Friday, July 10, 2009

Artwatch: Memory Helmet by Seungjoo Lee

Protection is the fundamental purpose of the helmet. This helmet, a conceptual design project by Seungjoo Lee, enables the storage and protection of memories.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

State Department Tells Twitter To Delay Scheduled Maintenance

Twitter delayed its scheduled maintenance yesterday after a meeting with the US State Department. The State Department highlighted that Twitter was a very important form of communication in Iran. Like in Moldova, Twitter has help facilitate the organization of protests in the country. Full story.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Topsy Searches Tweets, Bing Rivals Google

I think many who heard about Microsoft's new search engine expected a flop. But 'Bing' rivals google in search results and may even make some improvements in personality features and search result organization. Slate discusses the new engine on the block here, and mentions the short-lived interest in Topsy, a search engine powered by tweets.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Raja Parasuraman Discusses Neuroergonomics

Raja Parasuraman calls neuroergonomics "the merger of neuroscience, the study of the brain, with ergonomics, the study of how to design systems and technologies to be more compatible with what we know about human capabilities and limitations." Full story here.

Google Your Way To Better Brain Health

UCLA find that in older adults, googling and surfing the internet stimulates and may actually improve brain health. "The researchers noted that compared with reading, the Internet’s wealth of choices requires that people make decisions about what to click on, an activity that engages important cognitive circuits in the brain." Full story here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Internet Metaphors: From Static Pages To Streams

In a recent TechCrunch article, Eric Schonfeld discusses a metaphoric shift. For the internet, the dominant metaphor is that of a book, with pages. Now, more and more we are seeing something that looks more like a stream (First with RSS and now with twitter and friendwall). These sites are driving a trend toward fluid, INSTANT information. Traditional websites can't afford not to take note. Schonfeld says "The stream is winding its way throughout the Web and organizing it by nowness."

It does seem interesting that a decade or so after the 'surf' metaphor we get another water-based metaphor in 'stream.' Are we kayakers now? Or still surfing the rapids of the stream. I need someone to organize all the water for me? Maybe a water management technician? A beaver?

(Ward, thoughts on this?)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Newly Unveiled Search Engine Wolfram Alpha Challenges Google

Try the new search engine at

Read the review about how it stacks up versus google here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Search Engine, Wolfram Alpha, Takes Us Closer To Intelligent Search Engine

On May 18th Stephen Wolfram will release the search engine Wolfram Alpha. The program, which is already getting use in the scientific community, employs sophisticated algorithms to answer questions like how high is Mt Everest, what is the fish production in Italy, and what was the weather in London on the day John F Kennedy was killed.

Although not ready to replace traditional search engines like google, Wolfram Alpha shows the potential power 'understanding' searchers questions by utilizing artificial intelligence techniques. (full story here).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ray Kurzweil: Futurist, Inventor, Extremely Interesting Guy

In the new interview in the Guardian, Ray Kurzweil doesn't disappoint, treating interviewer Ed Pilkington to a "high-velocity monologue."  He reveals that since the age of eight his fantasy has been to become a female rock singer called Ramona (a fantasy that he sees becoming a reality with the advent of the singularity circa 2035).  

He also discusses his philanthropic ideas including his desire to "design software that could be downloaded on to all African cellphones that would easily diagnose and provide remedial directions for leading local diseases."

Finally the article concludes with a list of Kurzweil 'Eureka Moments' including:

1984 Perfected the electronic keyboard. Used sampling of the sounds of instruments to produce rich authentic reproductions of the entire orchestra. His Kurzweil K250 is used by Keith Emerson, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton and others

Monday, April 27, 2009

IBM Challenges Jeopardy Contestants

First it was Gary Kasparov, now Alex Trebek. IBM's newest game-playing super computer (named Watson) is set to compete against human contestants in the game show Jeopardy. These occasional publicity stunts are a great way to bring awareness to the huge strides in the field of artificial intelligence.

Compared to chess (in which IBM's Deep Blue defeated Kasparov), Jeopardy is a much different challenge and will tax Watson's grasp on the nuances of the English language. Thus far Watson's performance has been mixed:

For example, given the statement, “Bordered by Syria and Israel, this small country is only 135 miles long and 35 miles wide,” Watson beat its human competitors by quickly answering, “What is Lebanon?”

