Posts Tagged ‘Social effects of ICT’

Our home as a multiplex cinema?

24 Jan

News came along this week that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, are buying up Lovefilm – the most successful  popular video-through-the-post service in the UK. Lovefilm have around 1.6 million customers in Europe.


Story here and Guardian story here

The way it works is that you go to their web site and make up a list of the films you would like to see. say 30 or so. They will send you a DVD film from the list through the post and as soon as you return that one, the next one is sent.  There are various rental deals depending on how keen a movie watcher you are.

Now with Amazon on board, they hope to break into the video streaming market. There is a catch though, as Sky has contracts to not only broadcast films from the main movie studios, they also own the UK on-demand rights as well. This makes it very difficult for new entrants into the market.

The Competition Commission has now got involved with the whole video on-demand issue to see if the market needs more competition. The decision is still out.

Meanwhile in America video-on-demand is huge, growing at 31% per year.  As a taster of what kind of devices you need to take advantage of this new form of entertainment, have a look at Wired magazine’s review of HDTV media streamers now available in the States.

I think in about 5 to 10 years time, the way we all consume films and entertainment will look very different.


Where there’s snow

24 Nov

This is a fascinating use of twitter and geo mapping. Snow is coming to the UK from the North tonight and so Ben Marsh decided to ask Twitter fans to tweet the first half of their post code with the tag #uksnow. His app then scans Twitter every minute looking for the tweets.

These then get mapped on to an UK graphic, thus showing in real-time how the snow is progressing across the country.

Track snow The app can be found here.

This kind of social interaction could be used for all kinds of surveys. Such as bird migrations, first signs of spring etc.

It just needs enough people to get involved and clever use of geo mapping.

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Posted in Social networking


Access database helps Motor Neurone Disease sufferers speak.

11 Nov

You may think that the Access database that comes with the top end Office suite is only useful for mundane things such as stock control but you would be wrong.

Patricia Ruckoff was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2009 and her daughter Melissa of course wanted to help. MND gradually destroys upper and lower torso muscle control which includes being able to speak. Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most well known sufferer of MND and his robotic speech is almost part of his persona. But many people want to be able to communicate with more emotion and personality if possible, perhaps even speak with an accent to reflect who they are.

After trawling the internet, she found a small company called Time is Ltd. Ian Schofield is a director of the company and he is the inventor of a system called JayBee. The name is quite personal as Jay was a friend and Bridget was his mother-in-law and both succumbed to MND. He – also – wanted to help his friends communicate but the present systems were extremely expensive and had very limited predictive speech power. It took ages to type out ‘pillow’ or ‘water’ when  perhaps only one muscle could be controlled.  There had to be a better way, and so he set about developing a new system.

To keep costs down, he needed to use off-the-shelf software as much as possible and this is where Access proved to be so helpful. When running on a modern computer, Access is an extremely fast and powerful data processing application. This would be the backbone of the predictive speech and artificial intelligence programme that is JayBee. Mind you, it was not a trivial task – over 2,500 hours of effort was invested in developing the Visual Basic (VBA) code. Once the processing engine was in place, they worked with another company called CereProc who can create voices that sound like the original person if they have enough material to work with.

In the video below, Ian Schofield explains JayBee to Vitali Vitaliev of

This is an Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) clip. I am a long-time chartered engineer with the IET and encourage any of your students aspiring to be professional engineers to look into what it can offer in terms of professional development.

This clip would be an excellent introduction into how ICT helps overcome disability.


The PDF is dead, long live the PDF

22 Oct

I don’t know about you, but I thought the PDF file format was one of the things that made printing easier. And indeed it does. But of course, when it was a simple set of commands designed for classic postscript printers there was no way it could be used for anything else.

But Adobe, the owners of the PDF format have followed the trends and made the pdf format able to handle multimedia such as Flash and other file formats. This has the effect making the file format much more active in terms possibly affecting the way a computer runs.

This article summarises some of the issues. Don’t get paranoid though – pdf is still a wonderful way of creating printed copy.

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Posted in Social networking, Standards, Uncategorized


Will physical and virtual life blur?

12 Oct

I was recently pondering the further blurring of the line between our life in the physical domain and our life online. Is there a distinction any more? Is an online friend whom you have never met any less valid than your best buddy?

Back in the day (around the 1980′s) I was exploring this thing called the Internet with a Hayes smartmodem running at 300 baud. At the time there was CompuServe providing a walled garden online experience and in the wilds you could visit text based bulletin boards. I could even indulge in a bit of text based MUDs for entertainment and some creative of ASCII art to fulfil the artist in me.

So at that time there was a clear on-line / off line life. Then two decades or so later there was ‘cyber’ this and ‘e-’ that cropping up in the media, which is now starting to sound quaint, like your old uncle calling the DAB radio in the kitchen a ‘wireless’.

Wind forward to today and it is a completely different ball game. Milllions are happily playing on-line, perhaps connected to a World of Warcraft server and a real-time audio server such as Ventrillo so a group of you can chat away for a bit of escapism and goblin bashing.

Even politicians are recognising that the internet is becoming as vital as water as a basic resource. And they have a point. I was recently unable to go online at home due to a wonky telephone connection and it was not a pleasant experience. No banking, no gaming, no social networking, no blogging, no research. I even had to dig out my old CDs from the attic as the music service streaming into my living room no longer worked.

Hollywood are also recognising the concept with its recent Bruce Willis film Surrogates where they reverse the concept of avatar and physical presence.

Let’s move on a few years when I think the lines will blur even more. Consider augmented reality. Devices will be available that overlay on-line data with what you see.

In a recent BBC interview with the SF author William Gibson opined that our grandchildren will see no distinction between on-line and off-line. He has a point.


Health advert sparks gaming row

12 Mar


With the concerns of rising obesity in children, the Government has released an advert suggesting that many children might be facing a shorter life expectancy due to the large amount of time they spend playing computer games rather than doing something more physically active.

The games industry have lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority stating that this broadbrush statement is inaccurate and that playing computer games is not the main cause of overweight and sedentary children.

Read the full news story here

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