Saturday, June 30, 2007

Robotic cars and Robotic highways

More on the DARPA challenge which now moves to the urban setting: 'The Urban Challenge will be a 60-mile test of city driving, replete with intersections, rights-of-way, stop signs, lane changes and that most annoying variable: traffic.'

According to Sebastian Thrun from Stanford University, a previous winner of the DARPA challenge:

A robotic automotive vehicle — which, Thrun says, would "combine the convenience of a train with the convenience of a car" — is a long way from commercial viability...

..."This is the point in time where cars are really ready to become robotic," says Montemerlo, who unveiled Junior this year with Thrun at the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Francisco. "We're excited about the potential this might have for reducing the number of fatalities on the road. We're adding more drivers all the time but we're not adding new highways."

Read in full in 'Robotic cars could take pressure off nation's highways'


Artificial Societies and Virtual Violence

MIT TechReview have an online post about how 'modeling societies in silico can help us understand human inequality, revolution, ethnic cleansing, and genocide'. Their article 'Artificial Societies and Virtual Violence' looks at the practice of growing artificial societies virtually in simulation - or in silico - as means to model future social structures and events:

Artificial society modeling allows us to 'grow' social structures in silico demonstrating that certain sets of microspecifications are sufficient to generate the macro­phenomena of interest.

What does this mean? And why should we care? Epstein's claim was twofold. First, he pointed out that while almost all the patterns that interest social scientists are emergent ones--that is, complex developments arising from a lot of relatively simple interactions--disciplines such as mainstream economics conceive of societies as tending toward some notional equilibrium. Standard explanations assume, too, that societies consist of highly rational agents who, possessing full knowledge, act always in their own best interest. When it comes to how real populations of diverse actors with limited rationality actually evolve their patterns of, say, wealth distribution

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Global Biometric Border Checks

The Register have an interesting article on the UK proposal to form (yet another!)transatlantic arrangement for sharing biometric data about travellers... and from this it shows just how determined, and close, a potential future biometric security landscape is:

Home Secretary John Reid said the UK and US should "routinely share information about travellers of interest", as well as people caught with fake passports, or those trying to side-step immigration controls. He proposed greater co-operation between coalition countries because, he said, the UK couldn't protect its borders "by operating in a bubble".

"Today we are undertaking to improve that co-operation through better exchange of immigration data and working together to tackle the reasons for migration," he said in a statement. The UK Borders and Immigration Agency's Strategy to build stronger international alliances to manage migration, published today, proposes establishing the international legal basis to share biometric immigration data.

It said the UK would "rapidly" bring forward plans to use other technologies to pick undesirables out of queues at UK borders. It proposed "voice analysis" as one example. New technologies would be used for the "scientific and technical identification of nationality" and to "fix people's identities".

Read in full at - 'US and allies lay global foundation for biometric border checks'


Monday, June 25, 2007

Death networking: the latest e-trend

Now here is something emerging from the land of social networks - the rise of Death Networking: that is, online sites intended to bear tributes to the deceased now are gaining visitors who share grief and condolences:

And this truly is communal grief. From mothers who have lost babies in childbirth, to those whose relatives have died through suicide, virtual groups are springing up on the site to help the bereaved get in touch with each other. About 100 new memorials are created on Gone Too Soon every day, says site manager Nicola Davis.

"It's really snowballed in the last six months. As the site started to grow, we've seen more evidence of people networking, because they are realising how it can help them. Loads of people log in every day and leave candles and poems on others' tribute sites."

The site allows users to customise their pages by uploading photographs and music, and lets visitors leave their condolences and light virtual candles.

Read in full in The Independent - 'Death networking: the latest e-trend'


Sunday, June 24, 2007

In the year 2014....

I know I'm probably a little behind here in these videos yet I recommend the EPIC 2014 (and updated EPIC 2015) videos that look at the future of the online media, especially in terms of Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, with references to increased citizen participation and personalised services - visit the EPIC 2014 site.

Also - on top of this! - another highly recommended video along similar lines: the newly released 'Prometeus - The Media Revolution' - watch below.

What a treat!


