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Volume 6, Issue 680:  Wednesday, August 11, 2004

  • "Into the Future of Computer Graphics"
    Extreme Tech (08/10/04); Stam, Nick

    This year's ACM SIGGRAPH conference highlights emerging computer graphics technologies and breakthroughs from a wide spectrum of academic and industrial organizations, including movie studios, 3D gaming companies, digital effects houses, and the research divisions of tech giants such as IBM and Microsoft. Over 25,000 people from all over the word are attending SIGGRAPH, while more than 230 vendors are spotlighting their products. Panels, research paper discussions, and courses are held at the conference so that attendees can share information and witness graphics innovations that may one day end up in future products. The Emerging Technology area demonstrates academic and private-sector research projects that attendees can often interact with: One such exhibition is Iowa State University's laser scoring system, in which audience members express their approval or disapproval of a demo by using laser pointers directed at a large screen with "YES" or "NO" regions. The system employs cameras to capture the density of laser light striking both regions, while percentages are displayed on the screen in real time. Also of note is Sunnybrook's High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging demo, which uses active light-emitting diode backlighting with pixels that are separate and individually controlled. HDR imaging is expected to eventually show up in 3D gaming. In his Aug. 8 keynote speech, science fiction author Bruce Sterling predicted the emergence of "spimes," which are devices that not only boast more functions, but knowledge of their usage and origins; he also sharply criticized industry for rolling out products so complicated that only 10 percent of their functionality is employed by users.
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    ACM's SIGGRAPH conference continues through tomorrow at the Los Angeles Convention Center; http://www.siggraph.org/s2004

  • "U.S. Supercomputer Field Playing Catch-Up"
    Investor's Business Daily (08/11/04) P. A4; Brown, Ken Spencer

    Spurred by what observers say was a "Sputnik moment," the U.S. government and computer industry are launching a concerted effort to regain supercomputing supremacy from Japan, which launched the 41-gigaflop Earth Simulator in 2002. Though the United States claims the vast majority of the world's fastest computers and IBM expects to unveil two new supercomputers within months that will be faster than the Earth Simulator, experts say the U.S. supercomputing field had been in serious decline for some time. The end of the Cold War left many niche supercomputing firms too narrowly focused, says former Thinking Machines official Greg Papadopoulos, who now works for Sun Microsystems; current efforts by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), for example, emphasize the need for commercially applicable technology. Darpa has given roughly $50 million each to IBM, Sun, and Cray to finish plans for a next-generation supercomputer that will give the United States a wide lead over other nations' capabilities, and two of those companies' designs will be chosen for prototyping in 2006, with funding for a final design to come in 2009. Importantly, Darpa has required competitors to present a business case along with their technical plans; Sun envisions its machine managing a sea of business data, while IBM says its computer would help oil exploration. IBM supercomputing head David Turek says the new approach is vastly different than how Japan built the NEC Earth Simulator with a government grant, in that the U.S. market-based approach will create business opportunities as technology trickles down. The argument has historical support as the IBM System/360 and Control Data 6600 supercomputer launched about the same time in the early 1960s. Although the 6600 was vastly superior, the IBM machine's far lower price tag and commercial usefulness helped the company eventually take the computing lead.

