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January 13 2014

Four short links: 13 January 2014

  1. s3mper (Github) — Netflix’s library to add consistency checking to S3. (via Netflix tech blog)
  2. Powerup Smartphone-Controlled Paper Airplane — boggle. You know the future is here when you realise you’re on the Internet of Trivial Things.
  3. clmtrackr (Github) — real-time face recognition, deformation, and substitution in Javascript. Boggle.
  4. Nine Wearables (Quartz) — a roundup of Glass-inspired wearables, including projecting onto contact lenses which wins today’s “most squicky idea” award.

December 18 2013

Robots will remain forever in the future

(Note: this post first appeared on Forbes; this lightly edited version is re-posted here with permission.)

We’ve watched the rising interest in robotics for the past few years. It may have started with the birth of FIRST Robotics competitions, continued with the iRobot and the Roomba, and more recently with Google’s driverless cars. But in the last few weeks, there has been a big change. Suddenly, everybody’s talking about robots and robotics.

It might have been Jeff Bezos’ remark about using autonomous drones to deliver products by air. It’s a cool idea, though I think it’s farfetched, but that’s another story. Amazon Prime isn’t Amazon’s first venture into robotics: a year and a half ago, they bought Kiva Systems, which builds robots that Amazon uses in their massive warehouses. (Personally, I think package delivery by drone is unlikely for many, many reasons, but that’s another story, and certainly no reason for Amazon not to play with delivery in their labs.)

But what really lit the fire was Google’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics, a DARPA contractor that makes some of the most impressive mobile robots anywhere. It’s hard to watch their videos without falling in love with what their robots can do. Or becoming very scared. Or both. And, of course, Boston Dynamics isn’t a one-time buy. It’s the most recent in a series of eight robotics acquisitions, and I’d bet that it’s not the last in the series.

Google is clearly doing something big, but what? Unlike Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergei Brin haven’t started talking about delivering packages with drones or anything like that. Neither has Andy Rubin, who is running the new robotics division. The NSA probably knows, to Google’s chagrin, but we won’t until they’re ready to tell us. Google has launched a number of insanely ambitious “moon shot” projects recently; I suspect this is another.

Whatever is coming from Google, we’ll certainly see even greater integration of robots into everyday life. Those robots will quickly become so much a part of our lives that we’ll cease to think of them as robots; they’ll just be the things we live with. At O’Reilly’s Foo Camp in 2012, Jason Huggins, creator of this Angry Birds-playing bot, remarked that robots are always part of the future. Little bits of that future break off and become part of the present, but when that happens, those bits cease to be “robots.” In 1945, a modern dishwasher would have been a miracle, as exotic as the space-age appliances in The Jetsons. But now, it’s just a dishwasher, and we’re trying to think of ways to make it more intelligent and network-enabled. Dishwashers, refrigerators, vacuums, stoves: is the mythical Internet-enabled refrigerator that orders milk when you’re running low a robot? What about a voice-controlled baking machine, where you walk up and tell it what kind of bread you want? Will we think of these as robots?

I doubt it. Much has been made of Google’s autonomous vehicles. Impressive as they are, autonomous robots are nowhere near as interesting as assistive robots, robots that assist humans in some difficult task. Driving around town is one thing, but BMW already has automatic parallel parking. But do we call these “robotic cars”? What about anti-lock brakes and other forms of computer-assisted driving that have been around for years? A modern airliner essentially flies itself from one airport to another, but do we see a Boeing 777 as a “robot”? We prefer not to, perhaps because we cherish the illusion that a human pilot is doing the flying. Robots are everywhere already; we’ve just trained ourselves not to see them.

We can get some more ideas about what the future holds by thinking about some of Google’s statements in other contexts. Last April, Slate reported that Google was obsessed with building the Star Trek computer. It’s a wonderful article that contains real insight into the way Google thinks about technology. Search is all about context: it’s not about the two or three words you type into the browser; it’s about understanding what you’re looking for, understanding your language rather than an arcane query language. The Star Trek computer does that; it anticipates what Kirk wants and answers his questions, even if they’re ill-formed or ambiguous. Let’s assume that Google can build that kind of search engine. Once you have the Star Trek computer doing your searches, the next step is obvious: don’t just do a search; get me the stuff I want. Find me my keys. Put the groceries away. Water the plants. I don’t think robotic helpers like these are as far off as they seem; most of the technologies we need to build them already exist. And while it may take a supercomputer to recognize that a carton of eggs is a carton of eggs, that supercomputer is only an Internet connection away.

