New Yorker Joshua Kinberg is a bike messenger of a different stripe. Instead of ferrying legal papers between lawyers, he uses a homemade, wireless, bicycle-mounted dot-matrix printer to spray protest messages in the street.
Kinberg will be taking his road-spraying bicycle to the Republican National Convention in New York this fall, where he'll ride around spraying slogans submitted over the Web and beamed wirelessly to the bike. ...
Kinberg made his printer out of five solenoid-triggered spray cans, loaded with washable chalk. The spray cans are housed in a homemade Plexiglas box mounted on a rack at the back of the bike.
Kinberg is working on a Web interface that will allow anyone on the Net to submit a 120-character note -- the maximum length of an SMS message -- that will be sent to his cell phone.
If he decides to print the message ("It's funny to write nasty words, but that's not what I want to spray on the streets of New York," he said), he beams it via Bluetooth to his onboard PowerBook. ...
The PowerBook sends the firing pattern to the spray-can solenoids. The coordinated firing of the spray cans prints out the message -- ticker tape-style -- as Kinberg cycles along. The system is capable of timing the firing according to the bike's speed, he said.
A webcam mounted on the back takes a picture of the chalked-up road and sends it, along with GPS coordinates, back to Kinberg's website. Whoever wrote the message will then be able to e-mail a picture of his or her protest as an e-card. There will also be an interactive map of all the messages printed, Kinberg said.
The project, called Bikes Against Bush, is Kinberg's master's thesis. He previously worked on the Magicbike, a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot, with his Parsons adviser, Yury Gitman.
"I'd been researching bike culture in New York and noticed a big overlap with activist culture," said Kinberg. "This project blends technology and activism. If Paul Revere were alive today, he wouldn't be on a horse, he'd be on a bike."
Kinberg was inspired by the Institute for Applied Autonomy's GraffitiWriter, a graffiti-writing robot car. ...
Kinberg said he'd considered giving Republican supporters a voice, but discounted it.
"It's not fair and balanced," he said. "It has a clear political slant."
One idea suggested to him was to set up phone lines for taking messages verbally, one for Democrats, the other for Republicans. The Democrat line would be free, but the Republican number would not.
Kinberg has been approached by guerrilla marketers with a view to using the bike for commercial purposes. But Kinberg said no.
"It's not something that interests me," he said. "I'm putting my energies into protesting. Right now, it's a not-for-profit venture."
As Glenn Reynolds said, at least it's creative and sanitary.