Category Archives: Fun Stuff

VIRTUALLY HUMAN

I love as much as the next person donning a head set and immersing myself in a world of fantasy where I can fly around on my very own dragon and slay my enemies, an experience that envelops my physical and sensory powers, transporting me to a space and time beyond my real identity.

But this is fast becoming just a norm, scary? Maybe… maybe not.

VR is winning over on mere fiction; it challenges the mind, it challenges the perception of reality, I guess you could say therefore that it challenges mankind.

Another technology that I love working with is Artificial Intelligence, the only thing I can imagine more exciting than either VR or AI, is the two working together.

AI is the science of making intelligent machines or programs based on algorithms derived from understanding the cognitive ability of the human brain but not limited to biology. Once taught, these machines can be scripted and controlled, but more exciting they can become autonomous.

We’re not quite at the stage where we characterize what kind of computer procedures we want to call intelligent, but they lean towards those that are maybe less mechanical, or less engineered, i.e. prompted by emotion.

Human IQ is the measure at which human intelligence develops based on; speed, short-term memory and the accuracy of long-term memory. AI is arguably the reverse; programs have plenty of memory and speed but their abilities correspond to inputs and commands.

To this end, currently most work involving AI involves studying the challenges the world puts to our intelligence in order to solve them at an improved return on speed or money, but if we were to combine a world created virtually along with the abilities of AI, then surely we could create a new theorized knowledge source; a new perspective… a new reality.

Information is at our fingertips, the likes of Google sorted that one for us, but new insight, new knowledge, that is far more interesting. So if we could create worlds that anticipated situations of the future and then input artificial intelligence into it, then in this parallel universe we could create a new perception, a new reasoning.

Technology is powerful in the hands of humans, if we enhance that artificially then the virtual world could be our new oyster.

Cyborg Head

Now, where did I leave my Dragon..?

 

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Give a girl the right shoes…

I live in a rapidly evolving world where cars can drive themselves, robots can run warehouses and drones can deliver our parcels. A world where virtual reality blends with real reality (the re substantiation of mere ‘reality’) and I can get anything I want, whenever and wherever I want it, in the palm of my hand, so why do my new shoes still give me blisters?

A friend of mine lost a limb, on his road to recovery I’ve got to know him in a very different light this last year, where many would have turned inside themselves and got lost in remorse and pity, he embraced modern technology and now has a pretty cool prosthetic limb. He’s as strong as before, as balanced as he ever was and he argues, able to endure more than his human limb previously allowed him to.

This got me thinking about the tech available that could be used for solving every day irritations (not that I’m comparing blisters from new shoes to wearing a prosthetic limb!) but we could adapt the thinking…

Why not develop shoes with materials that are electronically charged, materials that transform from being soft to hardy through electro static charges? What about exo-skeletal hiking boots that enhance our ability to scale mountains like gazelles?!

Imagine shoes that transform to your feet, imagine dancing the night away, foot loose and blister free.

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world!

ruby slippers

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In the beginning

We simply had our imaginations.

Then Thomas T Goldsmith Jr and Estle Ray Mann came along with the first interactive game, the ‘Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device’, developed in 1947, renowned for their simulation skills and not their wordsmithing, you’ll be glad to know.

Soon after, we saw a burst of simple interactive programs such as; ‘Mouse in the Maze’, ‘Bertie the Brain’ and Alan Turing’s ‘Chess’ capable of computing two way problems but not complex algorithms. This was shortly followed by ‘Spacewar’ in 1962; a two-player game where you try and destroy each other’s starship… arguably the first true video game, it took around 200 hours to code and was done by some students at MIT.

Where am I going with this?

Well, if we fast forward through the Odyssey’s and the varying intergalactic games to the Atari release of ‘Adventure’ in 1980 where we saw text adventure visualised, albeit crudely, in a plethora of dragons, monsters and sword slaying, through to the help of RAM and better joysticks into the world of Sega Dreamcast and NES where imaginary friends like Sonic and the Super Mario Bros helped us through the 90’s and into today, you’ll see my ramblings are leading to a pertinent question…

In a world where we now have technology that scans brain activity to read our minds, technology that creates worlds that don’t exist and technology that maps us to our surrounding climate, how long before we live in our imaginations, in a virtually real world.

Or, what if I’m already living in it and the world we think we live in is actually virtually imagined.

