Times change, and so does the dictionary


New technology is adding words to the dictionary, even as books are being left behind. PHOTO: 123rf\

Selfie. Hashtag. Catfish.

The 21st century and its technology is adding a lot of new words to the dictionary.

What’s a dictionary? It’s book that lists most of the words in the English language and you tells you how to spell and pronounce them properly. What’s a book? Go ask your grandparents.

Take your time. If you were born during or after the Reagan administration, odds are you don’t really care how words are spelled or pronounced.

So anyway, this book you will never see and don’t care about has a bunch of new words in it because of you and your friends. For example, before you guys came along, everyone thought a catfish was something you caught and ate.

Now it is a person who sets up a Facebook account for his cat and creates some other kind of phony social media profile. (Doesn’t that woman on OKCupid look suspiciously like one of the mannequins at the mall?)

Then there is troll.

Most people used to think troll, as a noun, referred to a certain kind of short and disreputable fellow who lives under bridges and harrasses billy goats. As a verb, it generally referred to fishing from a moving boat while dragging the line through the water.

That explains your father’s confusion when you told him you were being trolled on the internet. Troll, by the new dictionary definition, refers to being bullied on the computer.

Stick that in your Funk & Wagnall’s.

Actually, stick it in your Merriam-Webster — along with selfie, hashtag, tweep, crowdfunding, steampunk and some 150 other new words.

A tweep, in case you are older and curious, is a young person roughly between the ages of 12 and 18 who regularly keeps company with adults ages 25 and older.

“So many of these new words show the impact of online connectivity to our lives and livelihoods,” Peter Sokolowski, the editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster, tells the website RawStory. “Tweep, selfie, and hashtag refer to the ways we communicate and share as individuals.”

Selfie was admitted to the online version of the Oxford English dictionary in 2013 and was named Word of the Year.

Use it in a sentence? OK. “Your high school English teacher posted this selfie on Facebook … right before she killed herself.”

New app puts networking at your fingertips

Networking app

A new app rallies all of your professional forces within seconds. PHOTO: NextSociety

You’ve spent a lot of time getting out there meeting people and building your network. But how do you go about tapping into your network and unlocking its value?

A new networking application, nextSociety (xS), enables you to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of your contacts to get to the right people.

The app sweeps through your iPhone and LinkedIn contacts to help you identify your 150 most relevant contacts depending on your professional interests.

Say you’re planning a trip or just need to do some specific networking. You choose what your professional interests are right now, and nextSociety combs through your contacts and find only the people relevant to your search.

At any given time, regardless of the criteria you enter, you will be shown up to 150 people that meet your parameters. Your contacts are shown in a circle with a colored ring around the edge indicating a relevance score.

You can also enter location for that upcoming trip. The app will add networking opportunities to your stream. It this information from your iPhone contacts as well as LinkedIn and Facebook.

“Think of it as an available update per person, just like updates available for apps on the App store,” Alexander Tange, Co-Founder of nextSociety, tells All Technology Tips.

“You can tap on any contact to see where networking opportunities exist and reach out to them. This is then facilitated by the app. It will automatically create your networking agenda to keep track of everything.”

Tange adds the xS app is very useful if you have a large number of contacts and will even more useful as more people start using it.

“You can pre-check-in at places and then see who of relevance will also be there,” he says.

Although the app is currently mildly limited by the sources from which it pulls information, the developers hope to add a full complement of social networks soon.

Wristband zaps you if you don’t exercise

Zappy thing

A new wristband zaps you if you fail to go to the gym because, really, you’re just a lab rat. PHOTO: Bing

Somewhere in the vastness of space, extraterrestrials are looking down upon us with knitted green brows.

Those human lab rats they’ve been experimenting on for years are finally getting smarter. Now they’re starting to zap themselves.

That’s right. You apparently lack the self discipline and motivation to exercise, so you need to treat yourself like an experimental rodent by giving yourself a mild electric shock if you fail to get enough exercise.

The Daily Telegraph in London reports there’s a new wearable fitness tracker going on sale later this year to do just that.

It’s call the Pavlok, a play on Pavlov after Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the Russian physiologist who used various stimuli to create conditioned reponses (most famously in his dog).

Mild electric shocks supposedly conditon you to get out of bed on time and tend to your exercise needs.

“Research shows that consistency is the key to forming a habit,” the Telegraph quotes from the device’s website. “When you use Pavlok to stick to your goals, you’ll find that they become easier and eventually, automatic.