Friday, June 22, 2007

A swarm of UAVs

Not a swarm of bees, but a swarm of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in a project headed by Cranfield University in the UK:

The research aims to create an airborne group of UAVs that can plan their flight trajectories during missions and carry them out safely. This will be achieved by each drone comparing its individual movements to the flight plan of others, within the guidelines of the main mission objective...

...The use of multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (MUAVs) is attractive to the armed forces as they can provide significant reductions in manpower and reduce the risk to humans in critical security and defence roles.

Read full story from The Engineer Online in 'Squadron leaders'


This looks like a truly fantastic idea - to present a nation's history as a simulation game - and to let people participate in the sim-game to see what decisions they would have made in history: and Canada has done just this!

The History Canada Game is a game based on Canadian history that lets anyone play the past. Based on the award-winning, best-seller Sid Meier's Civilization III, The History Canada Game is the "What If" game of Canada... and you're the author. Will you replay our history or rewrite it?

The year is 1534... Play the New World

A strange, pale-faced man named Jacques Cartier arrives on the shores of the Baie de Gaspé accompanied by a crew of 61 men. He raises a cross on the shore emblazoned with the French coat of arms.


To Iroquois chief Donnacona, whose 500 followers live just down the St. Lawrence, Cartier’s intentions couldn’t be clearer. But these settlers bring with them powerful weapons, advanced technologies, and promises of great partnership to come. All they want is to take Donnacona’s two sons back to France with him.

What would you do? Welcome the French as your newest allies? Or defend your homeland with extreme prejudice, and probably your life?

Whats next? You decide.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How children lost the right to roam

This UK news report - 'How children lost the right to roam in four generations' - discusses the declining mobility of children in cities and suburbs. Included is a useful map of the wondering space of children over three generations, showiing that its gone down from about 6 miles in the early 1900s to about 300 meters today!

When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.

It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.

Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas's eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.

He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.

(Image care of The Daily Mail)


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We're turning into 'e-mail addicts'!

BBCNews has this interesting feature on how half of Britons could not exist without e-mail:

Fifty per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds told ICM researchers they would not be able to carry on without e-mail. Forty one per cent of teenagers said they relied on e-mail, while 44% of 35 to 44-year-olds said e-mail was vital.

The South East was the most e-mail-reliant region, with 43% of people telling the poll for software firm Nasstar they relied on it. Wales was the lowest, with only 34% saying e-mail was vital to them.

'Mobile reliance'

More women than men - 41% compared with 38% - said they would be lost without access to their inbox.

Read the story in full - Half of Britons 'e-mail addicts'


Whitehall towards a Government 2.0

The Guardian has this article - Open the gates of information - that looks at how the UK government is moving towards a government 2.0 with a report that urges a greater official involvement with the grassroots web:

Last week, Whitehall took its first step towards this vision by publishing, with ministerial blessing, a report calling on the UK government to engage with grassroots web activism. This means communicating with the public through user-generated communities rather than official websites and greatly freeing up access to, and controls on the re-use of, data held by the public sector. To enable this, it endorses the key proposals of Technology Guardian's Free Our Data campaign (see below).

Online communities

The Power of Information is written by Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council, and Tom Steinberg, director of MySociety and creator of the 10 Downing Street e-petitions service.

It set out to examine the Web 2.0 phenomenon and determine what, if any, the government's response should be. The headline finding is that phenomena such as social networking, blogging and wikis add up to more than a passing craze; the report likens today's online communities to great 19th century movements such as friendly societies.

A step in the right direction....?


Friday, June 15, 2007

Developing Responsive Architecture

Worldchanging notes in 'Living Glass and River Glow: Developing Responsive Architecture' that David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang are both architects who create what they call open source, incremental, small-scale architecture that engages the city:

A couple of weeks ago at Postopolis, a New York exhibition and conference on architecture, urbanism, landscape and design (of which our teammate Geoff Manaugh was an organizer), the pair presented two of their projects, Living Glass and River Glow, which utilize responsive technologies as a means of revealing the presence of CO2 and water pollutants, respectively. They categorize both as "Flash Research":

An architectural project that involves:

1. A budget under $1000
2. A duration of less than three months
3. Proof-of-concept through the creation of a full-scale functioning prototype

Living Glass involves a reactive, transparent surface with an infrared sensor and gills that open and shut as they detect the presence of humans and control air quality in a room.

