yesterday's technology tomorrow

Monday, January 26, 2004

Social Software using Amazon
Matt Jones has a good thought about using Amazon's profiles for Social Networking.

Worth a look....I'm hoping to meet Matt when I get to Helsinki or San D.

0 comments | 9:31 PM

Icy Pole
In preparation for my trip to Helsinki and then the USA next week, I've been working very hard for the last while on our new project, code named, Icy Pole. Basically, its a P2P client which runs on the most recent Java enabled mobile phones and uses Bluetooth for the network communication. The secret sauce is that we've added a recommendation engine on top of the app so that the whole communication, search, and alerting is all automated.

It works thus:

The Icy Pole enabled phone automatically looks for and forms a network with other Icy Pole enabled phones. They exchange details of the music, photos, movies etc.. available on the phones and then match it using the Icy Pole recommendation engine so that the phone user only gets an alert when there is content they would be interested in nearby.

I think its pretty cool; the whole ad-hoc network forming and deforming as you and others move about with the system automatically monitoring your environment (in this case the content in the network) and recommending you content you might like.

On top of the P2P type app, we're doing work to use the underlying tech to utilise the social networking stuff that's going on at the moment and to have people matching done using Icy Pole.

0 comments | 8:57 PM

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Now this is what we should be working on
Given the choice between a mobile peer to peer music service and social recommendation system and this....I think people may well pick the orgasm over the phone :-(

warning - not work safe!!! Sorry Jen

0 comments | 7:08 PM

A new beginning
After a month or so of holiday drinking, eating and low exercise levels....I'm back with focused goals for the new year and a plan to get there.

For the last few (6-7) years I've focused on a particular sport, triathlons, swimming, running etc. So this year I'm up for a change. My motivation to just run was dropping right off after the last 1/2 marathon I did in 2003 so I've decided to do some new sports.

Inspired by this guy's change in 1 year I've decided to join the gym and start doing weights along with continuing my running and riding and carefully watching my weight.

Some of my medium term goals for are

- Join a gym
- Develop a weekly plan for lifting and aerobic workouts
- To have a < 9% bodyfat by end of June
- To have a visible 6 pack by end of June
- To drink no more than once a week except for special occasions (birthdays etc)
- Be to be able to bench press my body weight by April

Today I joined the gym and I'm planning my weeks now so I'm on my way.

If I get enough courage I'll post some weekly photos showing my progress along with charts.

0 comments | 4:39 PM

Sunday, January 18, 2004

My view on where phones and entertainment are going
or Why I would want to put music on a phone

Last week I put up a post about the work I am currently doing to build some interesting music stuff into the latest Nokia phones.

I got a good comment about it questioning whether people would use it. So...I'm trying below to provide my view on what I think people will use relating to the technology I'm building etc.


A few years ago, say around 1996, I got very excited by things called intelligent agents, at this time, the view was that in 5 years time we would all have these super pda things that talked to each other, understood human voices and basically organised our lives like a perfect virtual butler. During the next couple of years I was fortunate to get involved working on intelligent agents and specifically focused on what were/are called recommendation systems. These systems would try and predict what someone would like given their "profile"; subsequently these systems became integral parts of sites like

The ultimate aim of these systems should be to proactively and accurately recommend items to people which they will buy, consume, listen to etc.

In 1999 I founded a company, AgentArts, which was going to focus specifically on building music recommendation systems. The last 5 years have been spent tuning this technology and trying to sell it in Australia, USA and Japan. To varying degrees we have been sucessful...I guess any tech start up that is still around after 5 years and is cash flow positive is a sucess ;-)

Tech Vision

In 1998 I got one of the first MP3 players around, the Diamond Rio. It was a flash memory based player which could hold about 64mb of songs (about 10-15 songs). Last year I bought the lowest level iPod which now costs about the same as the Diamond Rio did but which holds 10gb of songs (about 5000 songs).

In 1999 I bought a mobile phone which had no features beyond basic phone features with around 20 numbers to be stored and 1 line of display. This month I got a Nokia 6600 contains a basic phone, 32mb memory, a camera, bluetooth connections, a Java virtual machine, full colour big screen etc. Until I got the Nokia 6600 I would never had thought there was a need to have a camera on a phone but its already been very useful and fun and a great value add.

With these two data points, it very obvious to me where the technology is heading...smaller, faster etc...all the things we have seen in the PC space over the last few years.