  • "Big Business Becoming Big Brother"
    Wired News (08/09/04); Zetter, Kim

    The government and corporations are working hand-in-hand to collect and use personal information in ways that bypass legal constraints, according to a new ACLU report. The Surveillance-Industrial Complex report was accompanied by a new Web site that helps educate citizens about how commercially generated personal information is used by the government: The report cites the case of JetBlue Airways and other carriers that voluntarily handed passenger itineraries over to a government contractor working on the CAPPS II project, which were blended with government identifiers such as Social Security numbers in order to test CAPPS II capabilities. The ACLU says companies work with the government without requiring court orders because they do not want to incur government scrutiny or risk losing out on Homeland Security contracts. Even associations are collaborating with government security agencies, such as when the Professional Association of Diving Instructors provided about 2 million names of scuba diving students to the FBI in 2002. Government turns to the private sector because surveys show consumers trust companies more than they do the government, and because commercial databases hold much more activity-based information than is collected by the government. In addition, companies are not subject to congressional review or laws such as the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act of 1974, which prohibits the government from keeping files on people unless they are under investigation. The ACLU says updated laws and policies are needed in order to deal with the dramatic increase in stored information available. The report also warned that private firms receive information from the government under legal provisions such as section 314 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to give suspect lists to financial institutions without restrictions on that information's use.
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  • "Computer Couture"
    TheFeature (08/09/04); Pescovitz, David

    The development of electronic textiles is an area of concentration for university and industrial laboratories, and such products are nearing practical use thanks to progress in wireless communication, organic electronics, and nanotechnology. France Telecom recently unveiled flexible, battery-powered color screens designed to display images received wirelessly from the wearer's phone. The screens are not limber enough to be weaved into apparel, but International Fashion Machines is addressing this problem with Electric Plaid, a weave of conductive and resistive yarn laminated with ink whose color is temperature-sensitive. Company founder and MIT Media Lab graduate Maggie Orth says Electric Plaid will soon be meshed with the StitchSwitch woven touch sensor in products such as wall-mounted screens, color-changing tables, and lamps. At the moment, Electric Plaid's power requirements make the technology impractical for clothing, but Orth believes this problem could be solved with electrochromic ink. A pair of UC Berkeley researchers are attempting to create a self-organizing wearable personal area network by weaving bolts of fabric with built-in textile transistors that function as network switches. The transistors are woven out of specially-coated aluminum wires, and one researcher, professor Vivek Subramanian, says the network is designed for adaptive routing so that functionality is not inhibited if the garment is damaged. Meanwhile, Arizona State University professor Frederic Zenhausern and University of Arizona professor Ghassan Jabbour have developed a "biometric bodysuit" equipped with pathogen-detecting sensors, a flexible display, and a micro fuel cell; the garment was originally designed for military use, but the product also has potential for medical and civilian applications, an example of the latter being an outfit that produces a fragrance in response to changes in heart rate or temperature.
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  • "Less-Than-Risky Business?"
    CNet (08/06/04); Frauenheim, Ed

    Observers are concerned that the United States is in danger of losing its lead in scientific innovation because of a shift away from basic research and toward applied research. Though the United States spends more money on research and development than any other nation, that spending grew a mere 1 percent last year, compared to an average yearly growth rate of 5.8 percent between 1994 and 2000. National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts asserted in a speech last year that the U.S. incentive system for young researchers is excessively risk-averse, and more scientists are finding that it is taking longer and longer for them to secure funding to pursue independent scientific careers. Eric Weinstein of the National Bureau of Economic Research reports that this is in sharp contrast to the older research system, which encouraged young researchers to publish innovative theories even if they were erroneous. The research system established by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 was created as a vehicle for funding basic, exploratory research, a pursuit that has been hindered by current conditions, according to Rand analyst David Adamson. Fellow Rand analyst Donna Fossum explains, "Everyone is looking for the application. They're looking for 'how can I use it now?'" Adamson says legislation such as the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 has given universities and other organizations a financial incentive to focus more on practical R&D. The Keck Foundation committed $40 million last year to launch the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, a program that promotes interdisciplinary research into innovative science through the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.
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  • "Mesh Networks to Boost Energy"
    InternetNews.com (08/09/04); Singer, Michael

