10 July 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Science fiction continues its march to reality. On July 6, 2000 at 7:02 am EDT, an Artificial Consciousness reportedly started to condense out of the Internet to a server located at http://www.mindpixel.com. GAC, for Generic Artificial Conscious, the public front end for the MindPixel Digital Mind Modeling Project, began taking its first questions from Poland and China. The first question asked of GAC was "Is Einstein a scientist?" to which GAC correctly responded "true".
GAC (pronounced "jack") is reportedly the world's first program to attempt to become artificially conscious by talking to Internet users. Its goal is to collect and validate a billion MindPixels (binary items of consensus fact) over the next 10 years (which means some 20 to 30 billion individual stimulus presentations!). Once collected, the billion MindPixels will be used to train a neural network into true Artificial Consciousness. Eventually it is hoped a computer system trained using GAC will be indistinguishable from an average human being when asked any yes/no question.
GAC expects to have two million users by the end of next year obtained by giving away shares in the corporation that owns the GAC in proportion to a person contribution to the project.
The site already profitable, earning money from advertising and an affiliation with amazon.com. This money will be use to maintain the site and drive more traffic to it. As well, surplus monies will be given in the form of research grants for researchers using GAC in their individual projects.
GAC was created by Chris McKinstry, a lifelong hacker and computer enthusiast who wrote his first chess program at age 12 for the TRS-80 Model I microcomputer. He retired at age 30 in 1997 and now lives on a beach in South America, where he recently began operating the world's largest optical telescope, the VLT for the European Southern Obersvatory on alternating weeks.
McKinstry will be speaking about his forthcoming book "Hacking Consciousness" and GAC at the H2K Hackers convention in New York City, on Friday, July 14 at 2 PM in the Paris room of the Hotel Pennsylvania.
Opera Software last week released the full version of Opera 3.62 for EPOCThe browser is the first product to arise from the company's effort to make Opera's Internet experience available from a wide variety of devices. Psion Plc signed earlier this year with Opera Software to include it as the default browser on their Series7 and netBook range.
EPOC is technology for the next generation of mobile communication and computing products. It is promoted and marketed by Symbian, a joint venture established in partnership with Psion, Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Matsushita.
Says Jon von Tetzchner, Opera co-founder and CEO, "EPOC is one of the most important platforms in the Post PC Era (PPE) we are moving into, and with this release Opera Software confirms it will be … in the wireless space," he concludes.
Loki Software, a publisher of games for the Linux operating system, last week announced an agreement with theKompany.com to distribute PowerPlant, a suite of developer tools and software for Linux.
Developers can use PowerPlant to create a variety of applications including productivity software and 3D games. The package features over 150 Open Source tools, including compilers for BASIC, Pascal, Python, Java, Perl, Scheme and C++, as well as tools for 3D graphics, sound, interface and Web development.
PowerPlant is bundled with a licensed version of the MySQL database system. While MySQL is Open Source, this license enables PowerPlant customers to embed MySQL in commercial applications. For the developer in need of a break, PowerPlant also includes a full version of Eric¹s Ultimate Solitaire from Loki Software.
PowerPlant runs on all major Linux distributions for Intel Pentium-compatible processors. It has a suggested retail price of $49.95, and includes installation and developer support.
The Native Instruments Pro-52 carries on the tradition from the days of vintage cult synthesizers. The virtual instrument for the Macintosh and the Windows platform can import Prophet-5 SysEx sound data, which means it can read and accurately reproduce the existing sound libraries made for the original. The subtle deviations from perfect behaviour which are typical of analog circuits and crucial to the sound, can now be fine-tuned.
The new version also offers built-in effects unit, adds multi-echo and chorus and flanging effects. The included preset sounds make extensive use of the effects. The Pro-52 also has an audio input, for processing external audio signals through its filters.
The Native Instruments Pro-52 integrates into the computer-based virtual studio. With the Steinberg interfaces VST 2.0 and ASIO, it can be used as a sequencer plug-in or as a stand-alone synthesizer.
SigmaTel, Inc., an Austin-based provider of integrated circuits (ICs) for high-speed broadband communications, wireless and PC audio solutions, announced last week the creation of its multi-channel WDM (Windows Driver Model) host-audio driver for the PC. The driver is said to be the first capable of playing two-, four- and six-channel audio, and the first WDM driver to allow software to support surround sound on the PC.
New from distributor MetroGrafx and developer Binary Arts is DAB2. The LightWave 3D plug-in, which combines ParticleType and the original DAB, produces a brush engine that works with particles or polygons to create painterly effects. A brush surface can be bumped and react to lighting. Brushes can scale and rotate with luminosity or object normals. Brushes animate smoothly and can be z-buffered.
DAB2 works with Sparks2 and other particles systems. A particle system is not a DAB2 requirement.
Digital Art Brush 2 for LightWave 3D 5.6 or 6.0.
