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Waber says that the smart badges used in his experiment, which are about the size of a deck of cards but weigh less, can do more than just show face-to-face interactions and display a real-time social graph, and he has plans to look at the rest of the data to see what patterns emerge. For example, since the wireless radio can sense proximity and voice data, it’s possible to infer when a person is engaged in a group discussion and who the expert is.

Also, accelerometer data could indicate activity at the conference. Waber says that if a conference organizer is running around, it could indicate that he needs help getting things done. This could indicate that the organizer should plan for more help at certain times during an event.

Some experts suspect that, within the next few years, smart badges won’t be confined to conferences and events. “We think that eventually everyone will have a smart badge with them all the time: their cell phone,” says Alex Kass, a researcher who leads reality-mining projects at Accenture, a technology firm. “Cell phones will transmit some kind of identity or interesting information to the people around you; you’ll decide certain aspects of your identity that you want to broadcast in public,” he says.

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Credit: Daniel Olguin, Ben Waber

Tagged: Communications, MIT, social networks, sensor

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