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The RoBlog
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Augmented Reality Research - Kirk Martinez
A heart-stoppingly cool video of augmented reality in action I found linked to in the Video Demos link on the page below.

Augmented Reality Research - Kirk Martinez
BlogShares - The RoBlog
I just stumbled across the link below which points back to this blog. Looks like someone is trying to start up an information market based on blogs and has auto-scanned in a large number of blogs to start with.

BlogShares - The RoBlog
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Moore's Law
I'm about a quarter of the way through an article by Steve T. Jurvetson on Ray Kurzweil's site and thought I'd jot down a couple of things before I forget them.

This article discusses Moore's Law and how abstractions of it can be shown to have been going on for 100 years (there's a nifty little graphic that I'd copy here, but my Flickr account is full for the moment due to a test I'm running).

Jurvetson talks about how NASA AMES shut down their wind tunnels this year, opting for computer modeling instead, this contributing to the ability to rapidly model things without ever having to create physical models. This, along with the general discussion of Moore's Law that Jurvetson is undertaking got me to thinking about abstracting Moore's Law even further beyond computational power into the types of problems that computing has been able to tackle as the power increases. Here's a quick, off-the-top-of-my-head list.

This got me to thinking about what the next order of problems that computers will be able to undertake. Again, this is after 30 seconds of thinking only. Discuss.

I'd also like to say that, at this point, I'm not convinced that exponential progress will ultimately be sustainable. This "singularity" that has gained popularity just doesn't sit right with me. I think that the technology behind Moore's Law may keep the problem domains that can be solved via computation moving along nicely, but I feel that as things start really feeling out of hand that we'll start reigning things back. I think it's as naive to think that it will reach a point we can't stop it as it is to think that things won't continue progressing (sounds like a contradiction, I know).

Anyway, more later.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Stuff on My "To Read" List
I've set up an account on del.icio.us, a social bookmarking site, that allows you to store your bookmarks centrally and see what other people have bookmarked the same places. I'm more interested in this site for the former feature than the latter one, frankly, but am interested to see if social filtering works on this site as well.

As soon as I spend can spend a few minutes figuring out how to incorporate the RSS feed from my del.icio.us account directly onto my blog page I will, but in the mean time, here's the RSS feed for my bookmarks if you're interested.

My Bookmark Feed
Wrist Dreams: JCB Casio Offica Credit-Card Wristwatch
Here's a watch with a chip built into it so that you can make payments (in Japan) with it. It's very interesting, but I wonder about how you prevent paying for things just because your near a payment receptacle.

It supposedly comes with insurance so that if it's stolen you're protected from thieves running up a bill, so that's a good start.

I think having a watch as a center for communication with local objects makes a bunch of sense and wish I had made that connection (but the ways I've been thinking about it - wireless from a PDA/phone, direct contact of your PDA/phone - would still work...grumble grumble). My thinking remains, however, that the smarts will not likely be in the watch (for the foreseeable future) but in some other smart device you carry (phone/PDA) which can turn off the watches ability to communicate, and can present you with dialog boxes (or the equivalent) that say "Are you sure you want to pay $400 for this gum?".

Wrist Dreams: JCB Casio Offica Credit-Card Wristwatch
Monday, September 27, 2004
The Space Elevator
For some reason the Space Elevator (SE) concept has been getting more visibility (as measured by the number of articles I run across discussing it in a given month).

If you haven't heard of this before, the basic idea is that we tie a very long cord to the earth, put some heavy weights on the end of it which would result in a stairway to heaven of sorts. Much like the classic experiment where you take a bucket of water and rotate your arm quickly through a circle (if done right, the water doesn't spill out even when upsidedown), the earth's rotation will keep the weight out in space and the cord tight.

If you have this, then you can build a machine to climb up the cord and drop off loads of equipment, satellites, and people into space without dangerous and wasteful rockets.

