Archive for July, 2006
So we seem to have a few diverging memories on the origin and motivation behind Google Earth. One co-founder says it was Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. One co-founder says it was the famous Powers of Ten flip-book and movie. One of the prime forces behind Google Earth even claims it was the Star Trek tricorder.
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This is one of those geeky things I can’t pass commenting on. Gaze tracking is a very thorny problem and one of the best solutions, IMO, is sensing the muscular activity around the eyes. That seems to be how this works. I’m not sure if it can read all of the muscle groups that move our eyes (some muscles are closer to the nose than the temple), but it may be enough.
I’m hoping to see similar biosensors for arm and leg motion, which have the benefit of sensing movements before we actually make them, perhaps if we only intend to make them, or make them in minute degrees.
So while this eye-gaze apparatus is still bulky, it doesn’t require any mirrors in your line of sight. If they can come up with a comfy hat that knows what you’re looking at, that’s a big part of the problem associated with the "Hippo" technology we were talking about the other day. It could be very useful for games and user interfaces, allowing software to focus in on what you’re naturally focusing in on.
As for other applications, marketers would already probably pay people to wear these full-time to evaluate which ads they look at and what they notice first. It won’t take long.
This, by the way, leads to the inverse problem from eye-tracking. Despite any free will we may posess, once advertisers master the visual programming language of Human Attention, drawing our gaze just so from spot to spot in space with clever graphics and animation, our eye motion will largely be governed by what we see, not what we think. It’ll be as if our eyes are effectively on remote control. So much fun that’ll be. We’ll have no choice but to wear the VR glasses (or contact lenses) to block out the stuff we don’t want to see.
Don’t believe me? Despite individual differences, we all evolved from common ancestors under similar conditions. Visual cues are tuned for hunting, gathering, and recognizing friend from foe. In the movie Minority Report, the ads get your attention by calling your name. Why bother? It’s easier to just flash an image of your mother out of the corner of your eye. Unless you’re aware of the trick, you will always look.
Linguistic cues work much the same way. I could say, "Pick a number from one to four" and 99% of you would give the same answer. Go ahead. Pick a number from one to four. If you want to see what it is, hover your mouse here
But it’s not like anyone ever used the word sex to get your attention…
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Don’t assume that just because your fingerprints are unique, they can’t be copied, storied, or spoofed in your absence. We’re relying on more and more complex security and the best approaches are still the simplest ones: the one time pad is still the best point-to-point security system, effectively reducing the problem to one of physical security for the pads. Any system, like biometrics, that repeatedly uses the same set of data (like your fingerprints) is extremely vulnerable.
Scientists have designed a new system using virtual reality to test the telepathic abilities of human volunteers at the University of Manchester. The only question I have is that if they see a significant effect, how can they be sure it’s telepathy?
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Some people have asked for some more elaboration on where, in my view, the fields of 3D worlds, Virtual Globes, and Social Networking are heading. I’ll share a few off the cuff thoughts. It’s not like I’ve ever thought about this much.
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From the GamePolitics blog:
A Pennsylvania congressman who said that Grand Theft Auto was more likely to be a bad influence on ghetto children than their suburban counterparts feels he has been mistreated by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show.
An article in today’s Chester Daily Local reports that Pitts contends his remarks at the June 14th hearing of the House Subcomittee[sic] on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection were mis-portrayed by Stewart.
During the subcommittee’s period of opening remarks on June 14th, Pitts said, "It’s safe to say that a wealthy kid from the suburbs can play ‘Grand Theft Auto’ without turning to a life of crime, but a poor kid who lives in a neighborhood where people really do shoot cops and steal cars and deal drugs might not be so fortunate. There’s almost certainly a child somewhere in the America who is going to be hurt by this game. Maybe his dad is in jail or his big brother is already down on the corner dealing drugs."
This is an excellent article talking about four different approaches to invisibility being researched in the UK. There is also a show coming up for anyone lucky enough to be there.
The coolest technology is the first one they describe. Right now, it only works for some very exotic materials that can be made transparent using special laser light. Ultimately, it may be possible to have something like a flashlight that makes any target material invisible by causing the atoms the laser hits to allow or even enhance photons passing through, instead of absorbing and re-emitting as they normally do.
This is a hell of a lot more useful than the previous discussion, which could theoretically hide a small object. This could let doctors see inside the human body, let us look for minerals or oil under ground, let us find people trapped in rubble, and search bags or trucks non-invasively. It sounds like the lasers would need to be tuned specially for each kind of material, so exposing underlying layers would be practical, if it worked at all.
Yes, that means clothing too. But don’t get too excited. The target would certainly notice the effect. I’m not sure it makes cloaking practical, since the lasers aren’t exactly hidden. But as a live x-ray technique, it could really be amazing.
Oh, and one side-effect seems to be that light can be slowed as it passes some solid material. If it can be slowed enough, you could imagine something like your hand as a sort of analog video camera that could store images from some time before.
Quite cool stuff. If you get to see the show, let us know how it was.