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We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


+ - Nao's Creator Quits Aldebaran As Pepper Goes On Sale ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Bruno Maisonnier, founder of Aldebaran, the French company that brought us the friendly humanoid robot Nao, is standing down as its CEO. This coincides with the availability, in Japan, of company's latest creation Pepper which has quickly established itself in a hospitality role. At Bruno Maisonnier's request SoftBank,which already owned a majority share, will purchase all his shares in the company he founded in 2005. Pepper was created for SoftBank a Japanese phone company and now basically it is on sale for an upfront fee of $1,600 followed by a subscription of $206 per month for 3 years for access to Softbank’s cloud-based artificial intelligence software.
However its main purpose seems to be in the role of a greetings robot at the door to the store, a role that even Nao seems to be getting involved in. It is arguable that a "greetings" robot is really only something that could be a success in countries that have the same cultural background as Japan. Try to imagine the customer reaction to being formally greeted by a Pepper-like robot in a US phone store — the novelty would wear off very quickly.
This probably isn't the future Maisonnier had in mind for his creations."

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+ - Replacing the Turing Test -> 1

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "A plan is afoot to replace the Turing test as a measure of a computer's ability to think. The idea is for an annual or bi-annual Turing Championship consisting of three to five different challenging tasks.
A recent workshop at the 2015 AAAI Conference of Artificial Intelligence was chaired by Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University. His opinion is that the Turing Test had reached its expiry date and has become
"an exercise in deception and evasion.”
Marcus points out:
the real value of the Turing Test comes from the sense of competition it sparks amongst programmers and engineers
which has motivated the new initiative for a multi-task competition.
The one of the tasks is based on Winograd Schemas. This requires participants to grasp the meaning of sentences that are easy for humans to understand through their knowledge of the world. One simple example is:
The trophy would not fit in the brown suitcase because it was too big. What was too big?
Another suggestion is for the program to answer questions about a TV program:
No existing program—not Watson, not Goostman, not Siri—can currently come close to doing what any bright, real teenager can do: watch an episode of “The Simpsons,” and tell us when to laugh.
Another is called the "ikea" challenge and asks for robots to co-operate with humans to build flatpack furniture. This involves interpreting written instructions, choosing the right piece, and holding it in just the right position for a human teammate.. This at least is a useful skill that might encourage us to welcome machines into our homes."

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+ - Twitter Can Identify Heart Disease ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Researchers have shown that Twitter can serve as a dashboard indicator of a community’s psychological well-being and can predict rates of heart disease. Many factors contribute to the risk of heart disease, not just traditional ones, like low income or smoking but also psychological ones, like stress. The team found that negative emotional language and topics, such as words like “hate” or expletives, remained strongly correlated with heart disease mortality, even after variables like income and education were taken into account. Positive emotional language showed the opposite correlation, suggesting that optimism and positive experiences, words like “wonderful” or “friends,” may be protective against heart disease.
The maps produced showing heart disease rates according to Twitter show a remarkable match to maps of actual death due to heart disease.
As one team member commented:
“The relationship between language and mortality is particularly surprising since the people tweeting angry words and topics are in general not the ones dying of heart disease. But that means if many of your neighbors are angry, you are more likely to die of heart disease.”"

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+ - Bjarne Stroustrup Awarded Dahl-Nygaard Prize ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of C++, is the 2015 recipient of the Senior Dahl-Nygaard Prize, considered the most prestigious prize in object-oriented computer science. Established in 2005 it honors the pioneering work on object-orientation of Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard who, designed Simula, the original object-oriented language and are remembered as "colorful characters".
To be eligible for the senior prize an individual must have made a
"significant long-term contribution to the field of Object-Orientation"
and this year it goes to Bjarne Stoustrup for the design, implementation and evolution of the C++ programming language. You can't argue with that."

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+ - Atlas Rebuilt - DARPA's Almost New Robot ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Atlas was the robot from sci-fi, big, black and powerful — only it had these cables that provided it with power and made it look a little like a dog on a leash. It was designed to provide a hardware platform for teams competing in the DARPA Robotic's Challenge DRC — a competition designed to encourage the construction of an effective disaster response robot. Now it has been revealed that the finals of the DRC later in the year require that the robot used not to have a tether and hence Atlas needed a redesign.
The new Atlas has no wires of any kind and hence is described as "wireless". This is achieved by fitting an onboard 3.7 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery. This is used to drive a variable-pressure pump which operates all of the hydraulic systems. This makes ATLAS much quieter but introduces a complication for the teams. The pump can be run at low pressure to save battery and then switched into high pressure to get some work done. What this means is that not only do the teams have to worry about robotic things they also have to manage the power consumption as if ATLAS was a mobile phone.
There are lots of other new features and you can see the robot in action in a video.
There is also news of the DRC in that the prize has been increased to $3.5 million — $2 million to the winner, $1 million to second and $500,000 to third place. The robots also have to work without a cable and if they fall over they have to get up on their own or fail at the task. The idea of an Atlas falling over and picking itself up is difficult to imagine.
Finally while the new Atlas looks good the plastic covers make it look far less threatening."

