Tag Archives | Gadgets

Valibation: A Dark Fantasy Of Gadget Connection

Todd Strauss-Schulson’s expertly constructed short film Valibation depicts circumstances going horribly awry after a man becomes too fixated on the twin streams of validation he derives from checking his smartphone and engaging in casual sexual hookups. Could this be the nightmarish next stage in human evolution?

Be advised not to watch this at work, if sexually explicit, stomach-churning Videodrome-style body horror doesn’t fit at your office:

Continue Reading

Using Smart Gadgets As Tools Of Social Control

How devices will soon begin pressuring us to “fix” our behavior. Via the Wall Street Journal, Evgeny Morozov writes:

Many smart technologies are heading in a disturbing direction. A number of thinkers in Silicon Valley see these technologies as a way not just to give consumers new products that they want but to push them to behave better. The central idea is clear: social engineering disguised as product engineering.

Last week in Singapore, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette restated Google’s notion that the world is a “broken” place whose problems, from traffic jams to inconvenient shopping experiences to excessive energy use, can be solved by technology. The futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal, a favorite of the TED crowd, also likes to talk about how “reality is broken” but can be fixed by making the real world more like a videogame, with points for doing good.

Insurance companies already offer significant discounts to drivers who agree to install smart sensors in order to monitor their driving habits.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

A Box For Manipulating The News On Other People’s Computer Screens

The artistic creation of Julian Oliver and Daniil Vasiliev, the Newstweek device allows for “altering reality on a per-network basis” by literally changing the headlines on people’s screens:

Newstweek is a device for manipulating news read by other people on wireless hotspots. Built into a small and innocuous wall plug, the Newstweek device allows writers to remotely edit news read on wireless devices without the awareness of their users.

While news is increasingly read digitally, it still follows a top-down distribution model and thus often falls victim to the same political and corporate interests that have always sought to manipulate public opinion. Newstweek intervenes upon this model, providing opportunity for citizens to have their turn to manipulate the press; generating propaganda or simply ‘fixing facts’ as they pass across a wireless network.

Continue Reading

Faulty iPhone Maps Could Kill You, Australian Authorities Warn

Is our reliance on GPS and mobile devices maps making us increasingly disoriented and oblivious? To me, the relevant aspect of this story is not that Apple’s map app is flawed, but that numerous people would drive to a remote, dangerous desert just because their smartphone told them to. Via Newser:

Apple’s much-maligned mapping system is so flawed that motorists who rely on it run the risk of ending up dead in the wilderness, Australia police warn. Over the last few weeks, six motorists have become stranded in Victoria state’s Murray Sunset National Park when following the map app’s directions to a city more than 40 miles away, CNET reports. Some iPhone users were stranded in the park for two hours without enough food and water.

Police in the area have urged drivers to rely on other forms of mapping. “Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the park,” they said in a statement, warning that temperatures in the park could reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit, making the map problem “a potentially life-threatening issue.” Apple has yet to comment on the issue.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Seven Sentenced To Prison In Case Of Teenager Who Sold His Kidney For An iPad

Was it worth it? Shanghai Daily reports:

A surgeon and six others were jailed yesterday over their involvement in the case of a teenager who sold a kidney to buy an iPhone and iPad. He Wei, who organized the illegal transaction, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and Song Zhongyu, the transplant surgeon, was sentenced to three years with a reprieve of five years.

Wang Shangkun, a 17-year-old high school student from Anhui Province, agreed to sell one of his kidneys after he found the group through an online chatroom. His kidney was transplanted to a recipient in Chenzhou on April 28, 2011. Wang was given 22,000 yuan (US$3,529) and bought an iPhone and an iPad with the money. But he later suffered renal failure and told his mother what had happened.

