As the Wall Street Journal has stated yesterday, “‘Soft’ Artificial Intelligence is Suddenly Everywhere” Also called weak or narrow AI, soft artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer or other machine to perform complex activities that are “inspired by but don’t mimic, the human brian”. The media coverage of soft AI, like coverage of many new technologies, focuses on computer science and engineering, but many of the technologies they use as examples, from satellites, cars, wearable technologies, to encompassing city systems and space travel, are in fact geospatial technologies. Continue reading
DigitalGlobe, a commercial high-resolution earth imagery company, launched its aptly named e-magazine, PERSPECTIVES, today. The trade magazine provides 52 pages of stunning imagery and detailed information on the satellite imagery and remote sensing industry. Although it focuses on DigitalGlobe technologies, the magazine provides insight into a broad swath of topic areas from mineral exploration to infrastructure to penguin migration. PERSPECTIVES will provide articles, case studies, and technical papers in their upcoming issues.
It’s always fun to compare the modern marvels of yesterday to their technological equivalent today. I spent about an hour on Charles Shopsin’s blog “Modern Mechanix: Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today” reading all of the old geospatial related articles I could find. A short article from a issue of Popular Mechanics extols the convenience of a Dashboard Map that Holds a Roadmap from November 1950. Just like the GPS units today it plugs into a cigarette lighter socket. Unlike the Garmin Nuvi lighter socket mount, it probably cost a lot more than around $10.00.
In another article from the early 1950’s, the author creates a business building 3d models for industry and business such as scale models of factory lots and contour maps of real estate property. The support and criticism of 3d models is very similar to those still being argued about geospatial modeling today. From “Isn’t there some easier way of selling those mountain lots than driving prospects 90 miles to see them?” to “Build little models,” he scoffed, “and you’ll have an income about the same size.” There are articles from old National Geographic’s on The Earth as a Satellite Sees It (1960), Modern Mechanix’s on Amazing Robots speed Check of Nation (1930 Census), and advertisements in Scientific American for Texas Instruments micro processors for data loggers (1977).
The news around the Internet today is that Dennis Ritchie, inventor of the C programming language and the UNIX operating system, passed away over the weekend. I think it’s a mark of his impact that it might not be readily apparent exactly how important Ritchie was to our modern technology world. The fact of the matter is the majority of today’s Internet runs on some form of Unix. If I might steal a phrase from Steve Jobs, Unix largely ‘just works’. We don’t realize how much it’s humming along every single day. Arc was originally released on Unix, and I think it still impacts its current development. ERDAS’s Imagine feels like it still wants to be primarily a Unix program. Heck, even fundamental OS systems like Mac OS X and Android wouldn’t exist withouth Ritchie’s work.
On top of that, he invented arguably the most important programming language of all time. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts parts the upcoming Arc 10.1 was written in the language he invented. If programming languages were tracked like human languages, C would be the Latin of the programming world. C and it’s off shoots (C++, Objective-C, C#, and even Java) drive pretty much every technology device in the last 20 years or longer.
We lost Steve Jobs last week and his visionary designs will be sorely missed. Almost equally missed will be Ritchie’s visionary infrastructure designs. RIPC Dennis Ritchie…. RIPC.
Any of our long-time readers/listeners can tell you I’m a HUGE fan of offshore windfarms. I think they flat out just make the most sense for sustainable energy production. Apparently Google agrees with me. Google is funding a windfarm that is supposed to stretch from New Jersey to Virginia and generate enough power to light two million homes. They put up a bit over 1/3 the costs, but the article doesn’t say where the other 2/3rds of the money is coming. The power will be transmitted onshore via underwater cables. No word as of yet when it will go live.
This is a great example of a rudimentary, but effective, UI for navigation. We played around a little with some heads-up devices back in the day, but we never had access to the good stuff (a la movie magic) so it never seemed appropriate. Fast forward a decade and wearable doesn’t have to mean a cockpit display as you walk down the street and augmented is more utilitarian. OK, enough with the mini-soapbox…on to the cool ideas.
Anyone who talks to me about energy will quickly learn I’m a HUGE fan of offshore wind energy. So this news item in the New York Times caught my eye pretty quick – regulators have approved the US’s first offshore windfarm. As the opponents point out in the article, this is just one of several hurdles that have to be overcome before it becomes reality, but it’s a pretty big one. Several other countries have experimented with this stuff with pretty good successes, so I have a lot of high hopes for US versions.
On a side note, has anyone ever wondered why windmills have three arms? Turns out there’s a good engineering reason behind it all. Slate has a good article talking about the engineering benefits of various designs. The basic punchline is that three blades have the optimal energy output, environmental impact, and manufacturing costs we seek in a good windmill. If manufacturing costs decrease with better processes, two blade systems might make more sense.
A couple of days ago, Tim O’Reilly published an interesting piece entitled “The State of the Internet Operating System” I’m not going to say a whole lot about it, other than to say it touched on a lot of areas. He talked about mobile, location based services, platform integration, abstractions, and a bunch of other stuff. It’s an interesting read and I find myself mulling it over more than most other things I read in the tech world. Give it a read. I think it has a lot of applicability in the light of some of the transitions we’re seeing in the geospatial world.
Ars Technica is reporting that the Obama administration has decided to ramp up the broadband stimulus money outlays into one more round instead of the planned two. The monies appear to be a different pool than what is funding the broadband mapping work, but the article is a tad unclear on that point. All in all around seven billion dollars are being invested, largely to tackle the “last mile” issue in US broadband. Interestingly enough, I think, most of the project seem to be focused upon projects that will help stimulate private companies toward developing that last mile, not so much making the last mile itself. I guess time will tell if this is a good strategy or not.
Switched online is reporting an article in the UK’s The Guardian that GPS satellites could begin to fail as early as 2010. They note that the Air Force maintains the satellite network and was supposed to launch the first replacement in 2007… which it promtly didn’t do. The satellites have been up there for up to 20 years, so they’re about due for a replacement. The Guardian is certainly targeted at a more general audience so it’s not suprising they’re missing some details. For instance, there are a LOT of GPS satellites up there, so the loss of a few isn’t the end of the technology. Also, the LANDSAT program proves that satellites are often built “like they use to” as the euphamism goes. Still, it’s a good reminder that a lot of the basic technology infrastructure on which we all rely needs to be maintained every bit as much as roads and bridges.