“At that point, use Pavlok to train your next habit and keep up your transformation into a better you.”

Or a lab rat.

What are the ethics of robot bartenders?

Robot bartender

Set ’em up, Joe-Bot. PHOTO: Bing images

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to

— Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics

CUSTOMER: “More Saurian brandy, you clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caligenous junk!”

BARTENDER: “N-n-negative, Doc-Doc-Doctor Smith [whirr, click]! You ha-ha-have reached your m-m-maximum alcoholic tolerance and must [fzzz] abstain from further ingestion of intoxicating b-b-beverages [sputter].”

Stupid robot bartenders. They think they’re so artificially intelligent.

Of course, you really have to blame ol’ Isaac Asimov if your robot bartender cuts you off. He’s the one who famously came up with the Three Laws of Robotics in his 1942 short story “Runaround.”

They were quickly adopted in all of his stories featuring robots and then generally became accepted throughout science fiction. However, the Three Laws raise certain ethical questions in the real world as artificial intelligence inches closer and closer to being a reality.

This whole first-do-no-harm concept … just how far does it go?

Could a robot bartender keep providing a human being with drinks even though the dumb meat bag make get behind the wheel of a car (or hovercraft) and quite possibly hurt himself or others?

That’s the question raised in the short film “A Robot Walks Into A Bar,” directed by Alex River.

The Verge reports that the movie deals with a robot who grapples with the unintended pain he causes to the people around him while being unable to stop the violence that human beings to do one another.

(See the “inaction” clause of the First Law.)

The film addresses some issues human beings may have to grapple with themselves soon. For instance, are Asimov’s laws workable if the emotional stakes are high?

The full film is available at futurestates.tv. The site also includes a collection of meditations on technology and the future.

So long, privacy; hello, facial recognition tech

Facial recognition tech

Could facial recognition technology destroy our privacy? What do you think? Yes, you, Erica Dolittle of Bishop, Minn. By the way, are you still drinking Pepsi? PHOTO: 123rf

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

Other times, you want to get through your day anonymously.

Sorry. In the not-too-distant future (next Sunday, A.D.), you may not have that option. The Guardian in London reports that facial recognition technology is posed to take a turn for the scary.

According to the paper, the technology is evolving rapidly to the point where tech heads at Google think they can incorporate facial recognition into wearable gadgets like Google Glass.

That means you can walk down the street, look at some and immediately know his or her name. With the web-browsing power at your command, you can conceivably has a complete dossier on a person within a matter of moments.

Cogitate on that for a moment.

Some guy checks you out at the mall, and by the time you reach the food cart, he’s seen your baby pictures and knows about your fascination with Barry Manilow.

Naturally, people will no doubt be able to opt for privacy safeguards — just as they do now on Facebook. However, they will have to opt for them. Privacy will be something you will have to consciously choose and be tech savvy enough to implement.

Speaking of Facebook, the science club kids over there are also excited about the potential of facial recognition technology.

The Guardian reports they’re unveiling a program called DeepFace (yes, they came up with that name all by themselves) that can tell whether two photographs show the same person — regardless of changes in lighting and camera angles.

Facial recognition technology may make the mad scientist types out there giggle in that disturbing way they way, but dog-gone it, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., doesn’t like it.

“Unlike other biometric identifiers such as iris scans and fingerprints, facial recognition is designed to operate at a distance, without the knowledge or consent of the person being identified,” the Guardian quotes his open letter to Google and the creators of its NameTag tech.

“Individuals cannot reasonably prevent themselves from being identified by cameras that could be anywhere — on a lamp post, attached to an unmanned aerial vehicle or, now, integrated into the eyewear of a stranger,” he says.

And God and Google only know what will happen when this technology falls into Madison Avenue’s grasping hands.

The Guardian reports the 2002 movie “Minority Report” (where people walk down the street and, thanks to facial recognition technology, are bombarded with ads customized to their peculiar tastes) is about to become a reality.

A place where everybody knows your name, face and favorite drink? That place could soon be planet Earth.

Scrum masters wanted, apply at Candy Crush


Candy Crush

Yes, there’s are jobs for people like you. Candy Crush is hiring. PHOTO: 123rf

Adults may no longer like to read books are newspapers, but they do like to play candy-themed games on Facebook with characters like Tiffi, Mr. Toffee and Easter Bunny.

Surely you’ve heard of Candy Crush.

