The Weasley Clock, a Thing of the Not Too Distant Future?

114

Nov 13, 2007

Posted by EdwardTLC
Uncategorized

The idea of a clock which tells not the time but the location of your family members, as the Weasley family clock does, is something that may not be exclusive to the magical world forever. Discovery News has a most interesting article online which talks of a prototype device from Microsoft researchers which would be able to keep track of the general location of your family members using their wireless cell phone network, and translate that information back to a clock at home. The device works by using a preset location of a persons work, school, or home, and when the person goes back to that area, ‘the software sends a signal through the network back to the Whereabouts Clock at home. The clock interprets the signal and uses it to move an image of the person’s head into the appropriate area. The image moves into “elsewhere” when the person’s mobile phone is in an undesignated area.’ Families would also be able to text a message to the Clock, leaving a note of their activities if they should change.

Abigail Sellen, a Microsoft researcher, is quoted in the article and says of the intent of the prototype device:

“You can buy a service on your phone to keep track of your kids. There is even talk about putting electronic chips into kids, which is not what we want to do at all… We wanted to build a device that was not too intrusive into people’s lives, but at the same time recognized the importance of reassurance in a family.”

The Whereabouts Clock has been tested by a number of families who, the article says, did not have issue with privacy. The article notes, however, that Microsoft has no immediate plans for such a product to come to the market.





63 Responses to The Weasley Clock, a Thing of the Not Too Distant Future?

Avatar Image says:

OMM I WANT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOW!!!! lol that is so cool, I mean when they talk about like invisiblity cloaks your kinda of like awesome but…whoa that could be a bad thing, but this is tottaly cool!

Avatar Image says:

no, no, no. scary. this is too crazy, too big-brother-is-watching kind of technology. we’re moving into a world with zero privacy! i’m only 27, but i seriously miss the days before cell phones… it’s nice to be unreachable now and then… sigh.

Avatar Image says:

ME, ME, ME!

I WANT ONE NOW!

That would be pretty cool, although maybe a bit scary. Can’t decide which yet. hehe

Avatar Image says:

I agree Oh no!! And I wish peeps would stop trying to “spoil the magic” by making these things real…

Avatar Image says:

Well I mean it’s less creepy than putting some chip in a kid. I mean think about the Weasley’s have one and do they still have privacy? I would say they do!

Avatar Image says:

CREEEEEEEEEEPY.

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That would be like the COOLEST thing EVER!!!!!! I really hope it gets to be more than a prototype!

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The thing is, its not about “Big Brother” because its completely voluntary. Its not the government doing this, its your family. I think its cute and fun. Its not a privacy issue, unless youre trying to hide from your family. But I’m not, and I dont know many people who are.

Avatar Image says:

OMG a mother/wife’s dream come true!! This is not “Big Brother” this is Big Momma. Actually, however, while knowing your kids are indeed “at school” or “at home”, it’s not very helpful if they are not where they’re supposed to be. Personally, I won’t be satisfied until they add “keeping undesirable company” and, more importantly, “MORTAL PERIL” to the clock.

Avatar Image says:

that…is…the…coolest..thing..ever. I don’t have kids yet,(or a family I live with) but I would totally use that if I had them.

Avatar Image says:

even the name is cool and magical. i want one! the privacy worries sound like kids trying to lie to their parents. :P

Avatar Image says:

I don’t think it’s that creepy. It sort of sucks for the kids (or possibly parents) who are “elsewhere” or with, as mentioned before, “undesirable company,” but come on, the Weasley’s have it, so how creepy could it be? Hahah.

Avatar Image says:

sorry i grew up in the time you told mummy were you went too and when she of Daddy found out that was not where were you was in big, big trouble.

no mobile phones to call Mummy from anywhere too, just a mix of honest trust and distrust in honesty and dependence.

So this is another stupid device for scaring the parents.

Just put a chip in those brats and give then tiny shocks when they are out of range!

Avatar Image says:

If you dont want to be reachable either leave the cellphone home or turn it off for heaven’s sake.

As for the clock sounds good to me, though I dare anyone to keep track of me since 85% of the time my phone is out of range of the network LMGDAO

Avatar Image says:

WOAH ! über cool. geeze, the things these muggles come up with.

Avatar Image says:

Mom Weasley ROFLMAO! I agree 100%! I want one ASAP and would be willing to be a tester for the the prototype. Although as Kimera says, maybe they’d do well to improve the networks first, given how many times we are all “out of area/no service”... This is too funny. Jo sparks a return to reading, the imaginations of millions and new technology. Wow. That is one powerful lady.

