Microsoft and Barcodes

The Pondering Primate writes:

Microsoft, using a mobile phone, is actually starting to link objects in the physical world, to the Internet.

In the last few months Microsoft has introduced a:
speech recogntion browser
1d barcode scanner
2d barcode scanner
mobile image recognition engine and an
RFID browser

Is Microsoft developing the operating system for the “Internet of Things”?

The Coming Virtual Web

Business Week writes:

The glimmers of a real metaverse are coming into focus. You can see it in the popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft, which is revolutionizing online games with sophisticated graphics and complex team strategy.

Virtual worlds such as There, Entropia Universe, and Second Life let you create avatars, buildings, and even virtual classrooms and businesses. With Google Earth and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Virtual Earth 3-D, you can transcend the map layout and zoom into satellite-mapped locations around the world.

All these developments have one thing in common: They suggest that before long, the Internet of the future, and the vast wealth of information and services on it, will look different: slicker, more realistic, more interactive and social than anything we experience today through the Web browser.

Emerging Technologies

Technology Review picks 10 for 2007: “Some, such as optical antennas and metamaterials, are fundamental technologies that promise to transform multiple areas, from computing to biology. Our reports on peer-to-peer video, personalized medical monitors, and compressive sensing reveal how well-designed algorithms could save the Internet, simplify and improve medical diagnoses, and revamp digital imaging systems in cameras and medical scanners. Nanohealing and quantum-dot solar power demonstrate the potential of nanotechnology to make a concrete difference in our daily lives by changing the way we treat injuries and helping solar energy deliver on its promises. Precise neuron control could help physicians fine-tune treatments for brain disorders such as depression and Parkinson’s disease. And single-cell analysis could not only revolutionize our understanding of basic biological processes but lead directly to predictive tests that could help doctors treat cancers more effectively. Finally, by combining location sensors and advanced visual algorithms with cell phones, mobile augmented reality technology could make it easier to just figure out where we are.”

Metaverse writes:

The Internet in 2016 will be an all-encompassing digital playground where people will be immersed in an always-on flood of digital information, whether wandering through physical spaces or diving into virtual worlds.

That was the general picture painted in a draft report obtained by CNET that summarizes the conclusions of several dozen pundits who met at the first Metaverse Roadmap Summit last May to prognosticate the “pathway to the 3D Web.”

Within 10 years, the report suggests, people may wear glasses that record everything around them. They will likely see little distinction between their real-world social lives and their interactions in digital, 3D virtual worlds. And they’ll increasingly turn to services like an enhanced Google Earth that are able to present data on what’s happening anywhere, at any time, as it unfolds.

Vinod Khosla’s Clean Tech Companies

Paul Kedrosky has a list, via TheDeal.

1) Cellulosic – Mascoma, Celunol, Range Fuels, 1 stealth startup

2) Future Fuels – LS9, Gevo, Amyris Biotechnologies, Coskata Energy

3) Efficiency – Transonic Combustion, GroupIV Semiconductor, 1 stealth startup

4) Homes – Living Homes, Global Homes

5) Natural Gas – Great Point Energy

6) Solar – Stion, Ausra

7) Tools – Nanostellar, Codon Devices, Praj

8) Water – 2 stealth startup

9) Plastic – Segetis, 1 stealth startup

10) Corn/Sugar Fuels – Altra, Cilion, Hawaii Bio

Powercast for Mobile Charging

Business 2.0 writes:

Powercast and its first major partner, electronics giant Philips, are set to launch their first device powered by electricity broadcast through the air.

It may sound futuristic, but Powercast’s platform uses nothing more complex than a radio–and is cheap enough for just about any company to incorporate into a product. A transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device. The receiver turns radio waves into DC electricity, recharging the device’s battery at a distance of up to 3 feet.

VC Predictions

InfoWorld writes:

In what has become an annual Silicon Valley ritual, leading venture capitalists have made their predictions about which technologies will thrive and which will take a dive in the near future.

The iPhone will be a hit, but not world changing. The hot Web 2.0 market will cool, or it may keep bubbling. There wasn’t always consensus.

The coming iPhone from Apple, a combination cellphone, music or video player, and Web device, is going to be popular but there is some debate about whether it will dominate the mobile market or just help sales of all device makers.

Other predictions debated by the VCs ranged from green technology to the movement of media content and ad revenue online to advancements in biotechnology.

Barcodes and Mobiles

The New York Times writes:

In their new incarnation, cellphones become a sort of digital remote control, as one CBS executive put it. With a wave, the phone can read encoded information on everyday objects and translate that into videos, pictures or text files on its screen.

The most promising way to link cellphones with physical objects is a new generation of bar codes: square-shaped mosaics of black and white boxes that can hold much more information than traditional bar codes. The cameras on cellphones scan the codes, and then the codes are translated into videos, music or text on the phone screens.