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+ - SparkleVision - Seeing Through The Glitter->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Another new application of computational photography lets you reconstruct an image that has been reflected by a rough shiny object — a glitter-covered surface, say.If you have an image viewed by reflection from a "glittery" surface — more technically one containing mirror facets with random orientation — then what you will see is a blurry shadow of the original. To unscramble the image all you need is the inverse transform and a recent paper from MIT explains how to do it. Basically all you have to do is shine a one pixel light onto the glitter and record where it goes on the sensor. Then some math is used to compute the inverse transformation. Not content with theory the technique was used to make convincing reconstructions of photos reflected off a glitter surface.
The reconstruction is very sensitive to slight shifts in the image and this could be used as a movement detector or 3D camera. But next time you are in a room with a glittery surface keep in mind that you could still be watched."

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+ - Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "A survey of UK schools carried out by Microsoft and Computing at School reveals some worrying statistics that are probably more widely applicable.
The survey revealed that (68%) of primary and secondary teachers are concerned that their pupils have a better understanding of computing than they do. Moreover the pupils reinforced this finding with 47% claiming that their teachers need more training. Again to push the point home, 41% of pupils admitted to regularly helping their teachers with technology.
This isn't all due to the teachers being new at the task — 76% had taught computing before the new curriculum was introduced. It seems that switching from an approach that emphasised computer literacy to one that actually wants students to do more difficult things is the reason for the problem."

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+ - Google Cast For Audio - A Solution?->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "You would think that sending an audio stream to some device so that you could hear it would be a solved problem. Far from it! Google has just announced Cast for Audio based on its Chromecast mechanism.
Chromecast isn't a dumb communications device. When you use it to play a video it takes the URL, connects and streams the video via its WiFi connection independently of the originating device. This means that if you cast a video from a phone the ChromeCast does the heavy lifting leaving the phone to save its battery.
The latest extension of the idea is Cast for Audio just announced by Google. Chromecast technology will be built into Cast ready speakers which should be available in the spring. It seems Google have companies like Sony LG and Denon in on the deal. So you at the very least have to go and buy a new set of speakers to make Cast work. Once set up on your WiFi network the fact that is supposed to appeal to the consumer is that playing something is just a matter of hitting the Cast button. This will transfer the URL of the stream and leave your mobile free to get on with something else — you can even turn it off.
Is this the end of Bluetooth audio?"

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+ - Publishing of satirical cartoons of the prophet silenced after terrorist attack

Submitted by wmofr
wmofr (3978205) writes "Major U.S. and British publications refused to publish related satirical cartoons, at least those about the "prophet", after the terrorist attack in Charlie Hebdo's office, which had 12 people killed. An editor of the Independent said:“But the fact is as an editor you have got to balance principle with pragmatism, and I felt yesterday evening a few different conflicting principles: I felt a duty to readers; a duty to the dead; I felt a duty to journalism – and I also felt a duty to my staff. I think it would have been too much of a risk to unilaterally decide in Britain to be the only newspaper that went ahead and published so in a sense it is true one has self-censored in a way I feel very uncomfortable with. It’s an incredibly difficult decision to make.” But still many media bravely publishing those cartoons declining self-censorship."

+ - JavaScript Is The Language Of 2014 -> 1

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The January 2015 TIOBE index is out and it names JavaScript as the language of 2014. At long last, JavaScript is Language Of The Year. And before you start to make a fuss — yes TIOBE is a very blunt instrument that doesn't measure anything much directly related to programming language use or popularity, but it has been going for a long time and it does indicate the relative importance and year-on-year changes.
JavaScript has been around for a while, but so far its performance, in the TIOBE index at least, has been mediocre. In many ways this has reflected badly on the index as it has been obvious to everyone that JavaScript, the language we all love to hate, has been on the rise since it was introduced and seems destined to take over the world.
In terms of ranking, C is still at number one, closely followed by Java. We then have a big jump to reach the rest of the languages with Objective-C, C++ and C# forming a cluster at 3,4 and 5. At position 6, PHP is still higher than JavaScript, which comes in at 7, having moved up from 9 over the year. Finishing the top half of the list we have Python, Perl and PL/SQL."

