Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Peter Diamandis at TED - Abundance Is Our Future

Onstage at TED2012, co-author of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You ThinkPeter Diamandis makes a case for optimism -- that we'll invent, innovate and create ways to solve the challenges that loom over us. "I’m not saying we don’t have our set of problems; we surely do. But ultimately, we knock them down.”

Novauris and Existor Announce Strategic Partnership

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Novauris Technologies Ltd.,  a leading provider of core automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology for mobile and consumer electronics, and Existor Ltd., creators of artificially intelligent conversational apps, avatars and web interfaces, for entertainment, education and business, today announced a partnership to create a new generation of human-machine interaction. The two companies plan to combine their expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing and automatic speech recognition (ASR) to create mobile and wireless applications that allow people to interact conversationally – not just with smartphones and computers, but also with cars, refrigerators, TVs, toys or any device equipped with a suitable embedded processor.

Existor is well known for its Cleverbot chatbot, which is capable of sustaining conversations in a human-like manner. It has hitherto resided on a server and has accepted text inputs. The company has now developed an embedded version of its software, which meshes well with Novauris’s large-vocabulary embedded ASR to allow spoken conversations. 

The first fruit of this collaboration will be a series of speech-driven chatbot apps, a.k.a. CleverApps, which run on smartphones without any need for network access. Such fully embedded solutions avoid the delays and costs introduced by network transmissions, and will also function when no network signal is available.

Robot Quadrotors Perform James Bond Theme

In what is probably the most impressive University of Pennsylvania Quadrotor demonstration so far, the team has programmed the multiple flying robots to play music instruments.

The researchers set up different points along the stage that different robots were to fly to at different times to play their instruments.

The robots are able to keep track of each others locations thanks to infared reflectors located on each robot. The researchers did not program the flight paths of the robots – they’re simply programmed to go to certain points at a certain time, and they have to calculate their own paths while also ensuring that they don’t crash into each other. It’s both a fascinating bit of innovation and extremely cool.

This video premiered at the TED2012 Conference in Long Beach, California on February 29, 2012. Deputy Dean for Education and GRASP lab member Vijay Kumar presented some of this groundbreaking work at the TED2012 conference, an international gathering of people and ideas from technology, entertainment, and design.

The engineers from Penn, Daniel Mellinger and Alex Kushleyev, have formed a company called KMel Robotics that will design and market these quadrotors.

Ray Kurzweil at FredX 2011

The organizers have uploaded a condensed version of Ray Kurzweil's presentation at the FredX conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  It would be nice to see the full presentation, however the attached video does highlight some of Kurzweil's key insights that are based on the book,The Singularity Is Near.

Eric Schmidt's Keynote Presentation at Mobile World Congress 2012

Yesterday we mentioned that Google's Executive Chairman had promoted robotics at his keynote presentation at the Mobile World Congress.  Now we have the video as well.

The video starts with a preview of Chrome for Android, and then discusses other future technology Google is looking into, including robotics.

Potato Sorting - Another Job Displaced By AI

The Love Potato :  wedding relationships traditions westchester Potato potato

Computer Scientists from the University of Lincoln Centre for Vision and Robotics Research will be presenting a prototype  computer vision system which can identify sub-standard potatoes.  

The team from Lincoln University used off-the-shelf hardware and new software to build a low-cost system that identifies defects, diseases and blemishes in real time, and can be reprogrammed for different potato types and operating conditions.

The aim of the project, which was carried out with the aid of industry body the Potato Council, was to create a system that could augment the work of quality-control (QC) staff by improving the consistency, speed and accuracy of defect detection.

"Most potatoes are still sorted by hand," Dr Tom Duckett, director of Lincoln’s Centre for Vision and Robotics Research, told The Engineer.

A TED Talk From The Future Envisioned By Ridley Scott

This is not a “real” TED talk but it is a cleaver piece of viral marketing for the upcoming Ridley Scott movie Prometheus, which stars the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace.   Check it out…

MakiBox - A $350 3D Printer

MakiBox is a 3D printer based on the open source RepRap 3D printer that fits a print head and motor inside a box about the length and width of a sheet of paper. The MakiBox kit will start at $350 while an assembled kit will cost $550.

