February 10th, 2005

Cool Things I Saw at HP Labs

I had the chance to spend a morning at HP labs last week. I wasn’t thinking much of it until I pulled up and noticed quite a few Asian visitors having their photos taken in front of the building as if it were say … the first McDonald’s or Mt. Rushmore.

Whenever I’m there, I always have the sense that there are a lot of really, really bright people working on really cool technologies. Always exciting to talk to them and see what is on the horizon in the next three to five years.

- “James Bond” pen – I think it has another name, but anyway, there is a camera in the pen so you can take a snap shot in a sense of what you are writing on a form and then use your mobile phone to send it back to a server/application to be processed. Meant for purchase orders and the like from the field. Available today.

- Location-specific mobile marketing – and I don’t mean special offers for the city of San Francisco. Your location can be pinpointed down to the aisle you are in in Target. They call it an opportunity. I call it scary.

- Embedding RFID in movie posters so that you can more easily download trailers, ringtones, etc. associated with the movie to your mobile device. Funny to picture people pointing devices at posters, but could help spur growth in premium data services from the mainstream.

- An advanced version of a joystick (probably a poor word choice since it is much more sophisticated that what I used to play Atari when I was 10) that you plug into the bottom of an iPaq to convert it to a gaming device. I don’t think we’ve done a cross cut of PDA and Gameboy owners yet.

- Minders. These are intended to track Alzheimer’s patients – ensure that they are eating, taking medication, haven’t fallen down, etc. They detect proximity or the lack thereof. My favorite application was the notion of putting one in your passport, wallet, etc. If you accidentally leave it on the counter at the airport and walk away, the device you are holding (that detects the motion/proximity) will begin beeping.

- Translations. Ever been traveling and in a museum in a foreign country and wished that you could read about what you are seeing? This application uses the camera to take a photo (jpg), converts it to text and then leverages web applications for a translation.

- They were also doing some work to dummy-proof picture taking. Correct for poor focusing. Correct for images not centered, etc.

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