That said, I DON'T believe that the same growth in power etc we have seen in PCs will apply in the mobile device market for two reasons 1) Power requirements. PCs have full power while mobiles have batteries...a technology which has not progressed like memory, storage, CPUs etc and 2) Heat. Todays fast pcs generate a massive amount of heat which a mobile phone could not handle as they are designed at the moment.

Asthetically and production wise, I don't believe that all these small devices will merge into one device, however, I do see a merging of small hard drives into mobile devices or phone tech into an iPod style device. The power requirements are being met, the interfaces are ok for this merger and the physical constraints are not an issue either.

So to the crux of my tech vision...I see the general public having mobile devices which they can use as telephones, PDAs, music players, and low quality digital cameras with a small hard disk on board within 2-3 years.

People will choose to use these devices as stand alone music players and mobile phones but more and more people will start to use them as communication devices which automatically form Personal Area Networks (PANs) and allow people to communicate, interact and link together.

These PANs will use technologies such as wifi and bluetooth to automatically form and emerge. PANs will be dynamic ad hoc groupings with nearly unlimited FREE bandwidth among members of the PAN and more expensive slower bandwidth to the wider world via 3G or lilly pad style links to broadband access points. You will form, deform and reform PANs as you and others move through physical space. Most importantly, these PANs and the required technology will be in all mobile devices, cost nothing to start, and will be proactive, requiringminimal intervention from the user to be part of. You simply opt in to form the networks or turn it off...jusat like turning your phone from ring to silent.

This is very unlike todays crop of calendars, syncing, browsing etc. which are hard for the general person to understand and use.

Recommendation technology can support and add to these networks in two ways.

1) As more and more content becomes available, be it photos, music, videos, information etc. recommendation technology can be used to monitor your participation in PANs and to recommend available content to you which you may like. ie. I hope on a tram/train/bus and automatically my mobile device finds other mobile devices, forms a network and exchanges details of what music each has available. Using recommendation technology, you phone would know what music you may like which is available from the limited selection available and download it automatically at ZERO cost to either party.

2) As more people have access to these mobile devices, network effects emerge which will mean that linking people to other people, not just content, can begin to be very valuable. Recommendation technology can help link people to other people based on their profiles; be those profiles based on similar interests or a need able to be fulfilled by someone or identifying a FOAF at a party or networking event. This is very heavily the social networking aspect of recommendation technologies vs 1) which is more item to item oriented and doesn't focus on the people as much as the content.

I think 2) has more value than 1) in the longer term.

So thats my view on where things are going.A platform for mobile devices which uses a recommendation system at its core to link people to other people who have things they might be interested in; be that dates, music, information, deals, skills etc. All these extra features and great functionality which really helps people, is pervasive and costs ZERO to all parties.

0 comments | 4:35 PM

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Phew....I'm blogged out!!!

I was selected to be a panelist to help pick the finalists for the 2004 Bloggies.

I had to review 10 categories each containing over 20 blogs so I've churned my way through some 200+ blogs this morning. I must admit after a while I start to get quite critical...much like when I have reviewed resumes...a bad first impression and they are out.

The upside is that I've discovered some great new blogs including greenfairy and Pussyranch.

Unfortunately I didn't get to select for Best Australian blog but I guess that makes sense given as how I'm sponsoring that category.

Let the voting begin.

0 comments | 2:54 PM

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I've got the power
I've been selected as a panelist to choose the finalists for the Weblog Awards aka the Bloggies.

Bad news is I've got about 500 blogs to check out ug....

Good news is....I'll accept bribes of chocolates and booze....Claire Robertson if you want to win again you'd better start being nice to me ;-)

Must vote now.....

0 comments | 10:14 PM

Saturday, January 10, 2004

eTech via Helsinki
Wooohoooo....this week has seen some uber programming by yours truly along with a new gadget a conference booked and a trip Helsinki arranged....all in 3 days!!!!

In early Feb I'm off to Helsinki for a few day meeting/conference at Nokia followed by a weekend in Helsinki enjoying the ummmm darkness (apparently is light for 2 hours a day at the moment) then I'm off to San Diego to the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference for the week.

If anyone has any suggestions about what to do in Helsinki or anyone is going to eTech let me know...I've love to meet some people on my travels.

Using a few (ok lots of) grams of courage, I put up my hand to give an participant session at eTech talking about this tres cool P2P app (code name Icy Pole) I am building which will form local networks over bluetooth and find music and people you might like within close proximity to you ie. while you are on a tram/bus/train.

Lots of J2ME coding this week to do it; for those non techies....this means I've been coding things to run on a cell phone.

Note to Google - I've been using Mac OS X to code J2ME Midlets using the Nokia SDK and sending the applications to a Nokia N Gage and Nokia 6600. Send me a mail if you have any questions about how to do this!.

