TECH NEWS of the week
October 22, 2008
.Natural thinking. for searching the Web is the new frontier
By David Shamah, Israel21c
The way we search the Web is all wrong, according to Danny Fine, president of Haifa-based BrainDamage.
"When we search for information, we are the ones doing all the work, inefficiently inputting keywords and narrowing down the results until we find what we want. We're supposed to be the masters, not the slaves," he said. "So why are we doing all the work?"
Right now, there isn't much option, but when Fine gets through with the Internet, he asserted, it's going to be a whole different place.
There are billions -- maybe even trillions -- of pieces of data on the web, most of which consist of "units" of ideas, eight words in length or less. Nearly all data search engines use a variation of keywords, also known as Latent Semantic Analysis or Indexing.
It's a form of artificial intelligence (AI), based in large part on the work of linguist Noam Chomsky, who pioneered the application of mathematical principles to language. The system analyzes documents, creating a map of keywords and the "distance" (in definition) between them.
"The search engine doesn't really understand what you're asking, of course -- it's just a dumb computer, after all," Fine said. "The way it figures out what you're looking for is by comparing your request to a long list of keywords that are indexed in a database with other terms that could really be what you're looking for."
That's why most searches produce a few relevant and more irrelevant results; the search engine starts to narrow things down when you click on a link.
That's also why successful searches usually don't contain too many words.
"The idea of asking a question of your search engine is almost unimaginable to most people, because of the search method and results we've been taught to accept," Fine said, with the search extremely fast -- but often inaccurate.
But BrainDamage (BD) has a different idea in mind. Instead of what he calls the failed linguistic methods used by Google and the rest, Fine proposes a different system to communicate with computers and databases -- "natural thinking technology," which will put the burden of "understanding" on the search engine, enabling it to return far more accurate results than are currently possible.
The BD system does this by assembling a huge database of texts and, using its proprietary and patented system, reassembling the information into logical constructs and ideas with definitions and meanings attached to them. A part of those data constructs is supplying contexts for terms and ideas, so in a case where the question being asked can apply to different situations, the BD engine will seek to clarify the question by asking for more information.
"Our system gathers information and develops it, guided by the user, to reach a conclusion -- using the same patterns of logic and ideas human beings do," Fine said.
Take, for example, the sentence, "My son was terrorizing us until he got his toys," said Eli Abir, who designed the BrainDamage system and is the company's chief technology officer. Terrorism in this context, of course, means misbehaving, not an acolyte of Osama bin Laden. Abir said that search engines have no way of knowing this and as a result, give many "false positives. But because BrainDamage's system relies on contextual logic, we can produce much more accurate results every time."
BrainDamage's first application is called Noesis and is geared to improving search results. But BD's technology, which in essence will teach machines to figure out what humans have in mind when they make a request, can be adapted to almost any other computer-driven operation.
"Our system advances artificial intelligence far beyond where it is today, enabling computers to truly understand what is being asked of them -- and to respond appropriately," Fine said.
Eventually, it could be installed in consumer items like washing machines or integrated into the phone system to enable far more complex operations than are currently possible. In addition, BD's technology, because it relies on contextual logic, will work with any language, with no need for endless sets of keywords in multiple languages.
While BrainDamage's technology is revolutionary, Fine said, he realizes that getting the rest of the information technology world on board will be a hard sell.
"BD's technology was developed by a unique individual, Eli Abir, and it frankly flies in the face of the accepted formulas for artificial intelligence," Fina said.
With BD, Abir has chosen to go up against Chomsky, called by pundits "the most quoted man alive." But Abir and Fine said they're up to the challenge.
"When you examine the current body of literature on artificial intelligence, you realize that researchers have hit a brick wall -- that there seems to be no way to build the intelligent robots we were told would be doing all the work for us by now at the dawn of the AI era three decades ago," Fine said. "With BrainDamage, the possibility of machines that can actually understand and think, based on what we tell them to do, becomes a reality."
And Fine is logical enough to realize that he needs to give BD time to blossom as a company: "We're not actively seeking VC [venture capital] money right now, because we realize we have to re-educate the investors as well," he said, adding that BD is not in a hurry to bring in investors, who would likely seek an exit by selling the technology to an Internet giant.
"We really have something revolutionary here, and we intend to see BrainDamage through -- until it becomes the standard for communication with computers." However, he said, BrainDamage has shown its prototype to several major companies, "and to say they were very impressed would definitely be an understatement."
The first Internet application based on BD technology should be available to the general public within a year, Fine added. In the end, he said, the technology world will have to adopt BrainDamage or something very similar.
"A new English word is invented every 90 minutes. There is no way the keepers of the keyword lists will be able to keep up and produce accurate results with that daily volume of new information," he explained.
"The current AI implementation of 'talking' to computers has reached its limit. Once Internet users see the difference between the current method of searching and the one we're implementing, they'll be sold," he said.
Lots in (App) Store For Smartphones
Google launches Android platform, software storefront and development race is on.
October 24, 2008
By Judy Mottl
Smartphone innovation is tethered to a constellation of factors coming together: the right hardware, a flexible operating system, good design, a fast network and, of course, nifty applications.
After all, as smartphones grow in power, so do expectations of better experiences with those applications.
