The polite umbrella

It’s days like this, where the unexpected rain forces exceptional stress on the public transit system and thousands of unhappy commuters bump into each other, wishing they had their summer back and that the world was a little more civil. A little more like this:

The Polite Umbrella is an art project by Joo Youn Paek that allows a nice person to adapt the shape of their umbrella and respect personal space by pulling on some strings on the handle. I think they should be mandatory in New York.

My First Digital Movie Creator

My package came. I opened it, and as expected, out came a matte blue kids video camera. I haven’t been so excited in my life.

If you haven’t heard the Intel Play story, it’s worth a few seconds. Trying to make ground on the interface barrier between kids and technology, the Intel Play division was making some pretty spiffy little products engineered for the kid form factor. At affordable prices (all under $100), they were selling like hotcakes.

Just at the tipping point, their parent organization, the Connected Products Division proved unable to turn a profit, and was terminated. The Play Division, being dependent on core materials from its parent, was also shut down.

That’s just about the point that most of my friends heard about the Digital Movie Creator, a tiny video camera in the Intel Play line. It records 320×200 full motion video at 10 frames/second for 4 minutes. It uses a CMOS instead of a CCD which degrades the quality significantly (more tech specs here). Despite all of these inhibiting qualities, at closeout-reduced rate of $30, it’s the cheapest portable video technology in the world. While supplies last, you can still purchase your own direct from Intel.

The quality is better than what you might expect for web content. Which is to say, had the product continued to market, I’m sure there would have been a fashionable version for slightly older kids (like me), hoping to capture explicitly the weblog audience. is a video weblog run by a fellow Media Lab student that is trying to take advantage of this gadget to produce video content on a regular basis. We’ll see how much of mine actually makes it into public form. At the moment, I’m having a good time just making funny noises and contorting my face. But maybe that’s just the bright blue camera speaking.