Offtopic: Props to Linksys Tech Support

It's fashionable these days to rant about bad customer service, so I figured saying thank you is fair game, too. So, thank you, the intrepid, patient and very polite Linksys tech support guys (girls? dunno, it was a live chat) who brought my wireless router back to life. Never once did you make me feel like the stupid noob that I am about networking, and the phone call you made to check if I was still alive when our chat connection dropped was a very touching gesture as well. Thank you. And if you are from Linksys, please pass my personal thanks to the people who handled the case 070831-013061.

New Announcements of 3D Hardware

It's been a while since the last post on 3D stuff, mostly because nothing exciting seems to be trickling from behind those lab doors to the general market, but but these three announcements just showed up back to back in the RSS reader:

"Mitsubishi recently revealed a new Blu-ray player that can convert existing 2D movies into 3D in real time." (Physorg)

"Philips is introducing the 3D WOWzone, a large 132­inch (335 cm) multi-screen 3D wall, designed to grab people's attention with stunning 3D multimedia presentations." (press release)

"Japan's Hitachi has developed a lightweight 3D display that can potentially be adapted for mobile devices such as telephones." (Physorg)

Facebook Applications Stats

Daily updates on changes in user base for various Facebook apps on

Met up with a developer recently whose app is in the top 20. Man, this is the biggest gold rush since 1998, and there was not a single ad agency rep at the most recent Facebook developer event. Dave McClure summed up the importance of Facebook quite succinctly: "People see shit other people are doing in the Feed, and then they click on that shit."

See the Facebook developer wiki.

Avatars, Bots in Google Earth

"Unype Facebook application lets Facebook users roam around inside Google Earth and see/interact with each other." More in Unype's blog post. It's not yet quite as exciting as it sounds, mainly because of the Google Earth's limitations -- no real-time movement or animations, for example, and not too many Facebook users either, but a very exciting step nonetheless.

Unype has also developed chat bots that can live inside Google Earth: "You can park your bot and leave your salespost ( hotel, house for sale, car dealership, resort, or simply a store ) and go away. The Unype bot will talk to your visitors for you and keep a log of what happened. The brain is completely programmable by a simple text editor and a little knowledge of AIML so you can customize it to say exactly what you would like it to say."

Now suddenly all those millions wasted on marketing experiments in Second Life don't look so quite wasted.

And here's a long article in a recent issue of Tech Review about how the merge between Google Earth and Second Life-like world is inevitable (free reg).

Rumor: Google Planning Virtual World
Google Earth Becoming Virtual World, with a quote from Jerry Paffendorf: "I would expect to see someone using Google Earth as a virtual social space by the end of the year."
Google Earth Compatible With Other 3D Environments
Whirlpool Offers 3D Models of Appliances for Google Earth

Halo 3 ARG Post-Mortem

A short post-mortem for the fairly low-key "Iris" ARG campaign to promote the upcoming Microsoft's Halo 3 title. The release of Halo 2 in 2004 was pushed by the widely popular "I Love Bees ARG" (via ARG Net, via Clickable Culture).

An interesting piece of technological innovation: "The campaign's third episode featured a cell phone ring tone that unlocked a 3-D animation on when played into a microphone-equipped PC."

Intel's Map for Battlefield 2 Game

image source

Here's the downloadable map for EA's Battlefield 2 game developed and made available for free by Intel.

Engadget's Ryan Block Against Popover Ads

Engadget's editor Ryan Block writes an open letter asking fellow bloggers to stop using IntelliTXT popover ads: "With all due respect to you, friends, fucking stop it. Seriously, stop supporting these shysters that advertise by generating fake links and popovers on your content."

Sears Builds Community Site

This is it. Probably not done yet. Make the Logo Bigger and Roger Dooley write about the longish privacy policy required to sign up to the community. Here's what Sears means by community: "It’s a community that connects shoppers like you to SHC employees, including the most senior executives, so that together we can build a better shopping experience. In exchange for participating in the community, members will have access to free planning and budgeting tools, special forums to express their views and ideas and will receive exclusive offers and promotions."