Human organ trade and organ donations from living donors, except for close family members such as spouses and blood relatives, are illegal in China.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Toy Surveillance Glasses For Kids

Play objects often mimic the realities of the adult world. The hot gift for for sale this holiday season is children’s SpyNet Glasses, which allow the child to steathily record video of everyone around them and upload the footage. The line of toys also includes a mock taser:

The SpyNet HQ glasses provide stealthy video recording, disguised as sunglasses! Get all the intel, in plain sight! Records up to 20 minutes of video – upload to your computer and SpyNetHQ.com!

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Sony Researchers Unveil Refrigerator That Forces You To Smile

Should our emotional well-being be the concern of our gadgets and household appliances? An award-winning Japanese refrigerator prevents access to food unless you grin. Why does this sound like a nightmare? RocketNews24 writes:

Scientists at the University of Tokyo Sony CSL (Computer Science Labs) have come up with an ingenious way of cheering people up- forcing them to smile in exchange for easy access to their food. Attaching a device called a “Happiness Counter” to a regular refrigerator, Sony’s scientists are hoping to make us happier people.

The technology scans a person’s face, detects whether or not they are smiling and, reading anything other than a big, cheesy grin, makes the door difficult to open.

The thinking behind the tormenting device is that people, particularly those who live alone or who have little interaction with other people, often forget to smile. Since smiles produce natural endorphins in our bodies that cheer us up, the more grumpy-faced of us are, allegedly, more likely to feel down in the dumps.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Apple Moving Forward On Location-Based Disabling Of iPhone Cameras

Using your mobile device to take pictures of or film police, or a protest, or corporate property (or Mitt Romney speaking in a private meeting to his campaign donors) may become a relic of the past. Apple has patented its “geofencing” technology — in which camera/video phone functions will be remotely disarmed in particular locations, PetaPixel reports:

In June of last year, we reported on an unsettling patent filed by Apple that would allow certain infrared signals to remotely disable the camera on iPhones. It showed the potential downsides of bringing cameras into the world of wireless connectivity, which appears to be the next big thing in the camera industry. Now, a newly published patent is rekindling the fears of those who don’t want “Big Brother” controlling their devices.

If this type of technology became widely adopted and baked into cameras, photography could be prevented by simply setting a “geofence” around a particular location, whether it’s a movie theater, celebrity hangout spot, protest site.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Inventor Suffocated To Death By Helmet For Remotely Controlling Devices

Is the gruesome death of this amateur inventor a metaphor for our relationship to the technology that has pervaded our everyday lives? Reported by New Zealand’s Stuff:

Police have confirmed the death of a man found in South Auckland on Monday was accidental, and it is understood it was the result of home experiment which went wrong. Michael William Roiall, 34, was found dead at his Papatoetoe home about 2.30pm.

It’s understood the man was an amateur inventor and was found wearing a home-made helmet, which he was attempting to use to control devices in his home. It’s believed the helmet may have suffocated him.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said the area was normally very quiet. However, she said there had been an unusually high number of police officers patrolling the street in the past few weeks. “It’s all been a bit weird,” she said.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Our Smartphones Are Poised To Predict Our Every Move

When will happen when our gadgets know where we are going before we do? It’s on the verge of becoming reality, writes Slate:

Your cellphone knows where you’ve been. And new research shows it can take a pretty good guess at where you’re going next. A team of British researchers has developed an algorithm that uses tracking data on people’s phones to predict where they’ll be in 24 hours. The average error: just 20 meters.

That’s far more accurate than past studies that have tried to predict people’s movements. Studies have shown that most people follow fairly consistent patterns over time, but traditional prediction algorithms have no way of accounting for breaks in the routine.

The researchers solved that problem by combining tracking data from individual participants’ phones with tracking data from their friends—i.e., other people in their mobile phonebooks. By looking at how an individual’s movements correlate with those of people they know, the team’s algorithm is able to guess when she might be headed, say, downtown for a show on a Sunday afternoon rather than staying uptown for lunch as usual.

Read the rest

Continue Reading