    A consortium that includes General Electric, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and Sensicast Systems has won a $6 million contract from the U.S. Energy Department to employ wireless mesh networks to boost the energy efficiency and lower the energy consumption of industrial motors. "GE's vision for the future includes using wireless sensor technology in a wide variety of industrial and consumer applications to improve the way we monitor, protect and control the world around us," noted Dan Sexton with GE Global Research in a statement. The three-year project will unfold in three stages: The first stage will involve a feasibility study between now and the end of 2004 that focuses on technical obstacles; the second stage, to begin in January 2005, will cover the construction of prototype systems and proof-of-concept experiments; and the final phase will involve the installation of a complete system at a test site and the collection and analysis of operational data. The consortium is expected to begin the project by studying the efficiency of industrial motors, which account for 65 percent of all electricity devoured by American industry. The groups plan to monitor the efficiency and condition of certain motors in a plant operation using wireless sensors, and the data collected by the sensors will be relayed to a computer for analysis. Plant personnel will be tipped off to potential problems through phones, email, or pagers so that they can effect repairs or replacement before the problems become major. The technology being developed promises to offer a low-power communications network that only needs a single battery to function in an industrial environment for years, and enable the use of control applications via two-way communications.
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  • "CompSci Expert Wetzel Spots Weaknesses in Wi-Fi Security"
    PhysOrg.com (08/09/04)

    Wireless ad hoc networks are vulnerable to stealth attacks that require minimal effort on the part of attackers, warns Stevens Institute of Technology assistant professor of computer science Susanne Wetzel, who runs the Wireless Network Security Center (WiNSeC). Wireless ad hoc networks provide connectivity to a user without requiring them to stay within the range of a single access point--instead, they are able to roam wherever network nodes provide coverage. Wetzel says individual wireless network nodes can be taken off the grid in two ways, both offering anonymity to the attacker: The first type of attack involves flooding the node with legitimate information that drains it of battery power so that it goes offline; another, slightly more complex attack involves hijacking one node to perform traffic analysis and filter selected data packets. The attacker need not be within transmission range of the intended victim node, only within transmission range of the selected intermediary node. Thus, the attacker could remotely make the victim node effectively disappear from the network. Each of these attacks has the potential to disable the network or portions of the network while posing little risk to the attacker. One of Wetzel's proposed solutions involves routers exchanging reputation information about each other, similar to how entities in the real world use various sources of information to form an opinion of an individual; armed with this information, nodes in the ad hoc network would be able to more effectively deal with conflicting information and impose information controls. Wetzel is working with funding from the U.S. Army and in conjunction with security researchers from RSA Labs and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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  • "Projector Lights Radio Tags"
    Technology Research News (08/18/04); Patch, Kimberly

    Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab researchers have developed a Radio Frequency Identity and Geometry (RFIG) system that can be used to keep tabs on inventory, locate objects, and enhance gaming with augmented reality, according to Mitsubishi scientist Ramesh Raskar. The user points a radio frequency reader in the general direction of a group of objects marked with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags equipped with photosensors that take a reading of the existing light in response to the radio frequency signal; a projector built into the reader is activated, and each tag that detects an increase in illumination transmits a response telling the reader that it is within the projector beam and is ready for interaction. The projector then emits a series of roughly 20 images of vertical or horizontal bars representing vertical and horizontal coordinates, and these are recorded by each RFID tag, which sends both its identity and the code back to the reader. The appropriate tags are then marked by the projector. The RFIG system, which will be detailed at the Association of Computing Machinery's SIGGRAPH 2004 conference, can locate tags to within a millimeter, and can be employed to locate objects as well as sense when objects have been moved. A moving projector can beam images while compensating for the movements by means of inertial sensors, and the device is also capable of keeping one segment of a projection stationary while permitting another segment to move. By tagging an object with several RFID tags on different surfaces, the RFIG system can be used to determine the object's shape and orientation. Raskar says the system can pinpoint tags accurately and provide visual feedback, enable users to visualize a subset of tags among numerous tags, and facilitate differentiation among multiple tags responding to a radio-frequency query.
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  • "Once Upon a Digital Time"
    IST Results (08/11/04)

