Tag Archives | research

PARC Predicts the Future of Mobile Tech, Circa 1991

I’m spending the afternoon at PARC–the Xerox subsidiary formerly known as the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center–for a fascinating event celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the legendary research organization. Ethernet, laser printers, and much of the concepts and technologies in every modern graphical user interface  all emerged from PARC; among the many legendary alums here today are Adele Goldberg, Alan Kay, Bob Metcalfe, and Charles Simonyi. And I just shook the hand of the man sitting next to me–Alvy Ray Smith, a computer graphics pioneer and former PARC employee who cofounded Pixar.

Here’s a video I stumbled across on YouTube–it was apparently made at PARC circa 1991, and talks about ubiquitous computing, a long-time subject of PARC research that’s being discussed by panelists here even as I speak.

No, it doesn’t predict the iPhone–but it’s still fascinating and prescient, like much of the work done at PARC over the past four decades.


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Volkswagen’s Autonomous Car: Drivers Unneccesary

On Thursday afternoon, I went for a very short ride–maybe forty yards–in the back seat of a diesel Volkswagen Passat. Here’s why I’m writing about it on a site called Technologizer: The car had no driver. I was attending the formal dedication of the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab (VAIL) at Stanford University–complete with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The car in question was Junior 3, a collaborative effort between VW and Stanford researchers.

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Is the US Beginning to Log Off the Internet?

Data from Harris Interactive seems to indicate that weekly Internet usage may be peaking, indicating that the dire predictions of the death of interpersonal communication as predicted by some communications scholars (mine in college included!) and your Mom and Dad may be a little premature. Since 1999, when Harris first began tracking weekly Internet usage, the number has been for the most part steadily increasing from 7 hours to a peak of 14 hours last year.

The biggest jump was from 2007 to last, and this likely had a lot to do with the explosion in growth in social networking sites. Twitter and Facebook, both very time-consuming if you get heavily involved in the status update side of things, both saw dramatic growth in this period. Additionally, a very competitive presidential election probably contributed to added time online as well, Harris speculates.

No surprise that the most active age group online is those 30-39 years old, spending 18 hours a week online on average. Again no surprise that those 65+ are spending far less time connected at 8 hours. Either way you slice it, if you have a computer you’re likely online: Harris reports a 98 percent of computer users have an online connection, or about 184 million adults.

Will these numbers still go up? It’s likely they will as more services move to the Internet (video, etc.) But it does look like the rapid growth in Internet use is slowing considerably, both in the numbers logging on and time spent. There’s probably several ways one could interpret Harris’ findings.

Yes folks, it’s good to log off sometimes: I know that because I sit here in front of a computer 30+ hours a week blogging and writing. After awhile you just need to disconnect. Then again, I find myself on my iPhone if I’m not on the computer, so maybe I’m never truly disconnected…

(Image from “Wall-E,” copyright Pixar, Inc.)


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Twitterers are Heathens!

In yet another installment from the crazy study department, research conducted by the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California seems to suggest that twittering may lead to immorality. Remember that the next time you are trying to describe your feelings in 140 characters or less.

Before you say, “what the …”, let me explain their premise. Institute Director Antonio Damasio along with his research group argue that moral decision-making requires more time to ponder ones options. In this status-update driven world, that apparently doesn’t happen.

They set to prove their point by sharing stories that would invoke certain emotions with study participants. Brain scans indicated it was taking 6-8 seconds for those emotions to register.

From this I’m guessing Damasio and Co. inferred that the high speed inflow of information that status driven websites like Twitter just doesn’t give us enough time to properly feel an emotion about what we’re taking in.

USC media scholar Manuel Castells chimed in on PhysOrg, where the study originally appeared. “Lasting compassion in relationship to psychological suffering requires a level of persistent, emotional attention,” he reasons.

This has to be the oddest study I’ve seen in a long time. Whereas the Facebook study just seemed to state the obvious, this just seems to create unnecessary concern over the path society is taking.

Twitter was never meant to invoke emotion. It’s premise was to let people know what you are doing, or what is happening. Take natural disasters. When the tweets start rolling in, are these people suggesting there is no reaction at all to learning people have perished, or are in trouble?

Sorry, but this takes a huge leap of faith to believe we’ve become that callous.

One last point, I was discussing this with a friend, and he said “wow its kind of funny you’d take on neuroscientists.” Yes, these folks are smart. But I think the big issue here is that some type of problem with social media was inferred.

I know when I infer something that could be interpreted a multitude of ways, I am usually criticized by readers. How is this different?


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