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Mozilla

Firefox 3.2 Plans Include Natural Language, Themes 285

Shrike82 writes "Mozilla have described plans for the next version of their popular web browser, Firefox. Mozilla's "Ubiquity project" is set to become a standard feature, allowing "users to type natural language phrases into the browser to perform certain tasks, such as typing 'map 10 Downing Street' to instantly see a Google map of that address, or 'share-on-delicious' to bookmark the site you're currently visiting on the social news site." Also of interest is so-called "lightweight theming" allowing users to customise the browsers design more easily. The launch date is still somewhat unclear, and Mozilla are apparently unsure if version 3.2 will be released at all, apparently considering going straight to Firefox 4."
Transportation

Flying Car Ready To Take Off 315

ChazeFroy writes "The first flying automobile, equally at home in the sky or on the road, is scheduled to take to the air next month. If it survives its first test flight, the Terrafugia Transition, which can transform itself from a two-seater road car to a plane in 15 seconds, is expected to land in showrooms in about 18 months' time. Terrafugia claims it will be able to fly up to 500 miles on a single tank of unleaded petrol at a cruising speed of 115mph. Even at $200,000 per automobile, they have already received 40 orders."
Security

Terrorist Recognition Handbook 344

Ben Rothke writes "There are two types of writers about terrorism, experts such as Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson who write from a distance and others that write graphic tales of first-hand from the trenches war stories. Terrorist Recognition Handbook: A Practitioner's Manual for Predicting and Identifying Terrorist Activities, is unique in that author Malcolm Nance is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community and writes from a first hand-perspective, but with the organization and methodology of writers such as Pipes and Emerson. Those combined traits make the book extraordinarily valuable and perhaps the definitive text on terrorist recognition." Read below for the rest of Ben's review
Science

Computers Emulate Neanderthal Speech 220

Clarence writes "After some 30,000 years of silence, the Neanderthal race is once again speaking thanks to some advanced computer simulation. A Florida Atlantic University professor is using software vocal tract reconstructions to emulate the speech of our long-dead distant relatives. 'He says the ancient human's speech lacked the "quantal vowel" sounds that underlie modern speech. Quantal vowels provide cues that help speakers with different size vocal tracts understand one another, says Robert McCarthy, who was talking at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Columbus, Ohio, on April 11. In the 1970s, linguist Phil Lieberman, of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, inferred the dimensions of the larynx of a Neanderthal based on its skull. His team concluded that Neanderthal speech did not have the subtlety of modern human speech.'"
Education

Toddlers May Learn Language By Data Mining 213

Ponca City, We Love You writes "Toddlers' brains can effortlessly do what the most powerful computers with the most sophisticated software cannot: learn language simply by hearing it used. A ground-breaking new theory postulates that young children are able to learn large groups of words rapidly by data-mining. Researchers Linda Smith and Chen Yu attempted to teach 28 children, 12 to 14 months old, six words by showing them two objects at a time on a computer monitor while two pre-recorded words were read to them. No information was given regarding which word went with which image. After viewing various combinations of words and images, however, the children were surprisingly successful at figuring out which word went with which picture. Yu and Smith say it's possible that the more words tots hear, and the more information available for any individual word, the better their brains can begin simultaneously ruling out and putting together word-object pairings, thus learning what's what. Yu says if they can identify key factors involved in this form of learning and how it can be manipulated, they might be able to make learning languages easier for children and adults. Understanding children's learning mechanisms could also further machine learning."
The Almighty Buck

Nokia Buys Trolltech 311

egil writes "Trolltech announced this morning (CET) that they have accepted a bid from Nokia to buy the entire company. The bid was for 16 NOK per share, which values the company at an equivalent of approximately 150 million USD. The stock currently trades at 15.70 on the Oslo stack exchange, up from around 10 on Friday. The offer has already been accepted by the Trolltech BOD."
Toys

