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.
It doesn’t look like I’m legally allowed to display the image here, but check out the shirt at http://www.zazzle.com/official_back_scratch_shirt-235946969835287295 (you’ll have to select the “back” view). Regardless, I’ll try to describe it briefly.
Remember Battleship? The game with a grid that had you guess the squares on which Little Billy had placed his ships? This shirt is like Battleship, but ships are replaced with itches, and Little Billy doesn’t lie to you about where the itches are. A 26×26 grid (A-Z and 1-26) dominates the back of the shirt. The wearer tells the scratcher where the itch is by giving him the exact coordinates that he wants scratched.
Besides the learning curve and the possibility of the shirt moving and throwing off scratcher-scratchee (?) coordination, the only issue I see is that the design doesn’t seem to cover the entire back, especially vertically. The uncovered spots are easy for a person to get on his/her own, but it would have been a nice feature that made the shirt a little bit more practical. The design also feels a little too basic, as though it needed something like duration and noogie vs. probe, but it accomplishes what it set out to do.
Though my school has let my classmates and me out for the season, I’m still recovering from the heavy spinal trauma of carrying several textbooks and other heavy items to and fro during the last few days of classes. The tomes including a 700+ page physics book, a Pre-Calculus text of similar length and with post-it notes protruding at every angle imaginable, and a skinnier but abnormally tall Spanish resource. In addition to several folders, two calculators, a clipboard with papers attached, a reporter’s notepad, and a Rubik’s Cube, I also carried three paperbacks: a class copy of The Kite Runner and my own editions of The Da Vinci Code and Unmasking the Face.
By the end of the school year, the carnage that had taken place within my bag was terrible. The textbooks, being hardcover, weathered the jostling pretty well. I easily marked “Good” or “Same” in the condition space right before my teachers collected them. However, this wasn’t so true for the other books. My calculators sank into the pages of The Kite Runner the day before I had to turn it in, and the pages ended up wrinkled and folded inward. The other two paperbacks were similarly afflicted, as was the notepad. I had recently paid roughly $30 for two books that were now fraying like string.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s faced this issue. Plenty of students carry books in their backpacks, and this damage doesn’t occur exclusively when the bag weighs 30+ pounds–I’ve had the same issue without textbooks in my backpack. As long as a book opens enough to allow things to get lodged into its pages, it happens. To solve this is as simple as creating a small sleeve that’s just tight enough for a paperback book to fit into. Ideally, the sleeve would be adjustable so as to accommodate several different sizes, but the basic idea is to create an envelope for the item so that it doesn’t open. One example of this design is the be.ez notebook sleeve. Of course, zippers might be overkill for a book protector. As long as the case wraps tightly around the item, it should function perfectly.
Questions? Qualms? Ideas? Seen this in action and would like to let me know so that I may live a life less worried? Post any of these below or at the wiki. While you’re at it, don’t forget to rate this post. The buttons are near the top of this post.
In case you don’t know this already, vuvuzelas are those love-them-or-hate-them noisemakers that you hear in the background during broadcasts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. My guess is that thousands have been sold, and that people who bought them solely for the sake of the event will eventually get bored of them. What happens then? Will they get pitched (har har) into the trash? Recycled? Sold as collector’s items? Or something else entirely?
If you have any questions, suggestions, ideas, or facts about vuvuzelas post-2010, please post them below.