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May 22 2013

Four short links: 22 May 2013

  1. XBox One Kinect Controller (Guardian) — the new Kinect controller can detect gaze, heartbeat, and the buttons on your shirt.
  2. Surveillance and the Internet of Things (Bruce Schneier) — Lots has been written about the “Internet of Things” and how it will change society for the better. It’s true that it will make a lot of wonderful things possible, but the “Internet of Things” will also allow for an even greater amount of surveillance than there is today. The Internet of Things gives the governments and corporations that follow our every move something they don’t yet have: eyes and ears.
  3. Daniel Dennett’s Intuition Pumps (extract)How to compose a successful critical commentary: 1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.” 2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement). 3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
  4. New Data Science Toolkit Out (Pete Warden) — with population data to let you compensate for population in your heatmaps. No more “gosh, EVERYTHING is more prevalent where there are lots of people!” meaningless charts.

May 29 2012

Four short links: 29 May 2012

  1. South Korean Kinect+RFID Augmented Reality Theme Park -- Sixty-five attractions over seven thematic stages contribute to the experience, which uses 3D video, holograms and augmented reality to immerse guests. As visitors and their avatars move through the park, they interact with the attractions using RFID wristbands, while Kinect sensors recognize their gestures, voices and faces. (via Seb Chan)
  2. Digital Citizenship -- computers in schools should be about more than teaching more than just typing to kids, they should know how to intelligently surf, to assess the quality of their sources, to stay safe from scammers and bullies, to have all the training they need to be citizens in an age when life is increasingly lived online. (via Pia Waugh)
  3. Simulating Anatomically Accurate Facial Expressions (University of Auckland) -- video of a talk demonstrating biomechanical models which permit anatomically accurate facial models.
  4. Depixelizing Pixel Art (Microsoft Research) -- this is totally awesome: turning pixel images into vector drawings, which of course can be smoothly scaled. (via Bruce Sterling)

March 21 2012

Four questions about Microsoft with Mary Jo Foley

Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley) is the author of the "All About Microsoft" column at ZDNet . She does a great job at keeping people informed about the world of Microsoft and she wrote a book herself not so long ago titled "Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era."

I recently interviewed Foley about a number of Microsoft's moves. Highlights from our discussion included:

  • Foley sees vertical opportunities for the Kinect SDK for Windows, from health care to education. Integrating the Kinect technology will also play a part in interacting with PowerPoint, ERPs and CRMs. [Discussed
    10 seconds in
    .]
  • How has the rollout for Windows 8 been different from previous operating systems? "Beta" doesn't mean what it used to — Google, for example, has many products in perpetual beta — but Foley thinks there's more to the Windows 8 release than just that. The Windows 8 rollout is a signal of how Microsoft develops the OS now, with the company setting things in stone earlier than with previous software products. [Discussed at 2:41.]
  • If you think Microsoft will loosen its grip on Metro design guidelines, think again. Foley pointed to Windows on ARM (WOA) as an example — there, Metro is the only choice. [Discussed at 4:39.]
  • What would someone choose a Windows 8 tablet over an iPad or Android tablet? Foley said the competitive difference may lie in sleeker hardware and integration with Microsoft's Office suite.
    [Discussed at href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODyKeX3x9C0#t=6m16s">6:16.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

January 30 2012

Four short links: 30 January 2012

  1. Improvisation and Forgiveness (JP Rangaswami) -- what makes us human is not repetitive action. Human occupations should require human intellect, and there's no more human activity than making a judgement call when processes have failed a customer.
  2. Kinect Tech in Laptop Prototypes -- "waving your hands around at your laptop" will be the new "bellowing into your walkie-talkie phone". (via Greg Linden)
  3. Beautiful Web Type -- demo page for the best from Google's web fonts directory. Source on GitHub.
  4. Ethics of Brain Boosting, Discussion (Hacker News) -- this comment in particular: in my initial reckless period of self-experimentation, I managed to induce phosphenes by accident -- blue white flashes in the entire visual field, blanking out everything else. Both contacts were in the supraorbital region. I ceased my experiments for a while and returned to the literature. And you thought that typo where you accidentally took the database offline was bad ....

June 22 2011

Developer Week in Review: Start your lawyers!

Summer is here, so it's time to hit the beach and soak up some sun. You know, sun? That bright yellow ball that blinds you whenever you go out for Doritos and Mountain Dew in the middle of a 48-hour hackathon? I'm told it's actually quite pleasant to be around, once you get acclimated to it. Still, probably better to stay inside, avoid the evil day star, and see what's been happening in the World of Geek this week.

