Could we build a true simulation model of the Human Brain?

We have discovered and invented lots of things in computing since Charles Babbage invented his Analytical Engine and Ada Lovelace started programming it. Our quest has been to mimic the human brain and its functions. There are many areas we have gone way past the abilities of the human brain – fast numerical computations, massive data analysis like in internet search, etc.

But we still dont understand how the human brain works.

Lately we have started understanding the fundamental biology, chemistry & function of the neuron (fundamental unit of the brain) much better than ever before.
         – We are able to map the complete neuron structures of small insects
         – We are able to tap into the ends of neurons, sense their signals (audio) and make them control machines (bionic hands)
         – For many decades now, we have used the “postulated” principles of the brain in Neural Networks and Genetic Algorithms. We have even attempted to replicate the human brain as a software model for Machine Vision applications.

Now that we begin to understand the “real” function of the neurons and their connections, the question is:
       – Could we build a true software model of the human brain, provide it some “sensory input” and let it freely “think”
       – Not to solve a specific application. Not to control any robots. Not
       – But just to understand how our own brains “think”

Why would we want to do this? We’ll “know better” once we actually build it. 🙂

Hype Cycle for Digital 3D – Will 3D become mainstream by 2015?

We are now in March 2010 in the post-“Avatar” world. Above timeline is my prediction of a hype cycle for Digital 3D.

We are in the early part of the cycle:
– Avatar released in Dec 2009 has triggered a huge hype and interest in Digital 3D technology, though 3D itself has a long history.
– At this year’s January, 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), lots of companies (technology, entertainment) interested in establishing a new market have announced new products – though there is no accepted standard.
– New standards like HDMI 1.4a announced in March 2010 are critical foundations for real 3D products.
– Early applications like entertainment (movies – Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, ESPN sports) show a lot of promise.
– Early products are too expensive like this $21,000 3D camera.

In the next stage of this hype cycle, real products need to be available. They need to become affordable. Then they will be really adopted by larger number of people.

I for one, hope to see applications like 3D Tourism become popular. I would really like to see Live or Realtime 3D Two-way communication – almost like Teleportation. 🙂

Laptops or Netbooks with built-in Projectors… Coming soon.

TI’s first generation DLP-based pico projectors have already been designed into SmartPhones in early 2009. Now they have announced 2nd generation DLP projector chips that will show up in 2010 devices. There are many other companies like Microvision that also are innovating on pico projector technology for various uses.

One place where these small projectors will be highly useful is Laptops or Netbooks. One major problem in confererence rooms around the world is a scramble to get projectors working with laptops. This invariably happens at the beginning of every meeting in the corporate world. And during the meeting, there is more time wasted in exchanging projector cables if someone else needs to present. Even though we have Webex, etc a need for a projector has not diminished.

A Laptop with a built-in projector would greatly simplify this problem savings countless minutes/hours in important meetings. With just a click (may be a combination Function-F8 click), you can start sharing your screen to meeting attendees. In addition in the case of smaller Netbooks, it might be a good way to make use of a larger screen to watch movies, etc while still having the netbook advantage of low-cost, small size & long battery life.

Starting 2009/2010, we should see many business laptops including a built-in projector. Netbooks might take longer to incorporate when price & size goes down.

Thoughts on “Desktop” UI Paradigm for PCs

Personal Computers have obviously evolved quite a bit. As of 2009, laptop or mobile PCs have largely surpassed the traditional immobile desktop PC.

Laptop PCs by their very nature are used quite differently from the Desktop PCs that sit on the office desk. Have you lately seen what people are doing with laptop PCs in a coffee shop or train or airplane ? Some watching movies, some reading news online, some playing games, some emailing, etc.

But the “Desktop” UI paradigm in PCs has not changed a bit in 25 years. The key aspects of the “Desktop” paradigm are:
     – An office Desktop represented by a background image
     – Tools on the desktop represented by a bunch of icons on top of the image
     – Common tools are docked on a dock or a taskbar

The desktop with its icons is fixed – just like the immobile desktop in the office.

But since the laptops are used in widely varying scenarios, why doesnt the UI change to adapt to the task being performed by its user.

For example, the UI can morph from 1) the traditional desktop mode when the user is using PowerPoint or Excel, but switch to a 2) TV-style interface while watching youtube and switch to a 3) textbook-style UI when reading news online and switch to a 4) game console-style UI when playing games… Like a personal device – “computer” is misnomer when PCs are rarely used to “compute” anything.

Cheaper iPhone – Really now ?!?

As always Steve Jobs has worked his magic with the new iPhone 3G and we have New York Times headlines as follows:

Apple Aims for the Masses With a Cheaper iPhone –

Is it really cheaper ?

  • Earlier, it was $399 + $20*24 months = $879
  • Now, it is $199 + $30*24 months = $919

Its funny that respected NYTimes would let a headline like this pass by…

Here is another take on the new iPhone price – “True Cost of an iPhone”.