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Shaper of the Computer-Connected World

If someone were to ask me who created the personal computer, my answer would be either Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. If someone were to ask me who created the internet, my answer would be Al Gore (just kidding). But a recent obituary of Robert Taylor (no relation), who died last week at 85 in California, sets the record straight. A few facts:

1966. Robert Taylor takes a job at the Pentagon‘s Advanced Research Projects Agency. At the time, ARPA was funding three separate computer research projects and using three separate computer terminals to communicate with them. Mr. Taylor decides that the department needs a single computer network to connect each project with the others. This idea leads to Arpanet, which eventually becomes the internet.

1970. At the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in California, Mr. Taylor’s team builds a prototype personal computer called the Alto. Another group, led by colleague Alan Kay, adds a software system using a desktop metaphor, with documents represented by graphical icons. Mr. Taylor pumps PARC money into another project led by scientist Douglas Engelbart, who invents the mouse. These combined technologies become the inspiration for the Apple Macintosh computer and for Microsoft’s Windows software. Even the laser printer was invented at PARC during Robert Taylor’s tenure.

In the 90s, Mr. Taylor developed and ran the Digital Equipment Systems Research Laboratory, which helped create AltaVista, one of the first internet search engines.

Quite a remarkable life for a boy adopted by a Methodist minister and his wife in San Antonio, Texas in 1932. 

The Great Oscars F*ck-Up of 2017 is A Lesson in the Importance of Typography

Hey, remember when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards, but then it turned out La La Land wasn’t Best Picture and Moonlight was? A new video from Vox credits the mistake not with a single person, but rather a failure of design. A typographical design, to be more precise.

By analyzing the design of the card, the video details how a simple reorganization of information could have easily prevented the error. Humans read top to bottom, after all, and font matters, so why is extraneous text so often situated up top and in the same size as the relevant information? The same logic is applied to the design of the Miss Universe card that Steve Harvey misread back in 2015, as well as Florida’s ballots during the 2000 election, which confused countless voters and undoubtedly had a huge impact on the results.

The most interesting takeaway of the video, however, is how these concepts can benefit prescription pill bottles and, presumably, prevent accidental deaths. Watch the entire thing below.

Original post by Randall Colburn

Addicted to Digital

One day during Christmas break, with lots of family around, I stopped to notice that everyone, including myself, was either on their phone or a computer. No one was talking with one another. No one was moving. The TV wasn’t even on.

This common modern phenomenon is explored in a new book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” written by New York University professor and social psychologist Adam Alter, as reported by Times Science reporter Claudia Dreifus. Some stats: People are spending nearly 3 hours each day on their cellphones. 60 percent of adults said they keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep. Snapchat says its users open their app more than 18 times a day.

Asked what he would do if he were advising a friend on quitting their behavioral addictions? “I’d suggest that they be more mindful about how they are allowing tech to invade their life. Next, they should cordon it off. I like the idea, for instance, of not answering email after six at night. In general, I’d say find more time to be in natural environments, to sit face to face with someone in a long conversation without any technology in the room. There should be times of the day where it looks like the 1950s or where you are sitting in a room and you can’t tell what era you are in. You shouldn’t always be looking at screens.”

Great advice. But let’s make this conversation quick, there’s a great video on YouTube I have to show you.

Flippy the Burger-flipping Robot

Manufacturing facilities often use robots to handle repetitive tasks, McDonalds has started using self ordering kiosks rather than human cashiers, and cars are becoming autonomous. Our robotic future is starting to become reality. Now, a restaurant in Pasadena, California, called CaliBurger, has employed a burger-flipping robot named Flippy.

Flippy is able to perfectly cook burger patties by the dozen or more. It can do more than just flip them too. Flippy can track each individual patty’s temperature, position, and cooking time. It will put the patties on buns and alert a human so they can add cheese and other toppings. The end result is perfectly cooked patties every time.

Our robotic future is inevitable. Restaurants, and many other jobs, will be able to be performed entirely by robots. I can’t wait for our lives to be made easier by modern robotics like Flippy.

