Compare: How London Looks on Google vs. Paintings From the 1700s

Nothing serious here, but just a delightful series of pictures that superimpose some 18th-century paintings of London streets over their corresponding Google Street View images. In many cases the streets have barely changed although the details have. View the full set of images on Wired.

from The Universal Machine


Apps to Get Your Kids Coding on the iPad

I’ve blogged before about the importance of teaching children to code rather than just using computers. The iPad Insight blog has recently published an article that showcases iPad apps that will help your kids learn to code in enjoyable and fun ways. Since iPads are so popular with children this could be a very good to way to introduce them to coding. I’d expect that some of these apps are also available for Android tablets.

from The Universal Machine

The Huffington Post reported last week that: “It’s All Over: Robots Are Now Writing News Stories, And Doing A Good JobWhen an earthquake hit the Los Angeles area Monday morning at 6:25 AM, the Los Angeles Times had their story published in about three minutes. It was the first media outlet to report on the breaking news. How, you ask? It used a robot.” However, there’s nothing new about the automatic generation of narratives from data. Kris Hammond, in his blog, predicted that 90% of news will be computer generated in 15 years, and that was 4 years ago. Kris has even created a business out of this called Narrative Science. You can watch a short video about one of their products below.

Quill Engage by Narrative Science from Katy DeLeon on Vimeo.

from The Universal Machine

This day in history… the first tweet

On March 21 2006 Jack Dorsey sent the very first tweet. Like many tweets not especially informative and presumable Jack didn’t have many, if any, followers. Twitter was opened to the public that July and had it’s first major success at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in 2007, shortly after it had been made into a company. And the rest< as they say, is history. You can follow me and this blog @driwatson

from The Universal Machine

Tim Berners-Lee didn’t expect kittens to take over the web

You may have noticed that it’s the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has naturally been receiving quite a lot of media attention. At an Ask Me Anything event for Reddit last week Tim Berners-Lee was asked the following question:

Q: “What was one of the things you never thought the internet would be used for, but has actually become one of the main reasons people use the internet?”
“Porn,” several Redditors prompted.
Tim Berners-Lee replied: “Kittens.”

And it’s true that the Web, and YouTube in particular, have been taken over by cats: kittens, small cats, big cats, LOLcats, Grumpy Cats. So I can’t really end this blog post without a cat photo can I.

from The Universal Machine

Home automation

I like gadgets, it kinda comes with the job. I’ve always been fascinated by home automation systems but also recognised that firstly, they were very expensive, and secondly were almost instantly obsolete. Until very recently home automation systems would require lots of complex wiring throughout the house, clunky control panels and bulky remotes and, to be honest, rather like bling but for houses. The fact that any system would become obsolete so fast was a particular problem, since a house is built to last for generations. However, this is changing with the advent of wireless systems and I’ve decided to take the plunge. I’ll be reporting on what I install and the experience as the system progresses.

The first purchase is a Piper from Black Sumac. This is essentially a security camera with extra functionality. Its fish eye video camera can be activated by its built in motion sensor or microphone. It’s controlled via an iPhone or Android app and I can watch its live video feed on my iPhone from anywhere. Different security levels can be set depending on whether we’re just asleep in the front of the house, at work or away on a holiday. Security alerts can be sent to our phones and to a trusted circle of friends who may be asked to check on the property. Piper uses an open source wireless protocol, called Z-Wave, that can control light switches, thermostats, door and window sensors, door locks, and other devices. Rules can be created to trigger various actions; for example, if a door sensor reports that it has been opened, Piper can sound its 120db siren, turn on the lights and start recording video to the cloud. Alternatively, if the room’s temperature falls below a threshold a thermostat can be activated. Piper monitors outdoor and indoor temperatures, humidity, light levels, and ambient sound levels. Piper was easy to install and set up and has operated faultlessly for a couple of weeks without any reboots. It is though very much a work in progress, with some important functionality not available yet, such as downloading video clips from the cloud. It also currently interacts with a very limited range of Z-Wave products. The makers of Piper however say that lots more functionality and interoperability is in the pipeline.

from The Universal Machine

The Big Data Brain Drain: Why Science is in Trouble

I don’t often blog about academia, but my colleague, Mark Wilson, has brought this fascinating blog article, called The Big Data Brain Drain: Why Science is in Trouble to my attention. It basically makes the case that academic science is in trouble because the skills it requires are either very much in demand by industry and commerce (i.e, the ability to analyse big data) and that the skills required to create scientific software to do just this are not well rewarded inside academia. I encourage you to read the article yourself.

from The Universal Machine