Future of Engineering

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Network Science to Predict Future for Pentagon?

The University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science announced recently that it's been awarded a $7.5 million grant to work in the emerging field of network science, which melds everything from mathematics to sociology.

Network science is increasingly the "hot" area for Pentagon research. Why? Because the Pentagon hopes that if it can understand complex networks, then it can understand terrorist networks, and even predict who will join such a network.

What exactly is network science? According a 2005 study done for the Army:

A working definition of network science is the study of network representations of physical, biological, and social phenomena leading to predictive models of these phenomena. Initiation of a field of network science would be appropriate to provide a body of rigorous results that would improve the predictability of the engineering design of complex networks and also speed up basic research in a variety of applications areas

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

India's Future Lies in its Water Management

How India manages its fresh water and the populations’ response to water issues will determine whether it will be a giant civilisation, just another giant or a giant problem. Its river basin’s are not only catchments of precipitation or Monsoon but social, cultural and political needs and challenges of highland, lowland urban and rural citizens. India will only be a giant if it survives and prospers after this global environmental change.

Dam building and the National River Linking Project need further study and careful examination because of the lack of a comprehensive environmental and cultural information database. So too the building of mega infrastructure in a seismically sensitive area of the Himalayas needs careful planning even if this hinders economic development.

Full report from here

Keywords: India Hydrological Future, river basins, seismically sensitive area

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Americans' DIY & Engineering Skills on the Decline?

Even the simplest of automotive tasks, changing a tire, seems to be beyond the ken of many people. According to AAA, nearly 4 million motorists requested roadside assistance last year—for flat tires.

To be fair, young people today are likely to have skills that earlier generations never dreamed of—building Web sites, say, or editing digital movies. But manipulating pixels and working with physical materials aren’t quite the same thing. Does this matter? And if people are becoming less mechanically handy, is that so bad? I think so—and not just because specialization is for insects.

Interesting musings @ this post. More from here


Cybercrime - Evolution, Future Trends

What if you could just sneak $1 out of the wallet of 50,000 different people? They probably won’t notice. If they discover the $1 missing, they probably won’t care, or may even assume they just lost it or mis-counted.

Now, what if you could sneak $1 from 50,000 different people while sitting at your laptop in the local coffee shop? What if you never have to physically confront a single person, nor risk physical harm in any way? What if you could perpetrate a virtual crime, cyberpickpocketing? How about if your cyberpickpocketing could net $50,000 today? That definitely sounds like a more solid business plan than the “Pickpocketing Across America” approach cited above. That is the allure of cybercrime, says this interesting post

Got me thinking about cybercrime in general, not just micro-commerce cyber crime. How is cybercrime going to evolve in future? What will be its various dimensions? And what are we doing about it? I have provided the various interesting resources I found during my research for answers to the above questions.

This interesting post @ ThinkQuest ( http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00460/future.html ) was certainly thought-provoking. It discusses how the rate of malware penetration in wireless and PCs is increasing. It also notes how malware are becoming more intelligent by the day. It concludes that "Trends suggest that criminals will become more insidious. Large-scale and damaging acts such as Dos attacks will become less popular as they are easy to detect and thwart with better security systems. Instead, newer and more indirect methods of crime like phishing and Trojans will become much more popular".

In this report Predicting the future of cybercrime and security, Alan Paller of SANS Institute provides details on predictions by twenty respected leaders in cyber focusing on the top 10 security developments for 2007. They narrowed 40 probable computer security developments down to 10 that have the highest probability of happening and will, if they happen, have substantial impact on large numbers of people. The developments predicted are in the following domains: 1. Laptop encryption, 2. PDA smart phones, 3.Targeted cyber attacks, 4. Cell phone worms, 5. Voice over IP (VoIP) systems, 6. Spyware, 7. Security vulnerabilities, 8. Rootkits, 9. Legislation governing the protection of customer information and 10. Network access control (NAC). In summary, the report says that attacker sophistication seems to be ahead of defensive tools. But by making the attackers' job harder and harder and by increasing the length of gaol sentences for cybercrime and improving international police co-operation and skill levels, we can continue to keep up with the attackers and, over time, begin to turn the tide.

In this brief interview titled Protecting the future from cyber crime, Platypus Magazine spoke with Federal Agent Nigel Phair about his new book and the impact of high-tech crime as he sees it, and the challenges which lay ahead in controlling cyber crime. Some of the questions posed in the interview are: "What are the challenges which lie ahead in policing high tech crime?", "Can policing keep up with the evolution of cyber crime – or is this an unwinnable war?", "Does a cyber criminal fit a typical profile?", & "Who do you see as being the most vulnerable to high tech crime?". Interesting perspectives in the answers.

According to Dan Hubard, a cybercime expert, cybercrime is all about costs and benefits, and criminals are no different from legitimate businesses in this respect. "The old criminals are learning from the new ones how to launder stolen credit cards, and they are learning how little risk they face of being caught," he said. The old criminal gangs have a lot of money that they can plough into cybercrime, which is potentially much more profitable that traditional forms of crime and is less risky.

The U.S. military has hinted that it will expand its cyber crime to cyber warfare in the near future, according to this article. Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder Jr., who heads the Air Force's cyber operations command told the press that the military was currently developing ways to launch virtual attacks on enemies. The general even reckoned that if cyber squaddies could use the Net to scramble an enemy's communications system, they might even be able to do away with heavy handed conventional weapons like bombs.

First it was SAAS and now it it is CAAS - Crimeware as a Service. Criminals invest in crimeware-as-a-service, says this interesting article from Computerworld UK. 'Crimeware as a service', where criminals use online cybercrime services instead of running their own servers and software, is the latest development in internet crime. Hmmm

The Internet Crime Complaint Center posted their latest statistics on cybercrime recently, based on nearly 207,000 complaints people filed in 2007. Since 2006 losses to cybercrime had jumped over 20%, although complaints fell slightly. Over a third of the complaints were about auction fraud, the center said, and a quarter were about non-delivery of goods. Credit/debit card fraud, check fraud, identity theft and Nigerian letter fraud were also represented.

"Years ago, we saw cybercrime as a speciality," says a Dutch expert. "Now we have added cybercrime in every form of police training, so we are raising the level of the entire Dutch police force. There's no crime anymore where there are no digital components built in."

I guess the last statement kind of sums it up. Cybercrime is not a specialty crime any longer. It is a part of most crimes happening today. Not the most pleasant of news!

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Self-making Bed - Italian Enrico Berruti's Invention

An Italian has given the world the first self-making bed.

Throughout history the Italians have made a major contribution to the world's inventory of useful products -- the barometer, ball bearings, the electric battery, the thermometer, the typewriter and the ice cream cone -- it's a staggering list. Enrico Berruti has this month been proudly displaying his self-making bed at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva and unsurprisingly it's attracted a lot of attention, particularly from rather dishevelled men who look as though they haven't eaten for a week.

Berruti's invention is a godsend to those who hate making beds - and I confess to being one of them.

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Keywords: 21st Century invention, barometer, ball bearings, electric battery, thermometer, typewriter, ice cream cone, Enrico Berruti, self-making bed

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IT in India, the Next Big Equaliser in Society after Education

India often undermines the innovative prowess of the domestic players and have so far been looking for technological innovations from the West, rues Ajai Chowdhry, Chairman & CEO, HCL Infosystems. He is glad, however, that with the launch of innovative products like Tata Nano, the common perception is slowly but surely changing.

To the league of recent innovation closer home, Ajai likes to add the HCL MiLeap range of Leaptops. “With its ultra small form factor, offering mobile computing at an unbeaten price of Rs 13,990, MiLeap is set to create a new product segment in our country,” he mentions confidently, during the course of an e-mail interaction with Business Line.