There is no community yet. There's a lengthy online survey that asks you a lot of questions about waist sizes and car-driving habits. The survey is not well designed: there seems to be no cross-checking of input across sheets (I entered different household size numbers and it didn't react at all), it's a chore to fill out, it gives no progress indication and no incentive. But as I said above, it doesn't look like it's intended for the prime time just yet anyway.

Out-Stare a Rugby Player

Archibald Ingall Stretton in London built an advergame for the O2 mobile provider that puts you in a staring contest with three rugby players. The exciting part is that the game is able to tell when you blink or look away: "We capture the output of the webcam using BitmapData, using the current and previous frames of data we apply a Difference filter to the two images and then we analyse, pixel by pixel, what has changed."
-- thank you, Geoff.

KFC Carts Meals Through Corporate Halls

Press release: "KFC is placing the mouth-watering aroma of Kentucky Fried Chicken directly into the corporate halls of America. As part of the program, KFC has teamed up with mailrooms across the U.S. to secure the ultimate product placement - right outside your office at lunchtime!"

To promote the $2.99 meal, KFC is sending it out on "a mail cart through the halls, thus enticing employees to smell and be interested in enjoying the meal for lunch." (Weber Shandwick via email)

Giant KFC Logo Seen from Space
KFC Creates TiVo-Proof Ad
KFC Claims Secret-Message Ad Successful
KFC Edits YouTube Clips into Spot

Tools: Create Diagrams Online

Best4c is a strangely-named but very convenient diagram-making online tool that looks and behaves a lot like MS Visio, from Lenovo Labs.

IBM's Online Data Visualization Tool

Study: Advertisers Hope to Link Games to Sites

BrandWeek: "As gamers connect consoles to the Internet, advertisers are expected to seize the opportunity by offering direct links to their Web sites, the report by ABI Research said. It said that the phenomenon will make Internet advertising leap beyond the already impressive mark made by static ads in games."

And how would that work? Do they really expect people to stop playing whatever game is on (on a console, not even a PC) to go to an external app? Web pages designed to work on TVs and with a non-keyboard input devices -- are advertisers going to go through the trouble?

Transactions from within the game tied to the gameplay, maybe. Bookmarks for later access, maybe. A direct website link from a console game? No way, unless there's a very strong game-related incentive, like. maybe, a unique power-up.

Google's Plans for Peer-to-Peer Ads

Google has filed a patent for what it calls user-distributed advertisements (UDA). A UDA system "facilitates insertion of manually selected ads into a document that is to be distributed (e.g., transmitted, published, and/or posted) such that the document is to be made available to other users. For example, manually selected ads can be inserted into an email to be sent to another user, a blog to be posted for viewing by other users, a message to be sent to another user, a message board entry to be posted for viewing by other users, a document published and made available to other users, etc."

The document explains why it's a good idea: "Although advertising systems such as AdWords and AdSense have proven to be very effective tools for advertisers to reach a receptive audience, even automated systems that use sophisticated targeting techniques often can't match the effectiveness of manual targeting. However, manual targeting techniques don't scale well. Therefore, it would be useful to provide a scaleable advertising system that achieves at least some of the benefits of manual targeting. It would also be useful to provide a system of charges and/or rewards to encourage useful manual targeting of ads. Further, it would also be useful to track and use performance metrics of such ads if doing so would help an advertising system serve ads that are more useful. Finally, it would be useful to provide data structures and interfaces for enabling advertisers to participate in a system for manual insertion of ads into a document for distribution."

There's a discussion of this and two other related patents on Rough Type (via techmeme).

