Archive for December, 2009

Material for Christmas Break

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Quest 25 Dec, 2009:  Merry Christmas

1.) The dominant topic this week has been our interest in extracting spatio-temporal-thematic clusters of ideas being bantered around on the ‘real-time’ web (social sites like Twitter, etc.) – if you will ‘citizen sensor’ mining.  Our interest lies in the need in a layered sensing solution (where the multilayered sensing solution includes human and machine sensors) to find what a given consumer (somewhere in the blue force hierarchy a decision maker) may need from across the layered sensing enterprise to make a more intelligent decision.  To advance our ideas we met with colleagues Prof Amit Sheth (Knoesis Center) and Prof Flach (Head of Psychology Dept at WSU) to develop a multi-disciplinary view of the space.  Adam will post some articles on a semantic web application, Twitris (socially influenced browsing – to influence the ability to browse for relevant news and information) – for the layered sensing application we want to facilitate a user’s search for relevant (to that user) sensory data, information or knowledge that is available.  HOMEWORK:  read through the articles and provide via email ideas to ‘questify’ Twitris.

2.) Twitter for the populations where we are fighting asymmetric wars?  Seems to me to complement our guys in the streets talking to the population and establishing rapport we could provide local wireless networking to allow the population to immediately communicate to other members of their ‘tribes’ and us – this re-enforces the bonds between all the parties involved in the continuous communication.

3.) News:

a.     5 Google lab projects – ‘News Timeline. This Web application organizes information on a topic chronologically, allowing you to view it in a timeline. For example, a search on Twitter will organize clickable news blurbs based on the time and date that the story was published to the Web. You can also customize your search based on the news sources from which Google aggregates information… Email Addict. If you find yourself mesmerized by the status of your inbox, try Email Addict. To enable this feature, visit “Google Labs” and choose “Gmail Labs” from the “Other experiments at Google” navigation. Email Addict blocks access to your Gmail screen for 15 minutes and makes you invisible in Chat, allowing you a few precious moments to forget about incoming messages and get some quality work done…Goggles. A few weeks ago, Google announced its newest member of Google Labs—a photo-based search tool called Google Goggles, which is accessible from any Android device. After installing the tool, snap a photo (Google heeds that right now it works best with pictures of books, DVDs, landmarks, logos, business cards, artwork and bar codes) and wait as Goggles scans the image, analyzes it and identifies it. You’ll receive information based on the image, such as details about a landmark or price comparisons for a certain book. Bar code matches will provide a link to Google Product Search to allow you to compare prices…Undo Send. When your fingers are quicker than your mind, Undo Send helps you out. By enabling this feature (also located in Gmail Labs) you’re given an extra few moments to stop the delivery of your e-mail…Social Search. Every time you perform a search, Google Social Search will pull in relevant websites, blogs, tweets and public profiles written by people in your social circle, and display the information below your search results under “Results from people in your social circle.” Your “social circle” is comprised of your Gmail contacts and people you’re publicly connected to on social sites such as Twitter and FriendFeed. Google Social Search also aggregates related content from people connected to your contacts, such as your Twitter followers’ followers, since “there’s a likelihood that you know them as well…

b.    Probe of Hacking at Citibank – ‘probing a computer-security breach targeting Citigroup Inc. that resulted in a theft of tens of millions of dollars by computer hackers…attack underscores the blurring of lines between criminal and national-security threats in cyber spac…was detected over the summer, but investigators are looking into the possibility the attack may have occurred months or even a year earlier. The FBI and the National Security Agency, along with the Department of Homeland Security and Citigroup, swapped information to counter the attack… beyond stealing money, hackers could try to manipulate or destroy data, wreaking havoc on the banking system…

c.     Hackers steal U.S. and S. Korea secrets – ‘unprotected USB device contained a summary of plans for military operations by South Korean and U.S. troops in case of war on the Korean peninsula… investigating a hacking attack that netted secret defense plans with the United States and may have been carried out by North Korea… occurred late last month when a South Korean officer failed to remove a USB device when he switched a military computer from a restricted-access intranet to the Internet,… USB device contained a summary of plans for military operations by South Korean and U.S. troops in case of war on the Korean peninsula. Won said the stolen document was not a full text of the operational plans, but an 11-page file used to brief military officials… hackers used a Chinese IP address and that North Korea is suspected of involvement… case came months after hackers launched high-profile cyberattacks that caused Web outages on prominent government-run sites in the U.S. and South Korea’

