Five hot science and technology stories this week.

1. User-created content.

Brush aside the Web 2.0 an “attention economy” hype from ETech and SXSW. What really gets new media companies excited is the idea of user-created content–text, audio, and especially video that ordinary Janes and Joes create and contribute. All you have to do is create a sandbox for them to play in, add a rating system, and then sit back, watch the traffic roll in, and wait for Yahoo to buy you out. Or not–with so many sites to post on, users’ homegrown content is bound to get spread a little thin. There’s also a lurking problem: User-created content may not always turn out to be, well, created by users; as video-trading sites are discovering, copyrighted files are popular too.

NYT: “In offering to pay users for creating content, companies like Yahoo are not looking to turn every amateur into a professional so much as acknowledging the growing appeal of homemade material to audiences and hence its value to media businesses.”

Derek Powazek: “There are a lot of companies, and ideas for companies, floating around right now. And they all have one thing in common: User-generated content. Getting it, organizing it, delivering it. The words we put online are as important as ever. Personally, I find this most excellent.” “‘I think there is a fast and loose game being played by many people who are aggregating video online and selling advertising on their Web sites. And I think that there will be a day of reckoning,’ said Steven Starr, chief executive of Revver, a site that lets people distribute their videos and make money off ads when people watch them.”

2. Microsoft’s Origami computers.

Microsoft unveils a paperback-sized tablet PC. To achieve this shrinkage, the company left off the keyboard and anticipates that people will interact with it entirely via stylus. It’s a famously bad idea that’s been tried many times in the past two decades and has failed every time.


AP: ”I don’t think it’ll flame out, but I don’t think it’ll take off until 2008,” said Samir Bhavnani, analyst at Current Analysis. [For those of you untrained in analyst-speak, what he is really saying is, “It’ll never fly.”]

3. Google gets nervous.

The Feds keep the pressure on for Google to turn over search records; meanwhile, the search engine inadvertently published info that it shouldn’t have, and settled a suit over overcharging for ads. Google responds: Hey, look over there! Mars!

NYT 3/14/06

CNN 3/14/06

Google Mars

4. Jeff Han’s multi-touch display.

At O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology conference last week (aka “ETech”), CU-SeeMe cofounder and NYU visiting prof Jeff Han gave a demo of a multi-touch-sensitive display that has geeks everywhere longing for one of their own. “Multi-touch sensitive” means that it can register the touch of more than one finger at a time, so you can control it with all 10 of your fingers. Most touchpads, by contrast, can only detect a single finger at a time. Jeff’s demo really showed off the playful possibilities of a display like this. Two words: Minority Report.

Video of Han’s display in action

Jeff Han’s home page

5. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrives.

NASA’s latest Mars probe arrived in orbit around the red planet last week. It will spend the next two years circling Mars, making the most detailed maps ever made of that planet and beaming them back to Earth. Among other goals of the mission: Identifying spots for future landings.


MRO home page