Connect with us

Science & Technology

Google plans on implanting chip in your brain

Google plans on implanting chip in your brain 86

The power of computing, and the thrill of its apparently infinite possibilities, has also long been a source of fear.

Going into a San Francisco second-hand book shop, shortly before a visit to Google’s headquarters in California, I happened upon a copy of Dick Tracy, an old novel based on Chester Gould’s cartoon strip starring America’s favourite detective.

For a 1970 publication, the plot seemed remarkably topical. Dick, and his sidekick Sam Catchem, find themselves battling a sinister character known as “Mr Computer” who wants to control the world. His strange powers enable him to remember everything he hears or sees and recall it instantly. This is a bad guy who can store data, analyse voice patterns and read private thoughts.

My visit to the legendary “Googleplex” at Mountain View comes at an awkward time for the company. Edward Snowden’s revelations about the snooping of the US Government’s National Security Agency (NSA) in its clandestine electronic-surveillance programme PRISM have provoked a crisis of trust in Silicon Valley. Larry Page, Google co-founder and CEO, rushed out a blog to deny claims in leaked NSA documents that it – in parallel with other American internet giants – had been co-operating with the spying programme since 2009. “Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ internet activity on such a scale is completely false,” he said.

Trust is everything to Google. It stands on the verge of a technological breakthrough that can transform its relationship with us. Already, it is universally recognised as the world leader in searching for information. It handles around 90 per cent of internet searches in the UK: when we want to know something, most of us turn to Google. But it wants more – it wants to become our constant companion.

The rapid evolution of mobile technology has brought new opportunities to a business generating annual revenue in excess of $50bn (£33.7bn). It began, just 15 years ago, as a service that enabled you to type a request into a personal computer and be given links to associated websites. Things have rather moved on. Soon Google hopes to have the ubiquitous presence of a personal assistant that never stops working, capable of conversing naturally in any language. Ultimately, as Page and co-founder Sergey Brin have asserted, the goal is to insert a chip inside your head for the most effortless search engine imaginable. Some will find this prospect exciting. Others might want to call for Dick Tracy.

The first stage of this new level of intimacy is Google Glass, which I am invited to trial as part of a briefing on the company’s future plans.

My first impression is that this revolutionary contraption is remarkably unobtrusive. It looks like a pair of glasses and, at 36 grams, weighs about the same as a typical pair of sunglasses due to its largely titanium frame. Despite the chunkiness of the right temple – made from plastic and where all the technology is stored – there is no sense of imbalance.

The awkwardness only starts when you start to interact. You turn the contraption on by tapping your finger on the right side of the frame, or surreptitiously throwing your head back. On a screen projected a few inches in front of your right eyeball is a digital clock and the magic words “OK glass”, the uttering of which takes you to a range of task options: ask a question, take a picture, record a video, get directions to, send a message to, make a call to, make a video call to.

The idea of Google Glass is that you can walk down busy streets receiving helpful facts – without needing to take your mobile phone from your pocket. It could end the urban hazard of pedestrians staring at their mobiles instead of looking where they’re going.

At the moment it’s a work in progress, which is why the prototype is called the Explorer and the 10,000 American-based pioneers who are trialling the apparatus – mostly web developers and heavy social-media users – are dubbed “explorers”.

Does it work? Yes and no. Answering questions is its central feature. It likes straightforward instruction such as “OK Glass… Google – what is the height of David Cameron?”, returning within four seconds with an image of the Prime Minister and a computer voice telling me “David Cameron is six feet zero inches tall”. But when I ask for the name of the wife of his predecessor, Gordon Brown, I’m offered details of “Golden Brown”, a hit for The Stranglers in 1982.

The camera and video option is novel and discreet, except when you bark out the words: “OK Glass, take a picture!” Three seconds after giving the order, you have a shot (or film) which you can share with friends on the Google+ social network. One Explorer recently used Google Glass to snap a police arrest as it was taking place. The potential is enormous: a proud mum could film her son taking a penalty kick in a football match while dad, abroad but connected through the Google Hangout service, could watch the action live through his wife’s Google Glass. The more you hand your life over to Google, the more you get out of this technology.