d.    Hacking into drone feeds –‘Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations…Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter…drone intercepts mark the emergence of a shadow cyber war within the U.S.-led conflicts overseas. They also point to a potentially serious vulnerability in Washington’s growing network of unmanned drones… stolen video feeds also indicate that U.S. adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies….S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds… military found “days and days and hours and hours of proof” that the feeds were being intercepted and shared with multiple extremist groups, the person said. “It is part of their kit now…Senior military and intelligence officials said the U.S. was working to encrypt all of its drone video feeds from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but said it wasn’t yet clear if the problem had been completely resolved…difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones. Instead, many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the U.S., Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes’

e.     Computing with a wave of the hand – ‘new Media Lab system turns LCD displays into giant cameras that provide gestural control of objects on-screen… competing approach, which uses embedded optical sensors to track the movement of the user’s fingers, is just now coming to market… Some experimental systems — such as Microsoft’s Natal — instead use small cameras embedded in a display to capture gestural information. But because the cameras are offset from the center of the screen, they don’t work well at short distances, and they can’t provide a seamless transition from gestural to touch screen interactions. Cameras set far enough behind the screen can provide that transition, as they do in Microsoft’s SecondLight, but they add to the display’s thickness and require costly hardware to render the screen alternately transparent and opaque. “The goal with this is to be able to incorporate the gestural display into a thin LCD device” — like a cell phone — “and to be able to do it without wearing gloves or anything like that,… Media Lab system requires an array of liquid crystals, as in an ordinary LCD display, with an array of optical sensors right behind it. The liquid crystals serve, in a sense, as a lens, displaying a black-and-white pattern that lets light through to the sensors. But that pattern alternates so rapidly with whatever the LCD is otherwise displaying…

f.       Cloud security – ‘2006, when Amazon introduced the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), it was a watershed event in the quest to transform computing into a ubiquitous utility, like electricity…scroll through an online menu, whip out a credit card, and hire as much computational horsepower as necessary, paying for it at a fixed rate: initially, 10 cents per hour to use Linux (and, starting in 2008, 12.5 cents per hour to use Windows… The virtual machines would, of course, run inside real ones: the thousands of humming, blinking servers clustered in Amazon’s data centers around the world…engineering in which Oz-like programs called hypervisors create and control virtual processors, networks, and disk drives, many of which may operate on the same physical servers. Computer security researchers had previously shown that when two programs are running simultaneously on the same operating system, an attacker can steal data by using an eavesdropping program to analyze the way those programs share memory space. They posited that the same kinds of attacks might also work in clouds when different virtual machines run on the same server… immensity of a cloud setting, the possibility that a hacker could even find the intended prey on a specific server seemed remote…

g.     Cyber challenge to test young hackers – ‘like national talent search for cybersecurity expert Fifteen “All Star” hackers compete in a Washington hotel conference room  Contest hopes to inspire tech wizzes to help defend U.S. computer systems… task: hacking into as many target computers as he can and then defending those computers from attacks by other skilled hackers… competition is aimed at identifying young people with exceptional computer skills and inspiring them to join the country’s woefully understaffed ranks…whose only real option is to do illegal things with it because there’s no place to do it in school; there’s no place to do it legally,” Paller said. “This creates an environment where they can show their skills and advance their skills and do it in the nation’s interest rather than for other purposes… simplest form, NetWars is an online version of Capture the Flag, with competitors vying to penetrate and take control of target computer systems and then protect them from other intruders… game begins when a player downloads an image and must find a hidden key within the image. They use that key to enter an online environment and use their knowledge of security vulnerabilities to exploit its system, leaving their name or “handle” in various areas…. Our job is to catch them and give them a chance to work for the nation and for the good companies. That’s the job of NetWars, to find the very best of them and get them great jobs so that they don’t have to use their skills in ways that are unpleasant to the rest of us.

h.    U.S. struggles to recruit computer security experts- ‘struggling to fill a growing demand for skilled computer-security workers … Some young people with three years’ experience and clearance are commanding salaries above $100,000. “Companies are paying … people to jump from one company to another

a.     Cyber coordinator picked – ‘tapped Howard A. Schmidt, longtime computer security executive who worked in the Bush administration and has extensive ties to the corporate world… national cyber security coordinator to take on the formidable task of organizing and managing the nation’s increasingly vulnerable digital networks… cyber experts and potential job candidates have complained that the position lacks the budgetary and policy making authority needed to be successful… nonprofit international consortium that conducts research in information security, has served as chief security officer for Microsoft and as cyber security chief for online auction giant eBay… Schmidt understands the technology, has broad management experience and also has worked well within the political arena, a key requirement for the White House…Considered an expert in computer forensics, Schmidt’s roughly 40-year career includes 31 years in local and federal government service, including a stint as vice chairman of President George W. Bush’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board…