Read more here....


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Peer-2-Peer for Disaster Relief

This looks like a well-needed venture into distributed disaster relief: iCare - P2P Giving for Disaster Relief

According to Smartmobs: 'The iCare project emerged from ideas shared by two Berkeley College students, while watching he devastation of Hurricane Katrina unfold:

After hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Berkeley Engineering graduate students Ephrat Bitton and Anand Kulkarni watched with the rest of the world as logistical snafus, bureaucratic red tape and communication breakdowns prevented charitable aid from quickly reaching the storm’s victims. There was a disconnect between those who had something to offer and those who needed it. Since then, the two students have spent their free time developing a Web application to help ensure that such a disconnect would never happen again. Their system automatically pairs donors with those in need, creating a "marketplace of charity" while putting a human face on the process of giving.

[...] After a disaster, victims can log onto the website and report their specific needs, and those requests will be connected to donors—companies or individuals—who are offering that particular kind of aid. The researchers also hope that this demand-response approach will reduce the wasteful excess of some goods and the shortage of others.'

China launches virtual universe

The Guardian on this post 'China launches virtual universe' mentions that 'the Swedish virtual world Entropia Universe announced that it was teaming up with CRD, an offshoot of the Beijing municipality, to build a virtual universe able to handle 7 million users at any one moment. David Liu, chief executive of CRD, claimed that virtual worlds would generate about 10,000 jobs in China'

Interesting the article notes that 'Governments don't seem to have got the message yet - except for Sweden, where Entropia is based. On Wednesday it became the first major country to open an embassy in Second Life.

Olie Wastberg, director general of the Sweden Institute which promotes interest in the country abroad, said: "Second Life allows us to inform people about Sweden and broaden the opportunity for contact with Sweden."'

A new econoverse?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Smart clothes to monitor health

BBC News discusess in 'Smart clothes to monitor health' how European scientists are developing clothing which they say will be able to monitor your health:

The "intelligent textiles" contain embedded sensors designed to monitor body fluids such as blood and sweat. The aim is to use the clothes to check on groups such as recovering hospital patients, people with chronic illnesses and injured athletes.

The Biotex programme, funded in part by the European Union, involves researchers from eight institutions.A prototype multi-sensor test patch is already near completion. The next step will be to try out the experimental fabric on volunteers. Project co-ordinator Jean Luprano, from the Swiss technology company CSEM, told The Engineer magazine: "Sensors have been built and have been tested in the lab.

"We have started their integration into textile patches. "We will soon have a multi-sensor patch which will allow us to sense several elements in parallel."

From the battlefield to the civil playing field...


My car is watching me!

Here's more on the car sensor story - from a piece titled 'AUTOMOBILES -- My car is watching me':

Researchers and automakers are developing steering wheel - and dashboard-mounted sensors that peer at a driver's face to determine what's going on inside your head. Here's how it works: Computer algorithms map your body and points on your face: eyes and mouth, mostly. The distance between those points changes as you get sleepy, distracted or even drunk. Sensors gather that data and combine it with data from your vehicle, including your speed or the position of your steering wheel...

...Sensors gather that data and combine it with data from your vehicle, including your speed or the position of your steering wheel.

So - While you're watching the road, your future car could be watching you!

Via Smartmobs

Highway Code cycling

This post is especially for the cyclists out there -

The UK government's proposed new Highway Code says cyclists should "use cycle facilities where possible".

If approved, cyclists will effectively lose the right to ride on the road where there are alternative routes or adjacent facilities. This is also likely to result in more abuse and intimidation from drivers.

Also, if a cyclist is knocked down and injured, the motorist's insurers will be able to argue that the rider contributed to the accident by not using the cycle facility.

Unless there is an unprecedented amount of adverse publicity to persuade the government to re-write this version of the Highway Code, this will become law.

If you want to prevent this, please join in registering your name on the petition here and persuade others to do the same.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Glimpsing the mobile future

BBCNews tech-reporter Bill Thompson discusses the latest in various mobile technologies in Glimpsing the mobile future:

Touch sensitive displays are increasingly common, and multi-touch systems that let you make gestures and direct activities using several fingers at once will allow novel user interfaces for all sorts of devices. LG Philips and Universal Display Corporation have their own full-colour flexible screen, with a 320 by 240 pixel display, while Cambridge Display Technology continues to develop its own flexible screens based around polymer LEDs.

We're also seeing devices with new displays built in to them, like the Sony Reader, or the new Readius from Polymer Vision which has a screen that wraps around and unfolds to let you read from its greyscale display. Researchers in the US have managed to solve one of the problems facing these displays, which is that while the displays themselves can be made transparent the electronics which control them are opaque.

We now have see-through transistors made with zinc oxide and indium oxide 'nanowires', making it possible to build displays into glasses or car windscreens.


Big cities are havens for aging population

Or so it seems! Yes, the Harvard Gazette Online is saying that 'Great capitals of the world are new ‘retirement communities’':

“Already today there are places where almost 20 percent of the population is 65 years old or more,” Rodwin said. Florida is one of them; Italy is another. Others include certain neighborhoods in New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo.

“The trends point to one obvious conclusion — so obvious that most people don’t talk about it — and it’s that cities will be where older people live. We typically talk about population aging as if it doesn’t matter where you live.” But it does matter, Rodwin said. “And not just what city, but what neighborhood.”

Rodwin was speaking at the symposium “Perspectives from the Future: Tomorrow’s World as Defined by Today’s Research and Planning.” The symposium marked the 30th anniversary of the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Turning cars into wireless network nodes

(Image courtesy of Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends)

Here is another example of sensor networks meshing with mobility networks, converging to form the intelligent infrastructures of the future:

Everyday, our cars are using more computing technology, primarily for safety reasons. So why not turning them into computer nodes of a mobile network? This is what UCLA engineers are working on. According to them, this would just need the relatively low-cost addition of sensors to the vehicle's roof and bumpers. They say their mobile ad-hoc networking platform (MANET) would allow 'moving vehicles within a range of 100 to 300 meters of each other to connect and create a network of cars.' Of course, not every driver would like to be part of this network because of privacy concerns. This is why 'the first mobile networks will be implemented in emergency response vehicles such as police cars, ambulances and hazardous materials response units.

Also, You'll find more details by looking at the MobEyes research project home page. This is one of the projects handled by the Network Research Lab at UCLA Computer Science Department, where computer science professor Mario Gerla and researcher Giovanni Pau are trying to turn your cars into wireless networking nodes.

** The brand new site for the activities on Vehicular networks with posts on all the news, software, and updates on the project can be linked to from here

A worthwhile project - and nice guys!

Read in full - 'Turning cars into wireless network nodes'

Via Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends


Mobiscopes for Human Spaces

Here's a great article on Mobiscopes (?!) called Mobiscopes for Human Spaces that discusses sensor networks:

A mobiscope is a federation of distributed mobile sensors into a taskable sensing system that achieves high-density sampling coverage over a wide area through mobility. Mobiscopes affordably extend into regions that static sensors cannot, proving especially useful for applications that only occasionally require data from each location. They represent a new type of infrastructure—virtual in that a given node can participate in forming more than one mobiscope, but physically coupled to the environment through carriers, including people and vehicles. Mobiscope applications include public-health epidemiological studies of human exposure using mobile phones and real-time, fine-grained automobile traffic characterization using sensors on fleet vehicles.

You can also read the entire proposal as a PDF version.

Well worth a read if you're into sensors!

Via Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Also from Piquepaille's site, an interesting post on 'Digital privacy behind virtual walls'

Cities turn to GPS to wipe out graffiti

CNet News reports that GPS, digital photography and computer databases are helping some cities battle to obliterate graffiti:

Graffiti Tracker takes pictures of graffiti before it's painted over, using GPS cameras that record the date, time and exact location. The company analyzes the graffiti, for example checking whether it is gang-related, and stores the pictures in its database...

...Police use the information to track or predict where a particular tagger will strike next. Once perpetrators are caught, law enforcement has evidence to prosecute them for a string of offenses.

Tracking the tagger now!

Read the full story - 'Cities turn to GPS to wipe out graffiti'