Friday, November 25, 2016

Apollo software engineer Margaret Hamilton receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

 
 
Amid all the publicity given to the more "famous" people recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom was Margaret Hamilton. She invented the term "software engineer" starting her career as a computer programmer at MIT in the 1960s. In August 1961, NASA issued a contract to MIT to design the Apollo spacecraft's guidance and navigational system. Hamilton presided over the in-flight software group. You can read more about her work on NASA's website.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Real time avatar in Shakespeare's Tempest

The Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on a groundbreaking production of The Tempest in which the sprite Ariel, a central character in the play, is visualised by an avatar driven in real-time by an actor, Mark Quartley. Both the actor and the digital avatar are visible to the audience. As a big Shakespeare fan I'd love to see this performance and I can see how this fusion of technology and acting could be used in other Shakespeare plays; obviously Puck and the fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream and  Banquo's ghost in Macbeth. Ars Technica has an interesting review of the production and you get a behind the scenes look in the video below.



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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

McDonald’s To Open 25,000 Robot-Run Restaurants

It looks inevitable that more and more jobs will be lost to robots in the foreseeable future. With the advent of self-driving vehicles it's clear that many driving jobs are under threat. However, less obvious jobs, like working in fast-food restaurants, are now under threat. McDonald's has recently announced that it plans to open 25,000 robot-run restaurants. Now it's clear that McDonalds has missed its 2016 target, but the threat is still there.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence

The potential danger or threat that AI may pose to society and even humanity itself has been in the news a lot lately. Now, "thanks to an unprecedented £10 million grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the University of Cambridge is to establish a new interdisciplinary research centre, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, to explore the opportunities and challenges of this potentially epoch-making technological development, both short and long term. The Centre brings together computer scientists, philosophers, social scientists and others to examine the technical, practical and philosophical questions artificial intelligence raises for humanity in the coming century.
Human-level intelligence is familiar in biological "hardware" – it happens inside our skulls. Technology and science are now converging on a possible future where similar intelligence can be created in computers. While it is hard to predict when this will happen, some researchers suggest that human-level AI will be created within this century. Freed of biological constraints, such machines might become much more intelligent than humans. What would this mean for us? Stuart Russell, a world-leading AI researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and collaborator on the project, suggests that this would be "the biggest event in human history". Professor Stephen Hawking agrees, saying that "when it eventually does occur, it's likely to be either the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity, so there's huge value in getting it right."




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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

UK Government releases report on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

The UK Government's Science and Technology Committee undertook an inquiry into robotics and artificial intelligence. Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) was one of the "Eight Great Technologies" identified by the UK Government in 2012. The inquiry has now released a report on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence that you can download from the committee's parliamentary website. Dr Tania Mathias, interim Chair of the Committee, said:
"Artificial intelligence has some way to go before we see systems and robots as portrayed in the creative arts such as Star Wars. At present, 'AI machines' have narrow and specific roles, such as in voice-recognition or playing the board game 'Go'. But science fiction is slowly becoming science fact, and robotics and AI look destined to play an increasing role in our lives over the coming decades. It is too soon to set down sector-wide regulations for this nascent field but it is vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal ramifications of artificially intelligent systems begins now."



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Friday, October 14, 2016

Reputational damage

A new phrase for many, "reputational damage", doesn't get much worse than this. Samsung's incendiary Galaxy Note 7  has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Now it appears that according to the Guardian Samsung will be paying Galaxy Note 7 owners to buy competitors phones, including iPhones. It's estimated the Note 7 debacle will cost Samsung $17 billion and that's before "reputational damage is added into the equation. I expect a few Samsung senior execs will be looking for new employment soon.


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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Do you have a Yahoo email account?

It has been revealed that "Yahoo last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information provided by US intelligence officials." It is not known what the "specific Information" is/was. It is believed that this is the first example of a US internet company agreeing to a spy agency's request to search all arriving messages, rather than just examining stored messages or just scanning a targeted few accounts in real time. If this concerns you and you have a Yahoo mail account there are plenty of other options out there. For example, Tutanota provides a free end-to-end encrypted email service along with iOS and Android apps.

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