b.    Eureqa – robot scientist – ‘A new program, Eureqa, takes raw data and formulates scientific laws to suit, and it is available by free download to all scientists… fed information on a double pendulum and in just a few hours it inferred Newton’s second law of motion and the law of conservation of momentum from the data….examining the data for numbers that appear to be connected, and then suggests equations that fit the connections. Of the proposed equations most fail, but some are less wrong than others, and these are selected and modified and then repeatedly re-tested against the data and tweaked until a workable equation is identified…

c.     New ISR assets to Afghan by Christmas –24 new Hawker Beechcraft Corp. planes modified by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. to support ground troops with video, still images and eavesdropping…April 2008 to dramatically increase the number of manned and unmanned aircraft providing intelligence to ground troops. The planes will help support the 30,000 additional troops President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan. Six of the new spy planes already are flying missions in Iraq… can beam images and video directly to ground troops, who will be equipped with L-3 Communications ‘‘Rovers” — laptop devices that allow soldiers to see the same images as airborne operators… will give the Army about 50 of the latest-generation Rovers — hand-held versions that allow soldiers via satellite link both to receive images and to tell pilots where to direct the plane’s cameras… provide “full-motion video and specialized signals intelligence… equipped with both high-resolution and heat-sensing cameras produced by New York City-based L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc’

d.    Tiny fit devices – ‘Two new tiny wearable motion sensors are on the loose, backed by Web sites that graph the collected data on daily activity for your motivational pleasure. There’s the Fitbit ($100) and its rival from Philips, the DirectLife ($80). In both cases, the idea is to make you aware of your daily activity and to challenge you to step it up. But despite that similarity of goal, the two gadgets are wildly different in approach… Fitbit is one wicked-cool piece of hardware. It’s a sleek, rounded-edge spring clip, two inches long and half an inch wide. You can clip it to a pocket edge, a bra strap, whatever. Inside, the Fitbit contains an accelerometer — a three-way motion sensor like the one in the Wii or the iPhone. This instrument tallies how much it’s jostled during the day. (Note: Accelerometers don’t register much when you’re doing other exercise that doesn’t make your torso bob, like biking or weight lifting…Fitbit is also supposed to track your sleep. It’s a bit of a nuisance: you have to put on a black Velcro wristband, put the Fitbit inside and then hold down the button for two seconds to tell it that you’re asleep…other aspects of the Fitbit suggest that it aims at much more hard-core fitness buffs. For instance, once the data is on the Web site, it’s just a mass of data. There’s no analysis, not much guidance; if anyone’s going to figure out how to turn it into a fitness program, that’ll be you. And that business about manually entering everything you eat and drink is well-meaning, but come on — how many non-obsessive compulsives are really going to make that effort day in, day out, for months…DirectLife, from Philips ($80 until January, then $100), doesn’t try to track your sleep. It doesn’t have the wireless transfer, either; instead, every so often, you snap it magnetically into its U.S.B. docking cradle/charger connected to your Mac or PC…set the DirectLife down on a flat surface, a row of little green indicators lights up to show you how close you are to your activity goal so far today — one dot, you’re a couch potato; nine dots, you’re a superjock. But that’s it…DirectLife’s real killer feature is the personal coach that comes with it. The company employs a team of fitness and nutrition experts (20 so far) whose sole job is to look over your activity data, answer your questions and egg you on…12 weeks of coaching with the purchase price (thereafter, it’s $12.50 a month). Now, I didn’t have that much time to work with the DirectLife, so I asked my Twitter followers if any were DirectLife buyers who’d be willing to share their coach’s e-mail exchanges with me

e.     Glasgow’s joking computer – ‘The Glasgow Science Centre in Scotland is exhibiting a computer that makes up jokes using its database of simple language rules and a large vocabulary… software was originally written for children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, to help them develop language skills and have original jokes to tell their family and friends…. Joking Computer can generate millions of cracker-style jokes, all based on puns…

