June 9, 2005 4:00 AM PDT
These walls (and teddy bears) have eyes
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Old-school theory is a new forceFebruary 18, 2003
The experimental system--which consists of a series of sensors under the baby's mattress and a camera mounted on a wall--will monitor a child's heart rate, temperature and movement; stream video of the infant; and even take pictures. Captured data is sent to a parent's PC.
Though the system is geared mostly toward providing parents with better information about their kids, there is an entertainment aspect to the monitor as well. The pictures taken nightly by the camera can be strung together to form a composite video charting the baby's development. A prototype teddy bear developed by the same group, meanwhile, contains a hidden video camera.
"People are telling us they want more spontaneous images," explained Brooke Foucault, an anthropologist who tested the monitoring system on 25 families. "Clearly, there are privacy issues."
Remote observation was one of the dominant themes at the company's annual research day on Wednesday at its headquarters here, where it unveils a number of conceptual uses for high technology. For the past several years, Intel scientists have theorized that the next wave of computing will involve designing "proactive" machines that can harvest and manage information for overwhelmed human beings.
Whether one sees these systems as a useful exploitation of technology or an insidious step toward Big Brotherdom is in some respects a matter of implementation, personality and opinion. In any event, the privacy issues are being examined in detail.
In another experiment, researchers have tagged all of the items in a person's house with RFID sensors that effectively will tell a remote computer whether the occupant has moved a spoon or turned on the television.
Though it might sound Orwellian in the abstract, the system is being designed to provide relatives or professional caregivers information on the daily habits of the elderly. Did they take their medicine? The system can't precisely confirm that, but it will relay information that a specific pill bottle was moved at a particular time.
"We assume they took their medicine because these people are doing this so they won't have to go into assisted living," said Sunny Consolvo, an Intel researcher. Nonetheless, privacy is taken into consideration. Test patients say they prefer the RFID reader to be embedded in a bracelet rather than a wall because they can take the bracelet off to halt the tracking process.
Another experimental technology, called Robust Video Superresolution, seeks to improve the quality
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