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Mementos as Document Retrieval Keys 167

Dekaner writes "The BBC is running a story that BT has demonstrated a scanner that can be used to retrieve digital documents by associating them with a physical object. When the digital files are stored on the server, they are associated with a scanned image of the object, for example a seashell. Later, when the user wants to retrieve the files, the memento is again placed on the scanner. The resulting image is used as the retrieval key."
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Mementos as Document Retrieval Keys

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  • glad I'm not a zoologist. damn....

  • by Winterblink ( 575267 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:06PM (#5871152) Homepage
    I can see a lot of people using their asses as the "memento"...
    • damn, just when i barcoded daily instructions over my chest

    • Your crappy joke not withstanding, it makes you wonder just how well it will be able to identify individual momento's. Will it be able to distinguish one person's ass from another? Or more practically, palm? Fingerprint?
      • Your abrasive attitude notwithstanding, I'm betting the thing probably takes a decent resolution snap of the object. Probably nothing so high rez to distinguish between a person's fingerprints maybe, but probably on the order of a regular home scanner.
        • You utter lack of appreciation for sarcasm notwithstanding, "home-use" style scanners with resolutions in the order of 2000+dpi are not uncommon, and resolution is only getting better. I know from personal experience that 1600 dpi can easily capture a persons fingerprint, with detail easily surpassing traditional inkpad methods.
          • Not a big surprise that police agencies use scanners now for taking fingerprints direct into their computer systems. It'd be interesting to see how this system works out, especially how it compares to conventional cryptographic key generation methods.
          • Your utter complete incomprehension of the meaning of sarcasm notwithstanding, valid point, but, what is the point?

            SO they can associate things? Is this not different to a unique key? Because they are associated with a physical object... typing in my password is a physical process converting a physical object/action into binary the computer understands. In what way is scanning an image which converts it to a binary stream different, other than more likely to have error?

            Sounds like fancy sci-fi wrapping
            • "[W]hat is the point?"

              Just trying to spark some thought into interesting alternate usses of the technology.

              How long before somebody hacks it to use a camera as the input source? You could do all sorts of interesting things with a camera able to recognise objects. You could, say, periodically rotate a camera around your room to capture the various objects in it, and make a profile for insurance records if you house is ever broken into.

              Now that scanners are available rather cheaply, you could easily ha
    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:38PM (#5871329)
      Just make sure it isn't somethnig you'll have to call up in the middle of a presentation, could take a lot of explaining...
    • "I'm sorry sir... I couldn't find that document... You see, I have this condition..."

    • If only my Xerox AssJet 790 doubled as a scanner. :(
    • Funny or no, most mementos can be lost or destroyed.. whereas most people can find their own asses (some of them do need a map.)
    • So you whip out your handy asspass and flash it at the camera, and it don't know you, your ass has sagged in the 20 years since your first flashed it and sag recognition was not implemented.

      Anything physical that wasn't designed for LONG term stability is going to cause stupid frustrating problems. Hell even a mag strip card is near worthless for more than a few months.

      I do know of an old, moldy, lower than low but still electronic tech locking system that the access device will last for decades can be im
    • did you hear the story about a dude, a photocopier, an attept by the dude to scan his ass, the photocopier breaking under the weight of him, and then the guy having to run and hide from fellow co-workers while pulling shards of glass from his bloodied ass... ...heard it from someone from years back, coulda been true I guess...wonder how often this happens :)
  • by orangesquid ( 79734 ) <orangesquid&yahoo,com> on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:06PM (#5871156) Homepage Journal
    Turning the paperless office into a huge junk bin!

    "Mike, do you have the financial data for 2002?"

    "Somewhere. Help me look for the squeaky red clown nose."
  • Mmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:07PM (#5871161)
    ...Mentos. The Freshmaker.
  • Remember Dumbo and the magic feather? I can see it now, my mother will call up to say she can't access her files because she lost the shortcut object, because she's afraid to navigate the filesystem.
  • but if you used a car key, it'd suck if you forgot when you get a new one...
  • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {srevart.sirhc}> on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:07PM (#5871169) Homepage Journal
    Was the Marketing Plan associated with one of these seashells or one of these pebbles? Or maybe it was my coffee cup?
  • Patents... (Score:4, Funny)

    by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:07PM (#5871170) Journal
    If they try to patent this idea, I'm citing Johnny Mnemonic [] as prior art!!!
  • Keys (Score:5, Funny)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <> on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:10PM (#5871182) Homepage Journal
    Guess you could have actual keys for database access. Then you can put all the keys on a keyring...

