Archive for July, 2011

Replacing Lost Abilities with a Robot

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

by Tom Simonite, Technology Review

Willow Garage engineers, and a researcher from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently developed software that enables the robot to figure out for itself how to best grasp an object. Despite the challenges, Willow Garage’s state-of-the-art hardware shows the potential of robots as helpers for disabled people, says Rajiv Dubey, a professor in the Rehabilitation Robotics group at the University of South Florida. His research group is working on a robotic arm that attaches to a wheelchair and has experimented with allowing completely paralyzed people to operate robots using brain-computer interfaces.

http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/38083/?p1=MstRcnt&a=f

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Can We Make Machines Listen More Carefully?

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

by David Zax, Technology Review

You probably use voice recognition technology already, if in a limited capacity. Maybe you use Google’s voice-activated search, or take advantage of its (somewhat wonky) voice-mail transcriptions in Google Voice. At the office, maybe you use Dragon dictation software. Even if these programs worked perfectly, though (which they don’t) they would still leave something to be desired. Voice recognition software today works in very specialized circumstances—it can typically recognize only one voice at a time, and it performs best when it has reams of data in the archive before tackling a new speech sample. What if we had voice recognition technology that didn’t have so many strictures? What if we had software that was quick and nimble, able to discern one speaker from another on the fly? In other words, what if voice recognition technology was more like the way voice recognition actually works in the real world, in the human brain?

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/helloworld/26973/?p1=blogs

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Digital Archaeologists Excavate Chips, Not Dirt

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

by Christopher Mims, Technology Review

Want to know how the 6502 CPU, the heart and soul of the beloved Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Apple II and even Nintendo Entertainment System actually worked? Too bad. After 30 years, even the guys who designed this chip don’t remember how it works. All that’s left are some sketchy paper schematics, and they’re not terribly helpful. But a new field, “digital archaeology” rides to the rescue. Rather than pick and trowel, its tools are successive acid baths, which strip away one layer after another of a chip, revealing the guts of the microprocessors that launched the personal computing revolution.

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/27013/?p1=blogs

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Pentagon admits suffering major cyber attack in March

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

by the BBC

The deputy defence secretary said future cyber attacks could even cause deaths. The Pentagon has admitted it suffered a major cyber attack in which thousands of files were taken by foreign hackers. Deputy Defence Secretary William Lynn said that in a March attack and other breaches, hackers had taken information on “our most sensitive systems”. The admission came as the Pentagon rolled out a strategy for strengthening US cyber capabilities and addressing threats and attacks in cyberspace. The plan would treat cyberspace in a similar manner to land, air and sea.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14157975

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Internet’s memory effects quantified in computer study

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

By Jason Palmer, BBC

Computers and the internet are changing the nature of our memory, research in the journal Science suggests. Psychology experiments showed that people presented with difficult questions began to think of computers. When participants knew that facts would be available on a computer later, they had poor recall of answers but enhanced recall of where they were stored. The researchers say the internet acts as a “transactive memory” that we depend upon to remember for us. Lead author Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University said that transactive memory “is an idea that there are external memory sources – really storage places that exist in other people”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14145045

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Google+ Integration: Top 10 Web Apps We Want to Add to the Social Network

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

By Clint Boulton, eWeek

Google+ is causing quite a stir among the digerati and social-network elite, offering users a legitimate alternative to Facebook and drawing reviews from even the likes of The New York Times gadget head David Pogue. (He likes it). The social network includes Circles (think Facebook Groups), which let users manually place friends, family, colleagues or just people they want to follow in separate social buckets. There are Sparks, little news feeds (think Facebook News Feed) and Hangouts for group video chats with up to 10 users at once (think project-management meetings). The mobile Google+ application is solid, offering a Huddle group-messaging capability. Now that the product is out there and users, from social media guru Robert Scoble to actress Alyssa Milano, are populating it like crazy, greedy users want to know where Google is going to take Google+ next. Business profile pages, which will rival Facebook Pages as a social trumpet for target audiences, will have to wait, as Google wants to get the structure and feature set right. However, Google+ users have plenty of other places they want to begin using the service. And why not? Facebook users can connect with the leading social destination from thousands of Websites, and play games and pay for goods with virtual currencies. Why shouldn’t Google+ yearn to be more robust? In this slide show, eWEEK runs through the Top 10 products it would like to see integrated with Google+.

