On a lighter note, Engadget has the scoop on the latest MIT innovation.
Current mobile communication devices do not grab our attention in a socially appropriate way. They could be disrespectful of ongoing social activity such as an important meeting or private dinner. To improve on this, I have built the Cellular Squirrel, a system where the agent that controls my cellphone is embodied in a small portable animatronic device, as a personal ‘companion’ for the user. This embodiment is able to use the same subtle but still public non-verbal cues to get our attention and interrupt us like humans would do (like eye gaze and small gestures), instead of ringing or vibration. The user can whisper and listen to her squirrel, receiving and replying to voice instant messages. If the user wishes, she can also bypass the Intermediary altogether and get into a synchronous voice communication with the caller by simply talking to the embodiment.
A propos of my sister Julie’s visit, allow me to indulge in an inside joke: If you put the squirrel in the folder it will serve as a hard-drive extension. Ask her–it’s a good story.