    This is more stupid than anything else I've heard this week.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:11PM (#5871194)
    Please put penis on scanner to locate pr0n
  • well (Score:5, Funny)

    by kingofnopants ( 600490 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:13PM (#5871204)
    If ten years ago someone told me that in the year 2003 i would be using a seashell to retrieve data i would tell that person that he is fscking stupid.
  • If my company adopted this system, what image would I use for my *ahem* corporate porn stash?

    Since they're already using shellfish... eh?
  • by MyNameIsFred ( 543994 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:15PM (#5871213)
    To me this sounds like many of the other poorly concieved ideas for indexing files. Much like meta-data fields that require me to fill out extra fields that can be searched later. The vast majority of people don't fill the fields in. And where required, they typically use bogus data.

    This situation seems much the same. Most of the files I save on a computer are NOT associated with some object I have lying around the house. For example, everytime I write a letter to Mom, I'm suppose to scan her picture? Why not just save it in a folder called, "Letters to Mom." Its easier, quicker, and I don't have to find Mom's picture. Similarly at work, most of my files are associated with some email telling me to do work on some project. Do I scan the email? Seems kind of pointless.

    In my view, like metadata, this suggestion adds steps that the vast majority of users won't do.

    • The point is you can associated meta data without having to fill out any fields. This is a good combination of digital objects/physical objects. For home users it may make filing/retrieving these objects much easier, but the killer could well be in the business world where paperless office migration is hindered by indexing rules and incomplete meta-data, yet the same people who fail to grasp these issues can manage with traditional files and systems. Merging the two this way will help with the transition.

    • I'd imagine that the mementos are supposed to be tokens from events of significance, not a key for your file system. You'd use the seashell as a token from your honeymoon in Hawaii or something.
      Seeing that people already keep mementos of key events at home, a scanner like this sitting in a living room can enhance those memories by allowing your "media hub" PC to immediately recall pictures, sounds, or videos of that event.

      I haven't thought of a witty sig yet.
  • ....with my obligatory pr0n reference:

    I'd like to use that system to organize and search my pr0n collection!
  • Doh.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:17PM (#5871223) Homepage Journal
    ... Uh dear.. well.. uh I need you to sit on the scanner... Please, don't ask.
  • If you already have to keep the keys around in the physical world, then what's the point of not carrying around the actual paper documents themselves, or a CD-R or DVD? Sure, it's sort of impressive tech, but it's a poor idea overall.
  • I know what I would store my porn.

    Scan a breast, and associate it with porn.

    The trick is finding the woman when I want to make the retrival. Not to mention the encryption.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is actually a good stegonography tool.

    However, Wouldnt it be cool if the object could deterministically return the same key, to be used as a cryptographic key?
    Then, you could use objects as the keys to encrypt and hide your information.

    Don't suppose that is very realistic though :)

  • Next your not going to scan a picture of the object but actually drag the object to a special platform. "Mom where's my M16, I want to play American Army
  • Johnny Mneumonic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:33PM (#5871299)
    This is just like Johnny Mneumonic. Every day, with the bullshit being pulled by the RIAA, MPAA, Microsoft and other predatory multinational multibillion dollar organizations seeking nothing more than eternal perpetually increasing profits, the world gets closer to the reality portrayed in that movie. That was the subject of Johnny Mneumonic; in that case, it was a pharmaceuticals company that let people stay sick even though they had a cure because it meant more profits for them.

    But that's NOT why I associate this with Johnny Mneumonic. I associate it because in the beginning of the movie, they're going to store 80 gigs of information (about as much as I have in /usr/home/) in Just Johnny's head. They use three random images from the television to associate with and encrypt the information. These images are then faxed to the recipient. Obviously the bits aren't being used because they would change in faxing. A more associative method is used, kind of like a human memory. I think that with time, more technologies like this will be used as our computational needs advance; That is, unless these multibillion dollar corporations have their way and our computers become merely vessels for receiving garbage information (valuable intellectual property) like the stupid movies and music being made nowadays, while "real" computers will be labeled as "professional equipment" and will cost five hundred times as much as they should so that only the corporations can afford them to keep us under control.