Avatar Image says:

Maybe i didn’t read the article right..

but how can that thing tell if ur at school or at work??

does it have sat nav in it or something? Cause then i’d want MR.T ’s voice (i want a voice on that machine) ‘your kid is home, sucker!’ ‘your kid is sneaking out the back, fool’

okay.. for real? i would only want one if it had the weasleys on it.. would be funny if it says that someone is home then.. Ron=Home.. WTF? is ron in my house?! O_O wouldn’t that be great…

Avatar Image says:

Scary folks. In the US we have a privacy law. How soon until the government or a company wnats to know where you are? Once you give up a Right to the government you will not get it back. Ask Britons about their “great” government health care.

Avatar Image says:

I love this idea ! :)

I find it very cool that people are actually using harry potter to help the world ! :)

But it seems very cool , when is it coming ?

Avatar Image says:

Wow, that’s kind of terrifying. I understand that right now it is voluntary, just for your family, but… how long until it is used by the government? Magic is magic and fun to read about, but this is real life. Trust and respect, even for your children, should still be a part of it.

Avatar Image says:

OMG!!! I sooo want one!! Any idea when they’ll be released???

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Be afraid. Be very afraid of this. Think of Delores Umbridge with one of these.

Avatar Image says:

Wow, amazing, love it. xD

Avatar Image says:

YES! They announced it ages ago and I was awaiting new news! I was worried!

THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

Avatar Image says:

I love technology, and this is certainly interesting, but those of you convinced the government will use them must have watched that movie too many times (it was an A. Hitchcock movie, right?). This isn’t a chip that will keep constant track of you. This is, basically, an extra package for a family cell phone plan. You know where you relatives are…not to the point of, say, Building X, Street X, Town X, County X, State X, Country X, Continent X. This is merely a preset (if I remembered how, that would be bold and underlined) location. The school would be programmed in, so someone would know if you were there. And about Americans giving up rights and never giving them back, look up Amendments 18 and 21. If that’s not losing rights and getting them back, than I don’t know what is. In the end, I think this would be a bit of a waste as, unless you don’t trust the others to be reasonable enough to not run away, thenit really isn’t going to help much. I still like it though.

Avatar Image says:

My brother has all ready built one. He’s even made it into a widget that I have on my desktop. But he actually has a physical Weasley-style Clock at home – he uses his blackberry to e-mail code to it and the hands move digitally and go to the part of the clock that tells his family where he is. It’s extraordinary!!

zr

Avatar Image says:

@ZoeRose: That’s so awesome!!! Wish I could do that! I want one! Lol.

Avatar Image says:

Oh joy! Yet another way that we have lost not only privacy, but dignity as well. We’re one step away from being walking GPS devices. Hooray for technology, amirite? :-/

Avatar Image says:

whoa, thats crazy. We live in a crazy world.

Avatar Image says:

Soon we’ll have a world where we’ll feel our cell phones ring off in the neurons of our brain….Oh my phone is ringing in my head! Music chips inside our brain instead of IPODs.

Avatar Image says:

i’m not expecting anything. i mean, a magical device attempted to be re-created by muggles? does Jo know about this? =)

Avatar Image says:

Sounds cool….how long til they get sued for copyright infringement?

Avatar Image says:

This is really kool. but if the kid wants to sneak around all they have to do is leave there cell at school/work wherever. and I knwo thatI trust the kids in my family (neices and nephews) but I know I worry liek crazy about then and I know that if I heard about something happining to knwo forsure by looking at somthing that they are ok and not there I would love it. and I wouldnt mind if my family had my cell phone on it, Its not really about trust, and really if you think the Gov isnt already able to watch your every move now your fooling yourself. this is just for familys, the Gov has alot better tech to use and dose use.

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Penny: “the privacy worries sound like kids trying to lie to their parents.”

Oh, God, I HATE when people assume that anyone who complains about something has something to hide. Maybe people just don’t like the idea of being monitored all the time, even if it is by their family.

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This isn’t the first time Leaky has covered this. Check out: http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2005/3/3/microsoft-and-the-weasley-clock That lead to a flurry of comments (though they have vanished now, why?) Let me answer some of the questions … Jess-C.C asked “does it have sat nav in it or something” No, sorry Jess. The location is derived from the IDs of the cell towers that are visible to the family member’s cellphone. The other question many of you have asked is about privacy concerns. Part of our study was to explore that issue and it was far less of an issue inside families than it would be at work etc. There’s a great write-up from Barry Brown, Abigail Sellen, and others in our group about exactly these issues: http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~barry/papers/wac-234-ubicomp-camready.pdf One cannot help thinking that if anyone would have had privacy concerns it would have been Fred, George, and Arthur.

Avatar Image says:

You know what I always hated the argument if you have nothing to hide. To an extent it’s true but using it to violate privacy is wrong.