While I remain skeptical, I am impressed by the fact that most approaches to this topic appear to be genuinely exploratory and are examining a wide range of reasons that it might never come to be (though they are not yet focused on non-technical, non-budgetary reasons).

Here's a link to Elevator 2010, which is hosting a contest to create a material 25 times stronger than the best steel (and light too). It has a primer to help get you up to speed on some basic concepts. Elevator 2010 purports to provide an answer to whether SEs are feasable by 2010.

This last June witnessed the The Space Elevator: 3rd Annual Internation Conference. The site for this contains many interesting presentations given on such subjects as the state of nanotube technology (for making the cord) and getting power to the crawler, to how to frame public discussions about the SE to sidestep some tricky issues that might otherwise muck up the ability to make the SE happen.
Friday, September 24, 2004
The DaVinci Institute - Papers Home Page
The DaVinci Institute, a self-described futurist think tank, has a page of concept papers that may provide for interesting reading (I've only read the first one so far).

They had a contest some time back where they invited people to submit their ideas for inventions of the future, and they apparently received quite a few submissions. Pitty that they decided to wait to share them until they have built a museum they are planning. It would seem like embracing the technology of the now might be a good precedent for an organization focused on the future to make.

The DaVinci Institute - Papers Home Page
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Flexible sensors make robot skin
More fun with organic transistors (the same kind of things that are allowing for flexible monitors). This time in the form of a pressure sensitive pad that could be used for such things as feedback in robot skin. Although I'm concerned about the apparent epidemic of people falling out of their hospital beds inclining the researchers of this pressure sensitive film to speculate that it could be used to monitor the vital signs of someone who has fallen onto the floor in a hospital.

Flexible sensors make robot skin TRN 092204
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Eye Tracking Technology
Here's the website of the company that provided at least some of the eye-tracking capability for the study mentioned in the previous entry.

Once this technology becomes portable (and I haven'read their entire site, maybe it already has) really interesting things can start happening.
Eyetrack III - What You Most Need to Know
This is a very interesting study in how people use news-oriented web sites. In particular, the study tracked people's eye movements and how long they looked at which portions of the screen.

While there is a lot of research required to validate their top-line guesses as to what is going on, it provides many interesting data bits to consider about how people use a web environment and how sites might improve their layout accordingly.

Eyetrack III - What You Most Need to Know
Technology Review: Translation in Motion
The next step in universal translation: text message (and email) translation on the fly.

Technology Review: Translation in Motion
Monday, September 20, 2004
Zipdash - Live Traffic Maps
GPS-based location based service to allow Nokia users to get a live picture of traffic in their area (assuming their area is in California, Phoenix, or Seattle). I expect this kind of thing (more info swarming, by the way) will become a standard part of nagivation systems in the very near future.

Zipdash - Live Traffic Maps
Saturday, September 18, 2004
The Year 2000 from 1922
Here's a link to an article published in 1922 about the way things will be in 2000. Interesting in terms of the correctness of the extension of existing things (like air travel), and the incorrectness in the development of new things ("nickelum" used everywhere, for example).

In the year 2000
An Illustrated Speculative TImeline...
It's been quite a while since I've read through this site, but I recall that the last time I did, I found some interesting things to think about.

This is essentially one man's detailed set of predictions about the future.

How advances in technology may reshape humanity an illustrated speculative timeline of future technology and social change
TIME 100: 1900 vs. 1998
Apparently the Time magazine site (www.time.com) ran an article back in 1998 which, among other things, compared some basic statistics from 1900 to those same stats in 1998. It makes for some interesting (and quick) reading. Click on the World link to see similar stats for not just the US.

TIME 100: 1900 vs. Now
Visionary City

Here's William Robinson Leigh's "Visionary City" from 1908.

This one is a beautiful imagination of a city with no trees, impossibly high buildings with a perspective so high up that the ground can't be seen. I love the skyscraper canyons, and raised roadways, and the fact that the cars and street lighting are all of the time of the painting.

I found this, and the previous two images at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/3cities/axelrod.htm.