Get your lawsuits

Samsung and AppleIn the latest chapter of "As the Smartphone Turns," Samsung has accused Apple of fathering an illegitimate child with it when Samsung had amnesia, gotten as a result of being hit on the head by an old Motorola bag-phone while trying to save RIM from ending up destitute on the street.

Not really, but the realities of Samsung v. Apple are almost as bizarre. This week, a US district judge told Samsung that, no, you don't get to see previews of the iPad 3 and iPhone 5. This comes as Samsung continues to be Apple's largest supplier of semiconductor technologies. There must be some awesome screens set up to let Apple shovel money into Samsung's bank account while at the same time suing them.

Also in "Intellectual Property Gone Wild" news this week, Oracle is evidently asking for (cue Carl Sagan voice) billiuns and billiuns of dollars as penalties in their Java suit against Google, which means that Google might actually need to clean out the petty cash drawer and make a trip to the bank. And Apple has paid off Nokia to settle a long-running patent suit between the two companies. And BitTorrent came under attack this week when they were sued for violating a "submarine" patent on file distribution granted in 2007. Litigation, the growth sector of the American economy!

In related news, I got a notice this week that my own trademark application will be approved in three months if no one objects. Watch out world, I'm gonna have some IP soon, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Please remember to stretch before logging into your PC

Folks have been hacking the Kinect for a while now, hooking it up to all sorts of esoteric devices that aren't XBoxen (and just what is the group noun for an XBox? A Lanparty of XBoxes?). Now Microsoft has decided to make Kinect hacks officially supported, at least if you run Windows. With the release of the Kinect SDK for Windows, developers can finally make desktop users flail around awkwardly, just like their gaming counterparts.

With the release of the SDK, Windows hackers will gain access to a powerful vision recognition system, and it will be interesting to see what the first third-party Windows applications to come out will look like. Somehow, I suspect it'll have something to do with porn ...

OSCON 2011 — Join today's open source innovators, builders, and pioneers July 25-29 as they gather at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Ore.

Save 20% on registration with the code OS11RAD

Where were you when the IPv6 turned on?

The one-day IPv6 lovefest earlier this month didn't seem to break anything significant, but on the other hand, it didn't seem to do much to promote the adoption of IPv6 either. Unless you happen to be one of the 12 people on the planet whose ISP allocates and routes IPv6, the only way to know that anything had happened at all was if you had an IPv6 tunnel set up with a broker such as Electric Hurricane.

With the IPv4 space "officially" exhausted, you'd expect there would be more urgency about this issue, but business seems to be proceeding according to the normal human emergency protocol (that's the one where you ignore a problem until it becomes a crisis, then run around like a chicken with it's head cut off). In the meanwhile, there are still quite a few active class A subnets lying around, each with 16 million addresses (here's a list). One must wonder how long it will be before pressure starts to be applied on entities such as HP (which owns two!) to start freeing them up for the good of the net.

Got news?

Please send tips and leads here.



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May 25 2011

Four short links: 25 May 2011

  1. OTD Lessons Learned v1 (PDF) -- Dept of Defense report on use of open technologies. Advocates against forking open source projects, and provides specific guidance for groups looking to use OSS so they can navigate the military's producement policies and procedures in a way that'll deliver the best chance of success for the project. Imagine if only the manufacturer of a rifle were allowed to clean, fix, modify or upgrade that rifle. The military often finds itself in this position with taxpayer funded, contractor developed software: one contractor with a monopoly on the knowledge of a military software system and control of the software source code. (via John Scott)
  2. depth.js -- Javascript for Chrome and Safari that lets the Kinect interact with web pages. (via Javascript Weekly)
  3. A Liberating Betrayal (Simon Phipps) -- Microsoft have told Digium (makers of Asterisk) that they can't sell their Asterisk-Skype interaction module after July 26. Simon notes that this reveals the fundamental problem with "open core" approaches to open source business. The proprietary interests hold all the cards here. The community can't just "rehost and carry on" because the crucial add-on is proprietary. Even if wasn't, the protocol it's implementing is proprietary and subject to arbitrary change - very likely to happen if anyone attempts to reverse-engineer the interface and protocol. Asterisk may be open source, but if you're dependent on this interface to connect with your customers on Skype you've no freedoms - that's the way "open core" works.
  4. Zero Install -- Zero Install is a decentralised cross-distribution software installation system. Just hit 1.0. (via James Williams)

April 06 2011

Developer Week in Review

Spring came in like a lion here in the Northeast, with an April Fools' Day mini-blizzard, even though Lion itself isn't due to be released until summer at the earliest. While I waited for more hospitable weather to emerge, I've been huddled indoors working on a Kickstarter project with my son, and I will now shamelessly plug it: It's a high-powered replacement for the Wii sensor bar, designed to let you sit comfortably at the other end of a room while you use your Wii. You can read more about it here if you're interested.