f.       Did the Iranian Government Just Attack Twitter – ‘suspect the authorities of seeking revenge for Twitter’s role in helping protesters… redirected to a page boasting that the microblogging service had been hacked by “the Iranian Cyber Army… it facilitated communication among anti-government protestors and helped draw attention from the outside world…known about how the group operates, but previous attempts to shut off Iranian citizens from Twitter and other web services demonstrate that Iran has the capability and will to use almost any means to control the flow of information on the web both within and outside of its own borders… one of the “benefits” of cyber warfare is that there’s no need for a government to incriminate itself so directly. In a story earlier this year on politically motivated cyber attacks, I wrote…it’s particularly hard to pinpoint who is really responsible. While it’s easy to determine which botnet is the source of an attack, it’s far harder to determine who might be paying for the attack. This is a big worry for governments looking for redress or retaliation…denial of service attack works in a different way from the attack that Twitter experienced, I think a similar principle holds true. While there are certainly many groups or government entities who might want to punish Twitter for how it was used this summer, or to stifle continued protester activity on the site

g.     Mobile phone apps for holiday shopping – ‘making it easy for bargain-hunting consumers to see if another retailer is offering a better deal…Online retailers are revamping the mobile versions of their sites so consumers can make purchases without tedious typing. And offline retailers, battling for every last dollar, are sending cellphone users electronic coupons to lure them away from competitors…One in five shoppers said they intended to use their cellphones to shop this holiday season, according to an annual survey by Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm. Of those, 45 percent said they would use their phone to research prices, 32 percent said they would use it to find coupons or read reviews and 25 percent said they would make purchases from their phones…It is both an opportunity and a challenge for a retailer, because you can have a consumer who can cross-shop your store with other bricks-and-mortar stores or online, all from the convenience of your aisle…With a quick scan of the bar code, an application called ShopSavvy found it at Target, just across the freeway, for $19.99. Another app from provided a Target coupon that sliced off $10 more… It went from $29.99 to $9.99, all in five minutes, no searching the Internet or spending hours trying to find a deal or a coupon… mobile shopping technology is still somewhat clunky, between erratic Internet connections, outdated pricing data and balky product scanners…ShopSavvy, mobile apps from RedLaser, TheFind, ShopStyle and allow customers to compare prices across a range of retailers. Retrevo, an electronics review site, has a service called RetrevoQ that lets users send a text or Twitter message with the name of the product they are considering and get an immediate response with a recommendation of whether to buy it and a range of online prices…To fix that, some retailers are building sites and applications specifically for cellphones. The iPhone app for the Tommy Hilfiger online store, for instance, shows select products based on what shoppers are looking for so they do not have to scroll through pages of clothes… EBay’s iPhone app sends people notifications if they are outbid in an auction and lets people check out with just a few clicks if they have a PayPal account… most stores refuse to match prices, especially from Web retailers, it is difficult to simply allow a customer brandishing a lower price…officially says it will not match prices of online electronics retailers and will match offline prices only if the customer brings in an ad or receipt. But several ShopSavvy users report having luck getting individual stores to match prices they find using the app…said it would match lower prices found in stores or online. According to Chad Petrillo, a clerk at the chain’s San Francisco store, more people have been showing him competing prices on their phones, most often for shoes

h.    Stem Cell for heart disease closer – ‘Approved stem cell therapies for cardiac patients could be available in five years… have a natural homing ability toward heart injury site  Further research is needed to determine how many cells are optimal in each infusion… intravenous method of injecting stem cells into patients who had experienced heart attacks within the previous 10 days suggested that this method works to repair…

i.       Science of the Afghan insurgency – ‘danger that if we do not increase the numbers by enough this strategic decision will actually increase the duration of the conflict,” says physicist and political theorist Sean Gourley of the University if Miami (Fla.), an author on a study in the current issue of the journal Nature. The study, led by Columbia’s Juan Camilo Bohorquez of the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, finds “that the sizes and timing of violent events within different insurgent conflicts exhibit remarkable similarities,” and proposes “a unified model of human insurgency…researchers looked at 54,679 attacks in nine insurgencies, rebellious wars typically fought with terrorism and subversion, from 1969 to 2008. The conflicts took place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Senegal, Columbia, Sierra Leone, Israel and Palestine, Peru and Northern Ireland. The researchers compared the timing and frequency of attacks for mathematical patterns, looking to see whether they took place differently in different wars…of daily attacks by insurgents followed the same pattern, an exponentially growing curve with its steepness determined by the size of the insurgent-sympathetic population. Rather than attacks occurring randomly, the study says insurgents worldwide developed a pattern: a feedback loop of committing bombings or attacks on quiet days, then waiting for news of the event, and then planning for the next attack, bearing in mind past attacks by other groups. Rather than directly collaborating with one another, each attack signals other groups, in a manner that Gourley compares to competing groups of financial traders reading purchases by others in the international marketplace as signs on whether to buy or sell. Taliban members, in the model, ambush convoys mostly to gather video of burning trucks to show off to competing groups over the Internet…study authors say a “soup of groups,” rather than any hierarchy dominates insurgencies. That dooms efforts to bump off minor leaders of insurgencies, Gourley says, as the next strongest group just bubbles to the top of the soup, as a result…the addition of media into a conflict does not change the total amount of violence, the media simply provides a global signal that changes the way violence is distributed within the ecosystem,” Gourley says. “What is interesting, though, and what we show in the paper is that even unbiased ‘just report what happened’ journalism has a significant impact on the way violence is distributed throughout the system… results suggests that NATO needs a 15:1 troop advantage over insurgents to break the curve of increasing attack probabilities. The result, Gourley acknowledges, falls close to some past rule-of-thumb estimates of forces needed for battling insurgents. The Army Times in October reported about 25,000 Taliban troops are thought to be in Afghanistan, facing a 12:1 imbalance against the 300,000 international and Afghanistan security forces. Another 30,000 U.S. troops pushes the imbalance to about 13:1The chief output is the finding that violent incidents in insurgencies tend to come in bunches rather than reflecting a random distribution,” he says, by e-mail. “I don’t see how that points to any one model of the internal shape of insurgencies, or how it constitutes a challenge to models that posit hierarchies or networks (guiding insurgencies.) Frankly, I don’t see how this approach would be of use to counterinsurgency planners or policymakers…


