Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Mid-Air Messaging? 98

boogahsmalls writes: "HP has been working on a nifty little project by the name of Cooltown that allows users to "paint" the air with comments using GPS and mobile phones. A more extensive write up is available over at New Scientist."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Mid-Air Messaging?

Comments Filter:
  • Paint bitmaps
    Get it?

    I'll probably get a Troll for this ;)
  • Is that HP's site mentions "will the real Bruce Perens please stand up" - and calls slashdot "". Prophetic, maybe?

    - A.P.
    • (Score:2, Informative)

      by autopr0n ( 534291 ) points to the same machine now, I've seen that 'mistake' a lot lately, but really they aren't technically wrong. And slashdot is a commercial organization. Slashdot's 'historic' domain name may be '' but '' points to the right place and is really a better fit, these days.
  • by eoPh ( 128750 )
    for spammers

    think about it. If anyone can link messages to coordinates, don't you think advertisers will be the first to abuse this? hell, they go for everything else that can send messages. though, I wonder if you'll have to pay normal cell charges for these messages...
    • I hope they have some form of regulation, eg: if I live at 4742 epcot circle, and somebody leaves a message there saying "Your a bunch of nazi killers.", I wouldn't be too fond. What if I gave my kids one of these devices to play around and they came accross that?
      Would I be able to remove notes left on my land? (air?)
      GPS is x,y,z right? so if I was 1 foot off the ground (give or take a few meters) this wouldn't be affected by somebody flying a plane, so wouldn't I be in coverage of the "you were on my lawn to set this."
      but since theres a 3 meter spill rate, I guess I would have no such luck.

      Oh well, cool idea, I'd use it, bad spam posibilitys.
  • So... (Score:2, Funny)

    by nocent ( 71113 )
    who will be the first to post "all your air are belong to us"?

    The kids are going to love this. You walk up to the teacher's desk with a little practical joke in mind. Your mobile phone suddenly bleeps, and you hear a soft whisper in your ear: MAJOR bad mood todaydon't try anything. You think better of the prank and decide to avoid certain detention. All thanks to an invisible message placed in the air above the teacher's desk.

    and over the head of your bald teacher, you could write "all you hair are belong to us"

    imagine the possibilities! Thanks HP!

    • The messages are not actually kept in the air: they're stored on an Internet page. But that page's Web address is linked to coordinates on the Earth's surface, rather than a person or organisation.

      Gives a whole new meaning to "cybersquatting".
  • by svwolfpack ( 411870 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @09:21AM (#2708005) Homepage
    It's cool to be sure, but it doesn't sound particularly useful. The article cites the example of a store having a sale, and then leaving a message right outside the door. I personally don't need to be hounded by advertisements anymore than I already am, and it's not like I can't read window signs either. More and more technologies are being invented for communication, more information is being generated, but at some point, it does become overkill, and this is very near that point. It would be hell if whenever I walked anywhere, my phone started buzzing because someone had left a message in the most random of places. And you thought spam was bad now... Granted, some uses such as the traffic alert may be useful, but there are far better, less invasive ways for alerting people in such a mannner. Sorry for this rant, but sometimes, with all the millions of bits of information I deal with everyday, I just want to scream!
    • especially since the 650% increase in spam in e-mail, this may only heighten the frustration. Sure, this may have some useful purposes. however, it would probably become more of a burden, should it actually catch on
    • think filtering (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jonbrewer ( 11894 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @12:06PM (#2708260) Homepage
      Any information can be filtered. If we have such a system, we certainly wouldn't have to receive everything all the time.

      Just look at Slashdot. I browse at +2, unless I have time and desire to read more. Slashdot certainly has a lot of crap, but I choose to filter is. It would be trivial to implement such a system for HP's Cooltown.

      Taking that further, I can see location-based annotation as a pay service. If I were Zagat I could charge people for the service of displaying ratings when they walked in front of a Restaurant. I know I would pay for such a service. I like walking around and finding nice places (As opposed to planning in advance), and I would pay to know beforehand from a reliable source what I should expect from the food.