But will we recognize these devices as robots once they’ve been around for a year or two? Or will they be “the finder,” “the unpacker,” “the gardener,” while robots remain implausibly futuristic? The latter, I think. Garden-variety text search, whether it’s Android or Siri, is an amazing application of artificial intelligence, but these days, it’s just something that phones do.

I have no doubt that Google’s robotics team is working on something amazing and mind-blowing. Should they succeed, and should that success become a product, though, whatever they do will almost certainly fade into the woodwork and become part of normal, everyday reality. And robots will remain forever in the future. We might have found Rosie, the Jetsons’ robotic maid, impressive. But the Jetsons didn’t.

December 05 2013

Four short links: 5 December 2013

  1. DeducerAn R Graphical User Interface (GUI) for Everyone.
  2. Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap (PDF, FAA) — first pass at regulatory framework for drones. (via Anil Dash)
  3. Bitcoin Stats — $21MM traded, $15MM of electricity spent mining. Goodness. (via Steve Klabnik)
  4. iOS vs Android Numbers (Luke Wroblewski) — roundup comparing Android to iOS in recent commerce writeups. More Android handsets, but less revenue per download/impression/etc.

December 04 2013

Four short links: 4 December 2013

  1. Skyjack — drone that takes over other drones. Welcome to the Malware of Things.
  2. Bootstrap Worlda curricular module for students ages 12-16, which teaches algebraic and geometric concepts through computer programming. (via Esther Wojicki)
  3. Harvestopen source BSD-licensed toolkit for building web applications for integrating, discovering, and reporting data. Designed for biomedical data first. (via Mozilla Science Lab)
  4. Project ILIAD — crowdsourced antibiotic discovery.

December 02 2013

Four short links: 2 December 2013

  1. CalTech Machine Learning Video Library — a pile of video introductions to different machine learning concepts.
  2. Awesome Pokemon Hack — each inventory item has a number associated with it, they are kept at a particular memory location, and there’s a glitch in the game that executes code at that location so … you can program by assembling items and then triggering the glitch. SO COOL.
  3. Drone Footage of Bangkok Protests — including water cannons.
  4. The Mature Optimization Handbook — free, well thought out, and well written. My favourite line: In exchange for that saved space, you have created a hidden dependency on clairvoyance.

November 27 2013

Four short links: 27 November 2013

  1. CT Scanning and 3D Printing for Paleo (Scientific American) — using CT scanners to identify bones still in rock, then using 3D printers to recreate them. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Growing the Use of Drones in Agriculture (Forbes) — According to Sue Rosenstock, 3D Robotics spokesperson, a third of their customers consist of hobbyists, another third of enterprise users, and a third use their drones as consumer tools. “Over time, we expect that to change as we make more enterprise-focused products, such as mapping applications,” she explains. (via Chris Anderson)
  3. Serving 1M Load-Balanced Requests/Second (Google Cloud Platform blog) — 7m from empty project to serving 1M requests/second. I remember when 1 request/second was considered insanely busy. (via Forbes)
  4. Boil Up — behind the scenes for the design and coding of a real-time simulation for a museum’s science exhibit. (via Courtney Johnston)

November 25 2013

Four Short Links: 25 November 2013

  1. Drone Journalism“The newspaper was for still images,” said Mr. Whyld, who builds his own drones, “but the Internet is for this.” is the money shot from a NY Times piece (not linked to directly, as is paywalled)
  2. Best UX Patterns for Mobile Web Apps (Luke Wroblewski) — advice from Google Chrome Dev Summit.
  3. You Don’t Know JS (Github) — book in progress, funded by a Kickstarter.
  4. SparkA Chrome app based development environment with a reusable library of GUI widgets.

November 20 2013

Four short links: 20 November 2013

  1. Innovation and the Coming Shape of Social Transformation (Techonomy) — great interview with Tim O’Reilly and Max Levchin. in electronics and in our devices, we’re getting more and more a sense of how to fix things, where they break. And yet as a culture, what we have chosen to do is to make those devices more disposable, not last forever. And why do you think it will be different with people? To me one of the real risks is, yes, we get this technology of life extension, and it’s reserved for a very few, very rich people, and everybody else becomes more disposable.
  2. Attending a Conference via a Telepresence Robot (IEEE) — interesting idea, and I look forward to giving it a try. The mark of success for the idea, alas, is two bots facing each other having a conversation.
  3. Drone Imagery for OpenStreetMap — 100 acres of 4cm/pixel imagery, in less than an hour.
  4. LG Smart TV Phones Home with Shows and Played Files — welcome to the Internet of Manufacturer Malware.

October 19 2013

« Drones, the Media and Malala's Message »

« Drones, the Media and Malala’s Message »

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai’s visit to the United States was widely covered in the media, including interviews with ABC’s Diane Sawyer (10/11/13), CNN’s Christiane Amanpour (10/14/13) and Jon Stewart of the Daily Show (10/8/13). She was selected as ABC’s “Person of the Week” on October 11, and was considered a serious contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

And for good reason; just one year ago, Malala was attacked by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy on behalf of educational equality, surviving a an attack where she was shot in the head.

But one part of her message didn’t seem to penetrate the corporate media.

During her October 11 visit to the White House, Yousafzai told Barack Obama that his administration’s drone strikes were fueling terrorism. As McClatchy’s Lesley Clark (10/11/13) reported:

In a statement released after the meeting, Malala said she was honored to meet with Obama, but that she told him she’s worried about the effect of US drone strikes. (The White House statement didn’t mention that part.)

"I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact."

This exchange, for some reason, didn’t register in a corporate media that followed Malala’s visit, and her story, very closely.

#Pakistan #drones #US #Malala_Yousafzai #femmes #plo

October 14 2013

September 27 2013

FBI has been using drones since 2006, watchdog agency says

FBI has been using #drones since 2006, watchdog agency says,0,3270950.story

Operating with almost no public notice, the FBI has spent more than $3 million to operate a fleet of small drone aircraft in domestic investigations, according to a report released Thursday by a federal watchdog agency.

The unmanned #surveillance planes have helped FBI agents storm barricaded buildings, track criminal suspects and examine crime scenes since 2006, longer than previously known, according to the 35-page inspector general’s audit of drones used by the Justice Department.

The FBI unmanned planes weigh less than 55 pounds each and are unarmed, the report said. The FBI declined requests to discuss its drone operations Thursday.

September 24 2013

Comment les drones vont changer nos vies — Les Echos

Comment les #drones vont changer nos vies — Les Echos

l’industrie française semble bien placée. « On peut se vanter en disant que la France est pour une fois en avance sur un marché à fort potentiel technologique », estime Frédéric Serre, président du directoire de Delta Drone. Aujourd’hui, 20 constructeurs sont déjà homologués et 277 opérateurs autorisés.
Un coup de pouce est opportunément venu en avril 2012 de la DGAC (Direction générale de l’aviation civile), qui, première au monde, a offert un cadre réglementaire précis aux vols de drones civils. Quoique très contraignant (ils ne peuvent pas dépasser 25 kilos et voler au-dessus de 150 mètres - au-delà c’est l’espace aérien -, et ceux qui volent de manière autonome ne peuvent pas peser plus de 2 kilos, par souci de sécurité), ce texte a sonné comme un coup d’envoi.


Chez Ateos, on estime que, du fait d’une sophistication accélérée, le chiffre d’affaires du marché des petits drones sera multiplié par 50 au cours des prochaines années, et par 500 lorsqu’apparaîtront les drones civils de grande taille. « On a mis en route une machine à développer le secteur, en associant entreprises et recherche », en cycle court, observe Patrick Fabiani. Dans les « valleys » autour de Bordeaux, Grenoble ou Toulouse, la dizaine de vrais grands intégrateurs français de drones civils sont effectivement là où se trouvent les labos.