Moments later, however, the program stumbled when it decided it had high confidence that a “sheet” was a fruit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Researchers Seek To Map The Connectome

The Economist explores the concept of the connectome and the push to map it:

For, just as every organism has a genome (the complete set of its genes, as encoded in its DNA), every organism with a nervous system has a connectome (the complete set of its nerve cells and the connections between them). In practice, of course, a connectome will change over the course of time as new connections form and old ones die. But that does not stop people like Dr Lichtman dreaming of a Human Connectome Project inspired by the success of the Human Genome Project.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lifenaut Brings Historical Figures Back To Life

Lifenaut's Historic Lives project aims to bring historical figures back to life as conversational avatars. Although their speech abilities are still developing, the avatars have the potential to become excellent educational tools. With time, a student may be able to use a historical avatar like a sophisticated, entertaining search engine, calling up detailed information (from the mundane to the epic) about how these historic figures lived. The applications extend beyond the classroom however. Businesses equiped with conversational avatars of past CEOs could quickly reference parts of the companies history, not through the objective lens of a search engine but through the subjective and insightful lens of the CEO's memory.
In a variety of forums the organization of historic information in these conversational avatars has the potential to change the way we think about information organization and acquisition.
Are you a historic expert or buff? You can help Lifenaut assemble their avatars.

What Is Mindware?

Martine Rothblatt answers 100 questions about the coming age of our own cyberconsciousness and techno-immortality. Use the new blog link on the right to follow along.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless (Rat) Mind

The New York Times reports that researchers in Brooklyn are opening the door to editing brain memory. The process, performed successfully on rates, has potential for both erasing and strengthening memories.

Robot With Brain Of A Two Year Old Looks Unspeakably Evil

Image and story from Dvice.

This little fella reminds us of the importance of design and aesthetics when attempting to create robots meant to interact with humans. The topic was briefly considered in the post, I Respect You, I Love You, I Am Absolutely Terrified Of You.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Honda's Asimo Controlled By Thought Alone (Crocs Not Necessary)

Researchers fitted with a brain machine interface have successfully controlled the movements of the superstar robot Asimo through thought alone. The process isn't ready for public display however. Honda says that getting the human participants to avoid distractions is still and challenge and that each person's brainwaves are so different the calibration process takes several hours. Once these obstacles are overcome, the Asimo technology could become very useful for the elderly or disabled.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Martine Rothblatt Discusses Mindfiles

Interesting article on the blog Mindfiles, Mindware and Mindclones. In it, Martine Rothblatt says "your mindfile is accumulating regardless of your awareness of it." She goes on to lay out the reasons why individuals would want to systematically back up their entire mind through the organizations specifically devoted to the task.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Google's New Caddie Technology

New Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity (CADIE) from google automates email responses. Check out "intriguing webpage."

The Next Frontier For Pain Relief

Microtransponder aims to develop a wireless neurostimulation system for the treatment of chronic pain and several other neurological indications. The minimally invasive device will provide relief from chronic pain without requiring an implanted battery or wires. They have received the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and three separate NIH SBIR grants.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Researchers Uncover Vast Cyber Spy System

The group of Toronto researchers (pictured above) uncovered a spy system that has infected "1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York."
The operation, which largely originates from China, is advanced enough to turn on an infected computer's camera and microphone and then send data back to the host (full story at nytimes).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

12 Million Node Botnet Triggers 'Disaster' Speculation

NYtimes on the Conficker Botnet:

Given the sophisticated nature of the worm, the question remains: What is the purpose of Conficker, which could possibly become the world’s most powerful parallel computer on April 1? That is when the worm will generate 50,000 domain names and systematically try to communicate with each one. The authors then only need to register one of the domain names in order to take control of the millions of zombie computers that have been created.

And Wired...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Federal Agency Fights Sophisticated Computer Worm

Apparently, there is a behind-the-scenes struggle raging between the government experts at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (which definately sounds like a crazy sci-fi organization) and the alliance known as the Conficker Cabal (ditto). The Cabal, according to this article, has created a program that has infected millions of computers with software code that is intended to lash together the infected machines it controls into a powerful computer known as a botnet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Brain-Training Video Games Under Fire

From the Guardian's Science section
: People who spend money on "brain trainers" to keep their minds agile may get the same results by simply doing a crossword or surfing the internet, according to research published today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy 20th Internet!

As seed magazine reports, 20 years ago this month, "Tim Berners-Lee submitted a curious paper to his boss: a proposal to use hypertext to connect text files on individual computers. The goal was to form an information network with links by which people could easily navigate between multiple digital documents. 'Vague but exciting,' the manager, Mike Sendall, wrote on the margins of the paper upon first reading it, but granted Berners-Lee his support to continue exploring."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jaguar Fast On Roadrunner's Tail, Both Smash Petaflop Barrier

I love that IBM named its newest supercomputer "Roadrunner" (mentioned in a July post). I also like how the good people at Cray have airbrushed a sweet design down the side of their massive Jaguar computing system. In November both the Roadrunner and Jaguar smashed the petaflop barrier (1,000,000,000,000,000 calculations every second) with Roadrunner clocking in just faster than Jaguar (1.105 vs. 1.059 quadrillion calculations per second). Researchers are excited about the accomplishment, saying that these supercomputers are literally creating an opportunity for simulation as a third branch of science. The power of these computers to simulate nature simply can't be ignored they say, and the scientific method must be revised to grant simulation a more important role.
On another note, according to the Wired article, Raymond Kurzweil believes the human brain has a power of 10 petaflops. By Kurzweil's reckoning, we should equal the human brain's calculating power in less than 7 years.

