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Can computers help us remember?

"Memory is full" (cc) by Rutger Middendorp

What if you could Google your own memories and recall details with perfect clarity? What if your iPhone could ensure you never forget to buy birthday gifts for the people you love? Can we trust our own recollections of past events? Will we all have digital assistants in the future?

These are just some of the questions discussed in this 30-minute audio interview with Sunil Vemuri. Sunil spent 2 years digitally recording his own life while he was a researcher at MIT, and went on to found reQall, a company whose product specializes in helping you remember what’s important as you go about your daily life, with a minimum of effort.

Click here to listen to the full MP3 interview. (Length 32:19, Size 31Mb).

Editor’s note: This interview was recorded back in March 2010, as the first episode in a regular Human 2.0 podcast series. Unfortunately, as Human 2.0 is made in our free time, we’ve had to put the podcast plans on hold for the time being. We’re publishing this as a one-off audio post, but watch this space as we may feature more audio content in the future!

Image (cc) by Rutger Middendorp on Flickr.

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Girl with Medical Tracker (c) Gizmodo

Dutch researchers have demonstrated a new type of network – not LAN or WAN, but BAN, the Body Area Network. What this means is that sensors in your body (for example electrocardiogram sensors monitoring your heart, or EEGs monitoring your brain) can now communicate via radiowaves to a wearable computer hung round the neck. This computer can send you a text message if readings stray from the norm. Your body will text you when it needs medical attention!

Read more at New Scientist. Image courtesy of Gizmodo

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Bitnorth 2010: The Human 2.0 Weekend

In late August, CAMMAC (a music camp north of Montreal) hosted the third annual Bitnorth conference. This year the theme was Human 2.0. Attendees presented a 5 minute “short bit” on a topic of their choice, which inspired many lively debates. Slides and recordings will be online soon but in the meantime, here are some of the interesting Human 2.0 ideas and questions that emerged over the course of the weekend: Read more »

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Via @lennysan, this is a great piece on how public, prosthetic memories will change us forever. Humans forget things with good reason: forgetting lets us discard old ideas in favor of new ones, and pain recedes so we can try things like childbirth again. Not so digital memory.

There’s a growing movement to put a statute of limitations on public digital data, even as Google reveals that it’s stored every search since its launch and the Library of Congress is archiving every Tweet.

As this Ars Technica piece points out, “in an age of ever-cheaper storage, the data committed to machine memory requires an act of will to delete.”

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Augmented reality is getting a lot of attention in the media, but is often misunderstood. It’s only when you see examples that it really makes sense. This video demonstrates an impressive new application of the concept at the Wimbledon tennis championship in the UK.

With IBM’s new Seer 2010 app for iPhones and Androids you can simply point your phone at a court and get live video of the match being played there – effectively you can see through walls. You can also use the app to find food and drink stands or even get a live video view of the taxi queues.

It’s a great example of how augmented reality is already here today and making itself useful. You can read more here.

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Look out Snow Crash and Strange Days: a British researcher says he’s the first person to become infected with a computer virus.

It’s just a proof of concept, but Dr. Marc Gasson of the University of Reading showed that he could infect an implanted chip (used to open doors and activate his phone) and have that virus passed on to other devices.

While the example seems trivial, it does offer some tantalizingly threatening possibilities: what if I infect your pacemaker, then use that to extort money from you in order to keep it working?

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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 »

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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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I wrote recently about our ability to speak all languages. It seems that this power just got even greater, thanks to a new mobile application from Google. Called Google Goggles, it combines optical character recognition with their existing language translation technologies so that you can just photograph a sign in a foreign language and have a translation displayed on your screen. This could have quite an impact for international travellers.

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This episode of Digital Planet, from the BBC World Service, includes an interview with the director of the FutureEverything festival in Manchester UK about the winner of the Future Everything Award, a collaborative project called EyeWriter which is a collaborative project using eye-tracking technology to allow graffiti artist Tony Quan, who is paralyzed due a condition known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, to continue drawing his tags and art from his hospital bed.

The episode also features looks at how to design software for cerebral palsy sufferers, and how to re-use old computers in new ways.

Listen to the episode (28 mins audiostream)

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