Category Archives: Computer Technology

A Neural Algorithm of Artistic Style

Peter Lobner

Authors Leon A. Gatys, Alexander S. Ecker, and Matthias Bethge published the subject research paper on 26 Aug 2015 to, “Introduce an artificial system based on a Deep Neural Network that creates artistic images of high perceptual quality.”

Convolutional Neural Networks are a class of Deep Neural Network that is very powerful and well suited for image processing tasks. Common usage is in object and facial recognition systems. The authors explain how their neural algorithm works in a Convolutional Neural Network to independently capture content and style in a composite image that represents the content of an original image in a style derived from an arbitrarily selected second image. The authors state that: “The key finding of this paper is that the representations of content and style in the Convolutional Neural Network are separable. That is, we can manipulate both representations independently to produce new, perceptually meaningful images.”

In their paper, the authors selected the following photo to define the image content.

Neural net pic 1

Two examples of the image selected to define the style, and the resulting final image created by the neural algorithm are shown below.

Style derived from The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, 1889.

Neural net pic2

Style derived from Der Schrei by Edvard Munch, 1893

Neural net pic3

I find these results to be simply amazing in terms of their artistic composition and their effective implementation of the selected style.

It probably is premature, but I hope there soon will be a reasonably priced app for this to runs on a Mac or PC. I would buy that app in a heartbeat.

You can download the full paper, which includes all of the examples shown above, from the Cornell University Library at the following link:

http://arxiv.org/abs/1508.06576

Dr. Seuss Explains Why Computers Sometimes Crash

Thanks to Dave Groce for bringing the following  bit of Dr. Seuss wisdom to our attention. You also can find it the following link:

http://bomb-diggity.com/dr_seuss.htm

Dr Seuss & computers  Source: bob-diggity.com

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,

And the bus is interrupted at a very last resort,

And the access of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,

Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,

and the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash;

and your data is corrupted cuz the index doesn’t hash,

then your situation’s hopeless and your system’s gonna crash!

If the label on the cable on the table at your house

Says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,

But your packets want to tunnel to another protocol,

That’s repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,

And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,

So your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse;

Then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,

‘Cuz sure as I’m a poet, the sucker’s gonna hang!

When the copy of your floppy’s getting sloppy in the disk

And the microcode instructions cause unnecessary risk,

Then you’ll have to flash the memory and you’ll want to RAM your ROM.

Quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your Mom.

Will Your Job Be Done By A Machine?

Peter Lobner

In September 2013, University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne published a paper entitled, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?”. In this paper, they estimated that 47% of total U.S. jobs have a high probability of being automated and replaced by computers by 2033. Their key results are summarized in the following graphic.

Frey & Osborn key results-2013 paper

You can download their paper for free at the following link:

http://www.futuretech.ox.ac.uk/sites/futuretech.ox.ac.uk/files/The_Future_of_Employment_OMS_Working_Paper_0.pdf

On 5 Feb 2015, Fortune published an article entitled, “5 white-collar jobs robots already have taken.”  This article identifies the affected jobs as:

  • Financial and sports reporters
  • Online marketers
  • Anesthesiologists, surgeons, and diagnosticians
  • E-discovery lawyers and law firm associates
  • Financial analysts and advisors

You can read the complete article at the following link:

http://fortune.com/2015/02/25/5-jobs-that-robots-already-are-taking/

On 21 May 2015, NPR posted an interesting interactive article that provides rough estimates of the likelihood that particular jobs will become automated in the future. The ranking is based on the following factors:

  • Do you need to come up with clever solutions?
  • Are you required to personally help others?
  • Does your job require you to squeeze into small spaces?
  • Does your job require negotiation?

You can try out this interactive site at the following link:

http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/05/21/408234543/will-your-job-be-done-by-a-machine?utm_source=howtogeek&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

There is no opportunity to select many technical professions in science or engineering. Nonetheless, the results for the jobs you can select are insightful. Here are a few example screenshots from the above NPR link:

College professor automation

Aircraft mechanic automation.

Bookkeeper automation

Choosing a career is always a complicated process, but these recent studies clearly show that some careers will be marginalized by automation in the relatively near future.

Update on Supercomputer Performance and Development

Peter Lobner

The TOP500 project was launched in 1993 to implement an improved statistical process for benchmarking the performance of large general purpose computer systems and maintain a list of the 500 most powerful general purpose computer systems in the world based on benchmark test results. The TOP500 website is at:

http://www.top500.org

The TOP500 list ranks computers by their performance on a LINPAC Benchmark test to solve a dense system of linear equations. While this performance metric does not reflect overall performance of a given system, the systematic application of this benchmark test provides a good measure of peak performance and enables a meaningful relative ranking.

