Shoes that Think? AT&T Informatics Lecture at UB to Look at the Future Technology Has In Store for Us

Release Date: April 5, 2002 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Michael Hawley believes that your shoes soon will be doing some serious thinking on your behalf. And they'll be joined in their cognitive powers by your furniture, clothing, appliances, doors and automobile, says Hawley, Dreyfoos Professor of Media Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of a project called "Things That Think."

Hawley will deliver the inaugural lecture in the University at Buffalo's AT&T Informatics Lecture Series at 7:30 p.m. April 17 in the Drama Theatre in the Center for the Arts on the University at Buffalo North (Amherst) Campus. The lecture, which will be free and open to the public, will be entitled "Creating Things That Think."

So, what will your shoes think about? A whole lot, Hawley says. Virtually all of your vital signs -- including heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure -- can be tracked through the soles of your feet. In the not-very-distant future, it will be feasible, Hawley says, to send that information directly to your doctor's office or to a home computer that can assess it on your behalf. Your shoes will know your health -- and what to do about it -- before you do. And long before your traditional doctor ever would.

The revolutionary aspect of "thinking shoes" and of many of the other applications being pioneered at "Things That Think" is that computer power will be harnessed to serve people's needs in ways that we quickly will take for granted, Hawley says, because they will be integrated into our lives to meet real needs in unobtrusive ways. However, he adds, they will turn existing systems and societal structures inside out as they offer the long-promised power of information to individuals.

The lecture series is being funded as part of a $250,000 grant to the UB School of Informatics from AT&T to support curriculum development for a 36-credit-hour interdisciplinary master's degree in information and communication that will prepare students to enter the information workforce by mixing theory with practical experience.

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