      I can think of many other examples, but I think I'll rush to patent them instead of posting them on /. :-)
      • But filtering in the way that slashdot does means that someone must moderate the posts they see. Slashdot is a relatively easy system in which to set up moderation, and even it is constantly changing the way comments are moderated. So to set up a global moderation system, with millions of comments and notes being posted everyday is pretty crazy. Remember, not everyone can browse at +2, otherwise no one will be able to mod the comments up.

        Furthermore, paying for good reviews of restaurants and the like does make sense, but many GPS devices (OnStar for example) already have that technology built in. I still think it's a technology that's been invented for the sake of being invented, rather than having a truely practical purpose.
      • Not all information can be filtered. Just think DMCA and UCITA. Try and filter out the lame scenes in Episode I or mix your favourtie scenes from the Matrix. Scenario's like this will soon be an order of magnitude more common when WSPs start sending copyrighted material via phones through 2.5 and 3G. Your WSP can simply make deals with partners to send you the occassional spam along with the service that you require for your everyday needs, e.g. email, SMS/MMS messages. This stream of service can be protected by copyright (if they choose) and thus be given DMCA protection. The phone is a closed box that you cannot alter (too much), and any attempt to circumvent the Telco's controls on the phone is a felony charge punishable by up to 5 years in a federal penetentiary and up to a $100,000 charge. Scenarios like this will get more and more common as Telco's try to make money of their customer base, and customers try to control the media they recieve.

    • I see your point. But I believe the tech will have both push-pull technologies.

      Imagine shutting off all the push (Forcing your phone to ring for that sale at the nearest store) and just using the pull technologies to get info you want.

      In the car, you would use a combination of the two to filter out information which is only relevant to the highway you are driving on, accidents, etc. That way the only pushed information you will receive will be accident related on the current highway. Of course, the UI of such a system will have to be very well refined. There aren't many users I know who know how do create multiple criteria queries while they are driving.

      So, by selectively tuning your PDA/cell, you can pull information which is relevant ("What is the special in that restaurant?"), and have the cell ignore the other crap. It also might come down to spam-filtering on the cell... but hey we already live with it now....

      In a bar/pub, I always wanted take my iPaq PDA to be able to pull in all the information of the single ladies.... now that would be good use of technology!
    • Wasn't there an article about this sort of thing a few months ago? It wasn't by a big company -- and they were being threatened with legal action by businesses who didn't like that anyone could leave a message saying something bad about their business.

      Just as long as it's not patentable. I mean, even I thought of this one. GPS+Internet gives you all sorts of cool possibilities.

    • The article cites the example of a store having a sale, and then leaving a message right outside the door. I personally don't need to be hounded by advertisements anymore than I already am, and it's not like I can't read window signs either

      Well, if they used slashcode to paint the comments, you could mod such comments down as redundant.

  • Great, now we'll need a 3D overlay interface to look at all those posts in real-time. Now you'll be able to watch spam and trolls fly by you on your drive to work! So now the whole world can be /.-ed! =) LOL, do i get to moderate messages posted on my house?
  • Eiffel Tower: First Pr0st!

    Empire State Building: First Post!

    ... ... ... Perhaps we should think about a preemtive rating system... any ideas?

  • Yeah, I hate to bring in the "P" word. But with the GPS-enabled cellphone/PDA/whatever continuously checking with a central site to see if there are any "messages" at the current location, how difficult will it be for someone to track people? (hint: cookies or some such mechansm).

    This has more prospects of "Big Brother" than anything else from recent past.....
    • Speaking of the "P" word, the New Scientist article states:
      All cellphones made in the US now have to include some form of locator
      technology so that they can be tracked by emergency services.

