The Office of 2030 – What Does the Future Hold

Introduction & Context

Late in the afternoon of this past Friday – 22nd January 2016 – I received quite an unexpected email from a Media & Online Relations Specialist at searchlaboratory.com on behalf of the UK broadband provider Plusnet. To my surprise they had written to thank me for tweeting about an article I had read a few days before at siliconrepublic.com about the future office (online).

This particular site provides quite a few interesting news stories each day about Science and Technology, many of these articles are focused towards news stories in Ireland, but many are also based much further afield; such as one pointing towards evidence of Planet in the outer reaches of our solar system (online).

The article in question that I had tweeted was “Your future office: Smart toilets, holograms, VR and a slide!” (online). I had been asked if I would feature the content on my blog and write some of my own thoughts about the general topic area. This sounded like a really interesting invitation as I had read quite a number of articles over the past few years about the use of office space and the ever increasing move towards open-plan. Such a request isn’t totally out of the ordinary either having in the past few months for example contributed material towards books & a BBC television documentary all down to having a presence on the likes of Flicker, Twitter and YouTube.

The Impact of Technology, Robots and AI

Just recently I had attended a BCS lecture titled “Impact of Robots – Where have all the good jobs gone?” One of many interesting elements of note from this talk was that within the next 10 to 15 years or so a very significant number of the jobs that exist today would be no more. These would be jobs of a repetitive nature including the likes of accountants, data entry clerks, telesales operators and bank clerks to name but a few. Positions requiring the analysis and understanding of x-rays, MRI Scans, biopsy slides and the like often require years and years of training, with persons working in the field for 15 or even 20 years before becoming an expert in the interpretation of same. Yet with the advances of Image Recognition technologies, such analysis can now be done by a machine (Robot) in a few seconds or less, yielding far greater levels of accuracy.

We are now reaching a point in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century where machines/software/algorithms are performing better than humans. Jobs of today that are still likely to be around in the near future would be positions that would have high levels of interaction with clients. Such positions would include Surgery, Dentistry, Choreography, Audiologists, Dieticians and Nutritionists. Technology, in particular advancements in Artificial Intelligence will allow for the automated processing, understanding and interpretation of large volumes of data at a rate that no human could ever match.

The following 72 page article “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” by Frey and Osborne, 2013 (online) provides a detailed analysis of the probability to which a particular occupation can be computerised. The Appendix commencing on page 57 provides a detailed list ranking 702 occupations – from those that are essentially a certainty to be replaced by machines to those still likely to be around in the future.

When considering what the Office of the Future will be like, one should start from the likelihood that many of todays jobs will not exist in the near future. The following BBC News article (online) titled “Will a robot take your job?” has a nice feature whereby one can type in an occupation to find out the “risk” of it being taken over by automation. Another BBC news article dated 20th Jan 2016 includes a short video segment highlighting the issue of “How robots are changing the way we work” (online). An example of a physical robot capable at present of carrying out many operations one would find on a factory production line is “Baxter”. The BBC Article suggests those “doing low-skilled, low paid jobs and those earning less than £30,000 are most likely to be replaced by a machine” (online).

A Desk & Internet Connection

A question recently posed was: “Would you rent out your home as an office workspace?” (online) 15th Jan 2016. Perhaps for many jobs all one needs today is a desk, Internet connection, a supply of tea/coffee and of course the kitchen sink. If you feel that your home could be put to better use while you are away at work, then why not let some strangers make use of your facilities? One website in particular – OfficeRiders.com offers such a service, with prices from the likes of €10 per day to work in a stranger’s home. This is certainly a different take on the concept of the “Home Office”.

The Office Desk

The office desk of the 1980’s and that of today are worlds apart. The physical clutter of books, notepads, calendars, fax machines, newspapers, phones, calculators, telephone books and the like have migrated their way to present themselves as a software representation of same on your computer. The team at the Harvard Innovation Lab (online), produced a nice video depicting the evolution of the Office Desk as can be seen below, some further detail can be seen (online). The original producer of the video was BestReviews with the original video available at (http://bestreviews.com).

Having a physically large desk real estate area allows one to readily organise and arrange things, the same holds true for a computer system. Having two or more Screens (Visual Display Units (VDU’s)) can greatly improve productivity (online). It’s not just about physical screen space but also resolution. The iMac 5K Retina display for examples has a 5120×2880 native resolution. One can expect to see 8K broadcasts just around the corner, kicking off in time for the 2020 Olympics Games (online).

Sit, Stand, Move, Get Active

We are standing on the precipice of a health crisis with obesity expected to be the norm. According to the World Health Organisation for example it is estimated that 91% of Irish men will be overweight or obese by 2030 (online)(online). Given that such a large portion of the week is dedicated to our working lives, it will be in the best interest of all (employer & employee) to work in an environment that encourages a more active lifestyle.

As we move ever closer to 2030 the axiom of “Sitting is the new smoking” becomes ever more true (online). Prolonged sitting is being linked to a range of health problems, limited not just to obesity but also diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular disease and shorter life spans. As with everything in life one needs balance, sitting all day clearly leads to a sedentary lifestyle. Working at a standing desk all day is also not the answer due to cardiovascular issues, varicose veins and back pain. Standing does burn more calories than sitting however. One may find the following “Sitting vs Standing” calculator of interest (online).

According to a BBC article from 2013 (online) “Even if you exercise on a regular basis that may not be enough. There is mounting evidence that exercise will not undo the damage done by prolonged sitting. Our technology has made us the most sedentary humans in history”. The well known axiom that “variety is the spice of life” certainly holds true for how we should be interacting with desk based work. We should be combining sitting with segments of standing and moving about.

Standing Desks

Standing desks could certainly help in making the workforce less sedentary, though given that standing all day isn’t the answer a suitable chair for same would also be called for. If you are interested in knowing more about the Standing desk option cnet.com has an article discussing five things one should consider before switching over (online). The “next step up” no pun intended would be the treadmill desk. A 2013 BBC article (online) discusses how practical they are. It would seem the author burnt 300 calories while writing the article. Treadmill desks certainly tick two boxes allowing one to move about e.g. walk at 1mph while working and also stand. The addition of a suitably designed chair that marries in well with the Treadmill desk could perhaps be the ultimate solution. The idea of the Standing desk isn’t new, with many well known figures dating back to Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and even Albert Einstein making use of them (online).

Is a Desk Always Needed?

We have seen how the office as we know it has transformed. Many Private offices have vanished in favour of Open-plan spaces. Some people are letting out their homes to complete strangers providing them with a space to work, Internet connection a the other life essential basics. It would seem the meaning of the term “office” today is much more fluid that what it was in decades past. Mobile technology, Wifi, 4G and the like means that many people can work from anywhere. For many who commute long distances by train for example, the train itself is their office for much of the working day. With the likes of tables and smart paper, one can take all the document you want with you where ever you want, therefore the office moves with you. This can lead to one working and having meetings anywhere from kitchen to a physical desk space, breakout area, park, shopping centre, coffee shop etc. These need not be meetings in person either, video conferencing tools such as Skype means on can have meetings with anybody in the world at any time. During the period of writing this article for example I’ve had several group calls in skype with colleagues across several European countries & have had meetings much farther afield as well. Skype combined with some form of file sharing service such a Google Drive, can make for a powerful combination whereby a group can contribute to the editing of a document and discuss progress / updates at the same time.

