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Robots accountable for war crimes? January 22, 2008

Posted by farshadf in Interesting.
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Annalee Newitz over at io9 raises an interesting ethical question when she asks, “Will we hold robots accountable for war crimes?”

Here’s a bit of her post:

This isn’t idle speculation. An automated anti-aircraft cannon’s friendly fire killed nine soldiers in South Africa last year, and computer scientists speculate that as more weapons (and aircraft) are robot-controlled that we’ll need to develop new definitions of war crimes.

So how will justice be served in these cases? Presumably, we’ll punish a guilty robot by smashing it flat or refabricating it into a Kia Sportage owned by someone who commutes into DC.


But who else would we punish, especially if these robots are autonomous? The programmer who came up with the algorithm? And would the programmer, in turn, try to prove a software glitch caused by the manufacturer? Of course, this is the same question raised when 2001: A Space Odyssey hit screens almost forty years ago and more recently in the Will Smith vehicle I Robot.

If you want to weigh into this issue on the ground floor you should make it a point to attend the Technology in Wartime conference. Your conference fee even gets you a free T-shirt (bonus).

(Gouge: CM)

(Photos: iRobot’s Bomb Disposal robot in action, courtesy iRobot; Capture from film “I Robot” starring Will Smith, courtesy 20th Century Fox)


Electronic Contact Lenses Give Future You Crazy Eyesight January 18, 2008

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Researchers at the University of Washington managed to embed an electronic circuit and LEDs directly into contact lenses, which seemed to look good on rabbit eyes. Though the circuit is not functional and the lights don’t light up, the development shows that future applications like direct video to the eye may indeed be possible.


The world’s tallest elevator testing tower January 3, 2008

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The world’s tallest elevator testing tower has just opened in Inazawa City, Japan, and is named Solae. Why would you build a tower just to test elevators? Because the world’s tallest buildings (including Taipei 101, which I rode in last year) have a need to install elevators that take you from floor 1 to floor “high” really fast. Solae will be used by Mitsubishi to test their latest drives, gears and cables in a controlled environment instead of say, a mall in downtown Tokyo. If Mitsubishi can lift me 100 stories in a minute, they can figure out a way to build a better looking Galant. [BBC]

Moscow’s Crystal Island January 3, 2008

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Moscow’s rapidly growing skyline will soon feature an eye-popping new addition: Crystal Island, which will be the world’s biggest building when completed. Sir Norman Foster’s mountainous 27 million square feet spiraling “city within a building” will cost $4 billion and it is scheduled to be built within next 5 years.

The Crystal Island will be Lord Foster’s second large scale project in the Russian capital, and his third new building design that resembles a volcano (we’re talking about his two mountainous buildings in Astana, Kazakstan). Although many people are calling this design the ‘Christmas Tree’ of Moscow – we can’t help but be reminded of the utopian and also rather volcanic X-Seed 4000 design for Tokyo. Unlike that pipe-dream project, however, Foster has a track record of getting buildings built, so the likelihood is high that we will see this striking structure towering over the Kremlin within 5 years time.

100Mbps fiber optic FIOS love November 12, 2007

Posted by farshadf in Interesting, NYC.
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You might have heard about Verizon’s new 20/20 symmetric FiOS—a sweet 20Mbps upstream and down. But 20 ain’t 100, and we’re damn jealous of the Japanese, so we got on the phone and asked the guys managing Verizon’s tubes what’s around the bend. The scoop for city dwellers is that we can expect “not too distant” announcements about FiOS availability in Manhattan thanks to ultra-bendable Corning fiber ideal for labyrinthine build-out in apartment high-rises. So, what’s the holdup on the Japan- style 100Mbps fiber optic love? Doesn’t Verizon have the pipes to supply it? Here are the answers to those questions, and the most important of them all: When is it coming to your house?