“Other innovations in the past include our products like the sub-10K PC which broke the price barriers in the market and set the industry trend of affordable computing among the desktop category,” says Ajai. “The computer that runs on a car battery, the four in one computer, the point of sale product and the ‘Data Centre’ in a box were all developed at our R&D centre.” This article contains excerpts from the interview.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

To build a deadlier mousetrap: Where high-tech meets low-tech

by Chris Ryan Post a commentIf you thought that the issue of whether a patent covered the use of a microprocessor could only concern the computer or semiconductor industry, think again. High tech has extended its reach to zapping rats (literally).
Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door. Such were the aspirations of Bob Noe, the founder of Agrizap--maker of the patented Rat Zapper, a trap for dispatching pests through electrocution. Agrizap's Rat Zapper, which is about the size of a shoebox, is powered by four AA batteries, and is sold online for about $40 at RatZapper.com.
The slightly larger Rat Zapper Ultra uses D-cell batteries which, according to the Website, enables it to kill "even bigger, badder rats and mice." In the event of serious infestation, or for those with an overdeveloped desire to integrate their equipment, Agrizap also offers the ultimate high-tech equipment including its Battle Station command post and radio-monitoring equipment for use with its traps.
For several years, under an oral marketing agreement, Noe sold the Rat Zapper through Woodstream, one of the nation's oldest mousetrap makers. The relationship broke down in 2003 when Woodstream launched its own competing Electric Mouse Trap, a CPU-controlled rodent-killing device, for which it now appears to hold several of its own patents. In July 2004, Agrizap sued Woodstream for patent infringement and fraudulent misrepresentation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's Philadelphia division.
The lawsuit raised so many issues that it would make a good case study for students of intellectual property law. There was even a discovery dispute of some note, when Agrizap's former operations manager testified during his deposition that the older Gopher Zapper product had been offered for sale at a California trade show. Three months later, the witness tried to recant his testimony through written changes to the transcript. The court did not allow the changes, and the Gopher Zapper was considered "prior-art" to the patent-in-suit.
The claims of Agrizap's patent-in-suit are directed to a rodent trap with a mechanical portion, in which the rat would physically be made part of a high-voltage electric circuit, and an electrical portion, which used discrete electrical components including a "resistive switch" to sense the presence of the rodent and administer the lethal electric dose. The patent also required a "timing module" to switch off power and disarm the device.
Woodstream challenged nearly everything about Agrizap's patent claims, arguing first that it did not infringe and that the claimed invention was previously known, obvious, barred by prior sale, not enabled, indefinite, listed the wrong inventors, and was unenforceable. Ultimately, after a two-week trial, the jury was not persuaded by these defenses and found that Woodstream had infringed claim 16 of the patent. That means the jury found that Woodstream's microprocessor was the same as the discrete resistive switch and discrete timing module claimed in patent.
The law that allows computer software to be patented is rooted in the notion that software instructions transform a general purpose CPU into a different machine by creating electrical paths within the device. Extending this reasoning, some patent holders have tried to argue that a CPU, when programmed to perform a given function, is literally transformed into the specific set of discrete electrical components found in their patent claims. This approach has not found favor with the courts. For example, in the Overhead Door case, the Federal Circuit held that a software instruction running on a microprocessor could not literally infringe a mechanical circuit component. Following the Overhead Door decision, the judge ruled that as a matter of law, Woodstream's microprocessor-based device could not literally infringe the patent whose claims were directed to discrete circuit components.
Agrizap did not leave the courtroom empty-handed. The jury found Woodstream liable for fraudulent misrepresentation and awarded $1.28 million in damages. In this instance, the judge did not disturb the jury's decision because evidence presented at trial showed that in response to specific requests for assurances that it was not copying the Rat Zapper, Woodstream's senior management misled Noe. The company was, in fact, planning to develop and market its own competing product.
Both sides have appealed the decision at the Federal Circuit, where a hearing on the issue took place Feburary 7. Stay tuned for the latest chapter in the war of the rats--and the Federal Circuit's latest decision concerning microprocessors.

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Muhammad Yunus Feels Tech Companies Do Not Have Poor in Mind

"Technology is making more changes in our way of life than ever in human history," says Muhammad Yunus. "The way the Internet and the mobile phone are spreading, you cannot compare with any technology of the past." Yunus is known for his visionary leadership in microfinance and helping the poor. He and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Now he wants to see the tech industry work more explicitly to empower the poor. when he looks at the global IT industry, Yunus is deeply unsatisfied. "When we take tech that was designed for other people to the poor, it has impact," he concedes, "but another way is to design it for the poor to begin with." Yunus argues with passion for the invention of new tech tools, especially for poor women in the developing world

As for today's tech companies, he doubts they will bring about the changes he seeks. "Silicon Valley people are used to making crazy money, so non-crazy areas are left out," he opines.

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Collaborative Innovation Networks - Online Groups Creating Inventions

Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs) are online communities of like-minded people working together to create innovations. Author and scientist Peter Gloor originated the term. These cyberteams are cropping up everywhere, unified not only by their "collective vision" but by the giant tentacles of the Internet. In the case of Facebook, they are the Chinese users of the site who are helping to translate it into their native language. Elsewhere, they are the surgeons collaborating on SpineConnect, an online community where experts from around the world can exchange ideas for innovations in the treatment of spinal injuries.

The potential of all this pooling of ideas is enormous.

The Web-based encyclopaedia Wikipedia and the Internet browser Mozilla Firefox are just two of the products whose development relies upon the contribution of a community of online users.

The idea of working collaboratively to create innovations is not new. Even so, it is an approach that the business world has found hard to come to terms with.

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Lifesaver Bottle by Michael Pritchard - Filters Impure Water, Lightweight

The water in Michael Pritchard's fishtank came straight from his garden pond and it showed. The greenish gunk looked and smelled like it ought not to go anywhere near a human digestive system. But after pumping it through his lightweight, handheld device it came out crystal clear and he even persuaded some onlookers to taste it. The Lifesaver bottle was one of several inventions at a show of military technology hosted by the National Army Museum in Chelsea recemtly.

Once a hurricane or earthquake hits, one of the most pressing logistical needs is to provide clean drinking water to the victims. A transport plane can typically hold enough bottled water for 800 people for a month. The same plane can carry 125,000 Lifesaver bottles. At one bottle per family, that's enough to keep half a million people in drinking water for 16 months. The bottle works by using a handheld pump mechanism to force water from the outside to the inside of a narrow coiled tube inside the device. The polymer that makes up the tube has pores in it that are 15 billionths of a metre in diameter - small enough to filter out bacteria and viruses

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fangs A Lot Sells False Teeth for Cats in the UK

A team of eight British college students, calling themselves Fangs A Lot, have created the first false tooth for a cat and set up a business, Animal Solutions, to market false teeth for cats, dogs, and other animals.

False teeth for cats may sound ridiculous, but they could be a solution to a serious problem for cats. Cats have notoriously bad dental problems, says this post @ Curious Cat Blog


India's People Power? - Rising Costs, Less IP Focus Mean Problems

One of India's biggest challenges is managing its biggest strength: its deep well of young and talented people. Salaries are on the rise for a workforce on the move, making recruitment and training an ongoing issue for India's low-cost service companies.

But the people problem is far from the only issue. At home, battles over inadequate infrastructure dog progress. Overseas, India faces pushback from countries such as the U.S. worried about the loss of domestic jobs to Asia. And India may face a looming crisis in intellectual property. India's R&D outsourcing firms risk being shut out of an intellectual property gold rush.