I think people are a bit to paranoid about the whole big brother thing but something like this is easy to get around by just leaving the then that’s tracing you somewhere. I think stuff like this has trust issues. Yes children I trust you but I’m going to track your location anyway :V Plus depending on how acurat the tracking is it may be of little help or overly butting into your daily activitys.

Avatar Image says:

Oh, I missed another question. Muggle Mom asked “Sounds cool….how long til they get sued for copyright infringement?” I am definitely not a lawyer so I cannot answer this properly but there is interesting stuff around the question. First off it is clear that the Whereabouts Clock does not come from the Chamber of Secrets movie. I say that because way back in the day Abi did a project (while she was at Hewlett Packard) on new concepts for wristwatch design that includes a whereabouts watch (http://www.hpl.hp.com/techreports/2004/HPL-2004-126.html ). Now although the technical report is dated 2004 the work it reports on is even earlier – before the CoS release date (15/11/2002). But of course this is movie contamination. The real release date of interest is the Chamber of Secrets book. That came out in July 1998 and so definitely predates our work. Secondly it is fun to question whether Molly’s clocks are the first published clocks that tell the user where family members are. I haven’t yet found anything published earlier. The closest I’ve got is Lyn Irvine’s writing shed. Lyn Irvine was a writer in the Bloomsbury Group who did most of her work in a shed at the end of the garden. So that her family would know at a glance if she was working in the shed or off shopping etc they built her a clock on the outside of the shed whose hand’s position implied various activities. Sadly this isn’t published though – I only know of it through conversations with her son.

OpenBookTourWinner asked “Any idea when they’ll be released???” Sorry, this is definitely a research probe for us to find out more about the value of technology in family settings, so there are no product plans.

Avatar Image says:

Nothing like fantasy to inspire reality. It used to be science fiction though. How many things you’re using now do you think were inspired by books from old?

They say Jules Verne saw into the future but it’s more like his readers made that future possible.

Avatar Image says:

Hypothetical situation:

Husband: Hi honey! I’m home.

Wife: gasp!

Wife’s lover: gasp!

Husband: I forgot my cell phone at work and WHAT THE…!?

Avatar Image says:

hmm…i would like one but i dont think it’s really necessary since 99% of the time my family already knows where i am. still though- it would be cool.

Avatar Image says:

VERY COOL!! I see this as an extension of a cell phone is all. I know i will feel much better knowing where my child is (or is SUPPOSED to be) I agree with Mom Weasley can we put MORTAL PERIL on it?

Avatar Image says:

To the big-brotherish crowd, you shouldn’t be worried. This is for families, using a cell phone network for predefined areas and saves people from calling home and telling them ‘I have to stay at school or work for a while longer’. That’s about it.

There doesn’t seem to be any really ‘new’ technology on this, just the way old technology is applied to imitate an idea from a book and if your government wanted to track people down using your cell phone they’d be doing it already and you wouldn’t even know about it. Besides, it’s not like anyone is forced to buy this if it ever hits the market.

Avatar Image says:

I don’t think you’d be able to put MORTAL PERIL on it but the closest thing I can think of is cell phones will eventually get so small you’ll be wearing them as a wrist watch (that coincidentally tells time). Then you could add a little gizmo that could check your pulse and transmit that to the clock. Anything above average would move the clock’s hand to ‘DISTRESSED’.

Then again, DISTRESSED could mean your loved one is having a bad day at school/work or that he/she is getting mugged on some dark alley.

Avatar Image says:

Microsoft strikes again! Egad, is nothing sacred? And, pleeeze don’t tell me “they’ve been working on this for years…long before the Harry Potter books” BALDERDASH!

Avatar Image says:

Its not that creepy. It doesnt tell you exactly where you are unless your at work, home, or school. Otherwise it says “elsewhere” so its not that bad. But I think it would be a bit hard for the cheating spouse to explain why he/she was “elsewhere” and not at work. lol…

Avatar Image says:

That’s frightening and really freaking cool at the same time.

Avatar Image says:

I did find the original comment thread on The Wayback Machine. The comments are in reverse order though

http://web.archive.org/web/20050405143029/http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=5553

Avatar Image says:

To those that are worried about the “big brother” issue need to know that by triangulating your current cell signal, you can already be narrowed down to your current location. I sat narrowed, because it isn’t 100% accurate. Actually, there are already programs for cell phones that give you your approximate location on mobile google maps by using this same technology. (Navizon being one of them) I do like the “send a text to the clock” feature though.

Avatar Image says:

Kids could just leave their phones in their lockers then bunk. Lol but good idea!

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Tech Expert’s Note:

If you have a GPS tracking system that is accessible wirelessly, it would be insanely easy for others to tack you (e.g. the US government, corporate marketers, anyone).

