Next, Jeff Hawkinsa co-founder of Palmgave an update on Numenta, and to show off his new "Hierarchical Temporal Memory" technology. Designed to mimic how the brain works, HTM, Hawkins promised, will reinvigorate the moribund world of artificial intelligence and solve the seemingly intractable problems of vision recognition and robotic movement. The demonstration, although crude, was compelling. The algorithms successfully matched twisted versions of simple patterns to their representational analog, for example, matching the letter B to a drawing that resembled two circles connected by a line.How long will it take? "No one really knows," Hawkins apologized. "It will take us about a year to build our first developer tools, but it could take two years. Well have our first developer conference next spring or summer." As for products, "two years, maybe longer." For more information check out the Numenta Web site or Hawkins book site, www.onintelligence.org. After lunch, a feisty and combative Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun, took the stage. He had harsh words for IBM at the top, saying, "IBM is everyones nightmare, its mankind vs. global services," and that IBMs On Demand service basically means "Well bring as many global services folks in on demand for as long as you want," along with the outrageous fees those consultants charge. Dell came under fire too, for offering widgets, not solutions. "A Dell server is to delivering services to your clientele as a piston ring is to delivering transportation." McNealy continued the car metaphors as he savaged HP, saying, "HP has to go out and buy all the pieces [to build a corporate data system]. At some point a car company that has to buy all the pieces becomes a car dealer." CIOs similarly came under fire: "Every CIO that couldnt get a job at a computer company went out to a company with a budget and built their own grid." McNealys main point focused on the shared grid systems his company is building, using tens and hundreds of thousands of Opteron servers. The grids are for computation, storage and displayall for about a dollar a person a day. McNealy described his grids as full of the latest and fastest hardware. "Our average depreciation cycle, or the average age of our utility grid, we plan on making it three months. Were going to treat our grid as WIP, work-in-process. Well burn it in for six months and then sell it to someone who wants to depreciate it for three years." He went on to describe how these grids will be practically free to Sun. "Im going to get AMD and Seagate and Samsung to lend me the equipment, so my cost of capital is very low," McNealy said. Looking for a new robot? iRobots CEO Colin Angle used the conference as a way to launch the next personal robot in the Roomba line, called Scooba. Roomba vacuums. Scooba mops. Enough said.
Read more here from PCMag.com about Scooba.
Next on the list was MITs Nicholas Negroponte, who furthered his vision of the $100 notebook computer for the Third World. He discussed three phases of the device. The first will be built around an existing portable 7-inch DVD player. "Pull out the DVD and put in a computer" and youll have the device. But hes agonizing over whether to bring that device out in the next 12 months or wait for Version 2, which should come out in about 18 months.
Negroponte showed off a mockup of Version 2, which sticks an LED-based projector into the keyboard area and displays output on a white cardboard screenwhich folds up on top of the system like a tall, thin tent. Its a fascinating concept, cutting out the price of glass and LCD screen. "You dont have a screen that will break," Negroponte said, "because its just a piece of cardboard."
Version 3 is the most exciting because it replaces the cardboard screen with a digital ink display. The working mockup, from a company called E-Ink, needs no power to hold a screen and has a contrast ratio almost as good as white paper. It was also quite impressive.
And cheap too. According to Negroponte, "The real solution is electronic ink. Its the kind of display thats made by roll to roll printing or stamping, and the magic is in the ink. Youre making a display thats so inexpensive that costs will go from 50 cents a square inch to 10 cents a square inch." By contrast, todays displays average around $10 a square inchwhich means a 100-fold cost improvement.
Next Page: Windup laptops.
Whats it good for? According to Hawkins, "Finding causes in sensory data, predicting the future and generating behavior." Or more specifically, "Vision, robotics and understanding languages." He sees HTM enabling self-driving cars, predicting the weather and improving the ability to find natural resources by analyzing geographic data. "We can build super-intelligent machines that are better than humans in mathematics, physics, and more," he said.