And....we got new Nokia 6600 phones at work to go with the Nokia N-Gage we already have. The 6600 has a built in camera along with the only Java Bluetooth implementation on a Nokia phone.

So today I've been snapping just about anything thats happening onto the phone.....much fun.

0 comments | 10:16 PM

iPod the 2000's Walkman
I noticed today that the redo of the apple 1984 ad has the lady with the hammer running in wearing an iPod rather than a Walkman.......very nicely done Apple.

0 comments | 11:06 AM

Thursday, January 01, 2004

The year that was
Well another great year has come to an end and a new one just begun. I attempt to live each year in such a way that I strive to have a better year than the last with better being measured in different ways each year.

2003 was a very family oriented year with the birth of Jasmine, working at home full time and sharing the care of the children with Suzette. Having two young children really has been the highlight of my year and life. For those not accustomed to having a young family, lack of sleep has been a common theme all year.

At least to be able to look back on this year and remember what was happening I've created my xyz of 2003 and a punt at what 2004 may hold.

Ben's xyz of 2003

Moment of the Year
- Jasmine's birth

Emotions of the year
- Seeing Jasmine for the first time
- Reading Miss JenJen's post about her habit
- Feeling expectant about terrorist attacks all year
- Bonding with Jasmine over the first 6 months of her life

Family moments
- Having Oskar and Jasmine smile and dive over me together in the mornings
- Working as a team with Suzette to look after and "manage" the kids
- Family hugs
- Laughing with Oskar and Suzette
- Giggling Jasmine

Work moments of the year
- Having a very positive last 5 months of 2003
- Stephen leaving AgentArts
- Getting funding from Nokia
- Being cash flow positive by the end of the year
- Securing a major Australian deal on Dec 30th
- Moving back into an office here

Webish Memories
- Launching BlogChangeBot and getting A-List coverage along with over 1000 subscribers
- Helping Suze launch Cosmicbuzz
- Discovering a whole eco-system of Melbourne Blogs
- Making new friends in the real world with online friends

Food Memories
- Sushi at Kenzan
- Cleaning whole squid
- Cooking a magnificent meal for Suze's birthday party

Song of 2003
- Clocks by Coldplay

Movie of 2003
- The Matrix Revolutions at the iMax in San Fran

Sporting Moments of 2003
- The second or third day in Le Tour with all three leaders Jerseys on the backs of Aussies
- England's Rugby World Cup win in the dying moments
- Brisbane going back to back to back

Technologies of 2003
- my iPod
- OS X in all its forms

Achievements of 2003
- 2 half marathons
- Surviving on so little sleep
- Being a major part of my children's day to day lives

Disappointments of 2003
- Sydney 1/2 Marathon. Cold, wet, poorly organised, hard and miserable
- Getting demotivated about exercise towards the end of year. A combination of tiredness and lack of goals

A few things for 2004 ..... more in planning at the moment

- Continue with AgentArts
- Spend time with the kids every day
- Pick up Oskar from Kinder
- Join a gym
- Save some money for investment
- Launch a new business with Suzette and others
- Get more sleep
- Have more sex, preferably with Suzette ;-)
- Get back into Swimming and riding

0 comments | 11:50 AM
Playground Finder Flink Labs - Data Visualisation

neuronwave is the personal site of Ben Hosken. I am the founder of Flink Labs, a data visualisation studio based in Melbourne. Previously I founded AgentArts, where I developed a recommendations system that we ultimately sold to MSFT.I have two patents, one in Recommendation Systems and one for a datamining algorithm I invented. I have a strong interest in physical computing, emergence, self organising systems, immersive games, bluetooth ad hoc networks and other fun things.
A while ago I built and ran Blog Change Bot - an AOL IM Bot which notified you when blogs you like are updated. I also built IcyPole, a bluetooth based P2P mobile phone app in 2004. With Suzette, I've built Playground Finder - a community contributed site for parents to find playgrounds nearby and while traveling for their kids to play in. Its a "playground" for my social, location, community and mobile interests.
I live in Melbourne with my wife Suzette, son Oskar Tex and my little girl Jasmine

Random Pile of Ben
Bodypump, Flink Labs, autumn weather, balance.

Downloads etc
The Best Bagel Recipe ever
iTunes XML structure
Photo of some of my best Panetones

Neuron EcoSystem
Flink Labs
oskartex.comOskar Tex
JasmineJasmine Aurora
Playground Finder

April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004

ben at neuronwave dot com