Meanwhile, there were the usual interesting developments in the developer world.

Google: Now promoting gray as a moral choice

Like most major technology companies, it can sometimes be hard to judge where Google lies on the moral spectrum. However, the King of Search took moral ambiguity to a new level this week with a press release that basically said:

  • Software patents are evil
  • But all the other cool kids are doing it.
  • And if we don't get some, we can't defend ourselves.
  • So we're making a move for the Nortel patent portfolio.
  • And if we get it, we'll use it to protect open source, sweetness and apple pie, but in ways we aren't spelling out precisely.

It's nice to say that acquiring the Nortel patents will protect Android and Chrome from patent attacks, but unless the portfolio is placed in a trust it will remain a weapon that Google can use against anyone they choose. Unless they are legally fenced off, Google could break their word at any time. I'm not saying that they would, but if they suddenly decided they wanted to take out the iPhone, for example, they could point the patent missile at Apple, and all the iOS developers would get caught in the crossfire.

The real solution, of course, is to get rid of the loathsome things all together. But in a political climate where former RIAA lobbyists become federal judges ruling on file sharing cases and corporations are writing international intellectual property law using the U.S. government as a proxy, my hopes that this will get fixed anytime soon are low.

Can Hollywood pass the Turing Test?

News has emerged of a feature-length documentary in production on the life of Alan Turing. If there's a figure in computer science who needs to be better known by the general public, Turing is certainly a good candidate. However, if the trailer is anything to go by, it doesn't look like it's going to break any box-office records. Consisting entirely of talking heads, das blinkenlight computers and photo stills, it won't give "Freakonomics" or "An Inconvenient Truth" a run for their money in the audience captivation department.

There are lots of early computer pioneers who deserve better exposure, such as John von Neumann and Alan Kay, and it would be great if someone did a Connections-style series linking how we got from Babbage to the iPhone. Turing's story has particular pathos, because of how his sexual preference set events in motion that robbed the world of a gifted computer pioneer, but it doesn't look like this movie is going to tell it in a way that will appeal to a general audience.

April Fools' on Google's April Fools'

It's become a yearly ritual for Google (along with ThinkGeek and Slashdot and myriad others) to flood the web with fake products and stories on 4/1. This year, one of Google's fake product announcements was for Gmail Motion, a product that would let you operate Gmail using body language. Some folks over at USC thought it was a great idea, so they decided to implement Google's interface, using a Microsoft Kinect:

It was a cute idea, but I think they should have put their efforts behind this gag Google product, which I've been dying to see appear in the real world.

Got news?

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March 16 2011

Four Short Links: 16 March 2011

  1. JS Fiddle -- an online editor for snippets build from HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The code can then be shared with others, embedded on a blog, etc. (via Darren Wood)
  2. SideStep -- Mac OS X program that automatically routes connections through a secure proxy when you're on an unsecured wifi network. (via Gina Trapani)
  3. Junkyard Jumbotron (MIT) -- lets you take a bunch of random displays and instantly stitch them together into a large, virtual display, simply by taking a photograph of them. It works with laptops, smartphones, tablets --- anything that runs a web browser. It also highlights a new way of connecting a large number of heterogenous devices to each other in the field, on an ad-hoc basis.
  4. Kinect-Controlled Tesla Coil (YouTube) -- "now say: Fools, I'll Destroy You All!". (via AdaFruit)

December 15 2010

Strata Gems: Kinect democratizes augmented reality

We're publishing a new Strata Gem each day all the way through to December 24. Yesterday's Gem: Manage clusters with Mesos.

Strata 2011 The combination of augmented reality with data and analytics will bring radical change to our lives over the next few years. You're probably carrying a location-sensitive personal AR device right now, kitted out with motion sensors, audio-visual capabilities and network connectivity.

Microsoft's Kinect technology has now made the Xbox 360 gaming console a perfect experimentation platform for augmented reality. Marketed right now as a camera-based controller for video games, the Kinect's longer term impact might well be in the creation of augmented reality experiences. And of course, the world of advertising will be first in line to exploit this.