Numenta and AI

Read/Write Web writes:

Jeff Hawkins made a name for himself in the tech industry as the founder of Palm Computing and inventor of the Palm Pilot. He later founded Handspring, where he invented the Treo. If you were a fan of his work then, you are going to love what Jeff is up to now. He is currently pursuing his life-long passions, neuroscience and intelligence. His latest work made quite a splash a few years ago when he published On Intelligence. In this thin volume Jeff Hawkins elegantly summarized his theory of how the brain gave rise to intelligence. Disputing conventional wisdom that the brain is complex, or that intelligence is inseparable from other human qualities such as emotions, Jeff put forward a proof that human intelligence is a function of the neocortex and that it is temporal in nature.

To prove his theory, Jeff founded Numenta – a company dedicated to developing algorithms and software based on the ideas put forward in the book. This spring Numenta released its first product, an experimental software aimed at researchers and advanced developers which embodies the algorithms and techniques pioneered by Jeff and his crew. Numenta is presenting here at ETech today and so it’s a great opportunity to familiarize you with these exciting new developments. Has the age of Artificial Intelligence arrived?

Mark Anderson Talk

Stephen Johnston writes about a talk Mark Anderson of SNS delivered at Nokia:

Mark’s 2007 Predictions
1. ePhones: Phones will be used to pay for things
Japan already does this. Nokia has been testing this for years.
“Carriers have been the bottleneck” – but why wouldn’t carriers do this. Qualcomm are investing in startup payments. Carriers are changing their mind about this.
Many technologies, but security clearly the main issue. Authentication is required.

2. Authentication everywhere.
ID theft is so important, that authentication will be required everywhere. Biometric will be big. Voice is one idea, would be great if it does work. Phones could have a bio swipe, and reduce theft – it costs about $9 to install. Could do this in conjunction with insurance companies – never worry about phones being stolen. This then would allow the phone to be used in conjunction with keys for phones. “Phone” is not the right term for what this is – it communicates more with systems than people. 50% increase in data.

Motion Capture Technology

Business Week writes:

Motion capture is starting to transform how businesses market their products as well as design and manufacture them. This spring the Las Vegas McCarren International Airport will set up large plasma screens with a motion- tracking component that lets advertisers bring pedestrians into their commercials. When you walk past a car ad, for example, the vehicle might move at the same speed you’re walking. When you turn to look at the driver, he’ll turn to look at you, and you’ll be staring into an image of your own face. Dozens of blue-chip aerospace, auto, and heavy-equipment makers, from Lockheed Martin to BMW to Caterpillar already use motion tracking to let workers collaborate in shared virtual environments, sometimes when they are thousands of miles apart. Together they can test the ergonomics of a design for a car or a plane. “Any company that creates a product used by people needs to understand how the human body moves,” says Iek van Cruyningen, head of securities at Libertas Capital Group, a specialist investment bank. “Motion-tracking systems and virtual simulations accelerate product development and boost productivity.”

Ubiquitous Computing

Tali Aben writes about a discussion at Com.Venture 2007:

# “Ubiquitous computing is about access everywhere/anytime and multiple access devices – its not just computing.
# Wi-Fi enabled cellphones will be huge
# Business models are changing rapidly, with advertising-funded models expected to make it easier for users to access content cheaper
# Ubiquitous also means that users will access content from different places, and business models will have to become contextual. Accessing the same information within a different context will be billed differently.
# Service providers will have to shift the business model from selling access to selling content.

Brain-controlled Games

The Economist writes: “How would you like to rearrange the famous sarsens of Stonehenge just by thinking about it? Or improve your virtual golf by focusing your attention on the ball for a few moments before taking your next putt on the green-on-the-screen? Those are the promises of, respectively, Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky, two young companies based in California, that plan to transport the measurement of brain waves from the medical sphere into the realm of computer games. If all goes well, their first products should be on the market next year. People will then be able to tell a computer what they want it to do just by thinking about it. Tedious fiddling about with mice and joysticks will become irritants of the past…Controlling things by mere thought is a staple of science fiction. That fiction, though, is often based on a real technique known as electroencephalography (EEG). This works by deploying an array of electrodes over a person’s scalp and recording surface manifestations of the electrical activity going on under his skull.”

Energy Startups in Silicon Valley

The New York Times writes:

The best and the brightest from leading business schools are pelting energy start-ups with rsums. And, of course, there are entrepreneurs from all backgrounds — but especially former dot-commers — who express a sense of wonder and purpose at the thought of transforming the $1 trillion domestic energy market while saving the planet.

The energy boomlet is part of a broader rebound that is benefiting all kinds of start-ups, including plenty that are focused on the Web. But for many in Silicon Valley, high tech has given way to clean tech, the shorthand term for innovations that are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Less fashionable is green, a word that suggests a greater interest in the environment than in profit.