Wipro execs say they have been struggling to keep up with rising local salaries which have been increasing as much as 15 percent a year

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Clinicon Lavage Tray - A Simple Idea to Reduce Infections

It’s an invention capable of withstanding the toughest scrutiny by Dragon’s Den and which neatly tackles one of the most urgent issues facing UK private hospitals today, the risk of superbug contamination among patients and staff. The brainchild of Spire Bristol Hospital’s Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, John Hardy, and the Clinicon Lavage Tray is a wonderfully simple way of reducing the risk of infection from pathogens, such as MRSA, and blood-borne Hepatitis B, C and HIV, by retaining any spilt blood or body fluids during patient transit and surgery in an inflatable and disposable plastic tray. The tray, which costs just £12 and comes in pre-sterilised packs of 10 units, not only protects patients and staff from cross-infection but will mean quicker turnaround times between patients in busy operating theatres and will even cut the cost of laundry bills! Prototypes are already being used as far afield as Melbourne, Australia

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Keywords: Spire Healthcare, MRSA, Laminar Air Flow filter systems, Spire Bristol Hospital, Dr Jean-Jacques de Gorter

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Manchurian Chip - How Microchips Can Affect Security

“Security experts warn that as supply chains become more global and more opaque, no one can be sure what parts are going into the computers that run, well, everything from air traffic control towers to banks to weapon systems,” Popular Mechanics says. In an article, “The Manchurian Chip,” Glenn Derene and Joe Pappalardo outline in detail the possible dangers.

“Individuals, companies and federal agencies could all be at risk from foreign governments or criminal enterprises,” they write. “A computer chip built with a subtle error might allow an identity-theft ring to hack past the encryption used to connect customers with their banks.”
In addition, they say, flash memory hidden in a corporation’s printers could capture an image of every document produced and send it on to people who should not have it.

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Future Computer Interfaces to Merge with Humans by 2020 - Microsoft Report

The purrfect companion? Computers designed to bring man and machine closer than ever

By 2020 the terms "interface" and "user" will be obsolete as computers merge ever closer with humans.

It is one prediction in a Microsoft-backed report drawn from the discussions of 45 academics from the fields of computing, science, sociology and psychology.

It predicts fundamental changes in the field of so-called Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

By 2020 humans will increasingly interrogate machines, the report said.

In turn computers will be able to anticipate what we want from them, which will require new rules about our relationship with machines.

The report, entitled Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the year 2020, looks at how the development of technologies over the next decade can better reflect human values.

Communication devices for the home that Microsoft is working on include Epigraph, an interface that allows family members to "post" pictures and messages to each other via their mobile phones.

Also, the keyboard, mouse and monitor will increasingly be replaced by more intuitive forms of interaction and display, including tablet computers, speech recognition systems and fingertip-operated surfaces.

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Not Using Our Right Brain is Just Not Right

There was a time, some years back, when a few distinguished folks in the scientist community thought that computers might indeed start thinking on their own. Things have gone relatively quiet on this front since then, though even today you hear the occasional noises. But, while artificial intelligence is an oxymoron - or at best an overhyped promise - in many scientists' opinion, there is little doubt that today's computers and computing infrastructure can perform things that would have been considered pure magic even a few decades back

Recent attempts at making computers emulate human beings in thought, such as the Blue Brain project, have also met with reasonable success. To some around the world, this growth in computing power and sophistication is a cause of concern - "will they take over human beings?". To some others, it is a cause of celebration - "sciece has won after all

But relatively few of them are asking the question "If computers are superior to our brains in some aspects, can our brains be used for far more enriching work?" Once we recall the fact that our brain is not just one whole, but that there are compartments in it that do different things (differently), then our perspective is likely to change. To make things simpler and more logical, it is better to consider the brain's two main compartments - the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere.

Although popularized in the 1980s by the artist Betty Edwards in her book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” the right-brain-left-brain dichotomy originated with the research of the American biologist Roger W. Sperry in the 1960s. Through studying “split brain” animals and human patients, whose brain hemispheres had been disconnected, he found that each side of the brain plays its own role in cognition.

With its 100 billion cells forging 1 quadrillion connections, the human brain is breathtakingly complex. In the last 10 years however, thanks in part to advances in functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers have begun to identify more precisely how the two sides divide responsibilities.

The left side, home of the human language center, is the outspoken logical, linear half of the equation. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. It's that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it's that little voice that says to me, "I am. I am."

The right side, home to spatial perception and nonverbal concepts, is the nonlinear, high-concept source of the imagination and of pleasure. Our right hemisphere is all about right here right now. It thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. It explores what this present moment looks like, what this present moment smells like and tastes like, feels and sounds like

The two hemispheres constantly send signals back and forth through a bundle of 200 million to 300 million nerve fibers to help balance learning, analysis and communication throughout the brain.

(Here is an easy-to-understand comparison of the right and left brain roles & functions).

Humans have benefitted from both these roles over their entire evolution, though individuals have always had preferential consumption of each - some were more left-brained (your typical computer-geek, for instance), and some were more right-brained (that creative painter down your alley). Some, like Da Vinci (or Einstein), had used both hemispheres well

Using the right side of my brain I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true. But my right needs the left - to make my dreams become a reality, I need to process my thoughts, and work on them logically. Thus, the right and left brains have been working in a symbiotic fashion for long. In the 20th century however, the left counterpart started getting a lot more attention and came to be much more valued than the left.

The key ability of our right brain, the ability to help us see from an artist’s perspective, and the alternative way of thinking that this engenders have traditionally been marginalized in the business and corporate world of the 20th century. Until recently, the abilities that led to success in school, work, and business were characteristic of the left hemisphere. They were the sorts of linear, logical, analytical talents measured by SATs and deployed by CPAs. Our educational systems, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.

But now computers can emulate many of the sequential skills of the left hemisphere - it is, at the end of the day, a part that can only see the individual trees in a forest, and machines can do this admirably well. In addition, much of the left-brain-centric work that the information workers of the western world once did — computer programming, financial accounting, routing calls — is now done more cheaply in Asia and elsewhere. To paraphrase a popular saying, "If it can be outsourced or automated, it probably has been. If it has not been, the day is not far off when it will be."

In a world upended by outsourcing, deluged with data, and choked with choices, the abilities that matter most are now closer in spirit to the specialties of the right hemisphere - artistry, imagination, empathy, seeing the big picture, and pursuing the transcendent. This situation has led many to argue that it’s time for our imaginative right brain to take center stage.

No, there is not yet an organization named "Right Brain, the Right Way". No, there is no slogan yet on everyone's lips that reads "It's the Right Brain, Stupid". But yes, there are a number of small efforts underway to make people worldwide realise that the poor cousin is actually the rich cousin of the future.

So you should not be surprised that business executives are turning to the original pop culture icon of right-brain thinking, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” for guidance into their right minds. You should not be surprised either if a couple of years down the line your left brain subtly reminds you that you had started ignoring it of late

Dr. Sperry summarised it best when he accepted the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1981 for his discoveries concerning the functional specialization of the cerebral hemispheres. “The great pleasure and feeling in my right brain,” he said, “is more than my left brain can find the words to tell you."

In future, if people start firing up their right brains, our human race stops being a bunch of androids and we become an imaginative race once again, you know to whom the most credit should go - computers.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

PCs for Home Multimedia, Cinema - PCs to Play Key Role in Home Entertainment

A multitude of non-PC devices are expected to play a role in the connected living room of the future, but this does not mean that the PC will fade away. Analysts expect that PCs will play an ever-increasing role in the management, distribution and playback of multimedia content in the home.

ABI Research said that network-connected PC media servers and living room PCs will grow in adoption over time. Audiovisual form-factor home cinema PCs and more traditional home cinema PCs will grow to an installed base of 25 million worldwide by 2013, according to the analyst firm.

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The Vertical Farm Project - A Better Land Use Method

The Problem

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use. Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?

A Potential Solution: Farm Vertically

An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world's urban centers.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke Lectures - The Next Billion Years, Emerging Global Brain

Wow, this is an excellent read. It's difficult to write a precis for this, so I suggest you read the entire post - quite a long one, I must warn you, but fascinating, don't worry!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

McKinsey Quarterly Eight Business Technology Trends To Watch

A recent article at the McKinsey Quarterly "Eight business technology trends to watch" by James Manyika, Roger Roberts and Kara Sprague identified some trends that we as IT leaders need to be thinking about. The trends they identify are:

Managing Relationships

1. Distributing cocreation - use the Internet to collaborate
2. Using consumers as innovators - use "crowdsourcing"
3. Tapping into a world of talent - using the Net
4. Extracting more value from interactions - using technology

Managing Capital and Assets

5. Expanding the frontiers of automation
6. Unbundling production from delivery - use technology to make our fixed assets into reusable components

Leveraging Information in New Ways

7. Putting more science into management - more data-based decisions
8. Making businesses from information - from new markets.