    The COINE consortium encourages Europeans to tell their personal stories online using a collection of user-friendly multimedia software that enables stories to be composed and published even by those who are not familiar with computers. Twenty-three user groups--including libraries, universities, archives, and museums--participated in putting down stories, recollections, and personal histories using digitized texts, images, sound files, video clips, and other media accessed through software developed by COINE project partners, based on the requirements of different groups and individuals. "We have developed a Web-based system that is simple to use and accessible from anywhere using a standard Web browser from a PC connected to the Internet," notes Geoff Butters of the University of Manchester's Center for Research in Library and Information Management. "Clean and simple interfaces as well as clear, easily understood terminology used in the interfaces hide the complexity of the system from the user." The stories are accessible from the COINE Web site, which also provides hints and tips for potential storytellers. Among the institutions participating in COINE is the Jagiellonian University's Institute of the Information and Library Science, which is organizing a database of scanned objects and material put together by students that relate their local heritage and Polish cultural diversity; artwork and theatrical productions from the local primary school have also been submitted for inclusion in the collection. Spain's Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and the Museu d'Historia de la Immigracio de Catalunya are contributing video interviews of citizens relating tales of their struggle to settle in Catalonia, while Britain's Armitt Library has documented the annual Ambleside Rushbearing procession with written accounts and materials from the archive.
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  • "Voice Over WiFi: the Great Disrupter"
    Technology Review (08/11/04); Brown, Eric S.

    With 3G cellular networks opening up over Europe and Japan, and soon the United States, wireless communication providers and their customers are eyeing new voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications enabled via Wi-Fi, also called VoWi-Fi. Wi-Fi, on the other hand, is limited to just a couple hundred feet depending on obstructions, but can send data about 100 times faster than 3G cellular networks, which enables people to make cheap voice calls. Many vendors already sell VoIP handsets, and Motorola and Hewlett-Packard are readying a VoWi-Fi product for this fall. By the end of the year, VoWi-Fi products are expected to be commonplace among businesses and other users that enjoy cost savings from making long-distance calls over the Internet. Some technical hurdles remain, including improving Wi-Fi security protocols so that voice conversations are not delayed, and the expected rollout of multimedia extensions that will give priority to voice calls. Further out, vendors are expected to come out with proprietary solutions that enable users to carry on VoWi-Fi conversations as they move between overlapping areas of coverage, followed by standardized protocols in the future; in those scenarios, service providers will have to work out billing issues. Technically, VoWi-Fi also faces the problem of power consumption, as Wi-Fi is not optimized to look for call signals as voice-specific 3G protocols are. Even if VoWi-Fi takes off, it may not threaten cellular carriers such as T-Mobile which are already heavily invested in the technology; T-Mobile currently operates the largest hot-spot network, for example, and could benefit from multi-function handsets that allow users to switch between Wi-Fi and 3G networks.
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  • "Linux May Enter Orbit"
    PCWorld.com (08/09/04); Gedda, Rodney

    The University of South Wales' Mechanical, Electrical, Telecommunications, and Computer Systems engineering departments have teamed up to develop Bluesat, a satellite slated for launch in November 2005 that could run a simplified version of the open-source Linux operating system. The 10-kilogram satellite will feature a computer built out of a StrongARM SA 1100 embedded system and a printed circuit board designed by the research team. Bluesat project chief technical officer Ashley Butterworth says the team will be able to review all the Linux code to confirm that it works and can be streamlined for use with the L4 microkernel. Bluesat will facilitate radio communications and function as a "flying FTP server" so that people can exchange data; the satellite will also test the viability of lightweight material that could be used for space suits by running a UV radiation shielding experiment. "Our biggest problem is the small amount of power available so we need to be careful with what we run on it," notes Butterworth. "Also, we have to trust the software explicitly because if something happens to the software the satellite can shut down." He says that error detection and correction is needed in order to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of radiation on the computer, while steps must be taken to properly mount the board and employ flash memory rather than hard disks to shield the computer from destruction during takeoff. The research team is also designing BluesatOS, a proprietary operating system, to ensure redundancy.
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  • "I, Standard Man"
    Wired News (08/10/04); Dotinga, Randy