Google Glass is part of a wider ecosystem and is not currently intended as an alternative to a mobile phone but as a complement to it. Glass needs the mobile in your pocket to locate your position and connect to your contacts via 4G and Bluetooth. Rather than encouraging users to be constantly gibbering in public, the default position for this device is “off”, I am told. The screen has been positioned above the eye line and at two o’clock on a clock face to ensure that the people f you are with know from your squint when you are consulting Glass.

But none of these caveats can conceal the scale of Google’s ambition. It is staking its future on a vast store of information called the Knowledge Graph, which is growing at an exponential rate. When it launched in May 2012, Knowledge Graph was a pool of 3.5 billion facts on 500 million of the world’s most searched subjects. In a little over a year the knowledge held on the Google servers has grown to 18 billion facts on around 570 million subjects.

This Knowledge Graph is the base for Google Now, the latest incarnation of Google which is personalising the search engine by giving you a series of bespoke “cards” as you log on. They tell you the local weather, the traffic you might face on the way to work, details of your meetings and restaurant bookings taken from your Google email account, your team’s latest result and so on.

In Building 43 of the Googleplex, Ben Gomes talks with barely concealed excitement about a “new epoch”. A Google fellow and the company’s Vice President of Search he has been working on these technologies for 14 years. “[Knowledge Graph] is everything you have at some point asked a query about – plus everything that everyone else has thought of!” he exclaims. “It’s a meld of all the world’s interests and information needs.”

The future, he says, is for this enormous resource to be “present everywhere”. It’s a long step from the British Council library in Bangalore, where Gomes used to go to obtain his reading matter. “You borrowed a book – if it was available – and then you read it and got the next book. I got two books and that was all the information that I had for a week,” he says. “Today it would be unthinkable for that [information] not to be available in seconds.”

Google’s options have grown with recent advances in speech-recognition technology (it can now decipher 35 languages) and in natural-language processing, the “holy grail” that means the computer can understand what is being spoken (for example, knowing that “tall” refers to height) and hold a conversation. The “OK Google…” voice-prompted search tool (already installed on mobile apps) is to become standard on the Google Chrome engine.

Scott Huffman, Google’s engineering director, says the company’s intention is to “transform the ways people interact with Google”. That means having conversations similar to those you would have with humans. No longer will we have to go to “settings” to recalibrate our devices – we will simply order them to make the desired changes. And those devices will not be in our pockets – but all around us in every room.

“If you look back 10 years there was a computer on my desk and today there’s a computer in my pocket and it still has a screen and a keyboard,” says Huffman.

“But fast forward a bit and… I think there is going to be a device in the ceiling with microphones, and it will be in my glasses or my wristwatch or my shirt. And like the Google Glass it won’t have a keyboard… you just say ‘OK Google, blah-blah-blah’ and you get what you want.”

Where will it end? Gomes agrees that a chip embedded in the brain is far from a sci-fi fantasy. “Already people are beginning to experiment with handicapped people for manoeuvring their wheelchairs,” he says. “They are getting a few senses of direction with the wheelchair but getting from there to actual words is a long ways off. We have to do this in the brain a lot better to make that interaction possible. We have impatience for that to happen but the pieces of technology have to develop.”

Any visitor to the Googleplex will testify that this is not a regular company. By lunch time, Googlers are out on the sand of the beach volleyball court. A statue of a dinosaur skeleton – a pointed juxtaposition of past and future – has been decorated with model pink flamingos, hanging from its bones. Around the central patio there are awnings in Google-style primary colours which add to the impression of a holiday resort.

It is anything of the sort, of course. In one of the site’s 30 cafés, the piped sound of Australian group Men at Work accompanies Google staff as they help themselves to free meals. Yoshka’s Café is named after the first dog to have a Google pass – staff are allowed to bring canines to work, to add a feeling of domesticity (and presumably to get them to stay later). Small plates are offered to encourage smaller portions and less waste. Fruit and water are placed at eye level but you have to bend down for sugary drinks. All of this is data driven. Ingredients in meals are marked on displays with traffic-light colours to convey healthy credentials. Coconut scores a green but vanilla, for some reason, is marked a dangerous red.