The project is being built by Jon Buford, a well known hardware guy in Hong Kong.  He runs a hacker space in China, BootHK and co-founder of StartupsHK. and works closely with prototyping houses on the mainland.

The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog - Tracking Humanity's Next Home

The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC) is an online database for scientists, educators, and the general public focused on potential habitable exoplanets discoveries. The catalog uses various habitability indices and classifications to identify, rank, and compare exoplanets, including potential satellites, or exomoons.

According to the site, exoplanets HD 85512 bGliese 581 dKepler-22 b, and Gliese 667C c are the only four current confirmed exoplanets that are potentially habitable.  

The image above shows to scale the only four potential habitable exoplanets so far, HD 85512 b, Gliese 581 d, Kepler-22 b, and Gliese 667C c compared with Earth and Mars using the Earth Similarity Index, or ESI (number below the names).

iRobot Reorganizing To Address Retail Robots

Reporting for, Scott Kirsner writes that iRobot is announcing a reorganization that will create a new emerging technology division at the company, in addition to the more established businesses focusing on home robots like the Roomba and military robots like the Packbot. The company is also naming a new chief operating officer: Jeff Beck, who'd previously led iRobot's consumer division. Chief executive Colin Angle says that no jobs will be lost as part of the reorganization. The company laid off about 55 employees last October, anticipating a drop in its military revenues.

The new structure "will allow us to pursue new opportunities more aggressively," says Angle. "Before, if you wanted to create a small business unit to pursue some new application, you had to beg for resources from a division that was designed to do something else. We think this will give us a more efficient, steerable organization that's able to put energy against these new market opportunities."

New Allotrope of Carbon Predicted By Computer Simulation

The various different forms of carbon include diamond, graphite, graphene (a single sheet of graphite) and the fullerenes, which form when carbon atoms bond together into tube and sphere-like structures. 
But in recent years, materials scientists have been gathering clues that hint at another type of carbon, which forms when graphite is compressed at room temperature to pressures in excess of 10 gigaPascals. 
The clues take the form of changes in various bulk properties of carbon under these conditions, things like its resistivity, optical transmittance and reflectance and so on. All this indicates the existence of some kind of phase change in which a new form of carbon is appearing.
So the race is on to identify this new allotrope, and since carbon atoms can link together in an infinite number of ways, there is no shortage of candidates. 
Today, Maximilian Amsler at the University of Basel in Switzerland and others put forward a new structure, which they call M10-carbon. The researchers have used various computer simulation techniques to model how carbon atoms might bond under these conditions.  Their study has been published at Cornell University

Stem Cells Trigger Memory

Scientists at the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics have discovered an answer to the long-standing mystery of how brain cells can remember new memories while also maintaining older ones.
They found that specific neurons in a brain region called the dentate gyrus serve distinct roles in memory formation depending on whether the neural stem cells that produced them were of old or young.
The study links the cellular basis of memory formation to the birth of new neurons, a finding that could unlock a new class of drug targets to treat memory disorders. The findings also suggest that an imbalance between young and old neurons in the brain could disrupt normal memory formation during post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and aging.
The researchers tested mice in two types of memory processes: pattern separation (the process by which the brain distinguishes differences between similar events) and pattern completion (recalling detailed content of memories based on limited clues). Pattern separation forms distinct new memories based on differences between experiences; pattern completion retrieves memories by detecting similarities.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eric Schmidt Promotes Personal Robotics

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has presented his vision of the future and technology, describing a world where people have their own personal robot that can represent them remotely and from which they can see a remote 3D visual stream.

“We’re beginning to see science fiction become a reality” Schmidt said during his Mobile World Congress 2012 keynote. ”Look at Star Trek or, my favourite, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.”