      Well, that's definitely news for me (and I don't think I live in a hole, no-no :)
      Is this true? How about the export phones? I know that this automatic tracking thing has been discussed in many counties, and deemed illegal (in Germany and Sweden, at least). Does this mean that Motorola has different models to sell in the US and Europe? Doesn't this give Nokia a competitive edge? (the article says "made in the US", not "sold")
      Lots of questions...
      • All cellphones made in the US now have to include some form of locator
        technology so that they can be tracked by emergency services.

        Well, that's definitely news for me
        Lots of questions...

        This tech has been mentioned on /. a few times. Here's [] one of them. It's called E911. a web search on E911 will pull up more info. They passed a law requiring cell phones be able to locate you within 100 meters when you make a 911 call, so the police can respond. Cell phone companies have been having trouble (tech wise) complying. This "feature" has obvious potental for abuse, it all depends on how the manufacturer implements it. The jury is still out on weather the implementations will protect privacy.

  • Just think of the dating possibilities! You go into a bar... See an attractive woman, go to strike up conversation, perhaps buy her a drink... Your phone bleeps, displays:

    "Don't even think about it creep... My boyfriend's a 270 lb bodybuilder"

    ... Ah, the pain you've saved yourself!

    Besides, there's a lovely lass alone in the corner, with the simple message:

  • by arsaspe ( 539022 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @10:00AM (#2708057)
    "Ok.I'm almost at the top. Just over this ledge"
    *grunt, groan*
    "Ahh! WOOHOO! I've reached the summit of Everest!"
    *beep beep bip bip bip beep beep*
    "Oooh. Looks likes someones left a message here. I wonder what it is? I'm sure I's some inspirational message of congratulations. Lets see..."

    'Free HOT College sluts waiting for you!!!...'
    'FREE! Univerity Diplomas!'
    'You can make $30,000 in under 24 hours!!!!'
    'First Post'
    'Cowboyneal was here!'
    'I am l33t hach0r!!!'
  • The spam possibilities for this are frightening.
  • But this is what Quake is to Windows - the killer app that softens you up to a dangerous technology. Personally, the idea that my cell phone, and therefore my cell phone company, can log my path through life 24 hours a day and sell it to the highest bidder as part of my "Customer Revenue Package" freaks the hell out of me. The idea of 22 year old overpaid consultants from Andersen sitting around a table discussing who would want to buy my whereabouts even more.

    Thanks but no thanks.
  • CoolTown is an HP program out of HP Labs., A cross between R&D/Think Tank, much like Xerox PARC, Its goal is to find way to integrate technology into our every day lives, as shown by this project. To quote HP:

    Cooltown is our vision of a technology future where people, places, and things are first class citizens of the connected world, wired and wireless - a place where e-services meet the physical world, where humans are mobile, devices and services are federated and context-aware, and everything has a web presence.

    The cooltown vision of a responsive world of mobile services requires clear, creative thinking about technology. For several years, HP Labs has been working at the intersection of nomadicity, appliances, networking, and the web. Our model for this research is one of open collaboration and partnership with others who share similar goals. Creating a cooltown ecosystem requires vision and technology, but above all else it takes a community of like-minded people who believe in open participation, investing in the web, and creating real solutions that add value to people's lives. Our goal is to help bring that community together, to openly share ideas and implementations, and to make a real contribution to the web and to the world.

    This is just one of many projects that have come, and will come out of this program. Hopefully HP will do something more useful with them then Xerox did with PARC, but I digress...
  • So we're talking a virtual graffiti service, which lets people "tag" sites and deface structures without actually defacing them. People don't have to see it unless they deliberately try.

    But why should it be limited to ONE set of graffiti? Unless somebody patents it, of course.

    If there IS only one service the owners of the REAL site may have a property-rights claim against any posters to coordinates that fall on their property, and perhaps even the service itself (especially if it doesn't let them "paint out" anything on their location and/or if someone posts something derogatory).
  • Now people will be standing around waiting to get the message []

    Or here [] are some messages to strategicly place.

    and these [] over selective locations.