There are seven gyms in the Googleplex and I see a man walking on a gym treadmill while simultaneously working from a specially made desk with a large computer screen. He has headphones on and his laptop is also open, showing a screensaver of his baby. Nearby there is a Japanese meditation space – “Experience the joy and mindfulness of just eating, try monotasking for lunch today” – and a Nap Pod capsule where you can have a power sleep (30-minute limit “out of fairness to fellow Googlers”).

Building 43 is decorated with a giant model of Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship One, donated by Sir Richard Branson, and Building 2000 has a long, silver, swirling slide that allows you to bypass the stairs.

It’s no wonder people want to work here. About 10,000 do. But the company gets two million applications a year, a demand reflected in the new Hollywood movie The Internship, which was partly filmed at the Googleplex.

In the Dick Tracy novel, Mr Computer (his initials were I.B.M.) came a cropper when the detective’s deliberately eccentric behaviour caused his adversary’s brain to malfunction. But what would we do without Google? Since my visit I’ve found myself engaging more and more with its services.

Back in London I get to have another go with Glass. This time the headset (the only one in the UK) is orange. There are six colours and Google is also working on a sunglasses design. I’m starting to get the hang of it, of swiping the frame from ear to eye to move through your timeline of previous searches, photo snaps and actions. I learn to say “Welcome to London” in Japanese. It’s great fun.

But to get the best results, I’m told to speak up and in an American accent. Google seems to respond best when I’m hollering like John Wayne in 7th Cavalry uniform. Imagine that in your local restaurant. “OK Glass Google!” I yell self-consciously in broad Texan. “Will I need an umbrella tomorrow?”

Google Glass and I are now in full conversation. “Yes,” she tells me. “The forecast for tomorrow in London is 24 degrees with a 50 per cent chance of rain.”

As it turns out, tomorrow is a glorious day and I don’t need a brolly at all, although those Google Glass shades would have been handy. This is a product that will continue to be honed. And there’s something strangely reassuring in the fact that, for all its Knowledge Graphs and interactive spectacles, even the world’s greatest search machine still can’t predict the British weather.

Source

Science & Technology

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a “ghost” particle that makes up dark matter

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a "ghost" particle that makes up dark matter 99
Photo: Daniel Molybdenum, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States have found that the mysterious high-energy radiation emitted from the vicinity of a group of neutron stars may indicate the existence of axions – not yet discovered particles within the framework of New Physics, the search for which has been going on since 1977. It is assumed that special types of axions form dark matter. This is reported in an article published in the journal Physical Review Letters. The research is summarized in a press release on Phys.org.

It is believed that axions can form in the core of neutron stars and transform into photons in the presence of a powerful magnetic field. To detect the electromagnetic radiation associated with axions, you need to find stars that do not emit radiation at different wavelengths that can mask the desired signal. 

These objects include the Magnificent Seven neutron stars that emit only X-ray and ultraviolet radiation. They are located at a distance of 200-500 parsecs from the Earth.

The researchers ruled out the scenario that the excess X-rays produced by the Magnificent Seven are actually emitted by other, more distant objects. These sources would be found in datasets from the XMM-Newton and Chandra X-ray space telescopes.

The extra X-rays likely originate from axions hitting an extremely strong electromagnetic field billions of times stronger than the magnetic fields that could be created on Earth, the scientists concluded. The axions themselves resemble neutrinos in their properties, since both have insignificant masses and rarely and weakly interact with matter.

The axion is currently viewed as the most promising candidate for dark matter particles, since another hypothetical candidate, the massive WIMP particle, has gone unnoticed in experiments aimed at detecting it. 

In addition, there may be a whole family of axion-like particles that form dark matter, as suggested by string theory. If axions are found, it will prove that there is a whole new area of ​​physics outside the Standard Model describing the properties of all known particles.

To find out, the next step will be to study white dwarfs, which are not expected to emit X-rays.

“If we see an abundance of X-rays there too, our arguments will be pretty compelling,” said lead author Benjamin Safdie.

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear?

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 100

Various sources often talk about civilizations that lived long before us. They all developed, prospered for a while, and then disappeared in an incomprehensible way. 

What is the reason for their decline, we probably will not know. All we can do is admire the remains of stone buildings, over which time has almost no power.

While looking for an answer, we somehow accidentally stumbled upon an interesting saying about the life of Japanese samurai: “A samurai has no goal, but a path.” In the end, the “path of the samurai” ended in what is known – death. The path of any civilization ended in the same way.

