Mirror Magazine
7th October 2001
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The future's not far away

Look beyond the brim of the present through the hollow of time at the future. The future is what we envision today and it is very true of the computing world where the future is created today within our very own minds. This is a time where fiction is made fact and probability makes way for possibility. This week the Techno Page will take a look at our very own future that is being made today in laboratories and within ordinary minds like yours and mine.

With the new Office 2002 suite from Microsoft, speech recognition and Optical Character Recognition have slowly but surely become somewhat of a norm. The fact that it happened so suddenly, should awaken us all to the fact that new technologies are developing very fast and even in a third world country like ours, where almost all the software we use is pirated, it takes very little time to reach us and become a fact of life. I must warn you though, that this is just the tip of the iceberg and a lot more is cooking in many parts of the world.

Silicon is so closely associated with computers that we associate it more with Silicon Valley than with the periodic table, but silicon's moment of glory it seems is fading fast. High speed computers of the future are likely to have more in common with genetics, bio-chemistry, DNA and organic compounds than with chips and machines. Scientists have made considerable progress is this aspect and the'future' won't be such a distant dream after all.

A day in your life in another few years time may start with you pulling into the dry cleaners on your way to work and checking e-mail from your tiny personal computing device as you drop off your shirts. Your e-mail is automatically sorted, with the most urgent messages determined by eight factors, including how quickly you've responded to each sender in the past and your body language as you did so. 

You check in with the office via your earrings, which contain microphones and speakers wirelessly connecting you to a cell phone. Or maybe your earrings are the cell phone, and all commands are voice driven. As you settle into your cubicle, a sensor on your employee badge communicates with the office computers, projectors and printers, instantly configuring a network that lets co-workers electronically interact with you. Those possibilities were on the drawing board yesterday as psychologists, designers, ethnologists and sociologists mingled with computer researchers and Web developers at a six-day conference focused on how people interact with computers. This is turning science fiction into fact and it is happening right now. 

If you are still thinking that this is my idea of taking the readers of the Techno Page for a ride, you ought to know that Microsoft will devote $4 billion to the research and development of these technologies this year.

New technologies will allow us to interact with computers much the way you would with another person, making computing a much more natural experience. 

Let's face it, the Web is pretty dumb. This isn't surprising, considering that all the Web was originally designed to do was display text (and later graphics) on any computer. In the future, Web sites will know a lot more about you. They'll also know more about their own content and the content of other sites. The Internet is a vast repository of information, but the Web will soon be able to anticipate as well as deliver the precise information you need. Besides www means a little less than a world wide wait for most of us but internet2 is revolutionizing the meaning of 'bandwidth' and MIT's Project Oxygen (we will discuss 'Project Oxygen' next week in Techno Page) is aimed at infusing intelligence into our networks and to help us 'do more by doing less'.

The mysteries of the future are being solved today and you and I have as big a role to play in it as much as anyone else. 
Let's talk

'Jupiter' is an intelligent system set up by MIT that offers weather information for 500 cities worldwide. The difference is that Jupiter can talk, almost as well as a human and the following is a real conversation between Jupiter and Victor Zue, one of the researchers at MIT.

(Phone ringing)

Jupiter: Hi. Welcome to Jupiter, the M.I.T. Lab for Computer Science Weather Information System. This call is being recorded for system development.

You may hang up or ask for help at any time. How can I help you? 

V.Z.: What is the forecast for Boston today? [The theme song of the television show Jeopardy plays during a pause of seven seconds. Each of Zue's subsequent questions is followed by a pause of one to three seconds.] 

Jupiter: In Boston this afternoon, partly sunny and windy. High around 50. Tonight, clear, lows around 35. What other information can I give you? 

V.Z.: Will it rain tomorrow? 

Jupiter: To my knowledge, the forecast calls for no rain in Boston tomorrow. Is there anything else? 

V.Z.: How about Seattle? 

Jupiter: To my knowledge, the forecast calls for no rain in Seattle tomorrow. Is there something else you would like to know? 

V.Z.: Is it sunny anywhere in the Caribbean? 

Jupiter: Sorry, I am not sure what you said. 

V.Z.: Is it sunny anywhere in the Caribbean? 

Jupiter: I am sorry, I may not know the city you are asking about. Try asking for the state or country. For example, what cities do you know about in Massachusetts? 