Here's a picture from the 1925 movie Metropolis showing similar imagery to King's illustration in my previous entry.

I'd recommend Metropolis to anyone who'd like to see how early film makers were struggling with coming up with a standard set of visual metaphors. Metropolis is very surreal today, but I'm not sure if it was originally intended that way.
Moses King Card

Just picked up a postcard that looks more or less like this (done by Moses King and associates, but they produced many variations on this one).

Thought the image was intersting enough to share. I'll try including more interesting future images as I run across them.

My version of this one is colorized, doesn't have the "King's Views of New York" text, and is missing the big blimp near the top (among other minor details). The version you see here was done in 1915, and the card I picked up was from the 1915-1930 era, though there's no date on it, and I don't know when the version that appears on my postcard was actually done.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
360 Mbs Wireless
I can't tell if they actually expect the technology to be available in 2010, or that was just the name of the conference that the information was presented at, but Siemens demonstrated technology to provide 360 megabit wireless connections.

PhysOrg: Lab and field test produces top speed for mobile network of up to 360 megabits per second
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Futurist resources
Here is a link to many interesting online resources relating to futurism and the future in general.

Peering into the future
Speech Recognition on a Chip
A press release from Carnegie Mellon University indicates that they are undertaking a project to create a hardware-based speech recognition system. The primary benefit appears to be the speeds in which speech recognition can be performed in this way - "100 to 1000 times more efficiently than on a conventional computer".

Primary uses for this indicated in the article are speech-based interfaces for portable devices, and the ability for emergency workers to interface with complex databases hands free in the field.

Another interesting use, in my opinion, is to provide indexable text in real time for the constant recording of personal audio. At the very least it could provide a written record of everything I said, and map it to a timecode in the original audio/video record. If it could do this for all other speakers nearby, all the better.

It's also a step closer to a universal translator, but more on that later.

Carnegie Mellon engineering researchers to create speech recognition in silicon
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Policing Swarms
I don't recall if I have mentioned this before (and I'm too lazy to go through all the entries to check), but here are two of my predictions for the near future:

I'll try to go into depth on each of these predictions, and related outcomes in a future entry, but for the moment, let's assume that constant video recording becomes a fact at some point in the future. I'm also a believer that we will do far more with this video than just record it (for example, I think the ability to search and playback this video on the fly will have wide ranging social impacts); we will have software that analyzes this video in real time for a number of different purposes (again, more in a later entry), one of which will be facial recognition. Another is likely to be optical character recognition (couple OCR with GPS,and my quick entry about the gas prices information swarm, and you get automated gas price reporting without requiring station owners to use a central system).

Facial recognition will likely come about as a means to automatically look up information that we have stored about a person we are looking at. Remembering their name would be a fabulous application for me, and remembering such things as their birthday, or kids names and ages and the like is probably going to make the application worthwhile enough to at least be investigated.

So it occurred to me a couple of weeks ago as I was walking down the street that if I had a camera headset on that had OCR, it could scan license plates, which might be handy for spotting a friend's car. Of course the much more obvious use is in law enforcement. Given limited budgets and staff, already a number of police departments are reaching out to the community using new-ish technology to cover more area more economically. I heard a story on NPR last week about a community in Florida (I think) that has recruited a number of people in the community to be part of their cell phone network. Essentially whenever one of these people (whom I presume do not get paid) sees something out of the ordinary, they call in to a special number to report it. The police department can then dispatch enforcement officers to those things that might warrant it, and track bits of information that may not mean anything singularly, but may form a pattern over time.

So if I have a camera that can perform OCR in real time, then it seems like the police might want to tap into that information to try and locate a stolen car, for example. If this OCR data is recorded, then the police might want to tap into your history to find out if you ever saw a car that was used in a crime to try and discern whose car it was as part of their evidence chain.

Furthermore, this scenario extends even further when you throw in facial recognition. Police would want to identify where a suspect was last seen, if a missing child had been spotted, or the current whereabouts of persons of interest.