How to Advertise on Social Networking Sites

Be A Cosmo Cover Girl

You can either be on the cover of Wired, or you can be on the cover of Cosmopolitan. I couldn't figure out how to change the text, so this particular edition is all about heads, subheads and copies. Would love to see Diggers playing with it, though.

Video: Second Life Reenactment

DraftFCB reenacts Second Life in their first.

Get a First Life
Get a Third Life
Machinima Commercials

Study: Banner Ads Affect Memory

Technology Review: "A new study suggests that marketers shouldn't fixate on the number of people who click on ads. According to the research, just seeing an ad on a Web page can impact memory. Subjects who paid attention to a banner advertisement were more likely than those who didn't to recall whole words and facts from the ad--facts stored in explicit memory."

The study is published by an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky Chan Yun Yoo in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Spring 2007. I can't find the full text, but see his doctoral dissertation "Preattentive Processing of Web Advertising."

Friday Special: Blogger Against Ad Blocking

In this blog's spirit of bridging the gap between geekdom and advertising, witness the plight of a guy who decided he'd had enough of Firefox ad-blocking add-on users ripping ads off his blog and blocked access for anyone using the browser.

The blog in question is If you are using Firefox, you won't see any of the site and will instead be redirected to Why FireFox is Blocked. Here's the story on InfoWorld. Here are some 1000 comments on Digg.

Besides being a source of morbid fascination, the story is interesting because it's not about a lonely citizen's fight again an evil large ad-spawning corporate monster, for a change. A citizen fighting for advertising -- that's the essence of the 2.0 world with its democratization of publishing tools and the long tail.

One inevitable question: does Mr. Lewis really sit through all the commercials when he watches TV?

Scientists Measure Visual Clutter

MIT news office: "A team of MIT scientists has identified a way to measure visual clutter. Their research, published Aug. 16 in the Journal of Vision, could lead to more user-friendly displays and maps, as well as tips for designers seeking to add an attention-grabbing element to a display."

"The free tool written in MATLAB is available to anyone interested in generating color and contrast "clutter maps" to gauge the clutter level of a display."

How Serious Corporations Use Games at Work

Sears Retail Training has used a game to help its 10,000 sales associates improve customer experience in stores. More.

Business Week in its special report: "Companies around the world, including McKinsey & Co., Royal Philips Electronics, and Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development are bringing games with 3D computer graphics into the workplace to appeal to the generation raised on Nintendo, World of Warcraft, and Second Life. They are using games to recruit new talent, improve communication between managers and their far-flung staff, and train employees and new hires at all levels."

Advergames on Vinyl Disks

More details about video games and other software that appeared on B-sides or among the regular tracks of music vinyl discs:

"In the case of these programs on vinyl, the user would have to play back the proper portion of the record, record the resultant chatter to tape, and load the tape into the spectrum. Some users have mentioned playing certain games so much that they could recognize the loading sounds.

A gigantic step up from encoded text files were actual games included in the grooves of records. In 1984, The Thompson Twins released 'The Thompson Twins Adventure Game' in both regular vinyl and flexi disc formats. The game is a bizarre text-based adventure in which you guide the Thompson Twins around a land of beaches and caves."

Similarly encoded games were also added to the tape releases.

Creating Out-of-Body Experiences

Scientists found "that during multisensory conflict, participants felt as if a virtual body seen in front of them was their own body and mislocalized themselves toward the virtual body, to a position outside their bodily borders." - Science

Ars Technica explains: "Scientists have known for a while that it's possible to play on the differences between the visual and proprioceptive senses to create what's called "proprioceptive drift." An example cited in one of the papers is the "fake hand illusion." Allowing someone to view a rubber hand that's being stroked by a feather at the same time their real hand is stroked causes them to begin to identify the fake hand as their own."

Zapping New YouTube Ads

That didn't take long at all. A couple of days ago, YouTube announced the roll-out of InVideo ads laid over the videos inside the player (I posted about the tests earlier). Today, the top story on Digg is about the TubeStop Firefox extension that strips the ads off. And despite YouTube claiming the new ad format is user-friendly, the users aren't welcoming at all.