If you look at the issue through the prism of a samurai saying, then there is no point in looking for why and how civilization ended its existence. Probably, the process itself and its result are important here. But to whom is it important and what result does it expect?

Mysterious director

Apparently, behind the curtains of this “ancient theater” there is a mysterious “director” who periodically makes necessary adjustments to the history of civilization.

To figure out what’s what, you need to look at current trends in science. Where does a person strive with such an irresistible desire to “play God.” This attracts him and at the same time frightens him, but in no way turns him away from the intended path. Most likely, artificial intelligence (AI) is the purpose of our civilization’s existence.

About 50 years ago it would have seemed nonsense, but to someone, perhaps even now. However, if you trace the last 100 years of the life of our civilization, you get the feeling that most of the discoveries were given to mankind at the same time. A powerful leap has taken place in a hundred years. Why did it happen?

At the beginning of the last century, scientists recognized the existence of fields that have memory and the ability to store and transmit information. It is very likely that such or a similar field can be around the Earth and, more interesting, possess intelligence. Isn’t this the same “Director” hiding behind the screen of the “ancient theater”?

If this is so, then at a certain moment the “Director” gives the selected scientist “access” to certain knowledge (perhaps even in a dream, like Mendeleev), and another scientific breakthrough occurs in the world. Step by step, discovery after discovery, humanity is steadily moving towards the creation of AI. The trend is already well visible.

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 101

AI is probably the next “Babylon”, which will combine all the knowledge, culture and accumulated experience of civilization. In the future, the neural network will enter into a connection with the general information field and leave humanity without knowledge, technology, and even a spoken language. This will be the next decline of civilization. And the “Director” will receive another array of new data (experience) in order to start creating a new civilization.

If someone believes that past civilizations ended in large-scale conflicts, then most likely this is already the consequences of “turning off” AI.

Co-founder of Skype talked about the threat of AI to humanity

One of the creators of the Skype internet call service, Jaan Ta

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 102
Photo: 
© still from the movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

llinn, said that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) threatens humanity. According to him, humans face three key threats, but it is AI that should be feared most of all, the expert said. 

Tallinn explained that at the moment, no one can predict what development AI will achieve in the next decades. In addition, the fact that scientists are creating artificial intelligence that can form a new AI without human intervention is also a cause for concern.

In addition, as the co-founder of the popular video calling service noted, the development of synthetic biology also causes concern. According to him, this direction in science allows the creation of artificial DNA sequences and biological systems that may not exist in nature.

Tallinn also drew attention to the fact that he fears we are entering an era of “unknown unknowns”, things that people are not even able to imagine right now.

Continue Reading

Science & Technology

Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented

Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented 103
Copyright: © VW

The renowned German car manufacturer announced a new development. This time, engineers have created a unique robot capable of autonomously charging electric vehicles. 

For more than a year, specialists have been developing this project, but only now the concern was ready to demonstrate the first working prototype. The robot is ready to charge electric vehicles and has shown the high efficiency of this process.

It is called the Mobile Charging Robot, and experts have already compared it to the R2-D2 droid from Star Wars, including squeaks and clangs. Indeed, there is a similarity. Before implementing this idea, the engineers decided that robots should be allowed to charge cars parked in large residential complexes.

This will save their owners from leaving in order to find a gas station. Another advantage is that large parking lots and garages do not have to contain several expensive charging points for electric cars. The car company said in a press release that the robot works exclusively autonomously.

It independently controls and interacts with the vehicle being charged. It opens the cover of the charging socket and independently connects the power plug, then disconnects it. The robot looks like a trailer, which is a mobile energy storage.

It is capable of charging multiple electric vehicles at the same time. Despite the fact that the manufacturer confidently praises its concept, experts saw inefficiency in the fact that first it is necessary to charge the robot’s battery, which is then used to recharge electric cars.

Volkswagen Group Components CEO Thomas Schmall noted that creating an efficient charging infrastructure for the cars of the future is an important step in the company’s development.

Its engineers focus on finding solutions to avoid costly do-it-yourself measures. The mobile robot is only part of the concept that will continue to be developed.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

DO NOT MISS

Trending