My guess is that the desire to tap this information network will create huge pressures to legislate police access to your data in real time. Rather than calling to law enforcement every time a plate is read or a face is matched, a solution might be to have a central clearinghouse and a voluntary checks against it from your gear. This would allow enough "people on the streets" to help out law enforcement while not being overly Orwellian. Preferably, your gear would download lists of plates and facial markers (probably in encrypted form so you couldn't look at the list) allowing your system to check for matches locally without calling back to a central location and increasing privacy issues.

Ideally, such an increase in surveillance would come with increased transparency to the organizations that use the system, to help fend off abuse. But I'm guessing that that won't happen in any meaningful way in association with this new information gathering technique. Optimistically, that might be because the current overhaul of the intelligence agency might foster such transparency before information networks like this come online in a meaningful way. More realistically, however, I think that without a major public abuse to trigger public interest, not enough people will really care (note that this is different from not enough people having been exposed to the issues) enough to pressure for change.

And this is just one of the interesting social struggles we are likely to have as computing power, portability, and ubiquity really hit their strides. More later ;)
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
The Year 2000: The Trajectory of an Idea
Here's the lead article (so says the site on which it's published), by Daniel Bell, of the Commission on the Year 2000.

A nice read of a steady-handed approach to the future.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Battelle - Technology Forecasts
Battelle sounds vaguely familliar, but I can't say as it's a name that regularly comes to mind. Nonetheless, they have a set of short-term predictions, some of which expire soon, and others which are 10 or more years out. Some are obvious, and some are wrong, but they get enough of the non-obvious ones correct to warrant a look.

Here's a link to their forecasts page:
Battelle - Technology Forecasts
World History : HyperHistory
Back in 1995, I started building out what I called "The Web of History" which was essentially a way of slicing and dicing history so that you could see what was going on in one culture during defining moments of other cultures, and you could track discoveries/inventions/events back to their roots, or forward to their offspring.

The Web of History never really got off the ground in large part because I didn't have access to any database to store it in (and in the early stages, there were still hundreds of files to maintain), and I'm not a completor of things by nature (I have, subsequently, developed the database schema for this, but haven't done anything with it).

In any case, I just stumbled across HyperHistory, which seems to be doing more or less the same thing.

World History : HyperHistory
Ladies' Home Journal
Here's a list, on PBSKids.org, of predictions made in a well known article in Ladies' Home Journal in 1900. There are probably better lists out there (I'm hoping to find the entire article) and I'll update this entry when I find them.

(In the mean time, PBSKids.org also has an overview of what automobiles were like in 1900, and why they were important. Perhaps shedding light on my earlier comment.)
Hopelessly Wrong Predictions
Here's an amusing list of quotes about the future as assembled by Dennis List. A good deal are out of context, can't actually be identified as having failed yet, or could well have been true for the distance into the future the author might have been speaking of (e.g. 10 years from 1902).

Most instructive, in my mind, is the following quote:
The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty." - President of Michigan Savings Bank, 1903, advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company.

Certainly amusing in retrospect, but (and you'll forgive me if my knowledge of the history of automobiles is off here) if I were to have seen a noisy, rickety, slow machine uncomfortably chugging down the machine, I certainly could see saying the same thing. It wasn't until better motors, cheaper construction, and smooth roads came along (I'm guessing) that it became obvious that cars were, ahem, going somewhere. I can't fault the speaker in this case for not realizing that man's drive to transport himself by something wholly of his own making is very strong indeed.
Interesting Futurology Site
I stumbled across a collection of future-focused articles here, and while I'm not sure what the intenet of them was, I found the first article, by Rachel Emma Silverman, to be a nice collection of predictions about the year 2000 from various sources.

Update: It seems the link above is a mirror of sorts for the Millennium edition at wsj.com.
Friday, September 03, 2004
Having had an interest for some time in first-person augmented reality (different from third party augmented reality systems where someone else is adding a virtual component to your environment like the guys in this earlier entry are doing), I've always had some idea that it would be necessary to have geographic information tied into the Internet somewhere. I didn't really give it much thought, though, as there were other interesting things to think about.

