The androids are here

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University says one day robots could fool us into believing they are human.

He said this at the unveiling Repliee Q1, a female android, said to be “the most human-looking robot yet devised”.

She has flexible silicone for skin rather than hard plastic, and a number of sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react in a human-like manner.

She can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human. She even appears to breathe.

“I have developed many robots before,” Prof Ishiguro, told the BBC News website, “but I soon realised the importance of its appearance. A human-like appearance gives a robot a strong feeling of presence.”

He said people forget she is an android while interacting with her. “Consciously, it is easy to see that she is an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were a woman.”

He added an android could get away with it for a short time, 5-10 seconds. “However, if we carefully select the situation, we could extend that, to perhaps 10 minutes,” he said.

[That’s enough time for me, Prof.]


Innocent man shot dead in London tube

The man shot dead in Stockwell Tube, London, turned out to be an innocent Brazilian electrician.

Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, (pic left) had the misfortune of wearing a thick coat in summer that make police jump to conclusions.

Witness Mark Whitby told BBC News 24: “I was sitting on the train… I heard a load of noise, people saying, ‘Get out, get down’.

“I saw an Asian guy. He ran on to the train, he was hotly pursued by three plain clothes officers, one of them was wielding a black handgun.

“He half tripped… they pushed him to the floor and basically unloaded five shots into him,” he said.

“As [the suspect] got onto the train I looked at his face, he looked sort of left and right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox.

“He looked absolutely petrified and then he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him, [they] couldn’t have been any more than two or three feet behind him at this time and he half tripped and was half pushed to the floor and the policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand.

“He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him.

“He [the suspect] had a baseball cap on and quite a sort of thickish coat – it was a coat you’d wear in winter, sort of like a padded jacket.

“He might have had something concealed under there, I don’t know. But it looked sort of out of place with the sort of weather we’ve been having, the sort of hot humid weather.

“He was largely built, he was quite a chubby sort of guy.

“I didn’t see any guns or anything like that – I didn’t see him carrying anything. I didn’t even see a bag to be quite honest.”

Whitby said when approached by police he was distraught: “I was just basically saying I’ve just seen a man shot dead. I’ve seen a man shot dead. I was distraught, totally distraught. It was no less than five yards away from where I was sitting. I actually saw it with my own eyes.”

Scotland Yard said Mr Menezes, who lived in Brixton, south London, was completely unconnected to the bomb attacks and added: “For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets.”

The Brazilian government has expressed its shock at the killing and Brazil’s foreign minister Celso Amorim is on his way to London to get an explanation from foreign secretary Jack Straw.

MORE here and here.

UPDATE: Aug 16, 2005, …The (secret) documents and photographs confirm that Jean Charles was not carrying any bags, and was wearing a denim jacket, not a bulky winter coat, as had previously been claimed.

He was behaving normally, and did not vault the barriers, even stopping to pick up a free newspaper.

He started running when we saw a tube at the platform…

…post mortem examination showed Mr de Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, but three other bullets missed, with the casings left lying in the tube carriage.

Police have declined to comment while the mistaken killing is still being investigated. MORE.

Google breaches US$300 mark

It’s starting to look like Netscape days again.

Google’s shares hit US$309 last I looked. Compare this to Amazon at $38, Yahoo at $37, eBay at $35, IBM at $83, Dell at $41, HP at $24.

This means the shares have trebled in value since the company’s initial public offering in mid-August 2004.


Morgan Freeman attempts to ‘free’ movies

Why is Morgan Freeman trying to kickstart the online distribution of movies? Can anyone say Whoopi Goldberg and already?

Here’s the premise of Freeman’s idea in his own words:

“I live in Mississippi in a very small town,” he said in a phone interview. “In order for me to see a first-run movie, I have to drive a couple of hours at a high rate of speed. For me, and many consumers like me, this will be a godsend. I will be able to get premium content safely and cheaply.”

(Duh. You and all the geriatrics down in Mississippi do NOT constitute the very audience you pander to with your movies Mr Freeman!)

He added that the distribution windows are no longer meaningful because of online piracy and bootleg DVDs. “DVDs are already available in China and in Russia even before they are released for sale here,” Mr. Freeman said.

(So what’s the point of offering them legally over the Internet?)