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Messaging-and-Collaboration/Google-Integration-Top-10-Web-Apps-We-Want-to-Add-to-the-Social-Network-613264/?kc=rss

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Anonymous Attacks Monsanto Network, Releases Employee

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

By: Fahmida Y. Rashid, eWeek

Anonymous released personal information and documents stolen from agricultural chemical and biotechnology company Monsanto as the Senate discusses a committee to address cyber-security issues. The hacking group Anonymous has struck again, this time releasing documents it said it stole from the network of giant biotechnology and agricultural seed company Monsanto in retribution for alleged corporate misconduct. The hacking collective posted information it stole last month on 2,500 Monsanto employees and associates, the group announced July 13. Anonymous also launched a distributed denial-of-service attack on Monsanto’s international Websites, forcing the company to shut down the sites for approximately three days.

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/IT-Infrastructure/Anonymous-Attacks-Monsanto-Network-Releases-Employee-Contact-Data-177827/?kc=rss

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Microsoft’s Office 365 Could Validate Cloud Strategy

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

By: Nicholas Kolakowski, eWeek

Microsoft’s Office 365 marks a substantial foray into cloud computing and carries some substantial risks for the company. For quite some time now, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his executives have been touting an “all in” strategy regarding the cloud. That strategy predicts a gradual transition from desktop-based software to online subscription services, with businesses eventually paying a set amount per month to store their data and launch applications from Microsoft’s servers. In theory, this benefits businesses by reducing the need for on-premises servers and other IT infrastructure (and spares them the sometimes onerous process of updating their own software, since those updates are ported over the cloud). It also benefits Microsoft by turning customers into monthly subscribers, ensuring a steady revenue stream.

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Desktops-and-Notebooks/Microsofts-Office-365-Could-Validate-Cloud-Strategy-865499/?kc=rss

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Facebook and Skype’s video chat link-up

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

by Maggie Shiels, BBC

Video chat features are set to become the killer app in the world of social media now that Facebook has announced a partnership with Skype to offer just such a product hard on the heels of one rolled out by its rival Google. The deal means that Facebook’s 750 million users will now be able to connect with friends via video and not just through posting messages and poking one another.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14060069

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TEDGlobal 2011: Social media game aims to end extremism

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

TEDGlobal 2011: Social media game aims to end extremism

by Jane Wakefield, BBC

A social media game with Arab super heroes at its heart has been launched on Facebook. The man behind the project, Suleiman Bakhit, hopes that Happy Oasis can create positive role models for children who might otherwise be enticed by extremist views. The game launched this week and has already attracted 50,000 followers. Newly appointed TED fellow Mr Bakhit spoke about his project at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh. Mr Bakhit, who comes from Jordan, was a student at the US University of Minnesota when the 9/11 attacks took place. Shortly afterwards he was attacked by four men because he was an Arab.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14142291

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Spotify launches US streaming music service

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

by the BBC

Streaming music service Spotify is set to launch in the US, after thrashing out deals with the major record companies. Its American service had previously been put on hold, apparently because the labels were not convinced about its ability to make them money. About 10 million people use Spotify across parts of Europe, with one million paying for its premium service. The company has reduced elements of its free product, ahead of the US launch. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14150644

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Internet’s memory effects quantified in computer study

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

By Jason Palmer, BBC News

Computers and the internet are changing the nature of our memory, research in the journal Science suggests. Psychology experiments showed that people presented with difficult questions began to think of computers. When participants knew that facts would be available on a computer later, they had poor recall of answers but enhanced recall of where they were stored. The researchers say the internet acts as a “transactive memory” that we depend upon to remember for us. Lead author Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University said that transactive memory “is an idea that there are external memory sources – really storage places that exist in other people”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14145045

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First Demonstration of Time Cloaking

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

by KFC, Technology Review

Invisibility cloaks are the result of physicists’ newfound ability to distort electromagnetic fields in extreme ways. The idea is steer light around a volume of space so that anything inside this region is essentially invisible. The effect has generated huge interest. The first invisibility cloaks worked only at microwave frequencies but in only a few years, physicists have found ways to create cloaks that work for visible light, for sound and for ocean waves. They’ve even designed illusion cloaks that can make one object look like another. Today, Moti Fridman and buddies, at Cornell University in Ithaca, go a step further. These guys have designed and built a cloak that hides events in time.

