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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.