Uber Would Like to Buy Your Robotics Department (NY Times) — ‘‘If you’re well versed in the area of robotics right now and you’re not working on self-driving cars, you’re either an idiot or you have more of a passion for something else,’’ says Jerry Pratt, head of a robotics team in Pensacola that worked on a humanoid robot that beat Carnegie Mellon’s CHIMP in this year’s contest. ‘‘It’s a multibillion- if not trillion-dollar industry.’’
What the Heck is Angela Ahrendts Doing at Apple? (Fortune) — Apple has always intended for each of them to be a community center; now Cook and Ahrendts want them to be the community center. That means expanding from serving existing and potential customers to, say, creating opportunities for underserved minorities and women. “In my mind,” Ahrendts says, store leaders “are the mayors of their community.”
Computer Science Courses that Don’t Exist, But Should (James Hague) — CSCI 3300: Classical Software Studies. Discuss and dissect historically significant products, including VisiCalc, AppleWorks, Robot Odyssey, Zork, and MacPaint. Emphases are on user interface and creativity fostered by hardware limitations.
Soul-Searching in TV Land Over the Challenges of a New Golden Age (NY Times) — The number of scripted shows produced by networks, cable networks and online services ballooned to 371 last year, according to statistics compiled by FX. Mr. Landgraf believes that figure will pass 400 this year, which would nearly double the 211 shows made in 2009. […] predicted that the number of shows would slowly return to about 325 over the next few years, in large part because scripted television is expensive.
MQTT — IoT connectivity protocol designed as an extremely lightweight publish/subscribe messaging transport. It is useful for connections with remote locations where a small code footprint is required and/or network bandwidth is at a premium.
Camp for Apple II Fanatics — “I invested a lot of time and knowledge into the Apple II, to the point where I really understood all of what the system is doing. All 64K of memory and what’s happening in RAM and ROM, the firmware the programs are using when they run on the Apple II,” he said. “With today’s machines, you get farther away from the metal the thing’s running on. Things change so fast, your phone is a million times more powerful than the Apple II was, but you can’t do things on the metal.” The micros were invented by the people who built and ran the minis and mainframes of old, and gave people the same insight. Tablets and mobiles were invented by the people who built and ran micros, and took away that same insight.
Tinder and Hook-Up Culture (Vanity Fair) — “There have been two major transitions” in heterosexual mating “in the last four million years,” he says. “The first was around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, in the agricultural revolution, when we became less migratory and more settled,” leading to the establishment of marriage as a cultural contract. “And the second major transition is with the rise of the Internet.”
Networks Increasing Ad Stuffing — TV audiences (as determined by Nielsen C3 measurements: TV watched both live and three days after the show was first aired on catch-up services) are down 9% year on year, yet ad loads on some networks are up as much as 10% on last year. The dinosaurs are hungry.
Open the Music Industry’s Black Box (NYT) — David Byrne talks about the opacity of financials of streaming and online music services (including/especially YouTube). Caught my eye: The labels also get money from three other sources, all of which are hidden from artists: They get advances from the streaming services, catalog service payments for old songs, and equity in the streaming services themselves. (via BoingBoing)
Deloitte Changing Performance Reviews (HBR) — “Although it is implicitly assumed that the ratings measure the performance of the ratee, most of what is being measured by the ratings is the unique rating tendencies of the rater. Thus, ratings reveal more about the rater than they do about the ratee.”
Perfect Security (99% Invisible) — Since we lost perfect security in the 1850s, it has has remained elusive. Despite tremendous leaps forward in security technology, we have never been able to get perfect security back. History of physical security, relevant to digital security today.
keywhiz — a system for managing and distributing secrets. It can fit well with a service oriented architecture (SOA).
Call Me Maybe: MongoDB Stale Reads — a master class in understanding modern distributed systems. Kyle’s blog is consistently some of the best technical writing around today.
Ex Machine: When Turing Meets the Bechdel Test — The Bechdel Test is useful for more than examining gender representation. It can be our Turing Test for creating believable alien or artificial life forms. If you look at our filmic or cultural representations of the other or alien, then you have to be struck by the singular nature of them all. From Frankenstein to Big Hero 6, do they have any reality without the central human characters? No, they are alone. Even Alien is alone. At least in Frankenstein, it is the utter aloneness of the new form that is the whole story. Films that have pushed the envelope are few. And doing a quick mental check, one was left feeling empathy for the ‘others’ in only a couple, like Westworld, BladeRunner, and Planet of the Apes, and the books of writers like Brin and Cherryh.
Valve’s SteamVR — What these two experiences shared was an overpowering sense of intimacy with the virtual space. This is brought home again and again in the demos, and its impact is profound. The smallness of the space you can move around – 15 feet square – is almost a virtue in this respect, because it focuses you on your immediate surroundings in a way the vast majority of video games don’t, and which has much more in common with real life.
Surgical Micro-Robot Swarms — A swarm of medical microrobots. Start with cm sized robots. These already exist in the form of pillbots and I reference the work of Paolo Dario’s lab in this direction. Then get 10 times smaller to mm sized robots. Here we’re at the limit of making robots with conventional mechatronics. The almost successful I-SWARM project prototyped remarkable robots measuring 4 x 4 x 3mm. But now shrink by another 3 orders of magnitude to microbots, measured in micrometers. This is how small robots would have to be in order to swim through and access (most of) the vascular system. Here we are far beyond conventional materials and electronics, but amazingly work is going on to control bacteria. In the example I give from the lab of Sylvain Martel, swarms of magnetotactic bacteria are steered by an external magnetic field and, interestingly, tracked in an MRI scanner.
Media Hacking — interesting discussion of the techniques used to spread disinformation through social media, often using bots to surface/promote a message.
Apple Research Kit — Apple positioning their mobile personal biodata tools with medical legitimacy, presumably as a way to distance themselves from the stereotypical quantified selfer. I’m reminded of the gym chain owner who told me, about the Nike+, “yeah, maybe 5% of my clients will want this. The rest go to the gym so they can eat and drink what they want.”
Designing the Human-Robot Relationship (O’Reilly) — We can use those same principles [Jakob Nielsen’s usability heuristics] and look for implications of robots serving our higher ordered needs, as we move from serving needs related to convenience or performance to actually supporting our decision making to emerging technologies, moving from being able to do anything or be magic in terms of the user interface to being more human in the user interface.
Why Are Geospatial Databases So Hard To Build? — Algorithms in computer science, with rare exception, leverage properties unique to one-dimensional scalar data models. In other words, data types you can abstractly represent as an integer. Even when scalar data types are multidimensional, they can often be mapped to one dimension. This works well, as the majority of [what] data people care about can be represented with scalar types. If your data model is inherently non-scalar, you enter an algorithm wasteland in the computer science literature.