Dustin O'Connor has been busy hacking with the Kinect and producing a href="http://vimeo.com/dvjdust/videos">number of very cool demos. In the video below, he
demonstrates the ability to manipulate a 3D object using multiple touches.

frameborder="0"><p><a href="http://vimeo.com/16992651">kinect augmented reality multi<br /> touching</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/dvjdust">dustin o&#039;connor</a> on <a<br /> href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo.</p></p> <p>Between technologies such as Kinect and the widespread availability of smartphones, the means to create augmented reality experiences is now highly democratized, awaiting exploitation and experimentation from hackers and innovators.</p> <div class="feedflare"> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?a=AS210ygHZD4:Fj8uEWPhi18:V_sGLiPBpWU"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?i=AS210ygHZD4:Fj8uEWPhi18:V_sGLiPBpWU" border="0" /></a> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?a=AS210ygHZD4:Fj8uEWPhi18:yIl2AUoC8zA"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?d=yIl2AUoC8zA" border="0" /></a> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?a=AS210ygHZD4:Fj8uEWPhi18:JEwB19i1-c4"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?i=AS210ygHZD4:Fj8uEWPhi18:JEwB19i1-c4" border="0" /></a> <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?a=AS210ygHZD4:Fj8uEWPhi18:7Q72WNTAKBA"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/oreilly/radar/atom?d=7Q72WNTAKBA" border="0" /></a> </div><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/oreilly/radar/atom/~4/AS210ygHZD4" height="1" width="1" />

December 10 2010

Video pick: The inevitable merging of Kinect and "Minority Report"

Combine Kinect hacks with the creativity of MIT and this is what you get: The first baby steps toward "Minority Report"-inspired interfaces.

The only downside: The required gestures are quite grand, so muscle fatigue is going to be factor for a while.

Hat tip: Engadget

Note: This is the first entry in a semi-regular series highlighting tech-centric videos that are excellent, intriguing, or thought provoking. Suggestions are always welcome.



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December 08 2010

Four short links: 8 December 2010

  1. Send Us Your Thoughts (YouTube) -- from the excellent British comedians Mitchell and Webb comes this take on viewer comments in the news. (via Steve Buttry's News Foo writeup)
  2. Amazon proves that REST doesn’t matter for Cloud APIs -- with the death of WS-* and their prolix overbearing complexity, the difference between REST and basic XML RPC is almost imperceptible. As this essay points out, the biggest cloud API is Amazon's and it's built on RPC instead of REST.
  3. Kinect Piano (YouTube) -- turn any surface into a piano. (via David Ascher on Twitter)
  4. Google Maps Label Readability -- detailed analysis of the design decisions that make Google's labels so much more readable than the competition's. Fascinating to see the decisions that go into programmatically building a map: leaving white space around cities, carefully avoiding clustering, even how adding an extra level of information can make things simpler.

December 03 2010

7 areas beyond gaming where Kinect could play a role

Kinect
Kinect for Xbox 360. Image courtesy Microsoft/Xbox press kit.

I recently had the opportunity to put Microsoft's Kinect to the test. While the device may prove to be a financial success (it seems well on its way), my takeaway was all about sense, not dollars.


For the first time in my adult life, I played a video game with one of my parents and we both enjoyed the experience. The parent in question was able to interact with the set-top box without navigating a dozen different buttons on complicated controllers. Some of my younger relatives took to the interface like otters learning to swim.

Kinect, at this stage, isn't perfect. As the Wall Street Journal and Engadget noted in reviews, a controller is still needed to access certain menus or functions, and accuracy-focused tasks that involve manipulating objects don't work all that well.

Glitches aside, after using Kinect it's clear to me that the device's full potential isn't bound only to games. What caught and held my attention was the device's gestural user interface, or what Microsoft research scientist Craig Mundie more specifically described to Computerworld as Kinect's "natural user interface."

Joe Sinicki summarized Kinect's broader influence in his review: "The main draw of Kinect is not what it does now, but what developers may be able to do with it in the future." Given OpenKinect, a set of open source drivers that unlocks the device's potential, the developer opportunities are considerable.

With that as a backdrop, here are a few ways Kinect could leap beyond its gaming applications.

1. Health and medicine

Chris Niehaus, director of U.S. public sector innovation at Microsoft, blogged at length about Kinect applications in telemedicine, neurological processes, physical therapy and medical training. While Niehaus has a strong motive to highlight the best of Kinect, his post explores the concept well.

