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BackBy CertMag Editor — August 2009
You’ve Got a ‘Hunch’
iPhone or BlackBerry? Bus or train? Skim or whole? With so many choices today, it’s no wonder people are increasingly desperate for answers. But now they’ll have a new place to turn when faced with the latest conundrum.
A new Web site called Hunch.com, created by the co-founder of popular photo-sharing site Flickr, will attempt to make your decision for you — or at least help you make it yourself.
How does it work? The site first asks you a few questions about yourself to develop a user profile. Then, after you’ve told it your dilemma, it compiles research around what other users have submitted on the topic and presents you with a personalized answer.
According to creator Caterina Fake, who gave an interview to CNN.com, “You can go into the system and ask it any question that’s in the system. So it’s things like, ‘What HD-TV should I buy?’ or ‘Where should I go to college?’ or, you know, ‘Where should I eat in San Diego on a Saturday night?’” she said. “It could be just about anything. Once it kind of gets to know you, you can ask it questions, and then it gives an answer to you that it doesn’t give to anyone else.”
Now that’s some smart technology!
Writing on Air
Apps are all the rage these days. Everyone and his mother seems to be developing an application for iPhone or BlackBerry — some helpful, some frivolous and more than a few downright offensive. Remember the short-lived “Baby Shaker” app that encouraged us to shake the phone to quiet a crying baby?
Now our handhelds might be getting another new feature, thanks to an innovation from an engineering student at Duke University.
Earlier this summer, Sandip Agrawal won the Hoffman + Krippner Award for Excellence in Student Engineering at the 2009 Sensors Expo & Conference for his new concept, the PhonePoint Pen. Basically, it allows a phone user to use his or her phone like a pen to write short notes in the air.
Using the accelerometer now included in many high-end mobile phones, the PhonePoint Pen captures and identifies the hand gestures used in writing a note or drawing a diagram in the air. It then creates a message that is sent to the user’s e-mail address.
In addition to the award, Agrawal received a $2,500 scholarship from Hoffman + Krippner to recognize his innovation in the field of human-machine interfaces and applications.
Fall Movie Preview
The summer movie blitz is almost over. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was bad; “Star Trek” was awesome; “Terminator Salvation” was disappointing — quite honestly, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was a better continuation of the franchise — and Sam Raimi’s return to form “Drag Me To Hell” came out of left field as one of the best movies of the season.
Moving into August, we’re dealt some more intriguing fare that might end up defining fall at theaters. Aug. 7 will bring the release of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” At first glance the comic book/TV show/toy line-retread might not look too promising. But the movie boasts some inspired choices in terms of casting, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who got his start as a child actor but has scored kudos in independent films such as 2006’s “Brick,” as Cobra Commander. It also stars Rachel Nichols — who already graced silver screens this summer as the green-skinned girlfriend of Captain Kirk.
On Aug. 14 comes “District 9,” produced by “Lord Of The Rings” director Peter Jackson. The film tells the story of aliens landing in South Africa. The film’s Web site allows visitors to enter as human or “nonhuman.” This should definitely be weird.
Finally, on Aug. 21 comes the release of “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino’s epic World War II movie. It stars Brad Pitt, but never mind that. It also has TV actors B.J. Novak (Ryan from “The Office”) and Samm Levine (Neal Schweiber from “Freaks and Geeks”) appearing as murderous soldiers (the titular “basterds”). Stay tuned…