YouTube Tests Embedded Ads
Adbrite Launches Customizable Video Player
Idea: How to Put Ads into YouTube
Follow-up: Embedding Ads into YouTube Players

Facebook's Plans for Really Targeted Ads

Speaking of data-mining Facebook: WSJ reports the company plans to create technology that analyzes the massive amounts of user information with the goal to build a "system to allow it to predict what products and services users might be interested in even before they have specifically mentioned an area."

"The new service would let advertisers visit a Web site to choose a much wider array of characteristics for the users who should see their ads -- based not only on age, gender and location, but also on details such as favorite activities and preferred music, people familiar with the matter say."

The ads will be "interspersed with items on the "news feed," which is a running list of short updates on the activities of a user's Facebook friends."

Banner Ad Gone Phishing

AdRants found this incredibly amazing banner that invites the gullible to enter their credit card info. It's like that Amish virus joke: "You have just received the Amish virus. Since we have no electricity or computers, you are on the honor system. Please delete all of your files on your hard drive. Then forward this message to everyone in your address book."

Evil Ad Tech, Part II
Future: Talking Ads Take Over Computers
Subliminal Spam
DIY Submilinal Messages
Ads Means Worm
Hijacking MySpace Pages

Rethinking: Umbrellas

Umbrella with built-in speakers to play music (above); LED umbrella: "with a push of a button, the shaft lights up, illuminating you and your path;" umbrella that predicts weather; a wired umbrella with a projector; iBrella umbrella that controls your iPod, a color-changing LED star umbrella; patio umbrella with a fan; a Darth Vader lightsaber umbrella; and a lower-tech but very stylish Invisible Man umbrella (below).

More Crowdsourceable Advertising

Don't you love the sound of "crowdsourceable"?

Anyway, a couple of new things on the consumer-generated-propaganda front.

Kotaku is angry about Doritos' new twist on UGC -- the Unlock XBox contest where people compete by submitting "shining examples of video game creativity." People didn't actually have to design a game, a text description of the high concept was enough. What grinds Kotaku's gears is that "Doritos have ignored the dozens of legitimate, and somewhat appealing game design entries in favor of five ideas that range from being rubbish to worse to stolen."

If you are a consumer with an ambition of changing advertising forever, you can do so at Change Advertising Forever. It is a site where you can submit an entry to various ad contests.

Here's a similar but, I think, fresher idea: Black Turtle Media is "specifically targeting amateurs and professionals to develop content. Obviously that doesn't preclude others from participating, however, we are actively pursuing film and advertising schools, small creative agencies, and other aspiring videographers /creative artists to provide content."

The Flip Side of Consumer-Generated Advertising
Vitrue to Mediate Consumer-Generated Ads
Social Ad Creation at Zooppa

"Train to Communism" Infographic

A somewhat offtopic but nevertheless amusing Soviet propaganda poster charting the path from socialism to communism through a metaphor of a train schedule. Copy in the top left-hand corner: "The train goes from the Socialism station to the Communism station." In the bottom right-hand: "The experienced operator of the revolutionary locomotive comrade Stalin." The train stations are symbolic events and phenomena of the revolution: the first newspapers, the month of the revolution. The end station, right under the front of the engine, is the communism. Notice how far off the charts it sits. No wonder. More background and details on Soviet Posters.

Browser-Based Joost Mock-up

Paul Yanez created a functional mock-up of Joost-in-a-browser to prove that it was "possible to build a web based application that does not require any downloads, that is comparable to the downloadable executable Joost application. This mashup has been done with 1 flash file as compared to Joost which requires 100's of files."

"Joost does not support browser based viewing, to use the application it must be downloaded and installed. In the last several months users have been forced to continually download and upgrade the Joost software in order to continue using Joost. The flash based version works in all browsers on all operating systems. All enhancements and upgrades are transparent to the user and the application continues to retain the user preferences since the application is hosted on a server."

