Geek stuff Archive

Zenith Space Command: Unboxing a Mystery

"Ever since the remote control's co-inventor Robert Adler passed away , I've wanted to own one of the first remote controls. After trolling through eBay every now and then, I finally have in my hands a piece of the history of the button. But there's a mystery: which piece?" Entertainingly written piece on the world's first remote controls. I totally enjoy the simplicity of the ultrasonic remote: "All these early remotes are purely mechanical. No batteries at all. When you push the button, a small hammer strikes an aluminum rod, triggering a sound above our hearing range that's picked up by the TV. Each rod is a different length, thus a different frequency, thus distinguishable by the TV." Brilliant.

AI Will Surpass Human Intelligence After 2020

Vernor Vinge, 62, is a pioneer in artificial intelligence, who in a recent interview warned about the risks and opportunities that an electronic super-intelligence would offer to mankind. Vinge is a retired San Diego State University professor of mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is well-known for his 1993 manifesto, "The Coming Technological Singularity", in which he argues that exponential growth in technology means a point will be reached where the consequences are unknown. Vinge still believes in this future, which he thinks would come anytime after 2020.

Has A.R. Finally Become a Reality?

Augmented Reality is the overlapping of digital information and physical environment. Sci-Fi has often portrayed A.R. as interactive floating transparent computer screens projected into the air, or perhaps the most absolute example: standing inside an entirely computer generated world.

Poll: What’s your Favorite SciFi TV Series

Half of our readers are away in this holiday season, so traffic and news items are considerably down comparatively to normal weekdays. Why don't we have some Holiday Fun (TM) with a poll? Our friends at Slashdot put a poll up asking about your favorite sci-fi TV series, but they forgot two very important entries as their readers mentioned quickly afterwards: the most famous TV series of the '90s "The X-Files", and the already cult classic "Firefly". So we thought we recreate the same poll, but with these options in play, just so we see what our (mostly geek) readership likes the most. Even if we only have ~1/10 of Slashdot's traffic we can still have some fun with it!

Build a Space Odyssey HAL 9000 with Autonomic Computing

"In this article, see how HAL 9000, the computer in the 2001: A Space Odyssey movie , the smartest believable artificial intelligence so far in fiction, could predict equipment failure, answer personal questions, learn to sing 'Bicycle built for Two', and go insane, based on IBM Build to Manage Toolkit components. By the end of this article, you'll see how autonomic computing can be implemented today; determine if there is such a thing as a Hofstadter-Moebius loop in programming; and discover if HAL stands for Heuristic ALgorithmic computer, Heuristic Autonomic Learner, or is simply the first three letters of a prankster holiday that occurs about this time of the year."

Experts Believe the Future will be Like Sci-Fi Movies

In the latest study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, over 700 technology experts were asked to evaluate an assortment of scenarios in an attempt to determine potential trends for the year 2020. With responses from representatives of the World Wide Web Consortium, ICANN, the Association of Internet Researchers, and major corporations like Google and IBM, the report reflects the perceptions of "Internet pioneers," more than half of whom "were online before 1993."

Sci-Fi: a New Kind of OS

"Imagine if you will, a world where your ideas and perhaps, even your own creative works became part of the OS of tomorrow. Consider the obvious advantages to an operating system that actually adapted to the needs of the users instead of the other way around. Not only is there no such OS like this, the very idea goes against much of what we are currently seeing in the current OS options in the market."

Latest Advancements in Speech Recognition

Talking to your computer has been a staple of science fiction since at least the 1960s, but it looks as if it's finally coming within reach. This week saw the release of the first speech recognition software capable of handling continuous speech without the user having to train it in advance, namely Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) version 9. For anyone else who tried IBM ViaVoice or Dragon Dictate a few years ago, found it awkward to get the system used to your voice, and even more awkward to speak in a staccato word-by-word fashion, this is a huge leap forward.

AI Reaches the Golden Years

"Artificial intelligence is 50 years old this summer, and while computers can beat the world's best chess players, we still can't get them to think like a 4-year-old. This week in Boston, some of the field's leading practitioners are gathering to examine this most ambitious of computer research fields, which at once has managed to exceed, and fall short of, our grandest expectations."

OpenCyc 1.0 Released

OpenCyc is the open source version of the Cyc technology, the world's largest and most complete general knowledge base and commonsense reasoning engine. OpenCyc can be used as the basis for a wide variety of intelligent applications. This is release 1.0 of OpenCyc featuring the complete Cyc ontology of over 260,000 terms and their definitional assertions numbering over 1.8 million. OpenCyc requires about 500MB of disk space and performs best with over 512 MB RAM. One GB of RAM is recommended for Cyc when accessed by Java applications.

Star Trek-Like Cloaking Devices Proposed by Physicists

Since all you boys and girls watch Star Trek: "Physicists Nicolae Nicorovici from the University of Sydney, Australia, and Graeme Milton, from the University of Utah, have proposed that devices called superlenses could be used to create a type of cloaking device. Using a principle called 'anomalous localized resonance', superlenses placed very close to a small object could mask its reflected light waves by resonating at the same frequency, much like how noise-canceling headphones mask sound waves by creating a sound that is at the same frequency but inverted in phase."

Quantum Computer Solves Problem, Without Running

Ok, this one is just plain scary. "By combining quantum computation and quantum interrogation, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found an exotic way of determining an answer to an algorithm - without ever running the algorithm. Using an optical-based quantum computer, a research team led by physicist Paul Kwiat has presented the first demonstration of 'counterfactual computation', inferring information about an answer, even though the computer did not run." The research team published their results in Nature.

Firm Shows off Flexible Metal Foil Display

"A firm is showing off a full colour active matrix OLED display prototype at a show today. Universal Display Corporation, which has had part funding from the US Department of Defence, will talk at the Fifth Annual Flexible Displays and Microelectronics conference in Phoenix today. The firm will show off a four inch diagonal display and demo it running full motion video. The display is .1mm thick, and weighs only six grams, compared to a glass LCD which would weigh about 20-30 grams. The firm said that using a metal foil helps thermal and mechanical durability."