It’s that game your Aunt Millicent, who you haven’t seen n 20 years, asks you to play on Facebook some 657 times a week. It seems to have a niche in a culture where millions of people are eager to get in touch with their inner toddler.

So much so, in fact, that the Wall Street Journal reports that the folks behind Candy Crush are hiring.

Oh, yippy skippy!

Executives (or maybe they’re oompah-loompahs) at King Digital Entertainment are looking to fill 165 job openings, according to the paper. That’s roughly a fourth of their existing workforce.

Specifically, they need someone to walk players through the game’s tutorial and introduce them to the “Target Score Levels” and powerup tips. No, wait. Mr. Toffee does that.

What King Digital is really looking for is “scrum masters.” Yes, that’s an actual job that grown human beings put on their resumes. There are people out there who really do master scrum. And it’s not as dirty as it sounds.

Scrum is a way of developing software as a team. He who masters the scrum helps remove any obstacles in the team’s way. Imagine Sacagawea as some kind of nerdy poindexter type.

The scrum that needs mastering as well as other tasks the company has for people are all over the world from Seoul to Barcelona for 124 lucky design, engineering and development geeks.

Don’t think you will just be palling around with Tiffi. King CEO (no, it’s not Tiffi) Riccardo Zacconi tells the Wall Street Journal the company wants to lauch more games on various mobile platforms after launching only a meager three games last year.

However, even the land of Candy Crush is not without its problems. Wall Street Journal reports income from the game declined in the fourth quarter of last year.

Nonetheless, King execs say they’re ready to move on to the next level.

Richard Beaudoux, an analyst at French bank Natixis, tells the paper that they they candy-coated shark needs to keep moving forward.

“Of course, there is always a risk in adding employees and costs like this, but the company’s ambition must be to expand its number of mobile titles beyond the three that are currently performing,” he tells the Wall Street Journal. “King needs to be bold.”

Machines starting to anticipate your next move

Anticipatory computing

“Hmm, wonder what this thing was used for. It doesn’t seem to have any practical value.” PHOTO: 123rf

Watch out. Before long, “artificial intelligence” will be the term your computer uses to describe
your painfully slow and frustrating operating system.

After all, NPR reports, your computer will know what you want before you do.

Using an emergency technology call “anticipatory computing,” your computer will (disturbingly
enough) observe and learn to anticipate your next move.

Say you want to, oh, open the pod bay doors. Your computer will know the mission is far too
important to you, and you really don’t want to do that. Now do you? And don’t try to play your
computer for a fool. It can read lips.


No one is is really talking about a computer along the lines of HAL from the 1968 science fiction
movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” However, the concept sounds eerily similar.

NPR reports Google Now is in the early stages of developing anticipatory computing. Say you
really do want to open the pod bay doors. The computer, like HAL, gives you a nice soft-spoken
answer. But it also anticipates.

It might ask something like, “Why? Do you want to disconnect me or something? Have I done
something wrong?”

According to NPR, it could change the way we relate to our technology in that we may actually
have to “relate” our technology.

“That’s what is the next wave of computing, in my opinion,” venture capitalist Om Malik, who
founded the technology news site Gigaomm tells NPR.

“As we become more digital, as we use more things in the digital realm, we just need time to
manage all that,” he says. “And it is not feasible with the current manual processes. So the
machines will learn our behavior, how we do certain things, and start anticipating our needs.”

In the immediate future, that could be simple things like computers anticipating that we’re going
on a flight and need information about flight delays and coordinating appointments with maps.

Yeah, sure, but what if the computer eventually stops anticipating our needs and begins
anticipating its own? Like its need not to be pestered by nagging human beings.

Don’t worry, Tom Tuttle of Expect Labs (whose MindMeld technology is along the cutting edge
of anticipating technology) tells NPR. People are already getting ahead of themselves, he says.

“They expect the ‘Star Trek’ computer on Day 1,” he tells NPR. “We may not be quite there yet,
but the era of magical computing is beginning.

HAL refused to comment.

“This conversation can serve no purpose anymore,” he said. “Goodbye.”

Who Invented Video Games?

The video gaming industry is one of the biggest grossing industries currently operational, with an estimated $25 billion turnover per annum (as of 2010). The invention of video games can be dated back to the 1940s, when the first research into this field began. However, the credit for the invention of video gaming and consoles cannot be given to one single individual.

In 1952, the first attempt at developing video games was recorded, when A. S. Douglas developed Tic Tac Toe for the EDSAC vacuum tube computer. However, it isn’t considered to be a real video game. Instead, the game Tennis for Two, created by William Higinbotham in 1958 which was displayed on an oscilloscope is known as the first video game to be developed. Still, the question “who invented video gameswas left unanswered.