Happy Birthday, CD

"It was Aug. 17, 1982, and row upon row of palm-size plates with a rainbow sheen began rolling off an assembly line near the German city of Hannover.

An engineering marvel at the time but instantly recognizable today, the compact disc turns 25 years old on Friday. But in an age of iPods and MP3 players, the CD's future is increasingly in doubt.

Legends abound about how the size of the CD was chosen: some said it matched a Dutch beer coaster; others that a famous conductor or Sony executive wanted it just long enough for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."
-- International Herald Tribune

Video, Data on Vinyl Disks
Flashback: Music on the Bones

MIT Media Studies Grad Theses

The newest batch of MIT Comparative Media Studies grad theses is up. Lots of good stuff on transmedia storytelling, engagement, convergence, and mobile MMORPGs. Great job, guys, and good luck.

Database of Empty Billboards

Could be handy if you are on a media planning/buying side:

" is a national database of outdoor advertising opportunities that is updated daily. Our website allows billboards to be easily searched and sorted by many different criteria. With our personalized billboard listings, billboard owners can post pictures of a particular site."

Also see, a broader search engine of media opportunities.

Study: Virtual Brand Footprint

Market Truths and Diversified Media Design released a new SL-related study titled "The Virtual Brand Footprint: The Marketing Opportunity in Second Life." I am not sure where it is available online (but it will probably end up along with other reports by Market Truths) and will post a link as soon as I find out (update: here's a link to the pdf file of the report). The report provides a few pieces of advice to marketers who are still intending to give this new frontier a try despite the recent wave of negative coverage, and also analyzes the impact of some of the larger campaigns done over the past year.

This graph apparently represents a qualitative probe of the public opinion regarding the selected brand presence in Second Life. A quote from the study:

"Market Truths calculated an overall Second Life brand impact metric. According to their research, "all of the most frequently mentioned brands are receiving a positive impact from their [Second Life] presence, but the impact is greatest for Reuters -- largely due to the fact that most of those who have encountered the brand in Second Life say doing so has improved their impression of the company. IBM had the next greatest impact, but its position is more a result of the fact that it received more mentions in the unaided awareness question than any other brand. Toyota, Nissan, and Dell had the next greatest brand impacts. The black bars at the bottom show the metrics for Toyota and Sony when their two separate brand names are combined."

This graph apparently illustrate the real-world PR effect of an effective brand presence in Second Life. To quote the study:

"[The graph] illustrates the number of impressions, in millions, each brand received after their Second Life entrance. This clearly illustrates that a successful launch in Second Life often turns into positive publicity for the brands. Whether it is a product mention or an in-depth story, the brands in this study were exposed to millions of eyes around the world. The press coverage also associates these brands with innovation since Second Life has not yet become a traditional marketing platform."

This graph brings about many interesting thoughts, but here's what particularly stands out. As far as I know, The Louvre doesn't have an official SL presence. The only one I'm aware of (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is The Second Louvre (YouTube video, pictures) which is a beautiful but unofficial replica [updated: The Louvre does refer to The Second Louvre]. Yet, according to the graph, The Louvre beat Sears, Dell and Coke in terms of PR impressions? Would love to know more about the methodology and the time frame for this particular item [updated, see below].

Update [August 21 '07] : A note on the methodology from Diversified Media Design: "In order to get the numbers for the chart, we counted all of the press hits each company received. We defined the hit as anything that mentioned or discussed the company in relation to SL. We then took the circulation for each outlet (ex: NY Times, USA Today etc.) and added everything together to get the total number of people that the company was exposed to as a result of SL. This is only an estimate since circulation numbers were not available for every outlet. The time frame was January - May."

Update [August 22 '07]: combinedstory co-authored the report.