Deep Below, up Above, in Orbit and Beyond

The science fiction horror film “Resident Evil” released in 2002 was mainly set in an underground complex hidden deep below “Racoon City”. One of the first vistas the main characters come across upon entering “the Hive” underground facility is a scene not unlike anything you would expect to see in any modern day city when looking out the window. The advancement in display / television technology such as from 4K to 8K in recent years makes such a scenario all the more a reality.

The example of a “Video Wall” of some external environment isn’t just limited to the confines of our world either. Towards the beginning of the 1986 film “Aliens” directed by James Cameron we find the main character “Ripley” seated in what appears to be a nice outdoor space. It’s only when the camera pulls back does it reveal that the area she is sitting in is just a small cubicle with some potted plants and a video wall depicting a scenic snapshot of nature. One would have never guessed that she was orbiting high above in a space station.

Moving out and away from the confines of our Solar System, one cannot discuss the future of display technology without mentioning the “Holodeck” from “Star Trek”. It’s strange to think that much of what was seen in the original 1960’s TV series is now a modern day fact of life that is often taken for granted. Perhaps one example of “science fiction” from that era was that of wireless communications. Yet in the world of today the vast majority of the world’s seven billion inhabitants have a mobile at arm’s reach. The “Holodeck” may have seemed like pure science fiction just a few years ago, yet in the past year quite a few news articles reported about the development of 3D holograms that one can actually touch and feel with your fingers (online). Perhaps in a few years we could use such technology to sculpt objects by hand and then send for 3D Printing.

Life it seems is imitating fiction – or in this case science fiction. Aircraft in the near future are expected to no longer have windows, instead the cabin interior being replaced with the surrounding vista, or any other video content of one’s imagining. A conceptual video presenting this future change in aviation was presented and discussed back in 2014 (online) with the vision of developing flexible high definition OLED displays (online).

The Open-plan Office

Certainly for many occupations the following 2013 article “Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell” (online) sums up open-plan offices in a nutshell. It would seem that a “lack of sound privacy” is one of the main bones of contention for people working in such spaces.

The following 2014 article titled “Open-plan is Not Always From Hell” (online) highlights that open plan “has to suit the work processes and organisation cultures of the occupants” and points out that open-plan seemed to work well for a radio station, “similarly, trading rooms require an open-plan layout”. It is extremely interesting however that it also says “In contrast, enclosed offices work particularly well for research. Academics for instance need to concentrate for reading and writing tasks, but also require privacy to deal with student issues”.

It’s extremely interesting to see that an article titled “Open-Plan is Not Always From Hell” says that enclosed offices work particularly well for research and academia. Why is it then that many universities are herding large groups of academics into open-plan spaces that are not fit for purpose, when the very nature of the work necessitates private office space? One may argue that this is a cost saving measure, but it’s also one that that doesn’t lend itself to the concentrated work of academia and greatly limits accessibility of staff to discuss issues with students.

Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP’s) “tend to be conscientious, loyal, good at catching mistakes, and committed to high performance” (online). The typical open-plan office isn’t the most appropriate environment for such people, yet these are the people who are most valuable to a business. Noise is one of the key drawbacks of the open-plan environment. Research conducted almost 20 years ago “showed that open plan office noise reduces the productivity of knowledge workers by a staggering 66%” (online).

Some people who work in an open-plan environment often resort to headphones and music to drown out the noise. One should first consider that if many staff find it necessary to wear headphones to try and concentrate, then clearly a significant problem exists in the work environment “Headphones have become a necessary coping mechanism” (online). Working under such conditions could very well do damage to your hearing in the long term. The World Health Organisation (WHO) for example recommends limiting headphone time to at most one hour per day (online)(online).

Open-plan: Too Noisy to Work – Try an Airport Instead

During the process of writing this blog post I happened to be doing a bit of travelling and was sitting in a departure lounge restaurant of an airport that last year had over 25 million passengers pass through it. One thing that suddenly dawned on me having seen some open-plan environments was that the overall environment, level of lighting, decor, and more importantly noise levels were many orders of magnitude better than the open-plan office environments I had seen. How could it be that an airport departure area with thousands and thousands of people passing through could be a more serene environment than an open-plan office for one or two dozen people?

The Plusnet Illustrated Vision of the Future Office in 2030

According to Plusnet “A great office is the foundation of a happy workforce” (online). Many open-plan offices of today are ill-designed with uninteresting finishes, little consideration to room acoustics and plane unimaginative desks adorned with the usual keyboard, mouse, screen, system unit and phone. Will the proliferation of open-plan continue to expand into the future, will we see a return to more conventional individual office spaces or perhaps a combination of the two. What will the office of 2030 look like. Plusnet with the assistance of a number of futurists and futurologists have come up with one possible interpretation / vision of the future office.

2030 Office Overview

The illustration below provides a general overview of how a multi-storey office building may be like in 2030. As can be clearly seen it has been broken down into six distinct areas: Chill Space, Office Space, Reception, Roof Garden, Meeting Room, Kitchen / Bathroom.

OfficeOfTheFutureRoomByRoom

Reception & Parking

Over the past year or two driverless cars have been attracting more and more headlines on the news. As illustrated below, car parks could make use of a stacking system, one could probably readily design this into a new build, though for existing structures may perhaps take the form of multilevel above ground parking. Perhaps car ownership could radically change, given that for the vast majority of a cars existence it just sits still not being used. Perhaps car-sharing could become a more popular option where cars are sitting in a parking space just to recharge. If one were to include an underground parking with a stacking system, then one would of course need to consider the cost/benefit of this weighed up with the carbon cost \ environmental impact of same.

Holographic receptionists could welcome you upon arrival, with personalised greetings enabled via biometric scanning technologies. Security of such biometric data would of course be of great importance & likely to reside in the companies private cloud. Holographic receptionists may sound like science fiction at present, but in the past couple of days it was announced that a Japanese phone carrier will be staffing an entire phone store with robots (online), the robot it question being called “Pepper” (online).

OfficeOfTheFuture-Reception

The Office

It looks like open-plan and flexible workspaces will be the future. It’s nice to see the inclusion of Standing Desks – especially considering that “Sitting is now the new Smoking”. Sitting or standing for any prolonged length of time isn’t good for ones wellbeing. Perhaps we may even see a few treadmill desks & standing desk seating too. Perhaps the desk as you know it will disappear and simply be an interactive surface. The Microsoft PixelSense (Samsung SUR 40) became available in 2012 for example supporting up to 52 simulations touches throughout its 40 inch table top display and weighed well over 30Kg. Advances in nanotechnology will mean any surface could potentially be a means of interacting with the companies files / data / cloud and weigh little to nothing.

OfficeOfTheFuture-OfficeSpace

Meeting Rooms

As illustrated below meeting rooms will likely have interactive tables able to bring up any files / data a user desires. They would also be able to seamlessly interact with ones devices. Perhaps some sense of this can be readily seen in the “Board Room” scene from the 2010 film “Tron Legacy”. Telepresence robots are also likely to be the norm along with holographic representations of persons anywhere in the world. Why sit when you can stand, why stand when you can walk – perhaps many meetings in the future can be held while walking around the office or outside. With a secure wireless connection you can take the office with you on the go.