    In the world of the future, it will be corporations, not governments, that will oppress the people. The governments will only serve as a tool to those corporations. Capitalism is fine; I just think that one change needs to be made: The individuals should have a much louder "voice" in government issues than corporations. In fact, the "voice" of any party should be inversely proportional to its size and power. The RIAA should not have enough voice to mail a letter to a senator, let alone do the evils that they are doing.

    • by tarzan353 ( 246515 )

      In the world of the future, it will be corporations, not governments, that will oppress the people. The governments will only serve as a tool to those corporations.

      In the future?

    • Whoa dude! Calm down!

      I think you should cut down on your daily intake
      of cyberpunk novels...geez, talk about doom and gloom :o I suspect an acute overdose of Gibson triggered that outburst...

      <obligatory silly scifi reference>
      Oh...and go get changed man...those spiffy spandex pants are just not on man ;)

      (I'll leave it to other people to comment on your...ehm...interesting line of reasoning :^)
    • "I associate it because in the beginning of the movie, they're going to store 80 gigs of information (about as much as I have in /usr/home/) in Just Johnny's head. They use three random images from the television to associate with and encrypt the information. These images are then faxed to the recipient. Obviously the bits aren't being used because they would change in faxing."

      While this is true of the movie, this is not true of the original William Gibson story of the same name it was based on. There the

    • I believe it was 380 gigs, and he used a doubler to make his capacity 160 gigs. Sad part is I only saw that one once ;P
  • by Letter ( 634816 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:34PM (#5871303)
    Dear Leonard,

    Use the Memento pattern when

    • a snapshot of an object's state must be saved so that it can be restored to that state later.
    • a direct interface to obtaining the state would expose implementation details and break the object's encapsulation.

  • old idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:34PM (#5871304)
    Using images of physical tokens to access documents is a really old idea. Of course, that won't stop BT from filing a patent.
  • I can see comebody mistaking one of these scanners for the office photocopier come festive time and the office party period and instead of ending up with a momento of the occasion they will probably end up with a screen full of goatse url's. --these are not weapons of mass destruction, there mearly encryption keys to my sons trust funds--
  • Mementos? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I have this condition, I don't know if I've told you about it... ...I have, haven't I?
  • I first read the headline as: Mentos as Document Retrieval Keys which quickly brought to mind an image of people trying to stick them into various ports on thier PCs. This could create and a whole new industry dedicated to cleaning floppy drives.
  • I first read the headline as:

    Mentos as Document Retrieval Keys

    which quickly brought to mind an image of people trying to stick them into various ports on thier PCs. This could create and a whole new industry dedicated to cleaning floppy drives.

  • Demolition Man... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by da3dAlus ( 20553 ) <> on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:45PM (#5871358) Homepage Journal
    "I went to retrieve the files, but in their place were these damn 3 seashells..."

    "Hahahah...he doesn't know what the 3 seashells are for!"
  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:49PM (#5871372) Homepage
    When I lose an important memento, I don't have to worry because I kept all the serial number and insurance info in a file which... DAMN!
  • by weston ( 16146 ) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:51PM (#5871389) Homepage
    It's really pretty neat. I can pickup old ticket stubs and remember things about concerts that I'd forgotten for years. An old T-shirt can bring back a memory of going shopping at Target with my sister while an old girlfriend was out of town. I've got a tie another old girlfriend gave me that brings back visiting her in the hospital. I could go on, but the really cool thing, is that I've figured out how to retrieve some of this information using abstract representations of things -- drawings or pictures -- or even sometimes simply writing some words about them. I don't have to keep the mementos around any more.

    I'm thinking of maybe implementing a computer system for this, where I type in some small "key" representation, and get back some further "data" associated with it....

    Kind of wish I could clean out and delete a few things from the brain system, tho'...
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:54PM (#5871397)
    This is a sure fire recipe for data loss of critical data. All the server backups you can make would become worthless if the seashell/encryption key falls into the hands of a three year old with crayon or is lost/ruined in any other way.

