The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

XPrize for the automated creation of TED Talks

analytics.pngThe TED Conference announced an Artificial Intelligence XPRIZE today. The goal of TED curator Chris Andersen and Peter Diamandis, founder of the X PRIZE foundation, is to have an AI capable of giving a TED talk “so compelling  that it commands a standing ovation from... the audience.”


If this interests you, they are asking for your help in setting up the rules – see the on-line A.I. Xprize Ideas form.


I’ve mentioned before the automation of knowledge worker activities, the likely decline of middle management as we know it and how even artistic endeavors can at least be supplemented with automation. Maybe the results of this XPrize will make the boring corporate presentation obsolete

Man or Machine interview by Ray Kurzweil

I’ve mentioned in a few posts about the shift in computing capabilities and how that will change what humans may be focused on in the future and if there will be a day when computers have all the answers.


In an interview covering a few similar areas, Ray Kurzweil and The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray discussed advances in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and what it means to be human. Ray is always a bit optimistic in his view of the future, but I’d rather be actively optimistic than passively caught by surprise.

Man Made Mind

man made mind.pngOne of the things I studied in college was semiconductor manufacturing, so the whole concept of Memristors I find fascinating. I also spent some time in an AI group that EDS had back in the early 90s where we did some interesting work. This teams motto was “Make it real, make it work”


Both of these areas intersected in an IEEE Spectrum article titled Mind Made from Memristors about a memristor-based approach to Artificial Intelligence. It is a fairly long article, and talks about the history of AI activities as well as the hurdles for any project to emulate a working animal brain.


The article focuses a brain-inspired microprocessor under development at HP Labs in California and MoNETA (Modular Neural Exploring Traveling Agent) software being created at Boston University's department of cognitive and neural systems that will run on it. MoNETA (the goddess of memory) will

“perceive its surroundings, decide which information is useful, integrate that information into the emerging structure of its reality, and in some applications, formulate plans that will ensure its survival.”


This sounds more like how animals behave than computers. As this area matures it should help to offload the “normal” issues faced in a business and allow for people to focus on areas that need their creativity. That’s likely a long time off though, since this new approach is embryonic.

Robot learns by doing

Training a robot to do a task has always been one of the hardest aspects of automation. This article titled Ping Pong Robot Learns by Doing shows some advancements that are being made, allowing the robot to learn by being led through an action and watching what is going on in the environment.


In the video it shows a student taking their robot "by the hand" and teaching it motor skills needed for three tasks: paddle a ball on a string, play the ball-in-a-cup game, and hit a ping pong ball.



This is much closer to the way animals or people learn. The one thing I am left to wonder about though is if we actually “know” what was learned vs. how it is behaving.  So that if some unusual environmental factor comes into play and it behaves in some totally unexpected fashion. It definitely is an exciting space of research.

When does a fad just become part of reality?

Recently there have been a number of blog posts again that have been talking about the death of SOA (again!). As I look around, the death of SOA discussions started way back in January of last year. Back when we were starting this blog, I did a number of entries around service oriented architectures - but that was half a decade ago. Sure there were some fad-like tendencies around SOA just like there are around Cloud. I'd state that SOA was a pre-requisite for cloud to move beyond IaaS.

It does remind me of a situation back when I was at a large non-US government client in the late-90s who said "What about that whole object oriented buzz a few years back, whatever became of that." In that case, it was that OO was so omnipresent that it was indistinguishable in the technology they were using. It was just part of the way things were. I believe SOA has entering that same situation. The techniques are now everywhere, therefore it is a non-issue.

At least it is not the other situation, I've encountered -- I used to be part of the AI group that supported GM in the late 80s - early 90s. There it was always a feeling that: "If we can do it, it can't be AI."

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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