China’s $99 million Ferris wheel November 5, 2007

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bigwheel_keep_on_turnin.jpg Jaws were dropping all around when our own Adam Frucci brought back video of his harrowing 377-foot-high ride in a glass-bottomed car on the Odaiba Ferris Wheel in Tokyo, but now the Chinese are going to top that wheel with the tallest one in the world. Today, construction began on the Great Wheel of China, a $99 million Ferris wheel that will tower over Beijing at a stupendous 680 feet when construction is complete in 2009. This is not just any Ferris wheel, though.ou won’t be sitting in swinging and swaying benches on this baby. Each one of its 48 cars is like a gondola, air-conditioned and holding 40 passengers, for a total of 1920 stomachs pressed against the top of their abdominal cavities as the big wheel keeps on turnin’. Nobody’s talking about how long it’ll take to load this beast. Too bad there was so much bickering over the design of the gigantic wheel, because originally the plan was to complete construction in time for next summer’s Beijing Olympics. [MSNBC, via Spluch] http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/world.s-tallest/china-begins-construction-on-worlds-tallest-ferris-wheel-318855.php 

Microsoft Will Buy 20 Companies a Year for 5 Years October 18, 2007

Posted by farshadf in Interesting, Uncategorized.
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Steve Ballmer showed up at Thursday morning’s session of the Web 2.0 Summit ready to talk about acquisitions. Starbucks cup in hand, the Microsoft chief executive, told conference host John Battelle that Microsoft is ready to buy twenty companies a year consistently for the next 5 years.

“Those will be good acquisitions, and they’re important to us,” he said. “And they’re of strategic importance. When you say ‘What are you going to buy that’s $15 billion,’ there are not many things at that price range. At that price range, you’re talking about a couple dozen things, and on those I can basically say ‘No comment.’

Ballmer half-jokingly said the purchases will range between 50 or 100 million to a couple hundred million each. He also offered up his e-mail address (steveb@microsoft.com), inviting entrepreneurs to pitch him any products they may want to sell.

“My god, you’re about to get a thousand e-mails,” Battelle said.

“Maybe one will be worth buying,” Ballmer responded.

More highlights from the talk below.

Continue reading “Ballmer: Microsoft Will Buy 20 Companies a Year for 5 Years” »


How to boost your Wifi October 3, 2007

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No doubt you’ve got a home wireless network or you’ve connected to hotspots at the local coffee shop or airport—but are you getting the most out of your Wi-Fi? Whether you want to strengthen, extend, bridge, secure, sniff, detect, or obscure your signal, today we’ve got our top 10 best Wi-Fi utilities and tweaks for the power wireless user. Photo by thms.nl.

10. Improve Coverage with Better Placement

While there are several software and hardware hacks for boosting your Wi-Fi signal (see below), there are also a few simple adjustments you can make to an unmodded access point to get the best coverage. The NY Times says:

  • Place the base station centrally on an upper floor, or atop furniture, because radio waves spread best laterally and down
  • Reception will be better if the signal does not have to travel at steep angles and if it doesn’t have to go through thick walls, mirrors, fish tanks or anything metal
  • Place wireless network components far from other devices in the house that can cause interference, like cordless phones, microwave ovens, baby monitors or halogen lamps
  • Change the default signal channnel (usually set to 6) to avoid interference with neighbors’ network devices


Naked Cowboy Average Tips: $1000 in ten hours September 28, 2007

Posted by farshadf in Interesting, NYC.
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It’s hard enough standing on stage, pouring your heart out in front of a sea of strange faces. Try doing it while that sea is floating by (ie, on a street-corner). It takes guts, it takes balls, but, apparently, it also pays off. We checked in with a few of the metropolitan-maestros within walking distance of our office to get their stats. Consider the following as inspiration to get up, get out and do something. Sure, a gig at Madison Square Garden can buy you a mansion, but playing Union Square Station pays pretty good too.

Name: Tripp Dudley
Location: Union Square Park West
Tripp plays his bongo as backup for a tap dancer that refused to give her name. Could have something to do with the dough they’re pulling in.
Average Tips: $75 / hour

Name: The Broken Bottle Band
Location: Washington Square Park
These displaced Hurricane Katrina refugees get by traveling the country as musicians and clowns. Incredibly, when we asked about money, they said they’d “never really counted before going to the liquor store.”
Average Tips: $200 / day

Name: John H.
Location: Herald Square Subway Station
John H. couldn’t give his last name due to “contractual obligations.” He is a professional drummer that uses the street as a “practice space.”
Average Tips: $150 / day


Riding Shotgun on an Apache Gunship September 11, 2007

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riding_shotgun_3.jpgAs if it wasn’t cool enough already to be an Apache pilot, these pictures arrive to make us even more envious. If an Apache is nearby a rescue situation then they will sometimes try to lend a hand – even though they only have two seats. The lucky/unlucky co-pilot has to step outside and sit on the wing stub, to make room for the evacuee. These guys at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo are practicing the move. I imagine that noisy, uncomfortable and fun doesn’t even begin to describe this.