Car Catcher Nets May Help End Chases

April 08 2008 / by Accel Rose / In association with Future
Category: Transportation   Year: General   Rating: 2 Hot

All those live car chases we see on television may be coming to an end. A company called Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation that specializes in pop-up safety nets for all sorts of vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, UAV’s) has now developed a car catcher that can safely stop cars moving at speeds up to 50 mph. Check out the demonstration video:

I can easily see such devices built into LA highways, perhaps at narrow on- and off-ramps, or used sporadically at strategic locations all across the town. They would also work great as a non-lethal form of ambush in war zones – although shooting out or puncturing tires is probably a more effective way to go.

Combined with increasingly popular automobile kill switches that can remotely disconnect an engine from its fuel supply, devices like these nets have the potential to make the roads quite a bit safer, as well as to deter a good amount of auto theft.

Of course, one possible counter to that is to simply train robots to steal cars instead, or simply hack the car systems.

Second Life on the Hill: U.S. House Members Seek to Understand Virtual Worlds

April 01 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 10 Hot

The following is a summary of the key moments that transpired during the U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet hearing on Virtual Worlds held April 1, 2008. This marked the first ever simulcast of a Congressional hearing into a virtual world – a truly historic moment.

Spanning the positive uses of virtual worlds (entrepreneurial, non-profit, educational, and other purposes) as well as the security implications (terrorism, child protection, privacy and illegal activities) the first-of-its-kind hearing finally came to a close at 11:15 AM this morning after nearly two full hours of position statements and riveting Q&A.

Subcommittee members’ opening speeches covered general statistics, implications, applications and potential futures of virtual worlds. Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey of Massachusetts (pictured second) noted that virtual worlds often permit people to do things that are often impossible in real life, thus empowering individuals and that virtual worlds are at the cutting edge of web 2.0 applications. As per the future of virtual worlds, the Chairman said that virtual worlds are steadily becoming more commonplace and therefore policymakers will have to continue to monitor them as they grow further while upgrading national infrastructure to foster the positive utilities of such worlds.

Congressman Stearns of Florida (pictured third) cited an interesting statistic in his opening remarks, that 40% of men and 50% of women see virtual friends as equal or better than their real-life friends. He found this a bit unsettling, and elucidated his concern for sexual predators and con-men inevitably finding their way into virtual worlds, as they did the internet.

Congresswoman Harman of California echoed many of the same positive implications of virtual worlds, but seemed most concerned with the use of virtual worlds by Islamic militants, noting that a “clear-eyed understanding is essential” in helping fight this new wave of “transient terrorism.”


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Mind-Reading Machines

March 19 2008 / by GuestBlogger / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 15 Hot

By Edward Willett
This piece was originally posted here on Edward’s blog Hassenpfeffer.

I’m a hard-line skeptic when it comes to the topic of ESP (extra-sensory perception). I don’t believe in telepathy, precognition, telekinesis, or people bending flatware just by looking at it.

That said, I’m pretty confident that in the near future mind-reading will be possible. Not for us, though: for our machines.

In fact, machines can already read our minds, to a limited extent.

Just recently, Ambient Corporation demonstrated a neckband that translates thought into speech…sort of.

It takes some training to use, and requires “a level above thinking,” according to Michael Callahand, inventor of the Audeo with fellow University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researcher Thomas Coleman and co-founder with Coleman of the Ambient Corporation.

Rather than broadcasting a person’s thoughts, it picks up on nerve signals deliberately, but soundlessly, sent to the vocal cords, and relays those signals wirelessly to a computer, which then converts them into words spoken by a computerized voice.

The current system only recognizes about 150 words and phrases, but an improved version is supposed to be out by the end of the year that doesn’t have a vocabulary limit, because instead of recognizing specific words and phrases, it will identify the distinct bits of sound, called phonemes, that we use to construct complete words.


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Interview: W. David Stephenson

February 28 2008 / by memebox / In association with Future
Category: Government   Year: General   Rating: 6

This interview was conducted by Venessa Posavec 01/24/08

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Facial recognition cameras promise less crime, easier shopping

March 01 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 10

By Dick Pelletier

In the TV show Las Vegas, video surveillance cameras spot a card counter, thief or blacklisted person and immediately scan a database to confirm identification. By the end of the program, all the bad guys are escorted from the casino or thrown in jail.