As Schmidt described it, people would have access to compact telepresence robots, small enough to carry in a bag and deploy at will. They would then be able to beam back a 3D picture to a portable 3D-capable screen, part of huge mesh networks of devices talking to each other. “We can look forward to a future of essentially unlimited speed and unlimited processing power … tiny, powerful sensors will be embedded in everything. By 2020, fiber networks will be deployed in every city.”

Still, Schmidt also pointed out that technology is not delivered to every potential user equally, and highlighted that it’s a “digital caste system.” Those at the top of the pile will get devices only limited by developers’ imaginations and the laws they operate within.

“I think that people will experience the future in different ways. The first future will apply to the ultra-connected … those with the will and resources to embrace new technology. They’re the few … for this group the limits are only what science can develop and what society deems acceptable” Eric Schmidt, chairman, Google

When, exactly, we can expect these personal robots, Schmidt didn’t say, only that he envisaged it coming “soon.” Perhaps they’re already trundling around inside Google’s secret X Labs, or possibly may be part of Schmidt's need for 1.5 billion dollars in Google stock.


Smelling Rosemary Boosts Intelligence

Researchers from the University of Northumbria, UK, has discovered that one of the oils which gives rosemary its pungent scent improves speed and accuracy when performing certain mental tasks.

Rosemary has a long history as a traditional remedy with such widespread uses as a hair rinse and a cat repellent.  It has also long been thought to boost brain power, so scientists were not totally surprised that respondents performed better in tests.  However, they were shocked when they realised the rosemary oil has an effect on the blood, it was reported in the Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology journal.

Dr. Mark Moss, who devised and wrote the study, was interested in rosemary’s fragrant aroma, which has long been cherished by chefs and bakers. Could the 1,8-cineole, a constituent part of rosemary oil, be detected in the bloodstream after exposure to just the aroma?

IBM Research Advances Quantum Computing Device Performance

Scientists at IBM Research have achieved major advances in quantum computing device performance that they say may accelerate the realization of a practical, full-scale quantum computer, with quantum states lasting up to 100 microseconds — a 2 to 4 times improvement over previous results. Thes major advances in device performance that may accelerate the realization of a practical, full-scale quantum computer. For specific applications, quantum computing, which exploits the underlying quantum mechanical behavior of matter, has the potential to deliver computational power that is unrivaled by any supercomputer today.
The scientists have established three new records for reducing errors in elementary computations and retaining the integrity of quantum mechanical properties in quantum bits (qubits) — the basic units that carry information within quantum computing.
IBM has employed superconducting qubits, which use established microfabrication techniques developed for silicon technology, providing the potential to one day scale up to and manufacture thousands or millions of qubits.
IBM researchers will be presenting their latest results at the annual American Physical Society meeting taking place February 27-March 2, 2012 in Boston.

Jason Silva Discusses Techno Optimism

Jason Silva is a host and producer at Current TV, and a Fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute, a research and advisory think tank focused on the intersection of technology trends and geopolitics. His current project is the documentary Turning Into Gods, which in Silva’s words, is about “exploring mankind’s journey to ‘play jazz with the universe’… it is a story of our ultimate potential, the reach of our intelligence, the scope of our scientific and engineering abilities and the transcendent quality of our heroic and noble calling.”

In the video below, Patricia Albere and  Silva, take part in an exciting exploration of a wildly optimistic future for us all. 

Peter Diamandis at TEDMed 2011

Thanks to cheaper and more easily available technology, innovation will increase exponentially, says the founder of X Prize, Peter Diamanis.  At the 2011 TEDMed Meeting Diamandis took the opportunity to discuss ideas from his new book,Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think including exponential growth of technology, artificial intelligence and robotics.

According to Diamandis, having a common goal, an enticing motive, and being fearless helps power innovation.

FXI Cotton Candy PC Is The Size Of A USB Stick

You can now run your Android OS from your big screen TV or any other display device.

