Friday, September 16, 2011

Adapting to the iPad, called education's 'equalizer'

Image source: USA Today

Well-designed interfaces can open the world to people.
"The 18-year-old is a quadriplegic with multiple disabilities that make speech and muscle control extremely difficult. He interacts through eye gaze or by tapping his head against a switch on a communication device to spell out words.
But on a recent afternoon at the Lehmann Center, a special-needs school in Lakewood, N.J., Leuck was able to make music. With some effort, he slid his knuckles lightly over the digital image of a guitar on an iPad screen. The touches produced a series of acoustic-style chords from the iPad — and a big grin from Leuck."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

IBM's Doctor Watson?

"IBM's supercomputer system, best known for trouncing the world's best "Jeopardy!" players on TV, is being tapped by one of the largest U.S. health insurers to help diagnose medical problems and authorize treatments.
WellPoint Inc., which has 34.2 million members, will integrate Watson's lightning speed and deep health care database into its existing patient information, helping it choose among treatment options and medicines."
The WellPoint application will combine data from three sources: a patient's chart and electronic records that a doctor or hospital has, the insurance company's history of medicines and treatments, and Watson's huge library of textbooks and medical journals.
IBM says the computer can then sift through it all and answer a question in moments, providing several possible diagnoses or treatments, ranked in order of the computer's confidence, along with the basis for its answer.
Previously IBM developed Deep Blue, "a massively parallel computer, to be applied to the study of biomolecular phenomena such as protein folding."

Robocleaners, tweeting appliances in the home of tomorrow

Image Source:
"Ever wondered what your home might look like in 10 years' time? Will it be cleaned by robots and run by computers? Will your fridge go online to allow you to discuss dinner plans with your spouse or instruct it to do the shopping?"
"If the technology giants exhibiting their latest wares at the recent IFA trade fair in Berlin are to be believed, this is what life could be like. The technology exists, even if some of the products have so far only been launched in places like Korea, one of the world's leading consumer electronics markets."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Smart credit cards coming

"The United States is the only developed country still hanging on to credit and debit cards with those black magnetic stripes, the kind you swipe through retail terminals. The rest of the industrialized world has switched —or is in the process of switching— to "smart" chip-based cards.
"The problem with that black magnetic stripe on the back of your credit card is that it's about as secure as writing your account information on a postcard: everything is in the clear and can be copied. Card fraud, and the measures taken to prevent it, costs U.S. merchants, banks and consumers billions each year.
The smart cards can't be copied, which greatly reduces the potential for fraud. Smart cards with built-in chips are the equivalent of a safe: they can hide information so it can only be unlocked with the right key. Because the important information is hidden, the cards can't be replicated."
 This seems to be an example where being technologically advanced stands in the way of technological advancement. Countries that adopt technologies early go on to build infrastructure to support that technology. Then when new technologies come along, there is an inertia to stick with the existing technology. Something similar has happened in many developing countries -- land line telephones have been completely bypassed, with a majority of the population going from no phone to a cell phone in a relatively short time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 years after 9/11, cyberattacks pose national threat

From Computerworld
"...catastrophic cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure targets are not a mere theoretical threat."

"This is not science fiction," the NSPG said in its report. "It is possible to take down cyber systems and trigger cascading disruptions and damage. Defending the U.S. against such attacks must be an urgent priority."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Self-directed microspider could repair blood vessels

Image Source:
From New Scientist

I remember watching Fantastic Voyage as a kid and wondering if I would some day have tiny machines navigating through my bloodstream, repairing damage and keeping me healthy. Researchers at Penn State are working on it...
"A new spider-like micromachine could swim through a person's blood vessels, healing damaged areas and delivering drugs as it goes.

Ayusman Sen of Pennsylvania State University in University Park and his colleagues have created the self-propelling microspiders using spheres less than a micrometre wide. Each sphere is made up of two halves – one hemisphere is gold, the other silica – and looks like a gold-and-silver Christmas bauble."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Google announces Dart programming language

From ExtremeTech

On the programming languages front.
"A few days after Google was caught registering a bunch of Dart-related domain names, and the inevitable storm of speculation, it has now emerged that Dart is a new programming language for “structured web programming."

"With the “structured web programming” moniker, it’s also likely to be some kind of interpreted, in-the-browser language — so more like JavaScript or Python, and less like Java or other compiled languages. One of the biggest hints, though, is that both Bracha and Bak have worked extensively with Smalltalk in the past — and an interpreted Smalltalkesque language would fit right into the “structured web programming” mold, too."