OfficeOfTheFuture-MeetingRoom

The Kitchen & Bathroom

Those of you today who may have fitness trackers or an app for monitoring daily calorie intake/ expenditure will tomorrow be able to take care of all of this without having to constantly log everything. The world of tomorrow will be littered with Trillions of sensors all amassing and processing readings, data and information in real-time. The Internet of Things will mean everything can communicate with everything else. If you always take a break at 11:00 for your morning coffee, then the intelligent kitchen will know when to make it, so it’s at the correct individualised consistency and temperature for you once you arrive in the kitchen to grab your cup.

OfficeOfTheFuture-KitchenBathroom

The “Food Replicators” from Star Trek will likely exist in the form of 3D printers able to print out a number of predefined “patterns” of food items. In the world of Star Trek the computer needed to know the molecular pattern structure for a particular item or food to “replicate” it. In the world of 2030 we may not have yet reached the level of molecular manipulation as depicted in Star Trek, however 3D Printing technology should allow for a number of food patterns to be printed.

OfficeOfTheFuture-Kitchen

Facilities in the bathroom will become smarter and greener. Quite a deal can probably be gleaned from the technologies employed with the International Space Station and former Space Shuttle programme – in particular with water usage. Diagnoses of medical conditions could also be carried out. It’s likely you may perhaps have a complete profile of your medical status somewhere in the cloud. A cheap temperature sensor could easily detect if you were running a fever for example.

OfficeOfTheFuture-Bathroom

Chill Space

Issues around mental and physical wellbeing are becoming ever more present in the news. It’s likely that the future will place a greater emphasis on work-life balance. A fit and healthy workforce is a much more productive workforce. Areas to chill-out, play games and grab a bit of sleep during the day could very well improve wellbeing.

OfficeOfTheFuture-ChillSpace

The Garden Roof

Connecting with nature more may give us a better sense of the delicate biosphere in which we live. The more concrete buildings, streets and paving we create the less space for plant life exists in our busy towns and cities. Plant life is so important in filtering out carbon dioxide, providing us with oxygen and so much of the food we eat that we should take care of it every way we can.

OfficeOfTheFuture-RoofGarden

The Office and Environs

The final illustration depicting Plusnet’s vision of the future office, shows the office building, surrounding streets and buildings. Perhaps we may also see technology to facilitate renewable energy creating buildings that require little from the main power grid. One news article published in December 2015 looked at a low energy house that runs on as little as £15 per year (online). If such can be done for a house what can super-insulating, renewable energy, energy efficient windows, LED lighting and the likes do to create a low energy building design for business.

OfficeOfTheFuture-FullStreetView

Summary

To find out more about the Plusnet vision of the Office in 2030 you can read the 25 page report (online). Plusnet have also written about this in their own blog (online) with a room by room breakdown also available (online).

At the end of the day we will have to wait until 2030 to know for sure what the future office will be like. One thing for certain is that it will be quite different that the office we know today. In particular many of today’s jobs will no longer exist, perhaps as high as 50% of today’s jobs/occupations will have been taken over by AI/Machines/Robots within a mere 15 years. The Internet of Things (IoT) will create a world littered with trillions of sensing devices all gathering data/information about the environment and communicating that to help us make better decisions and work more effectively. Technology will become so ubiquitous that we will no longer even realise it is exists as it will permeate the very fabric of our lives. Computing, AI, Robots, Telecommunications will disappear into the background and become like Electricity, ever present yet invisible. Even the very process of turning on a light switch or turning on the heating upon entering the office will be completely obsolete as the office itself will take care of it automatically.

One final suggestion of a film to watch would be “Iron Man”, as you will see the home of “Tony Stark” is fully automated and run by an AI called “Jarvis”. One of my favourite lines “commencing automated assembly” maps well to the topic at hand is said by the “Jarvis” AI, when the design of the Iron Man suit has been completed. This being a perfect example of machines building machines.

Will the open-plan office continue to be a cornerstone of many office environments, or will many businesses realise the reduction in productivity that results from same and therefore resort back to private individual office space. Perhaps the future will see a combination of the two. Whichever way it goes, careful consideration needs to be given to the overall environment, colour scheme, furniture & fittings and above all the acoustic signature of the environment.

What will the office of 2030 be like is a huge question. This post has briefly explored some of what exists today and what the future may hold.

What are Your Thoughts on the Workplace of 2030?

What will the Office of 2030 look like, and to what degree will technology be seamlessly embedded?

What sort of jobs do you think will exist in 2030?

Will the job your doing today no longer exist?

Will your profession be extinct by 2030?

Education more than ever before will be essential in securing a job in 2030, should we be investing more in STEM right now?

Should we be investing more in physical fitness & wellbeing education given the ever increasing upward trend of obesity?

Given we spend so much of our lives at work what can employers do to enhance the environment so that we are more active, thereby having less health issues in the future and being more productive?

Even in School, students can often be sitting in class for durations of 1.5 to 2 hours or so, for example from 09:00 to 10:45 or from 11:00 to 13:00. The creation of good habits of work begin at an early age, how could Schools break up a long period of sitting with some standing and cardio every 20 to 30 minutes?

Will you consider having a go at a Standing or Treadmill desk? Should employers provide the option?

Should we all be wearing Activity Trackers to remind us to get up and move around at least a few times each hour?

What can be done to counteract persons being overweight or obese – noting that by 2030 its predicted that over 90% of people in some countries could be this way?

Which is better for your health – to work in a job that requires moderate to high levels of activity, construction – for example – whilst smoking 20 a day OR to sit at desk for eight hours a day barely moving?

Given the World Health Organisation recommends limiting headphone use to an hour at most, would you be will to potentially damage your future hearing just to drown out the noise of an Open-plan office?

What other questions should be considered here?

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Key People and Events in Computer Science – Dates to Celebrate

New Years Day often coincides with people making plans and new years resolutions for the year ahead. Having liked the idea of celebrating Pi Day (http://www.piday.org) for the past few years now (P.S. you will note that this post was published at 1:59), I started to wonder what other key events and people should one celebrate during the year that relates to computing. Hence the creation of this list.

Many people like to know of others who share the same birthday as themselves, hence this list may act as a useful resource mapping your birthday to well known computer scientists and key events in the world of computing.

Many days in the list below are still to be filled in, so perhaps with the help of all those out their in the Blogosphere and the Social Media Universe we can piece together a list occupying each day of the year, thereby allowing the celebration of Computing right throughout the year.

