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AI

Ray Kurzweil Talks Google's Big Plans For Artificial Intelligence 254

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-are-you-doing-dave? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Ray Kurzweil, the technologist who's spent his career advocating the Singularity, discussed his current work as a director of engineering at Google with The Guardian. Google has big plans in the artificial-intelligence arena. It recently acquired DeepMind, self-billed 'cutting edge artificial intelligence company' for $400 million; that's in addition to snatching up all sorts of startups and research scientists devoted to everything from robotics to machine learning. Thanks to the massive datasets generated by the world's largest online search engine (and the infrastructure allowing that engine to run), those scientists could have enough information and computing power at their disposal to create networked devices capable of human-like thought. Kurzweil, having studied artificial intelligence for decades, is at the forefront of this in-house effort. In his interview with The Guardian, he couldn't resist throwing some jabs at other nascent artificial intelligence systems on the market, most notably IBM's Watson: 'IBM's Watson is a pretty weak reader on each page, but it read the 200m pages of Wikipedia. And basically what I'm doing at Google is to try to go beyond what Watson could do. To do it at Google scale. Which is to say to have the computer read tens of billions of pages. Watson doesn't understand the implications of what it's reading.' That sounds very practical, but at a certain point Kurzweil's predictions veer into what most people would consider science fiction. He believes, for example, that a significant portion of people alive today could end up living forever, thanks to the ministrations of ultra-intelligent computers and beyond-cutting-edge medical technology."
Security

Oops: Security Holes In Belkin Home Automation Gear 77

Posted by timothy
from the did-you-leave-the-iron-on-or-shall-I? dept.
chicksdaddy writes "The Security Ledger reports that the security firm IOActive has discovered serious security holes in the WeMo home automation technology from Belkin. The vulnerabilities could allow remote attackers to use Belkin's WeMo devices to virtually vandalize connected homes, or as a stepping stone to other computers connected on a home network. IOActive researcher Mike Davis said on Tuesday that his research into Belkin's WeMo technology found the 'devices expose users to several potentially costly threats, from home fires with possible tragic consequences down to the simple waste of electricity.' IOActive provided information on Davis's research to the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), which issued an advisory on the WeMo issues on Tuesday. There has been no response yet from Belkin."
Displays

The Road To VR 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-real-than-real dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Stack Overflow co-founder Jeff Atwood has posted about how much progress we've made toward commercially viable virtual reality gaming — and how far we have to go. The Oculus Rift headset is technologically brilliant compared to anything we'd have before, but Atwood says there are still a number of problems to solve. Quoting: 'It's a big commitment to strap a giant, heavy device on your face with 3+ cables to your PC. You don't just casually fire up a VR experience. ... Demos are great, but there aren't many games in the Steam Store that support VR today, and the ones that do support VR can feel like artificially tacked on novelty experiences. I did try Surgeon Simulator 2013 which was satisfyingly hilarious. ... VR is a surprisingly anti-social hobby, even by gamer standards, which are, uh low. Let me tell you, nothing is quite as boring as watching another person sit down, strap on a headset, and have an extended VR "experience". I'm stifling a yawn just thinking about it. ... Wearing a good VR headset makes you suddenly realize how many other systems you need to add to the mix to get a truly great VR experience: headphones and awesome positional audio, some way of tracking your hand positions, perhaps an omnidirectional treadmill, and as we see with the Crystal Cove prototype, an external Kinect style camera to track your head position at absolute minimum.' Atwood also links to Michael Abrash's VR blog, which is satisfyingly technical for those interested in the hardware and software problems of VR."
The Military

Death By Metadata: The NSA's Secret Role In the US Drone Strike Program 202

Posted by samzenpus
from the dial-d-for-drone dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Glenn Greenwald reports at his new independent news site 'The Intercept' that according to a former drone operator for the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the NSA often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. In one tactic, the NSA 'geolocates' the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist's mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device. The technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against US forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have 'absolutely' been killed as a result of the NSA's increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic. One problem is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA's reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system while other top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA's targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers. As a result, even when the agency correctly identifies and targets a SIM card belonging to a terror suspect, the phone may actually be carried by someone else, who is then killed in a strike. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which uses a conservative methodology to track drone strikes, estimates that at least 2,400 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have been killed by unmanned aerial assaults under the Obama administration. Greenwald's source says he has come to believe that the drone program amounts to little more than death by unreliable metadata. 'People get hung up that there's a targeted list of people. It's really like we're targeting a cell phone. We're not going after people – we're going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.' Whether or not Obama is fully aware of the errors built into the program of targeted assassination, he and his top advisers have repeatedly made clear that the president himself directly oversees the drone operation and takes full responsibility for it."
Robotics

Dyson Invests £5 Million To Create 'Intelligent Domestic Robots' 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-clean-you-with dept.
DavidGilbert99 writes "James Dyson only releases products he is 100% happy with, which is why, despite nearly a decade of research in the area, his company has yet to release a robotic vacuum cleaner. To help drive research forward, he will invest £5 million in a joint research lab at Imperial College London which will focus on 'vision systems,' which Dyson hopes will help create the next generation of 'intelligent domestic robots.'" Last week Dyson proposed that the UK government offer monetary incentives to students with an interest and aptitude in science.
Medicine

Hackers Penetrate Top Medical Device Makers 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-have-a-look dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Hackers have penetrated the computer networks of the country's top medical device makers, The Chronicle has learned. The attacks struck Medtronic, the world's largest medical device maker, Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical sometime during the first half of 2013 and might have lasted as long as several months, according to a source close to the companies."
Google

