Tech Roundup

We’re back with a new “Tech Roundup!”

Technology Committee members here at Towson University’s Cook Library are always on the hunt for new technology applications to bring into the library or technology-related issues our library should be addressing.  As we scour the internet for important, interesting, or just plain cool examples of technology applications, issues, or news, we post links and  summaries with our take here to the blog.

Indoor Positioning Technology. “We’re Here!”

Well, almost. Companies like Shopcloud are working on methods to utilize your mobile device and existing components to assist in navigation inside buildings, where GPS fears to tread. According to this TechCrunch article, their application “INSIDE” uses your smartphone’s camera and gyro sensors to identify your location and then uses the devices sensors to track your movements. This method allows them to learn the uniqueness of each individual’s movement, creating a system that improves its precision as it gets to know you. Like most startups, Shopcloud seems to be focused on retail and other money-making entities, but technologies like this will be valuable for library users. How many years until the “Where’s the restroom?” question becomes obsolete? – David

Need a personal OPAC?

Is your library at home getting out of hand? Have you loaned books, movies, or games to friends and forgotten to get them back.  Ever been and Barnes & Noble or on Amazon and wondered… do I already have this?  Perhaps it’s time to make a catalog of your personal media library.  A few good software packages exist to help you manage your stuff:

For Windows: MediaMan: Free to try or $34. This application lets you use the webcam in PC to scan the barcodes on your items against the Amazon database and automatically adds the details for you. It has a lending feature along with out great features.

For Mac: Delicious Library 3:  Free to try or $25.   This application lets you use the webcam in your Mac to scan the barcodes on your items against the Amazon database and automatically adds the details for you. Delicious Library also keeps track of the cost of the items in your collection (Good to know for your insurance company) and has a lending feature.

For Linux: For those looking for an OpenSource product that will run on Linux you can try GCstar.

– Eric

Balancer – A Political Bias Calculator for Google Chrome

Teaching students about evaluating sources is an integral part of information literacy. Most students understand that what they are seeing from a Google search is often skewed. However, without enough background knowledge anyone has a hard time assessing bias and assessing the balance of a perspective. Balancer is a plug-in for Google Chrome which will indicate the political bias on a website. The plug-in is part of a larger research project from the University of Michigan’s School of Information and has produced some articles worth a read through. – Laksamee


I recently listened to a 90 minute “The Web Ahead” podcast about a cool new project called WebRTC. If you’re really interested in the technical aspects of the project and its use cases, I’d encourage you to check out the podcast. In short, WebRTC facilitates peer-to-peer conversation (video & audio) via a (supported) web browser. (Think Webex, GoTo Meeting, etc. without the annoying installations.) To see its capabilities in practice, check out Talky. For libraries, this could be an easy way to turn a 90 minute IM conversation into a 60 second screen sharing session. – David

Wired Campus: “Futurist Attends Educause Conference via ‘Doppelbot’”

Conferences continue to be an important venue for librarians to share their work and exchange new ideas with colleagues from across the U.S. and around the world. With limited amounts of time and funding to attend the many great conferences, librarians also turn to alternative means to participate in their favorite evens (e.g., virtual participation, following along with Twitter hashtags, etc.). What if you could send a robot surrogate to the conference for you, à la the hit TV show Big Bang Theory? That’s what educational technology consultant and “futurist” Bryan Alexander did with this year’s Educause Learning Initiative conference, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus. Alexander attended the conference via a “telepresence robot,” which he could maneuver around the conference venue and interact with fellow conference goers via the robot-mounted iPad. – Kim

What do you think about some of the issues or technologies presented?  Have you found anything interesting online this week? Share in the comments!

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