IBM unveils nano-projector based VirtuaHuman with 1TB of memory
It walks, talks and tweets
April Fool Don Eigler – a researcher famous for spelling I-B-M with individual atoms – stunned the world once again today by revealing on his blog that a creature known as Robert Scoble is really a research project.
A few years back, IBM researchers started to think more and more about the potential rise of so-called virtual worlds exemplified today by creations such as Second Life. Impressed by their own vision and competence, the scientists decided to shoot past the limitations of server-based worlds and to enter the real world. And so they set about working on a prototype system that could interact with human beings in a near lifelike manner.
The end result? The Robert Scoble – a thing the world has come to know as a semi-autonomous blogger.
"Honestly, we had no idea that this would pan out when we initialized work on the project," Eigler said. "We're just beyond thrilled that the Scoble has enjoyed such success. This speaks volumes about IBM's insight and willingness to confront constrained, conventional, bandwagonny thinking."
IBM's Scoble contraption relies on a solar-powered nanoscale projector running an embedded version of Gringo Linux. Thanks to top secret work with graphene, IBM can arrange carbon atoms in a lattice so intricate and fantastic that the Scoble ships with close to 1TB of memory, which allows the system to form basic sentences and make simple gestures.
"It basically has the brain power of a dog that's been clubbed to the head a few times," Eigler said.
"That's why we busted into hysterics when it got a job at Microsoft. We just pushed the button, sent it in and let it go. Next thing we know one of our biggest competitors has hired a projection drone. It's awesome stuff."
IBM's staff also had little idea that their artificial intelligence software would give Scoble such a level of independence. Only days out of the lab, the creature fired up a blog where it discussed simple observations about the world such as how much it enjoyed cats that wear diapers and the smooth texture of peanut butter.
Later, the Scoble left Microsoft and managed to convince some of the world's most eager publishers to hire it. Thanks to a complex IBM quasi-numeric salary Pareto parser algorithm known as "CashMachineY" Scoble evolved into one of the best paid bloggers on the planet.
The IBM researchers were also fascinated by Scoble's interaction with virtual worlds and spaces. The real world-based Scoble entered Second Life and then later began conversing with himself on an application known as Twitter.
"It's Scoble use of Twitter that's probably the most impressive to us," said famed IBM researcher Irving Wladawsky-Berger. "You can see when he goes into glitch mode and writes things like 'Twitter is down,' 'I love Twitter,' "My underwear is fire hydrant,' 'Pizza is yum yum,' and the like. We just reboot him remotely when that happens and pray for more complete thoughts to come out again. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
"Either way, this is mind-blowing stuff. Twitter is awesome. Scoble is awesome. Plus, it's nice to have a warm body in our Second Life space."
Since learning about the Scoble, critics have emerged who argue that the device demeans the spirit of the human experience.
"Frankly, I think it's disgusting that this thing, this drone has been able to out earn me," said Rob Enderle, chief consultant for the Enderle Group and vice president of Enderle International Dining Club Inc. "I had cornered the market on vacuous, non-committal observations about the technology market. To be bested by a nano particle is depressing, and I think something that could concern all man.
"That said, I'm looking forward to the consulting opportunities that this research may present. I think the technology could be both good and bad and expensive or cheap, depending on the circumstances.
"It's also certainly possible that I could expand my business via a Scoble of my very own, which is exciting. And frightening. I think he can take the HP account."
Later this year, IBM plans to recall the Scoble to its Watson Research center where it will upgrade the system with new firmware and another 500GB of memory. The company expects that this refresh will allow the Scoble to blog in entire paragraphs and take early steps toward forming abstract thoughts.
As a show of good faith and world flattening, the Chinese Olympic Committee also plans to team with IBM around having the Scoble write about this summer's games for the official state-run newspaper.
The Register caught up with Scoble to discuss some of these exciting, upcoming events, although the device suffered from a memory-leak which caused it to guffaw over and over again throughout the duration of our interview. IBM was unable to fix the glitch, despite hitting Ctrl-Alt-Delete repeatedly on a nano scale keyboard located near the system's anus.
Some things never change. ®