The TOP500 list is updated in June and November each year. Tianhe-2 (Milky Way), a supercomputer developed by China’s National University of Defense Technology has maintained the top position in four consecutive TOP500 lists with a performance of 33.86 petaflops [PFLOPS; 1015  floating-point operations per second (FLOPS)], using 17.8 MW (megawatts) of electric power. The growth in supercomputer performance over the past 20 years is shown in the following chart:

TOP500 Supercomputer Chart Source: TOP500

You can access the November 2014 TOP500 list at the following link:

http://www.top500.org/list/2014/11/

On 9 April 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $200 million investment to deliver a next-generation U.S. supercomputer, known as Aurora, to the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) near Chicago. Read the DOE announcement at the following link:

http://energy.gov/articles/us-department-energy-awards-200-million-next-generation-supercomputer-argonne-national

Intel will work with Cray Inc. as the Aurora system integrator sub-contracted to provide its scalable system expertise together with its proven supercomputing technology and the HPC (Hewlett Packard) software stack. Aurora will be based on a next-generation Cray supercomputer, code-named “Shasta,” a follow-on to the Cray® XC™ series. Aurora is expected to have a peak performance of 180 petaflop/s. When commissioned in 2018, this supercomputer will be open to all scientific users.

Argonne and Intel will also provide an interim system, called Theta, to be delivered in 2016, which will help ALCF users transition their applications to the new technology to be used in Aurora.

DOE earlier announced a $325 million investment to build new, state-of-the-art supercomputers at its Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore laboratories.

Kurzgesagt Explains the Fermi Paradox: Where are all the aliens?

Peter Lobner

Updated 14 December 2019

Kurzgesagt (German for “in a nutshell“) is a Munich-based design studio with a distinctive perspective on design and animation in the fields of education, science and commerce.  For background information on Kurzgesagt, visit their website here:

https://kurzgesagt.org/agency/

You’ll find their YouTube channel with a library of briefings at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsXVk37bltHxD1rDPwtNM8Q

Form here you can navigate to many intriguing and entertaining animated briefings.  Four Kurzgesagt briefings address the following questions regarding extraterrestrial life:

“The universe is unbelievably big – trillions of stars and even more planets. Soo… there just has to be life out there, right? But where is it? Why don’t we see any aliens? Where are they? And more importantly, what does this tell us about our own fate in this gigantic and scary universe?”

I hope you’ll enjoy these Kurzgesagt briefings:

The Fermi Paradox — Where Are All The Aliens? Part 1:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNhhvQGsMEc

The Fermi Paradox — Where Are All The Aliens? Part 2:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fQkVqno-uI

The Great Filter:  Why Alien Life Would be our Doom:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjtOGPJ0URM

Aliens under the Ice – Life on Rogue Planets:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7CkdB5z9PY

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) Turns 40

Peter Lobner

When 20th Century Fox approved the production of George Lucas’ first Star Wars movie, the studio had no special effects department and much of the technology eventually used in creating that movie did not exist. George Lucas founded ILM in the summer of 1975 to address this matter, and since then, ILM has been at the forefront of developing, innovating, and applying a broad range of new technologies that have been instrumental in the production of 317 movies and have fundamentally changed the course of the movie-making business.

ILM_logo  Source:  en.wikipedia.org

You’ll find lots of interesting information at the ILM website:

http://www.ilm.com

You can read an excellent oral history, “The Untold Story of ILM, a Titan That Forever Changed Film,” by Alex French and Howie Kahn at the following link:

http://www.wired.com/2015/05/inside-ilm/?utm_source=howtogeek&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

French and Kahn conclude:

 “What defines ILM, however, isn’t a signature look, feel, or tone—those change project by project. Rather, it’s the indefatigable spirit of innovation that each of the 43 subjects interviewed for this oral history mentioned time and again. It is the Force that sustains the place.”

 Pixar started in 1979 as an ILM internal project and it evolved into the premier computer animation studio, bringing us feature-length animated movies, including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, A Bug’s Life and many more. More than being well-animated, the Pixar movies have excelled in telling meaningful stories through characters that have become part of our modern culture. You may recognize the Pixar logo shown below, with the little lamp, Luxo, Jr.:

Luxo-Logo  Source: Pixar

Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, forming Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar also is responsible for RenderMan software products that are widely used to manage texture, color, lighting and more in computer animation processes. Find out more at the Pixar website:

http://www.pixar.com

You can scroll through the Pixar timeline from 1979 to the present at the following link:

http://www.pixar.com/about/Our-Story

Movie special effects have come a very long way since Flash Gordon’s spaceship circled a landing site on visible wires, belching rocket exhaust that strangely resembled 4th of July sparklers.

