October 2005

ISWC 2005 Fashion Show Pictures


I just posted pictures from the wearable-technology fashion show that was part of the ISWC 2005 program, sponsored by the KANSAI IT Synergistic Society. This was the third ISWC to include such a show, the first being Beauty and the Bits hosted by the MIT Media Lab at the first ISWC, and the second hosted by Komposite at ISWC 2002 in Seattle.

There were a few practical application garments being shown at this show, but most leaned towards the fashion end, with dance, music and LEDs playing prominent roles. My apologies for the quality of some of the pictures — my little hand-held camera doesn’t work well in low lighting.

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All your base are belong to Google

Yow. Ars Technica has the low-down on a yet-unannounced Google service called Google Base:

Google Base is Google’s database into which you can add all types of content. We’ll host your content and make it searchable online for free.

Once again, Google proves they groks that the marginal cost of storage and file transfer is essentially free. By becoming the go-to place for everyone’s content they draw more eyeballs for their web ads and position themselves to become the best aggregation service on the Net (if they aren’t already).

(via Slashdot)

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How many dead?

Today we’re marking the 2000th American military death in Iraq. It’s important to recognize landmarks like this, even though 2000 is an arbitrary number and even though counting only American deaths is rather parochial of us anyway. But lest we get too caught up on numbers it’s also important to remember that this doesn’t count contractors and other “outsourced” military functions: men and women who were just as involved in fighting the war as their enlisted partners. That adds a minimum of 105 confirmed American casualties, but the simple fact is that nobody knows even how many contractors are working for us out there, much less how many casualties they’ve suffered. Landmarks are important times to reflect on where we are and the price we paid to get there, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that the cost has been more than just what is easily counted.

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British National Film Archives online

Britain’s National Archives have started putting their government-produced public information films online, starting with films from 1945-1951. Everything from a 1948 cartoon explaining the benefits of the newly formed National Insurance Act (Britain’s welfare system) to a film showing how to use the pedestrian crossing (crosswalk).

Material is released under the Crown Copyright license, which is essentially a non-commercial-use license with the added stipulation that the material is “re-used accurately and not used in a misleading context.”

(Thanks to Andy for the link.)

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ISWC Best Paper winner


The winner of this year’s best paper award at ISWC (the first ISWC to have such an award) was a paper by Don Patterson from the University of Washington called Fine-Grained Activity Recognition by Aggregating Abstract Object Usage. All the authors got certificates and Don took home a new video iPod as the prize.

This was one of several papers presented that used an RFID reader in a glove, in this case to classify what kind of activity a person is conducting based on the sequence of objects she has touched. This would be useful, for example, for alerting a care worker if a resident of an assistive-living home had stopped eating.

From the abstract:

In this paper we present results related to achieving fine-grained activity recognition for context-aware computing applications. We examine the advantages and challenges of reasoning with globally unique object instances detected by an RFID glove. We present a sequence of increasingly powerful probabilistic graphical models for activity recognition. We show the advantages of adding additional complexity and conclude with a model that can reason tractably about aggregated object instances and gracefully generalizes from object instances to their classes by using abstraction smoothing. We apply these models to data collected from a morning household routine.

Here are all six nominees for best paper from ISWC’05, which were the top 10% of full papers based on reviewer-rating:

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ISWC 2006 in Montreux, Switzerland

It’s decided: next year’s International Symposium on Wearable Computing will be in Montreux, Switzerland on October 11th-13th, with workshops and tutorials after the main conference on October 14th. This’ll be co-located with UIST, which has their doctorial symposium on the 15th and main conference October 16th – 18th.

The conference, by the way, will be held in Casino Montreux. I wonder if we can get back to our roots and try out some roulette-wheel predicting wearables? 😉

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Kukkia and Vilkas: animated kinetic dresses


I’ve always pushed for more “artistic” papers at ISWC, but there’s often a culture and communications gap between the technical and artistic communities. Joanna Berzowska‘s presentation on her animated kinetic dresses was a wonderful exception. The goal of her project was entirely aestetic — the hemline of one dress rises and lowers as if betraying (or thwarting) the wearer’s secret desires, and broach flowers open and close of their own accord on the neckline of another dress. But her presentation was full of all the technical details and lessons necessary to accomplish these creations. A couple examples:


  • They used Nitinol (memory wire) sewn into felt to cause the motion. After trying many configurations, they determined that a tight coil was the best configuration to “set” the Nitinol, as it created the largest motion.

  • Felt was the perfect fabric for a number of reasons. It’s sturdy, so when the Nitinol relaxes back to its non-set shape the felt will pull the dress or flower back to the normal position. It’s thick, so circuitry and wires can be felted into the fabric itself. And it’s a good insulator of heat and electricity, so the wearer is protected if there’s a short. It’s even fairly fire-retardant.

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