Recently, however, I was driving up to Canada and kept finding myself thinking things like "I wonder those statues are all about," and "Ooo, you can learn to fly helicopters over there; I wonder how much it costs." This further led me to thinking about how you might actually go about tying in physical location information with the Internet.

I know that some cell phone services will already let you find things like the location of every ATM near you, and the top 10 cheap restaurants in your area, both based on your triangulated position (or the location of the cell tower you are currently connected to, or the like) based on interactions with your phone. But it seems to me that for a system where information is tied to a location to actually work, the process for finding that information should be based on some Internet standard, and not controlled by cell phone companies or other such parties.

The seemingly obvious solution would be to augment the current DNS system so that it could do the same translation with geographic coordinates as it does with names. (This all assumes, by the way, that GPS receivers will be small enough to be integrated with cell phones in the near future, which seems like a good bet.) Some modifications are likely required, however, so that you could say "Give me all of the things within 50 meters of my location" as well as things like "Tell me what is at exactly x and y".

An example of how this would work is if I'm tooling down the highway and see something of interest, I can request all of the geographic entries near me, and have them displayed on a map of my surroundings. I can then pick the particular location of the item I'm interested in (this is a short-term scenario; in the slightly longer term, computer assistance will help you get at the exact thing your are interested in (perhaps, for example, by pointing) without the intervening steps). The geocode of that location would then be looked up in the DNS system, which would return the location of its information server, which might return an HTML doc, some XML, or the like.

It seems likely that the demand for these kinds of services (at least in the US) will begin to peak around 3 years from know, with focused interest lasting from 2-5 years after that.

I did a quick Google search and came up with a couple of references to this kind of thinking.

RFC 1876 seems to be dealing with including geographic information into DNS (though I have only skimmed the spec).

There's also a reference to "The Addressable World" in a doc I found on the Institute for the Future's website.

Finally, there is a paper dating back to 1996 about GPS-Based Addressing and Routing on Rutgers' site, which seems (again, I only skimmed it) to be in the ballpark as well.

Anyone know of any progress on this front? I'd be surprised if there wasn't something in Japanese discussing an existing implementation on this, but I don't read Japanese, so no luck there.
BT Exact Looks at the Future
I ran across this PDF from BT Exact (the IT arm of BT, as near as I can tell).

It's a collection of one sentence (or less) predictions about when various things will happen.

Apparently written in 2001, and being the 5th edition of a work started in 1991, the intro all seems well and good and more or less well reasoned. But it's interesting to see that they run amok starting from the very first prediction - AI Doctors by 2001 - and more or less go downhill from there.

I haven't read passed the first section (Artificial Inteligence [sic] and Artificial Life), so it may get better beyond that.

An instructive and informative read (so far).

BT Exact: Clever Stuff
Information Swarming and Physical Swarming
washingtonpost.com has an interesting article (below) along the lines of a CNET article I mentioned earlier, discussing the tech being used by RNC protestors and the police.

TxtMob.com shows up again, and appears to be the breakout technology star. Equally fascinating, I thought, was a reference to indymedia.org, which I had not previously heard of. It appears to be a distant cousin of my Micro-Local News concept, where individuals directly involved in an event act as reporters. I dug around on the indymedia site and found references to the video being distributed by P2P networks. VERY interesting. No better way to keep information available than spread through a bunch of people's machines and made publicly available, just ask the RIAA.

It further contributed to something I've been pondering, as well. Is the fact that we will have extremely large hard drives on which to store all of our everything an example of the Super Now fallacy? Will information instead be replicated across many machines everywhere and your need to have a very large drive be countered? Certainly not until bandwidth gets to be very large (back to the 10Gb/s topic), but what about then?

