Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Robots Invade Warehouse, Diligently Ship Your Online Orders

Wired reports that autonomous robots design by Kiva Systems now scurry the warehouse floors of Gap, Zappos, and Staples. The machines make the warehouses 2-4 times more efficient by cutting out substantial worker walking time. Apparently "the employees get a lot of joy, a lot of happiness out of anthropomorphizing the robots and turning them into pets." This seems to be a pretty common way of making sense of a human-robotic relationship. It helps quiet any fears (however fantastical or unconscious) of the robots. Another way is joking about possibility of a robot-human confrontation. As in the first line of the wired article:

Next time you order a new pair of skinny jeans from, you should know that you are helping welcome in the hive-mind robot overlords of retail.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ideas Worth Spreading

TED's (which stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design”) 25th anniversary conference takes place this week. Read confessions of a TED addict here. Or check out the weekly updated TED lectures and the 2009 TED prize winners.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Visuality Creeps Into Email Conversion

A few months ago we outlined the concept of visuality as explained by New York Times contributing writer Kevin Kelly.

Kevin Kelly discusses the modern-day Gutenberg revolution, or "how the moving image is upending the printed word." Kelly sees the proliferation of video technology (and amateur video artists) fueling our collective visual appetite. We are pervasively and resoundingly moving away from the word. We are becoming a people of the moving image, where literacy gives way to "visuality."

In my personal experience this article has provoked a critical reaction marked by disbelief. The sentiment is:

"How are we moving away from the word? That's just not possible. How could I possibly send someone a message of all photo and video and get a my message across with higher fidelity and greater succinctness than the written word? We cannot escape the word."

The article was meant to provoke a reaction, certainly. And when speculating about the coming visuality era, we are talking about an unknown point in the future so of course, it all sounds a bit like hyperbole. But already there are signs that hints of visuality are creeping into digital communication. Consider this simple email line from a friend:

It was the 17th hole of the Buick Open, where everyone parties anyway, and Kid Rock was there with overalls on and a tallboy on the ready for Daly to tee up.

Pretty straightforward. But the idea is that this ability opens the door for a second, visual conversation. By bringing the visual into the textual a meta-conversation develops. The process is irresistible. It's easier and easier to search for the photo or video we want. Consider this email from another friend:

Rumor is Parker could take us for a walk in the college forest!

The sentence as is and the sentence as is with visual are saying very different things. Things get a little more interesting...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"We Will Restore Science To Its Rightful Place..."

From President Obama's Inauguration Address:

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Knol: An Authoritative Alternative To Wikipedia

There are still those who remain wary of the hive mind of wikipedia:

"The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him."

- Robert McHenry, former editor-in-chief of Encyclopædia Britannica

If you are the type of person that would prefer a expertly maintained bathroom (or encyclopedia), Google has just announced that the 100,000th knol (they define a knol as "a unit of knowledge"'s sort of like an elite meme) has just been published to the wikipedia alternative (or complement), knol. Unlike wikipedia, knol emphasizes personal expertise by highlighting the authorship of each article.

Read the wikipedia entry on knol here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Music That Boosts Your Brain Power

Check out imusic for a sample (and an interesting explanation) of the doctor-approved music they say can work wonders for the brain.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Mind Control Games Teach You To Use "The Force"

The good people at Neurosky have collaborated with Uncle Milton games to create a revolutionary new game called Force Trainer, out this fall (USA Today article here). The game comes with a simple headset that monitors brainwave activity. As you learn to concentrate and control your brain wave activity you gain greater control over a small ball that moves through a Star Wars themed gaming device.
The game, which will no doubt be a blast just from its novelty alone, will be one of the first mass-market games to utilize EEG technology. There's no telling where this paradigm will take us or if it will have long term effects on a child's ability to concentrate. Could the Force Trainer or something like it (a similar game by Mattel is due out) actually help distracted individuals learn to become more focused thinkers?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mobile Devices Will Be Primary Online Connection Tool By 2020

For their internet evolution report issued in December of 2008, the Pew Internet and American Life Project asked a panel of internet analysts, media professors, and technology experts to make a series of predictions about the internet and its affect on American Life in 2020.

The findings, available here, suggest that the mobile device will quickly become the dominant form of online connection, that voice recognition and touch interfaces will become increasingly widespread, and that because of this connectivity capability, the division between personal time and work time, physical reality and virtual reality will fade away.

The panel of experts were mixed in their opinions of how the tech/internet changes will affect American Life. Will transparency and tolerance increase? Not necessarily.

It does seem that in a global 'idea economy' the 9-5 work day will transform into a much more fluid 24/7 type of work atmosphere. Having highly creative employees continually connected to work through mobile devices and virtual reality forums might allow for those important insights to come more readily (like when you in the bathtub or taking a walk). Will this come sort of work day become acceptable? How will it affect the family?

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Thought Identification" Featured On 60 Minutes

We previewed this exciting new technology in December in a post called: "Scientists Extract Images Directly From The Brain." Now the concept is receiving major network attention in a 60 minutes story.

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop

From The Onion.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where Are The Robots?

A robot density map from the foreign policy blog. Not surprisingly Japan leads the field.
The blog references an interesting, physical interpretation of the singularity...perhaps unfortunately named given the actions of the original HAL.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Brainy Blogosphere

It seems like every new year brings an ever-greater enthusiasm for the inevitable 'best-of-the-year' lists. What better way to kick off the new year that by exploring the 2008 highlights from the brain science podcast. Or rediscover some of the best podcasts of the year at the always entertaining Radiolab.