Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

It used to be that computers were huge monstrosities that took up entire rooms.  Now they fit in our pockets in the form of cell phones while room sized supercomputers are today’s monstrosities.  But soon those will fit in our pockets too.  At least that’s what my expectation is after news of a breakthrough that shrinks down a supercomputer to the size of a laptop! Proving that once again there really is no stopping Moore’s Law.

According to Futurism, “Nanotechnologists at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a way to miniaturize the processing power that is found today only in the largest and most unwieldy of supercomputers. Their findings, which were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, point the way to a future when our laptops and other personal, handheld computing devices pack the computational heft of a Cray Titan or IBM Blue Gene/Q.

But the solution may be a little surprising.

These computers will not be like our familiar, electronic variety—they’ll be ‘biological computers,’ machines that rely on the molecular activities of nature’s true nanomachines: cellular organelles.”

Taking advantage of nature’s designs makes a lot of sense but what about Quantum computers?  Won’t they make biological computer technology obsolete in the long run? Perhaps not.

As Futurism puts it, “Of course, quantum computers, with their bizarre, non-binary ‘qubits,’ are favored contenders to tackle this new frontier of computing; but they’ve proven devilishly hard to build, require technology that’s still in many ways embryonic, and are probably many years, if not decades, away from being brought online.

Not so with biological computing. They are, as the Lund team has shown, easier and less expensive to build (after all, they utilize a technology evolution has already conveniently provided us), and are likely only a decade away from production.”

So, how exactly would a biological computer work?

Futurism explains:

“When your computer stores data, it has to pause while the information moves from one piece of hardware to another. But that may soon stop being the case, as scientists from MIT and the Singapore University of Technology and Design uncovered a new manufacturing trick that should let them build computers that don’t have those annoying delays.

The key is to sit back and let a virus — the biological kind — handle the assembly work. Using a virus called a M13 bacteriophage to manufacture a specific component may unlock phase-change memory systems, a type of digital storage that would speed up any computer using it, according to research published last month in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials.

These breakthroughs may seem far-fetched, making it hard to believe that they really could just be a decade away, but that’s the beauty of Moore’s Law.  Just when you think processing power can’t possibly continue to double every 18 months there are unforeseen breakthroughs that allow for exponential growth.  Indicating that when it comes to computing the best has yet to come.

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Is a desktop supercomputer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,410 – Replika

It may not seem like it on the surface but we all have shit that we have to deal with.  Personal issues, bouts of depression, struggles with inner demons.  Whatever the case may be.  Life isn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns.  It’s a daily reevaluation of who we are and who we want to be.  That’s why it’s important to have some perspective.  To never get too high or too low.  To never give into your doubts.  To never cast aspersions onto another person.

And yet we’re all guilty of it.  Judging others while acting hypocritically as we ignore our own problems.  That’s why therapy is so important.  Having someone to talk to, someone that you can open up to, confide in – that can be the difference between living a healthy life or one in which you bottle up your emotions until they boil up to the surface.

Unfortunately, therapy is a taboo topic.  One that most people go to great lengths to avoid.  Whether its couples therapy or personal maintenance doesn’t matter.  All types of therapy are looked down upon.  Just ask Tony Soprano.  Instead what most people do is burden their friends with their problems.  A great approach for the person struggling to cope with a particular issue.  Not so great for the friend who has to put on a brave face and pretend to give a shit about your office politics.

Thankfully, there’s now a better way.  An AI chat bot app capable of carrying on a full conversation with you about any topic.  Giving you someone to dump your problems on or just correspond with to pass the time.  To some this may seem a little bit creepy.  Having to rely on an AI chat bot for self-esteem boasts is a sad sign of our times.  But it also could be a sign of things to come.

Right now these chat bots are here for moral support but in the near future the technology might go one step further.  Possibly allowing us to live on posthumously in the form of a personalized chat bot that would mimic our own unique communication style.  Instead of Augmented Reality this would be Augmented Eternity.  And by analyzing our entire digital footprint i.e. all of our text messages, emails, blog posts, etc. this may soon be possible.  In fact, the conversations you’re having with your chat bot today could go a long way towards honing what your future digital self may sound like.

As Digital Trends reports:

“Researchers Shriya Devadiga and Bhakthi Shetty have been investigating how a chat bot could be made to duplicate a person’s personality digitally, granting users the ability to chat with an A.I. approximation of an individual, such as a family member, who is no longer around.

For their study, the researchers used Replika A.I., an app created by Russian coder Euginia Kuyda. Replika trains a chatbot designed to replicate an individual’s communication patterns by using their digital conversations as training data. Through pattern matching, the more you chat to your Replika A.I. chatbot, the more its sentences sound like something that you would say. Or, in the case of Devadiga and Shetty’s proposal, something that your deceased relative, loved one or friend might say.”

Is this a future that you would look forward to?  Or one that you would shy away from?  Considering the seriousness of mental health issues, especially when it comes to dealing with loss and mourning a loved one, I say bring it on our chat bot infused future.  Making the world better one conversation at a time.

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Is Replika the Greatest Idea Ever?


