Posts Tagged ‘technology’

What side are you on?

It is crazy to think how far technology grows in the world of cell phones. I can’t seem to finish out my 2-year contracts before another revolutionary smartphone hits markets and I regret my decision to upgrade so soon. Although we have already discussed the demanding market for the next best thing. It came to my attention that we have hit a sudden slump in the world of smartphones. This year when my contract went up in February I decided to hold out and snatch the newest smartphone as soon as it hit the market, the problem? There hasn’t been a new one.

I currently am a blackberry user and was looking forward to their newest creation but after such a long lag in new product releases, I decided I would switch over to the new iPhone 5 because it had been so long since the iPhone 4 was released.  Here I am in April and still stuck with my old blackberry.  There have been a lot of speculations why there is a sudden stalemate in the smartphone war. Some blame it on the issues iPhone had with the iPhone 4 release and the antennae problem while others claim it is the new competitor in the Android causing Apple to step up there game. Instead of the usual Blackberry vs. iPhone war a new player as been added to the shuffle. Google Inc. has entered the world of smartphones with the Android.  Google’s phone has had so much attention some claim it is even better than the iPhone and will knock blackberry off the market for good.  Now, with the added player to the smartphone fight my decision to get a switch just became twice as hard. With Android being compared to Windows PC and the iPhone obviously representing Apple systems, where does the blackberry stand.  Not many people remember the Palm Treo in early 2000 that has faded from the smartphone market because blackberry stole their thunder with a better operating system that provided more user friendly capabilities and more reliable technology. Now that there is a new phone to compete with the iPhone, is the blackberry a thing of the past?

I feel a consumer obligation to the blackberry after two years of satisfied use, but what can I do if the Android and iPhone provide a new generation of smartphones and Blackberry fails to rise to the challenge.  For now I am team Blackberry with a strong inclination to switch to iPhone if they are able to release the new iPhone 5 any time soon. But the increasingly positive reviews of the Android with its very consumer friendly advertising campaign makes a strong argument to forever abandon the Blackberry. With smartphones that already start cars, turn on security alarms, scan credit cards and display HD movies, it is hard to imagine what our phones will be doing in 10 years.


Under control of robots?

April 24, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the topics that I found interesting was regarding the power that technology may have on our lives in the future. Technology has become an influential and necessary part of our every day lives from using Wikipedia and other online sources to find information to driving our cars to get from one place to another. I don’t think any of us could live without technology in today’s society, but as we saw in the episode of Futurama technology can turn us into zombies following its every command.

Though we didn’t really spend much time discussing it in class, the material we read probably made all of us think about the power that technology can have over us one day. Is it possible for robots to evolve and try to take over humans, as was the case in Software? Aimee, Chris, and Jordan all discussed this topic in one of their blog posts. Aimee pointed out in her blog the possible warning that Gibson may be giving his audience: “Someday we won’t be able to tell the difference between cyberspace and meat space.” This makes you think about the discussions we had about reality versus virtual reality and how it is possible to get lost in the world of virtual reality for it quite accurately mimics the world of reality. Chris raised the question regarding how we as humans should feel about the intelligence that robots have and asked, “ How long will it be until future generations of super computers exceed human ability at other tasks?” Jordan thought the same way about the development of the new X-37B space plane stating, “ This could potentially put astronauts out of business.” Though technological advancements are seen as amazing human developments, should we be worried that one day these human developments will start to replace us humans and eventually blur the line between cyberspace and meat space?

Brain Download 95% Complete, Time Remaining: 39 years.

April 24, 2011 Leave a comment

While skeptics still speak out, more and more leading scientists are beginning to believe that it will one day actually be possible to download the human brain onto an external hard-drive. While computers are becoming incredibly intelligent and powerful(The IBM BlueGene computer can perform 72 trillion calculations per second), there has still been to date no match for the human brain. Billions of years of evolution have seemed to hone this natural organ to incredible ability. But soon, researchers predict that we will be able to read the neural networks within the brain and convert them into readable code. As Ian Pearson, head of the Futurology unit at British Technology says “‘If you draw the timelines, realistically by 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it’s not a major career problem.”