    Not only good for spammers but activists
  • It's only a matter of time until some business-owner sues to remove a tag that reflects badly on their business, even if it is the truth. Imagine seeing something like "This restraunt failed Health Department inspection in 1998!" on your way in the door of an establishment. Any organization whose image may be tarnished by a tag at a certain location will want a say in what tags are allowed in their "airspace", and will scream bloody murder if people post negative comments. We've already seen it with web pages that users have to put some actual activity into reaching. It's not going to be long after this goes mainstream that somebody tries to criminalize "digital graffiti".

    What a wonderful world we live in. *sigh*
  • by drb ( 61308 ) <> on Saturday December 15, 2001 @11:05AM (#2708156) Homepage
    I see a few problems that would be hard to overcome... First, say (as stated in the article) someone left a message in mid-air informing people of a car accident on the expressway. Suppose the average speed on that that road is 75 km/h. In addition, the polling frequency, the protocol, and lags in the devices themselves delay the delivery of the message...

    This all suggests that messages must be tagged with a radius as well as a location. On the highway at high speeds, one might need a 1-2 km radius to ensure that the message is delivered before one encounters the accident. On the other hand, one only needs a 1m radius to leave graffiti over the crapper at your local McDonalds.

    Now what happens if the highway passes through a city (like Boston's 93) with lots of McDonalds... Will I walk into the men's room and get:

    "Accident on 93 North - use left lane...."
    "Here I sit all broken-hearted...."

    If the restaurant falls within the message radius, I will. Now let's go for the low hanging fruit - the obvious fix-all. Let's tag the messages with a location, a radius, and a speed! It's GPS - calculating speed is easy, right? If I'm walking into McDonalds at 4km/h, I won't get the message intended for cars at 75km/h.

    Now not only do people know where I am, but how fast I am going. Cross-reference with a map, and they know what road I'm on. Should I expect to see speeding tickets enclosed in my mobile phone bill? Will Mapquest email me:

    "You know Dan, there's a much better route to work..."

    Will my local health club text my mobile:

    "We noticed you go to McDonalds quite frequently and you're not walking too fast these days..."

    Privacy? What privacy?
    • Well, if there is an accident on the freeway like that, I would bet that the cars would be moving close to 4km/h not to long after that :)
    • Now not only do people know where I am, but how fast I am going. Cross-reference with a map, and they know what road I'm on.

      I don't need to know your velocity to know what road you're on! Think about it... you're on Highway X and you fire off a message. Well, guess what, you can only be traveling North/South or East/West. I don't know to many highways that give you more options than that. Cross reference your location with a map an I know what road you're on. Fire more than one message while traveling the same highway and I know exactly which direction you are headed.

      Besides, once I know your location it's all a rather accedemic. I could simply follow you in a helicopter if I want to. To extreme? A couple of friends in cars with FRS radios should do nicely. Not to mention you can be tracked quite effectively with just your cellphone being turned on - never mind this GPS stuff. It's called triangulation.

  • You think its bad now when people call asking you to switch phone providers. If this ever catches on, ad companies will be paying big bucks for certain volumes of air. Entire cities could be covered so that as you wak down the street your cell phone and pager are beeping incessantly as you move from ad volume to ad volume. This is the telephone equivalent of spam, and they dont even need to know your phone number to do it.
    • Sorry, but it's actually a fucken brilliant idea. Just because you can't think up a blindingly obvious solution to a potential problem. It doesn't make it a horrible idea.

      Logically. It will evolve to have different services and protocols, just like the net does now. There could be public messages, private messages (kinda like e-mail or something) etc. Different companies could set-up message services for different uses etc. Some people might even make a system like usernet, they could have a 'good places to eat at' group that you could use/subscribe to. I'm sure there are 1000's of other ideas that this could be used for.

      You really need to try and think more lateraly.