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Here’s a quick look at everything that tickled my fancy this past week:

Alexa Grows Up

Thinking about getting someone an Echo speaker for the holidays?  Well, they may be in a for a treat as Alexa is suddenly gaining the ability to change how she speaks.  This may, for instance, give her the ability to read the latest headlines like a real newscaster by making use of various voice inflections.

As the Verge explains, “Amazon says the new speaking style is enabled by the company’s development of “neural text-to-speech” technology or NTTS. This is the next generation of speech synthesis, that use machine learning to generate expressive voices more quickly. Currently, Alexa uses concatenative speech synthesis, a method that’s been around for decades. This involves breaking up speech samples into distinct sounds (known as phonemes) and then stitching them back together to form new words and sentences.”

It’ll be interesting to continue to track Alexa going forward to see what other new tricks she picks up along the way.

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Flammable Ice

The future of energy consumption continues to get more and more interesting.  Just days after writing about energy being harvested from rippling sheets of graphene we now have yet another potential source of energy on our hands in the form of flammable ice.

According to BGR, “As noted by the BBC, the government in Japan is currently exploring the feasibility of using flammable ice as a common energy source. As the name alludes to, flammable ice is essentially a deposit of methane and frozen water. At a quick glance, the substance certainly looks like ice, but because of its chemical make-up, it will catch on fire if you take a match to it.”

Considering all of the methane deposits that we have hidden underneath the Earth’s surface flammable ice could very well become a viable energy source in the near future.

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AI Computer Chips

A new AI infused computer chip plugs directly into your existing computer via a USB plug in.

As CNET puts it, “It’s not the kind of thing most of us need, but it’s good for prototype creators who want to see what the brainlike neural network technology can do with a hardware boost. AI is good for tasks like speech recognition, photography and spam filtering, but Intel’s Movidius chips are geared specifically for processing visual information.

AI chips are a hot area in Silicon Valley, with companies like Apple and Google working on projects to speed up devices. AI not only opens up new abilities for computers, it also helps compensate for the faltering speed improvements from many general-purpose processors.”

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The Faucet of the Future

The days of guessing what your water temperature is are now numbered.

As BGR puts it, “Sometimes the simplest little gadgets can be so cool, and that’s exactly the case with the DLAND RC-F03 Colorful LED Water Faucet Attachment. This little device screws into any standard tap in your sink and water flows through it normally. But here’s the cool part: it has different color LEDs inside that automatically turn on when water flows through it! Red means hot, blue means cold, and green means just right.”

Perhaps this technology could one day extend to shower heads and bath tubs as well.

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The Halo Shirt

A new shirt design could help limit serious brain injuries in athletes by changing its shape in real-time.

According to Inc., “Halo’s collar, made from a ‘smart’ polymer, is soft but instantly stiffens when met with an accelerating force. That should help immobilize the neck when an athlete is hit in the head–in theory, limiting brain jostling, and helping to prevent whiplash, too.”

Such technology could be a real game-changer for athletes in contact sports like football and hockey.

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,405 – Synthesia

Here’s an attention-grabbing headline for you: “New technology has the potential to revolutionize society! OR tear it apart!”

Okay, consider me intrigued.  So, what is this all-powerful new technology that’s on the horizon?  What kind of advancement would have the power to either unite or divide us?!?

Well, the tech in question is simple enough: a humble software program known as Synthesia with the ability to translate the spoken language in any video.  A modern day babel fish.  But dig a little deeper and you can see why some people might be skeptical of such ability.

As Futurism explains:

“According to Synthesia’s website, the purpose of its AI-powered dubbing tech is to create a world without language barriers in which anyone can enjoy any video content, regardless of its language of origin.

‘We hope that this new medium will foster cultural exchange, joy and deeper understanding in the same manner that the written word has done for centuries,’ the company writes on its homepage.

Others are far less idealistic. They envision a future in which malicious actors use software like Synthesia’s to create deepfakes — videos in which a person appears to say something they didn’t actually say.”

Considering how big of an issue Fake News already is you can imagine just how much of a headache it would be to live in a world where recorded messages could be altered with ease.  But at the same time perhaps that’s a risk worth taking, especially if it’ll lead to a world where there are no language barriers, where every single person can enjoy the entire world’s entertainment options regardless of their country of origin.

Tradeoffs like this occur all the time in society.  Consider the risks associated with having powder keg gas stations on residential street corners.  A tradeoff we gladly accept for the convenience of being able to travel quickly via automobiles.  Or the tradeoffs that we have accepted with using the Internet, trading the risk of identity theft, cyber bullying, hacking, etc. for the convenience of social media, online shopping and having information at our fingertips.

So when it comes down to it we may just have to accept similar tradeoffs if we want to reap the benefits of utilizing Synthesia’s amazing new technology.  And if you ask me I say we go for it.

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Is Synthesia the Greatest Idea Ever?

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It sounds like the plot of a Black Mirror episode come to life.  News that China is actually moving forward with a dystopian plan to track and judge every single citizen based on their actions.  With the program getting kicked off in Beijing over the next few years.