    It's a nice novelty for encrypting your digital little black book, but it's not going to be useful at all for business databases.
  • I'd use... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 1nv4d3r ( 642775 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:54PM (#5871400) Homepage
    a piece of paper with the filename written on it.

    Because, really, a box full of small objects is harder to associate with unrelated files than the filename is.

    If you can say to yourself, "lessee, did I use the blue pill or the red pill for 2003 Actuals?", you would get a lot further naming the file "2003 Actuals" and looking for that. Wouldn't you?
  • Bleh, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:54PM (#5871403) Homepage Journal
    This might be somewhat cool if you could use a simple digital camera, and you didn't need to worry about angle (this would require an all-angles storage, of course)

    Either way, it seems pretty useless for most people. As long as we can tell what an object is we could simply type it's name in and search that way. It could be useful for large museums and scientists, thought.
  • "Ya see tos men? Tos men use mentos as mementos!"
  • Great... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rorschach1 ( 174480 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @07:58PM (#5871420) Homepage
    So now I can lose all of my electronic files along with the physical ones in the piles of junk on my desk...
    • There have been at least 10 comments stating that the files would be lost if the physical object was lost.While it wasn't stated in the article, I would be surprised if that was the case. Most likely, you would also be able to retrieve the file by filename. This device isn't meant for high-reliability applications, but more as a novelty for consumers.
  • Humane technology (Score:3, Insightful)

    by asreal ( 177335 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @08:02PM (#5871444)

    This is one of those inventions that makes technology easier a bit more fun and a lot more personal. It doesn't make sense for every day use - you wouldn't want to use it to store office documents or your taxes - but imagine the sentimental possibilities. Associating a ring that belonged to your mother with pictures of her and a slideshow, or the seashell in question with video and music from your romantic beach vacation.

    So before you go off saying how complicated and pointless a system like this would be, remember that it won't just be geeks using it. But of course, it could make a very interesting password system in the right hands...

  • Unless the scanner can correct for the misplacement of the image (skew and position). I dont see how it can generate the same key for two different passes of the same image. Most likely the document will not be retriveable reliably with this method.

  • by Mephie ( 582671 )
    BT huh? Wow, great techno music and he develops new technologies! Go BT!

  • I may just be a little slow, but the purpose of this is...?
    • Re:Uh... (Score:2, Funny)

      by Meowing ( 241289 )
      If you stick a crystal on the scanner, a hologram of Marlon Brando will appear and tell you the secrets of the universe.
  • If this product is designed to help people remember what they have on their hard drive, what happens when they loose the physical 'key' which is used to access it ? These same people are probably 2 times as likely to forget their physical key then forget about their data. This, in my opinion, renders the product as useless eye candy.
  • amazing! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is a fascinating idea.

    Maybe someday, a picture of the item could actually just be placed on the screen, without having to scan a real object. And when you want to get your file, you just point your finger at the picture.

    This "iconic representation" could even be moved around the computer screen like you'd organize something on your desktop.

    I know, you're laughing.. how can my Wang 80-column green screen actually someday show a PHOTOGRAPHIC QUALITY PICTURE?

    Well don't laugh. Someday soon, we'll be ab
  • Where'd I put the damn seashell!? I need it to unlock the project I've been working on for the last year!

  • Using a tangible reference that can't easily be guessed/produced by a non-authorized party is a great idea in data security.

    However, it seems flawed since you have to:
    a) determine a method to reference the objects to their locked data if you use multiple objects as associations.

    b) determine a method to securely store that object

    c) Raise the question of the uniqueness of that object.

    So for this to work, you'd have to create a secured storage location and a means to remember each items association.
    And the
  • Hazards of using a scan of an object as a key include loss of the object or the scanner. A different scanner with different resolutions and color sensitivity would ruin your day. If you just happened to keep the original scan, you would be better off. Using many objects and hiding their images with many others would reduce the chances of others discovering your keys. You would then need a data base to associate the images with files. For smaller files you would do better to simply watermark your image
  • by TwinBeam ( 638330 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @08:44PM (#5871644)
    Those of you being snide need to think again.

    To you it sounds pointless and silly and wastefully kludgy. The same sort of snide remarks were made about graphical displays and color monitors and mice. Such attitudes overlooked that people LIKED working with computers that had those features.