Twitris Material from Dr. Amit Sheth

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment (more detailed) (less detailed) (demo) (a student was invited to give a keynote) (one of the many technical aspects of understanding content – cultural entity extraction)) (another technial issues in social media content analysis: intention)

DARPA’s balloon hunt

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Joy of Discovery: Darpa’s Red Balloon Hunt

By Jeffrey H. Toney

December 07, 2009, 10:17AM

Darpa, the Pentagon’s research center, held a contest on December 5, to solve the locations of ten red balloons as quickly as possible. These eight foot weather balloons were moored throughout the US and were visible from roadways. The goal was to: “explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems”, according to Darpa.

The successful solution to this online networking problem, and how quickly it took to complete the task, will have an impact on how our nation responds to threats. And the solution will ultimately benefit public health, as discussed in my previous article. So how long do you think it took to spot, report and assemble authentic data? Some had predicted a matter of minutes.

The winning team from MIT solved the problem in “less than 9 hours after balloon launch”, according to the news release from Darpa. The ten red balloons were distributed along the US coastline, spanning from DE to FL, to TX, CA and OR; if one used “connect the dots” on a map you would see something like a “smiley face” – coincidence or for fun?

How did the MIT team beat the competition of more than 4,000 teams from around the world? Two factors appear to be key: financial rewards for successful reports, and high end computing methods (“machine learning”) to separate valid, reliable reports from dishonest reporting. The Darpa reward was $40,000; the MIT team offered $2,000 to the first person spotting a balloon, then $1,000 to the person who invited them – this taps into the potential of extended online social networks.

This solution is a “baseline” for the nationwide response time to an obvious, harmless target. Like any complex problem, once you see the solution, the next time you encounter it – or a related situation – you will be able to solve it much more quickly. Whether 9 nine hours will be a sufficient response time to threats is an open question. For now, this contest captured the interest of scientists to solve a problem as a virtual, global team.

I hope that the broader community paid attention too, including parents and their children and teachers and their students. Darpa director Dr. Regina E. Dugan referred to this Challenge as “part of a growing ‘renaissance of wonder’ throughout the nation”. Public safety and public health may well depend upon nurturing such a renaissance.