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26992/?p1=blogs

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Safer Robots Will Improve Manufacturing

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

BY KRISTINA GRIFANTINI, Technology Review

Last winter, NASA technicians sent a humanoid robot dubbed Robonaut 2 to the International Space Station. R2, which has only a torso, sophisticated arms and fingers, and a head full of sensors, was the result of a joint effort by NASA and General Motors to create a robot that could operate safely alongside humans. Robots like R2 could carry out dangerous or tedious tasks on space missions, but they’d also be useful on the ground, where they could assist factory workers. Robots have typically been segregated from humans for safety reasons, but improvements mean they’re now poised to take on a wider variety of tasks.

http://www.technologyreview.com/business/37949/?p1=BI

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Tomorrow’s Transistor, Built Atom by Atom

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

by KATHERINE BOURZAC, Technology Review

Applied Materials, the world’s leading supplier of manufacturing equipment to chipmakers, has announced a new system for making one of the most critical layers of the transistors found in logic circuits. Applied Materials’ new tool, announced at the Semicon West conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, deposits a critical layer in transistors one atom at a time, providing unprecedented precision. As chipmakers scale transistors down to ever-smaller sizes, enabling speedier and more power-efficient electronics, atomic-scale manufacturing precision is a growing concern.

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/38031/?p1=A5

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Windows Will Be the Minority Platform by 2013, Says Analyst

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

by Christopher Mims,Technology Review

Here is a crazy thing that analyst Horace Dediu of Asymco said that is probably not true, but raises some important points anyway: If Windows remains marginal on tablets, the “PC market” will likely tip away from Microsoft in two years (depending on how quickly Apple can build iPads.) 84% of all “PCs” currently being shipped are Windows PCs. This is being generous to Apple and saying tablets are PCs too, which Microsoft itself insists is the case. So how could that still-overwhelming lead possibly be overcome quickly enough that within two years, Windows is shipping on less than half the systems — PC or tablet — in the world? There’s only one way: Explosive growth in the tablet space and a near-total absence of Microsoft from that space.

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/26999/?p1=blogs

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How Much Is a User Worth?

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

by Technology Review

Several upstart Internet companies have shown promise in being able to translate user engagement into revenue. Internet companies are notoriously difficult to value, as investors learned in the dot-com crash 11 years ago. But since the “Web 2.0″ companies fueling this year’s Internet IPOs rely upon having a reliable group of engaged users, they do offer at least one telling metric: the amount of money each user is worth. That’s why venture capitalists evaluating such businesses in their early stages often examine how much revenue a company is generating per user. Bijan Sabet, a venture capitalist at Spark Capital, which has invested in several Internet companies, including Twitter, FourSquare, and Tumblr, says his firm often considers $2 of annual revenue per user to be an important target threshold for startups. By that measure, several of today’s new Web companies show genuine promise, as the chart below indicates.

http://www.technologyreview.com/web/37985/?p1=A4&a=f

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Facebook Has No Problem Running Ads for Users’ Google+ Accounts

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

by CHRISTOPHER MIMS, Technology Review

TechCrunch has uncritically reported that the first-ever advertisement on Facebook for a Google+ account has been taken down, but subsequent users attempting the same trick have encountered no resistance from the company. First, a little background: Facebook reserves the right to refuse any ad for any reason, and specifically forbids ads for competing services, so it would be well within its rights to ban any such ad. However, when marketing strategist and Google+ user Julio Fernandez attempted to reproduce the experiment, he failed. That is, he was successful in posting an ad to Facebook that advertises his profile in Google+.

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/27003/?p1=blogs

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US Pentagon to treat cyber-attacks as ‘acts of war’

Monday, July 18th, 2011

by the BBC

The US is set to publish plans that will categorise cyber-attacks as acts of war, the Pentagon says. In future, a US president could consider economic sanctions, cyber-retaliation or a military strike if key US computer systems were attacked, officials have said recently. The planning was given added urgency by a cyber-attack last month on the defence contractor, Lockheed Martin. A new report from the Pentagon is due out in a matter of weeks.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13614125

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Pentagon admits suffering major cyber attack in March

Monday, July 18th, 2011

by the BBC

The Pentagon has admitted it suffered a major cyber attack in which thousands of files were taken by foreign hackers. Deputy Defence Secretary William Lynn said that in a March attack and other breaches, hackers had taken information on “our most sensitive systems”. The admission came as the Pentagon rolled out a strategy for strengthening US cyber capabilities and addressing threats and attacks in Cyberspace. The plan would treat cyberspace in a similar manner to land, air and sea.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14157975

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US builds net for cyber war games

Monday, July 18th, 2011

by the BBC

The United States government is building its own “scale model” of the internet to carry out cyber war games.  Several organisations, including the defence company Lockheed Martin, are working on prototypes of the “virtual firing range”. The system will allow researchers to simulate attacks by foreign powers and from hackers based inside the US. More than $500m (£309m) has been allocated by the Department of Defense to develop “cyber technologies”.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13807815

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