Via: Beyond Blinking Lights & Acronyms

Related blogposts
McKinsey Quarterly - Trends in Business Technology
Business Technology Trends To Watch


What's Wrong with Stem Cell Research?

What indeed is wrong with stem cell research?

Well, most folks opposed to stem cell research are not exactly opposed to stem cell research. They are opposed to embryonic stem cell research. What is it?

The two broad types of mammalian stem cells are: embryonic stem cells that are found in developing embryos, and adult stem cells found in adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all of the specialized embryonic tissues. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing specialized cells, but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin or intestinal tissues. (source: Wikipedia, see also NIH Stem Cell Info Home Page)

The methods to get embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of discarded human embryos, usually from fertility clinics. These frozen embryos are created by in vitro fertilization, are no longer needed by the families who produced them, such embryos were available for “adoption". Now you can understand the context. (some FAQs that will throw more light on these: From Wired here & here, http://www.whitehead.mit.edu/news/paradigm/spring_2007/faqs.html, Massachusetts General Hospital, NIH, Reasons to Believe, International Society for Stem Cell Research)

Many pro-lifers believe that human life, in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon, becomes a human person at the time of fertilization. Thus, killing an embryo in order to extract its stem cells is a form of homicide. They are generally opposed to such research. Others disagree. They believe that an embryo has the potential to develop into a person, but is not a person itself. They note that an embryo is not sentient; it has no brain, sensory organs, ability to think, awareness of its surroundings, consciousness, internal organs, arms, legs, head, etc. They feel that research using stem cells derived from embryos is ethical.

So where indeed are we heading with regard to stem cell research in general and embryonic stem cell research in particular? What are the various breakthroughs in this domain? What are the experts and politicians and yes, George W Bush saying?

This compilation looks at this important area of research and debate and provides a list of resources that will hopefully give the reader a better perspective of all the views and facts.

Breakthroughs and Inventions

Human Stem Cells May be Produced without Embryos (Jul 2007) - Japan’s leading genetics researcher could be “a matter of months” from reaching the Holy Grail of biotechnology – producing an “ethical” human stem cell without using a human embryo, he has said. The potential of Professor Yamanaka’s breakthrough work – in which the skin cells of laboratory mice were genetically manipulated back to their embryonic state – has been hailed as the equivalent of “transforming lead into gold”. If the research develops in the way he hopes, runs the excited logic, the ethical problems that have swirled around embryonic stem-cell research would disappear. The concept of artificially inducing adult cells to return to a stem-cell state raises equally attractive possibilities for organ transplantation.

Stem Cell Breakthrough Could Stifle Research (Nov 2007) - Last week independent teams of scientists announced a major advance in stem cell research with their discovery of how to turn human skin cells into an "embryonic" state, enabling these cells to grow into nerve, heart or other types of human cells. The method does not require the destruction of discarded human embryos from fertility clinics, currently the only source of embryonic stem cells. Thus, this would bypass the ethical concern that prompted the Bush White House to sharply limit funding on stem cell research. The discovery, albeit promising, might stifle embryonic stem cell research or send it down a dead-end path, for it is now harder than ever to secure funding to study the best source of embryonic stem cells—that is, embryos.

British Team Grows Human Heart Valve from Stem Cells (Apr 2007) - A British research team led by the world's leading heart surgeon has grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time. If animal trials scheduled for later this year prove successful, replacement tissue could be used in transplants for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from heart disease within three years.

Stem Cell Breakthrough to Challenge Bush Objections (Aug 2006) - A stem cell breakthrough by American scientists is set to overturn ethical objections to potentially live-saving research. They have found how to make stem cells from embryos without destroying the embryo in the process - an advance that could open the door to billions of dollars in research funding. A team at the Advanced Cell Technology - a private company - has found that it is possible to create human stem cells using one or two cells from an early embryo, without doing any damage to the embryo
Stem Cells Patch Holes in Brain without Prompting (Dec 2006) - In research that could be harnessed to speed recovery from stroke or blunt-force trauma to the head, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, report that mice genetically engineered to have holes in a region of their brain recovered due to the work of stem cells in the area.

Stem Cells for Parkinson's Disease: Breakthrough or Hype? - asks this recent post from Wired

Views and Opinions

For Catholics, is Stem Cell Research Worse than Sloth?, asks this March 2008 article in Slate - "The Vatican released a list of seven new sins...Dubbed the "social sins," they include conducting stem-cell research, polluting the environment, and causing poverty. Along with the old standbys—like lust, pride, and greed—these seven are considered to be of the "deadly" variety. What kinds of sins aren't deadly?"...read on

ES Cells without Harming the Embryo (Oct 2005) - scientists have derived embryonic stem cells from a single cell removed from an 8-cell mouse embryo. But they have implanted the remaining seven cells in a female mouse womb and produced apparently normal pregnancies in about half the cases. Hitherto, stem cells have been taken from later stage embryos in a way which destroys their potential to develop any further. This is seen as tantamount to murder by those who regard the early embryo as having the same moral status as a live human baby. If the new method could successfully be done with human early embryos, the researchers say here is a way to obtain embryo stem cells without destroying the embryo. Would this argument work?

Ten Problems with Embryonic Stem Cell Research - A developed stem cell line comes from a single embryo, becoming a colony of cells that reproduces indefinitely. Consider now the following ten problems with Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR).
1. The issue of who or what
2. The deliberate misuse of terminology in defining stem cells
3. ESCR is related to human cloning
4. The current status of ESCR in the U.S. is unsettled at best
5. There is law that could apply to ESCR
6. Polls show that the American people do not approve using public money to destroy human embryos in medical research
7. ESCR puts us on the road to growing humans for body parts
8. Contemporary moral issues often follow the flow of money
9. ESCR currently has major disadvantages
10. The Success and Promise of Adult Stem Cell

For these ten reasons the author's conclusion is that more dollars should be invested in adult stem cell research and the macabre research associated with ESCR should be abandoned entirely.

Stem Cell Research: All Viewpoints - Many pro-lifers believe that human life, in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon, becomes a human person at the time of fertilization. Thus, killing an embryo in order to extract its stem cells is a form of homicide. They are generally opposed to such research. Others disagree. They believe that an embryo has the potential to develop into a person, but is not a person itself. They note that an embryo is not sentient; it has no brain, sensory organs, ability to think, awareness of its surroundings, consciousness, internal organs, arms, legs, head, etc. They feel that research using stem cells derived from embryos is ethical.

Thousands of Adult Stem Cell Deaths Show Urgency of Embryonic Research (Apr 2007) - Steven Edwards in this article says “They're mass murderers, in fact. In only five years between 2000 and 2004, adult stem cells used in some 25,000 bone marrow transplant treatments have been complicit in at least 3,629 American deaths, 624 of which involved children under the age of 18, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. If the trend continues, adult stem cells will claim their 5,000th victim since 2000 this year.” These data, he says, show that more research is required into embryonic stem cells.

Is A Life for a Life Required?

What's Wrong with Embryonic Stem Cell Research? (an old but good article, Jul 2001) - Many people have come out in opposition to stem cell research. Why? Because the major source of stem cells for research today is embryos, and the embryos are destroyed in the process of extracting the stem cells. What's the big deal? Genetically, an embryo is a human being. A very tiny, undeveloped human being, but a human being nonetheless. Even if stem cell treatments ultimately prove successful, embryonic stem cell treatment involves the deliberate killing of a human being in order to use his body parts to treat another human being. Supporters of embryonic stem cell research point to all sorts of good that might result. They paint glowing pictures of the diseases that might be cured and the people who might be helped. But does this justify killing an innocent human being?, asks this article.