Facial recognition technology is advancing at exponential speeds. Every human face has landmarks called nodal points which include distance between the eyes, length and width of nose, cheekbone shape, jaw line, and depth of eye sockets. These points create a unique 3D “faceprint”.

In the past, primary users of facial recognition have been law enforcement to capture random faces in crowds. Government agencies have also used the systems for security and to eliminate voter fraud; and the U.S. recently began a program called US-VISIT, aimed at separating terrorists and criminals from legitimate foreign travelers who want to enter the country.

However, there are other situations where facial recognition systems are in demand. These include ATMs, check-cashing firms, and automated checkout systems. Retail giants Wall-Mart, Target, Costco, Kroger, Safeway, and others are rushing to develop facial recognition ID systems that will create a more enjoyable buying experience for customers.

In the next decade, you will enter the supermarket, grab an electronic cart that recognizes your face, toss in some bags and begin shopping. The monitor on your “smart cart” displays selected products, price, and total spent. As you wind through the aisles, the “cart” recognizes things you’re running low on, and offers special discounts just for you. When finished, you select a payment option on the cart handle – credit, debit, or cash to deposit in a nearby machine – and walk out the door.

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Airport Inspectors Can't Believe MacBook Air is a Real Computer, Acceleration at Work

March 11 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 10

Chalk this one up to accelerating change. Engadget reports that the owner of a super-thin Macbook Air laptop was held up by disbelieving TSA inspectors for such a long time that he wound up missing his flight.

Certainly the Air is a cool, nearly mind-blowing product, but don’t you think these folks should’ve grabbed another computer, hopped on the Mac site and confirmed that yes, this impossible consumer technology is actually real? That would’ve taken all of what, 3 minutes?

I’m already starting to feel bad for the airport screeners of 5 years from now. Imagine the new products and micro-technologies they’ll be required to identify and guard against. No longer will $8/hour (even if it is mostly for show nowadays) for an airport screener suffice, unless of course the scanning devices they employ improve very quickly.

Govt Commissions LANdroids for Battle Communication

March 11 2008 / by Venessa Posavec / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 5

You may know DARPA as the government agency responsible for developing thought-controlled prosthetics, autonomous vehicles, and a slew of other innovative technologies for use by the military. In a match made in heaven, they’ve teamed up with iRobot Corp, the designers of consumer robotics like the Roomba vacuum cleaner, to create a mobile communications robot for the U.S. Military.

With prototypes expected by the end of the year, these ‘LANdroids” (Local Area Network droids) are intended to keep communication channels open for soldiers on urban battlefields. They’ll have the built-in smarts to reposition themselves and catch the strongest signals, while avoiding obstacles and navigating various terrains. And, at a $100 a piece price point, they’re expendable should they happen to enter an enemy’s line of fire.

In addition to keeping our troops in contact with one another in patchy network areas, the technology may also have some practical purposes in non-combat situations. For instance, they might enable robotic farming equipment to coordinate over longer distances, serve to automatically patch a busted wi-fi zone in an office building, or reconfigure themselves to best supply network coverage at large events like concerts or protests.

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Study: Pacemakers Can Be Hacked, New Threat Models Emerging Rapidly

March 13 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: 2008   Rating: 8

As we replace body parts and increasingly rely on technology to keep us healthy and alive, a whole Pandora’s Box of new threats is creaking open. Case in point is a new study unveiled at the last IEEE Symposium that has determined implantable heart defribrillators (ICD) and pacemakers to be vulnerable to radio-attack.

The crafty researchers conducting the experiment, which analyzed the security and privacy properties of an implant “designed to communicate wirelessly with a nearby external programmer in the 175 kHz frequency range”, reverse-engineered the communications protocol for one such device by using an oscillator and a software radio. They then successfully implemented “several software radio-based attacks that could compromise patient safety and patient privacy.”

While this may sound like a bit macabre, the researchers insist it was all done with the best intentions.

“[W]e believe that this snapshot is necessary toward assessing the current trajectory of IMD security and privacy,” they noted in their report, “We hope that the analyses and defenses presented in this paper will motivate broader scientific investigations into how to best provide security, privacy, safety, and effectiveness for future implantable medical devices.”

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U.S. Army's 'Future Combat Systems' Seem Like One Big Video Game

March 21 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 10

The clip below may look like a trailer for the new Call of Duty video game, but it’s not. It’s a powerful promotion by the U.S. Army demonstrating their Future Combat Systems network, a collection of troops, robots, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellite-guided visualization systems all linked in real-time. The video presents an impressive war scenario that really gets the juices flowing (great for recruitment, annoying to pacifists), but also serves as a great vision of what’s about to be possible on and off the battlefield in the very near-future.