LEGO Brick 50th Anniversary 206

An anonymous reader writes "'The LEGO brick turns 50 at exactly 1:58pm today. This cool timeline shows these fifty years of building frenzy by happy kids and kids-at-heart, all the milestones from the Legoland themed sets to Technic and Mindstorms NXT, as well as all kind of weird curiosities about the most famous stud-and-tube couple system in the world.'" Of course, it all peaked in 1979 with the space set. These kids these days with their bionacle. bah.
Cellphones

The Coming Wave of Gadgets That Listen and Obey 98

dgan brings us a NYTimes piece about the development of speech recognition for common gadgets. Companies such as Vlingo and Yap are marketing their software to cellular carriers to give consumers a hands-free option for tasks like finding directions and text messaging. Quoting: "Vlingo's service lets people talk naturally, rather than making them use a limited number of set phrases. Dave Grannan, the company's chief executive, demonstrated the Vlingo Find application by asking his phone for a song by Mississippi John Hurt (try typing that with your thumbs), for the location of a local bakery and for a Web search for a consumer product. It was all fast and efficient. Vlingo is designed to adapt to the voice of its primary user, but I was also able to use Mr. Grannan's phone to find an address. The Find application is in the beta test phase at AT&T and Sprint. Consumers who use certain cellphones from those companies can download the application from vlingo.com."
Security

Researchers Work To Perfect Computerized Lip Reading 117

Iddo Genuth writes "Researchers at the University of East Anglia are working to develop computerized lip-reading systems. Lip-reading is extremely hard for humans to master, but a software-based system has several benefits over even the most highly trained expert. The ultimate goal of the project is to convert lip-read speech into text. 'Apart from being extremely helpful to hearing-disabled individuals, researchers say that such a system could be used to noiselessly dictate commands to electronic devices equipped with a simple camera - like mobile phones, microwaves or even a car's dashboard. England's Home Office Scientific Development Branch ... is currently investigating the feasibility of using lip-reading software as an additional tool for gathering information about criminals or for collecting evidence.'"

Robots Learn To Lie 276

garlicnation writes "Gizmodo reports that robots that have the ability to learn and can communicate information to their peers have learned to lie. 'Three colonies of bots in the 50th generation learned to signal to other robots in the group when then found food or poison. But the fourth colony included lying cheats that signaled food when they found poison and then calmly rolled over to the real food while other robots went to their battery-death.'"
Technology

Star Trek-like 'Phraselator' Helps Police 199

coondoggie writes "Yet another Star Trek-like device is making its way into the real world. VoxTec's Phraselator name sounds a bit like something the Three Stooges might have used long ago but no, this PDA-like device was developed through Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for use in Afghanistan and Iraq by American soldiers for communicating with locals who spoke Farsi, Dari, Pashto and other languages. It is now being used as one tool to help keep the peace between English and non-English speakers by police departments in California, Florida, Nevada. In a nutshell the $2,500 ruggedized Phraselator runs an Intel PXA255 400mHz processor that supports a built-In noise canceling microphone, a VOCON 3200 Speech Recognizer, 1GB removable SD card, 256MB of DRAM Memory and 64MB Flash Memory. It can store up to 10,000 phrases."
Google

The Future of Google Search and Natural Language Queries 148

eldavojohn writes "You might know the name Peter Norvig from the classic big green book, 'AI: A Modern Approach.' He's been working for Google since 2001 as Director of Search Quality. An interview with Norvig at MIT's Technology Review has a few interesting insights into the 'search mindset' at the company. It's kind of surprising that he claims they have no intent to allow natural questions. Instead he posits, 'We think what's important about natural language is the mapping of words onto the concepts that users are looking for. But we don't think it's a big advance to be able to type something as a question as opposed to keywords ... understanding how words go together is important ... That's a natural-language aspect that we're focusing on. Most of what we do is at the word and phrase level; we're not concentrating on the sentence.'"

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