    A market is growing for human replicas that can used for medical training. Hospitals, military facilities, and medical schools throughout the United States are using over 850 versions of METI's Stand D. Ardman ("Stan"), a mannequin that can simulate bodily functions such as breathing and heartbeat, along with indicators of sickness or distress such as convulsions, pupil dilation, or cries of pain. Stan's vital functions are programmed by researchers using a Mac outfitted with the OS X operating system, and realistic simulations of injuries can be activated at the touch of a button; Stan also mimics reactions to drugs when doctors scan the bar code on a syringe or pill bottle. The mannequin can be programmed to exhibit symptoms of uncommon ailments so that trainees are better prepared to deal with them in real life, despite their rarity. "We can train someone to handle [malignant] hyperthermia so when they come across the one patient in 15 years, they'll have experienced it before and be more likely to do the right thing," notes Dr. Jeffrey Taekman with Duke University's human simulation laboratory. Pennsylvania State University anesthesiology professor Dr. W. Bosseau Murray explains that Stan's ability to "die" is helpful in training students to confront death's emotional consequences, and adds that the biggest hurdle is convincing the medical establishment to embrace patient simulation and purchase technology such as Stan. METI's John Anton reports that the biggest technical challenge, in the short term, is to make Stan's skin more capable of realistic behavior. METI is also working on a dog mannequin for training veterinary students.
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  • "OPIUM Develops Integrated Wireless Communication for the Future"
    Innovations Report (08/10/04)

    The Information Society Technologies-funded OPIUM project involved trials of third-generation wireless communication in China, Britain, Spain, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal focusing on the protocol and application programming interfaces that enable Internet services to be re-worked into telecom networks to facilitate new mobile services such as location based services, call control, media messaging, streamed video and audio, and SIP services. Telecommunications Software System Group's OPIUM project coordinator Barry Downes says the project has devised an open platform where 3G UMTS middleware can be meshed and is dealing with interoperability, billing, roaming, and other key issues. "Such issues need to be tackled to enable mobile operators to support third party service providers, to create the mobile services that will make 3G a success," he says. Seamlessly integrating all the technologies involved in OPIUM meant addressing a number of technical challenges, but this was not unexpected, given the project's scope. Downes thinks that operators, vendors, and end users should be very attracted to OPIUM's broad network and middleware platform, as obtaining access to networks owned by large operators is very difficult for organizations. The project's results are generating commercial interest, and Downes anticipates even more interest as OPIUM nears completion. Peter Walters, who serves as the U.K. National Contact Point for IST in the European Union's 6th Framework Program, notes that the high cost of OPIUM and similar projects makes EU funding essential. "As the demand for instant access to information by people on the move continues to grow, we must ensure that Europe is at the forefront of research and development," he says.
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  • "Auto Safety Systems Focus on Driver Behavior"
    EE Times (08/09/04); Ohr, Stephan

    The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration reports that the number of automotive fatalities is holding steady at roughly 40,000 per year for the increased number of miles that Americans are driving, and a panel of experts convened in Sonoma, Calif., to discuss driver safety technologies. Volvo's Lars Lundin said the most effective automotive safety systems are those that can predict and correct bad motorist habits. Another panelist, Delphi's Robert Lind, outlined the model of an integrated system and how it would work: Cameras would facilitate a 360-degree view, while the motorist would be alerted to an impending collision, perhaps via vibratory or audio triggers. A major countermeasure would be adaptive cruise control that employs radar, laser sensors, electromagnetics, and mesh networks to detect proximity of objects; Lind declared that automotive radar will soon be incorporated into production Jaguars. He added that the algorithms used in accident avoidance systems must be able to handle the intense computation needed to consolidate data from numerous sensors. Infineon's Robert LeFort said that state-of-the-art 32-bit processors can enable real-time electromechanical response to a one-second crash alert, but the technology's consumer appeal hinges on its cost. Seat-belt tightening mechanisms will be included in new Toyotas, Hondas, and Nissans, while Lind reported that a system that monitors the driver's eye movements would be deployed in certain GM trucks as early as 2005. The panelists concurred that electronic safety systems are only a tool, and it is ultimately the motorist's responsibility to drive safely; however, privacy issues would likely spur heavy opposition to systems that monitor drivers' behavior as well as vehicle and road conditions.
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  • "A Few Good Women"
    U.S. News & World Report (08/16/04) Vol. 137, No. 5, P. EE2; McDonald, Marci