R.O.G.E.R. shows how Kinect can be applied to post-stroke patients. For a sense of how motion gaming has already made an impact in this direction, recall the stories about veterans undergoing "Wii-hab" last year, or the cybertherapy pilots underway at various militaries.

2. Special needs children and adults

Look no further than the story of Kinect and John Yan's four-year-old autistic son for a real-world example of how a different interface can literally open up new worlds. Research into computerized gaming and autism already reveals the potential for mirroring applications to improve facial recognition. Kinect hacks might take this further.

3. Exercise

This one has no technical angle at all. It may be a bit too hopeful to think Kinect, Wii, and PlayStation's Move will get overweight children moving. But given the rates of childhood obesity, moving kids from sedentary to active would be a clear win for everything but the living room furniture. That benefit might even extend to parents and seniors.

4. Education

Educational technology has grown in recent years through electronic publishing, learning management systems, and new models for virtual degrees earned online. Will Kinect's video and interface allow for distributed teaching? That's admittedly speculative, but education is an area to watch.

5. Participatory art

This interactive, Kinect-based puppet prototype is just the beginning. As the Kinect platform matures, groups of people dancing in public and private spaces could explore new art forms that blend virtual and physical spaces. Flash mobs could get a lot more distributed.

6. Advertising and e-commerce

The Kinect can already detect multiple people in field. The Xbox 360 already enables users to watch live and recorded sports on ESPN. As more intelligence is built into the platform, combining those two capacities could go far beyond changing channels. It could lead to recognizing different users, profiles and creating a more interactive watching experience. Early integration with Twitter and Facebook are a start, but they don't lend themselves to fully socializing the experience. Neither does Microsoft's Live community, though it's not hard to imagine that feature evolving into a full-fledged social network.

7. Navigating the web / exploring digital spaces

If you've seen "Minority Report" or watched video of Oblong Industry's spatial operating system, you're already familiar with the concept of gestural interfaces. Kinect could be an initial step toward making that concept a reality. In fact, a team from MIT's Media Lab has already developed a Kinect hack that allows for gesture-driven web surfing:


Related:


December 01 2010

Four short links: 1 December 2010

  1. 2 Kinects 1 Box (YouTube) -- merging data from two Kinects in real time, to get astonishing 3D information. (via Chelfyn Baxter)
  2. Crowdsource is not Open Source (Simon Phipps) -- there are some businesses that don't understand this, and exploit community for their sole benefit in the name of open source. Ignorance of the four freedoms is dangerous.
  3. We Like Lists Before We Don't Want to Die (Spiegel) -- fascinating interview with Umberto Eco. If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you're an idiot. (via Aaron Straup Cope on Delicious)
  4. $139.99 Android Tablet at Toys R Us -- sales of Android tablets (as well as Apple tablets) could help bolster the after-market accessory opportunity for wireless players, including modem makers and wireless operators.
  5. (via Sylvain Carle on Twitter)

November 15 2010

Four short links: 15 November 2010

  1. Between the Bars -- snail-mail-to-blogs transcription service for prisoners, to make visible stories that would otherwise be missed. there is a religous program here called Kairo's in the program inmates are given letters and drawings made by small children not one in that program did not cry, after reading the words of incouragement from those kids. An unmissable reminder of the complexity of human stories, suffering, and situations, the posts range from the banal to the riveting. (via Benjamin Mako Hill)
  2. Kinect Opensource News -- a roundup of open source Kinect hacks. I like memo's gestural interface the best. Impressive stuff for just a few days' access to the open source drivers. (via Andy Baio)
  3. You Fix The Budget (NY Times) -- a simpler version of Budget Hero, which lets you choose policies and see their effect on the deficit. Unlike Budget Hero, the NYT app doesn't discuss non-deficit consequences of the actions (social consequences, ripple-on economic effects). Like Budget Hero, you can't add your own policies: you're forced to choose from the ones presented. Real life is more complex than this simulation, but even something this simple is powerful: by interacting with this, you understand the magnitude of (say) education vs healthcare, and you realize how much of the current debate is froth.
  4. Meet the New Enterprise Customer, a Lot like the Old Enterprise Customer -- Ben Horowitz nails the difficulty of selling to the enterprise, and drives a stake through the "they'll buy our service with their credit cards, like consumers do" myth. xcellent enterprise sales reps will guide a company through their own purchasing processes. Without an enterprise sales rep, many companies literally do not know how to buy new technology products. (via Mike Olson on Twitter)

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