Morgan Freeman maybe a great actor, and I respect him for that, but he’s walking into this with blinkers on. Or perhaps Intel has lured him with more money than he can possibly make in his next movie.

With BitTorrent and broadband, any attempt to sell movies online will just die a premature death. Freeman plans Internet releases coinciding with theater dates thereby attempting to kill the very weekend opener that the industry thrives on. Movies are distributed in orchestrated progressions from theatres to DVD to cable to TV broadcast. What studio is going to give up those repeat sales in the near future?

Mr Freeman, this may be your Million Dollar Dud.

London Underground Bombing ‘Exercises’ Took Place at Same Time as Real Attack

This is from

Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones/Prison Planet | July 9 2005

Culpability cover scenario echoes 9/11 wargames

A consultancy agency with government and police connections was running an exercise for an unnamed company that revolved around the London Underground being bombed at the exact same times and locations as happened in real life on the morning of July 7th.

On a BBC Radio 5 interview that aired on the evening of the 7th, the host interviewed Peter Power, Managing Director of Visor Consultants, which bills itself as a ‘crisis management’ advice company, better known to you and I as a PR firm.

Peter Power was a former Scotland Yard official, working at one time with the Anti Terrorist Branch.

Power told the host that at the exact same time that the London bombings were taking place, his company was running a 1,000 person strong exercise which drilled the London Underground being bombed at the exact same locations, at the exact same times, as happened in real life.

The transcript is as follows.

POWER: At half past nine this morning we were actually running an exercise for a company of over a thousand people in London based on simultaneous bombs going off precisely at the railway stations where it happened this morning, so I still have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up right now.

HOST: To get this quite straight, you were running an exercise to see how you would cope with this and it happened while you were running the exercise?

POWER: Precisely, and it was about half past nine this morning, we planned this for a company and for obvious reasons I don’t want to reveal their name but they’re listening and they’ll know it. And we had a room full of crisis managers for the first time they’d met and so within five minutes we made a pretty rapid decision that this is the real one and so we went through the correct drills of activating crisis management procedures to jump from slow time to quick time thinking and so on.

Click here for a clip of this dialogue. Click here for a longer clip where the comments can be heard in their full context.

The fact that the exercise mirrored the exact locations and times of the bombings is light years beyond a coincidence. Power said the drill focused around ‘simultaneous bombings’. At first the bombings were thought to have been spread over an hour, but the BBC reports just today that the bombings were in fact simultaneous.


Underground T-shirts, graphic site taunt terrorists

Graphic designer Dario Agosta created a series of T-shirts based on the London Underground sign. Proceeds will go to Red Cross relief fund.

You can buy them here and here.

He writes: “To me, London tube is a major symbol of London, and its identity is a major symbol of what good graphic design should be.

“My sympathies go to those who were affected. On the morning of July, 7 I was emailing a press representative for a page-ad on a magazine, and turned out her office is a few blocks from the Regent St. Tube Station, and as I was writing, the bombings were taking place. As soon as I read the news, I was chilled.

“Why am I writing this ? because none of us can really feel he or she is far and safe and sound from what happened in London yesterday, or from what happened in Madrid last year, or from what happened in New York in 2001, or from what happened and still is happening in occupied countries. None. Of. Us.

“But, what can I really do (apart from quitting writing such drivel ?). Good point, gosh. I am a designer, I design bloody things.

“So, there you are.”

A site called “WE’RENOTAFRAID.COM” has reactionary graphical postings (right) from blogosphere.

Camphone footage makes mainstream media

Cameraphone video footage and pics came to the fore after London’s tragic bombings.

mtippett posted a screencap of the Most Viewed Image on Yahoo News was that of a smoky, carriage in a London tube. Although it was grainy and greenish, the image indicates the speed of citizen news reporting to come when everyone has a cameraphone.

In a article, “Cellphone videos stage center in news”, Matea Gold points out that “…the new technology provides nearly instant amateur images for broadcast that the television news crews were not able to get.”

It was, possibly, the first widespread use of that technology in covering a major breaking news story of global significance.

Of the 192 million cellphones in the U.S., about 18%, or roughly 34.5 million, now have cameras. The percentage of camera phones is even higher in Europe, where the technology has been around longer.