Categories: News Stories

Google goggles

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

At a loss for words? Google offers search by sight
By Stephen Shankland
·         Google announces the ability to perform an Internet search by submitting a photograph
·         The experimental search-by-sight feature, Google Goggles, has a database of billions of images
·         However, the feature is still in Google Labs and hasn’t been released to the public
·         Google engineer: “It is our goal to be able to identify any image”
Mountain View, California (CNET)– Google’s first search engine let people search by typing text onto a Web page. Next came queries spoken over the phone.
On Monday, Google announced the ability to perform an Internet search by submitting a photograph.
The experimental search-by-sight feature, called Google Goggles, has a database of billions of images that informs its analysis of what’s been uploaded, said Vic Gundotra, Google’s vice president of engineering. It can recognize books, album covers, artwork, landmarks, places, logos, and more.
“It is our goal to be able to identify any image,” he said. “It represents our earliest efforts in the field of computer vision. You can take a picture of an item, use that picture of whatever you take as the query.”
However, the feature is still in Google Labs to deal with the “nascent nature of computer vision” and with the service’s present shortcomings. “Google Goggles works well on certain types of objects in certain categories,” he said.
Google Goggles was one of the big announcements at an event at the Computer History Museum here to tout the future of Google search. The company also showed off real-time search results and translation of a spoken phrase from English to Spanish using a mobile phone.
“It could be we are really at the cusp of an entirely new computing era,” Gundotra said, with “devices that can understand our own speech, help us understand others, and augment our own sight by helping us see further.”
Offering one real-world example of the service in action, Gundotra said that when a guest came by for dinner, he snapped a photo of a wine bottle she gave him to assess its merits. The result–“hints of apricot and hibiscus blossom”–went far beyond his expertise, but that didn’t stop him from sharing the opinion over dinner.
He also demonstrated Google Goggles to take a photo of the Itsukushima Shrine in Japan, a landmark tourists may recognize even if they can’t read Japanese. The uploaded photo returned a description of the shrine on his mobile phone.
Although the service can recognize faces, since faces are among the billions of images in the database, it doesn’t right now, Gundotra said.
“For this product, we made the decision not to do facial recognition,” Gundotra said.
“We still want to work on the issues of user opt-in and control. We have the technology to do the underlying face recognition, but we decided to delay that until safeguards are in place.”
© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved. CNET, and the CNET logo are registered trademarks of CBS Interactive Inc. Used by permission.

Categories: News Stories

Google live updates

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment
December 8, 2009
Google Adds Live Updates to Searches
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Unveiling significant changes to its dominant search engine on Monday, Google said it would begin supplementing its search results with the updates posted each second to sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.
As part of its much-anticipated entrance into the field known as real-time search, Google said that over the next few days its users would begin seeing brand-new Tweets, blog items, news stories and social networking updates in the results for certain topical searches.
Previously it took a few minutes for updates from social networks and blogs to filter into Google’s results.
“Clearly in today’s world, that’s not fast enough,” Amit Singhal, a Google fellow, said at a press conference at the Computer History Museum here. “Information is being posted at a pace we’ve never seen before, and in this environment, seconds matter.”
A search for “Copenhagen” on Google, for instance, produces the standard Web results, but with a box in the middle of the page where blog items, press releases, news stories and Tweets scroll past. The box updates every few seconds. A Tweet from Tom Nguyen (@tomng), referencing the climate talks that began Monday, read: “It’s snowing in North Beach. Explain that, Copenhagen.”
Searching for “Pearl Harbor” turned up Tweets from people who were memorializing those who died in the attack there, while the live results for “Tiger Woods” were less family-friendly.
Google struck formal partnerships with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to quickly bring updates from those services into its search index. The companies did not disclose terms of those deals, although a person briefed on the Twitter deal said Google made a large up-front payment.
Facebook has said publicly it is not earning money from the deal, and is only giving Google updates from the public “profile pages” on the service, which can already be seen by anyone on the Web.
Twitter makes a search tool available on its own site. But Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder, said that Google would be better able to serve up Tweets that are relevant to a particular user’s questions. “Were not good at relevancy right now, and they are,” he said. “More people will get more value out of Twitter because we are doing this with Google.”
Twitter has also struck a separate deal with Microsoftto make live updates available in the Bing search engine.
The new Google features are likely to be most useful during breaking news events like earthquakes, when people want constantly updated information without having to scan multiple sources, said Danny Sullivan, editor of the blog Search Engine Land.
For other situations, Mr. Sullivan said, the live scrolling is likely to be little more than “eye candy,” since the information was always present in Google search results but just took slightly longer to get there.
Google unveiled several other products at its event on Monday. The most ambitious, called Google Goggles, allows people to send Google a cellphone photograph of, say, a landmark or a book, and have information about the contents of the image returned to them instantly.
The technology has one potentially provocative use: someone could conceivably send Google a photo of a person — if they don’t remember an acquaintance’s name, for example — and get enough information about him or her to avoid an awkward encounter.
But Google said image recognition technology would have to improve and the privacy implications would have to be more fully considered before it would make that possible. Google Goggles works on phones running Google’s Android operating system and will be available for other phones soon.
Google also outlined developments in voice search, which will make it easier for people to search the Web from a mobile phone. It said it will now allow people to speak their queries to Google in Japanese, in addition to English and Chinese. The company plans to add new languages next year.
Demonstrating the feature, a Japanese Google employee spoke a rather long query into a Motorola Droid phone, asking for the best restaurants near Google’s offices in Tokyo. In response, the Droid phone returned a detailed map of the area, with restaurants pinpointed on the page.
“We are just in the third decade of the personal computer revolution, and it may be only now may be our eyes open to what the possibilities may be,” said Vic Gundotra, a vice president of engineering at Google, citing improvements in wireless connectivity and Internet services.
Mr. Gundotra also demonstrated a tool that would let a person speak a request into her phone in English and have it read back in another language. He said the feature could be introduced next year.

