GreenGoose and the gamification of… er, pretty much everything

Paul Raven @ 02-03-2011

Still trying to get a handle on that whole Internet Of Things idea? Intrigued by the buzzphrase “gamification”, or the concept of lifelogging-as-behavioural-feedback channel? Wondering what people are trying to do with RFID now that the futureglow has faded from that particular tech concept? Here’s where they all meet up:

the folks behind Green Goose […] have come up with a system that turns boring tasks like brushing your teeth and exercising into a game that awards the ‘player’ with lifestyle points for completing various everyday tasks, in much the same way as players earn experience points in role playing games.

Green Goose uses wireless sensors that can be attached to objects, such as a toothbrush, water bottle or bike, to detect when you perform a task you have set yourself and rewards you with lifestyle points. These sensors were originally only available as egg-shaped attachments tailored for specific uses, but have now been shrunk down to small stickers and credit-card sized devices that can be attached to just about anything.

Worried that your kids live in world that’s much like The Sims? Well, why not make reality more like The Sims!

Interestingly (though not surprisingly, gamifying child behaviour wasn’t the original application:

The company was originally positioning the system as a tool for ecological and financial responsibility with its egg-shaped sensors designed to be attached to a bike, thermostat or showerhead to keep track of how much money a user saves by riding their bike instead of driving, keeping the air conditioning down or taking shorter showers.

At the risk of channeling Chairman Bruce, man, I can’t imagine why people weren’t queuing up to buy a game that would continually remind them how much they were screwing over the environment on a daily basis! We all know we need to do something, but there ain’t much comfort in being reminded just how much we need to do…

GreenGoose looks eminently hackable, though, not to mention easily cloned on the cheap; I can see some interesting interstitial/AR gaming applications straight away, but I suspect that, as always, the street will find its own uses for things that no one entirely expected. How’s about this one: fair allocation and metering of time-sensitive resources in your favela-chic stuffed-animal commune? Gotta keep track of who’s caning the hot water, after all, and if you ain’t done your chores then you don’t get your full bandwidth quota for the day…


Injectable arphid will let satellites track you world-wide (and maybe kill you)

Paul Raven @ 19-06-2009

injectable RFID implantCausing a bit of a stir over in Germany is a patent filed by a Saudi Arabian gentlemen for a form of subcutaneous RFID chip which would allow remote global tracking of the person into whom it was injected.

The patent application – entitled “Implantation of electronic chips in the human body for the purposes of determining its geographical location” – was filed on October 30, 2007, but was only published until last week, or 18 months after submission as required by German law, she said.

“In recent times the number of people sought by security forces has increased,” the Jeddah-based inventor wrote in his summary.

The tiny electronic device […] would be suited for tracking fugitives from justice, terrorists, illegal immigrants, criminals, political opponents, defectors, domestic help, and Saudi Arabians who don’t return home from pilgrimages.

Not too shocking on the surface, but it was one of the optional upgrades that caused the law firm representing the application to drop the case quickly:

After subcutaneous implantation, the chip would send out encrypted radio waves that would be tracked by satellites to confirm the person’s identity and whereabouts. An alternate model chip could reportedly release a poison into the carrier if he or she became a security risk.

Cute… thankfully the German patent system would probably have bounced the application on ethical grounds, but you don’t need a patent to make or use something like this.

And as science fictional as it blatantly is, it’s the political implausibility that stands out rather than the technological. Sadly, chipping people like we tag pets is likely to become quite the fashion in the more repressive nation-states of the world, but there’s certain to be a lively black market trade in removing and deactivating them too. [via Technovelgy; image by Nadya Peek]


Subdermal analgesics – implanted painkillers

Paul Raven @ 19-05-2009

neural stimulator implantA pill for every ill? How very Twentieth Century! In the future, my friend, your chronic pains will be alleviated by tiny subdermal devices wired directly into your nerves, activated remotely beyond the body by radio signals from a master control device:

The device works similarly to spinal-cord stimulators for managing chronic pain. The idea is that the electrical jolts delivered by the device override the neural pain signals being transmitted to the spinal cord. However, the precise mechanism is not yet clear.

[…]

Like some cochlear implants and other medical devices, the implant is powered with radio-frequency transmission: radio waves transmitted by the external coil generate a magnetic field in the internal coil, which powers the electrodes. Adopting technologies from the rapidly advancing RFID world has allowed the researchers to further shrink the device.

Before rushing off to hassle your local medical practitioner for a set, however, bear in mind that this is still at the conceptual stage:

Researchers have developed a prototype device, which they are testing in rats. The device can effectively stimulate peripheral nerves in rats, although it’s not yet clear whether the electrical stimulation alleviates chronic pain. (Scientists assess chronic pain in rats by recording how much the animals eat; a rat in pain won’t eat as much.)

Assuming it works as expected, this could be a real life-changer for people suffering with chronic conditions. However, I don’t think it’s a wild leap of logic to assume that if nerve stimulation can be used to alleviate pain, it can probably be used to create it as well – maybe even with exactly the same set-up. It’s easy enough to hijack regular RFID tags, after all.

Thinking a little further, perhaps this technology would become part of the suite of telepresence devices. Rather than wear some sort of all-over suit, sensory stimulation from virtual worlds could be reproduced in the body by carefully timed and coded radio signals… which would make the perceptual line between reality and the metaverse that much thinner and fuzzier. [via grinding.be; image borrowed from Technology Review article under Fair Use terms, please contact for takedown if required]


RFID wardrivers can ping your passport

Paul Raven @ 05-02-2009

Just in case you’ve not clocked this already, it’s time to break out the tinfoil: using equipment sourced from eBay, a bunch of hacker types have built a proof-of-concept system that can be used to scan the unique RFID number from the biometric passports of pedestrians… as they drive past them.

Come on kids, repeat after me: everything can – and will – be hacked. [story via grinding.be, among others]


The RFID and the saguaro

Tom Marcinko @ 08-10-2008

As somebody who used to have a front yard with a saguaro cactus, I understand why people pay up to $1,000 for them. Last year the law caught rustlers trying to steal 17 of these Sonoran Desert natives. So the National Park Service in Tucson, Arizona is planning to imbed chips in the cactuses to track them in case the plants go AWOL.

“We would likely not just go out and implant, but would gather data, GPS the locations, and record heights and widths and measures,” [Saguaro National Park chief ranger Bob] Love said. “We probably wouldn’t implant a plant that was not healthy or a desirable plant for someone to steal.”

Nevada chipped some of its barrel cactuses in 1999 to deter theft and help take inventory.

[Photo: backlitcoyote]


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