In the future, we will have robots in our homes. They will do all the dirty and boring jobs that we don't want to do because we've got better things to do such as sip cocktails or play with our children.
RoboCup@Home pits machines created in labs around the world against each other to see which can do the best job of serving their human masters.
The competition sets tough goals because of what robots will have to do when they start to live alongside us, said Dr Sven Wachsmuth from the University of Bielefeld, who oversees the RoboCup@Home competition.
"It's about human-robot interaction and skills," he said. "They need to communicate with humans and navigate their environment."
The competition is not about producing a better robotic floor mopper or carpet sweeper. For AI researchers, those problems are not interesting or difficult enough.
"Those tasks do not need human-robot communication," he said. "But there are other tasks that rely on that."
It's those tasks that demand some interaction between robots and people that the RoboCup@Home tests.
"We test if the robot is friendly and helpful and if it is it polite to me," said Dr Wachsmuth. "Does it show the natural interaction that we are used to?"
The contest takes place in a denuded apartment made up of several rooms including bedroom, kitchen, hall, utility room and living room.
Robots are allowed to explore this mock home to create their own mental map and get to know the fixtures distributed around it – washing machine, table, shelves, cupboard, microwave – and the objects that adorn it – crackers, flowers, shoes, a tea box, crisps and soda.
To do the mapping and object spotting, many of the robots taking part in the RoboCup@Home had adopted and adapted the Kinect sensor produced for the Xbox 360 console.
The sensor array used in the gadget proved very useful when robots were finding their way around or looking for a specific object.
Dr Xiaoping Chen, who heads the Wright Eagle robot project at the University of Science and Technology in China, said there was another reason the Kinect is proving attractive.
It is cheap.
Sensors that can map the world with the fidelity of the Kinect used to be very expensive, he said. But cheaper parts will mean more robots.
"Price is a very important factor if robots are to get into everyone's homes," said Dr Chen.
The tests the robots are asked to perform are contrived to catch them out and see if they can work out what to do. For instance, in one test a human asks the robot to retrieve a drink from the kitchen.
Unbeknownst to the robot there are no cans of that brand of drink in the fridge. When it finds this out, the robot must decide what to do. Should it take what it finds even though it knows it is wrong or ask what else that person would like instead?
Other tasks test the robot's ability to deal with the messy realities of human life such as sorting washing.
Humans find these tasks easy if dull, but for robots, unschooled in social niceties and without any evolutionary history to draw on, working out what to do is tricky.
"There are so many things we take for granted as humans," said Dr Nathan Kirchner, who heads the University of Sydney's RobotAssist team. "But when you get a machine to do it there's nothing for free. It has to learn every action."
The computation involved in working out what is happening and what to do about it is formidable. The RoboCup@Home contest showed off some of those different approaches. For instance, the Nimbro team from the University of Bonn based the decision making system of their Cosero robot around probabilities.
In all situations it weighs up its options given where it is, the actions possible in that place, and measures it against what it has been asked to do.
The competition showed that progress is being made. Some robots navigated the mock apartment well, did a good job of recognising people and guests and were not fooled by the tricky questions.
Technology is developing rapidly, said Dr Wachsmuth. So much so that every two years the rules for RoboCup@Home have to be revised because the robots have caught up and mastered the tasks they were presented with in earlier years.
"We're making it more complicated every time," he said.
Despite this and the success of many of the robots taking part, Dr Wachsmuth believes that other types of robots will appear in homes before robot valets. Robots that help with communication and telepresence are more likely to turn up first.
"You might have a robot dog rather than a real dog so you can turn it off when you go on vacation," he said.
What is clear is that robots in our homes that know what we want and can help us get it are going to be more important. Demographics tells us that, said Dr Chen.
"China, like many other places, is changing from an aging society to an aged society," he said. "It's changing dramatically and we need to adapt to that."
"We want to make a robot think like people and live alongside people so it can aid people," Â he said.
"We do not think of a robot as a tool, we think of it as a friend."
How personalised is the web? That's the question that Click listeners all over the world have been helping us answer.
The worry is that we are cosseted in an information cocoon based on personalised results from search engines, automated recommendations from online bookstores and social networks that feed us gossip and news only from our innermost circle of friends.
On Click radio a few weeks ago, we interviewed Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. He told us "People don't use Google as a tool which is personalised; they don't expect it to deliver a subjective version of the world. Google has this whole mythology around page rank, this algorithm that collects the truth from all of these different web sites and democratically arrives at the right answer and that's not really how the search engine works any more."
