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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Exploring The Arctic With Robots

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University have created snowmobile like robots, called SnoMotes, to gather scientific ground data on the melting polar glaciers, sea ice and ice caps of the arctic. "Having this potential for the robots to crawl around and make all the measurements for us, in this relatively harsh terrain of crevassed glaciers filled with lakes that are draining … is really a neat opportunity," said Matt Heavner, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau and SnoMote project collaborator. Isn't this exactly the type of job that robots should be doing for us? Well this and vacuuming our floors!
CBC Story here.

High Gas Prices Drive Shoppers Online

Interestingly, and I suppose logically, the high price of filling up at the tank is creating increased sales at online retailers. The New York Times is reporting that retailers including Gap, Victoria’s Secret and J. C. Penney are seeing double-digit sales growth at their retail Web sites while in store traffic is trending down. “With gas being such an issue, we know that mall traffic is down more than off-mall traffic,” said Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer for J. C. Penney who's seen an 8.7 percent increase in Internet sales in the first quarter of '08. Kris Marubio, a spokeswoman for Gap Inc. says this of the company's new Web design “helps time-pressed and gas-price sensitive parents achieve their back-to-school shopping goals in less time and at less cost,”. With incentives like free shipping a lot of online retailers are bucking the trend and making decision making a whole lot easier for the consumer.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eastern Canada's UFO Sightings On The Rise

2007 saw New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec all having record numbers of UFO sightings according to an annual report released by the Winnipeg-based Ufology Research Institute. The Eastern part of the country dethrowned British Columbia who usually tops the list that has been published by the group since 1989. "I think that science should be treating the subject of UFOs a little bit more seriously and I think that the public demands this because there are so many things out there reminding us of aliens and UFOs everyday life," said research co-ordinator Chris Rutkowski. The annual list of sightings is based on reports that are submitted to sources that include the Department of National Defence, Transport Canada and various websites.

I live on the east coast myself but have yet to have the good fortune to site anything out of the ordinary in the sky. However, I'll let you know if I get the sudden urge to build giant mud sculptures in my kitchen.

CBC News Story.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lego's Batman Videogame... Need I Say More?

I'm a sucker for Lego and video games...

Are The Mouse's Days Numbered?

Gartner thinks that the computer mouse is near it's end of life after nearly 40 years of tracking around screens, clicking, and dragging, according to this BBC report. "The mouse works fine in the desktop environment but for home entertainment or working on a notebook it's over," says analyst Steve Prentice. Taking it's place will be gestural computing like touchscreen and facial recognition interfaces. "You even have emotive systems where you can wear a headset and control a computer by simply thinking and that's a device set to hit the market in September." "This" says Prentice, "is all about using computer power to do things smarter."

On the flip side of the coin however is Rory Dooley senior vice president and general manager of Logitech's control devices unit, who obviously has a great stake in the survival of the mouse. Dooley says "The death of the mouse is greatly exaggerated," and that "The devices we use have been modified for our changing lifestyles but it doesn't negate the value of the mouse,"

Personally, I'm inclined to think that the mouse has a few more years in it. While there are plenty of new touch machines headed our way, the mouse doesn't leave your monitor with icky finger smudges... though I'm sure it's days are numbered.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stephen Hawking Rumoured To Be Heading To Canada

Famed scientist, and not just for his many Simpson's appearances, Stephen Hawking is said to be "mulling over" an offer to leave Cambridge University and follow his colleague Prof. Neil Turok to the Perimeter Institute in Ontario. Hawking has been critical of late of the British Governments £80 million (roughly $160 million) cuts to research funding. The Perimeter Institute, was set up seven years ago by Mike Lazaridis, BlackBerry co-creator and co-CEO of Research in Motion, and has raised private donations of £150 million ($300 million) and a similar amount from public Canadian funds. Prof Turok said "Stephen has been very loyal to Cambridge - he could have gone anywhere he wanted. "He plans to visit me in Ontario next year for a month or so, and we would certainly welcome him coming for longer." Sam Blackburn, Prof Hawking's graduate assistant, said: "I think Prof Hawking is mulling it over but a move isn't imminent. "He would not make plans to permanently move to a place he hasn't visited yet but he is open to it."

It seems philanthropy is alive and well in Canada! More at

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

EA Embeds DNA Into NBA Live 09

G4's The Feed is reporting that EA has announced a new feature in it's NBA Live 09. Known as Dynamic DNA the system collects detailed information on players and their teams on a day-to-day basis and altering the game based on this information. Because the DNA extends to the teams, the chemistry between a group of players is accounted for and changes based on whats happened in actual games. This is a natural next step in an always connected gaming world and one that will be interesting to see how well EA has executed.

Footnote: As I write this the EA site appears to be down, perhaps it's the throngs of game players looking, like me, for more information on Dynamic DNA...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Radiohead's No Camera Video

Radiohead has produced a new video for their "House of Cards" track from their most recent album release "In Rainbows". The exciting thing about this video is that it was created entirely without a camera using two scanning technologies to capture 3D images utilizing structured light and laser techniques. Check out the Official Google Blog post here and the video plus the making of video here. Also available is the data used under a license that allows remixing.

University Of Alberta Poker Playing AI Wins In Vegas

The University of Alberta's Polaris poker playing software took on Vegas over the July 4th weekend and won the 2nd man-machine showdown with a record of 3-2-1. Polaris played against some of the best online poker players in the world at the booth at the 2008 Gaming Life Expo in Las Vegas, July 3-6. According to ars technica "Each match consisted of 500 hands of poker. In the first of four matches, Polaris and the human players wound up in a draw. The second match ended with the human players up by $50,000. The third and fourth matches were decisive wins for Polaris—it won the two matches by ending up by nearly $150,000." Last year Polaris was bested by it's human counterparts but it seems as though the lessons learned have resulted in better game play, hmm practice does make perfect particularly if you are an AI program.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

San Francisco's Parking Mesh Network

In an attempt to curb it's traffic congestion woes, the city of San Francisco is turning to technology to help solve the problem. Six thousand of the cities 24,000 metered parking spaces are being equipped for a pilot project with devices called “bump,” that together will form a wireless sensor network. Drivers will be alerted to empty parking places by displays on street signs, or by looking at maps on their smartphones. “It will have a cascade of positive effects on transportation and the economy and environment,” said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The broader picture is what we’re building is an operating system for the city that allows you to talk to or control all the inanimate objects out there to reduce the cost and improve quality of city services,” said Tod Dykstra, chief executive of Streetline, the company that San Francisco has contracted to supply the wireless sensor technology. No doubt that if it works there will be a significant improvement in traffic reduction, it's nice to see big cities taking a proactive approach. NY Times story here.