I know that there have been attempts at this kind of information distribution before, but I don't recall the details. Obviously your private data would have to be encrypted in such a way that only you could get at it, and held on enough geographically distributed locations so as to guarantee that you still have access to your data in pretty much any situation.


RNC Protesters Using Text Messages to Plan

Independent Media Center | www.indymedia.org | ((( i )))


Thursday, September 02, 2004
Residential Videophones by 2005
I recently re-visited the Foresight Exchange to see what new predictions had been made for the future, and stubled across the prediction, made in 1995 that by 2005 20% of residential users would have a video phone that they used at least 10 times a year.

What is the most interesting about this claim is that, in 1995, apparently around 80% of people believed this would be the case. By 1996, this number dropped (dramatically, I might add) to about 60%, and then in 2001 to around 25%, and finally to where it sits now at 8%.

I think this nicely illustrates the idea that we often feel we are on the verge of some sort of technological breakthrough, when, for many reasons, the breakthrough is actually quite far away.

Residential Videophones by 2005
USATODAY.com - Domestic bliss through mechanical marvels?
An interesting article about how aging babyboomers might drive home robotic advances.

Based on the performance of my Roomba, however, predictions like the one made by Sebastian Thrun of the Stanford AI lab that in 5 years there will be robots that "pick up dishes from the table and put them in the dishwasher" seem a little optimistic.

There seems to be an excessive focus on visual recognition in the article, which states "a homebot needs to recognize a person coming down the hall so it can get out of the way" as a reason that visual systems will be required.

This feels like over-engineering to me. Sonar and other non-visual technologies are already in use by robots to detect and avoid objects both stationary and moving. I don't see any reason that vision would be required for a good number of things people say they do. At some point, however, visual recognition will probably take over some of the functions of non-visual sensors as we develop better algorithms for spotting items of interest and they can be more readily (read: cheaply) integrated into consumer class robots, but relying on them in the short term will probably just get in the way.

The Roomba is a good example of this. It could use visual recognition to work its way around the room, but a bumper-based detection works just as well. Now the Roomba has other problems largely relating to its inability to remember anything, and what seems like a poor room navigation algorithm, but nothing that I think won't be fixed in a simpler manner by tweaking the existing, relatively simple, algorithms, than by adding a complex visual recognition system.

On another note, there is mention of how so-called "carebots" could be used to monitor blood pressure, dispense pills, and call 911 for people who need special care.

These all feel like things that could be more effectively handled by building something more specific to solve the problems rather than trying to build a generalized "carebot".

Specifically, I think that on-board health monitoring systems are a better bet for identifying potential 911 emergencies. Having an udergarment that could track your respirations, pulse, and body temperature, for example, and funnel that back to a nearby computing device wirelessly, seems like it would be much cheaper to develop, easier to use, more accurate, and could have implications beyond just those that need immediate care.

Of course I'm biased on this because this kind of monitoring has been on my list of where things are going for a while (see the entry regarding Smart Pillows). I even have crude drawings that I'll try and upload when I get a chance so we can all have a laugh.

Robotics is, by its nature, and active system with primary emphasis on manipulating or navigating the environment. Too many things mentioned in the article could just as easily be done by passive computing systems in a much more efficient way.

If you're looking for a good idea for "carebots", how about a robot that can administer a defibrillator when a person has been detected to have gone into cardiac arrest? This seems something worth the robotics challenge, and probably requires vision processing as well.

USATODAY.com - Domestic bliss through mechanical marvels?
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
My Blog Turns 1
In honor of the fact that this blog turns 1 year old, which shows more committment to a project than I've shown to pretty much any project, I've chosen a new template (and made minor modifications), added a Feed Burner RSS/Atom smart link, and set up a connection to Flickr.com for photos.

Now all I need are visitors ;)
Photo Swarming

I don't recall if I've mentioned the information swarming concept any more than in passing here previously. Basically it's the idea of various (relatively) small bits of information converging somewhere to create something larger. I'm a firm believer that this will represent an important information-gathering process in the future and have some ideas of how it could be used.

