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2006: The year in tech

December 27, 2006

Gut-crawling robots as an alternative to colonoscopy, quasar encryption, a two-legged robot, and a working “invisibility cloak” are some of this year’s tech highlights.

Single Gene Could Lead to Long Life, Better Mental Function

December 27, 2006

Researchers at the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered a gene that apparently protects the brain and prolongs life.

Centenarians who passed a common test of mental function were two to three times more likely to have a common variant of a particular gene, called the CETP gene, than those who did not.

Short Mental Workouts May Slow Decline of Aging Minds, Study Finds

December 26, 2006

Ten sessions of exercises to boost reasoning skills, memory and mental processing speed staved off mental decline in middle-aged and elderly people in the first definitive study to show that honing intellectual skills can bolster the mind in the same way that physical exercise protects and strengthens the body.

Older adults who did the basic exercises followed by later sessions were three times as fast as those who got… read more

An ATM for books

December 26, 2006

The Espresso, a $50,000 vending machine with a conceivably infinite library, will debut in ten to 25 libraries and bookstores in 2007.

The machine can print, align, mill, glue and bind two books simultaneously in less than seven minutes, including full-color laminated covers.

New Research Could Lead To ‘Invisible’ Electronics

December 25, 2006

Northwestern University researchers have produced transparent, high-performance transistors that can be assembled inexpensively on both glass and plastics.

Uses could include a car windshield that displays a map to your destination, military goggles with targets and instructions displayed right before a soldier’s eyes, or a billboard that doubles as a window.

Photons trapped by trick of the light

December 25, 2006

Optical microchips developed at IBM that can store light for short periods of time could one day be used in optical buffers in superfast optical processors with hundreds on cores on a chip.

Microbe found in California mine could be smallest life form yet

December 25, 2006

Microbes measuring about 200 nanometers wide — the size of large viruses, which scientists consider lifeless because they cannot reproduce on their own — have been found.

The discovery could prove that life in the universe is not unique to Earth, but an inherent property of matter.

Wikipedia’s Wales wants to take on Google

December 25, 2006

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will launch Wikiasari, a search engine to compete with Google, Yahoo, Ask and others early next year.

Wikiasari would apply the “wisdom of the crowd” to judging the value of a Web page.

Will robots ever become just like humans?

December 25, 2006

The development of humanoid robots today focuses on three major areas:
control of manipulators, biped locomotion, and interaction with humans.

Robots of the Future

December 22, 2006

DARPA’s Urban Challenge, safety issues, artificial muscles, a multifunctional home robot, and Microsoft involvement will be the five key developments in robots in 2007.

Conscious computing debated at MIT anniversary event

December 22, 2006

Will there ever be such a thing as artificial intelligence? That question was argued by inventor Ray Kurzweil and Yale University professor David Gelernter.

What if your laptop knew how you felt?

December 22, 2006

Computers can now analyze a face from video or a still image and infer almost as accurately as humans (or better) the emotion it displays.

Developed at MIT, “Mind Reader” uses input from a video camera to perform real-time analysis of facial expressions.

Vision of life in the middle of the century

December 22, 2006

Chinese astronauts walk on the moon, the world has splintered into currency blocs after an international exchange rate shock, and even robots have the vote: these are among the scenarios of what life might be like around the middle of the century.

They have emerged from 270 rigorously researched papers commissioned by the government that together purport to be the world’s most extensive look into the future, The Horizon… read more

New Chemical Is Said to Provide Early Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease

December 22, 2006

A new chemical called FDDNP could give earlier signals of Alzheimer’s disease and provide a new way to test treatments.

The FDDNP signal can be seen in people years before they develop Alzheimer’s disease.

UK report says robots will have rights

December 21, 2006

We may one day give sentient machines the kind of rights traditionally reserved for humans, according to the British government-commissioned Horizon Scan report.

“If granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,” it says.

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