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Patently absurd

If patent attorneys continue unabated, we may one day have to be careful how we think, lest we run afoul of patents.

Patents control how inventions are used and sold. Initially covering new products, the scope of patents was expanded by the US Congress to include processes.

Today, patents reach far beyond simple processes. Companies are patent genes and mathematical algorithms. eHarmony, for example, has patented a mathematical formula for compatibility; now, other companies are rushing to patent the application of math to everything from finance to energy.

This documentary looks at the expanding definition of patents, and how it might change society.

As we incorporate technological inventions into ourselves, we may find the patent-holders in control of our lives, and be forced to pay someone in order to think in a particular way.

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We’ve all grown accustomed to a free web, but the reality is, content creators including bloggers, artists or musicians, need to get paid if the creative economy is to flourish. But attempts to charge for newspapers online showed that people are not inclined to pay for access to lots of different sites. Here is a possible solution, Flattr – a flat rate payment which is split between all sorts of different creators by just clicking an icon.

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Man with camera attached to cycle helmet

What if you could remember everything? Not just birthdays and photos, but your entire life. Technology is now affordable and powerful enough to make this a reality. This is lifelogging – using computers to extend your brain and outsource your memory.

 

What is lifelogging?

Read more »

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French company Parrot demonstrated this impressive piece of technology at Web 2.0 Expo this week. It’s a flying camera drone, that hovers and stabilizes itself automatically in flight, is wirelessly controlled by an iPhone just by tilting the phone, and streams live video back to the phone. It uses augmented reality to overlay game elements onto that video, making it a “video game for real life”. It’s incredible that technology like this is now available to the general public – at one time only the military could access such technology. What will people use these for? Will it reduce the privacy of governments and celebrities?

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Apple has just acquired Siri, a “virtual assistant” that can perform simple tasks for you from your iPhone, such as booking restaurants, movie tickets and taxis (see video right).

Siri is the first of a new genre of product, Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs), which could drive a move away from search engines that just find things for you, towards intelligent software agents that actually do things for you, based on knowing your context and preferences.

Apple’s purchase is exciting because it’s likely to bring the concept of agent software into the public awareness, and catalyse innovation in the space. If Apple add Siri’s functionality into the iPhone OS, it will also bring the iPad a step closer the Knowledge Navigator vision that Apple published way back in 1987.

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Videos of Microsoft Surface, a touchscreen tabletop computer have shown off its capabilities for sharing photos and recognizing and interacting with mobile devices, but there have been few compelling real world applications offered. This video shows how the interface can be used in the classroom as a digital storytelling tool. Students create animated movies combining drawings and real world elements with ease. You can read more about the TellTable here.

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By way of the BBC, here’s a look at a device that can help nonverbal autistic children communicate. With powerful, portable computers, applications like this are much more accessible and portable to a wider audience.

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Welcome to posthumanity

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdm1979uk/3607288494

We’re all getting an upgrade, whether we like it or not.

In a few years, every moment of our lives will be recorded, analyzed, and shared. We’ll take the sum of human knowledge for granted. We’ll wear tiny computers masquerading as fashion accessories. The merging of humans and technology is unavoidable, and the end result will be a new species able to hack its own cognition and edit its own biology.

This new species—call it Human 2.0—is the most important subject of the century. But it’s still hiding in academia and science fiction. We hope to change that. Read more »

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When I first visited the virtual world Second Life it was an underwhelming experience – vast empty spaces, lots of grey polygons while things loaded, and awkward controls.

But it seems things have come a long way since then, as this video shows. This is Blue Galaxy, a beautiful virtual island inside Second Life that is reminiscent of the planet Pandora from the Avatar movie. Maybe it’s time for another visit? (but make sure you have some beefy graphics hardware!)

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It’s common practice today to think that the solution to every problem is to be found in technology. This video is a concept video from the 2009 Challenge your World competition reminding us to not to fall into the trap of that kind of thinking.
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