In any case, one of the first things that occurred to me was the idea that photos taken by members of a group should swarm to somewhere where all members of the group could instantly look at them. I proposed this idea to the group I travelled with in Thailand, and the idea was very enthusiastically received. I spent some time looking for a site that would enable this, and finally settled on giving everyone a common account to one site (I forget which).

Turns out, Flickr.com is set up to enable just exactly that kind of activity. Cool!

(Caveat, I haven't actually tried Flickr.com out in a group setting yet, but their site literature is the first to mention anything of this kind, so it seems a good bet they've enabled it.)

In any case, here's a photo from the kite camera page mentioned in a previous article; just for fun.
Flickr.com Test

I signed up for a Flickr.com account to play with adding photos to the blog. Not sure what I'll use it for yet, but here's a picture from the tourist-heavy floating market from my recent trip to Thailand to tide you over.
Life in the Year 2014 Deconstructed, Part 2
Ok, I'm going to see if I can tackle more than one paragraph from Robert J. Sawyer's predictions of what life will be like in the year 2014 as posted on Backbonemag.com.

Sawyer indicates that after your brainwave clock has gently woken you up (see my previous entry for a discussion of this), your robokitchen will have a hot breakfast waiting for you. Presumably it will be able to tell when you are coming out of your sleep with enough time for your breakfast to be prepared.

There's plenty of ambiguity on what this really means, but I'm guessing that if this is available at all, it will be in the form of something that automatically takes a pre-prepared breakfast out of the freezer and heats it up in the microwave.

Sawyer is probably aware that a conventional oven version of this idea already exists from a couple of manufacturers, so I'm guessing he's referring to something a bit more ambitious where the breakfast is freshly prepared on demand.

Just based on my feel for where we are now, I'm guessing that this kind of in-home robotics is still quite a ways off. There are complex safety, manipulation (for example, the refrigerator might have to be entirely rethought to allow robotic manipulation), and cleaning (to name just a few) issues that need to be worked out for this kind of system. It may be theoretically possible in 2014, and there may even be some demos of the technology in University or R&D halls, but the cycle time to bring something like this to market is so long that we'd have to already see this technology in a lab somewhere now for it to be on the market in 2014.

Of course, I don't follow cutting edge kitchen gadgetry very much so Sawyer may be aware of something that I'm not. Feel free to point me at anything that you think may have us farther down the road to this than I might imagine.

Sawyer mentions as an amusing throw away, that your breakfast will be low in carbs. It will be interesting to see how the low carb fad plays out over the next few years. If future is a guide, it will probably still be something we talk about in an increasingly cluttered lexicon of how we talk about foods, much like various forms of fat and calories are today.

Sawyer doesn't appear to give much credence to tablet PCs or flexible, paper-like screens, indicating that your paper will be printed and waiting for you. This is something that has been tried a few times already, and, as far as I know has not caught on. Perhaps Sawyer is banking on the ability of the printed-at-home version to be customized specifically for you. I already get customized news just for me from Findory.com in my inbox, but I don't feel any strong compulsion to have it printed out. Then again, I don't subscribe to any printed paper, so I may well not be the target for this kind of product. Would you use it?

For my money, I expect we'll still get our news electronically or in mass-produced print form (I think it will be hard to beat the newspaper's economy in printing - imagine the cost of printing an entire newspaper-sized publication from your printer every day, it's not a lot, but probably more than getting the paper delivered to your door costs, and that doesn't include the subscription - and besides, newspapers just have a more comfortable feel to them than a similar stack of 8.5"x11" paper). If the landscape is going to shift towards Sawyer's vision, I expect we'll see it well before 2014 as there's nothing in particular preventing it from happening now except interest.

He is right, however, that your custom news (however you receive it) will be culled from foreign sources and automatically translated for you, though the translation will probably still suck in 2014.

Ok, I still didn't get through more than a single paragraph. At this rate I'll either give up soon, or there will be a string of 30 such entries here.

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