Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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Microsoft Origami

March 14, 2006

WSJ writes:

After months of cryptic Web marketing and word-of-mouth hype over Microsoft Corp.’s project code-named Origami, the company finally showed off the product Thursday: an ultracompact computer running Windows XP with a touchscreen and wireless connectivity.

The device, about the size of a large paperback book, weighs less than 2? pounds and is about one inch thick. It doesn’t have a keyboard, but includes a seven-inch screen that responds to a stylus or the tap of a finger. The device, manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co. and others, is expected to be in stores next month for between $600 and $1,000.

The screen is wide, bright and easy to see, even in low light. Mr. Mitchell showed a music video on one model and a film on the other. It doesn’t have its own keyboard, but since the units are designed with USB 2 ports, one could be plugged in as needed, the Associated Press reported. Other units shown to the AP had SecureDigital Card and CompactFlash memory-card slots, along with jacks for connecting digital cameras, headphones and speakers.

Pentop Computer

December 22, 2005

Walter Mossberg writes:

The FLY Pentop Computer comes from LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. — a respected and well-known company that makes educational toys for kids. This $100 digital toy, geared toward kids aged eight and older, is a thick ballpoint pen, with a brain. Using built-in software, it reads, and reacts to, certain things you write with the pen. In effect, it turns paper into an interactive medium.

With FLY, you can hand-draw a calculator or a simple musical keyboard and actually use them — the calculator really does math and the keyboard really plays notes. You can practice math and spelling and geography; and play educational and noneducational games. The pen offers extra instructions, sound effects and encouragement through a tiny speaker. There’s no shooting, no sex, and nobody dies.

Ten-dollar AI

December 18, 2005

Kevin Kelly writes:

The other day Will Wright, the genius behind Sim City and the Sims, handed me this tennis ball-size orb and said, “It knows what you are thinking.” Most of the time it will guess what you have in mind after asking you twenty yes/no questions. It is eerily smart, and slightly addictive. I see it as an educational toy.

Burned into its 8-bit chip is a neural net that has been learning for 17 years. Inventor Robin Burgener programmed a simple neural net on a DOS machine 1988…In 1995 Burgener put the now robust neural net onto the new web where anyone could play it (that is, train it) 24 hours a day.

The toy is remarkable. Because it is so small, so autonomous, its intelligence is shocking to the unprepared. Most children can’t stump it, and if you stick to objects it will stump smart adults about 80% of the time with 20 questions and most of the time with an additional 5 questions. I love to watch people’s reactions when they think of a “hard” thing, and after a seemingly irrational set of questions you are convinced are dumb, the sly ball tells you what you had in mind. (For instance, it can correctly guess “flying squirrel”without asking “does it fly?”) People who play chess machines won’t be surprised, but just about everyone else is tickled. It feels like the future.