at MIT are notoriously good at creating buzz around the concepts, demos, protypes and inventions that they come up with, especially at the Media Lab. Unfortunately, like everything that happens in academia, the signal to noise ratio is what it is and most of it has no future, sometimes for blatant reasons that one doesn't need to be a very sharp V.C. to figure out. Unfortunately that creates the impression that they are really a bunch of clowns that come up with useless stuff on a regular basis.
    • by lindoran (1190189)
      Clowns with PHd's ... theres a sight. Somebody call the Ringling Brothers!
    • by aleone (1255960)
      Like?:

      Lego Mindstorms - MIT Media Lab
      Artificial Skin - Ioannis Yannas SM '59
      Fax Machine - Shintaro Asano SM '61
      Inertial guidance system - Charles Stark Draper '26
      Doppler radar - Bernard Gordon '48
      Voice recognition technology - Ray Kurzweil '70
      Rockman amplifier - Tom Scholz '69
      Bose stereo - Professor Amar Bose '51
      Spreadsheets - Daniel Bricklin '73 ...to name a few.

      To quote wikipedia:

      In electronics, magnetic core memory, radar, single electron transistors, and inertial guidance controls were invented or subst
      • by El Cabri (13930) *
        I didn't mean that the MIT didn't have brilliant academics and important contributions to their fields with scientific discoveries and seminal publications.

        I was just pointing out that the Media Lab, which has hardly anything to do with all this, has this tradition of hyping klunky prototypes of improbable gadgets and making broad statements about what the future will be. I remember how for they had announced for years in the late 90s, the advent of computerized doorknobs with an IP address.

        I notice also t
      • Lego Mindstorms - MIT Media Lab Artificial Skin - Ioannis Yannas SM '59 Fax Machine - Shintaro Asano SM '61 Inertial guidance system - Charles Stark Draper '26 Doppler radar - Bernard Gordon '48 Voice recognition technology - Ray Kurzweil '70 Rockman amplifier - Tom Scholz '69 Bose stereo - Professor Amar Bose '51 Spreadsheets - Daniel Bricklin '73 ...to name a few.

        Uh.....I'd say the above are some pretty important inventions and scientific breakthroughs.

        The fact that they could be encapsulated in the context of a single /. post (and that IS a relatively complete list) is evidence that the successful output is in fact rather modest, considering the vastness of the list of far-more-significant achievements accomplished *outside* MIT. IOW, nice bit of attempted auto-back-patting, but it ended up cripplin' ya in the end.

      • Voice recognition technology - Ray Kurzweil '70

        Kurzweil did not invent "voice recognition technology"; I can't even think of a significant contribution he has made to the field.

        Uh.....I'd say the above are some pretty important inventions and scientific breakthroughs.

        MIT graduates and MIT researchers have made significant contributions, and MIT deserves to be considered on of the top institutions in the world. But at the same time, institutions like MIT have a propensity for taking credit for inventing thi
    • ...is almost universally eye-roll-inducing or rant inducing by most MIT grads. I met one Media Lab student whose thesis was about a stuffed animal that would move/make noises when someone you knew entered their office, and if you entered yours, it'd make other people's stuffed animals move and make noises. So instead of seeing your coworker's buddy icon go from idle to active, you have to remember that your monkey going "eeeeep" means Bob is back, and "ack" means Jane is back. Annoying, distracting, h

    • they are really a bunch of clowns that come up with useless stuff

      The tone is a little on the harsh side; however, the conclusion is not without merit. I first ran into this approach through MIT's oxygen project [mit.edu]. The idea here is that the cognitive barrier to using computers is mostly with the input devices. In other words, the keyboard and the mouse is too foreign a concept for most folks here in the real world.

      Perhaps this approach has merit for ubiquitous computing. Yes, it does take some training to use a keyboard and a mouse. So what? I think that most humans a

  • by Dave21212 (256924) <dav@spamcop.net> on Friday May 02, 2008 @08:42PM (#23281330) Homepage Journal

    My birthday is coming up soon, so I asked her for a Quickie.

    You should have seen her response !

  • When I was a kid a Quickie was something completely different, and they were readily available at BU, you'd get laughed out of the room and no one would believe you if you said you were going to get one at MIT.
  • re: (Score:2, Funny)

    by Rage Maxis (24353)
    I remember this when it was called the Newton
  • ... since when do MIT students get quickies?

    Or any sex, for that matter?
  • Bringing Post-it notes to the digital age? I hear that someday it will also be possible to create your own optical storage disks at home and be able to watch television program and download using a thing called the "internet". I think the article really refers to MIT inventing a time machine and using it to travel to the mysterious mystical year of 1996! Or at least that's what you would get from reading the summary.

    As almost everyone knows, "digital Post-it notes" have been a common
  • I want the sticky note to die, instead of being planted further into the digital age. Five years ago they banned me from having real sticky notes at work because it ended up a mess -- speaks to my lack of organizational skills and obviously the sticky note didn't help. The sticky note is handy but cannot be organized properly in most contexts. Instead of individual squares of paper, just type a number of text lines in a text file, one for each item, label the file important.txt on your desktop and encrypt i
  • My excitement at the words "quickie" and "sticky" used together waned with the reading of the Summary and TFA. Damn you /., damn you to hell.
  • This was done already more than a decade ago at Xerox. It's probably one of the first ubiquitous computing applications and it's something that essentially started ubiquitous computing. It also doesn't work well.

    The "MIT Lecture Browser" (keyword spotting in autio-visual data) that was also mentioned as being supposedly "innovative", has also been done many times before; it's just audio-visual keyword spotting. Putting lectures into an audio-visual keyword spotting system is about as innovative as puttin
  • Am I the only one who clicked on that and expected to see a potporri of newsbits featuring our beloved vaccuum cleaner icon [slashdot.org]?

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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