Fribo

The idea behind Fribo seems to me to be much more palatable than the prospect of every household getting an internet-connected microphone that broadcasts details of everything within earshot to a central server:

When a Fribo in your home hears a noise that it recognizes, it sends a message to another Fribo in your friend’s home, or even to an entire network of Fribos belonging to people you know:

As an example, let us assume one friend opened a refrigerator. When [Fribo] receives this event from the server, the robot starts to communicate this to the user by saying, “Oh, someone just opened the refrigerator door. I wonder which food your friend is going to have.”

Fribo, in other words, is not exactly a social robot: It’s more like a social networking robot. But unlike most social networks, Fribo was carefully thought out to respect your privacy as much as possible. Note that the message sent to your friends is anonymous—it tells them that someone is doing a thing, but not who. If they’re interested, they can let Fribo know by knocking on something nearby, and your Fribo will tell you exactly who responds. If you like, you can then ping them back directly.

I could do without the frequent prompts to remind your friend to bundle up in bad weather, but the general concept seems interesting.1 Initial testing took place in South Korea, so it’d be interesting to see how that sort of implementation detail changed if they tested this in a different culture.

[Via Sentiers 28]

TV catch-up: back soon

Apologies if posting falls away over the next few days. I find myself playing catch-up with a couple of TV programmes that are both due to return to our screens later this year and consequently my time for web browsing is a bit limited between, say, now and the weekend.

The first show, courtesy of the BBC putting it up on the iPlayer, is The Bridge. I’ve watched this show completely out of order, having only caught on when the BBC showed season 3 then later back-filling with season 1. (That moment at the climax of season 1 when Saga found herself desperately wanting to lie to her partner about the fate of his son but realising that she just didn’t have a clue how to sell a convincing lie was horrifying!) Right now I’m well into season 2 and the standard is still as high as ever. I know nothing about season 4, but I’m totally up for it when it eventually shows up on BBC2.

The second show that I’d promised myself that I’d catch up with is HBO’s reboot of Westworld. Given how much I’ve enjoyed all I’ve seen of Jonathan Nolan’s previous show, Person of Interest, I shouldn’t be surprised at how much I’m enjoying his newest piece of classy genre TV. I know precisely nothing about the impending second season of Westworld but having seen season 1 up to and including Trompe L’oeil (the episode where Bernard gets fired, among other things) I trust that we’re in safe hands.

So, all in all I have a few hours of top-notch TV to catch up on before I get to turn my attention back to the web.

Steven Bochco, R.I.P.

Steven Bochco, whose active years came just a bit too early for him to pick up the accolades he deserved for setting the stage for modern TV drama, has passed away. It’s easy to forget now just how different Hill Street Blues was when it first showed up on our screens:

By conveying the sheer jostle and bustle of a modern police department, with multiple officers wrestling with typewriters, shouting down phones or at each other, trying to conduct police business under-resourced and time-skint in the face of a tide of criminality, Bochco challenged the viewer to accept a new form of dramatic overload as well as a more realistic depiction of crime fighting and the human beings who wore the badge. Hill Street Blues “starred” Daniel J Travanti as Frank Furillo, a recovering alcoholic ably maintaining a stable keel in a difficult Chicago precinct. But Hill Street Blues was studded with strong and vivid characters, all of them major regardless of rank, from growling undercover detective Mick Belker to idealistic lieutenant Henry Goldblume. From its strongly multicultural cast, to the hip and witty swagger of its dialogue, there was a funkiness, a rhythm about Hill Street Blues that spoke about modern urban America like no other show at the time.

Very possibly the best ensemble cast ever.

Like all long-running shows, Hill Street Blues stayed on the air for too long, but those first few seasons changed TV drama forever by showing everyone else how it could be done. Then Bochco did it again with LA Law, then yet again with NYPD Blue and once more with Murder One. We will not speak of Doogie Howser, M.D. or Cop Rock. 1

I’ve no doubt that there are modern TV dramas that are better than an of Bochco’s work. (Just to name one that isn’t as famous as it should be Homicide: Life On The Street. Many articles about Bochco’s passing mention The Wire, but I can’t get past the show that gave the world Andre Braugher’s performance as Frank Pembleton.) The thing is, there might not have been any appetite for those shows without Bochco’s work paving the way.