    Little attention has been paid to the decline of women pursuing degrees in computer science and engineering, but the impending retirement of baby boomers in the tech industry, combined with a smaller stream of foreign brainpower because of homeland security issues and tighter visa rules, has fueled concerns that the United States' tech leadership could be jeopardized by a lack of skilled high-tech professionals. "We need highly competent people here, and one of the answers is to attract that 50 percent of the population that's not being tapped," notes Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology President Telle Whitney. Over the last 20 years, the number of women graduating with computer science degrees has decreased from 37 percent to 28 percent, while the percentage of women earning degrees in other scientific and engineering disciplines has skyrocketed. Women are discouraged from earning computer science degrees because they feel alienated and too inadequate to effectively compete in a male-dominated field, and Microsoft has funded a Computing Research Association-sponsored workshop to bring female computer science and engineering graduates into contact with successful role models. Other programs organized to boost women's confidence include Rutgers University's creation of student support groups, and the MentorNet program, which assigns female students to online mentors. Six U.S. high-tech companies plan to contribute to a National Science Foundation "service learning" project to change college-level computer science and engineering courses so that there is more focus on giving students hands-on experience and credits. Many industry players are trying to prevent misperceptions about high-tech careers from taking root in grade-school girls by setting up summer programs and other initiatives. Sun Microsystems' Greg Papadopoulos says rehabilitating the image of high-tech as an "uncool" or "nerdy" profession is vital to the industry.
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  • "The Eyes Have It"
    Government Computer News (08/09/04) Vol. 23, No. 22; Dizard III, Wilson P.

    NASA has committed funding to develop a low-cost system that would enable severely disabled users to control their computers by tracking head and eye movements. NaviGaze, developed by Goddard Space Flight Center officials in conjunction with Cybernet Systems under a Small Business Innovation Research contract, translates the user's eye movements into cursor movements using a commercial USB camera. Cybernet research engineer Ryan J. O'Grady explains that NaviGaze's gesture recognition programs "recognize" the image of an individual user's eye during a two-minute setup session and searches for that image through the USB-linked camera in later sessions; after the system locks on to the image, the user can control the on-screen cursor with his head movements. At the top of the screen is an indicator displaying the status of the blink control: A single mouse click is colored green, a double click is colored yellow, and a click and drag function--which the user can implement by blinking for four seconds--is colored red. NaviGaze can also be used by people with limited control of eye blinks via its ability to track and monitor other movements, such as mouth gestures. In addition, the system allows a different user to control the cursor using a mouse linked to the Microsoft Windows system. Once the system has been polished, Cybernet executives plan to make it freely available for download at cybernet.com in October. Cybernet R&D director Joseph Tesar hopes that NaviGaze can be turned into a program that permits users to control lights and doors in a house.
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  • "User Interfaces: The Next Generation"
    Computerworld (08/09/04) Vol. 32, No. 32, P. 28; Vijayan, Jaikumar

