Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Of wrong turns great and small

No mere fashion statement
As though legions of people walking around apparently talking to themselves -- immersed in remote conversation via their Bluetooth headsets -- isn't off-putting enough, Google plans to bring us voice-recognition computer-interface eyeglasses ... hideous prototype in the nearby picture. See "Head-Mounted Android: Google Reportedly Preps Connected Glasses."

In Small Miracles, I put computer-interface eyeglasses on the main character. Those glasses tracked where Brent was looking -- within the software-displayed image projected by the lenses -- by monitoring IR beams reflecting off the back of the eye. Input was entered via (trained) blinks made looking at menu items and virtual-keyboard keys. All any friend, relative, or colleague saw was his mirrored lenses. Eerily silent and quite antisocial -- but that was the point. Brent was no longer himself, exactly, and I wanted to show him losing touch with humanity.

That people may really go around online like this? I find that scary! And that Android will be the underlying software is all too ironic.

In Fools' Experiments, I forecast Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (aka WiMax) as the broadband wireless technology that would prevail. Well, WiMax did get deployed: by Sprint and its partner/provider Clearwire -- but even they now plan to migrate for 4G broadband to the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard. A minor authorial misstep, to be sure, and not a detail that affects the plot in any way ...

Still, I like to get even the small details right. But as I chide myself for mispredicting which 4G service would win in the marketplace, I find a silver lining. Unlike certain telecom companies, I haven't wasted billions betting on the wrong (as it were) horse. It's not only Sprint and Clearwire. Start-up venture Lightsquared with its new technology also looks to be a loser, as "F.C.C. Bars the Use of Airwaves for a Broadband Plan."

Lightsquared's system, it turns out, would have interfered with untold numbers of GPS receivers. Tsk. To be fair, that's the fault of the receiver manufacturers. Lightsquared planned to use RF spectrum near frequencies at which GPS satellites broadcast. Many GPS receivers -- and not merely consumer models -- fail to receive only within the designated GPS band. And it's kind of late for the FCC to impose limits on receivers. 

Global Hawk drone
And once again from the Department of Life Imitating Art, another creepy parallel. The Pentagon, on the verge of bringing home from Iraq and Afghanistan its 7,500(!) armed drones, is "... working with FAA to open U.S. airspace to combat drones." In Fools' Experiments, I have armed drones cruising America's borders -- and, being remotely controlled, hacked. Just how scary would that be?

 We now segue to happier thoughts ...

This being a blog of science and science fiction,what better place to report on"What Science Fiction Books Does A Futurist Read?" The list in that link is courtesy of Brian David Johnson, a futurist (what a cool job title!) for Intel. I've read all but one of Johnson's picks, as it happens, and I would recommend all of those.

The future goes on for a long time .... In peering ahead one must have priorities. So it's good to know that "Men Aren’t Going Extinct, Study of Shrinking Y Chromosome Finds."

That's one prediction I can get behind :-)


Andrew said...

== Google Glasses ==

That's not an actual prototype for the Google HMD glasses - it's a picture of Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman wearing Oakley Thump sunglasses with built-in MP3 player. (IIRC, Oakley did also make a Bluetooth-headset version.) As far as I know, no actual prototype has been displayed yet.

Much social interaction is already moving online (see, especially, the popularity of Facebook), so I think that this idea may gain popularity quite quickly. One wonders why Google doesn't just implement something like the Sony-Ericsson LiveView converted to a HMD, which is an interface to an Android device rather than a separate Android device itself.

== Drones ==

I hope that this is a temporary move to allow the Pentagon to get the drones home quickly without having to load them onto cargo transports and bring them home...why do that when it's quicker to program them to fly themselves home? Of course, we're going to see surveillance drones before long (see here: http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/surveillance-drones-coming-police-department-near-you) but ARMED drones are an entirely different story. Or I guess I should say "drones designed to be armed", since I hope that the FAA will require that the weapons be removed/not have any ammunition for use in US civilian airspace.

Edward M. Lerner said...

Even unarmed, drones are potentially preemptible fuel-laden projectiles. The question becomes: can they be hacked?

As early as 2009, Iraqi and Afghan insurgents were reported to have hacked into the video feeds of NATO drones (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126102247889095011.html). And it's possible, as Iranian representatives assert (though the claim is disputed by US experts), that a US Sentinel drone was captured last year by spoofing GPS signals (http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/attacks/232300666).