Mr Pariser is concerned that there is an illusion of objectivity in Google search results, when in fact they are filtered according to what we are most likely to click on when we browse the all important front page of results. He cites the hypothetical conspiracy theorist who searches for '9/11 bombings' and only sees other conspiracy websites rather than articles that debunk the crackpots.
Before we spoke to Eli Pariser, we asked Click listeners to put his theory to the test by Googling the same word whatever their location, browser, platform, device or language. After much consideration in the office, we came up with the word 'platform'. It is a widely used word, largely politically neutral and with multiple meanings whether pertaining to computing, railway stations, oil drilling or outlandish shoes from the 1970s.
We suggested that listeners try the same search with the personalisation settings on or off and also logged in and out of Google. To share their results, we invited our volunteers to post screen grabs to our Facebook listeners group.
Our Facebook group was soon deluged with screen grabs. As I write this, three weeks on, they are still coming in. To date, over 150 Click listeners have taken part from 29 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, the USA, South America and Oceania. With nearly 300 individual screen grabs to pore over, Click team member Nelida Pohl was enlisted to try and make sense of them.
If Eli Pariser is correct then one might expect significant variations in search results, based on each user's own interests. However Nelida says "the same websites showed up over and over again, especially within countries. In an individual country, most had the same seven or eight websites in the first five hits and most of the differences I found were between countries".
In all countries, the Wikipedia entry for 'computing platform' came up. This was mostly in English, but also in other languages depending on the country. In the UK, most of the top five searches included an intermediary of the Co-operative Bank called 'Platform'. There was a software company called 'Platform' in the US. The listings also included the electoral platform of the American Libertarian Party. Google Canada listed the equivalent pages for country's Green party. In Australia, a common return was a modelling agency.
We were surprised to find that it did not make much difference whether users were logged in or out of Google or whether they had disabled the personalisation settings. When we put these initial results to Eli Pariser on our Click programme a few weeks ago, he suggested that the apparent lack of personalisation may have been down to the word we chose. "Google handles different queries quite differently from each other and there are some queries that mostly seem to return similar types of results and others that you'll see different results depending on different people."
This experiment was part of a series on openness we have been making in association with the Open University. In a specially recorded podcast on the subject, Tony Hirst of the University's Department of Communication and Systems joined me to discuss the results and provide expert analysis.
Even though within countries the same links tended to appear in the top few results, Tony Hirst believes the changes in rankings, however subtle, should not be understated and that they are evidence of personalisation. "If you have just a slight change in the ordering, particularly something that might bubble up from eighth to third or fourth on the screen where you're far more likely to see it, then just that simple change in ordering might have a huge influence on what you click on".
The Filter Bubble suggests paternalism to Google's search algorithms; that we are always fed just what we want to read. Tony Hirst says that relevance is a key part of Google's offering but equally it is not good for business to overdo the filtering. "It's in Google's interest to keep people engaged and to spend time looking at the results page where they have adverts. So if they can give results that are of interest to you whilst not necessarily directly reinforcing your opinion, you may go back to that results page and click on one of those links".
On Click, we like to put theories to the test, no matter how persuasive they appear at face value. With the help of our listeners we've done that with The Filter Bubble. Of course our survey is far from scientific; the sample size is relatively small and is only based on one search term. It does not refute Eli Pariser's hypothesis. In fact his book serves a valuable purpose by reminding us that the services we use online are becoming increasingly personalised and that there is more to search results than purely objective page rank.
I have been blown away by the enthusiasm of Click listeners to go to the trouble of taking all those screen grabs and posting them on Facebook. Thanks to some impressive Click-style crowd-sourcing, we have a slightly better idea of whether or not we really are all living in the filter bubble.
Are we in a new tech bubble?
The burst of the dotcom bubble dampened a lot of the enthusiasm for internet stocks, but companies who were slow to pay attention to the fact the world had nevertheless changed forever are still feeling the repercussions today.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Links to external sites are for information only and do not constitute endorsement. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.
It's late at night, you're far from home, it's hot and steamy. You need to send an urgent e-mail to the office – but there's no wifi available and you can't find a 3G signal.
The rise of the smartphone and our increasing reliance on laptops and tablets, not to mention cloud-based software applications that need an internet connection to work, means many of us find ourselves hostages to high wifi and roaming charges.
