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Rafi Haladijan is one of the founders of a Paris-based company called smart cards, which recently gained international fame with its product, the Nabaztag. This is (in our view) the first real consumer product that deals with widely discussed phrases like and the . Before going into more detail on the product, Haladijan gave the audience some background information.
Violet was founded in 2003, when the internet was viewed somewhat differently; with unstable connections, low connectivity and slower modems, the goal of ‘developing infrastructure and services to link all types of objects’ was far-fetched. Nonetheless, Violet looked to move in this direction by focusing on the meaning of phrases likeand combo cards
The first instance of inspiration he mentioned is the talking teddy bear. Mixing views on and evolution, Haladjian explains that the teddy bear carries the statement that everything will indeed be hooked up to some kind of network via contactless cards. Not because of a technological drive being imposed on society, but simply an inevitable evolutionary step.
Willem Velthoven heads , and began by presenting some RFID CARD the company and foundation has been involved in. The first of these was. This ‘interface free” table allowed users to simply tag objects and to play with (Web) content in a tactile way. Other projects were those displayed at the conference, such as the ‘friend finder’. This application allows conference visitors to meet up in real space and become friends on an online social network at the same time. Using RFID tokens they print out business-cards with their profiles on them. As an added incentive, they can get a free beer. So, in essence, the installation uses and manipulates digital data through physical interaction.
Another PICNIC project was, which was also a conversation starter. By placing one’s tag in the teacup, visitors would receive personalized data taken from both their personal profiles as well as from a Google query of their name. This gave the users an impression of the possibilities of data mining, profiling and rfid inlay The was also very popular at PICNIC, and allowed people to get their picture taken with friends and interact with one another using RFID.
The latest Mediamatic project involves the new public library of Amsterdam. Where libraries increasingly face the challenge of ‘upgrading’ to current information and searching demands, there is also a possibility for innovation.
Velthoven was asked to reflect on the whole process of lending- and returning books, in this case by use of combo cards and/or ‘traditional’ bar-codes. Although the project and implementation is just beginning, some critical questions and remarks were already clear. For instance, he noted a security concern, since it easy to gain access to others’ data. But this data could also be used differently: if a digital system for accessing lending data is already in place, why not make it possible to share that data?
The main question for the project concerns the (changing) role of a library today. Velthoven suggested that, through new technologies and social networking sites like the ones used at PICNIC, the library could become a social meeting place, where instead of reading in silence, one could meet up with fellow-readers, have book discussions, share interests etc. What Velthoven did not address is whether this should be the primary aim of a library, or whether or not there are already non-technical ways of achieving the same goals (e.g. book clubs).
Velthoven concluded with a simple message, ‘Make it fun again!’ Using online social networks in combination with new technologies like RFID, he sees a different path for classic institutions like the library.
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