Friday, March 13, 2009

When Will We Meet C-3P0 And Will He Be Linked To His Buddies?

In the same way some people ask, "where are the flying cars we all expected to have by now," asks, "where the hell are the walking, talking, thinking robots that we imagined filling our future?"

Dvice goes on to interview James Kuffner, a specialist in the field of motion planning and professor at Carnegie Mellon' robotics institute. He says that for him and his team, "The goal is for a robot to be able to search back through its memory and know what it's learned and what the robots before have learned and continue to pass on that searchable database onto the next robot, so that it keeps learning."

A robot that can learn from the mistakes of its peers!? It's an interesting idea–a robot intranet that links similar, learning bots in a sort of collective consciousness. It's not unlike the idea of putting the internet into the hands (or eyes via contact lenses...or brains even) of every human. With the advent of the smartphone we catch glimpses of the sort of connectivity and the potential to learn from the vast store of history's lessons, the challenge is figuring out how to efficiently search the MASSIVE amount of information.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teen Males And Fish: A Winning Combination

A new study coming out of Sweden titled, "Fish intake of Swedish male adolescents is a predictor of cognitive performance,"  tracks participants from age 15 to 18 and finds that the more fish eaten, the higher the scores on verbal, visuospatial, and overall intelligence tests.  You may be wondering, "Will fish sticks do the trick, or do you have to eat high quality salmon?"  The researchers plan to follow up by with studies to answer this very question.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Robot Roundup

Check out the Boston Globe's 'Big Picture Blog' for great images and descriptions of 32 cutting edge robots from around the world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Neuroengineering Holds Potential For New Age Of Enlightenment

"Metaphorically, the neuroengineering approach brings the study of the brain into the Age of Enlightenment. By isolating, then testing and altering individual parts of the neural system, we can, for the first time, truly understand what those components do. Ultimately, we can enhance an individual function while leaving the rest of the system untouched. It's the same transition that let us move from alchemy to atomic physics."

Read the 2 part (1, 2) report at wired.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Vampires And Immortality

Vampires are back: From the hit novel Twilight, to the award winning HBO series True Blood, to the accidental Swedish hit, Let The Right One In.

These mythical creatures help us contemplate immortality. Wikipedia briefly discussing vampire immortality, saying of vampire tales: “Much is made of the price of eternal life, namely the incessant need for blood of former equals.” But there is another price to eternal life. Vampires must continually watch the ones they love die (see Let The Right One In). The lifespan discrepancy between immortals and mortals is problematic for romance (this problem is especially pronounced in recent vampire tales, where the vampires, rather than appearing as strange, pale, vaguely bat-like creatures, look identical to–although usually more attractive than–the average human). For any sort of companionship it seems we must live forever together or die together. This is a problem explored (not with vampires but with AI cyborgs) in TransBeMan. It's something we can't help contemplate as finite creatures endowed with the ability to comprehend the infinite.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

From Science Fiction To Science Reality

Did you know:
1. We can erase people's memories.
2. We can regulate people's moods with microchips.
3.  We can use brain implants to steer animals left and right.
4. Infrared brain scans can predict what people want.
5. Human-computer interfaces link human brains directly to computers (we'll we knew about this one already).

Great, bizarre article explaining these accomplishments.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Techno-Thriller TransBeMan Premiers At Galapagos

Last weekend marked the premier of the much anticipated techno-thriller, TransBeMan.

From the Brooklyn Heights Blog:

The movie started at 7:30 p.m. TransBeMan is produced by Transformer Films, and directed by my friend, Richard Kroehling. Completely shot in New York, its a techno thriller set in the near future about the creation of the world’s first post-human. To find out exactly what that means, the film is set for a summer/fall 09 release. If you like your sci fi served up with intelligence and out of this world art direction, check it out. It stars James Remar who played Samantha’s architect boyfriend in Sex and the City.

Self-Healing Robots

Friday, February 13, 2009

Major Advancements In Brain-Artifical Limb Interfaces

Amanda Kitts lost her left arm in a car accident three years ago, but these days she plays American football with her 12-year-old son, and changes diapers and bear-hugs children at the three Kiddie Cottage day care centers she owns in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Kitts, 40, does this all with a new kind of artificial arm that moves more easily than other devices and that she can control by using only her thoughts.

"I'm able to move my hand, wrist and elbow all at the same time," she said. "You think, and then your muscles move."