Wait, what…?Living inside my head

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vroooomshhhh

This weekend sees the 65th season of the F1 championship roar into action at Australia’s Albert Park, Melbourne.

Eleven teams and twenty-two drivers will see in the all-new V6 engine that now incorporates the Energy Recovery System (ERS) into it’s build.

Coming to the circuit to defend his championship will be Vettel in the rather sleek looking RB10 which holds the Renault engine, and as leaders in the EV field, it will be interesting to see how Adrian Newey’s latest design, built around the new ERS, turbo charger and two MGU’s (Motor Generating Units) will hold up…

So, with testing finished and all eyes and ears awaiting the 16th, I’m waiting to see how we will all feel about the new quieter F1.

If nothing else, the pit crews will have to keep their eyes open.

 

The RB10

The RB10

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My Dad is a microwave blender

The only real reason that robots haven’t replaced us yet is simply that robotic engineers can’t program all the knowledge currently required into a robot quick enough. As humans we adapt and learn every second of every day, therefore the sheer magnitude of possibilities a human brain provides excels any manufactured equivalent to date.

What we have seen though is that once configured, current robots in use are quicker, more efficient and less prone to accident. Amazon already have factories with considerably less error where robots are deployed, some Governments are looking to introduce drone delivery systems and Google have tested their automated car in Nevada for over a year and the only accidents recorded happened when a human overrode the system.

And to top that, at the end of last year there was a break through in how robots acquire their knowledge; they can adapt and learn through validated paths that process the human language by understanding how to identify speech patterns, therefore replicating how the brain connects from the frontal cortex to the striatum.

With these developments engineers predict artificial intelligence and robots will replace humans in the next 10 years, and by 2050 robots will be a part of our every day life. Gets you thinking doesn’t it?

To end on a lighter note though, I’d like to share a poem I love by one of my favorite non-robots, Tim Burton:

“Mr. Smith yelled at the doctor,
What have you done to my boy?
He’s not flesh and blood,
he’s aluminum alloy!”
The doctor said gently,
What I’m going to say
will sound pretty wild.
But you’re not the father
of this strange looking child.
You see, there still is some question
about the child’s gender,
but we think that its father
is a microwave blender.”

Tim BurtonThe Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories

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Facebook is nearly as popular as Hinduism

I overheard my colleague talking about world plagues earlier; particularly morbid, even for a Monday morning. Turns out he was looking at an infographic that summarises ‘Big Numbers’… it’s really quite interesting.

Did you know that Facebook is now 600,000,000 people strong? That’s 30.5% of the internet population and almost half the size of China. The internet population stands at a whopping 1,967,000,000 (28.5% of the global population).

Facebook still has another 300,000,000 to acquire though before it can match Hinduism and a further 400,000,000 in addition to that, before matching Atheism. Read into that what you will.

Fascinating looking at the bigger picture; here’s the link if you want to check it out for yourself…

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A confession

I have a fairly solid understanding of all things digital, ask me a strategic question around marketing channels for various business objectives and I’ll be able to give you a fairly sound piece of advice or opinion based on insights and learnings from years of experience. Ask me about implementing that strategy and I can give you a break down on the fly of key considerations. Ask me to analyse the risks and I can outline these for you based upon the many times I’ve got things wrong and learned from it.

Ask me to do something technical like ‘make a laptop work’ and that is another thing entirely. Ask just about anyone I work with, I am the closet blonde in the office, sensible on the outside and technically illiterate on the inside (says something in an office with over 500 people).

The proof was in my ‘faux pas’ this morning when I managed to change every single piece of software on my laptop to be operating from within Picture Viewer. That’s special isn’t it? It managed to evoke the following quip:

‘In the 12 years I’ve worked in IT I’ve never seen this done! That is quite an achievement.’

From my Knight in shining armour, Andy, who came to save the day (again).

I’m so proud of this achievement I just felt I had to share it with you.

I’ll be back soon with something more insightful…

 

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The Snaggletooth Splat; a book for brainstrust

This is the most exciting thing I’ve worked on in the last year, not only is it for a great cause but I got to work with some exceptionally talented people and friends. Winner all round.

It’s also my first published piece (eek) so I’m doubly proud to be working with brainstrust on it. brainstrust is a UK-based brain cancer charity, dedicated to improving clinical care for brain tumour sufferers and providing coordinated support in their search for treatment.