Categories: News Stories

AI pioneers reunite

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

December 8, 2009
Optimism as Artificial Intelligence Pioneers Reunite
STANFORD, Calif. — The personal computer and the technologies that led to the Internet were largely invented in the 1960s and ’70s at three computer research laboratories next to the Stanford University campus.
One laboratory, Douglas Engelbart’s Augmentation Research Center, became known for the mouse; a second, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, developed the Alto, the first modern personal computer. But the third, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or SAIL, run by the computer scientist John McCarthy, gained less recognition.
That may be because SAIL tackled a much harder problem: building a working artificial intelligence system. By the mid-1980s, many scientists both inside and outside of the artificial intelligence community had come to see the effort as a failure. The outlook was more promising in 1963 when Dr. McCarthy began his effort. His initial proposal, to the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Pentagon, envisioned that building a thinking machine would take about a decade.
Four and a half decades later, much of the original optimism is back, driven by rapid progress in artificial intelligence technologies, and that sense was tangible last month when more than 200 of the original SAIL scientists assembled at the William Gates Computer Science Building here for a two-day reunion.
During their first 10 years, SAIL researchers embarked on an extraordinarily rich set of technical and scientific challenges that are still on the frontiers of computer science, including machine vision and robotic manipulation, as well as language and navigation.
In 1966, the laboratory took up residence in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains behind Stanford in an unfinished corporate research facility that had been intended for a telecommunications firm.
The atmosphere, however, was anything but button-down corporate. The antiwar movement and the counterculture were in full swing, and the lab reflected the widely disparate political views and turmoil of the time. Dr. McCarthy was a committed leftist who would gradually move to the right during the ’60s; Les Earnest, the laboratory’s deputy director, who had worked in government intelligence, would move to the left.
The graduate students soon discovered the building’s attic and took up residence there. Mr. Earnest found a clever way, known in the parlance of the A.I. community as a “hack,” to pay for a sauna in the basement of the building, and because many of the young researchers were devotees of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” they created a special font in Elvish and used it to identify offices as places from Middle Earth.
The scientists and engineers who worked at the laboratory constitute an extraordinary Who’s Who in the computing world.
Dr. McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence in the 1950s. Before coming to SAIL he developed the LISP programming language and invented the time-sharing approach to computers. Mr. Earnest designed the first spell-checker and is rightly described as the father of social networking and blogging for his contribution of the finger command that made it possible to tell where the laboratory’s computer users were and what they were doing.
Among others, Raj Reddy and Hans Moravec went on to pioneer speech recognition and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. Alan Kay brought his Dynabook portable computer concept first to Xerox PARC and later to Apple. Larry Tesler developed the philosophy of simplicity in computer interfaces that would come to define the look and functioning of the screens of modern Apple computers — what is called the graphical user interface, or G.U.I.
Don Knuth wrote the definitive texts on computer programming. Joel Pitts, a Stanford undergraduate, took a version of the Space War computer game and turned it into the first coin-operated video game — which was installed in the university’s student coffee house — months before Nolan Bushnell did the same with Atari. The Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg worked with Edward Feigenbaum, a computer scientist, on an early effort to apply artificial intelligence techniques to create software to act as a kind of medical expert.
John Chowning, a musicologist, referred to SAIL as a “Socratean abode.” He was invited to use the mainframe computer at the laboratory late at night when the demand was light, and his group went on to pioneer FM synthesis, a technique for creating sounds that transforms the quality, or timbre, of a simple waveform into a more complex sound. (The technique was discovered by Dr. Chowning at Stanford in 1973 and later licensed to Yamaha.)
The laboratory merged with the computer science department at Stanford in 1980, reopened in 2004, and is now enjoying a renaissance. Its trajectory can be seen in the progress made since 1970, when a graduate researcher programmed a robot to automatically follow a white line under controlled lighting conditions at eight-tenths mile per hour. Thirty-five years later, a team of artificial intelligence researchers at Stanford would equip a Volkswagen Touareg named Stanley with lasers, cameras and a cluster of powerful computers to drive autonomously for 131 miles over mountain roads in California at an average speed of 19.1 miles per hour to win $2 million in the 2005 Darpa Grand Challenge, a robotic vehicle contest.
“We are a first-class citizen right now with some of the strongest recent advances in the field,” said Sebastian Thrun, a roboticist who is the director of SAIL and was one of the leaders of the Stanley team.
The reunion also gave a hint of what is to come. During an afternoon symposium at the reunion, several of the current SAIL researchers showed a startling video called “Chaos” taken from the Stanford Autonomous Helicopter project. An exercise in machine learning, the video shows a model helicopter making a remarkable series of maneuvers that would not be possible by a human pilot. The demonstration is particular striking because the pilot system first learned from a human pilot and then was able to extend those skills.
But an artificial intelligence? It is still an open question. In 1978, Dr. McCarthy wrote, “human-level A.I. might require 1.7 Einsteins, 2 Maxwells, 5 Faradays and .3 Manhattan Projects.”

