Archive for August, 2011

IBM unveils brain-like chip

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 18, 2011   View Article

Computer chips with worm-like intelligence were unveiled today by researchers at IBM, a breakthrough, they say, on the road to creating computers that function like the human brain.

For now, achieving the goal of human-like intelligence in a computer with the size and power needs of our brains is a long ways off, Dharmendra Modha, the researcher leading the project, told me, but the chips he held as we spoke were proof that a “new generation” of computers are in the offing.

“It is IBM’s first cognitive computer core that brings together computation in the form of neurons, memory in the form of synapses and communication in the form of axons,” he said.

Non-human DJ gets radio gig

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 17, 2011   View Article

A non-human DJ will take to the airwaves next week in San Antonio, Texas, in what may mark another step on the path that puts flesh-and-blood radio personalities out of a job.

The DJ is an artificial intelligence program called Denise, who was built by Guile 3D Studio to serve as a virtual assistant to answer phone calls, check email, conduct Web searches and make appointments, among other tasks.

Dominique Garcia, a radio personality in San Antonio, purchased Denise for $200 and programmed the AI to serve as a DJ. Denise will hit the airwaves on Aug. 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. CST onKROV.

More work for robots in China

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 15, 2011   View Article

Assembling and welding together gadgets like Apple’s iPhones and iPads is tedious, dull, low-paying work that even a robot can do. That’s why 1 million more robots will soon be on the job at Foxconn Technology Group’s factories in China.

“This is the kind of stuff that drives people crazy when they have to do it themselves, which leads to suicide, which is what the Foxconn people had a problem with,” Frank Tobe, owner and publisher of The Robot Report, which focuses on news and analysis of the robotics industry, told me today.

The revolution at work is here

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 12, 2011   View Article

The Internet bubble inflated during the late 1990s partly on the promise that technology would revolutionize how and where we work. More than a decade after the bubble popped, the workspace revolution is finally upon us, according to a technology company executive.

“As the world has progressed over the past 10 years, pretty much everything has gone towards an IP-based way of doing things,” Rick Hutley, vice president of global innovation at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems, told me in a wide-ranging interview Thursday.

Poop fuels hydrogen cars

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 11, 2011   View Article

An experimental fuel cell at a wastewater treatment plant in California is turning poop flushed down the drain into hydrogen fuel for cars.

The novel fuel cell converts biogas — methane — produced in digesters at the plant into heat, electricity and hydrogen. The heat is fed back to the digesters, the electricity powers the plant, and the hydrogen is fuel for cars.

X-rays provide nano views

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 10, 2011   View Article

A new lens-less microscope that harnesses X-rays is able to see details at the scale of a single nanometer and could help usher in an era of smaller computer hard disks that hold more memory, researchers report in a new study.

The technique is also scalable, and as X-ray sources are improved, the technique should allow researchers to resolve down to the subatomic scale, Oleg Shpyrko, an assistant professor of physics at the University of California at San Diego, told me today.

How seawater can quench global thirst

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: August 9, 2011   View Article

New membrane technologies could more efficiently turn billions of gallons of seawater full of salt, decomposed fish, and other bits of unappetizing organic matter into thirst-quenching liquid for people and crops, according to experts in desalination technology.

The problem is that these membrane technologies don’t yet exist in the right form to efficiently turn seawater into freshwater, they said in a review article aimed at spurring lab-level research with molecular models.

Desalination plants use membranes in a process called reverse osmosis. Seawater is forced through the membrane to filter out the salt in seawater to help make it drinkable and available for irrigation. The process requires a minimum amount of energy to do.

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