Air Everything

Like many people, I was very impressed by a video over the weekend of the Word Lens real-time translation app for iPhone.  It struck with a viral bang, and within a few days racked up over 2 million YouTube views. What particularly made me smile was digging backwards through the twitter stream of a key Word Lens developer whom I follow, John DeWeese, and finding this pearl of a tweet (right) from several months ago, as he was banging out the app out in my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s a hacker mentality for you 🙂

But one thought I had in watching the video was, why do I need to be holding the little device in front of me, to get the benefit of its computational resources and display? I’ve seen the studies and predictions that “everything’s going mobile,” but I believe that’s taking too literally the device itself, the form-factor of a little handheld box of magic.

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Using the body in new virtual ways

This is CHI 2010 week, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta. Top researchers in human-computer-interaction (HCI) are together April 10-15 for presentations, panels, exhibits, and discussions. Partly because of our intense interest in using new levels of computational power to develop great new Natural User Interfaces (NUI), Microsoft Research is well represented at CHI 2010 as pointed out in an MSR note on the conference:

This year, 38 technical papers submitted by Microsoft Research were accepted by the conference, representing 10 percent of the papers accepted. Three of the Microsoft Research papers, covering vastly different topics, won Best Paper awards, and seven others received Best Paper nominations.

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Once you get past Filter Failure

How do intelligence analysts handle the long-discussed problem of information overload? (The same question goes for information workers and government data of any kind.)

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Patents, Microsoft, and the Future

Fact: According to the latest annual report on patents released this month, the number of patents awarded in 2007 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was down a full 9.5 percent from 2006’s all-time high. In addition, some 80 percent of the companies on the list of top recipients (including IBM, repeating for its 14th straight year at the top of the list) received fewer patents than they had the year before.  Only one American company in the top 25 earned more patents in 2007 than it had the year before: Microsoft.

Analysis:  One of my minor hobbies is reading patents, for example in the field of information retrieval, and I got the bug as an undergrad from my idol Thomas Jefferson, founder of both my alma mater and the U.S. Patent Office and the first patent examiner himself.  Patents are a great indicator of the future – the future of an idea, a technology, a company, a nation.  I enjoyed a great visit to IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center last year, and was enthralled by one design element in the hallways: the wallpaper in the tech demo area was actually small-type listings, floor to ceiling, of the previous year’s patents.  Amazing!  And plenty of fun to read. But in 2007 IBM Corp. received 3,148 patents, down more than 500 grants from the previous year. By contrast, as Network World reported “Microsoft charged into the top 10 with 1,637 patents [and] ranked No. 6 on the annual list after failing to crack the top 10 the previous two years,” with an increase of nearly 12 percent in its patents from the year before.

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