DARPA crowd guru gets a new lab

It’s been a little over two years since I came back to the tech private sector from my government service, and it’s great when we have other folks take the same path, for it improves the knowledge of each side about the other. Today we’re announcing that Peter Lee, currently the leader of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Activity’s innovative Transformational Convergence Technology Office (TCTO), is joining Microsoft to run the mighty flagship Redmond labs of Microsoft Research.

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Superpowers battle, in computing.

Fact: According to a WIRED report earlier this week, “A new crop of supercomputers is breaking down the petaflop speed barrier, pushing high-performance computing into a new realm that could change science more profoundly than at any time since Galileo.”

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Inventing the Software that Invents the Future

Worried about today’s stock market activity? Retreat with me into the security of the bright future that awaits.

Microsoft’s Craig Mundie (pater familias of the Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments), is on a college tour across the nation.  The trip is something of a reprise of jaunts Bill Gates famously made over the years, when he would string together visits to campuses partly to evangelize, partly to recruit, and mostly to get new ideas from bright young (and contrarian) minds.  The Seattle paper today labels these tours as filling the role of Microsoft’s “chief inspiration officer” (“Mundie gives campuses peek at tech’s future”).

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WIRED Cracks Cyber-Battle Code

Just a quick note between conflicting conference sessions in different locations around the DC Beltway, to note that WIRED’s premier national-security blogger Noah Schactman may have just cracked the code – or at least “a” code – on where the ongoing dispute over “control of cyber” is heading in national security circles, in his latest DangerRoom post (“Air Force Cyber Command Could Return, with Nukes“).

The dispute has been reported lightly, in places like the NextGov blog (“The Cyber Command Power Play?”), and usually boils down to a perceived battle between the U.S. Air Force and the nation’s Intelligence Community, over control of the increasingly central issue of cyber offense and cyber defense.

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Armed Autonomy: Mechatronics plus Software plus Ammo

The Killer Robots are Coming!

Fact: According to a new story in LiveScience (“Will the U.S. Have a Droid Army“), “autonomous robots with the ability to open fire upon their own initiative are under development in other countries.”  Robotics researchers Doug Few and Bill Smart at Washington University in St. Louis are quoted with the assessment that “the U.S. military may be 30 percent robotic by the year 2020.” 

Analysis: I’ve been having some interesting discussions with DoD and their contractors about robotics lately, and the question of autonomous behavior comes up frequently, though infrequently about armed systems.  Among other reasons, Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) places great store in unarmed robotic systems coordinating with other command and control or combat systems. Continue reading

Microsoft Sphere, Apple Tablet

Fact: Today is the first public showing of “Sphere,” Microsoft’s newest multi-touch innovation: “After months of rumors, Microsoft researchers are taking the wraps off a prototype that uses an internal projection and vision system to bring a spherical computer display to life. People can touch the surface with multiple fingers and hands to manipulate photos, play games, spin a virtual globe, or watch 360-degree videos.”

Analysis:  The video tells the story, particularly when you keep in mind that Sphere (and its earlier cousin Surface) represent a new multi-touch, multi-interface platform for human use of computing power.  A year ago Surface was still just emerging from the research lab, and now a year later it’s been introduced into AT&T retail stores and is on its way to many other commercial and public environments.  Sphere will be used in similarly unpredictable ways, adopted by third-party developers as an innovative canvas on which they can project cool new uses.

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A-SpaceX, Google, and Virtual Tuesday

Yesterday I had a “virtual world vibe” going.  At 5:30 a.m. when my dog Jack woke me up offering to take me for a walk, the first thing I noticed on my mobile was a series of tweets from Chris Rasmussen, NGA’s social software guru, posted the night before.  Twitter is interesting for a lot of reasons, but one is the ability to snatch asynchronous stream-of-consciousness statements, from strangers and friends alike, as they pass by in the microblogosphere conversation.

Chris went on a tear about Second Life, with several hilarious observations and comments within the space of an hour, so here are several from his public Twitter feed:

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