"There are certain chains that do offer wifi access for free but they're definitely in the minority. The majority of hotels still charge for access.
"Wifi seems like an affordable solution, but if you're on a four or five-day trip, and you're paying $25 for access in the hotel that can quickly add up."
Mr Otley says roaming charges are coming down – but are likely to remain expensive, and advises taking advantage of wifi when you have it, and making the most of free internet phone services like Skype.
"They're coming from an unbelievable high – if you've ever used your data phone abroad you'll know it's breathtaking the cost of the data.
"As far as wifi goes my own personal opinion is that most hotels will go to a two-tier system, with one level for browsing, but if you want a decent amount of bandwidth then you pay for it, and that seems to be sensible.
"Just like anything that is free people will use it to the ends of the earth."
(CNN) — Nitin Sagar was at his New Delhi office, tweeting about needing a girl to fondly run her fingers through his hair, when he saw the posts about three deadly blasts many miles away in Mumbai.
He noticed many people were tweeting offers to help victims and knew that in no time, they would go viral.
"Someone in Bombay please create a Google Doc with numbers/addresses of people willing to help," he posted on Twitter, using the old name for Mumbai.
He thought aggregate information could help a person bleeding on the street or a relative desperately searching for a loved one.
Before he left the office, Sagar created a Google docs spreadsheet. He inserted five names and phone numbers. That was about 8 p.m., an hour after the attacks.
"Have compiled numbers and areas where help is available from the time," he tweeted. "Add and share please."
By the time Sagar reached home a half hour later, the site had compounded to hundreds of names of people who wanted to donate blood, provide shelter, help transport people or help in any way they could.
"You have no idea how fast it grew," he said. "I still don’t know why I did it. It was all happening so fast."
With a few swift clicks of the mouse, Sagar, a 26-year-old Indian techie, had become an accidental hero of the Mumbai tragedy.
The spreadsheet was viewed by thousands. Tweeted by even more. And used by people who finally found an avenue to help.
Mumbai architecture student Pranali Patel inserted her phone number and said she was willing to donate O+ blood.
"I was looking for a way to help but I thought I would just be adding to the chaos," she said.
Then her sister told her about the spreadsheet. With memories of the 2008 terrorist siege on Mumbai still painfully raw in her mind, Patel thought the least she could do would be to donate blood.
"I forwarded the link to a lot of my friends and they added their names to the list," she said.
In the same vein, Anirubh Sharma, a tech worker in Bangalore, saw the spreadsheet link on Twitter. A friend’s relative was killed at the luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel when it came under attack in 2008. Sharma thought he should step up and offered an airline coupon for a free ticket to anyone who needed to travel in or out of Mumbai.
In the middle of the madness, he received a call from a man who wanted to take him up on the offer.
"It’s easy to make noise," he said. "But instead of just ranting on Facebook and Twitter, why not do something good?"
Sagar said thousands of people accessed the spreadsheet. He does not know exactly what came of it all but he didn’t think there had been such a centrally organized online disaster effort before in India.
He took the site down Thursday once emergency needs dissipated. But the last 24 hours have shaped his future goals.
Sagar, who works at a digital mapping firm, said he plans to keep working on establishing such databases. If and when the need arises again, maybe there will already be a relief database in place.
"So I’ve the go ahead to build a disaster relief management system from bosses. You have inputs?" he tweeted Thursday.
In the meantime, he said he wanted to try and shed the good Samaritan label.
"Let’s face it, I was not there on the ground," he said. "I did not lift a single dead person or an injured person. All I did was make a few clicks. It was convenient. There was no effort at all."
He was not liking the hero worship. And as he does most everything else, he posted it on Twitter.
"Dear new followers gained in the wake of a truly delusional momentary Twitter glory, good luck. I am genuinely annoying on most days."
(CNN) — It’s hard to escape buzz about Spotify this week — especially since Britney Spears and others are "so excited" about it.
Trent Reznor, from Nine Inch Nails, says "it’s great."
The rapper Talib Kweli says "music is about to be fun again."
But what makes Spotify — a music-streaming site that’s already popular in Europe and launched in the United States on Thursday — so awesome that it would cause these tweets from musicians?
Many U.S. music fans will have to wait a few weeks to find out. As CNN’s Mark Milian reports, Spotify is available in the U.S. by invitation only — or for paying customers.
So before you shell out your cash for this music-streaming service, here’s a look at what makes Spotify unique.
