First, I’d like to apologize to any regular readers for my absence. It’s my senior year of high school, and when I’m not busy with clubs, college applications, or studying, I’m usually flat-out tired. I know that’s hardly an excuse, but it’s something.
Call me Captain Obvious, but when people in America move, they tend to bring their belongings with them. Though the amount of stuff they bring depends on how much they own or are willing to leave behind, most families can’t fit two closets, a kitchen, three bedrooms, and Fido into the Honda, so they turn to moving companies. U-Haul is one of those companies, and it’s unique in that it’s more or less a self-service system, meaning that customers do what they desire with the product. That’s what gives its network so much potential as an indicator.
This idea writeup is short and simple. People in different professions often wonder where the population moves. U-Haul vehicles are already location-tracked, and customers pick up and deposit them at their own start and finish points. By taking the start data and the finish data and putting them on a map, analysts can see trends in movement across North America. During the upcoming winter holidays, will more New Englanders travel South than West? During which month do the most people depart from Vancouver? Data from the trucks can give views that answer questions like these and allow for market research that is nothing if not interesting.
One limitation to this idea is the budget factor. U-Haul only caters to one segment of a broad market, and more expensive companies that include labor in their services quickly snap up other potential clients. As a result, the market’s “migration patterns” that come from analysis like this probably won’t be entirely accurate.
I should probably let them speak for themselves (bad pun), but I imagine that any mobile communication is difficult for the deaf. To my limited knowledge, phone calls are out of the question, text messages are tedious and ambiguous, and video calling is expensive and still in its infancy. That’s why this research project by University of Washington students is so promising. Essentially, the team has created software called MobileASL that works with the cameras built into video calling-capable cell phones. The software recognizes American Sign Language gestures made by one caller and transmits them, live, to the other caller’s device in the form of small files, presumably pictures. This idea is powerful because it is much less taxing than video is on users’ batteries, networks, and wallets. It should also be more accurate than choppy video calls.
All in all, this project has great potential, and I’m sure it will be adopted widely. The only dilemma I see is that two-way communication requires front-facing cameras, something that I’ve only seen on a limited number of devices. Hopefully, these will become more commonplace as competitors mimic the iPhone or as MobileASL gains steam.
For more information, including a video explanation, navigate to the project’s official website at mobileasl.cs.washington.edu. Alternatively, check out a blog post explaining more MobileASL features at From the Moon and Beyond.
Bonus: Feel free to let me know if you think that this sounds strange, but I’d like to propose the idea of calling the software ASCell for the sake of convenience.