May 31, 2006


Tonight the MoS held an event called Face-to-Face Digital: Fusing the Physical World with the Digital World. The event centered around the nTag Wave produced by nTag. It is an intelligent badge that lets you optionally track other event attendees that you talked with and additionally exchange contact information. This is the second time that nTag has sponsored such a program at the MoS, the first being three years ago at the 2003 S-Games.

Based on pictures that I saw from the previous event the physical design of the system has changed dramatically from a puck based block to a more candy bar phone like format. The PDF linked to above has an example shot of the device. You track who you have talked with by holding the two devices up next to each other at which point you get a visual indication that they are exchanging information. Optionally during this process you can also hold down a button on the base of the unit which will initiate an exchange of contact information. This process requires both parties to be holding down the button. I found that to be a nice aspect. Requiring active participation from both users prevents accidental contact sharing.

During a presentation at the end the devices were also able to be used in an active poll of the audience with the results being reflected on the projection in real time. Additionally the device had a pre-canned survey and the ability to select other about me information like your favorite cuisine, city, sports team etc. If you synced up with another attendee and had a shared interest the devices would reflect that information on the screen.

Overall I was mostly disappointed with the device. The first device I got had a faulty screen which prevented using the included pick (aka stylist) to type on the virtual keyboard. The only way to enter information on the device for things like the name of the company you work for. My second unit worked better until it froze while trying to vote in one of the polls during the presentation.

When it was working, the device responded extremely sluggishly taking multiple seconds to move up and down the simple menu trees. The screen had constant display artifacts appear on it while refreshing the screen. The visual indicators for navigation were very subtle and sometimes misleading, along the lines of a bar at the bottom of the screen indicating that there was more information when in fact all that was there was a blank line. I couldn't get the pick to work in all situations. It only seemed to be active on the virtual keyboard, preventing me (when I already had it in hand) of using it to select an option in a menu.

The UI for menus didn't give any indication that some were for selecting only a single item while others allowed the selection of multiple items. When you aren't holding the device up it goes to sleep. If you happen to be in the middle of something when it goes to sleep, your current location and work are lost. This was most annoying when I was 4 or 5 levels deep in menus. Lastly the device seems to be WiFi based and was extremely slow. After I got my second unit it took a good 10 minutes for it to synchronize and even show the most basic menus that would let me finish filling out my interests. Ignoring the fact that the questions I had already filled out on the other unit were not saved.

While this technology is still in the development stages, I'm shocked to think that in three years a more stable product couldn't have been developed. I'd estimate 90% of the features of this device could be easily implemented on a standard Palm device. The overall form factor is about the same. While such an implementation would have a higher per unit cost, I'd rather see a product that worked fast and reliably and then focus on reducing the per unit cost.

Tags: innovators lecture mos ntag

April 30, 2006

Grand Mufti of Bosnia

Tonight I attended a lecture by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia one Dr. Mustafa Ef. Ceric. His talk was on "European Muslim Identity in the New Millennium". The focus was a doctrine he has laid out to help unite Muslims and Europe. While I can't find a link to the core of his talk, it is one he has laid out before and I would not do it justice trying to summarize it here. Instead I'm inclined to mention some of the other nuggets of wisdom he imparted. These are all paraphrases of what he mentioned:

David Irving is an example of a new president where denial of a crime maybe a crime in itself.

Religion is about community and organization. Morality is about good and evil. Faith is a personal matter.

One of many jokes he interjected: Politicians can't tell the truth. Preachers can't tell a lie. Journalists can't tell the difference.

Islam has many faces: political, cultural, spiritual/religious, economic, and a new one terrorist. The problem well known faces are not attached to each.

Need to find a balance of dialog that needs to take place to help integration. Focus on politics is too powerful, focus on theology is too precious, and a focus on war is to costly.

Tolerance is a sign of strength, intolerance is a sign of weakness.

Tags: lecture religion tac

April 30, 2006


This morning I attended the next lecture in the ongoing NU Innovations Series. The talk was entitled "Trimming the Fat: Legal Strategies and Public Health Policies for Fighting the Obesity Epidemic" given by Richard A. Daynard. One of the most striking statistics from the presentation was that a recent CDC study showed that out of children born in the US in 2000, over 1/3 will develop diabetes. 33% of all children developing diabetes to me is a staggering amount, especially if you consider that 30 years ago only about 5% of the population had diabetes.

The New York Times ran a recent series of articles about diabetes and having it just causes so many problems, I'm really beginning to think that it will be the next major heal epidemic that hits the US. Part of the problem is that the effects can be lat onset and it isn't nearly as obvious or linked as high to health issues as smoking is. The fact that we have genetics (store food, fat is good, sweet is awesome), cultural, and environmental factors among others all influencing obesity doesn't help.

One of the ideas proposed is to place a tax on high calorie low nutrient dense food as a way of subsidizing the downstream medical costs of eating such food. In the current environment with the lobbyists and the general capitalistic attitude in America, that sounds like a pipe dream. Unfortunately, like most situations it is going to take a crisis before things really do change. Hopefully we haven't reached a point of no return when that realization finally hits.

Tags: lecture nu obesity