First Autonomous Car to Drive (Most of the Way) Across Country

Peter Lobner

American automotive supplier Delphi modified a 2014 Audi SQ5 to make it capable of driving autonomously and then had it drive 3,400 miles on highways from San Francisco to New York City. The human “co-pilot” took control for about 1% of the distance on city streets.

image Source: www.wired.com

Read the story, including details on the car’s autonomous driving features, at the following link:

http://www.wired.com/2015/04/delphi-autonomous-car-cross-country/?utm_source=howtogeek&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

An important point made in this article is the great speed with which autonomous vehicle technology has advanced. In the first DARPA Grand Challenge in March 2004, all 15 competing autonomous vehicles failed to complete a very difficult 142 mile off-road course from Barstow, CA to Primm, NV. The greatest distance completed by the “winner” was 7.32 miles. In September 2005, five vehicles completed a 132 mile Grand Challenge course in southern Nevada. The third Grand Challenge in 2007 was held in an urban street environment in Victorville, CA. Six of 11 competing teams completed the course. SAIC supported a team in all three Grand Challenges.

For more information, check out the 2014 article, “The DARPA Grand Challenge – 10 Years Later,” at the following link:

http://www.darpa.mil/newsevents/releases/2014/03/13.aspx

Read details on the 2004 Grand Challenge at the following link:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/robotics-software/dusted-no-winners-in-darpas-1-million-robotic-race-across-the-mojavedesert

And details on the 2005 Grand Challenge at:

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Erik_Blasch/publication/2961674_Unmanned_Vehicles_Come_of_Age_The_DARPA_Grand_Challenge/links/0deec525dbe44b0bea000000.pdf

And details on the 2007 urban challenge at:

http://archive.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/TechPapers/Sting_Racing.pdf

Searching the Internet of Things

Peter Lobner

The company Shodan (https://www.shodan.io) makes a search engine for Internet connected devices, which commonly is referred to as the “Internet of things”. The Shodan website explains that the intent of this search engine is to provide the following services:

Explore the Internet of Things

  • Use Shodan to discover which of your devices are connected to the Internet, where they are located, and who is using them.

Monitor Network Security

  • Keep track of all the computers on your network that are directly accessible from the Internet. Shodan lets you understand your digital footprint.

Get a Competitive Advantage

  • Who is using your product? Where are they located? Use Shodan to develop empirical market intelligence.

See the Big Picture

  • Websites are just one part of the Internet. There are power plants, smart TVs, smart appliances, and much more that can be found with Shodan.

From a security point-of-view, the last point, above, should seem a bit unsettling to the owners / operators of the power plants, smart TVs and smart appliances.

Shodan founder, John Matherly, claims to have “pinged” all devices on the internet.  Not surprisingly, the results, which are reproduced below, show that internet-connected devices are concentrated in developed nations and metropolitan areas. These results were reported on Twitter at the following link:

https://twitter.com/achillean/status/505049645245288448/photo/1

Shodan 2014 ping of Internet of Things

Virtual Reality Headsets Coming to Market Slower Than Expected Because Many Induce Motion Sickness

Peter Lobner

At the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, several developers of virtual reality systems designed to immerse players in 3-D games and video acknowledged problems with users suffering from motion sickness. The big players in this market include Oculus VR teamed with Samsung (Oculus Rift), Sony (Project Morpheus), and Microsoft (HoloLens).

OculusRift Oculus Rift

PS4-VR-Headset Sony Project Morpheus PS4

microsoft-hololens-4 Microsoft HoloLens

In an interview at the developer conference, Gabe Newell, the president and co-founder of Valve, said he, too, had reacted badly to most headset demonstrations, describing them as the “world’s best motion sickness inducers.”

Read more about this issue at the following link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/05/technology/solution-to-nausea-puts-virtual-reality-closer-to-market.html?_r=0

One solution proposed by researchers at Purdue University is to add a virtual reality “nose” in the middle of the user’s field of vision in virtual reality, right where it would be in real life.

Read more about this novel solution at the following link:

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/this-virtual-nose-is-the-latest-solution-to-virtual-realitys-sickness-problem?utm_source=howtogeek&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

The Power of Cloud Software and Big Data Could Make Robots Smarter and Less Expensive

Peter Lobner

In a stand-alone robot, the space and power needed for advanced computational resources compete with the space and power needed for everything else that makes up the robotic device. Concepts being developed by the four-year RoboEarth project, a European Community funded program that created an open source platform for cloud robotics, are pointing the way to placing computationally-intensive robotic applications and related “big data” resources in the cloud. With adequate bandwidth for high-speed communication between the cloud and the distributed robotic devices in the field, the robots themselves can be simpler and less expensive, while gaining performance and cognitive advantages from having a significant fraction of their computational requirements off-loaded to the cloud.

A simplified view of the RoboEarth network architecture is shown in the following diagram.

re_architecture

It seems straightforward, but I find it a little disquieting that the Hardware Abstraction Layer at each robot is abbreviated as “HAL.”

You can read more at the following link:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/03/for-a-brighter-robotics-future-its-time-to-offload-their-brains/?utm_source=howtogeek&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter