ReWalk Robotics Exoskeleton — first exoskeleton for the paralyzed to receive regulatory approval; 66 bought so far, 11 with reimbursement from insurance. The software upgrades for the ReWalk 6.0 provide a smoother walking gait (with less of a soldier-like marching step), an easier stopping mechanism, and a much-improved mode for ascending and descending stairs. The user wears a wristwatch-like controller to switch the suit between sit, stand, walk, and stair modes. How long until a cheaper version hits the market, but you don’t always get to control where it takes you if there’s a sale on featuring brands you love? (via IEEE)
Decentralised Autonomous Corporations — Charlie Stross’s near-future fiction of Accelerando comes closer to reality: Malice – revenge for waking him up – sharpens Manfred’s voice. “The president of agalmic.holdings.root.184.97.AB5 is agalmic.holdings.root.184.97.201. The secretary is agalmic.holdings.root.184.D5, and the chair is agalmic.holdings.root.184.E8.FF. All the shares are owned by those companies in equal measure, and I can tell you that their regulations are written in Python. Have a nice day, now!” He thumps the bedside phone control and sits up, yawning, then pushes the do-not-disturb button before it can interrupt again. After a moment he stands up and stretches, then heads to the bathroom to brush his teeth, comb his hair, and figure out where the lawsuit originated and how a human being managed to get far enough through his web of robot companies to bug him.
Coding is Not the New Literacy (Chris Grainger) — We build mental models of everything – from how to tie our shoes to the way macro-economic systems work. With these, we make decisions, predictions, and understand our experiences. If we want computers to be able to compute for us, then we have to accurately extract these models from our heads and record them. Writing Python isn’t the fundamental skill we need to teach people. Modeling systems is. Amen!
Offline First is the New Mobile First — Luke Wroblewski’s notes from John Allsopp’s talk about “Breaking Development” in Nashville. Offline technologies don’t just give us sites that work offline, they improve performance, and security by minimizing the need for cookies, http, and file uploads. It also opens up new possibilities for better user experiences.
Winograd Schemas as Alternative to Turing Test (IEEE) — specially constructed sentences that are surface ambiguous and require deeper knowledge of the world to disambiguate, e.g. “Jim comforted Kevin because he was so upset. Who was upset?”. Our WS [Winograd schemas] challenge does not allow a subject to hide behind a smokescreen of verbal tricks, playfulness, or canned responses. Assuming a subject is willing to take a WS test at all, much will be learned quite unambiguously about the subject in a few minutes. (that last from the paper on the subject)
Reclaiming Your Nest (Forbes) — Like so many connected devices, Nest devices regularly report back to the Nest mothership with usage data. Over a month-long period, the researchers’ device sent 32 MB worth of information to Nest, including temperature data, at-rest settings, and self-entered information about the home, such as how big it is and the year it was built. “The Nest doesn’t give us an option to turn that off or on. They say they’re not going to use that data or share it with Google, but why don’t they give the option to turn it off?” says Jin. Jailbreak your Nest (technique to be discussed at Black Hat), and install less chatty software. Loose Lips Sink Thermostats.
SyncNet — decentralised browser: don’t just pull pages from the source, but also fetch from distributed cache (implemented with BitTorrent Sync).
Neglected Machine Learning Ideas — Perhaps my list is a “send me review articles and book suggestions” cry for help, but perhaps it is useful to others as an overview of neat things.
First Crowdfunded Book on Booker Shortlist — Booker excludes self-published works, but “The Wake” was through Unbound, a Threadless-style “if we hit this limit, the book is printed and you have bought a copy” site.
Watson Can Debate Its Opponents (io9) — Speaking in nearly perfect English, Watson/The Debater replied: “Scanned approximately 4 million Wikipedia articles, returning ten most relevant articles. Scanned all 3,000 sentences in top ten articles. Detected sentences which contain candidate claims. Identified borders of candidate claims. Assessed pro and con polarity of candidate claims. Constructed demo speech with top claim predictions. Ready to deliver.”
ipfs — a global, versioned, peer-to-peer file system. It combines good ideas from Git, BitTorrent, Kademlia, and SFS. You can think of it like a single BitTorrent swarm, exchanging Git objects, making up the web. IPFS provides an interface much simpler than HTTP, but has permanence built in.. (via Sourcegraph)
Bullish on Blockchain (Fred Wilson) — our 2014 fund will be built during the blockchain cycle. “The blockchain” is bitcoin’s distributed consensus system, interesting because it’s the return of p2p from the Chasm of Ridicule or whatever the Gartner Trite Cycle calls the time between first investment bubble and second investment bubble under another name.
Hemingway — online writing tool to help you make your writing clear and direct. (via Nina Simon)
Hack — PHP with types, generics, collections, lambdas. From Facebook.
Solve Hard Things Early — Build great habits around communication and decision-making when everyone still knows each other well.
Marginally Useful (Paul Ford) — The last two decades have suggested a post-scarcity economy, where infinite copies of attractive digital things have a price approaching $0. Maybe that was merely a passing moment that we will look back upon with wonder once limited coins enforce scarcity—once the owner of a piece of digital art can look upon it with satisfaction and know with total, cryptographic certainty that because he paid for it, it belongs to him and no one else.
Toyota Manufacturing Principles (Joseph Cohen) — Jidoka: Automation with a Human Touch. The idea of jidoka is that humans should work with machines to produce the best possible outcome, leveraging the execution ability of a machine and the judgement of a human. We at O’R Radar have been saying for years that there’s gold in the collaboration between people and machines, about augmenting people and not simply replacing them.
Twister — the fully decentralized P2P microblogging platform leveraging from the free software implementations of Bitcoin and BitTorrent protocols. Interesting to see BT and BC reused as platforms for app development, though if eventual consistency and threading Heisenbugs gave you headaches then just wait for the world of Bitcoin-meets-BitTorrent….
Transcript of Glenn Greenwald’s Speech to CCC — the relationship of privacy to security, and the transparency of governmental positions on that relationship, remain unaddressed. NSA’s actions are being used to establish local governmental control of the Internet, which will destroy the multistakeholder model that has kept net architecture and policy largely separate from the whims of elected officials. The fallout of Snowden’s revelations will shape 2014. Happy New Year.
Media for Thinking the Unthinkable (Bret Victor) — “Right now, today, we can’t see the thing, at all, that’s going to be the most important 100 years from now.” We cannot see the thing. At all. But whatever that thing is — people will have to think it. And we can, right now, today, prepare powerful ways of thinking for these people. We can build the tools that make it possible to think that thing. (via Matt Jones)
McKinsey Report on Disruptive Technologies (McKinsey) — the list: Mobile Internet; Automation of knowledge work; Internet of Things; Cloud technology; Advanced Robotics; Autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles; Next-generation genomics; Energy storage; 3D Printing; Advanced Materials; Advanced Oil and Gas exploration and recovery; Renewable energy.
Meshlab — open source, portable, and extensible system for the processing and editing of unstructured 3D triangular meshes.
HTML5 Video on iOS (Steve Souders) — While it’s true that Mobile Safari on iOS doesn’t buffer any video data as a result of the PRELOAD attribute, it does make other video requests that aren’t counted as “buffered” video. The number and size of the requests and responses depends on the video. For larger videos the total amount of data for these behind-the-scenes requests can be significant.
Space Monkey (Kickstarter) — distributed encrypted peer-to-peer cloud service using custom hardware. Not open source, which would make me nervous that I was buying a botnet client with storage capability. (via BERG London)
Matasano Crypto Challenges — Counting is not a hard problem. But cryptography is. There are just a few things you can screw up to get the size of a buffer wrong. There are tens, probably hundreds, of obscure little things you can do to take a cryptosystem that should be secure even against an adversary with more CPU cores than there are atoms in the solar system, and make it solveable with a Perl script and 15 seconds. Don’t take our word for it: do the challenges and you’ll see. People “know” this already, but they don’t really know it in their gut, and we think the reason for that is that very few people actually know how to implement the best-known attacks. So, mail us, and we’ll give you a tour of them.
Indiepocalypse: Harlem Shake Edition (Andy Baio) — “After four weeks topping the Billboard Hot 100, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” was replaced this week by Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” the song that inspired the Internet meme.”
SplinterNet — an Android app designed to create an unblockable Twitter like network that uses no cellular or Internet communications. All messages are transmitted over Bluetooth between users, creating a true peer-to-peer messaging system. All messages are anonymous to prevent retaliation by government authorities. (via Ushahidi)
Disposable Satellites (Forbes) — “tiny, near-disposable satellites for use in getting battlefield surveillance quickly […] launched from a jet into orbit, and within a few minutes […] provide soldiers on the ground with a zoomed-in, birds-eye view of the battlefield. Those image would be transmitted to current communications devices, and the company is working to develop a way to transmit them to smartphones, as well.”
The Internet of Things That Do What You Tell Them: Cory Doctorow passionately explains how computers are already entwined in our lives, which means laws that support lock-in are much more than inconveniences.