January

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Jan Brian Kernighan AWK B 1/1/1942, Toronto, Canada. Co-developer of the AWK programming language (K), also contributed to the development of Unix. (more info).
02-Jan
03-Jan Peter Chen E-R Model B 3/1/1947, Taichung, Taiwan, ROC. Well known for developing the Entity-Relationship Model to describe database structure. (more info).
03-Jan Gordon Moore Moore’s Law B 3/1/1929, San Francisco, California, USA. Co-founder of Intel. Known for Moore’s Law an observation that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. (more info).
04-Jan Shmuel Winograd Coppersmith–Winograd algorithm B 4/1/1936, Tel Aviv, Israel. The Coppersmith–Winograd algorithm the fastest known algorithm for square matrix multiplication until 2010. (more info).
05-Jan Stephen Cole Kleene Recursion theory B 5/1/1909, Hartford, Connecticut. Worked with Alonzo Church on Lambda Calculus. Invented regular expressions. (more info).
06-Jan
07-Jan Stephen R. Bourne Bourne Shell B 7/1/1944, UK. Well known for the Bourne Shell – the standard command line interface for Unix, also worked on the ALGOL68 compiler. (more info).
08-Jan
09-Jan
10-Jan Donald Knuth TeX B 10/1/1938, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Well known for a series of books called The Art of Computer Programming, also created TeX.(more info).
11-Jan C. A. R. Hoare Quicksort B 11/1/1934, Colombo, British Ceylon. Developed the Quicksort algorithm in 1960, also known for Hoare Logic and CSP. (more info).
12-Jan
13-Jan
14-Jan
15-Jan
16-Jan
17-Jan
18-Jan
19-Jan John Gustafson Gustafson’s law B 19/1/1955. Gustafson’s Law describes a limit on the speed-up that parallelization can provide. (more info).
20-Jan
21-Jan
22-Jan
23-Jan
24-Jan Alain Colmerauer Prolog B 24/1/1941, Carcassonne. Developed the programming language Prolog. (more info).
25-Jan
26-Jan
27-Jan
28-Jan
29-Jan Joseph Kruskal Kruskal’s algorithm B 29/1/1928. Known for Kruskal’s algorithm for computing the minimal spanning tree (MST) of a weighted graph. (more info).
30-Jan Douglas Engelbart Developing the Computer Mouse B 30/1/1925, Portland, Oregon. Well known for inventing the computer mouse, and the development of hypertext. (more info).
31-Jan

February

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Feb
02-Feb John Henry Holland Genetic algorithms B 2/2/1929, Fort Wayne, Indiana, US. Known for pioneering the subject area of genetic algorithms. (more info).
03-Feb
04-Feb Ken Thompson C & UNIX B 4/2/1943, New Orleans, Louisiana. Developed the C Programming language and the UNIX OS with Dennis Ritchie. (more info).
05-Feb
06-Feb
07-Feb Loren Carpenter Fractal Terrain Generation B 7/2/1947 Brighton, Michigan. Well known for creating Vol Libre – the first example of computer generated terrain. Later he went on to develop the Genesis Sequence from Star Trek II the Wrath of Kahn. (more info, more info).
07-Feb Leslie Lamport LaTeX & Distributed Systems B 7/2/1941, New York City, New York. Well known for developing LaTeX, the typesetting system used by mathematicians, computer scientists and many others the world over. (more info).
07-Feb Max Newman Colossus B 7/2/1897, Chelsea, London. Worked on the development of Colossus. (more info).
08-Feb
09-Feb John Knoll Photoshop B 9/2/1962, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together with his brother Thomas Knoll were the original creators of Photoshop. Is a visual effects supervisor and chief creative officer (CCO) at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). (more info).
10-Feb
11-Feb Emil Leon Post Post–Turing machine B 11/2/1897, Augustów, then Russian Empire. Developed the Post-Turing machine. (more info).
11-Feb Richard Hamming Hamming code B 11/2/1915, Chicago, Illinois. Known for the development of the Hamming Code, was also a founder and president of the Association for Computing Machinery. (more info).
12-Feb
13-Feb
14-Feb
15-Feb Niklaus Wirth Pascal, Modula-2 and Oberon B 15/2/1934, Winterthur, Switzerland. Developed the languages Pascal, Modula-2 and Oberon.(more info).
16-Feb
17-Feb
18-Feb
19-Feb
20-Feb
21-Feb
22-Feb Thomas E. Kurtz BASIC B 22/2/1928, Oak Park, Illinois. Co- developed the Beginners All-purpouse Symbolic Instruction Code with John G. Kemeny. (more info).
23-Feb
24-Feb Steve Jobs Co-founder Apple B 24/2/1955, San Francisco, California. Co-founder, Chairman and CEO,
Apple Inc. Co-founder and CEO, Pixar, Founder and CEO, NeXT Inc. (more info).
25-Feb
26-Feb
27-Feb Grady Booch UML B 27/2/1955. Developed the Unified Modeling Language with Ivar Jacobson and James Rumbaugh. (more info).
28-Feb
29-Feb Herman Hollerith Punch Cards B 29/2/1860, Buffalo, New York. Developed a mechanical tabulator based on punched cards. (more info).

March

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Mar
02-Mar
03-Mar
04-Mar
05-Mar
06-Mar
07-Mar
08-Mar Gerard Salton Vector space model B 8/3/1927, Nuremberg. Developed the vector space model and inverted index. (more info).
09-Mar
10-Mar
11-Mar J. C. R. Licklider HCI B 11/3/1915, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Worked in several fields, laid the foundations for HCI as we know it today. (more info).
12-Mar
13-Mar
14-Mar Pi Day Celebration of Pi An annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Generally celebrated on 3/14 at 1:59. (more info).
15-Mar
16-Mar Richard Stallman GNU Project B 16/3/1953, New York City. Known for launching the GNU Project, founding the Free Software Foundation, developing the GNU Compiler Collection and GNU Emacs, and writing the GNU General Public License. (more info).
17-Mar
18-Mar
19-Mar
20-Mar
21-Mar
22-Mar
23-Mar
24-Mar
25-Mar Jean Ichbiah Ada B 25/3/1940. Was the initial chief designer of the Ada programming language. (more info).
26-Mar Larry Page Co-founder Google B 26/3/1973, East Lansing, Michigan. Co-founded Google alongside Sergey Brin. (more info).
27-Mar
28-Mar
29-Mar
30-Mar
31-Mar Edwin Catmull Texture mapping & Bicubic patches B 31/3/1945, Parkersburg, West Virginia. Discovered texture mapping and bicubic patches, invented algorithms for spatial anti-aliasing and refining subdivision surfaces. President of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. (more info).

April

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Apr
02-Apr
03-Apr
04-Apr
05-Apr Cuthbert Hurd Helped in developing the IBM 701 B 5/4/1911, Estherville, Iowa. Helped in developing IBM’s first general-purpose computer, the IBM 701. (more info).
06-Apr
07-Apr The First RFC RFC1 7/4/1969. Request for Comments (RFC) define the Internet. (more info).
08-Apr
09-Apr J. Presper Eckert Development of the ENIAC B 9/4/1919, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Developed the first general-purpose electronic digital computer (ENIAC) along with John Mauchly. (more info).
09-Apr Jacek Karpiński The first differential analyzer that used transistors B 9/4/1927, Turin, Italy. Developed one of the first machine learning algorithms for character and image recognition, designed of one of the first minicomputers, the K-202 in 1971. (more info).
10-Apr
11-Apr
12-Apr
13-Apr
14-Apr Yukihiro Matsumoto Ruby B 14/4/1965, Osaka Prefecture. Known as the chief designer of the Ruby programming language. (more info).
15-Apr
16-Apr
17-Apr
18-Apr
19-Apr
20-Apr
21-Apr
22-Apr
23-Apr
24-Apr
25-Apr
26-Apr
27-Apr Eric Schmidt CEO of Google B 27/4/1955 Washington DC. Served as the CEO of Google 2001 – 2011. (more info).
28-Apr Kurt Gödel Incompleteness theorem B 28/4/1906, Brünn, Austria-Hungary (now Brno, Czech Republic). (more info).
29-Apr
30-Apr Claude Shannon Digital circuit design B 30/4/1916, Petoskey, Michigan. Founded information theory and digital circuit design. (more info).

