Tag: Technorhetoric


A robot that controls your remote controls

remote control robot

Confused with the pile of remote controls in your house? Now here is an idea: get a robot to control them. Researchers at Toshiba have developed a talking robot, named ApriPoko, that can learn how to operate various remote controls by watching and asking questions.

When its sensors detect infrared rays emitted by a remote, the robot speaks up: “What did you just do?” it asks. Tell ApriPoko what you did (”I turned on the stereo” or “I changed to channel 321,” for example), and it commits the details to memory. Then, next time you want to turn on the stereo or change the channel, simply tell ApriPoko and it transmits the appropriate IR signal directly to the device. The prototype robot is still in the development and testing phase, but the researchers hope to have a viable product soon. Toshiba refused to comment on whether the their robot possesses the ability to kill.

Source: Asahi (Japanese), via Pinktentacle. See also: One RC to rule them all.

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Hail Control Gun

hail control gun

A single hail storm can destroy the year’s harvest. For over 25 years, this gun has been used by vine and fruit growers in France, Spain, Austria and Belgium for one purpose: control nature.
The guns functioning is argued by scientists (it is difficult to prove its results) but already 150 years ago farmers in the Alps used primitive manually controlled versions that worked on carbide. So if it could not make the hail disappear, at least the bang would scare some crows.

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Fun begins in 2029


Famous technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil states: it’s going down by 2029, so be prepared to get digital on entirely new levels. According to Kurzweil, machines will have both the hardware and the software to achieve human level artificial intelligence by then. Kurzweil doesn’t expect Arnold style robots to be hanging around but thinks of it on the nano scale, with interfaces to enhance our own physiology and intelligence.

Source: BBC News.

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Fight climate change: Hack the Planet

Hack the planet

Lots of clouds this week. The peculiar picture above shows the eruption of mount Pinatubo in 1991, which apparently resulted in a certain amount of global cooling (next to some serious negative effects). If a vulcano can do that, why not humans?

Environmental scientist David Keith talks about a cheap, effective, shocking solution to climate change (TED video): What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere, to deflect sunlight and heat? As an emergency measure to slow a melting ice cap, it could work. Keith discusses why it’s a good idea, why it’s a terrible one — and who, despite the cost, might be tempted to use it.

Via Beyond the Beyond. See also: Clear Blue Sky, Cloud producing Cloud, Super Mario Cloud, Blur Building, Humans to blame for Global Warming.

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Retro Future: Magic Highway USA

Magic Highway nextnature retrofuture

Nothing makes a person more modest about future speculations than Retro Future. Want proof? Here is a 1958 video entitled “Magic Highway USA”. No, they didn’t anticipate traffic jams or feminism (can you find all the male chauvinist details?), the sheer optimism is just overwhelming: “It will be our magic carpet to new hopes, new dreams and a better way of life, for the future” (Yes, they’re talking about highways here).

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French USB wine

USB wine parody

Remember the article N is for Nature, describing the Californian company Enologix, which creates software to predict how wine critics will rate a wine, so that it can be produced accordingly? No, I would not expect the French to appreciate this wine making as information science. After all they are the inventors of wine, carefully guarding their traditions. Some might say they are just old fashioned and tastes differ, but don’t dare to say the French don’t have a sense of humor.

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Google 2084

google 2084

Tongue in cheek speculation on what Google’s home page may look like in 2084, created by Randy Siegel for NY Times. Frankly, I don’t think this is very realistic: We don’t have to wait that long for most of this.

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Fake for Real: QWERTY, the Right Order

qwerty - the right order

Did you ever wonder why the letters on the keyboard are in the order they are? The reason for QWERTY goes way back. This order was chosen to reduce the probability that mechanical typewriters’ hammers would get entangled. Over time, typewriters were replaced by computers. Though various alternative keyboard layouts have been developed from a user-centred perspective, to enable more comfortable and faster typing, the QWERTY layout remains the standard today. Once a technology has become the norm, it seems to take on a certain aura of authenticity. To supplant it, an alternative must be significantly better.

From our Fake for Real series.

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