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We’ve written previously about the benefits of bringing Internet-enabled screens to different parts of the home. This video from Jesse Rosten shows how with a couple of packets of Velcro and an iPad, you can change the iPad from a handheld Internet device into a way of putting information exactly where you need it, hands free.

In the future, perhaps iPad-like Internet touchscreens will become so cheap we can just install these permanently on our walls and into our appliances.


You may have heard of Big Dog, the four-legged robot developed by Boston Dynamics to carry equipment into battle, an electronic “pack mule” that can navigate a wide range of terrain.

But you might not have seen Little Dog, a Chihuahua to Big Dog’s Great Dane. Here’s a look at how far miniaturization and computing power have come in recent years.

Nice footsoldiers, Skynet.


This video from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft demonstrates the Skinput project, which uses a combination of audio and vibration sensors and a handheld projector to create buttons and displays on your forearm, which can then be used to control anything from MP3 players to cellphones. Devices are getting smaller and smaller, and the size is often defined by the size required for input and output. This is a significant step forwards towards removing that restriction.


Who owns your digital media?

Shoeboxes of Tapes, on FlickrIn  this episode of NPR’s Science Friday podcast from last year, New York Times columnist Randy Stross talks about how we’re now entering an age where our digital “products” are no longer ours to own.

When you buy music as an MP3 (assuming it’s not protected) you can copy or transfer it freely, to be used as wish, just as cassette tape recordings used to be. But in a world of controlled devices such as the Kindle or Apple’s iPod and iPad devices, it’s no longer to separate the “product” (be it an app, an e-book or an interactive website) from the device you use to consume it. Companies now have the ability to change the content, the experience or your access, after you have purchased it. Sometimes the content will be hosted online, in the cloud, which means you can access it anyway, but you’ll also never truly possess it.

Should we just accept this change, and be happy we won’t be carrying our media around for the rest of our life in shoeboxes, or should we fight to hold onto our rights of ownership so that we can be free to watch, read and listen whenever and however we want?

Read more, or listen to the MP3.

Image credit: draggin on Flickr.


First, they came for the Furries; but I was not a Furry, and I said nothing.

The Australian government has been asking visitors whether they’re carrying porn, according to the Australian Sex Party (no, really.) If you are, they’ll enjoy review it to ensure it meets their standards.

It’s part of the country’s plan to control its citizens’ Internet access: if you’re blocked from certain sites, you might try to smuggle the smut that floats your boat via computer or memory stick.

Unlike network filtering, however — which happens in data centers and doesn’t seem personal — this is a much more direct and immediate example of restricting information. It’s also a reminder that filtering the web is an inexact science at best.

(See the Arstechnica piece for more details.)


Building the synthetic cell

The BBC reports that researchers, including Craig Ventner of the Human Genome Project, announced that they’ve managed to synthesize a cell’s DNA. This is the “opposite” of mapping DNA: using a genome that’s been mapped, create working DNA and put it in a cell.

According to Ventner, “the new bacteria replicated over a billion times, producing copies that contained and were controlled by the constructed, synthetic DNA.” It’s a big breakthrough — the first step towards custom-engineering life — that could have some dire consequences if not properly regulated.


i09 says that researchers have demonstrated true nanobot-scale manufacturing. This isn’t just building something really small: this is building something small that builds something. It’s a nanofactory. As we’re now learning, things that work at really small scales are subject to different laws–those of quantum physics–that may give them access to other sources of energy.

This research may one day give us efficient ways of building anything (an idea touched on Neal Stephenson’s book The Diamond Age.) This all sounds promising. Except… Read more »

Peter Serafinowicz: Shooting himself by pirating his own movies?

Once, we only bought movies on VHS or DVD, and books in bookstores. But with the digitization of all entertainment media, there are many reasons why this doesn’t make sense any more – portability, cost, transport. Actor and director Peter Serafinowicz finds himself in conflict as both a content producer and consumer as to what is the right thing to do:

With bandwidth and storage increasing exponentially, getting cheaper, and consumers becoming more tech-savvy, its becoming easier every day to grab free copies of books, movies and albums. This is why Internet users are thrilled. Including me. This is why people in the entertainment industry are terrified. Including me.

It’s clear that the media industry and the law have not caught up with the way people want to access and own their content, and the way technology can be used. Read Peter’s detailed discussion of the moral rights and wrongs of piracy on Gizmodo:
Why I Steal Movies… Even Ones I’m In


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.


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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