As Bloomberg explains, “The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get ‘green channel’ benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.”

How so?  Well, travel benefits might be one such way a person’s social credit score is put to use.  Imagine, for instance, that you need a certain score in order to purchase a first class ticket.  Or that you may not even be allowed to purchase a ticket at all if your score is too low.  In this way social credit scores become a form of wealth, with high scores and the perks that come along with them becoming the new status symbols.

Personally I love this plan as it harkens back to my old idea for the Game of Life.  Brush your teeth and earn points.  Visit the doctor and earn points.  Donate to charity and earn a bucket load of points.  Rinse.  Wash.  Reap.  The benefits that is.  As the world becomes a better place around you.  Think about it.

With rewards in place for cleaning and recycling there would be less pollution.  With rewards for going to the doctor there would be less illness.  With rewards in place for studying we’d all be more educated.  There’d even be less crime, since committing even a petty crime, would devastate not just your own social status, but your entire families as well.

Of course we’d prefer that people just did these things out of the kindness of their heart.  Prefer it if their motivations were coming from a moral high ground or that they were at the very least just motivated to follow the law.  But it would be naïve of us to think that morality and lawfulness work 100% of the time.  Clearly they do not.  Perhaps gamification could fill in the missing pieces.  Address those citizens that slip through the cracks of the current system.  Considering how glued we already are to our cell phones and how intrinsic gaming culture already is in our lives, it’s fair to wonder if such a plan could actually work.

However, the concept is not without risk.  First of all, there’s no way of knowing the social impacts that this system will have.  Will people with low scores, even if no fault of their own, be ostracized from society?  With it further drive a wedge between the haves and the have nots.  Furthermore, could the government unfairly reward or deduct points to certain groups of people that it favors?  Could the system be hacked or gamed to the advantage of certain people?  And how would a foreign tourist without an existing social credit score even be able to navigate through the city?

These are all good questions.  Ones that I don’t have the answer to.  Hopefully China does.  Or we may all be in for a plot twist that we never saw coming.

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Is a social credit system the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you spent either Cyber Monday or Black Friday purchasing a new TV then I’ve got some bad news: you probably just wasted your money.  Because in a few years you might be replacing it with a new version from Samsung, one that can be controlled with your very own thoughts.  That’s right.  In the near future we may have the ability to channel surf or change the volume on our TVs just by thinking about it.

Now to be clear this technology isn’t being designed exclusively for consumer use.  Rather it’s being designed to help people who have suffered brain injuries.  But if the technology exists you can be sure that it will eventually make its way into a consumer facing product.  Especially when you consider just how lazy couch potatoes really are.  After all, why get up to look for the remote control when you can just stay where you are and use Jedi mind control instead.  Which might explain why Samsung chose to put this technology into a TV in the first place.

As CNET reports, “Samsung initially considered building the technology into a smartphone but opted for the TV in part because of its bigger screen and because most homes have a TV, [Martin] Kathriner said. He added that TVs also can be used as smart home hubs, which could be attractive for the brainwave technology.”

Now, it’s worth mentioning that this technology is still in its infancy although there is significant potential for producing a real game-changing experience in the long run.

As BGR explains, “At present, the system combines brain monitoring sensors and eye-tracking hardware to identify what selections the individual intends to make. Going forward, the partnership hopes to make the system smart enough to accept commands via brain commands alone, meaning that you’d only need to think about changing the volume for the action to be performed.”

So, what do you think? Is a brain controlled TV something you’d be interested in purchasing? Or is using your voice to control your TV with Alexa a good enough substitute?

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Is a brain controlled TV the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’m usually not that paranoid.  I don’t think that the NSA is listening to my calls and I never feel as though as I’m being followed.  But even if I have to admit that I have thought about the possibility of there being hidden cameras in the hotel or Airbnb I’m staying in.

The same goes for public places.  Gym locker rooms.  Mall changing rooms.  There’s a million and one different places to hide a camera.  And not just in a perverted way.  Undercover cops, investigative reporters, even enterprising citizens with a cell phone camera that’s within range of a celebrity – everywhere you look there could be a concealed camera watching your every move.  Your laptop’s very own webcam could even be spying on you at this very moment while you read this.

Conditions surrounding your lack of privacy aren’t likely to improve anytime soon either.  As technology gets smaller and smaller and tiny sensors become more and more ubiquitous it’s just going to get easier and easier for people to plant detection and monitoring devices without being noticed.

Thankfully there will soon be something you can do about it.  A new technology that’s capable of finally giving you peace of mind.

According to Mental Floss, “Spy Associates, a maker of surveillance and privacy protection products, has designed a product that will help put worried travelers’ minds at ease. The company’s SpyFinderPro Hidden Camera Detector uses LED strobe lights to ferret out the reflective surfaces of various kinds of cameras. The company says the gadget works even when cameras are undetectable to the human eye, and even when they’re turned off or non-functioning.”

Such a technology, if it really does work as advertised, would be a total game-changer.  Allowing people to be free from the prying eyes of peeping Toms everywhere once and for all.

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Is a hidden camera detector the Greatest Idea Ever?

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