October 2003 Archives
Getting on well with SitePal's virtual assistant. You can now get her to read any RSS feed (although only the first 500 characters). Check it out on my Halo page.
OK this really is more like it. Sitepal lets you create an animated face that lipsyncs to an audio or TTS file. Put an AI engine behind it (which they also provide) and virtual agents are just about there. Watch out for some experiments here shortly (VA blogs anyone). You can check out the basic agent and my latest work on my home page.
Picked up the latest copy of Shirow's Ghost In The Shell 2:Man Machine Interface manga. Good article in the back on "Exploring the Posthuman through Science Fiction". The article itself came from the site BetterHumans - which looks like it could be a great source of near-future science and ethics views.
Wi-Fi access progressing nicely. Happily logged in from Caffe Nero in Charing Cross on Surfandsip. At £5 a day its a lot better deal than BT (£5 an hour).
Can't believe I haven't posted about this AMV (anime music video) since I've been showing it to almost everyone I meet ( having it run on the Palm Tungsten is definitely cool ). Quite simply the best AMV I've seen, the superb Avril Lavinge song played against some stunning CGI graphics from the cutaway scenes from Final Fantasy X. Add to which Yuna just looks so good she's worth any entry in my Girl Fridays list. The video's by Cass Morgan by the way.
The Guardian reports on the annual Loebner chatbot contest - basically a version of the Turing test, where people typing at a computer try and work out of they are talking to a program or a human. None of the chatbots beat a human this time. The chatbots in contest were:
Jabberwock won this year, and Alice has one twice before.
Couple of interesting snippets from the Robert Winston Human Mind programme:
- A new born baby has many more (50%) neurons than an adult, coding functions that are no longer used and are "lost" as the baby grows up - eg recognising monkey faces (?). Things like synathstesia are functions that are normally lost, but in some people persist into adulthood.
- We have mirror neurons that fire in reaction to watching someone else move, so giving us a sense of feeling what the other person is doing.
Want to start capturing a list of what I'm reading and posting to the currently consumed slot. Latest at top.
Altered Carbon - Richard Morgan **** 1/2
Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson ***
Software - Rudy Rucker *
Automated Alice - Jeff Noon***
All Tomorrows Parties - William Gibson ****
Pattern Recognition - William Gibson ***** (but a poor ending)
Dead Air - Iain Banks **
* = atrocious
** = poor
*** = ok
**** = good
***** = superb
Reading Digital Homes came across HRP-2, one of the latest Japanese bi-pedal robots - good review site at here. HRP-2 is focussed on manual work rather than domesticity and has been used to operate mechanical diggers and the like.
HRP-2 also comes in a Transformer guise looking like a real Japanese manga robot.
Good photo of the various robots at Robodex 2003.
China launched their first astronaut (or taikonaut) or yuhang yuan today. A guy called Yang Liwei was launched in a Shenzhou capsule (based on the Soyuz) atop a Long March rocket. Speculation is that by 2008 (when the Olympcs come to Beijing) they could have a manned orbital station. A trip to the moon has also been talked about. Looks like they'll overtake the Russians with ease. Watch out America?
For ages I've been trying to find where this piece of poetry comes from. It's said by Diana Rigg in On her Majesty's Secret Service as she looks out of the window of Piz Gloria at the sun rising over the alps - and with the incoming helicopters approaching.
Thy dawn, O Master of the World, thy dawn;
For thee the sunlight creeps across the lawn,
For thee the ships are drawn down to the waves,
For thee the markets throng with myriad slaves,
For thee the hammer on the anvil rings,
For thee the poet of beguilement sings.
I even wrote the opening line in the book on the top of Kilimanajaro as the sun rose.
I've finally found the source, courtesy of an excellent Bond/OMHSS site. It's derived from a play by James Elroy Flecker called The Story of Hassan of Bagdad and How He Came to Make the Golden Journey to Samarkand. A quick trip to Project Gutenburg provided the original text:
It is the Caliph's dawn.
Thy dawn, O Master!
Thy dawn, O Master of the world, thy dawn;
The hour the lilies open on the lawn,
The hour the grey wings pass beyond the mountains,
The hour of silence, when we hear the fountains,
The hour that dreams are brighter and winds colder,
The hour that young love wakes on a white shoulder,
O Master of the world, the Persian Dawn.
That hour, O Master, shall be bright for thee:
Thy merchants chase the morning down the sea,
The braves who fight thy war unsheathe the sabre,
The slaves who work thy mines are lashed to labour,
For thee the waggons of the world are drawn--
The ebony of night, the red of dawn!
GCCS, nicknamed Geeks, is the network that the US Army used to fight Gulf War 2. It runs over Siprnet - the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network - their secure Internet. The Warfighting Web is the Intranet type app that runs on it and acts as a knowledge app for all intel. They also make use of Microsoft chat for real time situation analysis between the front line and the HQs. All courtesy of 11th Signal Brigade and Wired.
Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) have been getting a lot of press recently. Basically they are a stepping stone to Nanotech, but operate at the micron level rather than the nano/atomic level. The MEMS Exchange has some good background, and DARPA has an interesting list of military projects. Wired also had a good write up on smart-dust.
Birmingham played host to the IEEs Eurowearable 03 conference looking at wearable computing.