Embryonic stem cell research flawed (Mar 2008) - "I've tried to do research to compare ESCR to ASCR (adult stem cell research); I refuse to be bullied into supporting what is obviously the destruction of human tissue just because I have a loved one with a disorder who needs help." - strong words indeed

Pros & Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research (from About.com) - Embryonic stem cells are thought by most scientists and researchers to hold potential cures for spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, hundreds of rare immune system and genetic disorders and much more. Over 100 million Americans suffer from diseases that eventually may be treated more effectively or even cured with embryonic stem cell therapy. Some researchers regard this as the greatest potential for the alleviation of human suffering since the advent of antibiotics. Many pro-lifers believe that the proper moral and religious course of action is to save existing life through embryonic stem cell therapy

What is Wrong With Embryonic Stem Cell Research? (from God & Science, a pretty well-detailed and insightful article) - Embryonic stem cell research is a hot topic that seems to pit anti-abortion conservatives against pro-abortion liberals. The conservatives claim that there are better alternatives to embryonic stem cells, while the liberals claim that conservatives are blocking research that will provide cures to many tragic diseases. Much of the rhetoric is designed to muddy the waters to invoke emotional responses of those within each camp. This paper is designed to break through sound-bites and go the heart of the matter - what are the scientific issues that impact the question of stem cell research.

Key Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research - from the Australian Parliament Reports (PDF)


What Are The Benefits of Stem Cell Research (Feb 2007)

Stem Cell Basics (from National Institutes of Health, USA) - Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. Serving as a sort of repair system for the body, they can theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. More from this article

Egg Harvesting and Embryonic Stem-cell Research Pose Serious Threat to Women’s Health (Mar 2007) - A congressional hearing in 2007 raised awareness on the risks to women’s health and fertility by in vitro fertilization (IVF), human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, where experts testified the techniques and drugs involved posed unacceptable risks to women's health.

Research Ethics and Stem Cells (National Institutes of Health, USA) - Stem cells show potential for many different areas of health and medical research, and studying them can help us understand how they transform into the dazzling array of specialized cells that make us what we are. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are caused by problems that occur somewhere in this process. A better understanding of normal cell development will allow us to understand and perhaps correct the errors that cause these medical conditions

Stem Cell Research & George Bush

Scientists Sideline Bush Opposition to Stem Cell Research (Jun 2006) - Harvard scientists have said they will bypass President Bush's moratorium on state funding of embryonic stem cell research by using privately sourced cash. It's thought it will be the first non-commercial enterprise to work on human embryos in the US. An executive order from Bush in 2001 banned the use of public money for research on human embryonic stem cells other than just 22 old lines which have since been branded useless because of contamination. Two groups will work on creating new human stem cell lines derived from surplus IVF embryos. They will work towards using the cells to treat diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and blood disorders.

Stem Cell Pioneer Does a Reality Check (Jun 2005) - Thomson, a developmental biologist and veterinarian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, made history in 1998 when he and fellow researchers derived the first embryonic stem cell lines from frozen human embryos. The breakthrough came after the news that a sheep named Dolly was born as the first cloned mammal — and together, the two announcements hinted at a brave new world of medical possibilities and moral debates. Since then, five of the university's cell lines have been approved for federal funding under the terms of the Bush administration's stem cell compromise of August 2001. Not surprisingly, Thomson believes that President Bush should call off his threat to veto the legislation — and that the federal government should put more money into embryonic stem cell research. Critics point out that embryonic stem cells are not being used in any clinical applications yet, while alternatives such as adult stem cells figure in scores of therapies

Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ Convinced Bush To Ban Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Dec 2007) - Shortly after taking office, President Bush announced a policy allowing federal funding of research only on existing stem cell lines, despite the urging of several of his advisers and the scientific community for expanded funding. Bush has nevertheless remained stubborn, twice vetoing legislation that would have lifted the restrictions. In a new piece in Commentary magazine, Jay Lefkowitz — who advised Bush on stem cells — reveals how the President formulated his 2001 policy. While Bush heard from a variety of groups on both sides of the issue, the turning point appeared to come when Lefkowitz read from Aldous Huxley’s fictional novel, Brave New World, and scared Bush: "A few days later, I brought into the Oval Office my copy of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s 1932 anti-utopian novel, and as I read passages aloud imagining a future in which humans would be bred in hatcheries, a chill came over the room"

Bush's Stem Cell Veto: What's Wrong With This Picture? (Jul 2006) - In the first ever veto of his administration, President Bush has killed legislation that would have expanded federal support of stem cell research by making available to scientists new “lines” of such cells that experts generally agree are needed to move forward in finding treatments for spinal cord injury, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other life threatening diseases.

Scientists Excited Bush Stem Cell Research Policy May Change After Elections (Mar 2008) - Scientists who engage in stem cell research are excited that the policy President Bush has put in place about the practice could be overturned with the election of a new president. See also this related news report

Related Useful Resources

Stem Cell Resources Stem Cell Basics

And some fun - First Lady Laura Bush's Take on Stem Cells

Here's a huge 2001 Time Magazine resource on stem cells

Stem Cell Research home page

Moral relativism is absolutely great

Evolution or Exodus?

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The 25 Potential Technology, Environment Threats to UK

These are the 25 technological advances and environmental changes that could pose a potential threat to Britain, according to scientists.

1. Nanotechnologies
2. Invasive impacts of artificial life and biomimetic robots
3. Unintended consequences of pathogens developed by modern biotechnology
4. Direct impact of novel pathogens
5. Impacts of control efforts for novel pathogens
6. Facilitation of non-native invasive species through climate change
7. Large-scale restoration for iconic wildlife and habitats
8. Action to facilitate species range change in the face of climate change
9. Frequency of extreme weather events
10. Geo-engineering the planet to mitigate the effects of climate change
11. Implications for biodiversity of the adoption of an ecosystem approach
12. Increased fire risk
13. Increasing demand for biofuel and biomass
14. Step change in demand for food and hence pressure on land for agriculture
15. Ocean acidification
16. Reduction of coldwater continental shelf marine habitats
17. Significant increase in coastal and offshore power generation
18. Extreme high-water coastal events
19. Sea level rise resulting in loss of coastal and intertidal habitats
20. Dramatic changes in freshwater flows
21. Nature conservation policy and practice may not keep pace with environmental change
22. Internet and new e-technologies connect people with information on the environment
23. Decline in engagement with nature
24. Adoption of monetary value as the key criterion in conservation decision-making
25. Public antagonism towards wildlife due to perceived human health threat

Source: Telegraph, UK

Related blogposts
25 environmental threats of the future

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14 Things to Make Life Better acc to Engineering, Scientists

Committee of scientists and engineers compile list of challenges

At the top of many personal wish lists you might find a new car or a Caribbean vacation. But scientists have compiled a global wish list of 14 things that would make life better for everyone.
A committee of scientists and engineers gathered by the National Science Foundation met several times over the last year to compile a list of engineering challenges that, if met, would improve how we live. They announced their final choices on Feb. 20.
In no particular order, the resulting wish list is:
— Make solar energy
— Provide energy from
— Develop carbon sequestration
— Manage the nitrogen
— Provide access to clean
— Restore and improve urban
— Advance health
— Engineer better
— Reverse-engineer the
— Prevent nuclear
— Secure
— Enhance virtual
— Advance personalized
— Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

The committee decided not to rank the challenges. The public can vote on which one they think is most important and leave comments at the project Web site, http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/.

The final choices fall into four themes that the panel thinks are essential for humanity to flourish — sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability and joy of living

More from here


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pick the Engineering Challenges - National Academy of Engineering

What needs to be done in manufacturing, medicine and other fields where engineering plays a role? The (US) National Academy of Engineering is soliciting suggestions for "Grand Challenges."

America's big names in engineering, as well as millions of Internet users around the world, are being asked to weigh in with their picks for the greatest technological challenges of the next century — a nine-month process that could give birth to new research initiatives.

The project, called the "Grand Challenges for Engineering" program, is aimed at gathering up all those ideas and distilling them into a list of 20 puzzles for engineers to solve — in fields ranging from energy to communications to aerospace to advanced materials.

