Harnessing your digital breadcrumbs

This story in the Wall Street Journal discusses the wide-ranging research implications of collecting millions of data points from cell phone users. Most people carry smartphones. In addition to holding your contacts, your emails, and text messages, even the cheapest of todays smartphones are equipped with advanced sensor technology like accelerometers, GPS, magnetometers, etc.  It knows where you are even before your friends do.

Researchers are collecting this digital detritus/information and:

After analyzing more than 16 million records of call date, time and position, the researchers determined that, taken together, people’s movements appeared to follow a mathematical pattern. The scientists said that, with enough information about past movements, they could forecast someone’s future whereabouts with 93.6% accuracy.

Here is one way the collected data can aid in your everyday decision-making:

We can measure their daily exposure to political opinions,” said project scientist Anmol Madan at MIT’s Media Lab. “Maybe one day, you would be able to download a phone app to measure how much Republican or Democratic exposure you are getting and, depending on what side you’re on, give you a warning.

While everyone profiled in the article had altruistic goals (e.g., studying the spread of disease), it never hurts to be too careful about how much information you broadcast.  That said, here are some tips to protect your privacy.

(photo from flickr user umpcportal)

(Thanks Julian!)

For projectors, new technology means new training (and new errors!)

Mode errors! Coming soon to a theater near you? Have you ever forgotten to set your camera back to Auto from Portrait? How about not understanding what those modes mean? Apparently a similar phenomenon occurs in the professional world of movie theaters. There is a special lens filter used for 3-D movies and when it is not removed for normal movies, the brightness of the film suffers. See the story below for details.

A movie lover’s plea: Let there be light: Many theaters misuse 3-D lenses to show 2-D films, squandering brightness, color

So why aren’t theater personnel simply removing the 3-D lenses? The answer is that it takes time, it costs money, and it requires technical know-how above the level of the average multiplex employee. James Bond, a Chicago-based projection guru who serves as technical expert for Roger Ebert’s Ebertfest, said issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, “and if you don’t do it right, the machine will shut down on you.’’ The result, in his view, is that often the lens change isn’t made and “audiences are getting shortchanged.’’

I think “and if you don’t do it right, the machine will shut down on you” summed it up nicely!

Photo credit PatrickBeeson at Flickr.

Miller Column Inception (or the geekiest movie you’ll see today)

Miller Columns are the browsing/visualization technique used in the Mac OSX Finder. It was inherited from the NeXT operating system (one of my favorites). I personally prefer this to the tree view that’s common in Windows Explorer.

The embedded video below summarizes the essential action of the movie Inception (spoiler alert!):

INCEPTION_FOLDER from chris baker on Vimeo.

(via Kottke)

“Feel the pleasure of the mind in the least allayed”

Enjoy this short but entertaining look at “Benjamin Franklin – the first American ergonomist?” by Dr. John Senders (who has appeared previously on this blog).

An excerpt:

Professor Chaplin states of Franklin (p. 65): Cato Major, or His Discourse of Old Age (1744). Franklin solicitously printed the book in large type so that elderly readers (beyond the help even of spectacles) ‘may not, in Reading, by the Pain small letters give the eyes, feel the pleasure of the mind in the least allayed.'”

Enjoy poking around the HFES archives, as well!

Photo shows Benjamin Franklin’s proposal for bifocals, as found at the Library of Congress website.

Does this color make me look fat?

Funny post from Consumer Reports showing that perceptions are altered by color:

Wearing black is the time-honored technique for appearing thinner without shedding an pound. Apparently it works for the iPhone 4, as well. Recently an avalanche of news and tech sites reported that the white iPhone 4 was thicker than the black iPhone, even showing side-by-side photos claiming it was 2mm thicker than the black version.

Consumer reports tested the claim. Head on over to see the results.
Remember, trust your instruments, not your perceptions. 😉

More reading:
Nakano, M., Tanabe, S., Mori, Y., Ikegami, B., & Fujita, I. (2005). Expansive and contractive size perception with color patches. Journal of Vision, 5(8).

Photo credit Mujitra at Flickr.