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Running biometric footware

There is a new biometric concept afoot from a Vancouver startup, turning a homespun invention for comfortable shoes into an entirely new source of biometric data. At the moment, the pre-funding company is little more than a weirdly graphical but vague website (http://www.plantiga.com/), some patent applications, and the gushing …
Bill Softky, 14 Aug 2007
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Robot brains? Can't make 'em, can't sell 'em

The current generation of "consumer robots" is driven mostly by robot-love: people enjoy things which move around on their own, especially if they can build or tinker with the gadgets themselves.   That much became clear at a recent symposium on Robots, which I described here last month. The consumer robot business today is …
Bill Softky, 28 Jun 2007
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Hacking sexual pleasure: a hard, slippery problem

NSFW Everyone wants more pleasure with less effort, so humans have used mechanical augmentation for ages: prehistoric dildos and porn, Kama Sutra treatises, lubes, piercings, and lately vibrators and Viagra. But since sex is really all about electrical nerve impulses, shouldn't electronics and signal processing be able to enhance …
Bill Softky, 28 May 2007
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Why do robot experts build such lousy robots?

In Silicon Valley, any conference calling itself the "Best of the Best" promises more fluff than stuff. But a recent Churchill Club event which promised the cream of the robotics industry confirmed the sceptics' worst fears. Consumer robotics is a business built mostly on play, hope and tinkering - rather than profit or …
Bill Softky, 25 May 2007
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Dominatrix steals 'Sex Hacks' show with live demo

NNNNSFW San Francisco - birthplace of the gangbuster "startup" culture - also breeds alternative sexual communities and practices. Where better to host a small symposium on Sex Hacks? (And where better to encounter loyal Register fans crawling out of the woodwork to introduce themselves?). The Center for Sex and Culture, a modest …
Bill Softky, 25 May 2007
Google

How Google translates without understanding

Column After just a couple years of practice, Google can claim to produce the best computer-generated language translations in the world - in languages their boffin creators don't even understand. Last summer, Google took top honors at a bake-off competition sponsored by the American agency NIST between machine-translation engines, …
Bill Softky, 15 May 2007
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Will there ever be a real 'Lie Detector'?

Column Lie detectors figure prominently in the sauciest dramas, like espionage and murder, but they deeply polarize opinion. They pit pro-polygraph groups like the CIA, the Department of Energy and police forces against America's National Academy of Sciences, much of the FBI, and now the US Congressional Research Service. The agencies …
Bill Softky, 31 Mar 2007
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Design patterns for a Black Box Brain?

Guest Opinion Bill Softky is a scientist at the Redwood Neuroscience Institute, founded by Jeff Hawkins. He has worked as a software architect, visualization designer, and educator. Part One can be found here. The bad news is that biologists are very far from figuring out the grand mystery of the brain. The good news is that software …
Bill Softky, 20 Oct 2003
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Software engineers – the ultimate brain scientists?

Guest Opinion Bill Softky is a scientist at the Redwood Neuroscience Institute, founded by Jeff Hawkins. He has worked as a software architect, visualization designer, and educator. Can software engineers hope to create a digital brain? Not before understanding how the brain works, and that's one of the biggest mysteries left in science. …
Bill Softky, 17 Oct 2003