New paper: Being Analog

IMG_0957I attended the 3rd International Workshop on Optical SuperComputing in Bertinoro, Italy, back in November. I don’t get out so much these days, so I was pretty shocked when a total of 10 people showed up (or was it 11, you’d think I’d remember!) It’s a shame, because there is some interesting stuff going on in this field…

In any case, despite a couple talks delivered remotely, the program turned out to be pretty thin (perhaps not surprising given the attendance). So I offered to give a presentation about my stuff, even though it’s not strictly about optical. The talk, called Being Analog, was well received, so they asked me to write it up as a paper for Springer’s Lecture Notes on Computer Science (which had a deal to do the proceedings). Uploaded it today: so here it is, hot off the presses, if you’re interested.

Photo: The view out of my window from Bertinoro Castle.

Originally posted on Brains and Machines.

Hail to the neuromorphic engineers

This robot is driven by a circuit based on the nervous system of a lobster.Mark Tilden changed my life. In about 1998 I started to become interested in analog computing for intelligence and came across a paper called Living Machines Mark wrote with Brosl Hasslacher a few years earlier. In it they talked about analog electronic creatures that were were very different to any other robots I had seen before. The ‘nervous networks’ that drove them were made of very few transistors, capacitors, and resistors—dozens rather than hundreds—and yet they, together, performed a rich, natural, and robust set of behaviors. The sun-seeking robots were even being used for interesting applications like satellite guidance and mine-clearing. It was a great story and it helped me understand what was important about intelligence in a way I hadn’t before. Read More …

Roses in January

Old roses are still hanging on in London's Hyde Park, despite it being January.Global warming seems to have been following me around lately.

It was pretty warm before I left London in mid-December. Then New York was a bizarre 60°F (16°C) almost every day I was there, the feeling was quite incongruous with all of the winter holiday lights blazing. Leaves were still on many trees and the idea of a white Christmas seemed laughable. Read More …

Men with guns and bombs

A stallholder at Night Vision 2006 demonstrating the use of the sights his company was selling.At the night vision conference I attended recently, I found myself in a new culture. I’ve written about technology that could be used for military applications for years, but almost always through academic and industrial institutions: so I’ve never been forced to really face up to what the technology was for. It’s one thing to know intellectually that the system you’re writing about is for night vision for soldiers. It’s another thing to see people testing them out by looking down the barrel of a gun. Read More …

Wissenschaft (Or you can’t take the terror out of the girl…)

Not a belt you'd want to be seen wearing in London.Last week I was visiting a laboratory in a medium-to-large town in the north of Germany, where I was given a belt to wear as part of an experiment. I don’t want to go into details of what the belt was for as it’s for a forthcoming magazine feature: I’ll say more in a later post once the article has been published. For now, let’s just say it was a kind of wearable computer, and the experiment involved walking around town wearing the thing. Which I did. Read More …