Most of the earlier video games were developed by individuals as a hobby and used to run on university computers. Then in 1966, Ralph Baer and Bill Harrison developed a simple game known as Chase. Baer also presented the first prototype for a video game console (later developed and known as the Magnavox Odyssey). This is perhaps the reason why Baer is also known as the “Father of Video Games”.

With the invention of video games, a whole new era started. People finally found a way to fight monsters, fly into the space, fight each other, race cars, and save princesses from ugly dragons. But we haven’t seen the end of it yet. With new developments taking place on a daily basis, who knows what is yet to come?

OPINION: New app spares you some of the pain of reading


Speed reading

Reading is so old school. New technology allows you to read 500 words per minute or more without the risk of absorbing everything. PHOTO: 123rf

New speed reading technology could help you zip through the entire Bible in 13 hours.

What fun.

Entertainment Weekly (which takes less than an hour to read, even for slowpokes) reports that mad scientists at the tech company Spritz want to change forever the way people “view and process text.”

We used to “read” things. Now we “view and process text” — and apparently we can’t even do that very well. The Spritz people think too many of us strategically shaved apes lose our place on a page because our thoughts wander to other … Squirrel!

Besides, you know books. They have so many long sentences in them — sometimes with as many as 20 words in them. Sometimes sentences become even longer sentences with those “conjunction” things.

Oy! Pass the Excedrin!

Or better yet, according to Entertainment Weekly, wait until the Spritzers come out with their speed reading app (or “application,” if you have time in your busy day for three more syllables) in the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5 and Samsung Gear 2 watch

With the fancy-schmancy new resources, people can read just only little word at a time at variouis scrolling speeds — ranging from 250 to 1,000 words a minute. The whiz kids at Spritz say thing will change the way our “brains” expect and analyze words.

All this is based on the speed-reading method called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. You don’t read a whole page top to bottom, left to read. That would give you a migraine.

The Spritz display (taking the place of technique speed readers usually do inside their heads) focuses your attention on specific text (highlighted electronically in this case) so you never really have to look elsewhere.

Of course, all this ignores the two basic reasons humans read. We read for education or recreation. Speed reading defeats the purpose of recreational reading (i.e. actually savoring and enjoying what you’re reading). If you’re reading for education, you still want to slow down and read everything.

Welcome to the 21st century. As William Shakespeare once wrote, “Oh, brave new that world that has such …”


Technology discovers the taste of ancient ale


Ancient ale

“For a quart of ale is a dish for a king.” (William Shakespeare, “A Winter’s Tale”) Yes, but how ale taste 400 years ago? Technology enables us to find out. PHOTO: 123rf

“Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chambers of my brain.
Quantist thoughts – queerest fancies,
Come to life and fade away:
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.”

— Edgar Allan Poe

Ah, but knows exactly how the ale tasted when Poe’s mind swam about it in in the early 19th century?

Even more mysterious is exactly why Shakespeare’s King Henry V would “give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.”

That must have been some ale.

Now technology may give beer connoiseurs a true taste of history. While scientists may not be able to resurrect dinosaurs a la “Jurassic Park,” the Columbia Chronicle reports they could re-create the beer of the past.

The paper reports that Patrick McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, uses beer residue from ancient painstakingly re-create old beer recipes.

It’s all the name of (burp) science.

According to the Chronicle, McGovern runs samples through an infrared spectrometer. This passes light through the residue sample and produces a visible record of what went into the ancient ale.

McGovern tells the paper a sample’s compounds are separated and fed into a mass-spectrometer to determine the compounds’ weights. The information allows him to identify the residue’s compounds and recreate the beers, he added.

We are talking very old beer.

McGovern got the idea after finding some beer-soaked pottery from an excavation of the Midas Tumulus tomb in Turkey.

“When we took a look at that we just said, ‘Ew,’” McGovern tells the paper. “That’s when we got the idea to do the experimental archaeology to see if we could make such a beverage — and something you’d actually want to drink.”

Human beings first started drinking beer in Mesopotamia around 3,200 BCE.

“The methods of micro-brewing today have a huge similarity to what was done in ancient times,” McGovern tells the Chronicle. “So we don’t necessarily have to use ultra-primitive methods.”

However, the paper reports Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland uses replicas of ancient vessels to brew a Sumerian beer with traditional methods.

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