Web’s Future

The Economist writes about what Tim Berners-Lee thinks:

Although he is somewhat sceptical of the hype around Web 2.0, Sir Tim is excited by three other areas of the web’s development: its spread to millions of new users via mobile devices, the growing interest in the technology’s social and political impact and the semantic web, in which information is labelled so that it makes sense to machines as well as people. If you look at the number of internet-capable mobile phones, PDAs and so on, they are rapidly outnumbering the things we think of as computers, he says. As the price of these devices falls, large parts of the developing world will get web access. When you have a large mass of new users, you will get many new applications, written by people with other needs.

Numenta’s Thinking Computer

Wired writes:

Jeff Hawkins believes that his program, combined with the ever-faster computational power of digital processors, will also be able to solve massively complex problems by treating them just as an infants brain treats the world: as a stream of new sensory data to interpret. Feed information from an electrical power network into Numentas system and it builds its own virtual model of how that network operates. And just as a child learns that a glass dropped on concrete will break, the system learns to predict how that network will fail. In a few years, Hawkins boasts, such systems could capture the subtleties of everything from the stock market to the weather in a way that computers now cant.

Numenta is close to issuing a research release of its platform, which has three main components: the core problem-solving engine, which works sort of like an operating system based on Hawkins theory of the cortex; a set of open source software tools; and the code for the learning algorithms themselves, which users can alter as long as they make their creations available to others. Numenta will earn its money by owning and licensing the basic platform, and Hawkins hopes a new industry will grow up around it, with companies customizing and reselling the intelligence in unexpected and dazzling ways. To Hawkins, the idea that were born knowing nothing leads to a technology that will be vastly more important than his Palm or Treo and perhaps as lucrative.

Green Computing

The Economist writes about three technological fixes to reduce data centre power consumption:

The first is new multi-core processor chips, in which performance is improved not by increasing clock speed, but by building several processing engines, or cores, into each chipa far more energy-efficient approach.

The second fix comes from using more efficient power supplies. At the moment, data centres perform many conversions between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). This wastes energy, which is emitted as heat and increases the need for cooling. It would be far more efficient to power servers directly from a central DC supply.

The third fix is the more careful use of cooling systems. HP, for example, has devised a scheme called Dynamic Smart Cooling, which links temperature sensors installed on servers to air-conditioners so that blasts of cool air can be directed towards particular servers only when needed.

Personal Supercomputers

Technology Review writes:

[Recently], Intel announced a research project that made geeks jump with glee: the first programmable “terascale” supercomputer on a chip. The company demonstrated a single chip with 80 cores, or processors, and showed that these cores could be programmed to crunch numbers at the rate of a trillion operations per second, a measure known as a teraflop. The chip is about the size of a large postage stamp, but it has the same calculation speed as a supercomputer that, in 1996, took up about 2,000 square feet and drew about 1,000 times more power.

This research chip is one of Intel’s first steps toward massively multicore technology, says Nitin Borkar, engineering manager and lab project head at Intel. The goal, he says, is to use this chip to test techniques that could make massively multicore technology faster, more energy efficient, and, most daunting, easy to program. These techniques will be “funneled into future products” that could appear, if all goes well, within five to ten years.

Researchers and visionaries are already thinking about how these supercomputer chips can best be used. Intel thinks that recognition, mining, and synthesis (RMS) applications will be key. Put together, these technologies could allow real-time language translation via cell phones, real-time video search by spoken phrase or image, and better recommendation systems for shopping, meal planning, and even health care.

Broadband over Power Lines writes about a roundtable at the Wharton Technology Conference:

Lesson 4: Broadband over powerline technology needs evangelists. Current has two large customers, Duke Energy and TXU, and it will need those partners to convince other utilities to follow suit.

Lesson 5: Success is a slog. Translation: Don’t expect broadband over powerlines any time soon. Current had to face regulatory hurdles and is targeting broadband services market by market, says Herron. There is no number of customers that will create a snowball effect right now although Current will need more than TXU and Duke on board.

The Future

Brenda Cooper asks if we should be optimistic:

As a people, were not very sure about tomorrow. We worry about what we will leave our kids. Deficits. Dangers inherent in genetic engineering (of people and food). Global warming. Pollution. I could make a bigger list, but we all know the bogeymen of today, and we all know some are real. We even know yesterdays fears (such as nuclear proliferation and eventual war) are still partly untamed. Our famous scientists (like Stephen Hawking) talk about the need to flee before we destroy our home. So were at least a little afraid of the future.

Being afraid of the future will help make it better. It keeps us cautious. The things we have today that make the world small (the internet, the light of accountability) may help keep it safe. Knowledge in growing, and so is access to knowledge. In the past, as knowledge shone on various civilizations, they generally got better. Recently, knowledge and education have helped third world countries develop stronger economies and more social equalities. Indias rise is at least partly related to a commitment to education. Education is one of the biggest tools in the fight against AIDS. Im willing to bet connectivity and knowledge will continue to create better places and lives. So my hope no better than that, my expectation is that the future will be better than today. There is reason for optimism to temper our fear and lift our hearts.