John Markoff
INTELLIGENCEJohn McCarthy, seated center, who ran the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, at a reunion last month with Bruce Buchanan to his left and Vic Scheinman on the right. Standing, from left, are Ralph Gorin, Whit Diffie, Dan Swinehart, Tony Hearn, Larry Tesler, Lynn Quam and Martin Frost

Categories: News Stories

Journey to recovery from autism

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

December 8, 2009
Autism: A journey of recovery
Posted: 10:26 AM ET

Kiran Chetry – Anchor, CNN’s American Morning
Filed under: Health • Inside the Child’s Mind
Editor’s Note: New cutting-edge research is helping to unlock the mysteries of the child’s brain and could give autistic children a whole different future. Watch part three of our special series, Inside the Child’s Mind, tomorrow on American Morning.
By Kiran Chetry, CNN
As a baby, Jake Exkorn was everything his parents hoped for – happy and healthy.
“He hit all of the developmental milestones. He walked, he talked, he played,” says Jake’s mother Karen Exkorn.
But at 17 months, Karen says the light began to fade from Jake’s face.
 “At first he stopped responding to his name. And then he stopped playing. And then by his second birthday, he stopped speaking entirely.”
Karen worried it may be a hearing problem, or a speech delay.
“I never expected to hear the words, your child has autism. … It was completely devastating. It meant that there was no hope for my son. And yet I was determined to help my son in any way that I could. I knew that I wanted treatment for Jake that had science behind it. And a lot of treatments don’t. But the one that had the most science behind it was a treatment called ABA.”
ABA – applied behavior analysis – is an intensive approach that uses repetition and rewards to teach autistic children the things that come naturally to most kids.
“We wanted to teach Jake to respond to his name. So we’d say, ‘Jake,’ and we’d take an M&M and we’d hold it up just between our eyes.”
Day after day, 40 hours a week, they plugged away – hoping to help Jake relearn what autism had taken away.
“Going into this there were no guarantees. Nobody ever mentioned the word recovery to us so that wasn’t our goal ever.”
And there continue to be no guarantees, but for the first time a new study shows that early intervention therapy can improve language skills and behavior, and raise IQ – giving hope to parents of children with autism.
“What we know is that if children receive early intensive behavioral intervention, some of the children do lose their diagnosis,” says Geraldine Dawson.
Dawson is the chief scientist for the advocacy group “Autism Speaks.” She helped design the study and says symptoms of autism may appear as early as eight months.
“So the most important thing is to be alert for those symptoms and then get into intervention right away.”
After a year of ABA therapy, Jake showed progress. Then, at age four – a turning point. When Karen took him for ice cream, without prompting, Jake told the man what flavor he wanted: “Nilla.”
“The man had no idea that this was this defining moment in my life, but this was huge. This was huge. And this marked the beginning of spontaneous language for Jake.”
What soon followed was an even bigger milestone. At Jake’s 4 year check-up, Karen was told her son no longer had symptoms of autism. The doctor said Jake had recovered.
“Hearing her say that blew me away in the same way as when I heard her say the diagnosis.”
Today Jake is a thriving 13-year-old. He plays basketball and football, and is every bit the typical teenage boy.
“I like to hang out with my friends. … I don’t love to study even though sometimes I have to. … I would describe myself as outgoing, athletic and nice,” says Jake.
A dramatic transformation for a family who once thought they lost their little boy to autism.
“I don’t think about it too much but when I do it is kinda crazy. But, my mom and dad put in a lot of effort into it and so did I and it paid off.”
A payoff that, with more research, may be within reach for more children with autism. Researchers still don’t know why some children recover so fully like Jake, and others don’t. But most agree that early intervention is the best hope for a more positive outcome.

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