The music catalog is huge
First, a little background: Spotify — the name is a combination of "spot" and "identify" — is a music streaming service, which means it lets you play songs off the Internet. So it’s kind of like Pandora, except that you can search for songs and create playlists from a catalog of 15 million tracks. On Pandora, you just pick a "radio station" and listen to whatever songs a computer chooses for you. You can’t pick which songs come up.
Spotify also faces competition from Rdio and Turntable.fm, which offer versions of this playlist approach.
Well, mostly. With an invitation, users in the U.S. can play songs with some ads sprinkled in for good financial measure. For $5 per month, the ads go away and you get unlimited streaming. For $10, you can listen to Spotify’s music on your mobile phone, too.
Again, the response from the tech world is largely positive.
"I’ve been using Spotify for a year and a half here in England, and it’s been a real test: I left my CD collection packed up in boxes," CNET’s Stephen Shankland says.
It works like iTunes
iTunes, Apple’s hugely popular music player, is easy to use. So is Spotify. In reviews, tech writers note how fast the system works, and how easy it is to find music and add songs to your playlists.
If you sign in with Facebook, you can see what all of your friends have been listening to on Spotify — and even play their playlists.
That may sound obvious or boring, but remember that you don’t have to own your friends’ songs in order to play them. It’s the modern mixtape.
It changes the way people think about music
Record stores and iTunes taught music lovers that songs and albums must be purchased individually. While you can purchase music on Spotify, the site also promotes a pay-by-the-month approach. For a monthly fee — which is less than the cost of a single album — you get access to tons of music. And you can play it from wherever you want. Spotify also offers download options, so you can play some songs even if you don’t currently have an Internet connection.
And this all works smoothly, writes Rosa Golijan at MSNBC:
"I constantly forget that all the music I’m listening to is not actually on my computer or mobile device, but instead being consistently streamed at a reasonable quality — no matter how slow my Internet connection occasionally can be. (Mind you, songs can be stored for offline play so that you’re never music-less even if stuck without an internet connection or decent mobile data service.)"
It’s been years in the making
Spotify was founded in Sweden in 2006. Since then, U.S. tech heads have been clamoring for the service to skip across the pond.
That launch has been stalled in negotiations with record labels, and that’s caused anticipation about the service to build. With all those negotiations said and done, it appears Spotify is now a legal product in the states.
It lets you take music anywhere
If you pay $10 a month for the premium service, you can listen to all of your Spotify playlists — keep in mind, this is music you’re "renting," not music that you have purchased by the song — right on your phone. If you lose your Internet connection (or if you’re getting on a plane), you can download Spotify songs into the company’s app and listen to them offline — for no extra charge.
OK, so those were all the good things. What about the bad stuff?
Some analysts say Spotify will have a hard time busting into the U.S. market, which is already full of music streaming sites that are popular. Pandora says it has 100 million users, which makes it a particularly formidable foe.
There’s also some question about whether the Spotify model is actually good for the artists whose songs you’re listening to so freely.
Artists earn only $0.004 when you listen to one of their songs, according to analyst Mark Milligan, quoted by the BBC.
But, as the Twitter chatter shows, some artists support this alternative.
U.S., China Escalate Their Game of 'Chicken' in Trade Conflict; U.S. Senate Poised to Restrict Chinese Poultry; U.S. Ag Interests ConcernedPosted by SamVerl in Health Care on 07 18th, 2011
Bleeding hemorrhoids are definitely uncomfortable; they could quite possibly be rather daunting in certain cases. A hemorrhoid is a health problem wherein abnormal veins in the rectal area are inflamed, and in the event that they explode internally or outwardly, it is considered a bleeding hemorrhoid. Seeing that this kind is so much more serious than established hemorrhoids, you need to be examined by a health professional straight away, to benefit from excellent hemorrhoid treatment. You can find quite a few hemorrhoid treatment plans that you may possibly think about for your bleeding hemorrhoids.
In the event that you are enduring bleeding hemorrhoids, it is likely you will be getting surgery. That is why you should really clear up this health problem as soon as you can to stop further complicating your health problem . Hemorrhoid surgery is known for extreme post surgery pains, and it normally takes quite a while to get better.