Intel, Alpha, PowerMac $199.95
LogoAxis last week launched LogoAxis.com, an Internet-based business-to-business service for storage and distribution of logos and other corporate graphic assets. Designed to meet the needs of corporate marketing departments, LogoAxis.com provides a single, centralized, password-protected location that can be easily accessed by the press, creative partners or regional offices through public Internet connections. In addition, LogoAxis includes graphic translation services to translate graphics into formats that may be missing or unavailable.
And you thought the era of the non-game multimedia CD-ROM was long gone! SouthPeak Interactive last week shipped The Ellis Island Experience, a CD-ROM reference title developed in conjunction with The History Channel and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. The interactive documentary reportedly delivers a realistic depiction of the trials and triumphs of immigration as experienced by visitors to the "Gateway to America," Ellis Island.
The title offers hundreds of never-published documents, artifacts and rare photographs of the 12 million immigrants that came through Ellis Island. Hosted by National Public Radio anchor Robert Siegel, it includes more than two hours of video, allowing the user to follow the dramatic steps of the immigration process and to listen to first-person accounts contributed by The Ellis Island Oral History Project.
Users can view artifacts from The Ellis Island Immigration Museum including baggage, clothing, and journals that capture the "experience" from different points of view. The CD-ROM also provides access to online ancestry resources through The Ellis Island Experience Web site.
Internet security threats include password attacks and the exploiting of known security holes, which have been around since the early days of networking. Other threats, like password sniffers, IP forgery, and various types of hijacking and replay attacks, are newer.
And still others, like the distributed denial of service attacks that crippled Yahoo, E-Bay, and other major e-commerce sites in early 2000, come from today's headlines. "The attacks on Internet-connected systems we are seeing today are more serious and more technically complex than those in the past," says Elizabeth D. Zwicky, co-author of "Building Internet Firewalls". "To keep those attacks from compromising our systems, we all need all the help we can get."
Firewalls are an effective way to protect your system from most Internet security threats and are a critical component of today's computer networks. Firewalls in networks keep damage on one part of the network (e.g., eavesdropping, a worm program, file damage) from spreading to the rest of the network. Without firewalls, network security problems can rage out of control, dragging more and more systems down.
Like the first edition of "Building Internet Firewalls", the second edition is a guide to building firewalls on the Internet. It provides step-by-step explanations of how to design and install firewalls, and how to configure Internet services to work with a firewall. The expanded second edition covers Linux and Windows NT, as well as Unix platforms. It describes a variety of firewall technologies (packet filtering, proxying, network address translation, virtual private networks) as well as architectures (e.g., screening routers, dual-homed hosts, screened hosts, screened subnets, perimeter networks, internal firewalls).
Chapter 13, Internet Services and Firewalls, is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/fire2/chapter/ch13.html
Whether you're a new or experienced user of Carrara, the 3D app from Adobe (originally from Metacreations), IDG has a book for you.
Carrara 1 for Dummies, by Doug Sahlin, shows how to:
Carrara 1 Bible, also by Sahlin, covers such topics as:
Meta Motion, a new company offering motion capture hardware, software, and services, has signed an exclusive agreement with Analogus Corporation to sell and distribute the $25K Gypsy Motion Capture System throughout North America, Europe, Australia, South America, and the Middle East. The Gypsy is a skeletal and character motion-capture system that captures real-time data for animation in the visual effects, gaming, Internet and entertainment industries.
Capturing an actor's motion with the Gypsy Motion Capture System involves installing the capture board and software, donning the Gypsy mocap suit, measuring the distances between the actor's joints and suit offsets, and then capturing motion. The Gypsy can drive real-time rendered characters for live performance or post-processed animation via the Kaydara FiLMBOX. Data can also be saved as a BVH file and imported into 3D apps such as 3D Studio MAX, LightWave 3D, Maya and Softimage.
The Gypsy Motion Capture System is said to be free of magnetic interference and optical occlusion and offers simultaneous capture of multiple actors. Users can experience real-time playback without the need for postprocessing to see motion data.
Additional features include:
Just out on DVD from publisher Digital Leisure is Kingdom II: Shadoan. The adventure game involves the player as Lathan Kandor exploring an intricate new J.R.R. Tolkien-like world. Gather the five missing pieces of the magic amulet, with its awesome power destroy the evil wizard Torlock, and reunite with your love, Princess Grace Delight.
Shadoan, the winner of the Parent's Choice Approval Award and the Compact Disc Interactive Association Award for "Best Children's Title", also offers a Parental Guidance Mode giving parents to ability to adjust the level of cartoonish fighting and effectively changing the game between PG and G. The animation features over 70,000 hand-painted cells with 5.1 six-channel DTS sound mix..
Created by Rick Dyer, the co-creator of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace, Shadoan features over 250 locations for Lathan Kandor to pursue in his quest of the magic amulet and return of his fair princess.
