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.
FAA to Regulate UAVs? (Forbes) — and the Executive Order will segment the privacy issues related to drones into two categories — public and private. For public drones (that is, drones purchased with federal dollars), the President’s order will establish a series of privacy and transparency guidelines. See also How ESPN is Shooting the X Games with Drones (Popular Mechanics)—it’s all fun and games until someone puts out their eye with a quadrocopter. The tough part will be keeping within the tight restrictions the FAA gave them. Because drones can’t be flown above a crowd, Calcinari says, “We basically had to build a 500-foot radius around them, where the public can’t go.” The drones will fly over sections of the course that are away from the crowds, where only ESPN production employees will be. That rule is part of why we haven’t seen drones at college football games.
Milestones for SaaS Companies — “Getting from $0-1m is impossible. Getting from $1-10m is unlikely. And getting from $10-100m is inevitable.” —Jason Lemkin, ex-CEO of Echosign. The article proposes some significant milestones, and they ring true. Making money is generally hard. The nature of the hard changes with the amount of money you have and the amount you’re trying to make, but if it were easy, then we’d structure our society on something else.
Woodcut Data Visualisation — Recently, I learned how to operate a laser cutter. It’s been a whole lot of fun, and I wanted to share my experiences creating woodcut data visualizations using just D3. I love it when data visualisations break out of the glass rectangle.
Why is Concurrent Programming Hard? — on the one hand there is not a single concurrency abstraction that fits all problems, and on the other hand the various different abstractions are rarely designed to be used in combination with each other. We are due for a revolution in programming, something to help us make sense of the modern systems made of more moving parts than our feeble grey matter can model and intuit about.
Future of the AI-Powered Application (Matt Turck) — we’re about to witness the emergence of a number of deeply focused AI-powered applications that will achieve commercial success by solving in a definitive manner very specific issues. (via Matt Webb)
gibber — a creative coding environment for audiovisual performance and composition. It contains features for audio synthesis and musical sequencing, 2d drawing, 3d scene construction and manipulation, and live-coding shaders. If you’re looking for more ways to interest teens in code …
Interactive 360-degree Films. From Google (Medium) — you move the camera through a movie shot in 360 degrees, and can choose what you’re looking at through the scene. I can’t wait to try this, it sounds brilliant.
Bitcoin Crackdown — everyone who started exchanges and mutual funds thinking Bitcoin wouldn’t be regulated like a currency is getting an SEC headache.
Connected Choices: How the Internet is Challenging Sovereign Decisions (PDF) — Ultimately, the Internet remains both a global commons and part of each nation’s sovereign infrastructure, and thus activities in cyberspace must continue to navigate two sets of demands: national interests and global interests. […] Political leaders are responsible for articulating a vision and establishing general principles and policies to achieve their goals and, accordingly, are constantly trying to advance their agendas using policy, law, market mechanisms, regulation, standards, and other initiatives. The evidence is clear; you just have to look for it.
TiVo Mega — 24TB of RAID storage, six tuners for capturing broadcasts. Which is rather like building the International Space Station and then hitching it to six horses for launch. Who at this point would make a $5k bet that everything you want to see on a TV will be broadcast by a cable company?
runswift — an in-browser client for compiling and running basic Swift functionality.
Cyborg UnPlug — sits on your wifi network and will alert you if it finds Google Glass, Dropcam, spycams, and other unwanted wifi Klingons. Or it can automatically send deauth packets to those devices to try and boot them off the network.
How Complex Systems Fail (PDF) — That practitioner actions are gambles appears clear after accidents; in general, post hoc analysis regards these gambles as poor ones. But the converse: that successful outcomes are also the result of gambles; is not widely appreciated.
Mapping Digital Media (Open Society) — analysis of media, online and off, in various regions and discussion of how it’s changing. Among the global findings: digitization has brought no pressure to reform state broadcasters, less than one-third of countries found that digital media have helped to expand the social impact of investigative journalism, and digitization has not significantly affected total news diversity.
High Volume Web Sites — Tim Berners-Lee answers my question on provisioning a popular web server in 1993. The info.cern.ch server which has the Subject Catalogue gets probably a relatively high usage, about 10k requests a day, or (thinks…) one every 9 seconds. the CPU load is negligible. In fact of course the peak rate is higher, but still its not really a factor. That was when the server forked a subprocess for each request, too. See also one of my early contributions to the nascent field of web operations (language alert).
Tim Berners-Lee Calls For Web Magna Carta (Guardian) — Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.
BroApp — Automatically message your girlfriend sweet things so you can spend more time with the Bros. Reminds me of the Electric Monk in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The monk notices that humans have machines to watch TV for them. Now we have machines to be shitty boyfriends for us. (via Beta Knowledge)
World Science U — quick answers, short courses, long MOOCs. I wonder how you’d know whether this was effective at increasing scientific literacy, and therefore whether it’d be worth doing for computational thought or programming.
The growing role of software architects: “Architecture has become much more interesting now because it’s become more encompassing," says Neal Ford, software architect and meme wrangler at ThoughtWorks.