This prototype dongle, codenamed Cotton Candy, is designed by Norwegian company FXI Technologies is about the size of a normal USB stick, 8cm x 2.5cm and 21 grams, but packs both USB 2.0 and HDMI-out plugs. It's powered by a dual-core 1.2-GHz Samsung Exynos ARM CPU, the same one that powers the Galaxy S II—and employs a microSD card slot for data storage. It also includes 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Cotton Candy currently uses the Android 2.3 OS but can also support Ubuntu as well as a virtualization client for Windows, Linux, Mac.

The device is designed to work on anything with a screen and USB port—TVs, laptops, smart phones, anything. You can hook it up to a HDTV and stream 1080p videos from the net. When you hook it up to a computer, either Windows or Mac, it will run android applications in a secure window, essentially creating a dumb terminal.

Nokia 808 PureView Uses 41 Megapixel Camera

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Nokia announced the 808 PureView, a smart phone with an astounding 41-megapixel image sensor. The Nokia 808 will be the first smartphone by Nokia to include its new PureView imaging technology, which combines a high-resolution sensor with Carl Zeiss optics and Nokia-developed algorithms.

Typically you might want a high megapixel camera in order to take photos that can be printed larger - what makes the Nokia 808 PureView special, however, it what it does with those pixels. The 808 uses a new pixel oversampling technology, that captures seven pixels of information and then condenses those into one single pixel. This reportedly results in an exceptionally sharp photo, and the ability to zoom in on any portion of a 5-megapixel picture without losing clarity in the image.

Sample image from Nokia 808 PureView (click to enlarge)

Medical Technology Expanding Beyond The Injured

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Writing for the Atlantic, David Ewing Duncan examines how new medical technologies are improving the lives of injured and diseased patients, and asks the question - should those unaffected use such technology to improve their performance?

At the TEDMED meeting in San Diego last fall a man walk who was paralyzed from the waist down. (See video below).  Injured a year earlier, Paul Thacker hadn't been able to stand since breaking his back in a snowmobile accident. Yet here he was walking, thanks to an early-stage exoskeleton device attached to his legs.

This wasn't exactly on the level of "exos" we've seen in sci-fi films like Avatar and Aliens, which enable people to run faster, carry heavier loads, and smash things better. But Thacker's device, called eLEGS manufactured by Ekso Bionics in Berkeley, California, is one harbinger of what's coming in the next decade or two to treat the injured and the ill with radical new technologies.

Other medical advancements include first-generation machines and treatments that range from deep brain implants that can stop epileptic seizures to stem cells that scientists are using experimentally to repair damaged retinas and damaged heart muscle.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hubo2 Robots Invade Drexel University

Thanks to part of a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation, American universities have purchased six HUBO 2 Plus robots from South Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).  Drexel University’s Autonomous Systems Lab, led by Dr. Paul Oh (related to HUBO’s creator Dr. Jun Ho Oh) was instrumental in sealing the deal.

“Humanoids provide an exciting and practical context to both motivate and train American students,” Oh said. “One can argue that humanoids are the epitome of what one perceives to be a robot. As such, they are an attractive area for engineering students to work on. Students quickly learn that Asia is the world-leader in humanoid design. Thus to become humanoid designers, students recognize that working alongside robot engineers in Asia is important.”

 ”The KAIST HUBO served as an effective platform to train students in both complex systems engineering and working in international design teams. The net effect is that humanoids have been an effective medium to make today’s American engineer more effective in a globalized work environment.”

A Conversation with Peter Thiel and Niall Ferguson

A conversation with: Peter Thiel, founding CEO of PayPal; Member, Board of Directors, Facebook; entrepreneur; and venture capitalist and Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, William Ziegler Professor and author of Civilization: The West and the Rest at Harvard Business School.

Flatworms May Hold Key to Immortality

British scientists have found that a species of flatworm can overcome the process of ageing to become potentially immortal and say their work sheds light on possibilities of alleviating ageing and age-related characteristics in human cells.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal on Monday the researchers found that the flatworms, known as planarian worms, can continuously maintain the length of a crucial part of their DNA, known as telomeres, during regeneration.

