|Newsletter August 13, 2001
AGENTLAND NEWSLETTER August 13, 2001
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RoboCup 2001 - going for goal
The 2001 RoboCup, with over 120 teams in competition, produced its usual series of thrills and emotions, resulting in a second consecutive victory for UNSW United in the legged soccer tournament, and YabAI, University of Electro-Communications, Japan in the simulation league. All games naturally took place without direct intervention from the creators of these budding sports stars. Robots playing football, you say? But what's the point? Well, what better example is there of an activity requiring such a high level of coordination between an individual and its environment?
Just think of the skills involved in playing soccer: the ability to move autonomously, receive and analyse visual data, adjust behaviour to take into account team mates, opponents and of course the ball, wirelessly communicate with fellow players and coaches, all in pursuit of a clearly defined goal (even if in this case the goal is protected by a robot goalkeeper ;-)). These are skills which could have wide applications in the outside world, and large corporations are keenly aware of the potential uses of artificial intelligence. It is not by chance that RoboCup 2001 is sponsored by SGI and Sony, whose Aibo robot dog has already made quite a name for itself since it went on sale in 1999. What clearer sign could there be than the fact that the keynote speaker to the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence, which took place concurrently with the RoboCup, was Bill Gates of Microsoft? He took the opportunity to underline his belief that artificial intelligence is going to become more and more present in all sorts of everyday applications, both in physical forms and in software.
As Hiroaki Kitano, researcher at Sony and one of the founders of the RoboCup competition, has pointed out, artificial intelligence is already more widely used than you would think - when the technology is mature, you do not even notice that it is there. Because in an increasingly complex world, there are many situations where robots can help humans - or even replace them. RoboCup's avowed goal is to develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world soccer champions by the year 2050. It's hard to imagine, when today you are faced with a team of 15 cm high robots, but in sport, as in research, wanting to succeed is half the battle. Place your bets wisely...
RoboCup 2001: http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~robocup2001/
International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence 2001: http://www.ijcai-01.org/
> The New Senses of Symbiotic Humanity by Joël de Rosnay
What will the people of the future be like? Biologists, futurologists, and science fiction writers have been grappling with this challenging question for centuries. For some, the human of the future will be a "superman," whose brain will surpass the brain of our day in numbers of neurons, and who will possess phenomenal intellectual capacities.
ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
> Webspector 2.2 monitors for you!
Webspector is an intelligent agent that monitors your favorite Web pages and alerts you automatically when changes occur on them.
> MemoWeb: retrieved, relieved!
MemoWeb Flash has been developed by Goto Software, owner of the Web accelerator WebEarly, among other products. This agent belongs to the family of site retrieval tools. You can use it to browse Web sites off-line with no time or connexion worries.
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DOWNLOAD OF THE WEEK
Face-Mail is a new toy for your desktop which presents an animated virtual character who can read your e-mail. Forget the boring text e-mail you've written and received before: now let your friends know when you're happy, upset or angry by having Face-Mail's characters show them in person.
> Sig: the humanoid robot
Japanese researchers have developed a robot that can recognize human voices in a noisy environment. This robot, named “Sig”, has no legs and has been designed by the ERATO Kitano Symbiotic Systems research group. Sig is capable of recognizing human voices by using microphones placed on both sides of its head, like ears. It can also visually identify people with its cameras and picture recognition software. Sig could one day be used as a receptionist or tourist guide.
> Could your voice be cloned?
AT&T Labs is to start selling speech software that it says is so good at reproducing the sounds, inflections and intonations of a human voice that it can re-create voices and even bring the voices of long-dead celebrities back to life.
The software, called Natural Voices, is not flawless - its utterances still contain a few robotic tones and unnatural inflections - and competitors question whether the software is a substantial step up from existing products. But some of those who have tested the technology say it is the first text-to-speech software to raise the spectre of voice cloning, replicating a person's voice so perfectly that the human ear cannot tell the difference.
> Smart Clothes for Bell Canada technicians
Bell Canada is setting a new trend in technology fashion with the purchase of Xybernaut wearable computers, which will initially equip 300 Bell Canada field service technicians.
These Smart Clothes will eventually replace the existing IBM ThinkPad laptops that are used in the field by approximately 10,000 Bell Canada technicians. They enable mobile workers to perform technical functions on-the-go. The wearable computer can be worn as a vest or belt and is equipped with either a head-mounted or a flat panel display screen for viewing images.
> Smart Coca-Cola machine
Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., Ltd., NTT DoCoMo, Inc. and Itochu Corp. have announced the trial launch of a consumer service employing computer software that transforms a soft drink vending machine into an information station and services terminal offering fun, excitement and entertainment.
The new service, named "Cmode", links a specially developed Coca-Cola vending machine, equipped with a printer, sensor and speaker to i-mode, the Internet-enabling system launched by NTT DoCoMo.
Users who are connected to DoCoMo's i-mode service can do a number of other things with Cmode: For example, they can store "cash" on their phone accounts and buy a soda without putting money into the machine. They can also wirelessly download new background images or ring tones for their mobile phone.
> Will intelligent agents replace Journalists?
Within a few years newspapers could be written not by human journalists but by a piece of software trained to pluck text off the news wires and rearrange the words into punchy stories.
An intelligent system, called Author, has already passed what some cynics might believe to be the crucial test of modern journalism: the ability to write convincing fairy stories.
Author, which was originally developed to help children get over literacy problems, can generate new versions of traditional fairy tales by changing details about the characters, props and plot.
Journalists need not start worrying about their jobs just yet. The developers said that Author still lacks one fundamental skill: the ability to tell fact from fiction.
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