Although this concept seems impossible, the truth is that we are not as far away as we think. The entire basis of computing relies on many of the same principles that are utilized by the human brain. Arrangements of wires, currents, and processors all currently exist in one form or another in the human brain. But this begs some lofty philosophical questions. If we can completely analyze and translate every neural interaction in the human brain, would what exists on that external hard drive actually be the individual consciousness, the person that that brain inhabited? This questions draws heavily on Rudy Rucker’s Software in which many of them were analyzed in novel form. In my opinion, the answer to this question is yes. I believe that the consciousness is the result of the placement an interactions of the neurons in the brain, nothing more and nothing less. But what does this mean? Well possibly the most exciting application is the fabled concept of immortality. If you could accurately download all of the existing thoughts, memories, and workings of the human brain onto a hard-drive, then you could upload the same information into another human brain in another body(possible a genetic copy), and you would be the same person. Continuing to do this might mean that humans could live for hundreds or even thousands of years. While technology is not yet at this level, we are rapidly approaching this ability and the question is an important one, both in philosophical and scientific terms.

Can you see the future?

I am sure everyone has been bored on an airplane and opened up the latest version of SkyMall to check out the latest in gadgets and home accessories.  One object in particular always catches my eye: iWear VR920.  For the cheap price of $399.00 you too can have the world’s best-selling pair of virtual reality glasses.  Not only is the customer able to look like a character from The Matrix, but they also get to experience the wonders of a virtual reality. There has even been experiments if this virtual technology could be used with medicine to help patients psychologically heal from injuries.  Although the iWear glasses are sold on a commercial basis for personal use, advances in technology could discover a way to help patients recover from psychological events or help train combat fighters to decrease deaths.

With all new inventions, there are many faults in the product including the stability, and the graphics of the virtual reality. But like all new age technology, once the original is created it can only be improved from there. So who knows, maybe one day we will only communicate through a virtual world, or maybe the reality of Chew-Z and Can-D is not far in the future.  The Vuzix iWear glasses are able to track your head movement so the character reacts to your movements and provides to equivalent of a 62-inch screen from a safe distance of 9 feet.  These revolutionary glasses give the viewers a full immersion into the virtual world of the game of their choice. Not only do viewers get to experience their favorite games in a 3D experience, but they will feel like they are a part of the game.  The concept of virtual reality glasses brings a whole new meaning to the concept of gamer addiction as they feel they are physically in the game.

The technology of the virtual glasses can easily be improved with lighter designs, better graphics, and faster movement tracking technology.  After such advances in technology it is not far fetched to think that maybe one day we will be able to slip on a pair of glasses and join the Avatars of tomorrow in a foreign land where we cannot die and virtual cyberspace becomes our reality.


Geminoid: Freakishly Human

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The similarity between humans and robots has been increasing as the years go by and this is extremely evident in Geminoid DK, which can be easily mistaken for a human being. The development of robots has a long and rich history, transforming robots made of metal to robots made of synthetic skin and hair. The 1950s were the birth of the industrial robot and since then the age of robots has take off with countless robot inventions that seem to surpass expectations.

The Geminoid itself has undergone extreme changes and advancements from the first one created in Japan by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro to the newest one created by Danish Professor Scharfe. A Geminoid is a remote controlled android robot powered by a silent air servo system that can mimic facial expressions and sounds. The first Geminoid created HI-1, was created in 2005 by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro who is the director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University in Japan. After HI-1, Geminoid F1 was created as the female version which could not only mimic facial expressions but also laughter.

The newest Geminoid is known as Geminoid DK and was built in Tokyo by Kokoro, a company that focuses on creating robots and has created numerous robots including the I-Fairy and the Humanoid Robot. The Geminoid DK is the newest member of the Geminoid family, joining Geminoids HI-1 and F1.

The Geminoid is going to be used to research the “emotional affordances in human-robot interaction” and study the different views that cultures have on robots. Geminoid DK is currently in Japan, but when it arrives in Denmark the research will begin to study the relationship that humans have with such human like robots.

Many people view Geminoid DK as an incredible technological advancement while others are still in shock of how human-like Geminoid Dk is. This causes one to wonder how long it will be until robots will live among us and be undetectable in our society.


Is the tablet worth the buzz?

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Forbes has called the tablet the “buzz word” of 2011 and it truly seems that the tablet has taken over these days. You walk into a coffee shop and find everyone engrossed in the shiny and small tablet device. I never thought about the invention of such a portable device because, well, we already have the laptop.