    The proposal is not a data retrieval system - it's a memory retrieval system. And it isn't oriented to bringing up that memo you wrote last week - it's to bring back your images of your wedding or vacation of 20 years ago. And just a data point - my wife think's it's a cool idea. So maybe this is one of those things that women will understand and want more than men. (You know - women - those odd creatures that press flowers, save invitations from weddings, make shadow boxes, save children's teeth, etc? A digital memory box may very well be a highly desirable consumer product.)
    • John Dvorak aside, really - back it up.

      Snide remarks about mice and gui and color monitors - at Doug Englebart's Mother Of All Demos? which is pretty much when this stuff hit the fan? About the Macintosh? Nope. Know why? Their jaws were too far dropped to make such remarks. People recognized the value. The sensation of of-course-this-is-what-i-wanted-all-along. And it has less to do with "like" than the fact that those things increased effectiveness, intuitiveness and productivity.

      I think it's coo
  • simon greenwold at mit's aesthetics and computation group has been working on this for a while now. (EyeBox [])
  • Demolition Man... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by WaKall ( 461142 )
    "He doesn't know how to use the seashells!
  • if, for instance you work in a museum -- how useful would it be to be able to put an object on the scanner, and the computer automatically retrieves the information or data for it, without you needing to know what the object is or what it's called.

    It's gonna be pretty useless for security or encryption, but in some fields it would be brilliant.
  • 1. Just crumple up a piece of paper.
    2. Trace the creases in pen.
    3. Scan the piece of paper.
    4. The image is the key to the document.
  • Encrypt the drive with all your work with a donut, then put it on the desk in front of you for the rest of the day :)
  • ...a use for the thing your aunt gave you that you don't know what it is.
  • just have no short term memory...

    "What's the last thing you do remember?"
    "My wife..."
    "That's sweet."

  • And what is stopping someone from making a color copy of your "memento" and open your data?
  • by Wateshay ( 122749 ) <bill,nagel&gmail,com> on Saturday May 03, 2003 @10:20PM (#5872044) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me like this would be most useful for cataloging. A museum, for instance, could take a scan of each item in their collection, and then use that as one means of bringing up all of their data on that item. Or a stamp collector could use it to store information on each stamp in his collection. I think the stated uses in the article are kind of silly, but I can definitely see this having some value.
  • You need it to retrieve your doctoral thesis. Remember?

  • Sounds stupid... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dfj225 ( 587560 ) on Saturday May 03, 2003 @11:12PM (#5872292) Homepage Journal
    So now instead of looking through the my documents/history section on my computer for that paper on George Washington, I have to dig through all my old stuff to find his bust? Sounds like much more work with this "new" system. I think that if you organize your files in a logical manner, then it is very difficult to lose them. Personally, I would much rather have a faster/better search tool for Windows than having to dig up a physical object to look up my files.
  • by Da w00t ( 1789 ) *
    Did anyone else misparse the article title and summary as Mentos []?

    I was visualizing someone putting a strawberry Mento on the scanner, and pulling up whatever.

    Then I began to think -- well jesus, all the mentos look the same, how freaking secure is that? And, just what the hell do you do if you *eat* that mento? Your data is unretrievable!

  • ...that's appropriate for ideas like this. "That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard!"
  • On the one side, this is a 'cute' idea. On the other, these people appear to believe that deploying such a system would be useful.

    It seems to me this is targetted at people who are too dumb to maintain a summary index of what they keep on their machine. Not that such people don't exist - I'm a Brit living outside the country and when I visit I could swear that 80% of the population are now in that catagory, and it's been getting steadily worse over the last 20 years. Maybe I'm missing the point of the exerc

  • Just great. As an Easter Egg homage to the movie Memento [], I suggest the following as default things to retrieve for pictures of Joe Pantaliano []:

    Do not believe his lies.

    He is the one. KILL HIM.

    Of course, this would be hell for Joe's friends, relatives, and associates. Maybe we better chip in for Joe's plastic surgery now...

  • Great, so BT are now going to start going after people infringing on their patent for hashtables?
  • "Dammit! Who's been dunking madeleines in tea and sticking them on the scanner bed again?"

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