Full story here


Roadmap for SMC - Sound and Music Computing

A European consortium has drafted a roadmap for the future of sound and music computing (SMC), which provides the core technologies for the burgeoning electronic music industry

Drawing on inspiration from hard sciences like physics and engineering, social sciences like psychology and musicology, and the creative arts, digital musical instruments, CDs, MP3s and other innovative ICTs owe a great debt to SMC.

The new roadmap published by the S2S² project aims to maximise SMC's growth potential.

Five key challenges have been identified by the roadmap:

Design better sound objects and environments (improving the sounds produced by objects present in our environment to enhance their emotional character).
Understand, model and improve human interaction with sound and music.
Train multidisciplinary researchers in a multicultural society.
Improve knowledge transfer.
Address social concerns.

Full report from here

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Energy We Consume and What To Do About It

The average American uses 11400 Watts of power continuously. This is the equivalent of burning 114 x100 Watt light bulbs, all the time. The average person globally uses 2255 Watts of power, or a little less than 23 x100 Watt light bulbs.

What are the consequences of us all using this much power?

What is the implied challenge of global warming in terms of how we produce power?

What are the things we do as individuals in terms of using power that we might change?

Wattzon.org hosts a document that gives us a framework for thinking about these challenges, and how we might change our behaviours as individuals as well as our collective behaviour as societies and global citizens, if we are to meet the great challenge of the 21st century - how to live in a world where we increasingly understand the resources to be finite, and the consequences of our actions complex & inter-twined.

Via: O'reilly

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Wearable Biomechatronic Exoskeletons: the Future is Already Here

Press release

Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c84816) has announced the addition of “Wearable Robots: Biomechatronic Exoskeletons” to their offering.

A wearable robot is a mechatronic system that is designed around the shape and function of the human body, with segments and joints corresponding to those of the person it is externally coupled with. Teleoperation and power amplification were the first applications, but after recent technological advances the range of application fields has widened. Increasing recognition from the scientific community means that this technology is now employed in telemanipulation, man-amplification, neuromotor control research and rehabilitation, and to assist with impaired human motor control.

Logical in structure and original in its global orientation, this volume gives a full overview of wearable robotics, providing the reader with a complete understanding of the key applications and technologies suitable for its development. The main topics are demonstrated through two detailed case studies; one on a lower limb active orthosis for a human leg, and one on a wearable robot that suppresses upper limb tremor. These examples highlight the difficulties and potentialities in this area of technology, illustrating how design decisions should be made based on these.

As well as discussing the cognitive interaction between human and robot, this comprehensive text also covers:

-the mechanics of the wearable robot and it’s biomechanical interaction with the user, including state-of-the-art technologies that enable sensory and motor interaction between human (biological) and wearable artificial (mechatronic) systems;

- the basis for bioinspiration and biomimetism, general rules for the development of biologically-inspired designs, and how these could serve recursively as biological models to explain biological systems;

- the study on the development of networks for wearable robotics.

Wearable Robotics: Biomechatronic Exoskeletons will appeal to lecturers, senior undergraduate students, postgraduates and other researchers of medical, electrical and bio engineering who are interested in the area of assistive robotics. Active system developers in this sector of the engineering industry will also find it an informative and welcome resource.




List of Contributors

1 Introduction to wearable robotics

2 Basis for bioinspiration and biomimetism in wearable robots

3 Kinematics and dynamics of wearable robots

4 Human–robot cognitive interaction

5 Human–robot physical interaction

6 Wearable robot technologies

7 Communication networks for wearable robots

8 Wearable upper limb robots

9 Wearable lower limb and full-body robots

10 Summary, conclusions and outlook


For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c84816

Research and Markets
Laura Wood, Senior Manager
Fax: +353 1 4100 980

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Wearable Biomechatronic Exoskeletons: the Future is Already Here
Wearable Robots for Superhumans

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What's in Store Next for the Games Fans?

If you are a gaming fan, you might be justified in feeling that you are living in the best of times.

There are many who believe that we are at the threshold of paradigm shifts in gaming, with consoles and PCs coming with extra-ordinarily powerful processors and with concepts such as social gaming expected to take gaming to a different level.

Ray Kurzweil, renowned inventor and futurist, believes that games are driving much of the innovation happening in the world today - don't be surprised if virtual reality becomes real reality in 20 years.

The next-gen consoles — Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 — inspired a bumper crop of innovative new games in 2007. And games were the bright spot in an otherwise dreary holiday retail season, with revenues of $4.82 billion in December 2007 alone.

Some broad expectations for gaming during in the next 5-10 years include: Source: MSNBC

1. Wii games will enter mass market. The assumption earlier was that gamers would want to figure out complicated button combinations on their PlayStation controller. But that’s no longer a safe assumption. Expect games to be more easy to play and developed for a more mass audience.

2. Creating community - Gamers have definitely evolved since the early days. With the high-speed Internet connections that are so cheap now, everybody is online, and they want the online community aspects to their games. Expect social games as much as individual games.

3. Downloadable content - the most important thing for the industry in a broad sense. It allows for a relatively small portion of a fan base to support a product in a way that it could never have been supported before. Expect more niche games that will never remotely get the volumes that popular games today get and still can make a profit!

Other predictions and opinions on where the gaming domain is going:

Mobile & Wireless Gaming - Mind the Road, Son!

Is Wii the future of gaming? - asks this post @ Game Devotion. Virtual Reality is a widely discussed topic. Gaming Companies have to try and switch over to the Future. The reason for the Success of the Wii is not its Graphic abilities but the way we interact with the game, the way we actually GET INTO the game. Nintendo realized this and made big bucks and therefore the Wii is the highest sold Next-Gen Console!

Two mobile publishers are branching out into DS and Xbox 360 development. What does this pattern mean for the games industry as a whole? Does it mean that the mobile games almost 'there', asks this post

Namco Networks says casual games will be the future of mobile gaming

And while on mobiles, this is the take of an expert on iPhone games. The best way for Apple's iPhone to get in on the gaming market is to develop a popular game, says he. Hmmm...that's really saying the obvious, isn't it?

Gaming Gets Social (Too)

The God of Gaming Shigeru Miyamoto thinks housewives (gasp!) are the future of gaming...well, he should be knowing!

Of course nobody knows for sure what the future of human interfaces and gaming will look like, but Andrew Fentem—who went from working on classified missile systems to developing multi-touch human interfaces, kinetic surfaces and motion sensing technologies before almost anyone else in the planet—gave us a fascinating vision on where we are headed in this exclusive interview.

Fun is an experience best shared. Exhilaration, elation and excitement, too. And so it goes that Social Gaming intertwines those things, while the Internet extends them on a global scale, and so the future must belong to social gaming, right? And here's another interesting take on the social gaming future...The future of connected gaming is local, not global, says this post. So you will be looking forward more to beating your friends, not the world!

PC Gaming - Bigger & Better or End of an Era?

Cliff Bleszinski, the lead designer at Epic Games, better known as CliffyB, has recently made some comments critiquing PC gaming. Is Cliff Bleszinski right or wrong in his predictions? Is PC gaming becoming a thing of the past? Are the new console games like PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 going to be the new future in gaming? Won't it be great to have the crystal ball right in front of us!

There is someone who might not agree with Cliff though. According to Wild Tangent CEO Alex St. John, PCs make better platforms for games than even the consoles, but "the shame of it is, the PC's a fantastic gaming platform, superior to anything anybody's every imagined, superior to every console, and Microsoft and Intel put crap in the PC that make it not so good. And so if you see a PC that is not denuded by things interfering with it by Microsoft and Intel, in many cases like an Intel crappy graphics chip, or a bloated Vista operating system, it's a fantastic gaming platform"...hmmm

Based on the progress associated with Moore’s Law and nanotech, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that advances in electronics will continue, with shrinkage/performance advancing 100,000-fold in the next 25 years. That, of course, means that graphics and everything associated with gaming will become far better. It means that we’ll be putting little electronic devices inside our blood streams, extending our life spans, and thereby necessitating longer video games.