  • by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @11:38AM (#2708211) Homepage Journal
    Wow, just apply this same technology to other areas and you've got a winner. Let's say I've got a wearable computer, monitor inside sunglasses, everything else in a Palm sized thing in my pocket. My eyes are the mouse. Now I walk down the street in New York. I pass a restaurant. When I look at the restaurant I see a blinking light on it, it's really a link to a web page, which then appears on screen. Now get this. I walk into Times Square. I look up at the buildings and see ads. Each ad has a link just like the restaurant. Let's take this a step further.

    I take my glasses off. I look at a building with nothing on it's sides. I put glasses on, all of a sudden there's a large ad covering the side of the building.

    We've all seen movies where there are very large holographic advertisements all over a city. We can't seem to do that in the physical world yet, so put it in the digital world.

    I just had an even better idea. I place one of these things on myself. So when you look at me through your glasses you see someone else. Take them off and see the real me. You can also go to my web page by "clicking" my link.

    The real bonus with this is that any time you don't want to see the stuff, just take your wearable pc off. And you no longer have to sit at home in front of a computer to browse the web. You get up and go outside. Geeks will be going outdoors on a more than regular basis.

    Here we go. The Killer App. Walk down the street. Spot a hot girl. Check if she's single or not, check to see what you have in common. Search a database for the best pick up line. Get constant advice through IRC on what to say and what to do.

    A database of Audio Visual pages and their real world location on GPS. Visualized through wirelessly net connected wearable computers. You would see the net as a holographic overlay on the real world. It's now possible.
    • Spot a hot girl. Check if she's single or not, check to see what you have in common. Search a database for the best pick up line. Get constant advice through IRC on what to say and what to do.

      And by the time you do all that, she's either gone or already talking to someone who just approached her the plain old fashioned way.

    • Sounds like They Live [] in reverse.
    • Geeks will be going outdoors on a more than regular basis.

      Fantasy world....

    • Search a database for the best pick up line. Get constant advice through IRC on what to say and what to do.

      Yeah and if the network goes down at an inopportune moment, you'll be saying things to her like, "Your breasts are like pillows. Can I fluff your pillows?"

    • Walk down the street. Spot a hot girl. Check if she's single or not, check to see what you have in common. Search a database for the best pick up line. Get constant advice through IRC on what to say and what to do.

      Yeah, because we all know that people who hang out on IRC have tons of experience with women.

  • Forgive my bad memory, but wasn't there a company about two years ago that allowed you to add comments to any Web site... and to read all of the comments left on that site?

    And weren't the -vast- majority of the comments left everywhere, essentially, graffiti? Not spam (ie: trying to be commercial), but the equivalent of the goat-sex and penis-birds of Slashdot?

    If they do implement this system, I strongly hope that they use a moderation schema like the ones of Slashdot or Kuro5hin...

  • So it'll be like USENET, with all the retarded advertisemnets and the shouting, raging morons? Except in the air? This technology would have to either be moderated or you'd have to buy rights, because this has such a massive potential for abuse:

    Washington Monument: h3y! t415 100ks 11K3 a D1C|! hururur!

    Some post-office: got anthrax?

    The tastless will be brought out of USENET and /. and onto our fields and mountains and monuments. I will never, ever get a reader for this technology.

  • Incoming message: Hey dude, you're standing in shit.
  • by f00zbll ( 526151 ) on Saturday December 15, 2001 @12:04PM (#2708259)
    The things mentioned in the article aren't new. Back in 99 when WAP was the hot thing, a lot of companies were already throwing out those ideas. Most of the them didn't understand it, nor did the carriers for political reasons.

    A corporation that owns most of the malls in America has already considered deploying Mobile switching centers (MSC) in malls to get highly accurate location determination. They already have a shopping service during the holidays where a person can make a list of the items and give it to a mall staff. The staff person then goes to all the stores, stands in line, buys the item, wraps it and then bags it.

    An extension to that service would be to use your cell phone. When you enter the mall, it sends you a WAP or SMS message asking you if you want to turn on shopping service. You go to the stores, and use your phone to scan the barcode. When you're done, you download the list to service and a starving college student stands in line for you. Of course there are a lot more ideas for commerce applications, but that is just one of them.

    Wireless data by itself is worthless and a nitch service. Once you have accurate GPS with transparent data exchange, the service becomes a necessity.

    On the fun side of things, there are tremendous opportunity to use GPS and wireless data for gaming purposes. Let your imagination run wild and you will see that things like RPG, Real-Time Strategy and Turn-Based Strategy games can move into a whole new world. Nokia already has a division for wireless games and there are several companies in Europe developing wireless games. Some people have even suggested using wireless data and GPS for dating services.

  • This could be a great way to give geocaching hints. When you get close, you could get a message "look in the roots of the tree with the broken top". Since it would have a GPS and phone, the geocaching easly could be combined. For info on geocaching, visit How close are you to a hidden cache?
  • Imagine this technology combined with a car computer - as you are driving, the dashboard could tell you the speed limit without a big ugly sign being at the side of the road. You car could tell you where is ok to park, and when it's illegal without painting the curb all sorts of ugly colors.
  • I sincerely hope there will be a way to turn OFF the portion of the program that transmits your coordinates at any given time. Standard GPS receivers don't transmit anything, so you get the useful information without having to give up your location. But the day when my cell phone becomes a stool pigeon to my every activity is the day I go back to two cans and a string. Beyond just government things (which are bad enough) could you imagine, say, some criminals learning your code and finding out how close you are to your car or house so they can rob you? How about the stalker guy/girl being able to track your daily movements? How about your boss finding out that you go hang out at strip clubs on your lunch break? Any of these things COULD happen if you have the GPS receiver connected to a transmitter like they describe.

    "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me."
  • What if you linked this tech to somesort of rpg game, perhaps you could place virtual items at certain locations. And people would be slaying virtual monsters at the park. You could pickup cool items, which are comfortably located in an attraction park (of course they'd have pay a whole lot of money to the game company in order to get those items there)
    • This idea intrigues the hell out of me. This could be the start of a whole new era in gaming. A whole plethora of games could be developed around this tech, from simple 'tag' to very involved RPG scenarios.
  • Something like this was suggested back when VRML was popular. The idea was to mirror the physical world in VRML, but with more advertising. Didn't sell.
  • That's nothing. You should see my onboard handheld snow-writing device.
  • Now, instead of having to deal with obscene graffiti on the walls of public bathroom stalls, the graffiti will automatically page people when they use the commode, to make obscene remarks. What makes it even worse is that shop owners won't be able to get rid of such messages as easily; it would be very strange if an entire bathroom would need to be declared because people with pagers would get demeaning comments about their adequacy when they used the urinals.

    From a more serious perspective, webmasters strongly disapproved of Third Voice, who provided software that allowed users to associate comments with web pages. I imagine shopkeepers who are slandered (or have their bathrooms rendered "interactive") will strongly oppose this technology.

  • food-lovers could post messages outside a restaurant door, giving subsequent visitors an instant endorsement or a warning to take their custom elsewhere. (New Scientist)

    How long would it be before some ticked off merchant sued to stop posting of messages in front of his property? If he could prove a competitor had flamed/slandered him (although that would take a Scientology style witchhunt to break through any anonymity setups), he'd have serious grounds.

    As far as critiques of companies or services go, you'd really need some kind of moderation. Not only could they filter insightful comments from the flames, but they could also handle admin chores, such as moving a company's coordinates when it moves, killing old records when a place goes under and a new one moves in, or aliasing/hyperlinking coordinates when a place opens a second location.

    Naturally, it would take a freaking mint of money to do if you had dedicated staff. But if you used, say, slashdot's or some other user driven moderation scheme, it just might be workable.

  • This reminds me of the Greg Bear series (Eon, Eternity)-- "picting", displaying complex characters and symbols above your shoulder-- is an important method of communication. If this could be build into glasses (or contact lenses) or mini-holographic displays, the richness of human communication could be vastly increased!

    Imagine being able to project emoticons instead of actually smiling, frowning etc!

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.