September 23 2013

Lethal Profiling of Afghan Men

Lethal Profiling of Afghan Men

The evidence suggests that US and coalition forces have not been taking “extraordinary care” in Afghanistan and that, as a result, civilian men and boys have paid a grave price. Hard numbers are impossible to come by, and even anecdotal reports are generally limited to cases in which women and children — who can less readily be cast as dead insurgents — were killed alongside males. “We were always disagreeing with ISAF on the number of civilians killed,” a former UN human rights official told The Nation. “There was the whole question of adult males — for [ISAF], they were always insurgents. And we were getting testimony from the families that they were farmers.”

From the president of the United States to the troops on the ground in Afghanistan, to the military personnel conducting drone strikes from bases in America, a mindset that equates military-age males with insurgents seems to prevail, making the killing of innocents all but inevitable. Nor is there any evidence that this situation will abate so long as US-led coalition forces remain in the country.

#drones #victimes_civiles

September 19 2013

Four short links: 19 September 2013

  1. How Jim Henson Turned His Art Into a Business (Longreads) — When Henson joined on to the experimental PBS show Sesame Street in 1968, he was underpaid for his services creating Big Bird and Oscar. Yet he spent his free nights in his basement, shooting stop-motion films that taught kids to count. If you watch these counting films, the spirit of Henson’s gift shines through. I think any struggling artist today could count Henson among their ilk. He had all the makings of a tragic starving artist. The only difference between him and us is that he made peace with money.
  2. Probabilistic Programming and the Democratization of AI (YouTube) — talk by Brian Ruttenberg, examples in Figaro, a Scala library which is apparently open source despite hiding behind a “give us your contact details” form.
  3. Linux Panel — love the crossflow of features: “Embedded today is what enterprise was five years ago,” Kroah-Hartman said. “You have a quad-core in your pocket. The fun thing about Linux is all the changes you make have to work on all the things.” The advances in power management driven by mobile devices initially weren’t that interesting to enterprise developers, according to Kroah-Hartman. That quickly changed once they realized it was helping them save millions of dollars in data center power costs.
  4. A Drone’s View of the Colorado Floods (DIY Drones) — some amazing footage.

September 16 2013

Four short links: 16 September 2013

  1. UAV Offers of Assistance in Colorado Rebuffed by FEMAwe were told by FEMA that anyone flying drones would be arrested. [...] Civil Air Patrol and private aircraft were authorized to fly over the small town tucked into the base of Rockies. Unfortunately due to the high terrain around Lyons and large turn radius of manned aircraft they were flying well out of a useful visual range and didn’t employ cameras or live video feed to support the recovery effort. Meanwhile we were grounded on the Lyons high school football field with two Falcons that could have mapped the entire town in less than 30 minutes with another few hours to process the data providing a near real time map of the entire town.
  2. Texas Bans Some Private Use of Drones (DIY Drones) — growing move for govt to regulate drones.
  3. IETF PRISM-Proof Plans (Parity News) — Baker starts off by listing out the attack degree including he likes of information / content disclosure, meta-data analysis, traffic analysis, denial of service attacks and protocol exploits. The author than describes the different capabilities of an attacker and the ways in which an attack can be carried out – passive observation, active modification, cryptanalysis, cover channel analysis, lawful interception, Subversion or Coercion of Intermediaries among others.
  4. Data Mining and Analysis: Fundamental Concepts and Algorithms (PDF) — 650 pages on cluster, sequence mining, SVNs, and more. (via author’s page)

September 06 2013

*Nous sommes sans doute la dernière génération à vivre avant l'utilisation réelle des « robots…

Nous sommes sans doute la dernière génération à vivre avant l’utilisation réelle des « robots tueurs » sur le terrain

"Les opérateurs voient quatre hommes barbus (sic) avec des fusils sur l’épaule..."

Alexander Harang du « Conseil pour la paix » est très actif dans la lutte contre les robots tueur. La grande photo représente le drone « Predator » lequel est équipé de missiles air-sol : c’est celui qui est utilisé au Pakistan.

- D’ici dix à vingt ans, les « robots tueurs » seront utilisés sur les champs de bataille, dit Alexander Harang. Tobias Malher et Alexander Harang ont participé cette semaine à un séminaire sur les « robots tueurs » à l’institut PRIO à Oslo.

« Robots militaires » : c’est le nom commun donnés aux armes qui non seulement peuvent tuer à distance - comme les drones d’aujourd’hui - mais aussi prendre la décision lui même de tuer – et de le faire !

Trois types de Robots :

Robots téléguidées : Ils sont armés (comme les drones aujourd’hui), mais ce sont des êtres humains qui analysent la situation et décide si l’arme doit être utilisée.

Robots automatiques : L’ordinateur analyse la situation et les réponses possibles, mais ce sont toujours les êtres humains gens qui décident si l’arme doit être utilisée.

Robot autonome : L’ordinateur analyse de la situation et les réponses possibles, et décide de lui même si l’arme doit être utilisée. (brrrr....)

Le journaliste de la NRK décrit l’utilisation du drone de la manière suivante (c’est assez époustouflant) :

Un drone survole une zone montagneuse au Pakistan et observe ce qui se passe au sol. Les caméras embarquées renvoient les images aux Etats-Unis où des opérateurs les analysent. Les opérateurs voient quatre hommes barbus (sic) avec des fusils sur l’épaule. Les opérateurs décident d’appuyer sur un bouton, une seconde plus tard un missile est tiré, les quatres hommes barbus (sic) sont morts instantanément.

Ainsi va la vie aujourd’hui au Pakistan, en Afghanistian , au Yémen ,en Somalie et peut-être plus récemment dans le nord du Niger [et du Mali]. Dans les seules zones tribales pakistanaises frontalières de l’Afghanistan, plus de 3 500 personnes ont été tuées dans les attaques de drones depuis une decennie.

La plupart d’entre eux étaient des militants musulmans (sic), dont certains étaient sur ​​la liste des terroristes établie par la CIA, mais plusieurs centaines d’autres étaient des civils innocents qui se trouvaient au mauvais endroit au mauvais moment.

Mais dans quelques années, l’opérateur qui se trouve quelque part aux États-Unis sera sans doute superflu. L’image des quatre hommes armés sera envoyé directement au drone. Un ordinateur de bord permettra (au drone) d’analyser la situation à partir d’un ensemble de paramètres, lequel ordinateur prendra ensuite la décision de tuer ou de de laisser ces hommes en vie.

On est en train de concevoir et programmer des ordinateurs selon le concept "thumbs down" [pouce en bas]. Avec une telle machine, les quatre hommes barbus (sic) sur le terrain seront alors tués sans qu’un être humain n’ait pris la décision de le faire « directement »

Le drone britannique « Taranis » sera probablement en mesure de fonctionner sans contrôle humain direct. Photo : BAE Systems / AP

Une campagne contre les « robots tueurs » a débuté à Londres en avril 2013, soutenue par 45 organisations non-gouvernementales dans 20 pays.

Il existe en fait des versions plus avancées de drones armés – non utilisés, encore en développement – qui sont assimilés aux « robots tueurs ». Tobias Mahler souligne que ce n’est pas nécessairement des armes au sens traditionnel du terme. Pour illustrer son propos, il donne une image :

Imaginez la porte d’entrée du bâtiment de la NSA aux Etats-Unis. Elle peut-être programmée pour reconnaître les gens à partir de l’analyse de leurs yeux. Cette porte automatique peut aussi être programmée pour claquer dans la gueule de celui qu’elle ne reconnaît pas et éventuellement le tuer ! C’est la programmation qui fait tout, mais le programmeur peut-il tout prévoir ?

Les États-Unis et Israël sont les pays les plus en pointe dans le développement des « robots tueurs » mais la Russie et la Chine ont probablement des programmes avancés. Il y a de bonnes raisons de croire que l’heure de l’utilisation en réel des « robots tueurs » est beaucoup plus proche qu’on ne le croit.

Tobias Malher souligne que les militaires développent les « robots tueurs » pour répondre à l’argument suivant :

Développer des armes autonomes pour éviter au maximum de mettre nos troupes en danger [des guerres sans soldats].

