I'm on Your Roadz, Scanning Your License Plates

For a long time, I’ve imagined what it would be like if you could see information about other drivers around you in real-time. For example, if you are driving down the freeway you would see a red arrow over cars that are known to have been involved in bad driving practices.

This information would be presented in a heads-up-display. You could dive into information on any car to see what its previous behavior had been, such as cutting off other drivers, reckless speeding or other stuff that would cause any reasonable person to be upset on the road.

The data would be sourced from normal people.  If someone dangerously cut you off and flipped you the finger for good measure, you could simply type in the license plate, the make of the car and this would be added to a public database. The location and time of the incident would be stored, along with your own reputation of identity. This would make the “colored arrows” over the cars more valuable to other drivers, and hopefully reduce the risk of getting in an accident or otherwise entangled with a Ne’er-do-well.

There are a lot of problems to sort out, such as how do you ensure people are not trolling each other, mis-reporting driver behavior? What if a car is shared, and one driver “ruins” the license plate of a car for all users. What if the system is used to screen for other things, such as entry into a gated community? How can the license plate and car make and model be collected safely by someone who is driving a vehicle and witnesses something wrong. And most importantly, what are the privacy implications of creating such a vast database?

Some of these questions have easier answers than others. Two things seem clear to me now:

  1. It is simply a matter of time before such a public database and the accompanying software to populate it exist.
  2. We are quickly entering a time where if you own and regularly use the same car, you are giving up the privacy of your real-time location and possibly that of your family.

The reason I write this now, is because the ACLU recently published a study (pdf) (overview) on the growing use of police cameras and how the information is being collected and used by government authorities to circumvent the need to get warrants on GPS trackers.

If law enforcement is using automatic license plate readers, and we have russian drivers almost universally using dashboard cams, we are very close to civilian use of automated readers. And the use case I describe above will become a reality.

The user experience probably won’t jump directly to HUD, however a push notification to your smartphone that a car ahead is dangerous seems a fairly trivial feature. All that’s missing is the software.

How do you protect the privacy of your movement when you commonly need to travel the intermediary and custom pathway that automobiles provide? It would be great if you could travel by car and avoid revealing your location to mass surveillance by getting getting rides with strangers you can trust. Such a system does not exist today, but it could be created to counter concerns described above.

If you wanted to start today, you might have some success with ride share services like Zipcar. But those require registration and some level of identity validation. It seems like Lyft, the citizen cab company might be a better value and deliver more privacy. But even that requires Facebook connect, and thus full real name and photo exposure to the driver and company itself.

Update 3/20/14: Los Angelas police argue “All [license plate] data is investigatory.” See EFF’s “Los Angeles cops Argue All Cars in LA are Under Investigation.”

Rock Show Concert Posters 2.0: Now on iPhone and iPod Touch

concert posters rock show ipad iphone

I’m pumped to announce availability of Rock Show 2.0.  This is the first version of Rock Show that works on the iPad and both the iPhone and iPod Touch.  A lot of fixes and tweaks are in this version of the application, along with some new posters as well!

Two articles are up about the release, Padgadget is hosting one item and a second can be found at IntoMobile.  For a full low-down and updated info on the app, visit its page: http://www.rockshow.fm

Reprogrammed Animatronic Bear Band Plays MGMT Cover

Aaron Fechter the President of Creative Engineering, Inc has been reprogramming a working animatronic bear-band set up.  It looks like the company created it for a line of restraunts similar to Chuck E. Cheese.  He’s currently taking cash bids to do syncing or “choreography” for the band members.

The way the performance is filmed and presented are awesome.  Shakey prolonged shots, quick pulls outward.  The overall video quality is low and the colors look a bit washed out.  Everything is blurry and the bear with the guitar has a spooky shadow.   Great media.

Portland as an Creative Powerhouse as Broken Bells Consumes The Shins

Portland Dangermouse Mercer photo by Matt McgeeMy old friend David Peixotto was visiting Portland for the holidays and this morning we snagged breakfast at Stepping Stone.  Dave and I have been working hard on a stealth iPhone application to be published by our company, NeutrinosBackspace in northwest and Urban Grind in northeast have been some of my favorite haunts so I showed them off to him and took the opportunity to extol on him the freshest virtues of the city I hope he’ll return to.

I showed Dave a print of an owl in a suit I bought at  Crafty Wonderland barely touching on variety in the vendors and size of the crowds out that day to explore the local fare.  I remember walking among the booths, looking at a velvet painting of Michael Jackson and hearing The Thermals playing overhead.  It was Portland art celebrating Portland art.

Something I’ve noticed through an array of networking and business meetings I’ve set up is that Portland has attracted a powerhouse of technological and artistic talent.  There aren’t a lot of jobs, but there is a creative class of people ambitious to combine creativity with entrepreneurial behavior to produce amazing things. This is starting to attract publicity.

James Mercer, The Shins and Broken Bells

What does all this have to do with Broken Bells? Let’s take a look at the context around the release.  James Mercer, frontman for The Shins, decided to move to Portland a few years back. Recently keyboardist Marty Crandall and Drummer Jesse Sandoval were replaced by by Fruit Bats’ bassist Ron Lewis and Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer.

Mercer suggested in May that a new Shins album could come in early 2010, but then in September announced a collaborative project with Brian Joseph Burton aka Dangermouse titled Broken Bells. The release of the first single off Broken Bells, “The High Road” on the 21st of this month was quickly overshadowed by what some are calling the “best Christmas present ever,” the complete leak of the album.

One listen and it is clear that Mercer aimed for and delivered a dashing mix of phonics and verse, doing well to combine his creative style with a bang up set of instrumentation from Burton.  When the album makes its official debut it is certain to be a hit.

In light of this new work it seems hard to believe a new Shins album will be dropping any time soon.  And to celebrate Broken Bells as a Portland achievement hold less water than to simply say it is heavily in association with the city.  The idea that Portland would influence the creation of an effort like Broken Bells seems to jive with what I’m seeing on the ground.  There are no doubt wonderful things yet to come from this city and I’m excited to see what else shakes out.

Facebook Profile Discretion and the Guitar Tab for Britney Spears, "Out From Under"

britney spears out from under guitar tabI’ve begun work developing a guitar tab of the Britney Spears song, “Out From Under,”  but before getting to that, we have some ground to cover.

Some friends on Facebook noticed that for a few days this past week Britney Spears was on my list of ‘favorite music.’  The music section of the Info Tab on my profile is usually limited to a select group of artists I would feel comfortable having a clear argument for recommending them to a stranger.

Example artists include:  Beirut, Cat Power, David Byrne, Jandek, Kraftwerk, Thom Yorke, Wilco, Joanna Newsom, and Lupe Fiasco.  Each of those artists makes list through a combination of the following: