Silverlotus had been meaning to pick up a CueCat for cheap on eBay. Turns out that people have hacked them and provided all sorts of new interesting uses for them. For example, she could have used a CueCat to scan in her book collection to a database (but she ended up doing it by hand).
As somewhat an extension of the same concept, there’s an interesting project in the works at Microsoft Research: Aura, or Advanced User Resource Annotation. The primary goal of this technology is to allow users of mobile devices to assign snippets of data to physical objects, and provide this info on the Internet. In other words, creating the ultimate hyperlink (or Smart Tag if you prefer), and bridging the virtual and physical worlds.
You can walk into a bookstore, scan the ISBN of a book, and pull up price comparisons, reviews, or blog postings on that book. Or a museum can embed Bluetooth transmitters around the property, and you can use your wireless PDA can lock on to these broadcasts, retrieve audio commentary off the Internet, and use it as a virtual tour guide.
Right now, there are concentrating on just using barcodes as frames of reference. The neat thing is, they have left the method of cataloging flexible. In the future, one could append data on items with RFID tags, vehicle identification numbers, magnetic strips, or GPS coordinates.
MS isn’t the only one working on “bridging” technologies, however. Sem@code works in the same principle, but uses special pictograms you can take shots of from a camera-equipped cellphone. The nTag lets you gather information from fellow nTag wearers via infra-red.
Intriguely, Project AURA’s final goal is to be able to “study emergent individual and group behaviors associated with the ability to digital tag objects and places.” Just as long as they don’t study these behaviours to secretly spam people with advertising.