May

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-May
02-May
03-May
04-May
05-May
06-May
07-May
08-May
09-May
10-May
11-May Edsger W. Dijkstra Dijkstra’s algorithm B 11/5/1930, Rotterdam, Netherlands. Well known for Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm and the semaphore construct amongst others. (more info).
12-May
13-May
14-May
15-May
16-May Ivan Sutherland Sketchpad B 16/5/1938, Hastings, Nebraska. Developed Sketchpad in 1963. (more info).
17-May Alan Kay Smalltalk B 17/5/1940, Springfield, Massachusetts. Led the team that developed Smalltalk at the Learning Research Group (LRG) of Xerox PARC. (more info).
18-May Bertrand Russell Mathematical logic B 18/5/1872, Trellech, Monmouthshire, United Kingdom. Mathematical logic, Type Theory, Type systems. (more info).
19-May James Gosling Java B 19/5/1955, Near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Known as the father of the Java programming language. (more info).
20-May Manindra Agrawal Primality testing B 20/5/1966, Allahabad, India. Co-created the AKS primality test with Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena. (more info).
21-May
22-May
23-May
24-May
25-May
26-May
27-May
28-May
29-May
30-May John Cocke RISC B 30/5/1925, Charlotte, North Carolina. Known for developing Reduced Instruction Set Computing. (more info).
31-May John G. Kemeny BASIC B 31/5/1926, Budapest, Hungary. Known for co-developing the Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code with Thomas E. Kurtz. (more info).

June

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Jun
02-Jun E. Allen Emerson Model Checking B 2/6/1954, Dallas, Texas, USA. Developed Model Checking along with Edmund M. Clarke and Joseph Sifakis. (more info).
03-Jun
04-Jun
05-Jun
06-Jun
07-Jun
08-Jun Tim Berners-Lee World Wide Web B 8/6/1955, London, England. Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), founder of the World Wide Web Foundation (more info).
09-Jun
10-Jun
11-Jun
12-Jun
13-Jun
14-Jun Alonzo Church Lambda Calculus B 14/6/1903 Washington, D.C., USA. Known for several contributions including: lambda calculus, Church–Turing thesis, Frege–Church ontology, Church–Rosser theorem. (more info).
15-Jun
16-Jun John Tukey FFT B 16/6/1915, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Developed the Fast Fourier Transform along with James Cooley. Also known for Tukey range test, the Tukey lambda distribution, the Tukey test of additivity, and the Teichmüller–Tukey lemma. (more info).
17-Jun
18-Jun
19-Jun Blaise Pascal Mechanical calculator B 19/6/1623, Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne, France. Developed the Mechanical calculator. (more info).
20-Jun
21-Jun
22-Jun
23-Jun Vint Cerf TCP/IP B 23/6/1943, New Haven, Connecticut. Was a program manager for DARPA, was instrumental in the funding and formation of ICANN. (more info).
23-Jun Alan Turing Turing machine B 23/6/1912, Maida Vale, London, England. Developed the Turing machine – a model for the general purpose computer. (more info).
24-Jun
25-Jun
26-Jun
27-Jun
28-Jun
29-Jun
30-Jun

July

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Jul Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz First-order predicate calculus B 1/7/1646, Leipzig. Contributions to theoretical foundations of computer science. (more info).
02-Jul
03-Jul
04-Jul
05-Jul
06-Jul Adi Shamir RSA B 6/7/1952, Tel Aviv, Israel. Co-inventor of the RSA algorithm along with Ron Rivest and Len Adleman. (more info).
07-Jul
08-Jul
09-Jul
10-Jul
11-Jul Max Levchin PayPal B 11/7/1975, Kiev, Ukraine (then USSR). Co-founder along with Peter Thiel and Elon Musk of PayPal was also the CTO. (more info).
12-Jul
13-Jul
14-Jul
15-Jul
16-Jul
17-Jul
18-Jul Intel Intel was Founded 18/7/1968. Founded by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. (more info).
19-Jul
20-Jul
21-Jul
22-Jul Pi Approximation Day Celebration of Pi Celebration of Pi 22/7, also observed on 3/14 at 1:59 – Pi Day, (more info).
23-Jul
24-Jul
25-Jul
26-Jul
27-Jul Edmund M. Clarke Developing Model Checking B 27/7/1945. (more info).
28-Jul
29-Jul
30-Jul
31-Jul

August

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Aug
02-Aug
03-Aug
04-Aug
05-Aug
06-Aug World Wide Web WWW debut 6/8/1991 marked the debut of the Web as a publicly available service on the Internet, Berners-Lee also posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup. (more info).
07-Aug
08-Aug
09-Aug David A. Huffman Huffman Coding B 9/8/1925, Ohio. Known for Huffman Coding a widely used compression algorithm. (more info).
10-Aug
11-Aug Steve Wozniak Co-founder Apple B 11/8/1950, San Jose, California. Invented both the Apple I and Apple II. (more info).
12-Aug
13-Aug
14-Aug
15-Aug
16-Aug
17-Aug
18-Aug
19-Aug Edgar F. Codd Developed the Relational Model for DBMS B 19/8/1923, Isle of Portland, England. Developed the Relational Model while working at IBM(more info).
20-Aug
21-Aug Sergey Brin Co-founder Goodle B 21/8/1973, Moscow. Co-founded Google along with Larry Page. (more info).
22-Aug James Rumbaugh UML B 22/8/1947. Developed the Unified Modeling Language with Grady Booch and Ivar Jacobson. (more info).
23-Aug WWW made Accessable Internaut’s Day 23/8/1991. Initially the service went live on the 6th August, but became available to new users on the 23rd. Hence is considered the anniversary of the WWW. (more info)
24-Aug
25-Aug
26-Aug
27-Aug Kristen Nygaard Simula B 27/8/1926, Oslo, Norway. Developed the proto-object oriented language SIMULA with Ole-Johan Dahl. (more info).
28-Aug
29-Aug
30-Aug John Mauchly Developed the ENIAC B 30/8/1907, Cincinnati, Ohio. Developed the ENIAC along with J. Presper Eckert. (more info).
31-Aug

