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Researchers at the University of Plymouth in the UK, have made some significant steps forward in the quest to create an artificial intelligence that can learn about the world around it. Using the iCub robotic toddler, designed by a consortium of European universities, they have trained software to recognize and identify moving objects in its field of vision, based on their position relative to the robot’s body. This is the same way a human child learns.

To learn more, watch the video or read the New Scientist article.


Mozilla Seabird concept phone

This concept piece from Mozilla Labs provides some interesting ideas of how mobile devices could change in the coming years. Highlights include a separate gestural interface and a projected screen/keyboard dock.

Bonus: there’s also a 3D version of the video clip, using Youtube’s 3D technology (side-by-side, red-blue, and so on.)


Visualizing social data

The folks at Contagious Magazine have an interesting piece on visualizing check-in data. lets you visualize your check-in data across several services, including Foursquare and Facebook Places. I generated mine fairly easily.

FourSquare Visualization by from Eric Wu on Vimeo.

This reminds me of nothing as much as Plazes, an early check-in competitor (that relied on MAC addresses to “claim” locations — this was pre-iPhone, of course.) Plazes caught on a bit, and was eventually bought by Nokia, but lacked the critical mass needed for applications like Foursquare, Groupon, and Gowalla.


Using an iPad as a paintbrush of light

Design firm BERG have found an innovative new use for an iPad – as a paintbrush. They swipe the iPad through the air, while it displays the different components of a 3D object or text, and repeat this multiple times to produce a stop frame animation. Check out the video:

Read more at Fast Co Design.


Are the dictionary’s days numbered?

The Oxford English Dictionary

Nigel Portwood, the Chief Executive of Oxford University Press, which prints the Oxford English Dictionary, has observed that thanks to the ease of googling for dictionary definitions or searching online on, demand for printed dictionaries is falling rapidly, “by tens of percent each year”. He speculates there may be no printed dictionary market left by 2020.

Will the dictionary go the way of the phone bookRead more at ABC News.


Google introduces AI-as-a-service

Google’s recently launched learning engine tries to predict the future. The prediction engine takes data and tries to guess at outcomes. It’s not quite that simple: you have to supply the engine with a set of training data, and it will then try to predict new data based on what it’s learned, using a supervised learning algorithm.

By offering this as a cloud service, Google has removed an obstacle for many startups. Learning engines can predict everything from future purchases to suspicious behavior, but growing them as the data set expands can be difficult. The prediction engine can be built into applications running in Google’s App Engine, for example, making it easy to experiment with machine learning at scale. While the data is anonymous, Google does benefit from improved algorithms as it learns what works and what doesn’t.

Following on the heels of Google’s investment in Recorded Future, it’s clear the company’s mission goes far beyond putting the world’s information at our disposal. But even if Google can show the world the future, will we change what we do?


Is voice control a reality?

The new Android software from Google, Voice Actions lets you send a text, write an email, bring up information or call a business whose number you don’t have to hand using just your voice. The demonstration is impressive (though from real world tests it does not seem to be as speedy as the demo suggests).
If it works, this could be a great feature for hands-free drivers who want to access information on the move.. but will we use it in public? So far, voice technologies have not gained mainstream adoption – some people think it is because we feel silly talking to our electronics. Perhaps, as voice recognition technology improves, the biggest barrier is no longer technological but psychological…

Find out more at TechCrunch


Real-time game stats, together with Twitter updates and other sports scores, are overlayed on the device running MetaMirror. (Credit: Notion)

More and more pop-outs, banners and information scrollers are starting to appear on our television sets, particularly during news and sports coverage. And many of us really don’t like that clutter on the screen – though the information is useful. A new concept software interface, MetaMirror, offers a solution – the use of an iPad or tablet to show the same view as your TV, but with all the statistics, scores and replays overlaid on top of it.

It will be interesting as iPads and tablets become more mainstream to see if we see this idea take off.

Read more at CNET.


Visa's payWave contactless payment system, soon to be challenged by AT&T and Verizon

The two biggest mobile companies in the US, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, are teaming up to launch a new financial venture, which will allow consumers to pay for goods with a swipe of their smartphone – in effect forming a new banking entity and putting them in direct competition with the likes of Mastercard and Visa (who already have contactless payment methods called “payPass” and “payWave”).

What’s interesting about this development is that it uses something most of us already have – a smartphone – so the barrier to entry will be much lower. And as one expert put it, “The mobile carriers are the biggest recurring billers in every market. They are experts at processing payments.”

Perhaps in the future our banks won’t be banks, but phone companies.

Read more at Bloomberg, or Mobile Beat.


In The Shockwave Rider, his 1970s vision of a future that’s arriving faster than we can deal with it, John Brunner talks about Delphi Pools. These public, crowdsourced lotteries let citizens bet on predictions. The government uses this data to decide what’s most important to the population.

Break out your tinfoil hats: now Google and the CIA may be up to the same thing, having invested in a “temporal analytics” startup called Recorded Future last year.

According to Wired:

The CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

Sentiment analysis is nothing new; what’s different here seems to be the visualization and extrapolation of past trends into the future.

Like Brunner’s Delphi, this helps guess what might happen, but rather than soliciting our input directly the way prediction markets do, this uses the trails we leave online — links, comments, retweets, and so on. The predictions can include competitive intelligence, brand monitoring, and personal investigation.

Incidentally, in Brunner’s novel, the government uses the Delphi pools to placate an otherwise implacable citizenry, and often alters the results before publishing them to sway public opinion.

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