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Book Questions The Necessity Of Some Technological Marvels

August 1, 2003

Bill McKibben questions the necessity of many technological marvels and believes robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology present the risk of humans losing their humanity.

Virtual reality conquers sense of taste

August 1, 2003

The “last frontier of virtual reality,” taste, has been crossed.

To record taste experience, a thin-film force sensor is placed in a subject’s mouth to record chewing forces, biological sensors made of lipid and polymer membranes record the major chemical constituents of the food’s taste, and a microphone records audible vibrations produced in the jawbone while chewing.

These parameters serve as inputs to the food simulator, which simulates… read more

Magic Touch for Electronic Music?

August 1, 2003

The Audiopad is a colorful, dynamic, luminescent interface projected onto a table top (as in the movie Minority Report) that allows for improvised composition of live electronic music.

The table top is equipped with radio sensors that track the position and movement of half a dozen plastic discs that control a series of preprogrammed tracks: rhythm, bass line, melody, etc.

A veritable cognitive mind

July 31, 2003

Marvin Minsky, MIT professor and AI’s founding father, says today’s artificial-intelligence methods are fine for gluing together two or a few knowledge domains but still miss the “big” AI problem. He says the missing element is something so big that we can’t see it: common sense.

In his forthcoming book, The Emotion Machine, Minsky shares his accumulated knowledge on how people make use of common sense in the context… read more

AI quest goes small-concept

July 31, 2003

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has poured hundreds of millions into every aspect of “big” artificial intelligence-expert systems, with little tangible return.

Now DARPA plans to attack the big-AI problem by providing its own quantitative measures of success. Part of that process will involve approaching AI in smaller chunks, with more task-specific platforms that prove AI’s utility for real-world tasks, via a new generation of compelling “mini AI”… read more

From Uzbek to Klingon, the Machine Cracks the Code

July 31, 2003

Statistics-based language-translation technology is allowing scientists to crack scores of languages in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

Johns Hopkins computer scientists hope to have working translation systems for as many as 100 languages within five years.

Researchers have benefited from a much faster means of evaluating the outcome of translation experiments: the Bleu Metric computerized technique developed by… read more

Cyborg Liberation Front

July 31, 2003

The World Transhumanist Association conference at Yale University in late June brought together academics and activists to lay the groundwork for a society that would admit as citizens and companions intelligent robots, cyborgs made from a free mixing of human and machine parts, and fully organic, genetically engineered people who aren’t necessarily human at all.

Brain scans ‘reveal baby thoughts’

July 30, 2003

Researchers at Birkbeck College and University College London are attempting to answer questions on baby brain development by monitoring brain waves.

Increased gamma-band activity, which is associated with the representation of hidden objects, will “inform fundamental issues about how infants process their visual world,” they believe.

Inventions’ wonderful world on display at Microsoft fair

July 30, 2003

Futuristic projects at Microsoft’s advanced-research division and affiliates include a self-charging robot slave that goes to meetings in your place, a glove that translates sign language into digitized letters, a low-cost way for motor-vehicle departments and companies to create forgery-proof identification cards, and a way to replace remote controls with one device, such as a cell phone or pocket PC.

I Think, Therefore I Communicate

July 30, 2003

Researchers are working on brain-computer interfaces to create a direct link between computers and the electrical signals in the brain of “locked in” individuals so they can operate devices like wheelchairs or use simple word processing programs to express their wishes.

Volunteers equipped with a virtual-reality headset have been able to switch lights on and off, bring a mock car to a stop and turn on a television set… read more

Helping Machines Think Different

July 30, 2003

DARPA wants to build a new generation of computer systems that can reason, learn and respond intelligently to things they’ve never encountered before.

Interim steps include LifeLog — the controversial Defense Department initiative to track everything about an individual — and Perceptive Assistant that Learns (PAL), which could draw on commonsense “episodes” and improve itself in the process.

For example, “If PAL’s boss keeps sending angry notes to… read more

Virtual humans edge closer

July 30, 2003

Avatars seem to be getting ever more lifelike, with more realistic visual appearance, speech, and body motion.

But as an avatar approaches reality, it could fall into the “Zombie Zone,” in which expectations that a character is actually human are suddently “violated by something that slightly wrong in the voice, or the face, or in the way it moves, and it gives you a horrible feeling that is not… read more

Pentagon Abandons Plan for Futures Market on Terror

July 30, 2003

DARPA has quickly abandoned an idea (the Policy Analysis Market) in which anonymous speculators would have bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups in an online futures market.

AI Depends on Your Point of View

July 30, 2003

The Real-World Reasoning project, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program, is designed to get computers to start examining situations in more than one way, integrating rule-based and probabilistic reasoning as well as game theory and strategic thinking.

It’s part of a larger effort to move toward machines that can think for themselves.

Electrodes in brain to ‘switch off’ pain

July 29, 2003

Breakthrough implant surgery may help patients to control agony caused by major injury.

The “deep brain stimulation” operation involves drilling two tiny holes in the skull so that two electrodes can be implanted deep in the brain. The electrodes are wired to a brain “pacemaker,” a device that sends out low voltage electrical signals to the brain.

The implants are thought to affect the functioning of the sensory… read more

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