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BigBrainBoy Mobile Media Summit at The Hollywood Hill September 16, 2008

Posted by lborodkin in : Uncategorized , trackback

Last Friday and Saturday, The Hollywood Hill held the BigBrainBoy Mobile Media Summit featuring panelists on the latest mobile technologies for social good. Here’s a sample:


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

1. Nathan Eagle discussed txteagle. The project is searching for applications for the large, underutilized potential workforce in Africa who are equipped with mobile devices. They have a staggering amount of available labor and text messaging capability. Many of them are educated. There are also greatly underutilized infrastructures in these regions open to creative proposals to use surplus airtime for commerce. The txteagle project seeks ideas for matching the workforce with tasks than can be better done by humans with texting capability.

2. Igor Jablowski discussed Yap. Yap is a voice recognition application designed specifically for mobile devices. Two examples of the potential of a voice alternative to tactile messaging are safer driving and expanding mobile interfaces for the blind.

3. Phil Libin is the CEO of Evernote. Evernote is an application designed to remember and collect information based on human memory making processes. The powerful program combines tagging and optical character recognition to approximate non-linear ways people actually recall memories. I’ve been testing Evernote in beta.

4. Raja Sengupta (above) presented on Berkeley University’s Connected Traveler project. Sengupta’s work uses smartphone chips for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and cars. Such devices are useful for certain functions like mail shuttles, improving pedestrian-car safety, and gps mapping.

These new projects suggest better paradigms for engaging with the world, using mobile technology. Even a single tool like text messaging can redistribute labor around the globe. A shift from keyboard to voice commands can improve safety and enlarge the world for blind people. An intentionally redundant image storage mechanism makes information easier to recall in a more intuitive way.

These concepts open a discussion of tough ethical issues as well. How portable are the skills developed through text-based labor? Is it the way to financial sustainability or greater dependence on the First World? Is accountability lost when we divorce tasks from local community? What variables are introduced with audio-controlled communications? Will the capacity for outsourcing memory become a substitute — or an aid — to memory?

I tend to have an optimistic take on these issues. The pressure of the market ensures that the technology will be developed. It’s a question of how creative we get with its applications. I’d like to think that something as simple as a smartphone chip likely could ensure that nothing like the Chatsworth Train wreck ever happens again.

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