Full story

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ray Kurzweit, Rockstar

Ray Kurzweil is the poster child of the singularity. His recent interview in Rolling Stone tells a story of the brilliant, quirky (he has collected over 300 cat statues) man behind the prediction that in 2045 nanobots will be crawling over everything and man and machine will become one.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Building The Brain Computer

Researchers at Stanford, Cornell and Columbia, and IBM, are engaged in the ambitious project of reverse engineering the human mind using nanoscale transistors. Full story at Wired.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Universe In 2009

The best ideas that give us reason for optimism in 09.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Singularity University Will Open Backed By Google, Nasa

Ray Kurzweil, the iconoclastic author of The Singularity is Near, will head a new school of future studies located in NASA buildings in California. A nine week course will cost $25,000 and cover courses on nanotechnology, artificial technology, and biotechnology. Full article here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Future Of The Internet

"First it will become wireless and ubiquitous, crawling into the woodwork and perhaps even under our skin. Eventually, it will disappear," explains the recently dugg Time article. By 2020 they say, they'll be more things (appliances, vehicles, and buildings) online then people.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Robots Invade Warehouse, Diligently Ship Your Online Orders

Wired reports that autonomous robots design by Kiva Systems now scurry the warehouse floors of Gap, Zappos, and Staples. The machines make the warehouses 2-4 times more efficient by cutting out substantial worker walking time. Apparently "the employees get a lot of joy, a lot of happiness out of anthropomorphizing the robots and turning them into pets." This seems to be a pretty common way of making sense of a human-robotic relationship. It helps quiet any fears (however fantastical or unconscious) of the robots. Another way is joking about possibility of a robot-human confrontation. As in the first line of the wired article:

Next time you order a new pair of skinny jeans from, you should know that you are helping welcome in the hive-mind robot overlords of retail.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ideas Worth Spreading

TED's (which stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design”) 25th anniversary conference takes place this week. Read confessions of a TED addict here. Or check out the weekly updated TED lectures and the 2009 TED prize winners.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Visuality Creeps Into Email Conversion

A few months ago we outlined the concept of visuality as explained by New York Times contributing writer Kevin Kelly.

Kevin Kelly discusses the modern-day Gutenberg revolution, or "how the moving image is upending the printed word." Kelly sees the proliferation of video technology (and amateur video artists) fueling our collective visual appetite. We are pervasively and resoundingly moving away from the word. We are becoming a people of the moving image, where literacy gives way to "visuality."

In my personal experience this article has provoked a critical reaction marked by disbelief. The sentiment is:

"How are we moving away from the word? That's just not possible. How could I possibly send someone a message of all photo and video and get a my message across with higher fidelity and greater succinctness than the written word? We cannot escape the word."

The article was meant to provoke a reaction, certainly. And when speculating about the coming visuality era, we are talking about an unknown point in the future so of course, it all sounds a bit like hyperbole. But already there are signs that hints of visuality are creeping into digital communication. Consider this simple email line from a friend:

It was the 17th hole of the Buick Open, where everyone parties anyway, and Kid Rock was there with overalls on and a tallboy on the ready for Daly to tee up.

Pretty straightforward. But the idea is that this ability opens the door for a second, visual conversation. By bringing the visual into the textual a meta-conversation develops. The process is irresistible. It's easier and easier to search for the photo or video we want. Consider this email from another friend:

Rumor is Parker could take us for a walk in the college forest!

The sentence as is and the sentence as is with visual are saying very different things. Things get a little more interesting...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"We Will Restore Science To Its Rightful Place..."

From President Obama's Inauguration Address:

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Knol: An Authoritative Alternative To Wikipedia

There are still those who remain wary of the hive mind of wikipedia:

"The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him."

- Robert McHenry, former editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica

If you are the type of person that would prefer a expertly maintained bathroom (or encyclopedia), Google has just announced that the 100,000th knol (they define a knol as "a unit of knowledge"'s sort of like an elite meme) has just been published to the wikipedia alternative (or complement), knol. Unlike wikipedia, knol emphasizes personal expertise by highlighting the authorship of each article.

Read the wikipedia entry on knol here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Music That Boosts Your Brain Power

Check out imusic for a sample (and an interesting explanation) of the doctor-approved music they say can work wonders for the brain.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Mind Control Games Teach You To Use "The Force"

The good people at Neurosky have collaborated with Uncle Milton games to create a revolutionary new game called Force Trainer, out this fall (USA Today article here). The game comes with a simple headset that monitors brainwave activity. As you learn to concentrate and control your brain wave activity you gain greater control over a small ball that moves through a Star Wars themed gaming device.
The game, which will no doubt be a blast just from its novelty alone, will be one of the first mass-market games to utilize EEG technology. There's no telling where this paradigm will take us or if it will have long term effects on a child's ability to concentrate. Could the Force Trainer or something like it (a similar game by Mattel is due out) actually help distracted individuals learn to become more focused thinkers?