V.Z.: What is the temperature in Montego Bay? 

Jupiter: In Montego Bay today, high 86 and low 73. Is there something else? 

V.Z.: Good-bye.

See also:


and http://www.bigscience.com/

Sir Elton wants love

Elton John (L) is joined by country singer Tim McGraw during the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation's "Grand Slam for Children" benefit concert at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, September 29. Returning to the singles chart after a three year break is the veteran star Sir Elton John. His new single 'I Want Love', entered the chart at No: 9. Senior stars like Sir Elton now have problems with the radio networks as they prefer to air songs by new and younger acts. Thus the veterans tend to get left out. 

One star who defied the unofficial ban was Sir Cliff Richard, who amidst the carefully orchestrated campaign had the majority on his side, that he did manage to score a No:1 with the 'Millennium Prayer' in December 1999. 

Sir Elton's last hit was a duet with the much younger and popular LeAnn Rimes. The song 'Written In The Stars' peaked at No: 10 in 1998. His current hit 'I Want Love', has been dubbed as a dull track. Nevertheless since the flamboyant star came on the scene 30 years ago he has managed to remain in the news be it through his extravagant life style, love life and music. 'I Want Love' is Sir Elton's 26th top 10 hit in the UK. He now joins Tom Jones and Sir Cliff Richard - a select band of stars who have managed to score hits over a span of three decades. 

The boy group Five has split up. The UK group made the announcement last week. The news came just a month after Five notched up a No: 1 in the UK with the single 'Let's Dance'. 

At the time 'Let's Dance' topped the chart there was speculation about the group's future. 

The break-up of Five did not stop the ex-members from getting together at the wedding of ex-Five member Scott Robinson to his childhood sweetheart Kerry Oaker. Ritchie Neath, Abs Breen, Sean Conham and J. Brown were among 200 guests at the wedding held at Stockbrook Manor Golf Club in Essex on Friday 28th September. 

Five debuted in the UK Top 10 chart with the song 'Slam Dunk (Da Funk)' in December 1997 with the track peaking at No:10. The group tasted its first No:1 on home soil in November 1999 with the song 'Keep On Movin'. The track remains the best release from the quintet's repertoire. Even today the song has a place on air by radio networks. Five's second No:1 was a cover version of Queen's classic 'We Will Rock You' back in 2000. The last No:1 'Let's Dance' a very disjointed track topped the chart at the beginning of September. Five plans to release a farewell double A side single called 'Close To You/Rock The party' on October 22nd. 

For a second week Kylie Minogue commands the top with her song 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head', as it sits at the top of the UK singles chart. The song has sold over 300,000 copies - (already certified with a Silver disc) enough to make it the third fastest selling single of the year. Taking the sales of the song into account gives it the added advantage of being top of the chart for another week unless a spectacular hit enters to drop Kylie from the prime spot. 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head', is the 6th chart topping song for Kylie Minogue in the UK. It is also the third single that has spent more than a week at the top of the chart, for the Australian singer. Her debut release 'I Should Be So Lucky' occupied the top slot for five consecutive weeks in 1988. Her next hit to spend more than a week at the No:1 spot was 'Especially For You' (a duet with Jason Donovan) in January 1989. The song held on to the No:1 for three consecutive weeks and sold over 900,000 copies making it Kylie's best selling single. Her current hit was co-written by Cathy Dennis and Rob Thomas. Dennis was herself a successful singer in the late Eighties. As a song writer she wrote the S Club 7 hit of late last year titled 'Never Had A Dream Come True'. Thomas has written the hits 'Grooveject (If This Ain't Love)' for Spiller and 'Toca's Miracle' for Fragma among others. He was a member of the Seventies pop band Mud. 

A host of stars will come out to join Robbie Williams on October 10th at the Royal Albert Hall as he performs his Sinatra alter ego. Rupert Everett, Jane Horrocks, Jon Lovitz and Jonathan Wilkes will be among the stars to take to the stage. 'Four Weddings & A Funeral' and 'Notting Hill' writer Richard Curtis is also working with Robbie on a gag-laden Rat-Pack style script for the event. Robbie is expected to perform tracks from his 'Swing When You're Winning' album too. The album is due for release November 19.

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