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Monday Topsight, December 10, 2007

The ScreamLet's see what's bubbled up through the Intertubes recently...

• Oh, No: In their never-ending quest to make ordinary citizens rise up and destroy capitalism, the advertising community has discovered a new place to put hard-to-ignore ads: in your skull.

New Yorker Alison Wilson was walking down Prince Street in SoHo last week when she heard a woman's voice right in her ear asking, "Who's there? Who's there?" She looked around to find no one in her immediate surroundings. Then the voice said, "It's not your imagination." [...]

The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an "audio spotlight" from a rooftop speaker so that the sound is contained within your cranium.

Go ahead and scream. A local hero (or "vandal") stole the speaker out of the billboard shortly after it went up; the speaker has since been replaced (no word on whether they've added more security... hint hint). The Holosonic rep suggested that it might take time for people to become accustomed to this new technology. I suspect it will take less time for the system to become subject to some harsh regulation.


(Via Warren Ellis)

• Zzzzap: The New York Times reports on a study done by Massimiliano Vasile at the University of Glasgow on the best ways to deflect an asteroid heading towards the Earth. Nuclear bombs don't work, pushing with a spacecraft wouldn't work well, and "gravity tractors" would likely take far too long to be effective. Vasile determined that the best option is the swarm:

The best method, called “mirror bees,” entails sending a group of small satellites equipped with mirrors 30 to 100 feet wide into space to “swarm” around an asteroid and trail it, Vasile explains. The mirrors would be tilted to reflect sunlight onto the asteroid, vaporizing one spot and releasing a stream of gases that would slowly move it off course. Vasile says this method is especially appealing because it could be scaled easily: 25 to 5,000 satellites could be used, depending on the size of the rock.

The vaporized material then serves as a "rocket" to push the asteroid to a new course. If done early enough, this should be entirely achievable, with a large but not impossible price tag. The one problem (not addressed in the article) is that of liability: if an asteroid is heading towards the Earth, and is projected to hit (say) Egypt), and is nudged enough to change course but not enough to avoid impact -- now in (say) India -- who gets the bill? There would be horrific regional damage either way. Would nations with the power to do this avoid the undertaking out of fear of legal risks?

• Welcome to the Participatory Panopticon, Officer: A New York cop interrogated a teenager about a shooting, and tried to intimidate him into confessing. On the witness stand in court, however, the copy claimed to have done none of that. Is the jury going to believe the cop or the kid? How about the kid's MP3 recorder?

Perino had arrested Crespo on New Year's Eve 2005 while investigating the shooting of a man in an elevator. While in an interrogation room at a station house, Crespo, then 17, stealthily pressed the record button on the MP3 player, a Christmas gift, DeMarco said.

The impact of the Participatory Panopticon will not be felt the most in our privacy, but in our ability to get away with secrets and lies.


And I was thinking that stores equipped with loudspeakers are bad enough. Its funny that president of the company doing the advertising claims that "The whole idea is to spare other people."

On my daily commute I have often wished for a real-life ad blocker (say, googles that would replace billboards and posters with something nice). But such technology is probably still at least a decade away.

Maybe the holosonic technology could be used to deflect asteroids away from their collision course? (do asteroids scream? In space no-one would hear)

Then again, setting up the holosonic projector in India could indeed cause the asteroid to deflect its course from Egypt...!

You're right: the initial response is to seek out and destroy the offending item. Why? Because it 'feels' like an invasion of personal space. In reality though, you're invading its space (although *that* notion raises a few issues as well!). Put like that, I can see some useful applications ('Step away from the platform kerb, please')

How about we direct some asteroids to collide with Holosonicâ„¢ devices, offices, and company representatives?

We'll spare other people.

For advertising, this technology seems a bit creepy. Nevertheless, I think it would be great for promoting neighborhood harmony: an environment in which you only hear the sound you want to hear. Can you fit a dog with one of these things, maybe combined with a radio transmitter, so that the responsible human hears the barking dog, but not the neighbors trying to sleep down the street? Could you point them at everyone who's at a party, or maybe just at the people who want to dance? I see a lot of really nice possibilities here -- advertising is pretty low on the list.

I posted about an imagined technology like this as a noise pollution solution a year and a half ago.

Ooh! Another thought on this. I have a five month old, and this would totally solve the "Mommy night/Daddy night" problem. If it's her night to sleep, just beam the baby audio at me and leave her to sleep in total quiet. Can you beam quiet at someone?


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