Google. The iPod. LiveUGLi.com.
One of these is not like the others. The first two are well-known innovations by University alums. The third isn’t a household term. Yet.
Engineering junior Daniel Feldman hopes to one day elevate the site to Facebook.com status.
Feldman is creator of liveUGLi.com, a prototype of a website that lets users input their location and activity onto maps of common campus study areas so that their friends can find them.
Feldman aims to add his site to the ranks of household technology that shares University roots.
The site is also registered as LiveUGLi.com.
Bursting with enthusiasm, Feldman described it as “a buddy list times one million” that will use location-based technology to connect students “in the right now.”
With an account available to anyone with a University uniqname, users can post or find study groups and mass meetings. They can also track their friends’ status.
Privacy is the biggest hurdle for the site, Feldman said.
He said trial users were at first skeptical of the tracking technology, but were comforted by the site’s login and ability to restrict accessible information to only a list of approved friends.
Rackham student Jeff Powers agreed security is key to the technology’s success.
“The huge thing is that even if you can build (the technology), people are really concerned with privacy,” he said. “If you can solve that problem, maybe you’ll be the next big thing.”
The website began as a group term project for Engineering Prof. Elliot Soloway’s course on the applications of mobile technology.
Soloway, who also taught Google co-creator Larry Page and iPod inventor Tony Fadell, challenges students to design their project around a problem they see and work to solve it themselves. Soloway doesn’t interfere with the process.
“It allows students to let their imaginations go and solve problems,” he said. “They work much harder in that context.”
Soloway said that unlike sites developed by adults for college students, as a student-managed site, liveUGLi.com is uniquel tailored to students.
“We are starting with the university audience because it is an audience that we know really well,” Feldman said.
Feldman plans to keep the site design general enough to be transferable to other universities or for use at business conferences.
He originally envisioned the site as a method to connect students in the same classes in study groups, but said the site can also serve as a social tool.
“There are thousands of students on campus of the same age, with the same classes, and similar interests,” the site’s introduction says. “This campus has an incredible amount of untapped social potential.”
Now that detailed maps of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library are complete, Feldman and his team are working to add more maps, including the Duderstadt Media Commons and local coffee shops.
Currently users must post their locations manually into the system, but developers are working to automate the process using already available wireless technology, Feldman said.
By integrating the site with a server called Mates, which compiles location data points sent from wireless cards in laptops or GPS devices, the website can learn to pinpoint user locations.
Powers, who created Mates, is working with Feldman’s team to integrate the two technologies.
Powers is also developing software called “Ping!” The software would link cell phones into the system, Feldman’s ultimate goal.
Though other companies have experimented with similar technology, Powers said what sets the site apart is its accuracy.
Instead of approximating users within 10 city blocks by using satellites as some current systems do, Powers aims to locate users’ locations within 50 feet using signals from established wireless routers.
As the site expands, Feldman said the team will also improve personalized features including a personal status page for users to customize with fields like “music I’m listening to” or “stress level.”