I remember the afternoon the idea first came to light, Will (Communications and Development person at brainstrust) and I were having a pint at our local and he was talking about the brainbox that they were launching, a tool-box shaped ‘brain box’ containing a number of essential things to help brain tumour patients and their carers such as: A brain book, A ‘Have You Lost Your Way?’ booklet, A copy of the ‘Living with a Brain Tumour’ book and A pill-box… all amazing stuff but we felt that was something more we could do for children.

It was at this point we thought it a great idea to write this book which would be designed to explain to children who have just been diagnosed with brain cancer, what a brain tumour is and how the doctors and their carers will fight it and provide brain tumour support.

And so the Snaggletooth Splat was born.

I got to collaborate with Jase, an amazing illustrator (check out his blog here), to whom I am so grateful for bringing the words to life, and also with Andy Lodge who helped get the final product through print and thanks also to Chris Leah for the shots (below). You can read more about it and learn more about brainstrust here.

It’s been a real pleasure and I look forward to working with these guys more.

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When robots rule the world…

Not long after inventing the wheel man has had an increasing fascination for passing on our menial laborious tasks to anyone or thing other than ourselves. Once slavery was abolished through society in the early millennia attentions were turned to develop mechanical solutions instead. Man tried to play God.

To some degree man succeeded. By creating complex mechanisms and systems capable of performing repetitive arduous tasks; from the first water pumps, the first locomotive and in today’s vast technologically glorious world just about everything.

The last year has seen robots being engineered that can help teach children who have suffered from brain damage to walk again, the KASPAR Robot W/RoboSkin teaches autistic kids interaction, we’ve seen prototypes teach children in schools (in fact this blog caught my eye; Will teachers be replaced by computers?) and at Cambridge University they have developed a machine that can analyse millions of papers in an infinitely shorter period of time than any human can ever expect to achieve.

But where will it stop? Developing technology to aid us in our daily work seems a fantastic idea, but how long before we are entirely replaced by a robotic army?

Somewhere in the US robots have been created to be self-sufficient. Powered by microbial fuel cells, they are programmed with a survival instinct which pre-programs them to prey on all sorts of creepy crawlies and small rodents which they then digest to provide themselves with power.

A group of robotics researchers across Europe are working on a project to ascertain whether humanoid bots are able to interact with groups of people in a realistic, anthropomorphic way. They’ve built algorithms that will enable the bots to mimic human actions and emotions. Think about that for a second; if that works we are talking about human looking robots that have adept social skills. Can you imagine them in a room deciphering a conversation from all the background noise and music?

And if that wasn’t enough the future science historians themselves have marked the beginning of the 21st century for the era when robots will take their place beside human scientists.

It’s all quite mind-boggling when you think about it. I remember watching ‘I Robot’ when it came out (admittedly mainly for the Mr Smith eye candy) but realistically, a human and humanoid mixed world could be just around the corner…

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cor blimey guvner

Now that I’m working for a London agency I’ve been practising my rhyming slang in order to localise my talents.

It’s taking a while as cockneys tend to talk at breakneck speed and generally lay on a thick rather loud accent however, I thought I’d share my newly developed wisdom with you in the event that you may one day need to switch to being a dab hand cockney next time you’re coordinating a meeting with a suvner…

So…

Lesson 1

‘Can we have a team meeting to talk through the presentation ahead of tomorrow please?’

Translates into:

‘Awright geeezzaa! gok wan we ‘ave a team meetin’ ter charlie chalk fruff da presentashun ahead ov tomorrow please? Sorted mate’

Lesson 2

‘Please would you order a suitably posh lunch for an important client to arrive for noon in the boardroom tomorrow? Thank you.’

This took a while to understand but what I should really be asking is:

‘Blimey! ‘Bell Cheese (I spluttered slightly at this point) would you order a suitably posh brady bunch fer an impawtan’ clien’ ter arrive fer noon in da boardroom tomorrow? Thank you.’. Nuff said, yeah?’

And lastly, but I find most importantly when you’re new to a team…

Lesson 3

‘Would anybody like a cup of tea and a scone?’

This one I definitely need to get right:

‘Blimey! Would anybody like a cup ov bertie mee an’ a scone? Nuff said, yeah?’

I’m sure there’ll be more to follow, for now I’m going practise my accent and then I’m michael owen ferbrady bunch wiv a couple ov da diamonds and pearls, innit.

Laters!

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