Calligrabot

I’ve recently took up a new hobby practicing calligraphy. I’ve spent countless hours perusing the Internet to find as many resources as I can to help with my progress. One of the things I found whilst following fellow calligraphers on Instagram was the desire to write each other personal notes, postcards and find pen pals to practice their calligraphy skills with. I liked this idea as it helps us to take a break from everything digital and reconnect with our manual self.

Practicing my calligraphy skills, no robot here.

Since I’ve recently been blogging about robots, I came across this little guy, Meet Bond, the robot that creates such perfectly handwritten notes you wonder if your pen pal is really a robot. Roboticists, software engineers and typographers have teamed together to create this perfect handwriting robot that carefully analyzes different handwriting styles recreating them perfectly, even your own scanned in handwriting. The goal of this bot is to keep the handwriting as natural as possible resulting in an imperfect handwritten note. If you received one of these robot-written notes in the post, you wouldn’t question its human authenticity.

Check out the video below to see how he works, it is pretty fascinating!

In my opinion, I still think writing should be kept to the pens, paper and the human hand. But technology is advancing no matter what, and this guy is perfect for marketers to send those imperfect, mass handwritten notes to their customers, allowing them the ability to create a personal touch.

And He’s Off!

There’s another robot in town! This one is called Handle and he can do some pretty awesome things! Think of a horse with skates on. This guy can roll down steps with ease, jump over any obstacles it faces and do some pretty impressive blading to rival Chris Haffey.

He is the latest robot to come out of Boston Dynamics with extreme jumping ability. Handle has horse-like arms for stability and wheels for feet. Watching him perform jumps with such ease even though he weighs hundreds of pounds is amazing! He can also reach speeds of nine miles per hour and jump four feet vertically. 

Handle won’t be going into production yet. He is purely an experimental project built to demonstrate that robots don’t always need to mirror human abilities. They can be so much more! Check out the video above to see Handle in action! 

The Gnomist

My wife and I have a not-so-secret obsession with gnomes. It started a few years back when we received our first garden gnome as a funny house-warming gift, and now we have dozens of all different sizes in and around our home—from pencil erasers to pillows. My office desk at work is even full of them!

So I was extremely excited when a friend of mine shared a link to a documentary film called The Gnomist. The short film is a true story about the mysterious appearance of beautifully-crafted fairy/gnome homes in a suburban forest in Kansas. Every night a mysterious stranger would integrate these really creative and interactive dwellings into the surrounding trees and landscape. The surrounding community became enthralled with them, and they even managed to change a few lives as well. The power of art!

I urge you to take 20 minutes to see it. It’s a really well done film, with an emotionally uplifting message. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to create your own gnome homes in your local community.

Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light

This past weekend I went to the Yale Art Gallery for the first time in a very long time. In addition to seeing the spectacular new renovations to the museum and their expanded permanent collection, I saw the current special exhibition Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light. Viewers walk through the artist’s diagrams, sketches, and documentary photographs—this is incredibly helpful in understanding the artist’s process, and gauging how much work went into each piece. Once you have some background, you’re free to roam through the gallery and experience each beautifully composed light piece. Some of the larger pieces are so mesmerizing, it feels like you are transported into another dimension—experiencing time and space in a completely new way. Wilfred’s compositions create color combinations I never knew existed. What’s most remarkable about his body of work is that they were created before the digital age of technology, dating as far back as 1919.

I highly recommend taking a trip to the Gallery and experiencing them yourself! Lumia is open until July 23, 2017.

Spy Pup

We all know that watching Nat Geo WILD is captivating. The sheer fascination of watching animals in their natural habitat is enough to leave you gobsmacked. However, there is a new guy in town that will likely change everything. Meet Spy Pup, the robot spy dog that is built so life-like that its fellow furry friends don’t notice any difference.

The people at PBS’ Spy in the Wild put this life-like robot animal out into the wild to see if the other animals would notice anything suspicious. They didn’t, score!

Spy Pup is built only with friendly characteristics—for now—to avoid possible conflict with its real counterparts and has the movements of the real-life creatures programmed into it. They tested him out with wild dogs initially, but the real test will be using a meerkat! Take a look at the video to see the genius creator, John Nolan building these special “cute” little creatures.

Mashable compares this Spy Pup’s creepy characteristics to the robots in the recent show, Westworld. If you haven’t watched that yet, I think that should be your next stop.

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