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Newsletter September 03, 2001

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Information is just one click away

The idea underpinning the creation of the Web is that of hypertext: one piece of text (a word or a phrase) can send you to another. The origin of this idea is attributed to Ted Nelson who, using to this method, wanted to find a way to bring the computer closer to the way people think and the way they look for information.

Starting from hypertext, the Web has since become a hypermedia, as not only text but also images, animations and video can be associated with any kind of multimedia document. The fundamental principal is ingenious. While reading a text, you come across a word that you do not understand or for which you would like more information? One click on it allows you to access a more complete document. You are reading a speech by Bill Clinton? One click on his name can take you to a biography or, why not, a video recording of the same speech. It goes without saying that hypertext has been a huge success, as seen from its widespread use on the Web.

Nonetheless, it doesn't take long to realize that while browsing, a click on a hypertext link doesn't always take you directly to what you were hoping for. It's more like a succession of clicks that can be needed to find the right information, at the risk of forgetting what you were looking for in the first place.

Recently some software has appeared which reduces this inconvenience to the strict minimum and maximizes the potential of hypertext. Atomica, Flyswat, Babylon are just a few of the names of agents which, after installation on your computer, let you get to the information you want in just one click. Their advantage? The information they provide is structured to make browsing easier. What's more, for some of them, even if there are no links and whatever application you are using (word processor, mail client etc.), clicking on a word brings the appropriate information to you. This means that the user can have access to value-added informationů in the time it takes to click on the mouse.

All the independent information seekers on AgentLand: _______________________________________

> Webseeker : databases will have no secrets.
Webseeker is like a traditional search engine, except it gives users the double possibility of entering new sources manually and of re-filtering retrieved documents off-line.

> KeepUpDated : a personalized press agency
KeepUpDated is a push media agent that will bring you the latest information, personalized to your tastes, when you're connected and even over your mobile phone.

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> LinxCop
LinxCop is a program designed to make your daily link-checking totally automated. Just enter the URL into the database and LinxCop automatically checks to make sure your link is on their page. If your link isn't found LinxCop will email the webmaster a custom message.


> A robotic child!
John Weng, a robotics expert at Michigan State University here, is teaching a robot to learn like a child -- to obey spoken commands, trundle down a hall, find and pick up toys with its mechanical hand.
Named SAIL (for Self-organizing Autonomous Incremental Learner), Weng's robot-in-training wanders the halls of Michigan State's Engineering Building, responding to touch, voices and what it "sees"' with its stereoscopic vision system. It works something like AIBO, the robotic toy dog from Sony Corp. that responds to pats on the head, but on a vastly more sophisticated level.

> Semiconductor using brain cells
The world's first semiconductor circuit that uses neurons from a living creature has been constructed. Individual nerve cells from a snail were immobilized on a by microscopic picket fences.
It was possible to record electric measurements from the silicon chip, said Dr. Peter Fromherz of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich. This means, he explained, that long-term studies of neuronal computation will be possible when suitable networks are grown on the chips and when chips with more contact sites are used.

> A virtual child: Hal,1282,46171,00.html
He likes bananas, toys and playing in the park. He especially enjoys bedtime stories. "Hal" is like any 18-month-old toddler. But while other children are flesh and blood, Hal is actually a chain of algorithms -- a computer program that is being raised as a child and taught to speak through experiential learning, the same way human children learn.
"He is a curious, very clever child, someone that always wants to know more," said neuro-linguist Dr. Anat Treister-Goren, who is Hal's "mommy" and readily admits her attachment to her virtual child.

> Control you home with your PDA
Based on industry standards, MyCasa Network is the foundation for applications and services for the home such as: Internet-enabled Multimedia Monitoring and Control, Energy Management, Safety, Tele-aid, Telemetry. When away from home, MyCasa Network subscribers receive real-time emergency alerts and by logging onto the MyCasa Network portal can use wireless mobile phones or PDAs to securely control their home devices and receive real-time video images


> Eurospeech 2001
The 7th European Conference On speech communication and technology "Eurospeech 2001" will be held on 3-7 September 2001 in Aalborg, Denmark.
It is the seventh biennial conference of ISCA - the International Speech Communication Association (formerly known as ESCA, the European Speech Communication Association).
This conference is a medium to develop the co-operation between all scientists around the world who are actively involved in speech and spoken language research and development.
Topics of interest include: speech perception, speech recognition and understanding, speech generation and synthesis, etc.

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