The interactive real-time, super-detailed graphical interfaces of combat zones are nothing short of amazing and remind me of many of the video games that I’ve played. When implemented, it’s obvious that such systems will provide U.S. troops with an edge over virtually any conceivable opponent (which is why they’ve been made public, I’m sure). The coordination capabilities such a system affords are formidable, resulting in battlefield optimization that truly will save many lives while more effectively taking others.


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iPlant ethics: is electronic neuromodulation too dangerous?

March 28 2008 / by iPlant / In association with Future
Category: Biotechnology   Year: General   Rating: 9

In response to the iPlant video, richardpinder and cromwell1646 write the following (my emphasis):

richardpinder I can see where you are coming from with this technology with regards to taking it in a positive direction. However I think that this science is far too dangerous, more so than every other science I have knowledge of to be allowed public. The massive risks of this technology is that it can lead to complete mind control. Anything can be hacked given time thus it wont be possible to make this hack proof. This technology can be used to control free will and should be banned now. I hope you fail.

cromwell1646 Dear Sir, I have just watched your video on your iPlant. I think you are coming at a problem from a positive direction. However this technology could be easily and seriously abused.

I am a programmer and I can tell you categorically its possible to hack into anything given enough time. The implications of this technology is it could be used to control someones mind against their will in the wrong hands.

This means that the cult-like problems of today and people being bent to do something extremely negative against their will pales into insignificance compared to what this could do.

To spell it out this could be used in countries ruled by a dictator to control its people. It could be used by Religious extreme groups to make the perfect suicide bomber. It could be used by criminal organisations to commit crimes.


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Future of War - suicide bombers changing rules of conflict

March 31 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 10

By Dick Pelletier

In The American Way of War, historian Russell Weigley describes a grinding strategy of destruction employed by the US military over the last 150 years. To end the Civil War, Grant felt he had to completely destroy Lee soldiers. In World War I, Pershing relentlessly bombarded and wore down Germany’s proud fighting machine. And the Army Air Corps pulverized major German and Japanese cities to win World War II.

These wars were not won by tactical or strategic brilliance but by the sheer weight of numbers – the awesome destructive power that only a fully mobilized and highly industrialized democracy can bring to bear. In these conflicts, US armies suffered and inflicted massive casualties. Our ability to both inflict and endure such casualties more effectively than could our adversaries ultimately resulted in victory.

However, this strategy is no longer effective. Inspired by latest information technologies, the US military has adopted new warfare tactics that eliminate the bloody matches of old. The new style seeks quick victory with minimal casualties on both sides and utilizes speed, flexibility, and surprise. It relies on precision firepower and integrates naval, air, and land forces into a seamless whole. This technique was clearly demonstrated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But experts predict that even this latest approach must change. Today, we experience conflict that includes warfare in which dominant military powers are confronted by a wide range of adversaries – from non-state radical ideologies (al Qaeda), to transnational criminal elements (Russian Mafia), to rogue states (N. Korea, Iran) – all employing unconventional tactics.


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English Group Now Lobbying Against Warbots

April 01 2008 / by Accel Rose / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 7

In what appears to be the first concerted effort to keep robotic warriors off the battlefield, an English lobbying group named Landmine Action “hopes to ban autonomous killing robots in all 150 countries bound by the current land mine treaty”, reports Jason Mick over at Daily Tech .

Richard Moyes, Landmine Action’s director of policy and research, explains, “That decision to detonate is still in the hands of an electronic sensor rather than a person. Our concern is that humans, not sensors, should make targeting decisions. So similarly, we don’t want to move towards robots that make decisions about combatants and noncombatants.”

The organization hopes to sway the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International, two leading organizations in war ethics lobbying. Landmine Action is spurred on by Sharkey’s comments, including his statement that, “We should not use autonomous armed robots unless they can discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. And that will be never.”

Never say never, Richard.

While the regulation of battlefield robots may make sense on some levels, it seems completely illogical to discount the possibility that robots will eventually, probably within 10-20 years, get better at discriminating between warriors and civilians than us humans. Systems that can swiftly determine human behavior and motivations based on readings are a distinct near term possibility – and that’s just one technology out of many that could prove his statement false.


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