Loaded with features including text messaging, video games, cameras, live TV and the ability to record and transmit video through the Internet, the phones have become must-have items, especially among teens. They’ve been banned as voyeuristic irritants — or worse — at venues ranging from schools to Hollywood movie screenings. But, as they proved in London on Thursday, they can also provide a ground-level view of history.

“You forget how many people have these phones now and how much more of the first minutes of an event you’re going to see,” said Chuck Lustig, director of foreign news coverage for ABC.

British television network ITN received dozens of video clips, some by e-mail and others from survivors of the blasts who brought their phones directly to the London newsroom. Some of the video clips were too gruesome too air, according to one senior editor.

Sky News aired a haunting 20-second clip filmed by a commuter on a train between the King’s Cross and Russell Square stations, who e-mailed it to the British television network, Fox News’ sister channel. It showed lines of people filing through dark tunnels under greenish lights and an alarmed man staring at the camera, part of his face obscured by a cloth over his mouth. BBC aired video from cellphones throughout the day, as well.

The British channels distributed the footage to other networks, including those in the United States. The amateur video clips quickly became a staple of the news coverage.

The video did not provide the usual crisp images sought by news producers. Shakily filmed, the footage showed frightened Londoners cast in an eerie green light, holding handkerchiefs over their mouths to block the smoke as they struggled to get out of the subway.

“It looked to me like a goldfish aquarium,” said John Moody, Fox News’ senior vice president for news editorial. “Right now, the pictures themselves are not sharp enough to be used on a daily basis. But when you’ve only got one picture of something, you can make vast allowances for the quality.”

In fact, the footage might not have garnered much attention if there had been extensive professional video of the explosions’ aftermath. But on a day devoted to nonstop coverage of the bombings, news executives said the mobile phone video was able to convey the claustrophobic atmosphere underground.

“It was a little bit murky and blurry, but the viewer could get a sense that something bad had happened,” said Marcy McGinnis, senior vice president for news coverage at CBS.

“It’s a harbinger of what’s to come in terms of citizen journalism,” said Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. “These days, you just have to be in the wrong place at the right time, and you too can cover the news…..Neil Strother, a Seattle-based analyst who tracks the use of mobile devices for the research firm In-Stat, said the number of U.S. cellphones with camera or video capability was expected to grow significantly in the next year as developing technology allowed for higher-quality images and wireless carriers expanded their broadband networks.

“With more and more people carrying cellphones with that kind of function, you’re probably going to see a lot more of that amateur news video,” Strother said. “It potentially makes everybody a pod-casting journalist.”

MORE | iFilm video

I remember reading an Online Journalism Review article about the aftermath of a 12-vehicle pile-up that happened on June 23, 2003 in Japan and was captured by a trucker. The video of the accident that occurred on the Tomei Expressway in Aichi Prefecture, in which four people died, was later shown on NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting station.

Welcome to 21st century journalism!

Google Earth and MSN Virtual Earth

I tried Google Earth and flipped. Wow, an amazing piece of software — and for free at that — where you can virtually fly over buildings, or across the Earth to specific addresses.

Could actually “see” the stacks of containers on the wharves I used to walk past in Auckland in New Zealand. Google says some of the pics are three years old but the details – especially for some destinations in the US – were amazing.

WSJ Personal Tech correspondent Walt Mossberg’s review weighs in with “it’s cool” endorsement but points out some quirks:

“…For instance, the details of the White House roof have been blanked out, presumably to obscure security features and vulnerabilities. And all but the outline of the U.S. Capitol is deliberately obscured. But the Pentagon and CIA headquarters are shown crystal clear, in considerable detail.”

I guess the terrorists are so dumb, they can’t figure this out (duh).

Meanwhile, Chris Pirillo shows us a sneak peek of MSN Virtual Earth in wmv format.

It looks equally amazing, though it won’t be out for some time yet.

Four Blasts Hit London, Killing at Least 2

All pics above from Skynews.

Four Blasts Hit London, Killing at Least 2
By JANE WARDELL, Associated Press Writer

LONDON – Three explosions rocked the London subway and one tore open a packed double-decker bus during the morning rush hour Thursday. The blasts killed at least two people and injured about 190 in what a shaken Prime Minister Tony Blair called a series of “barbaric” terrorist attacks.

Blair said it was clear the attacks were designed to coincide with the opening of the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. The prime minister said the meeting of world leaders would continue but that he would return to London…


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