"Our data satisfy one of the predictions about what it would take for an animal to be potentially immortal," said Aziz Aboobaker, who led the research at Britain's University of Nottingham. "The next goals for us are to understand the mechanisms in more detail and to understand more about how you evolve an immortal animal."

Will Apple Pull Evi From the App Store?

It looks like Apple does not want Siri to face any competition head-to-head. The powers that be at Apple are looking to jettison voice assistant Evi from the App Store, says the app's developer, True Knowledge.

Launched as an Android App, Evi made its iOS debut in Apple's App Store in mid-January. But after a little more than a month, its days may be numbered.  It is certainly highly aggressive for Apple to pull an app from the store. The usual process is to reject the app (in writing) and allow the developer to fix. However, it appears Apple’s line is essentially that fixing Evi isn’t an option.

Pulling it will also leave almost 200,000 Apple users who have already purchased the app without the ability to get updates.

Evi is still up on the Apple app-store now but it’s likely it won’t be there for very long.

Brilliant Short Film Uses Mathematics As Inspriration

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Director Cristobal Vila of Etérea Studios has created Inspirations, a brilliant cinematic short film that offers a fictionalized interpretation of M.C. Escher's desk and the various objects that informed his mathematical art. Explains Vila of this piece:
I imagined that these things could be his travel souvenirs, gifts from friends, sources of inspiration… Some are tridimensional representations of works by Escher and others might be just his tools as artist and engraver. Here you will find some brief explanatory notes about those elements which have a highly mathematical nature, including the works of that great Dutch artist that appears along the film.
Some of the other references include:

  • The five platonic solids
  • Fermat's Last Theorem
  • A Galton Box
  • Newton's Cradle
  • The Aerial screw by Leonardo
  • and more 
For a full list of the inspirations, visit Eterea Studios Inspirations Math Index.

Jennifer Myer Explains Augmented Reality for Education

With Google Glasses soon to become available, augmented reality is sure to be a new tech buzz word.  In education, augmented reality is already available from SMART Technologies in the form of their Mixed Reality system.

Jennifer Myers is an adjunct instructor of biotechnology at Lone Star College, Montgomery in The Woodlands, Texas. Jennifer is also a Ph.D. student in the Department of Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University. Her specialty is educational technologies, including social media and games. She has a Master's in Teaching from Tufts University and has worked professionally in molecular and cellular biology at Dartmouth College.

Korean Robotics Industry Rolling Along

Korea’s robotics industry is picking up steam as government-led pilot programs are spurring sales and exports, while carving out new niches in the fledgling market. 

About 200 Korean robotics firms are expected to have generated at least 2 trillion won ($1.77 billion U.S.) in output last year, an official at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said Monday, citing preliminary data. The ministry plans to release the final figures as early as June. 

The tally is up about 12 percent from 2010 and more than 240 percent from 2008.

The ministry attributed the upbeat results to a 2011 pan-government scheme to cultivate robotics as one of the country’s key growth industries. 

The country had been shoring up the burgeoning industry by investing 75 billion won since 2002. But the funds were mostly channeled into developing assembly robots, officials said.

Discovery of Stem Cell Production in Ovaries Means Women May Not Be Born With All Their Egg Cells

The long-held dogma about a woman's reproductive capabilities is that she is born with all her egg cells, and that they are finite.  However a newly discovered type of stem cell in the ovary could mean big things for women’s health, possibly leading to new fertility treatments and maybe even a way to delay menopause.

Since the 1950s it has been thought that women are born with all of the egg cells they will ever have. But with the discovery of egg-producing stem cells in mice and humans, it now appears that the ovary can replenish its egg supply. Researchers led by Jonathan Tilly, a reproductive biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, report the finding online February 26 in Nature Medicine.

The paper, entitled “Purification, propagation and characterization of mitotically active germ cells from ovaries of reproductive age women”, is available in the Advanced Online Publication of Nature Medicine at and will be published in the March issue of the journal. It is also available at Oxford Journals.

Sirtuin Protein Linked to Longevity

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A member of the celebrated sirtuin family of proteins has been shown to extend lifespan in mammals — although it’s not the one that has received the most attention and financial investment.

Sirtuin genes and the proteins they encode have intrigued many researchers who study ageing ever since they were first linked to longevity in yeast. Results published in Nature suggest that the overexpression of one gene, called sirtuin 6 (SIRT6), can lengthen lifespan in male mice by as much as 15.8%.
For years, another member of the family, SIRT1, has hogged much of the spotlight because it is the mammalian member of the sirtuin clan most closely related to the longevity-linked yeast gene. Some researchers speculated that SIRT1 may also boost lifespan in mammals, and that it was the target of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine that had been linked to a variety of health benefits.
Sirtuin fervour reached its height in 2008, when the London-based drug company GlaxoSmithKline paid US$720 million for a biotechnology company that was initially focused on finding SIRT1-activating compounds as possible treatments for type 2 diabetes. But since then, results suggesting that SIRT1 affects lifespan in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster and the nematodeCaenorhabditis elegans have been questioned. No effect of SIRT1 on longevity in mammals has been reported, although its expression is associated with a healthier metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet. So no magic diet pills yet.
When mice expressed higher levels of SIRT6 the researchers found that longevity in female mice was unaffected by the excess protein, but that the median lifespan of male mice rose by 14.5% in one line of their transgenic mice and 9.9% in another.

Another measure of longevity, maximum lifespan (generally more valued by researchers into ageing because it is less likely to be affected by other factors such as changes in infant mortality), rose by 15.8% in the first line of mice, and 13.1% in the second, although the latter increase was not statistically significant.

IBM Measures Charge Distribution in Single Molecule

This achievement promises to enable fundamental scientific insights into single-molecule switching and bond formation between atoms and molecules for future applications such as solar photoconversion, energy storage, or molecular scale computing devices, says IBM.
They directly imaged the charge distribution within a single naphthalocyanine molecule using a special kind of atomic force microscopy called Kelvin probe force microscopy at low temperatures and in ultrahigh vacuum.
“This work demonstrates an important new capability of being able to directly measure how charge arranges itself within an individual molecule”, states Michael Crommie, Professor for Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Berkeley. “Understanding this kind of charge distribution is critical for understanding how molecules work in different environments. I expect this technique to have an especially important future impact on the many areas where physics, chemistry, and biology intersect.”
In fact, the new technique together with STM and AFM provides complementary information about the molecule, showing different properties of interest. This is reminiscent of medical imaging techniques such as X-ray, MRI, or ultrasonography, which yield complementary information about a person’s anatomy and health condition.
“The technique provides another channel of information that will further our understanding of nanoscale physics. It will now be possible to investigate at the single-molecule level how charge is redistributed when individual chemical bonds are formed between atoms and molecules on surfaces. This is essential as we seek to build atomic and molecular scale devices,” explains Fabian Mohn of the Physics of Nanoscale Systems group at IBM Research- Zurich.
The technique could for example be used to study charge separation and charge transport in “charge-transfer complexes,” which consist of two or more molecules and are subject of intense research activity because they hold great promise for applications such as energy storage or photovoltaics.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Playboy and Virgin Galactic Dream Up Gentleman's Space Hotel

Thomas Tenery/Playboy Enterprises 

The iconic adult-magazine company, Playboy has dreamed up a vision of a Playboy Club in space — a sprawling sci-fi-inspired depiction of fun and games on a huge private space station – in conjunction with the space tourism company Virgin Galactic. The results appear in the March issue of Playboy magazine on newsstands now.

A zero-gravity dance club, a casino featuring "human roulette" and a restaurant for fine dining are just some of the amenities envisioned by artist Thomas Tenery and released by Playboy. The magazine worked with several futurists and scientists, including Virgin Galactic head designer Adam Wells, to illustrate the potential space Playboy Club.

"As Virgin Galactic gets closer to becoming the world's first commercial space line, Playboy is eagerly pondering the creation of the ultimate intergalactic entertainment destination," Playboy editorial director Jimmy Jellinek said in a statement.  "This heaven-in-the-heavens will exceed starry-eyed travelers' wildest dreams, and guests will truly experience a party that's out of this world."

The Smithsonian Using 3D Printing To Share Their Collection

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As part of an exhibit at the National Museum of African American History called "Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty," curators needed a great statue of Thomas Jefferson, but the one they would most like to have had was on permanent display at Monticello in Virginia. Rather than using traditional methods with rubber molding and casting a team at the Smithsonian decided to pursue a museum-quality 3D printed replica.

According to The Creators Project, the Smithsonian, the world's largest museum and reasearch institution,  has over 137 million pieces in its collection, but only enough room to display about 2 percent of them. So it is using 3D scanning and 3D printing to share as much as it can.

How Should a Singulatarian Vote?

As the 2012 U.S. Presidential election draws near, many followers of the Singularity are asking themselves how their vote might best reflect their desire for a positive outcome.  There is even a movement to elect Ray Kurzweil via the Americans Elect movement.  While the Americans Elect initiative is interesting, this examination will look more closely at the present crop of candidates from the establishment parties.  That is not to say that a third party candidate does not have a chance of winning the election, or making a substantive impact.  Certainly as the technological singularity comes closer to materialization, the impacts will be felt at a greater and greater level and will push to the forefront of the political discussion.  For now, the candidate that is elected will be in charge of preparing the United States for the changes and via their actions affect the sentiment towards technology and progress.  This discussion is by no means finite, and will surely evolve as November approaches.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Algae Urban Farm Proposed for Benetton's Tehran Headquarters

The Benetton Group was seeking a site with a site specific building prototype able to give material consistence to such a renewed model. This project is designed by ecoLogicStudio, a firm mostly oriented towards combining new computational technologies with natural principles and ecosystem processes. The initial idea for the project was found in the “recycling” of past Iranian architectural models and prototypes that are still deeply rooted into the culture of the place and are, at the same time, providing solutions that perfectly fit local microclimatic conditions. The design however is contemporary and fits in the Benetton brand image.

Peter Diamandis on CNN

Peter Diamandis tells Ali Velshi that he believes every problem can be solved given the right people, technology and capital.  Diamandis is co-author of the new book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, an exploration of how exponentially exploding technology will dramatically change the future.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Golden Age of Biology is Now

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In many tissues, they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. San Francisco’s Gladstone Institute is a leading force in stem cell research. The institute is also involved in life-extension research.

In this presentation, Gladstone Investigator Dr. Bruce Conklin explains the surprising past, present, and future of stem cells.

The talk proceeds to explain how developments from embryonic stem cells to induced pluriopotent stem cells will lead to personalized medicine and beyond.

Dr. Conklin's research focuses on using human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) as a model system to understand how biological signals orchestrate the development of complex tissues and then modulate essential functions, such as heart contraction.

Immersion Haptics for Mobile Devices Let You Feel Interactions

Immersion's TouchSense technology could soon be coming to your mobile device.  Sanyo Automotive has just signed a licencing deal for the technology, and others are lining up to add this feature set to their platforms.  

Typically, you use two senses when interacting with technology – sight and hearing. Immersion's TouchSense technology engages – touch – so that you can feel key presses on screen-keyboards the way you do on normal keyboards. The technology works by causing the phone to vibrate in just the right way to give the illusion of a tactile response from the screen. The screen does not move, and no special screen hardware is required. 
The technology works with normal mobile phone vibrator motors.

Was HAL Just Misunderstood?

John Pavlus at Fast Company has recently created a video for science-journalist/songwriter Jascha Hoffman,'s song "Limited."  The video makes use of famous AI entities from science fiction, such as HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey and TRON.