Currently Apple rules the tablet market, with the iPad, which launched the tablet industry. Apple has sold over 14 million tablets since it first went onto the market in April 2010 and they are expected to have over 7 billion dollars in sales by 2015. The iPad started the tablet craze and now dozens of new tablets are on the market, including the Motorola device tablet. I came across this commercial for the new tablet device from Motorola and was captivated by its unique take on the evolution of the tablet and the comedic qualities of the advertisement. The commercial not only portrays past literal tablets, such as the Rosetta Stone, but presents and ridicules what is thought of today as the tablet, such as Motorola’s biggest tablet competitor, the iPad.

I am not the biggest advocate of the tablets, but I must say I’m beginning to see what others see in them due to their size, shape, and capabilities (its like a hybrid between a phone and laptop). The iPad has boasted about the enhanced experience that comes from using the tablet. The multi-touch screen with the bright LED-backlight makes images come to life. The 9.7-inch high-resolution screen allows one to experience a unique way to surf the Internet, watch videos, and multi-task all at the convenience of ones fingertips (literally, since the iPad is a touch screen device).  All these features draw you into the beauty of such a portable device.

The tablet seems to be the next logical step in the evolution of the portable computer but the main question stands: Is a tablet a better device to own than a laptop? Though the craze right now is the tablet, in a few years the tablet will be seen as an obsolete device and a new and smaller device will be the “buzz word.”

Will the tablet be able to last like Ralph Numbers in Rudy Rucker’s book Software, or will it disappear into the technological past.  It’s up to you to decide if the tablet really is a buzz or if it is simply a fad that will fade away.

Jeopardy! Hosts Epic Battle of Man Versus Machine

February 17, 2011 3 comments

This week marked a historical landmark for game show fans and technology enthusiasts alike.  Over a two-game competition, Jeopardy’s two highest-winning contestants of all time competed against an IBM-designed supercomputer, Watson, in a new test of man against machine.   Relying on the equivalent of 2,800 powerful computers connected in a high speed network, with a memory capacity of over 15 trillion bites, Watson functioned independently to communicate with Alex Trebek and respond to clues – with neither internet connection nor human assistance to aid him.

Representing the human race were Ken Jennings, who in 2004 earned over $2.5 million over a 74-day winning streak, and Brad Rutter, who accumulated over $3.2 million in regular season-play and other Jeopardy tournaments since his debut in 2000.

Watson (middle) displays its superior handwriting

This situation raises some interesting questions about the competitive relationship between man and technology.  To what extent can a man-made machine surpass the potential of man himself?  Can a machine comprehend complex information provided directly from human interaction?  How autonomous are modern super computers?  Do machines appreciate Alex Trebek’s dry humor?

Watson’s performance alone answered many of these questions.  Between the two games, Watson’s winnings accumulated to $77,147, compared to Jennings’ measly $24,000 and Rutter’s embarrassing $21,600.

Watson, deep in thought and looking confident

While the large supercomputers that power Watson had to be kept in a room backstage, the avatar that stood behind the podium between Jennings and Rutter had a unique presence on the show, seeming at times to be wiser than a mere collection of wires and hardware.  Aside from having a human name, Watson’s “face” would change colors and display threads of light representing thoughtwaves based on its progress and confidence as it pondered its answers.  Additionally, its monotonous electronic voice seemed to possess an unwavering air of superiority.

When asked about his experience competing against Watson, Ken Jennings stated, “I had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat.  It’s not about the results; this is about being part of the future.”  Spoken like a true second-place competitor, Jennings did not seem overly concerned about seeing a machine beat him at his greatest skill in life, playing Jeopardy.

Should we really be as excited as Jennings about this future?  Watson already displayed his dominance over Jeopardy – how long will it be until future generations of super computers exceed human ability at other tasks?  If Watson can play Jeopardy, what other jobs could it be programmed to do?  Surely it could handle the analytical demands of many popular American jobs, and don’t forget – Watson doesn’t show up late for work, sleep on the job, take sick-days, or demand comfortable work conditions or a fair salary.

Perhaps Watson’s success marks a step forward  in time toward a world in which man himself will fall obsolete to the power of his constantly evolving technology.  But even though Watson was able to answer questions more accurately and quickly than its human competitors, it does not necessarily represent a threat to mankind’s mental capacity and dominance.  To prove this, I have one question for Watson:

How did it feel to compete on Jeopardy?

Not so smart anymore, Watson.  Machine may have won this round, but the future of man’s relationship with technology is still in our hands.

For more information on the technology behind Watson, and to watch Watson compete on Jeopardy, watch this recording of the episode on YouTube: