If you think privacy is a problem with the current generation of social networking applications, brace yourself for SENS (Socially ENabled Services), a new kind of social networking from Intel that literally shows you what others are doing. Fortunately, your friends are depicted in the form of something called a "shadow avatar" that translates real-life acts into actions on a virtual being--a concept familiar to gamers used to being represented by GC characters.
The technology, intended for cell phone use, fuses together sensors to detect what a person is doing in the physical world, what the environment around them is doing, and what is happening on their mobile device. The whole thing is useful for on-the-go stalking, to be sure, but it's just an extension of what we already do with apps like Foursquare and Twitter. But instead of asking users to check in or post updates, SENS automatically detects--and depicts--if a friend is playing a video game, listening to music, or text messaging on their phone.
For users who don't want everyone knowing that they're at the gym when they should be in the office, SENS offers the option to turn off real-time mode--so it can freeze an avatar permanently in the state of working hard at a desk or sipping coffee in a cafe.
SENS's software algorithms are still being worked out in the lab, but the technology isn't all that far off. The sensors used in SENS already exist. Now it's just a matter of harnessing their collective power without draining cell phone battery. The easy part is getting millions to relinquish privacy.