March 22, 2004



Crime-Fighting Gadgets

From the moment I first heard about them, camera phones struck me as the most useless idea, ever.

Hey, it's a phone! With a camera! Just like you always wanted!

Even the people doing ads for them have seemed stumped. The following have all been proposed (in ads) as legitimate uses for these things:

  • Send your friends a picture of a pig drinking a beer.
  • Snap a picture of a sloppy guy eating and send it to a female friend kidding her that this is her "new boyfriend."
  • Snap a picture of a friend who has taken an embarrassing job wearing a bird suit and send it to all his friends specifically for the purpose of humiliating him.

Fun, fun, fun.

Of course, if non-stop hilarity isn't really your thing, you might be interested to learn that camera phones have also shown some utility in warding off crime. The Associated Press reports that camera phones have been instrumental in catching various sex offenders and, in at least one instance, preventing a child abduction. Moreover, a camera phone was used to exonerate some guys who were falsely accused of rape.

Okay, it's no beer-drinking pig, but it's a start.

We may be heading for the day when camera phones will be second only to a handguns for providing personal protection.

Meanwhile, if you're concerned about your child's online safety, you might be interested to read about these AI chat nannies, which are proving invaluable in rounding up chatroom-lurking perverts. Unlike camera phones, I've always believed that chatbots were useful. But I never thought of them as crime-fighters.


Both stories via GeekPress


UPDATE: Hat tip to reader Jesse who points us to this piece by Michael Williams raising serious doubts about the authenticity of the chat nanny story. If something sounds too good to be true...

Posted by Phil at March 22, 2004 02:40 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Another good use for camera phones is to add visual content to blogs. If you always have your camera with you, and the cost of taking a picture is basically zero, why not snap a picture of everything that is half-way interesting?

The quality of these camera/phone pictures was not so great last year, but I'm sure they're getting better all the time.

I want a phone with cheap Internet(broadband preferred), a 5 megapixal camera, voice recognition for dialing, navigation, and document composition; and an MP3 player with sizeable storage.

Oh yeah, nationwide local calling with rollover minutes. :-)

Another neat anti-crime gadget are auto GPS navigations systems that can report their location.

http://www.spyresearch.com/gps.html

Posted by: Stephen Gordon at March 22, 2004 07:02 PM

Geekpress posted an update to the story about the AI chat nannies, linking to this analysis by "Michael Williams, an artificial intelligence expert and a PhD student in CS at UCLA", who suggests that the story is almost certainly too good to be true--modern A.I. just doesn't have anywhere near the capabilities claimed for these "chat nannies". This Wightman guy is probably just taking advantage of the press' gullibility when it comes to artificial intelligence.

Posted by: Jesse at March 22, 2004 11:34 PM

Thanks for the link!

Posted by: Michael Williams at March 23, 2004 09:19 AM

I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.

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