And Just Where's the Money, Honey?

Or is the future of gaming "Free"? muses http://www.thebbps.com/blog/2008/02/29/behold-the-true-future-of-gaming/ - The Battlefield series is immensely popular, so there’s a built in audience. Offering the game for free is going to draw in a huge number of people to at least try it out. This is the future of gaming, this is where it’s all heading.

You got to mention Gamasutra at least once while you are discussing games, and so here it is. On the issue business model for making moolah, Gamasutra feels in this article that microtransactions could drive gaming in the future

And can you afford to forget China either, whatever you do and wherever you are? The future of on-line gaming might be in China, says this post. "A recent study details the way in which the Chinese on-line game market is developing and provides a few very interesting numbers regarding money spent on games. The highlight of the Pearl Research study is the statement that in 2010, the Chinese on-line game market will be worth 3 billion dollars."

So there you are. If you are a gaming fan, just tighten your virtual seatbelts and get set for the thrill ride - the takeoff is fast approaching.

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QuickJump QuickPeek 43: Of PlayStation Store revamp ramp-ups, the toastier side of Mortal Kombat, and mashmallow tests given via game demos

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IBM Predicts Five Future Trends That Will Drive Unified Communications

IBM predicted five future trends that will increase demand for the fast-growing unified communications market and reshape the way businesses and workers communicate and collaborate worldwide.

The predictions, made in a keynote address by Mike Rhodin, General Manager of IBM Lotus software, at the VoiceCon conference here, include:

1) The Virtual Workplace will become the rule. No need to leave the office. Just bring it along.

2) Instant Messaging and other real-time collaboration tools will become the norm, bypassing e-mail.

3) Beyond Phone Calls to Collaborative Business Processes. Companies will go beyond the initial capabilities of IM to deep integration with business processes and line-of-business applications.

4) Interoperability and Open Standards will tear down proprietary walls across business and public domains.

5) New meeting models will emerge. Hang up on routine, calendared conference calls. 3-D virtual world and gaming technologies will significantly influence online corporate meeting experiences to deliver more life-like experiences.

IDC estimates the unified communications market will reach $17 billion in worldwide revenue in 2011, growing at 38 percent compounded annually from 2007. As such, IBM sees unified communications as the next significant frontier for technology growth. To meet these demands, IBM is investing significantly in a range of resources, including software, services and research.

Part of this investment also covers a significant expansion of IBM Lotus Sametime software products. Work has also begun on blending IBM's social software expertise into the real-time environment.


Related blogposts
IBM Predicts Five Future Trends That Will Drive Unified Communications

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Lab Rats Could be Replaced by High-Tech Alternatives

Medical advances ranging from polio vaccines to artificial heart valves owe a debt to lab rats, mice, rabbits, dogs monkeys and pigs. These Animals are still routinely used to test the toxicity of chemical compounds.

The lab rat of the future, however may have no whiskers and no tail — and might not even be a rat at all. With a European ban looming on animal testing for cosmetics, companies are giving a hard look at high-tech alternatives like the small, rectangular glass chip professor Jonathan Dordick holds up to the light in his lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The chip looks like a standard microscope slide, but it holds hundreds of tiny white dots loaded with human cell cultures and enzymes. It's designed to mimic human reactions to potentially toxic chemical compounds.

Could these chips, already going by the moniker "lab-on-a-chip", replace the mice and other guinea pigs that are regularly used for testing?

Not so fast, says the research community. Animal testing also still has an essential role in making sure new pharmaceutical products are safe and effective for humans. Animal studies generally are needed before the federal FDA approves clinical trials for a drug. So no one expects the chips to totally replace animals just yet. At the same time, even in the near future the ability of these chips and other emerging alternatives to flag toxins could spare animals discomfort or death. At the end of the day, it is likely that you will have fewer animals being tested.

Alternatives to animal tests include synthetic skin substitutes and computer simulations. But in vitro products show the most promise because they can are efficient, fast and easy to manipulate. So expect more and more of preliminary testing to be done in-vitro, literally meaning "in glass".

Read a detailed story on this topic @ MSNBC here

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Future of engineering courses in the UK in doubt, say academics

Future of engineering courses in the UK in doubt, say academics

The Engineering and Technology Board (ETB) and the Engineering Professors' Council (EPC) claim the sustainability and the future quality of teaching is under threat because of the imbalance between the amount of public funding universities get and how much it actually costs them to teach engineering.

A study by JM Consulting commissioned by ETB and EPC looked at differences in the costs of four universities in England in 2005-06, covering a wide range of engineering disciplines.

It found that equipment was often old and out of date and universities are increasingly depending on fees from non-EU students to make up the shortfall in funds.

Full story here

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Bill Gates Asks Youth to Think about the Poor

The Microsoft billionaire asked teenagers and twenty-somethings to do something he hadn't done that much, at least as a young university student -- think about the poor.

"I encourage you to have a much better awareness during your university years of the situation of those people than I had," Gates said recently to a theatre full of students at the University of Waterloo.

But at least one student said that while he's impressed with Gates' focus on charitable work, his first goal is finding a job.

Full story here


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What will fuel future global development?

By Jeffrey Sachs, The Scotsman

The goal is to focus attention on the potential of technology to help the world address poverty and environmental threats. The list includes potential breakthroughs such as low-cost solar power, safe disposal of from power plants, nuclear fusion, new educational technologies, and the control of environmental side-effects from nitrogen fertil.

We are used to thinking about global cooperation in fields such as monetary policy, disease control or nuclear weapons proliferation. We are less accustomed to thinking of global cooperation to promote new technologies, such as clean energy, a malaria vaccine or drought-resistant crops to help poor African farmers.

By and large, we regard new technologies as something to be developed by businesses for the marketplace, not as opportunities for global problem-solving. Yet, given the enormous global pressures that we face, including vastly unequal incomes and massive environmental damage, we must find new technological solutions to our problems.

Full story here


Social Networking Wireless Monitoring - RFID Ecosystem Project

If you are searching for some information, there is of course Google. But if you’re hunting down a person, a computer is not much help. This may soon change, thanks to some experiments being conducted at universities in the US that explore the concept of trackable humans.

Walk around the University of Washington's (UW) computer science building and eventually you will cross paths with a researcher whose every movement is tracked by computer. Two hundred RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) antennas have been fitted into the ceilings, and individuals taking part in the trial wear RFID tags round their necks and on their possessions. Volunteers will wear electronic tags on their clothing and belongings, enabling RFID readers to monitor their whereabouts. Their location is followed in real time, but unlike many Orwellian deployments of such technology - where hidden overseers know what we're all doing, but individuals don't - each participant in the RFID Ecosystem can also access the data

This social networking+RFID pilot project has commenced in March, 2008 at the University. The RFID Ecosystem project will provide long-term, in-depth research of user-centered RFID systems in relation to fields such as society and technology.

"What if RFID readers were everywhere, and everything had RFID tags? What are the pluses and minuses? What do you do with all that data?" asks Gaetano Borriello, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University. One of the main questions this research faces is whether or not the utility aspect of this monitoring system outweighs the participants' potential loss of privacy.

Two additional features are being tested in this project; the first is a tool that records the volunteer's movements in Google Calendar; the second is the RFIDder – a friend finder that sends e-mails or text messages to approved people indicating the whereabouts of their monitored friends. In addition, the system links to Twitter.

More information about the RFID Ecosystem project can be found on the RFID section of UW here and the project news page.


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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Social Robots Being Developed by Japanese

Social Robots Being Developed by Japanese

At a university lab in a Tokyo suburb, engineering students are wiring a rubbery robot face to simulate six basic expressions: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust. Hooked up to a database of words clustered by association, the robot — dubbed Kansei, or "sensibility" — responds to the word "war" by quivering in what looks like disgust and fear. It hears "love," and its pink lips smile.

While robots are a long way from matching human emotional complexity, the country is perhaps the closest to a future — once the stuff of science fiction — where humans and intelligent robots routinely live side by side and interact socially.