September

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Sep
02-Sep Ivar Jacobson UML B 2/9/1939, Ystad, Sweden. Developed the Unified Modeling Language with Grady Booch and James Rumbaugh. (more info).
03-Sep
04-Sep John McCarthy LISP B 4/9/1927, Boston, Massachusetts. Developed LISP and coined the term “artificial intelligence” (AI). (more info).
04-Sep Google Google Founded 4/9/1998. Incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998. (more info).
05-Sep
06-Sep
07-Sep
08-Sep
09-Sep First Computer Bug Moth found in Harvard Mark II 9/9/1947. Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator. (more info).
09-Sep Dennis Ritchie C & UNIX B 9/9/1941, Bronxville, New York, U.S. Worked with Ken Thompson to develop the C programming language and UNIX. (more info).
10-Sep
11-Sep
12-Sep
13-Sep
14-Sep
15-Sep
16-Sep
17-Sep
18-Sep
19-Sep
20-Sep
21-Sep
22-Sep
23-Sep
24-Sep
25-Sep
26-Sep
27-Sep Larry Wall Perl B 27/9/1954. Known for the development of the Perl programming language. (more info).
28-Sep Seymour Cray Cray Research B 28/9/1925, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Founded Cray Research in 1972, known world wide for the development of supercomputers. (more info).
29-Sep
30-Sep

October

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Oct
02-Oct Martin Hellman Public key cryptography B 2/10/1945, New York. Known the invention of public key cryptography with Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle. (more info).
03-Oct
04-Oct
05-Oct
06-Oct
07-Oct
08-Oct
09-Oct
10-Oct
11-Oct Jack Elton Bresenham Bresenham’s line algorithm B 11/10/1937, Clovis, New Mexico. Well known in computer graphics for Bresenham’s Line Algorithm to allow the plotting of a straight line on a 2-dimensional raster. (more info).
12-Oct Ole-Johan Dahl Simula and OO Programming B 12/10/1931, Mandal, Norway. Developed Simula and object-oriented programming along with Kristen Nygaard. (more info).
13-Oct
14-Oct
15-Oct
16-Oct
17-Oct Spreadsheet Released VisiCalc was shipped 17/10/1979. The electronic spreadsheet – considered by many to be the first “Killer Application”. Developed by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston whom founded the company Software Arts Inc. to develop the application. (more info, more info).
18-Oct
19-Oct
20-Oct
21-Oct
22-Oct
23-Oct Randy Pausch HCI & Alice B 23/10/1960, Baltimore, Maryland, US. Founder of the Alice software project. Well known for a number of lectures including “Time Management” and “The Last Lecture”. (more info).
24-Oct
25-Oct Peter Naur BNF & ALGOL60 B 25/10/1928, Frederiksberg, Denmark. Contributed to ALGOL60 and BNF. (more info).
26-Oct
27-Oct
28-Oct
29-Oct
30-Oct
31-Oct

November

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Nov
02-Nov George Boole Boolean Algebra B 02/11/1815, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England. First Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork. (more info).
02-Nov Sergey Alexeyevich Lebedev MESM B 2/11/1902, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Lead the team that developed the Small Electronic Calculating Machine (more info).
03-Nov
04-Nov
05-Nov
06-Nov
07-Nov
08-Nov Gottlob Frege Developed first-order predicate calculus B 8/11/1848, Wismar, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany. Considered to be one of the founders of modern logic. (more info).
08-Nov Bill Joy Vi B 8/11/1954, Farmington Hills, Michigan. Developed the Vi text editor. (more info).
09-Nov
10-Nov Bert Bos CSS B 10/11/1963, The Hague. (more info).
11-Nov
12-Nov
13-Nov
14-Nov
15-Nov
16-Nov Gene Amdahl Amdahl’s law B 16/11/1922, Flandreau, South Dakota. Known for developing a key law on the limits of parallel computing – Amdahl’s law. (more info).
17-Nov
18-Nov
19-Nov
20-Nov Windows Windows 1.0 released 20/11/1985. 16-bit graphical OS, developed by Microsoft. (more info).
20-Nov Benoit Mandelbrot Mandelbrot Set B 20/11/1924, Warsaw, Poland. Was one of the first to use computer graphics to create and display fractal geometric images, discovered the M-Set. (more info).
21-Nov
22-Nov Jeffrey Ullman Formal Language Theory, Database Theory B 22/11/1942. Known for textbooks on compilers in particular the Dragon Book. (more info).
22-Nov Rasmus Lerdorf PHP B 22/11/1968, Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland. Known for developing the PHP server-side scripting language. (more info).
23-Nov Edward F. Moore Moore finite state machine B 23/11/1925, Baltimore, Maryland. Known for developing the a Moore machine – a finite-state machine whose output values are determined solely by its current state. (more info).
24-Nov
25-Nov
26-Nov
27-Nov
28-Nov
29-Nov
30-Nov

December

Date Person / Event Know for Further Info
01-Dec
02-Dec
03-Dec John Backus Development of FORTRAN B 3/12/1924, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Directed the team that developed FORTRAN, also developed BNF (more info).
04-Dec
05-Dec
06-Dec Grace Hopper Developed the first compiler B 9/12/1906, New York City, New York. Navy Rear Admiral. Found the first computer bug, developed the first compiler. (more info).
07-Dec Noam Chomsky Chomsky hierarchy, the universal grammar theory B 7/12/1928, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sometimes described as the “father of modern linguistics”. (more info).
08-Dec
09-Dec
10-Dec Ada Lovelace Analytical Engine B 10/12/1815, London, England. Known for her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, & the creation of the first algorithm intended for use on a machine. (more info).
11-Dec
12-Dec Seymour Ginsburg Automata theory, formal language theory B 12/12/1927, Brooklyn. Known for contributions to automata theory, formal language theory, and database theory. (more info).
13-Dec
14-Dec Stephen Cook Polynomial-time reduction (a.k.a. Cook reduction) and NP-completeness B 14/12/1939, Buffalo, New York. Made major contributions to the fields of complexity theory and proof complexity. (more info).
15-Dec
16-Dec
17-Dec Kenneth E. Iverson APL B 17/12/1920, Camrose, Alberta, Canada. Known for developing the APL programming language in 1962. (more info).
18-Dec
19-Dec
20-Dec
21-Dec
22-Dec Tommy Flowers Designed Colossus B 22/12/1905, Poplar, London, England. Designed Colossus the world’s first programmable electronic digital computer. (more info).
23-Dec Bob Kahn TCP/IP B 23/12/1938, Brooklyn, New York. Noted for developing TCP/IP along with Vint Cerf (more info).
24-Dec Wim Ebbinkhuijsen COBOL B 24/12/1939, Amsterdam. Considered one of the “fathers of Cobol”. (more info).
25-Dec
26-Dec Charles Babbage Difference Engine B 26/12/1791, London, England. (more info).
27-Dec Jean Bartik One of the original programmers for the ENIAC B 27/12/1924, Gentry County, Missouri. Was one of ENIAC’s first programmers. (more info).
28-Dec John von Neumann Von Neumann architecture B 28/12/1903, Budapest, Austria-Hungary. Developed the Von Neumann architecture upon which all modern computers are based. (more info).
28-Dec Linus Torvalds Linux & Git B 28/12/1969, Helsinki, Finland. Known for developing Linux and Git. (more info).
29-Dec
30-Dec Bjarne Stroustrup C++ B 30/12/1950, Aarhus, Denmark. Known for creation and development of the C++ programming language. (more info).
31-Dec Leonard Adleman RSA & DNA Computing B 31/12/1945, California, United States. Co-invented RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) in 1977. (more info).

How to Teach Photography to a Room of 100 Students?