Two kinds of surgery exist that are oftentimes practiced to heal bleeding hemorrhoids. The first is called ‘hemorrhoidal artery ligation’. . It involves identifying the bulbous abnormal veins and then ligating them. This practice employs a proctoscope and a Doppler transducer. The practice effectively minimizes the pressure exerted by the bulbous problematic veins and in this way lessens the pain considerably. Another common method used for treatment of bleeding hemorrhoids is known as a stapled hemorrhoidectomy. This procedure involves stapling the hemorrhoid with a circular staple. . This type of surgery is also quite a bit less uncomfortable than other types of surgery.
You needn’t absolutely have to undergo an operation to get over bleeding hemorrhoids. Sometimes, hemorrhoids, can mend themselves if cared for. You might use balms and salves to help with the pain and itching. Continue to keep studying on colon health care and find out about how you can do to boost your digestive system. For starters, you can monitor the foods you eat, and making a point to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Try not to exert extreme pressure to your pelvis, specially when going to the bathroom, specially if you are expecting a baby or too heavy. Don’t neglect to keep your bottom clean so it is not going to get infected. Your body can stop hemorrhoids without much help if given a reasonable chance.
Severe occurrences of hemorrhoids might warrant surgical treatments . Severe occurrences of hemorrhoids are usually whenever the entire anal orifice is covered with them or maybe , occurrences of bleeding hemorrhoids which will need intense hemorrhoid treatment. If you have got hemorroids that’re unpleasant, you could generally cure them with home hemorrhoid treatment and with no surgical treatments except when they have already become thrombosed or started bleeding.
In the event that you are researching surgical treatments to cure your hemorrhoids you have got a lot of alternatives to pick from. Some alternatives can be really unpleasant but a few of the newer strategies get the job done rather well yet they are not so painful. You’ll want toead through the entire content of this material and find out what alternative varieties of surgical treatments are in existence.
Of the various varieties of hemorrhoid surgical treatments attainable, Rubber Band Ligation is among the most well known. With this type of medical operation a rubber band around 1/25in . is shot snugly directly to the bottom of the hemorrhoid. The problematic arteries that make up hemorrhoid eventually shrivel up and drop off since the the flow of blood to them is stop. It generally takes about a few days for the hemorrhoid to drop off.
A rather widely recognized type of surgical operation is laser surgery. In this procedure the qualified medical professional aims and fires a laser right straight into the hemorrhoid. The lazer light burns the hemorrhoid off. You do not need to stay in the hospital to undergo this surgical operation applied as it is an out-patient process. What’s more you will not need to worry about the normal risks of surgical treatments for instance bleeding mainly because the laser beam cauterizes the hemorrhoid stoppging the bleeding.
There is a type of hemorrhoid treatment which entails stapling the hemorrhoid with a specialized type of circular staple. This is termed as a Stapled Hemorrhoidectomy and it’s rather widely recognized . It fairly often practiced to get rid of any kind of bleeding hemorrhoids but chiefly prolapsed hemorrhoids.
A more sophisticated type of hemorrhoid surgical operation consists of detecting all the problematic arteries which supply blood to the hemorrhoid and subsequently stitching them so as to stop the blood supply to the hemorrhoid. Once the the flow of blood is restricted the hemorrhoid shrivels up and falls off, leaving only a little scar. This method is called HALO which symbolizes Hemorrhoidal Artery Ligation Operation. This method is at times called HAL which symbolizes Hemorrhoidal Artery Ligation. This method is well-liked considering that it is rather painless.
If you think maybe recovering from hemorrhoids for good is simple, you better think again. Many of us suppose you could potentially mearly utilise a hemorrhoid treatment to get over hemorrhoids and then they will not keep recurring. This could hardly be further from the truth. Nonetheless, you could potentially get over hemorrhoids for good. To realize success you must learn about what could induce hemorrhoids to begin with and next refrain from doing them.
You can undergo medical operations to treat hemorrhoids but that can’t ensure that the hemorrhoids aren’t going to keep returning. The way you might make that happen is by improving your eating habit, by regular exercising and be patient when passing excrement. Your eating habit should include sufficient amounts of fiber and liquids which are found in fruits and veggies. Ensure that you do routine exercise seeing that this will improve your cardiovascular system as it is responsible for blood flow. When deficating be patient. Never apply pressure.
The conclusion is , nowhere is there a hemorrhoid treatment which will be able to get over hemorrhoids for good. But, if you take into consideration the decision to enrich your life style to allow for a healthier lifestyle you will be able to get over and for good prevent hemorrhoids from coming back. Truthfully, the hemorroid is almost always still there if on the other hand you are nurturing your body, it essentially should never irritate you.