Pavlus writes,
I’ve been curious for a while about whether I could re-edit images, shots, and scenes from well-known movies to tell different stories from the ones I borrowed them from. It also seemed like an intriguing challenge to take images that have acquired so much “baggage” over the years--like HAL’s glowering cyclops eye, which has become visual shorthand for “evil machine”--and try to attach completely opposite emotional associations to them. The music video for “Limited” seemed like a great opportunity to experiment with this approach, since the song instantly suggested to me a science-fiction short story--and what better way to conjure up sci-fi production value than by borrowing it from some of the most iconic films of the past 45 years?

Courtney Griffin Explains Epigenetics

Dr. Courtney Griffin is now an Assistant Member in the Cardiovascular Biology Research Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) after receiving her B.A. from Harvard University and her Ph. D. from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.

Because we want to understand what genes are required for blood vessel development, Dr. Griffin studies certain enzymes that help turn genes on and off. These enzymes are specifically involved in relaxing DNA that is normally tightly coiled up in our cells.

In her laboratory at OMRF, Griffin is studying this emerging field, which is known as epigenetics.

In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence – hence the name epi- (Greek: επί- over, above, outer) -genetics. It refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Examples of such changes are DNA methylation and histone deacetylation, both of which serve to suppress gene expression without altering the sequence of the silenced genes.

Avatar Program Initiated For Life Extension

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The first Global Future Congress 2045 (GF2045) was held on Feb.17-20 in Moscow, where 56 world leading physicists, biologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers met to discuss breakthroughs in life extension technologies and draft a resolution to the United Nations setting the radical lengthening of human lifespan and the creation of Avatars as a priority for the preservation of humankind.

About 500 people attended the three-day event featuring presentations by over fifty speakers including inventor Ray Kurzweil, Microsoft Research Director Rane Johnson-Stempson, and Astronaut Sergey Krichevskiy. The event was focused on breakthrough technologies that could create a synthetic body-vessel for the mind, offering humans unlimited prolongation of life to the point of immortality.

The Congress launched the creation of a global scientific network focused on the creation of a synthetic physical body and the ability to transplant human consciousness into it. GF2045 will also serve as an investment hub, linking business leaders to opportunities to contribute to specific life-extension projects.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Google’s Move From Keyword Searching to Knowledge Searching

Image Source: Mashable
Google's Knowledge Graph is set to make big changes to search and may be the first incarnation of AI. In a recent interview with MashableGoogle Fellow and SVP Amit Singhal says Google doesn’t understand the questions you ask it. If you ask it “the 10 deepest lakes in the U.S,” it will give you a very good result based on the keywords in the phrase and sites with significant authority on those words and even word groupings, but “We cross our fingers and hope someone on the web has written about these things or topics.”
The future of Google Search, though, could be a very different story. In an extensive conversation, Singhal, who has been in the search field for 20 years, outlined a developing vision for search that takes it beyond mere words and into the world of entities, attributes and the relationship between those entities. In other words, Google’s future search engine will not only understand your lake question but know a lake is a body of water and tell you the depth, surface areas, temperatures and even salinities for each lake.

Large Scale Graphene Patterns Achieved Via Simple Process

Discovering a simple, scalable way to pattern graphene for future electronics applications is one of the biggest challenges facing graphene researchers. While lithography has been widely used to create graphene patterns for electronic devices, its multiple processing steps make it too complex for large-scale use. In a recent study, scientists have found that a motorized, movable roller can deposit a polymer solution onto a graphene surface in periodically striped and cross-striped patterns, which they used to make a transistor. By eliminating several steps involved in lithography, the new technique could lead to a low-cost method for producing graphene patterns for a variety of electronic devices on a large scale.
The researchers, from the Korea Electronics Technology Institute and Sungkyunkwan University, both in Gyeonggi-do, Korea; the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Ulsan, Korea; and Korea University in Seoul, Korea, have published their study in a recent issue of Nano Letters.
“We demonstrated how a self-assembly-mediated process can be applied to fabricate graphene micro-patterns on flexible substrates,” Professor Kwang Suh of Korea University told “This process provides a scalable and compatible methodology for the large-scale and roll-to-roll production of graphene patterns.”