In a recent post I included some videos discussing depth of field and how it can be affected by aperture, focal distance and distance of the object. The question that came to mind however is that of how could I demonstrate elements of photography to a group of about 100 students. Often you may gather a small group of half a dozen crowded around a camera to show them something, however this doesn’t really scale well to a group on the order of 100 or so.

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

To solve this problem I made use of technology to help them see the live interaction I performed with the settings on the camera itself and remotely using Canon’s EOS Utility. The room in which the students were, contained three projectors, one more or less in the middle of the room with the others at either end. To allow them to see the interaction I made use of the EOS Utility in conjunction with Microsoft’s PixelSense (Samsung SUR40) providing a table top interactive surface with which to interact with the settings of the Canon 600D. In front of the camera I placed two tables covered with some green cloth and a number of objects at different distances to focus on. You will also notice from the images below I also included a tape measure running down the length of the table.

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Located next to the Camera and the PixelSense table I added a HD TV so I could readily see the interactions I was performing. Floating a few feet over the PixelSense SUR40 hung a Sony NX5E video camera suspended in space in a under-slung position with the help of a Libec Swift Jib 50 Kit (comprising the arm, T102B tripod and DL08 dolly).

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

The HDMI video feed from the camera was fed to a splitter box with one input and two outputs. As you can guess one of the HDMI outputs fed directly into the HD TV, the other via the use of a HDMI to VGA adapter went off to feed the three projector screens.

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

All in all I was quite pleased with the overall result especially as all the students could see what I was doing first hand, moreover there was no need to repeat the processes a dozen times or more to a set of small groups all crowded around the camera. After I demoed the variables affecting the depth of field I let the students to come up and have a go with altering the settings such as f-stop and focal length themselves. They all really seemed to enjoy interacting with the Camera through the use of the surface and whats more all the other students could see what they were doing as well. They also had a good bit of fun just playing with the controls of the Jib and operating the REMO30 pan/tilt head. Concurrently after I had demoed the use of the system I got them to do some multiplicity photographs in our green screen room. The others who were waiting of course to get their chance to interact with this equipment and take some photographs were busy working their way through some photoshop tutorials. So that kept them busy with three distinctive tasks to carry out.

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Once they all knuckled down to work, a few 3rd year students dropped by the lab to give me a hand in moving our OptiTrack Flex 13 motion capture system to another room, thereby freeing up our green screen room purely for photographic and video effects work. All it all it was a busy morning, with lots of equipment being moved around. Fortunately I had moved all the equipment you see in the images below into place the night before. You will notice that a shadow is cast by the Sony NX5E video camera and the REMO30 tilt/pan head. I am sure with a bit of shuffling of elements around this can be eliminated for the next time. In the final photograph of the set below, you can see the setup with the projection being displayed on two of the three screens, though the far off screen is quite a distance down the lab. I had hoped to record some video of the system in use, but didn’t get around to it due to the rehousing of the motion capture system, so may give it a go the next time with the elements rearranged is a slightly better manner. I guess the question for the next class is what will I demonstrate next? Some panoramic photography with the use of a Manfrotto QTVR 303Kit was something I had considered as a possibility.

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Photography with PixelSense, Canon 600D, a Jib, TV, & Projector

Treknology – Are we there yet?

At present in the early part of the second decade of the 21st century we have now become heavily dependent on technology. The rate of technological advancement in the past fifty years alone has been incredible, particularly since in development of the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004 in 1971. Since the first incarnation of Star Trek in the 1960’s audiences have been amazed by the technological wonders that seems to be available in the 23rd &   24th centuries. What’s more amazing however is the fact that many of these technologies are now a reality and yet we are still in the infancy of the 21st century. If the advancement of technology continues to increase at its present rate then it is almost impossible to imagine what the world will be like in fifty or even a hundred years, never mind what it may be like in a few centuries.

Tractor Beam Technology
Recent weeks have seen some interesting technological advances. Just a few days ago (25th January 2013) it was announced that a Star Trek “style tractor beam” had been developed by scientists, the project being led by researchers from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. This work makes use of lasers to attract microscopic particles. A simple example of a Star Trek tractor beam in operation on a small-scale can be seen in the S1E3 Episode “The Naked Now”, where Wesley Crusher develops his own “hand held” tractor beam capable of moving furniture and other small objects. In the very same episode he scales up and “reverses fields” on the Enterprises Tractor Beam to help give it a push-off from another starship thereby saving it from being destroyed from an oncoming star fragment.


 Organic Data Storage
Just a few days earlier (23rd Jaunary 2013) a BBC News story discussed another development in Nature showing that DNA would be “perfect for digital storage”. A selection of media types were encoded within the DNA including an image, text and audio. All were read back with 100% accuracy. The article states that “One gram of DNA ought to be able to hold about two petabytes of data”. DNA is also a great way to archive data capable of reliably storing information for a much longer period that any technologies we currently have such as hard disks or CDs/DVD’s.

In Star Trek of course we often hear the term “Isolinear Chip” being used, capable of storing 2.15 kiloquads of information. In terms of the use or organics within Star Trek the one thing that immediately comes to mind are the Bioneural Gelpacks featured on the USS Voyager.  One disadvantage with the organic nature of the Bioneural Gelpacks was their susceptibility to bacteria and viruses. On the positive side they were able to make a “best guess” rather than computing the solution in a more linear manner.

Transparent Aluminium
I am sure you are all well aware of Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, particularly of the scene where Scotty divulges the formula for transparent Aluminium to a scientist in the 20th century. The interesting thing of course is that a material with very similar properties has already been developed (see this article dated 12 Jan 2012). The material is called Aluminium Oxynitride or ALON & is capable of maintaining structural integrity in temperatures up to 1200 degrees C.


 Touch Screen Technology
Touch Screens have become very much the norm and are standard on all smartphones of today. I am sure that everybody thought the touch screen consoles in Main Engineering of the Enterprise NCC1701-D shown in the mid to late 1980’s were really amazing.


 If you were lucky enough to have attended CES 2013 in Las Vegas they you would have probably seen Panasonic’s 20inch 4K Tablet PC, so certainly table top computing is well on the way.


 Another nice example of table top computing is the Microsoft/Samsung SUR 40 capable of sensing up to 52 concurrent touches. Quite appropriately in the vein of Star Trek and exploring the University the application demonstrated in the video below is called NUIverse that allows one to explore the likes of our solar system and star constellations.


 More Science Investment in the News
A BBC News Article dated 28th Jan 2013 discusses the investment of two billion euro into two research projects. The Human Brain project will seek to develop a computer-based copy of the human brain allowing scientists to understand neurogical disorders and the effects of drugs. The second project will look at the use of Graphene – a material with amazing properties such as being stronger than steel and having conductivity better than copper. The “Possibilities” to quote Spock are seemingly limited only by our imagination.

Some other recent developments of interest includes the news of Intel investing four billion USD to build a 14nm chip manufacturing plan in Ireland helping to keep Moore’s Law going strong.

Has Film/TV Influenced Technology?
This post is of course not an exhaustive list of Star Trek type technologies that are currently in existance. I am sure you can think of many more exampes. An interesting question to pose is –  has the technology we have seen in film influenced the evolution of actual technology? Certainly every single time I see a Tablet Computer of today I think of the PADD from Star Trek, and similarly with Mobile Phones becoming almost akin to Tricorders with the ever increasing computing and sensory systems that are now onboard.