Et ces mêmes militaires [quand même] de se demander s’il est éthique de développer des armes qui décident toutes seules de tuer ou pas (sic) … !
L’avion sans pilote X -47B fabriqué par Northrup Grumman sur la base Edwards en Californie sera en mesure d’attaquer des armes sans contrôle humain. Photo : Alan Radecki , Northrup Grumman, marine / AP.

Le journaliste de la NRK poursuit avec cet encadré :

« Les robots doivent faire des choix éthiques »

– Si les « robots tueurs » autonomes doivent être utilisés, ils doivent être programmés pour faire des choix éthiques.
– C’est aussi des questions auxquelles sont confrontées les développeurs de voitures civiles « auto-conduites »

– Par exemple, une voiture autonome (auto-conduite) circule avec quatre personnes à bord. Que fera-t-elle si un enfant traverse soudainement la chaussée juste devant elle alors qu’un camion arrive en sens inverse ?

– Le véhicule devra choisir entre deux options :

1. Tourner vivement pour éviter l’enfant et donc entrer en collision avec le camion venant en sens inverse, avec de possible graves conséquences pour les quatre personnes se trouvant dans la voiture.

2. Continuer tout droit et percuter l’enfant, avec comme résultat probable la mort de celui-ci.

En Norvège, la question des « robots tueurs » est totalement absente du débat politique (les élections parlementaires ont lieu l9 septembre 2013) alors que ce débat a bien eu lieu dans plusieurs autres pays européens. Ça n’a même pas été un enjeu de la campagne alors que la Norvège a un programme militaire de production d’armement (petit, mais qui existe quand même).

En Allemagne, où l’on vote aussi mi-septembre, Die Linke a fait de la lutte contre les « robots tueurs » un de leurs principaux enjeux de la campagne.


Article source sur le site de la NRK

– Drapsroboter er bare ti til tjue år unna - Verden - NRK Nyheter

Han får støtte av Alexander Harang i Kampanjen for å stoppe drapsroboter (Campaign to Stop Killer Robots) CSKR.

– Vi er ti til tjue år fra å se at drapsrobotene blir tatt i bruk på slagmarken, sier Harang.

Både Mahler og Harang deltok denne uken på et seminar om drapsroboter på Fredsforskningsinstituttet (PRIO) i Oslo.

#drones #robots_tueurs #guerre #guerres_sans_soldats

cc @fil

September 01 2013

August 27 2013

See how Peru is using drones to save its history – Quartz

See how Peru is using #drones to save its history – Quartz

Here’s another non-violent use of drones: Archaeological preservation.

Following the trend of using drones for animal and land conservation purposes, archaeologists in Peru are using drones to protect the country’s ancient ruins.

#archéologie #ruines #cartographie #pérou

August 26 2013

Four short links: 26 August 2013

  1. Peruvian Archaeologists Use Drones (Guardian) — Small drones have been helping a growing number of researchers produce three-dimensional models of Peruvian sites instead of the usual flat maps – and in days and weeks instead of months and years.
  2. Drone Crashes Into Crowd at Great Bull Run (WTVR) — just what it says. (via DIY Drones)
  3. jsPDF — create PDF in Javascript on the client.
  4. Let’s Make Robots: BoB — instructions on building a bipedal robot. (via Makezine)

August 21 2013

*Immigration restrictions are a threat to liberty everywhere* ❝In the civil libertarian world…

Immigration restrictions are a threat to liberty everywhere

In the civil libertarian world today, two issues rule the roost: #surveillance and #drones. Ordinarily civil rights issues like these find it difficult to gain traction, but increasingly it looks like even the mainstream media can’t ignore these issues. Spying on the behaviour of millions of innocent people, and murdering innocent people (AKA “collateral damage”) from a remote-controlled airplane, are difficult things to readily reconcile with modern ideas of human rights and freedoms. These issues make me think: how long before civil libertarians begin to comprehend the danger of similar totalitarian disregard for liberty in immigration policy?

#migration #droits_civils #dégâts_collatéraux #liberté

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