    Freeing users from the limitations of keyboards and mice is the purpose of emergent human-computer interface technologies designed to enable gesture-, movement-, speech-, and facial-based control of computer systems. One such product is a prototype "electronic perception" technology from Canesta that enables users of handhelds to enter data by typing on a keyboard projected onto a flat surface. "Any situation in which a machine or a digital device needs to understand its surroundings is a great application for electronic perception technology," says Canesta's Jim Spare, who adds that the prototype may pave the way for more advanced interfaces controlled by hand gestures. Cybernet Systems' GestureStorm, originally developed as a tool for effecting silent communication between soldiers in combat situations and currently used by a Texas TV station to enhance weather reports, lets users stand before a camera-mounted monitor and use hand movements to manipulate images, data, and application windows. Cybernet CEO Charles Cohen anticipates that gesture technologies will become as widely used as the mouse is today, although he insists that the technology is designed to complement, rather than replace, keyboards and mice. Meanwhile, MIT researchers are developing an interface for severely disabled people that uses eye blinks to facilitate human-computer interaction. Technologies that employ tactile or haptic feedback are another area: LapSim from Immersion, for example, can simulate surgical procedures using realistic visual, audio, and tactile inputs, and Immersion CEO Dean Chang thinks haptic interfaces could soon be implemented on automobile dashboards and cell phones, to name a few products. However, fully realizing these interfaces will require more venture capital than is currently available in certain cases, and the maturation of the technology in others.
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  • "Crypto Man"
    SC Magazine (07/04) Vol. 15, No. 7, P. 22; Coote, Andy

    Sun Microsystems CSO Whitfield Diffie, co-creator of the Diffie-Hellman key exchange method, believes that cryptography will continue to be a vital component of 21st century computing, although he remarks that he would prefer that cryptography was more visible than it currently is. Diffie reports that Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which was based on his theory that authentication and encryption could be supported using a publicly available encryption key and a private decryption key in a scheme that combined "one-way functions" and a pair of large prime numbers, would have enjoyed greater success and more usability with better support. The problem is a lack of up-front investment, which would have been easier if PKI had ready-made applications. Diffie says that RSA, the first commercial PKI, has outlasted his projections, and he can now see that the RSA type structure is flawed. "If you look at cryptography as a practical matter today, it is standards-dominated and the significance of that is that it's a hard sell for a new system," he comments. Proponents of a technique that is supposedly more secure yet less computationally intensive than Advanced Encryption Standard face an uphill climb, Diffie mentions. Among the early 21st century computing challenges Diffie faces is the role that remote attestation--management and authentication of network system integrity via cryptography--could play in the Trusted Computing Group platform. This could lay the groundwork for a new computing power paradigm that taps idle resources and levels spikes in demand so that companies can recruit computing power on the fly, Diffie says. He explains that this adaptive computing model requires "security and the ability to reduce the making of contracts from days and years to minutes and seconds," which will also make public key authentication and encryption, as well as digital certificates, highly desirable.
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  • "Transparent Privacy"
    Government Technology (07/04) Vol. 17, No. 7, P. 32; Peterson, Shane

    David Brin, author of "The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?," says the years following the book's publication have done nothing to dampen his view that a tradeoff between freedom and security is "dismal and loathsome." He professes his frustration with repeatedly hearing that one must make a choice between the two when in actuality they are complementary. Brin observes that the totalitarian society envisioned by George Orwell has become so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that it has spawned a popular, media-reinforced anti-authoritarian attitude toward government, when in fact the government is only one of many elite groups charged with protecting civil liberties that are equally prone to Big Brother-style abuse. New technologies such as cameras and databases make it impossible to prevent public surveillance by elite organizations, and Brin believes the only solution to this problem is to enable a "sovereign citizenry" that supervises and keeps tabs on the watchers. Measures that could be taken to increase accountability include the establishment of a position of inspector general of the United States, freedom of information, open hearings, and a heterogeneous press. The author explains that new technologies that paid protectors use to anticipate threats--if used properly and ethically--cannot evade all problems in a world whose complexity is growing geometrically and exponentially. Dealing with the unexpected is where resiliency comes in, and resiliency, Brin finds, is usually supported by private individuals empowered by technologies that are often demonized as tools of enslavement. Brin accepts a state of affairs in which technology can be used to divest privacy from people who consent to such infringement (the reality TV craze is an example of this), but protections must be in place to safeguard the privacy of people who do not willingly waive this right.
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