 So are we there yet?
To Answer my Initial question – Are we there yet? Well certainly from the examples mentioned above it looks like we have already developed many of the technologies that mesmerised us for so many years in the Star Trek TV shows and movies. Perhaps the Final Frontier is closer than we think!

If you would like to find out about some more technologies then you may enjoy watching the documentary below.

Setting up a Motion Capture System – Twelve Camera Flex 13

Back in June funding was made available by the University for the purposes of capital asset acquisition. The School of Computing put in a number of bids for equipment ranging from Eye Tracking and Networking to Video Production and Motion Capture. Two years ago when a similar opportunity came around, I suggested the idea of acquiring a Motion Capture System.  It really boils down to a question of cost benefit analysis. At that particular time any reasonable system would have been very expensive, so we ended up purchasing a Render Farm instead as we had quite a few students doing work in 3DS Max and the extra horsepower to quickly render out thousands and thousands of frames of animation seemed like a far more useful resource to have. I spent quite a bit of time during the summer of that year looking over render farm specs along with our Computer Systems Manager, we eventually settled on a 64 Core system.  At that very same time as well, we also purchased a fairly high end 3CCD video camera, about 6500 watts of lighting for the Green Screen Room, and a few other bits and pieces.

With this year’s funding we finally decided to take the plunge and get a Motion Capture System. Quite a bit of work has been done in the past two years regarding 3D modelling and animation. So a motion capture system would greatly add to this, providing us with the ability to readily animate the 3D characters produced by our students.

The time frame for putting the documentation together for the funding bid was quite tight so it transpired that I ended up putting the material together for the Video Production and Motion Capture System whilst I was out-with the country on holidays. Towards the end of August the proposals were signed off and approved, so I spent a fair bit of time putting together a finalised shopping list that should provide the school with some really interesting equipment to work with. Throughout most of the month of September various suppliers were found and the various items put in for purchase, with the last item (a piece of equipment for camera stabilisation) being finally sorted out just a few days ago. Colin our Computer Systems Manager tracked down a company selling the Flex 13 Camera system. It came on the market around April 2012, and has some interesting specs such as 1280 x 1024 resolution running at 120fps. After quite a few emails it was finally decided to go with a 12 Camera system with a Medium & Large MoCap Suit.

On Wednesday 26th Sept the Motion Capture System finally arrived, so I spent the afternoon going through all the parts and checking all was ok. On Thursday evening Eyad (a fellow lecturer) and myself went about setting up the system in our Green Screen Room. We got all the stands setup, cameras mounted, and all the cabling in place. Then we set about installing all the necessary software on one of two new Z400 workstations that we had purchased just a few months previously. The software installation was quite straight forward, but we ran into a problem with the registration of the software license. The error was that it couldn’t find a network. It was around 21:00 in the evening so we decided to leave it for the day and get it sorted out when the Systems team were in the next day.

Friday morning I called in to see Colin and Tommy to see if the software license issue could be sorted out. We first of all began by transplanting the workstation from C5 into the Green Screen Room, it was then necessary to enable some of the network ports in the room so we could get the machine up and running on the computer network. All went well and within a short while we were able to try getting the license sorted out. So with the Motion Capture system now powered up and connected to the Workstation and network connectivity established we tried entering all the license details, but ended up getting the very same error as encountered by Eyad and myself the night before. We were finally able to register online through a web browser and received the license key via email.  Within minutes of saving the license key to disk, the Arena Motion Capture Application was fired up, and the video feed from all the cameras started streaming in. So with the full system now operational we left it at that for the time being.

Yesterday (Saturday) Eyad and myself spent the afternoon at Uni aligning up the cameras correctly, calibrating the system, donning the motion capture suit and carrying out the first test of the system. Calibration consisted of Wanding the area to establish the capture volume, followed by the establishment of the ground plane and then the final phase of Skeleton Calibration i.e. getting the system operational for a specific individual. At the time we left the building (just before closing), we had managed to capture a bit of movement, I tried out the standard Calibration T-Pose followed by some golf swings (even though I don’t play golf).

As of now, the system is working well, though it will be necessary to go through the final Skeleton Calibration for myself, before it is finally configured correctly to accept motion data generated by my movements. It will be great to complete this final stage and see what the system can really do. All in all Eyad and myself have spent in excess of 20 man-hours (excluding the time spent going through documentation / tutorials) getting the system to its current operational state. Overall it was quite simple and straightforward to setup, just needing some time and patience. A large portion of the video production / graphics equipment on order is still in the process of being delivered, so hopefully it will all be in place within the next week or so. Sounds like an exciting semester ahead between now and Christmas.

The following videos above and below should provide an overview of some of the steps involved in the process. Quite a few more can be accessed from the following playlist showing most of the steps involved. Enjoy.

Intel Core i7 3930K Processor Unboxing LGA 2011

Unboxing video of the Intel Core i7-3930K Sandy Bridge-E 3.2GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) LGA 2011 130W Six-Core Processor, towards the end it is also compared with an Intel P166 Processor from 15/16 years ago. As can be seen the overall footprint / surface area hasn’t changed that much and in the case of the i7 3930K I have heard of many people saying that it is quite large in size, especially in comparisson to the 2600K. If you are wondering what CPU you should purchase yourself then take a look at http://www.cpubenchmark.net additional information about the processor may be found on Intel’s website.

Computational Power versus Energy Costs

It is always interesting to see the balance between the cost of electrical energy versus the amount of compute power than can be achieved. For many years we have seen the clock speeds of CPU’s increase rapidly, though this has reduced somewhat in recent times in favour of the multi-core architecture, where we can make use of a number of low power consumption cores to effect the same result, with significant power savings. The higher clock speed we go the greater the demand on electrical power, we are now approaching an impasse where energy costs are now the main driving force behind supercomputer installations. GPU’s have become a very popular high performance computing tool in over the past few years with their move to multicore architectures on the scale of 512 cores and upwards. It is now becoming a question a balance between CPU and GPU computing. We are now living in a world surrounded by low energy consumption mobile devices, many of the processors are moving into the Gigahertz range, and dual / quad-core phones / tables are becoming the norm. Can the computation power of these be somehow harnessed for scientific purposes whilst they are charging. When you think about it all those billions of mobile devices around the world just sitting there using just a fraction of their actual capabilities – is it an untouched computational resource just waiting to be discovered.

tesampu

Warehouse-size supercomputers costing $1 million to $100 million can seem as distant from ordinary laptops and tablets as Greek immortals on Mount Olympus. Yet the next great leap in supercomputing could not only transform U.S. science and innovation, but also put much more computing power in the hands of consumers.

The next generation of "exascale" supercomputers could carry out 1 billion billion calculations per second — 1,000 times better than the most powerful supercomputers today. Such supercomputers could accurately simulate internal combustion engines of cars, jet plane engines and even nuclear fusion reactors for the very first time. They would also enable "SimEarth" models of the planet down to the 1 kilometer scale (compared to 50 or 100 kms today), or simulations of living cells that include the molecular, chemical, genetic and biological levels all at once.
"Pretty much every area of science is driven today by theory, experiment and…

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