Impressions Games and Sierra Studios announced last week that development of Pharaoh Official Expansion: Cleopatra has been completed and that the game is due to ship to stores in the U.S. on July 14. In addition, the companies announced that Pharaoh, which shipped in November 1999, has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, making it the most successful single game release in the Impressions City Building Series. The series, which encompasses Rome through the Caesar line of games, Egypt through Pharaoh and the Cleopatra expansion, and soon Greece with the recently-announced Zeus (http://zeus.impressionsgames.com), has sold over two million copies worldwide.
The Cleopatra expansion includes four new campaigns for the strategic city-building game Pharaoh, and allows gamers to experience the final years of ancient Egyptian history through 15 new scenarios. It is was developed for Impressions Games by Maryland-based Breakaway Games, which most recently developed Sid Meier's Antietam!
Pharaoh Official Expansion: Cleopatra picks up at the end of the New Kingdom, where Pharaoh left off. Players will be able to play four campaigns with 15 new missions, with challenges varying from building the Lighthouse at Alexandria, to battling grave robbers, to joining Mark Antony in his battle against Octavian. It features new buildings, industries, animals, enemies, decorations and monuments. Also included is a scenario editor that lets players create their own cities and challenges.
Sega Dreamcast gamers can now relive the Disney/Pixar film Toy Story 2 as Activision, in collaboration with Disney Interactive, ships Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue for Sega Dreamcast. In the 3D, third-person, free-roaming adventure game developed by Traveller's Tales, players take on five big bosses in a perilous quest to save Woody from an overzealous toy collector. Backed up by a crew of fellow toys, players travel across 15 levels, interacting with key characters and exploring environments from the movie.
Players can obtain special powers to complete their missions by unlocking toy accessories, which include rocket jet boots, a grappling hook, an arm laser and moon spring boots. They must enlist the assistance of their favorite toys in getting long-lasting power-ups, and let Hamm, Slinky Dog and Rex help them along to save Woody. Gamers can jump, swing, bounce and somersault through the air and combine these moves in rapid succession as Buzz Lightyear does in the movie.
New from Microsoft and Rainbow Studios are two Armadillo video tutorials, narrated by the game's designer, Robb Rinard, and designed to help gamers understand the basic usage of the Motocross Madness 2 terrain editor, code-named Armadillo.
The first tutorial, of a two-part series, provides gamers with step-by-step instructions for creating customized racing tracks for use in Motocross Madness 2. The second instructs gamers in how to use the gradient tool in Adobe Photoshop to create challenging sections and jumps.
ArsDigita Corporation, a developer of open source enterprise software for Web e-commerce applications, last week announced winners of its annual prize for teenagers who develop the most innovative and useful Web services, naming recipients as young as 13 and hailing from five countries.
Eighteen-year-old Ara Anjargolian of Glendale, Calif., won the $10,000 individual grand prize for his Web service http://www.SecondSaver.com, a personal Web assistant. Two groups split the $10,000 team prize - one team from Fleetwood, Pa., which created http://www.openweasel.org, a portal toolkit, and another team from Glendale, Calif., for http://www.dev-center.com, a source of tools and other assistance for programmers. All 14 winners won an expense-paid trip to ArsDigita's headquarters for a week of computer science training and touring Massachusetts.
"This isn't a contest. It's a prize--like the Nobel Prize," said Philip Greenspun, founder of ArsDigita Corporation and its separate philanthropy and prize sponsor, the ArsDigita Foundation. "We reward good work. The Web has the potential to finally give people the tools we need to work together. However, the products developed by the software industry limit our collaboration. Each ArsDigita Prize finalist site has software that helps people work together."
An advanced integration of hardware and software developed by SimTeam, a subsidiary of MUSE Technologies, has received two awards for innovation at Laval Virtual, a European virtual reality conference, held recently in Laval, France.
SimTeam's application, developed for ETAS/DGA (the French Army), is a PC-based training and simulation tool for army personnel learning to detect land mines. The system uses custom software developed by SimTeam and a PHANToM haptic feedback device with a head-mounted display to allow military trainees to use a standard Army probe that explores the ground for mines.
Using the device, trainees insert the probe into the ground every five centimeters. When the device encounters a solid object, the probe is then inserted every centimeter. Information about the shape and density of the object is transmitted from the probe to a computer database via the PHANToM head mounted display. The information is analyzed against the database to determine if the object is a mine and if so, what type. Knowing the type of mine provides the students with the knowledge needed to safely remove the explosive device.
Laurent Todeschini, an ergonomist in the human factors division at ETA/DGA, explained that the operator diagnoses the mine's shape using information from sensory stimuli and modalities such as eyesight, hearing and sense of touch. Preliminary tests of the mine detection prototype have been run by the Army with good results. "This simulator shows promise as a training application," stated Todeschini.
What is the state of digital copyrights? How can I protect my own work?
What is the protection process? What can I reproduce? What can I distribute? Can I use derivative works? Join the North Bay Multimedia Association for a discussion where you will learn these things and more from the panel of experts:
July 20 (Thur.)
Digital Rights, Digital Wrongs - A Panel Discussion on Digital Rights Management
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