Google Buys UK AI Startup Deep Mind 113

Posted by timothy
from the doesn't-all-this-artificiality-annoy-you? dept.
TechCrunch reports that Google has acquired London-based artificial intelligence firm Deep Mind. TechCrunch notes that the purchase price, as reported by The Information, was somewhere north of $500 million, while a report at PC World puts the purchase price lower, at mere $400 million. Whatever the price, the acquisition means that Google has beaten out Facebook, which reportedly was also interested in Deep Mind. Exactly what the startup will bring to Google isn't clear, though it seems to fit well with the emphasis on AI that the company underscored with its hiring of futurist Ray Kurzweil: "DeepMind's site currently only has a landing page, which says that it is 'a cutting edge artificial intelligence company' to build general-purpose learning algorithms for simulations, e-commerce, and games. As of December, the startup had about 75 employees, reports The Information. In 2012, Carnegie Mellon professor Larry Wasserman wrote that the 'startup is trying to build a system that thinks. This was the original dream of AI. As Shane [Legg] explained to me, there has been huge progress in both neuroscience and ML and their goal is to bring these things together. I thought it sounded crazy until he told me the list of famous billionaires who have invested in the company.'"
Google

Actually, It's Google That's Eating the World 205

Posted by timothy
from the respond-only-with-your-real-name-and-gps-coordinates dept.
waderoush writes "An Xconomy column [Friday] suggests that Google is getting too big. When the company was younger, most of its acquisitions related to its core businesses of search, advertising, network infrastructure, and communications. More recently, it's been colonizing areas with a less obvious connection to search, such as travel, social networking, productivity, logistics, energy, robotics, and — with the acquisition this week of Nest Labs — home sensor networks and automation. A Google acquisition can obviously mean a big payoff for startup founders and their investors, but as the company grows by accretion it may actually be slowing innovation in Silicon Valley (since teams inside the Googleplex, with its endless fountain of AdWords revenue, can stop worrying about making money or meeting market needs). And by infiltrating so many corners of consumers' lives — and collecting personal and behavioral data as it goes — it's becoming an all-encompassing presence, and making itself ever more attractive as a target for marketers, data thieves, and government snoops. 'Any sufficiently advanced search, communications, and sensing infrastructure is indistinguishable from Big Brother,' the column argues."

Comment: Technically, Safari supports a royalty free format (Score 1) 247

by jrincayc (#45993747) Attached to: Wikimedia Community Debates H.264 Support On Wikipedia Sites.

Technically, Apple does support motion JPEG as a video format on OSX which is a royalty free format. MPEG-1 is also probably royalty free as well and is supported on OSX Safari. However, even Ogg Theora beats those formats on compression.

(Of course, without Apple's objection to Ogg Theora, it would probably be a required codec for HTML5.)

Displays

I Became a Robot With Google Glass 134

Posted by timothy
from the no-you-didn't dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Videographer and journalist Boonsri Dickinson took the second generation of Google Glass out for a spin, and came back with some thoughts (and a video) on the hardware (basically unchanged from the first generation) and the new XE12 software upgrade (which includes many new features, such as the 'eye wink' option for snapping photos). New apps in the tiny-but-growing Glass app store include Compass, which allows you to find interesting landmarks; Field Trip, which allows you to walk around and look up local history; Video Voyager, a tool for sharing videos based on your location; and Strava Run, which visualizes your fitness habits. 'Glass has potential to take off as a new platform because it's not a phone,' she writes. 'The hands-free approach could expand its use to venues as diverse as the operating room and kitchen, unlocking new ways of using the data overlays to augment the real world.' Interesting features aside, though, her experience with the device raises the usual privacy questions: 'For the most part, Glass is a good prototype for this new kind of computer: but do we really need it, and are we ready for it?'"
Robotics

Inside Tony Hsieh's Quiet Plan To Bankroll Hardware Startups 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the rise-of-the-machines dept.
curtwoodward writes "Tony Hsieh made a fortune turning Zappos into a customer service-obsessed online shoe store. But as an investor, his newest obsession is ... robots? Welcome to the hardware boom, where startups making connected gadgets, smart vehicles, and drones are catching investors' eyes. A combination of cheaper components and crowdfunded pre-orders are behind the surge. But as the woman running Hsieh's hardware investments can tell you, getting those grand plans actually built overseas is the hard part."
Science

Government Lab Uses Smartphones To Measure Gamma Ray Exposure 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the hulk-phone-is-strongest-there-is dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Back in 2008, Slashdot reported that researchers were developing ways of turning cellphones into radiation detectors. Since then a few apps have even appeared that claim to do this. However, convincing evidence that they work as advertised is hard to come by. Now government researchers at Idaho National Labs have created their own app that uses an ordinary smartphone as a gamma ray detector, put it through its paces in the lab and published the results. The pixels in smartphone cameras can detect gamma rays in the same way as they pick up visible light. So when the lens is covered, the image should reveal evidence of gamma ray exposure once other noise has been removed, such as that from heat and current leakage. These guys have tested several types of Android smartphone with a variety of gamma ray sources at various different doses. The researchers say the phones give a reasonable measure of radiation dose, can detect the direction of source (by comparing the measurements from the front and back cameras) and can even measure the energy of the gamma rays by measuring the length of the tracks that appear in the image. While the results do not match the quality of bespoke detectors, that may not matter since in many circumstances cellphones are likely to be the only sensors that are available. That could be useful for emergency services, air travelers wanting to monitor their extra radiation dose on routes over the arctic and people who live in areas with a higher than average background radiation level."

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk

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