Roadcasting Rules

Roadcasting, he cool software that lets you create ad-hoc networks while in a car has caught the attention of blogsphere yesterday. Think of it as pirate radio-meets-smart mobs at 60 miles per hour. The software can easily be used to create hyper local networks, and with enough support from open source community, and peripheral makers could turn every man, woman and child into a walking broadcast network.

How about a tiny piece of software that installs on your wifi enabled Siemens SX 66 Windows Moble phone and starts broadcasting on the go? Or what if a peripheral makers like iBoom come up with a wi-fi gizmo that can broadcast tunes right from an iPod. Broadcom and TI, both have certainly made embedded WiFi chipsets with lowpower requirments common place. All you need is some imagination … and programing skills. A million Howard Sterns?

(Can you hear the collective groans from Washington, Hollywood and New York?) Long tail amplified! I caught up with Jordan Kanarek and Whitney Hess and did an iChat interview with the two-fifth of the five person team behind Roadcasting project. Here are excerpts from that little late night chat….

Folks introduce yourself?
JK: I’m Jordan Kanarek.
WH: I’m Whitney Hess.

What is Roadcasting and who came up with the idea?
WH: Roadcasting lets you broadcast music to the cars around you on the road, and gives you a way to quickly and easily find the music broadcast by other drivers that you most likely want to hear
JK: It’s a new way of thinking about distributing music based heavily around personalization and ad-hoc networking. The idea came out of a master’s thesis team at CMU.

Is it distributing or listening, or more a social listening experience?
JK: A social listening experience is a good way to put it we operated under the assumption that digital music on iPods, etc takes away some of the communal aspects of traditional radio while adding a lot to the mix…

That is true. iPod is personalization sans sharing. This is evolving that concept to the next level … What prompted that thesis?
JK: We saw radio as the one form of media that has largely avoided interactivity over the years the Human Computer Interaction Institute — we talked to many people before beginning to design

So where is the project right now? Is it ready for prime time?
JK: We have a demo that works on local IP multicast network we need it to be open.
WH: It was intended to be developed as an in-dash device in a car in conjunction with traditional broadcast radio but could work just as well on PDAs, WiFi, iPods, etc.

In other words, I could create a playlist on my iPod and plug it into some sort of say wi-fi device and I will have instant broadcast network?
JK: That’s one idea we looked at..
WH: But we designed the interface and system to account for multiple levels of user interaction … we wanted it to be a plug-and-play system, literally … as you begin listening to music, the system gets a sense of what your musical interests are, and over time it can more and more accurately recommend stations/songs that it knows you’re bound to enjoy.
JK: Transmission could be done over a variety of protocols the longer the range, the better.

So you could use podcasts to create your own NPR as you drive down highway 101?
WH: Yep and instead of National radio, it would be the ultimate form of local radio.

Imagine when cars start following you because you have a great playlist and selection of podcasts… that is going to create havoc on traffic!
JK: Hahaha
WH: Users won’t know what car it’s coming from we did build in quite a bit of anonymity, we found that was important to potential users, no one wanted the possibility of being followed.
JK: unless the DJ gets on air and announces his license plate.

Oh…. just when I was thinking I could finally have some people chasing me at high speeds.
JK: hahaha!
WH: It’s probably not as fun as it sounds

Can this be used for creating community networks?

WH: Our biggest goal was to great community … so yes. We talked a lot about underserved niches in an environment that is often filled with boredom and stress.

Sort of like my music being broadcast to folks in my condo complex?
WH: hopefully not your condo

What range have you tested it?
WH: We tested it on an 802.11b wireless network.
JK: Which was totally stock.

About 500 feet or so?

JK: We had some serious walls, but probably
WH: It was intended to utilize a wireless technology being developed by the client that we were working with one can imagine those ranges increasing with time. On our website (roadcasting.org) we mention that it was intended to broadcast up to 30 miles.

What are the legal ramifications? Did you folks study this?
JK: Well legality is to be determined by others similarly to iTunes sharing in which you can listen to other people’s music without — legally — stealing it.
WH: We think it has substantial non-infringing use, but that’s pretty much the thought we’ve given to legality to this point we placed several calls to BMI to no avail. According to the BMI website, any device that allows the transmission of privately owned music needs to pay a licensing fee like a health club or music store, for instance.
JK: It does raise many interesting questions, however.

How long did it take you guys to develop the software?
JK: Jim Garretson, our technical lead, worked full time for about 4 months. It still needs some work, but that’s hopefully where the open source community will jump in.
WH: Jordan, would you say the java app took about 4 of the 7 months? In parallel with design development and testing we will definitely pass that on, he’ll surely appreciate it.

Thanks guys… good luck!

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