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+ - SPAM: Marry Or Move On - There's An Algorithm For That

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The problem of deciding who to marry or settle down is not usually thought of as one to solve algorithmically. But in algorithmic terms this is just a decision process and one that has been studied before — it is called the Secretary Problem.
You are given a list of n candidates and you are allowed to interview each one but you have to either accept or reject each candidate before moving on to the next one. And you can't change your mind later.
The problem is essentially that of finding an optimal statistical stopping rule. You need to work out how good a candidate has to be to make it a good bet that you won't see a better one in the remainder of the list.
The standard solution to the problem is to reject the first n/e (e the exponential number) candidates and then accepting the first applicant that is better than the best interviewed so far. If there isn't one you accept the last applicant. If you follow this rule you will reject the best candidate about 37% of the time.
Now you might notice that this problem is very similar to the marry or dump problem posed at the start. You sequentially meet potential partners and at each stage you either reject and move on or attempt to hang on to what you have.
A recent paper titled “Should I break up with my girlfriend? Will I find another?” Or: An Algorithm for the Forecasting of Romantic Options by Rashied B. Amini [spam URL stripped]... describes some of the ideas behind a service he has constructed called Nanaya. [spam URL stripped]
This takes the analysis of the secretary problem a stage further by taking information about you, your significant other, your life status and groups of people you interact with. It then attempts to work out a probability that you will meet someone "better" than your current attachment.
The program output some standard information on the opportunities to find a match, but most importantly it outputs:
Whether remaining in a relationship or returning to being single will probably provide maximum utility.
That is marry or dump. So are you going to try it out?"

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+ - 17x17x17 Rubik Cube Solved In 7.5 Hours -> 1

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The 3x3x3 cube is boring, even though there are still competitions to see how fast it can be solved. There are also competitions to see how fast 4x4 and 5x5 cubes can be solved, but 17x17x17!? There are more than 66 followed by 1053 zeros different possible positions in a 17x17x17 puzzle, so finding any state that you might consider ordered is a problem in a huge search space.
But first you have the problem of building a 17x17x17 cube — not a mechanically easy challenge in itself. You can buy such a cube from Oskar van Deventer at Oskar Puzzles. His "Over The Top" is also the holder of the Guinness record for the largest physical Rubik's cube.
So given a 17x17x17 puzzle what do you do?
Solve it of course.
This is what Kenneth Brandon, aka RedKB, did and he made a video of the entire seven and a half hours it took to solve. Fortunately he also made a timelapse version of the video so you can watch it in just over six minutes
At the end of the day, doesn't it leave you feeling glad that computers were invented to solve this sort of problem?"

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+ - Mechanical Insects Evolve The Ability To Fly Though A Window ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "You might think that the world has enough insects without creating robots in the same style. In this case, however, the real interest is in the way the ability to fly though a window can evolve without anyone really trying.
This particular robot, DelFly — see, is a miracle of miniaturisation. It weighs just 20 grams including a 1-gram autopilot and 4 grams devoted to a stereo vision system. It was designed at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The idea was to try to evolve behaviour that would get the autonomous system to fly though a window all on its own. This involves finding the window and working out a flight configuration that gets DelFly though the window.
DelFly learned using the genetic algorithm, An initial population was created at random and then tested in simulated environment. Each individual was rated on their success and a fitness value computed. The best individuals are used to create a new generation by crossover and mutation. After 150 or more generations the behaviour tree proved about 88% successful which should be compared to an 82% success rate for a hand-crafted tree.
So put simply the DelFly evolved to fly though the window — just like the real thing."

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+ - Pi In Space!->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Raspberry Pi that is.
When British astronaut Tim Peake heads off to the International Space Station in November 2015 he will be accompanied on his 6 month mission by two augmented Rapsberry Pis, aka Astro Pis. The Astro Pi board is a Raspberry Pi HAT and provides — gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer and sensors for temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. It also has a real time clock, LED display and some push buttons — it sounds like the sort of addon that we could do with down here on earth as well! It will also be equipped with both camera module and an infra-red camera.
UK school pupils are being challenged to write Rapberry Pi apps or experiments to run in space. During his mission Tim Peake will deploy the Astro Pis, upload the winning code whilst in orbit, set them running, collect the data generated and then download it to be distributed to the winning teams.
If this doesn't get kids turned on to computing and science nothing will."

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+ - StreetPong - Makes Waiting For Traffic Fun ->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "The extremely wacky idea, which has been put into real use in Germany, is an interactive game of Pong that you can play with the pedestrian waiting on the other side of the road. You control the ball using arrows on the push-button unit that activates the crossing. The devices are now known as ActiWait, and the thinking is that by giving you a way to avoid boredom while waiting for the lights, they’ll cut down on pedestrians attempting to cross the road without the protection of the lights. If you think its a great idea then there is an IndieGogo campaign on,with 38 days to go. if you put up 10,000 euros then you get a pair of game units to attach to a traffic crossing of your choosing — of course it's down to you to get official permission to do so. As an upgrade I'd recommend Froggy Freeway – the sight of those frogs getting squashed would be a much better deterrent to jumping the lights."
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Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?