Full story here

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Terrorist Robots Likely Soon, Warn British Experts

British experts raise prospect of terrorist robots

It is only a matter of time before terrorists use deadly robots to launch attacks on heavily populated urban areas, experts say. The know-how and materials for manufacturing lethal, improvised robots are easily available, said experts gathered Wednesday at a British military think-tank.

"Sooner or later, we're going to see a Cessna programmed to fly into a building," said Rear Admiral Chris Parry, who formed the Ministry of Defence's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre in 2005. He said small, remotely piloted planes or even converted model aircraft are "ideal weapons" for terrorists because they are easy to build and could evade radar.

Full story here

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Monday, February 25, 2008

How water is becoming the next coveted commodity

Traditionally, water bills have been ridiculously low in Canada, representing a fraction of a family's monthly expenses. But as municipalities struggle to fix crumbling pipes and waste-water facilities, cheap water is becoming a thing of the past.

For consumers, that means another assault on the pocketbook. For engineering firms and investors, it's a brave new world of opportunities, from reconstructing old treatment systems to construction of new residential subdivisions & desalination plants.

The UN estimates that 1.1 billion people lack access to potable water and that by 2050 that figure will double to more than two billion. Add climate change to the mix and the predictions of water shortage become more dire.

Full story here

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Future of Human Beings?

Is this the future of humanity?

Site credit: U of Arizona Animal Care & Use Committee

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Microchips with Antennas, Electronic Sniffers, Smart Homes - Future of RFID?

The following are some of the "visions" offered for the uses and applications of RFID.

• Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything people buy, wear, drive and read, enabling retailers and law enforcement agencies to track consumer items—and, by extension, consumers—wherever they go, from a distance.

• A seamless, global network of electronic "sniffers" will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads—"live spam"—will be able to be beamed at them.

• In "Smart Homes," sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits and monitor medicine cabinets—all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants' private lives.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Brain-Computer Interface May Lead to Mind-Control Game Play

New Tech May Lead to Mind-Control Game Play

"The use of [brain-computer interface] technology represents a potential breakthrough in human-machine interfaces, changing the realm of possibilities not only for games, but in the way that humans and computer interact," said Paul Ledak, vice president of IBM's Digital Convergence.

Full story here

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Gaming on a Mac: Status, Trends, Challenges

Gaming on a Mac: Technically Speaking

20 Feb 2008

"The PC market is like the Wild West, and the console space is like living in the domed city in 'Logan's Run.' The Mac is sort of a hybrid. You can try new things on the Mac, but you get a more structured environment with hardware and software libraries. It's the best of both worlds," said Freeverse's Bruce Morrison.

What's the status of gaming on the Apple Mac? And what are the issues and challenges Apple engineers face in this regard? This article takes a look

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Drinking Water from Sewage - Australian Tech in California

Australian-developed technology is at the heart of a bold water-supply project in California

Three tanks of water stand alongside and above a hive of quietly humming machinery. They could be labelled "before", "during" and "after", with a moderate dare factor attached to the "after".

One is an early stage of recycled water, as dark as Guinness but with an unmistakable whiff of its origins. The second is clear, but still with a certain aroma. The third is crystalline.

This is purified water, cleared of the "solids", strained and sifted, then cleansed by UV light. And it tastes like … water.

As well it should. It cost $US480 million ($530 million) to put it there, performing the latter-day technological miracle of transforming human waste back into water. It is a triumph of technology, ingenuity and salesmanship.

Full story here

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

A More Secure Internet Envisioned by Princeton Researchers

Princeton researchers envision a more secure Internet

Like human society itself, the world's Internet is wondrously complex, both spectacularly fertile, deeply flawed & highly insecure.

Just how can such a complex a system be made more secure? Some of the most influential thinkers on this question sit just a few dozen steps away from each other in the engineering complex on the Princeton campus: Edward Felten, director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, focuses on software and policy; Ruby Lee heads the Princeton Architecture Lab for Multimedia and Security; and Larry Peterson and Jennifer Rexford are key players in the Global Environment for Network Innovation.

While these researchers may be physically proximate, their unique visions on how to best ensure cybersecurity can seem worlds apart. What follows in this article are portraits of these pathfinders at the frontiers of security research.

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Greatest Technological Research Challenges of the 21st Century

Panel identifies greatest technological research challenges of the 21st century

A panel of 18 maverick thinkers, convened by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), today identified what they consider to be the greatest technological research challenges facing society in the coming century.

Notable panelists on the NAE committee include former director of the National Institutes of Health Bernadine Healy; Google co-founder Larry Page; geneticist and businessman J. Craig Venter, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, and climate change expert Rob Socolow.

The list of the 14 Grand Challenges:

Engineering better medicines;
Advancing health informatics;
Providing access to clean water;
Providing energy from fusion;
Making solar energy economical;
Restoring and improving urban infrastructure;
Enhancing virtual reality;
Reverse engineering the brain;
Exploring natural frontiers;
Advancing personalized learning;
Developing carbon sequestration methods;
Managing the nitrogen cycle;
Securing cyberspace,
Preventing nuclear terror.

See the full interview here with Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University

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Robotics Expert Daniel Wilson Says Earth is Unprepared for Alien Invasion

Robotics Expert Daniel Wilson Says Earth is Unprepared for Alien Invasion

In his latest book, How to Build a Robot Army, robotics expert Daniel Wilson offers a humorous but scientifically-accurate account of how people would fight aliens, giant monsters, and more mundane enemies (like other humans) with robot armies. Unafraid to tackle science fictional questions with real science, Wilson is also the author of the award-winning How to Survive a Robot Uprising.

Check out the interview here

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Machines' Artificial Intel (AI) to Match Man's by 2029 - Ray Kurzweil

Machines' Artificial Intel to Match Man's by 2029

Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029, a leading US inventor has predicted. Tiny machines could roam the body curing diseases

Humanity is on the brink of advances that will see tiny robots implanted in people's brains to make them more intelligent said engineer Ray Kurzweil.

He said machines and humans would eventually merge through devices implanted in the body to boost intelligence and health.

Full story here

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Magic Cube Heralds Future of Gaming and Human Interfaces

Magic Cube Heralds the Future of Gaming and Human Interfaces

Nobody really knows what the future of human interfaces and gaming will look like, but Andrew Fentem—who went from working on classified missile systems to developing multi-touch human interfaces, kinetic surfaces and motion sensing technologies before almost anyone else in the planet—gave us a fascinating vision on where we are headed in this exclusive interview. Work like his Fentix Cube, a motion- and touch-sensing cube which can play Pac-Man among other games, have all the big companies taking notes. The videos speak for themselves.

The Fentix Cube is just the tip of the iceberg of his stunning work. Many of his inventions are still ahead of current technology, things which we are only starting to get familiar with now.

Full story here

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Robert Socolow Helps Identify Greatest Technological Challenges

Socolow helps identify greatest technological challenges

Princeton professor Robert Socolow is one of 18 leading thinkers who served on a National Academy of Engineering (NAE) panel that released a report Feb. 15 identifying the greatest technological challenges facing society in this century.

The panel's Grand Challenges of Engineering fall into four key categories: sustainability, health, vulnerability and joy of living.

"Engineering has delivered many successes: our electrified world, indoor plumbing, air travel -- we take these things for granted but we shouldn't," said Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "Without investments made by previous generations, we would not enjoy the seemingly invisible infrastructure that makes our modern lives possible. We hope that by identifying these grand challenges we can help spur public debate about the appropriate future goals of humanity and how science and technology can best enable their realization."

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Friday, February 15, 2008

US Military Systems Migrating to Open Source

The US military bets big on open source

While some in private-sector industry drag their feet on open source, it's instructive that arguably the most mission-critical systems in the world are being migrated to open source, namely, the US military's systems.

It's not just a question of cost that drives the US military to buy open source. Indeed, the biggest benefits come down to innovation and flexibility.

Full report here

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