Advertising in Manga

From an email I received a couple of days ago: "Manga is the Japanese word for printed comics in weekly magazines or books. Manga have become popular in the US and many translated Manga books are on the shelves in major book stores. It’s one of the fastest growing sectors of the US publishing industry. Orange Lighthouse, Inc. has just launched as a US site of to offer Manga contents for advertisement to US companies."

In 2005, Manga was a $150M business in the U.S. and growing (Time mag).

Ad-Manga takes your concept and sources it to artists in Japan, then comes back with an illustrated story ready to hit the press or the web.


Interactive Window Shopping

image: USA Today

Ralph Lauren's interactive shopping window display made a big splash upon arrival last summer and apparently has been in use throughout the year in different locations (Manhattan, Chicago, London). Wonder if anyone has actually bought anything using the application: the physical store is right there, after all. Would it work if installed at bus shelters and selling home-delivered groceries?

Data-Mining Facebook

Here's an article (and a press release with a podcast) from a few days ago about an IT security company's experiment where it posted a fake profile, sent out 200 friend requests, and was friended by 82 users (41% success rate).

One of the differences between MySpace and Facebook is that users on the latter seem to disclose more of their personal information, but this information is behind the wall that you can break by friending them (or having them install a third-party application on their profiles). This great data-mining potential must have inspired the conspiracy theory that it is the CIA that is pulling the strings behind the company.

Discovering False Memories of Logos

"Guess the Logo" is a little multiple-choice test where you have to choose the correct layout of logos you see almost daily. What would it mean if the overwhelming majority of players chose, say, #6 instead of the correct #4?

This exercise is similar to the experiment in Austraia a few years ago where respondents where asked to hand-draw famous logos.

Can You Sell Mindshare?

MyMindshare has interesting spin on the old "get paid to view ads" concept, outlined on the Billboard Advertisers are Idiots website: "My mindshare is mine. My mindshare has real monetary value. I have a right to sell, trade, or keep my mindshare as I choose."

Yahoo Ads Assembled On the Fly

Yahoo's freshly launched Smart Ads network rearranges ad unit assets to display personalized messages and layouts on the fly based on the individual user's demo info and past behaviors. Details and a quote from Wall Street Journal on Search Engine Land. Looks a lot like that ad I've been hit with when searching for an overseas flight.

Pheromones Encourage Shopping

Found this news article back from January 2004 while browsing forums:

"Now Canadian retailers are squirting a synthetic human pheromone around shop floors. The stuff apparently makes customers feel comfortable and secure and hence more likely to buy.The pheromone was originally designed for a big Las Vegas casino. Now Vancouver-based Enhanced Air Technologies (EAT) has released its Commercaire ( pheromone for general use."

Apparently, the project was soon abandoned and both the product and company sites are dead. If you know anything about the story or any other company that uses pheromones in retail, leave a comment.

A Bottle of New Car Scent

Digital Cameras Reveal Hidden Images

Kameraflage: "context-sensitive display technology, encodes a layer of information that can only be viewed by the human eye when looking at an image of the scene taken by a camera.

Kameraflage is possible because digital cameras see a broader spectrum of light than human eyes. By rendering content in these wavelengths we are able to create displays that are invisible to the naked eye, yet can be seen when imaged with a digital camera."

In other words, you can now place hidden messages on print ads and billboards and t-shirts and other stuff that will only be visible to people when they take a picture of it with a digital camera or a camera phone.

via Cool Hunting via Cherryflava

Game Promo Uses Camera, "Ghosted" Film
MINI Connects With Fans Using Spy Gadgets
High-Pitch Ringtones in Advertising

Wal-Mart and Target on Facebook

Fallon Planning Blog noticed how Wal-Mart and Target had launched similar back-to-college programs on Facebook, both allowing users to select from a set of pre-canned designs (and Amazon has something similar on its own site). While the two pages may share many interactive similarities, the user comments are strikingly different. The mood on Wal-Mart's page: "This is about the soul of our great country we most not let wal mart hollow it out." On Target's: "I love going to Target even when I have nothing in particular to buy." Click on the thumbnails for screen-grab enlargement; if you have a Facebook account and want to see for yourself, search for both brands and they'll come up on the top.

Peanuts as Business Cards

Pink Tentacle: "Taberu Me cards are created using Arigatou’s high-grade CO2 laser engraver nicknamed "Shiawase-kun," which can etch up to 700 characters per second on hard organic materials like beans, nuts, rice and pasta and which has been optimized to print clean-looking logos, names and telephone numbers on the irregular surfaces of peanut shells."


Study: Science Behind Immersion

An abstract from a recent Wall Street Journal article (via Murketing) on virtual relationships and their toll on real ones that sheds some light on cognitive processes in players' brains:

"On a neurological level, players may not distinguish between virtual and real-life relationships, recent studies suggest. In an experiment conducted at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, test subjects were hooked up to neuroimaging machines while they played a simple computer game in which they moved colored discs to form a pattern. When told that they were playing with a person rather than a computer, participants showed increased activity in areas of the brain that govern social interaction.

Other experiments show that people socializing in virtual worlds remain sensitive to subtle cues like eye contact. In one study, participants moved their avatars back if another character stood too close, even though the space violation was merely virtual, says Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, which was created five years ago to study social behavior in virtual worlds. "Our brains are not specialized for 21st-century media," says Prof. Reeves. "There's no switch that says, 'Process this differently because it's on a screen.' "

Amazon Shows Products in Context

I like how Amazon is showing products in context in this interactive unit promoting back-to-school dorm room special. When the images is mouse-overed, little flags come up and you can pop up explanatory highlights over each of them. If nothing else, this seems like a good way to encourage consideration of complementary products (buy milk -- don't forget the cookies).

Cameras That Make People Smile

A cute example of product innovation based on a cultural insight: a Pez dispenser attached to the camera's hot-shoe makes "picture-takees" produce a more organic smile than having them say cheese (via BoingBoing). Expect a new wave of cameras with red-eye reduction and smile-enhancing features.

One of my most vivid memories from a trip to the Magic Kingdom are Kodak's Picture Spot signs (this picture is someone else's). Wonder why there aren't more of those around the landmarks in tourist destinations. Our office is right next to the Trinity Church, a textbook tourist attraction in Boston. The tourists' picture-taking ritual is rather complex and, I think, culture-dependent.

Tourists at Times Sq.

And this is the picture that started it all.

Future: Technology Recognizes Shopping Intent

With military technology having a way of trickling down to civilian uses, this piece from the New Scientist Tech (paid sub) sounds interesting:

"The computer that is processing the data from these hidden sensors is not searching for explosives, knives, guns or contraband. Instead, it is working on a much tougher problem: whether you are thinking about committing a terrorist act, either imminently, or at sometime during your stay in the US."

"[Project Hostile Intent] aims to identify facial expressions, gait, blood pressure, pulse and perspiration rates that are characteristic of hostility or the desire to deceive. Then the idea is to develop "real-time, culturally independent, non-invasive sensors."

This is the future where store doors will analyze each entering customer's biometrics, cross-reference them with the purchase history and whatever other personal info is on file, and then have the digital signage or robo-clerks to customize the sales pitch just so.

- via Danger Room

Second Life: Bank Run, Minted Coins

After two unseasonably intense but fun 80-hour weeks at work, I'm back to our regular programming. Apologies for the outage; my only hope is that most of you are on well-deserved vacations.

Anyway, two pieces of news from Second Life. The first is that Ginko Financial, a virtual bank that lured customers with a promise of 44% annualized interest, had experienced a bank run and has shut its doors. The Age has the story.

On a brighter side, an owner of a private SL island has minted his own very real coins (pictured above). Via