"It's just like the PC model," Tim Bajarin, president of analyst firm Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com.
"We all had this computer on our desks but it was the software that made it useful. Smartphones are becoming the PCs in our pocket, and just like desktops, software will be a critical part in adoption and use," he said.
Small wonder that download stores and markets for smartphone applications are hotter than ever.
The T-Mobile/HTC G1 phone has officially opened the doors to its Android Market, with a come-on to developers to register. After a one-time $25 fee, they can start submitting applications by December.
According to the Android Developer blog, the Market is an "open content distribution system." Developers can make content available on the open service that features a feedback and rating system similar to YouTube. G1 users wanting music, however, will have to head over to Amazon where a G1 MP3 Store is open for business.
The Android blog said Google chose the word "market" over "store" to illustrate the need to have an "open and unobstructed environment." Developers register, upload and describe their content. In terms of oversight Google said it will only remove malicious applications, but otherwise will be completely hands-off.
Google plans to provide a dashboard and analytics for developers in the near future. Content is free through this year, and a site update will support download of paid content in 2009.
Right now the Market features about 50 to 60 applications, several of which were winners of a Google-sponsored $10 million Android Developer Challenge.
According to Medialerts, a New York-based mobile advertising network and analytics, 62 applications were available in the first 24 hours the Market was open -- less than 10 percent of applications with the launch of Apple.s App Store for the iPhone.
The firm estimates 200,000 to 700,000 downloads have taken place. Actual download stats are not provided on the Market's site and Google did not return calls to InternetNews.com to confirm specific download and application activity.
In comparison, Apple's App store crossed the 200 million mark in downloads this week. Currently, the 102-day old App Store has 5,500 apps and is in 62 countries.
In the Android Market, one favorite application, according to MediaAlerts, is ShopSavvy. The comparative shopping application that lets users scan a product's UPC code and instantly compare prices from online merchants and nearby local stores. Another is Ecorio, which lets users track of daily travels and view what their carbon footprint looks like. BreadCrumbz lets users create a step-by-step visual map using photos.
Several third-party application providers have also announced Android applications, including Visa, which said it is building an Android-based online banking application.
Other third party application sites such as Handmark are already hawking paid applications for the Android phone in addition to the market place.
Android's decentralized, and slow and steady development approach, shouldn't be viewed in a negative way. And comparing it to iTunes isn't fair, said Bajarin.
"Apple [and its iTunes] had a significant lead for several reasons as it was based on the company's PC system and they went with a single distribution point for their own reasons," explained Bajarin.
Those reasons include very tight supervision and approval of iPhone applications.
Google's Android development is in complete contrast, said the analyst. Android development is as open as Apple's iPhone development is closed.
At Apple's iTunes and App stores, users access music and applications using a USB doggle that allows for quick PC-handset synchronization. That easy approach has resonated big with iPhone owners, said Bajarin. G1 users have the same access process at its Market.
"Users want that ease of use and it eliminates a lot of confusion but that doesn't mean other approaches are bad," he said.
Android users, though, don't have one-stop shopping. If development takes off as expected by they will have plenty of places to find free and fee-based software, said Bajarin.
Pundits expect third-party Android developers will sell direct and at other venues such as online shopping sites. They could even sell directly to handset makers making Android devices, noted Bajarin.
"There is still a lot of confusion but Android's applications will be a significant competitor because of its openness," said Bajarin. "Apple did set the bar pretty high [with iTunes] but there's lots of growth and room in this market going forward."
That growth comes from mobile phone users who have yet to grab a smartphone. The CTIA, an industry wireless association, predicts 1.3 billion mobile phones will be sold this year.
Just about 10 percent of those, however, will be smartphone units, according to Creative Strategies research. The firm predicts that 1.5 billion mobile phones will be sold in 2012, and that 70 percent will be smartphones at that point.
One analyst, who described the Android development ecosystem as a "tough approach," noted that while the distribution channels may cause confusion for users and developers it could be a temporary challenge.
"It may very well evolve to where Android developers are pushing applications right onto the handset and working with manufacturers," Ryan Reith, senior research analyst, worldwide mobile phone tracker, IDC.
TAGS: smartphones, Android, applications, iphone 3G, app store
Darpa Wants to See Inside Your House
Danger Room from Wired.com
The Pentagon wants to be able to peer inside your apartment building -- picking out where all the major rooms, stairways, and dens of evil-doers are.The U.S. military is getting better and better at spotting its enemies, when they're roaming around the streets. But once those foes duck into houses, they become a whole lot harder to spot. That's why Darpa, the Defense Department's way-out research arm, is looking to develop a suite of tools for "external sensing deep inside buildings." The ultimate goal of this Harnessing Infrastructure for Building Reconnaissance (HIBR) project: "reverse the adversaries' advantage of urban familiarity and sanctuary and provide U.S. Forces with complete above- and below-ground awareness."By the end of the project, Darpa wants a set of technologies that can see into a 10-story building with a two-level basement in a "high-density urban block" -- and produce a kind of digital blueprint of the place. Using sensors mounted on backpacks, vehicles, or aircraft, the HIBR gear would, hopefully, be able to pick out every room, wall, stairway, and basement in the building -- as well as all of the "electrical, plumbing, and installation systems."