Avatar Image says:

If it is being developed my microsoft, figure having to reconfigure it every 2 weeks for it to work properly ;-)

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@bill: No doubt, huh! LOL

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haha! i will refuse to enlist myself into one of these ‘clocks’ if they ever reach the market. thats just crazy. i mean thank goodness im not a kid, but im not sure how many human beings would take this sort of control well anyway. i mean, what do ‘trust’ and ‘life’ mean in the context of such a society where people control each other like lab rats!! and putting chips into people?!wow. whats the world coming to? have u guys seen ‘the final cut’? creepy. I guess the director wasnt that far off with his vision of the near future. my god, people are getting too carried away with technology. whats next? knoweldge injections and “sauron’s eye” stuck on a tower in cities? i dont like this…at all… i dont know where they’ve come from if they still dont understand that, naturally, the more loopholes u make for people, the more ways they come up with to avoid them. lets see when we’re gonna exhaust this scenario. im sure nothing good can come out of it.

Avatar Image says:

But you know, like in the Da Vinci Code, the kid could leave his/her phone say, in the school locker, and then skip school… but I guess what kid can part with the phone?

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Oops, someone said it before me…

Avatar Image says:

OMG THAT WOULD BE FRIKEN AWESOME!! ... i would need to get a proper phone,.. but what an awesome idea… what this world has come to eh!

the main question still stands .. what if u leave ur phone at home on purpose and the clock says HOME but ur really just shagging it with ur boyfriend?? lol … and it will still be determined that parents sverywhere who buy tis clock will just emmit to the reason that they want a closer eye on ur children… reasonable but do we really need it if we can just call .. i would buy the clock just because its a really cool clock

Avatar Image says:

that is the most flippin awesome thing i have ever read about!!!!! i want one!!!!

Avatar Image says:

My biggest question – will it be compatible with the current version of Vista? Will it only work with the next OS upgrade, which will require us all to buy all new software, hardware, drivers, and peripherals again?

Avatar Image says:

I agree its fantastic the idea ( iknow that it is possible to “track” people with cell phones alreadyas I have personally seen it done.It is however a technology that if marketed open to abuse if, it “falls int the wrong hands”.) Knowing the “welfare” of a family member is more important. The weasly clock is a brilliant “magical device” not a “spy in the sky”.In one of the later books it is explained that all the family are in “mortal peril”, Mr Weasly’s “hand” points to “traveling” not where he is, as is pointed out in that particular book Mr weasly’s hand returns to “mortal peril” even though we know as in the chapter he is back at home with Molly. Its a kewl idea I think its wonderful but as for “tracking a persons every move” may be just a little intrustive “privacey wise” dispite all the good intentions in the world. Yes wil be great. A very inriging possibility.

Avatar Image says:

People who are talking about “how long until its used by the government” are missing the big picture here.

The government ALREADY CAN tell where you are, or at least where you cell phone is. That functionality already exists on ALL cell phones, period. Granted if your phone doesnt have GPS you can only tell which cell you are connected to but thats still accurate to get an idea of which district you are in, with GPS they can tell where you are within a few meters depending on the sattelite.

So no, this clock is nothing to do with all that. It merely uses the same, existing technology, to know if you are at pre-defined locations. So yes, you will know if your kids are at school or not as long as they leave the phone turned on. That said, you are supposed to have them OFF in school (not that anyone does) so that makes the whole idea useless, sadly.

Also, kids who REALLY want to get up to trouble could turn their phone off and just say the battery died – you couldnt really prove they were lying. Then again, if you are a good parent you shouldnt need to be worrying about yours kids lying in the first place. For a start, most if not all kids break rules sometimes, its part of growing up and if you stop them being able to do that you are actually doing as much harm as good.

Avatar Image says:

Well said Alex Atkin! The gov has satalites that can read the print off of a newspaper here on earth from space, and spy on other countrys and yet ppl think that this will be used, come on the is nothing for them. they go inot space and all kinds of stuff and ppl think this is somehting new for them to use? please. I would want one for my phone so my family can stress less about me, and vise versa, I would also want it on my parents phones and they arent kids, but dosnt mean I worry less about them or trust them less. I never really got into trouble when I was a teen and even if I did I wouldnt have cared about this, casue if I wanted to lie or sneak around I would have just been sneakyer lol. but I thik this is no worse then GPS, on cars and cell phones whare ur family, the gov,cops anyone can find out where u are. but they arent forcing you to get one anyway so if you dont liek it dont get it. there are ALOT more worse things to inflicked the privicy of your family then this, including cammers for there rooms and everything thats out there now. this is just on the phone.

Avatar Image says:

That’s so awesome! I want one for myself now, just so I can decorate it to look like the Weasley’s clock, as seen in CoS.

Avatar Image says:

Sounds like a fun idea to. They should’ve tried this on Rasmussen, he might just have won the Tour de France if they had..

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