Just a couple of weeks ago we wrote about the idea of jacking into other people's iPods to see what they were listening to. I'm still skeptical that this really happens on a regular basis, but some researchers at MIT's Media Lab Europe are experimenting with a system that would make such things much easier and much more user friendly. Basically, they're creating tools to let your music player see who else was around, and listen in on their playlists. The idea is to find others on the same WiFi access point, and then your music player gives you the option of listening to your own music or listening to anyone else's. Of course, this means that you need to hope that person stays within range of the same access point or that station will fade out... The work is just at the research stage and they have no idea if they'll ever commercialize it. They're building their own music player to test it out, but say they're also making software that should run on a variety of wireless PDAs and mobile phones as well (though, they seem a bit unsure how they'll handle finding "local" users over a cellular connection). Still, the idea is that it's a way to expand the options of what you can listen to on your digital music player by seeing the "personal radio stations" of anyone around you (including any descriptive message they leave for you). The program also has some instant messaging capabilities so you can communicate with the person and tell them how much you like/hate their playlist or maybe even make requests. Of course, if this ever became popular the RIAA would probably get upset. It doesn't allow for downloads, only streaming, but the RIAA would still probably classify it as a "broadcast," meaning that anyone using the technology would probably be told they need to pay the basic webcasting fees that the RIAA set up recently.
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