Hyve-3D: A New 3D Immersive and Collaborative Design System

Collaborative tools have certainly come a long way since drawing on restaurant napkins and the backs of envelopes. Sure, these methods are still used today, but for a quantum leap into the future of idea sharing I highly recommend a article that appeared on Phys.org an August 10, 2014 entitled Spectacular 3-D Sketching System Revolutionizes Design Interaction and Collaboration. This report covers an extraordinary new system called Hyve -3D that was developed at the University of Montreal. On the day this story was published, this system was presented at the SIGGRAPH 2014 Conference.

As described in this report, Hyve-3D (an acronym for “Hybrid virtual Environment 3D”), is a full immersive space where collaborators can create, shape and test new designs for products such as cars and many others. Through a series of input tools such as tablets, designs can be manipulated in a multitude of ways from this highly in-depth environment.

The U of Montreal is current pursuing ways to commercialize this technology, promoting its cost-effectiveness and relative simplicty in comparison to other systems like this currently on the market.

The eye-popping (albeit 2D), accompanying photos show how this works in car design. Many other field are anticipated such as, among others, architecture, medicine and game design. The Hyve-3D website contains more photos of the system in action. Many other field are anticipated such as, among others, architecture, medicine and game design.

This looks to me like the Holodeck some to life where the possibilities can barely be imagined yet. As I recall from Star Trek: Next Gen, there were several episodes where Geordi use the Holodeck to design and configure technological solutions to problems confronting The Enterprise.

I suspect that 3D design collaboration will find many unanticipated uses. Moreover, when combined with other leading edge technologies and materials science, designers will only be limited by their imaginations. For instance, if a 3D printing system were added to Hyve-3D, medical devices could be customized for individual patients needs. The current state of research in this nascent area was covered in a remarkable story also posted on Phys.org on August 21, 2014 entitled Researchers Use 3D Printers to Create Custom Medical Implants.

Venture Capital Investments in Legal Tech Startups Declining in 2014

The title of a report on TechCrunch.com on August 5, 2014, The Jury Is Out On Legal Startups , appears to say it all. As it describes the current state of this specialized market for technology aimed at supporting law offices as well as benefiting consumers, investments by venture capital investment firms in this sector has fallen rather dramatically thus far in 2014. With just a few exceptions that have received substantial rounds of funding, many other have not fared well in raising money for their operations. I recommend a click through here the full details of this slump including some informative charts and accompanying quotes by experts in this field explaining the difficult dynamics currently affecting this market.

This turn of events and dollars seems to run contra to all of the five far more optimistic and enthusiast posts I have grouped here under the category of Law Practice and Legal Education. These cover different aspects of ongoing innovations in the marketplace for legal services as well as legal education.

Notwithstanding this situation, I continue to remain optimistic about the ongoing prospects for legal startups. There is a vast under-served market for people who need legal services but do not have the funds to engage them. I think it is nearly inevitable that some of these developing systems, services and apps will find a place in this market segment out of pure necessity and the economics of getting things done faster and cheaper. Continuing to monitor this situation will thus likely prove interesting during the next several years. Perhaps there is a legal app yet to be developed that will prove to be so helpful to lawyers and their clients, as has happened in so many other consumer markets, which will act as a genuine tipping point.



IBM’s New TrueNorth Chip Mimics Brain Functions

To borrow a title made famous by Monty Python to characterize a development announced in the August 7, 2014 edition of the New York Times, now for something completely different in, well, computing architecture, IBM has created a chip called TrueNorth that mimics some of the operations of the human brain. As covered in this report entitled IBM Develops a New Chip That Functions Like a Brain, this chip uses far less power than other chips built on more traditional technologies and, it is hoped, may enable the faster and more extensible processing and interpretation of certain classes of data.  This article contains a link to the August 8, 2014 issue of Science by the IBM researchers with the technical details of their accomplishments. In addition to reading the full details of this fascinating article, I also suggest a click-through to another article on IBM Research’s own website to an article entitled Introducing a Brain-inspired Computer.

This is one of those remarkable developments where the inspiration for a unique technological advancement has been derived from human biology. The field of biomimetics has likewise produced innovative systems, designs and materials in many diverse fields such as, among others, aeronautics, pharmaceuticals and robotics.

As reported in the NYTimes story, the TrueNorth chip, this is being termed a “neuromorphic” chip because it imitates the functions of the brain’s neurons to better recognize patterns such as changes to the intensity and color of light or particular physical movements made by a person. The May/June 2014 edition of MIT’s Technology Review in its annual report on the Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies carried a highly informative article entitled Neuromorphic Chips as among one of 2014’s such areas.

The report further states that the chip’s “neurons” all run in parallel and can compute 46 millions operations per second. While not as fast as many of today’s other chips, by its very nature it is better able to handle certain types of operations that faster chips can process. Moreover, scientists believe that the speed of these chips will continue to scale up.

I am certain that as with many other strikingly original advances such as this, other applications will continue to emerge in the future for these chips that no has currently anticipated. I am greatly looking forward to seeing what they are and where they occur.


2014 LinkedIn Usage Trends and Additional Data Questions

A very enlightening report was recently published on Forbes.com in May entitled New Research: 2014 LinkedIn User Trends (And 10 Top Surprises) that I highly recommend for its insights, detail and thoroughness. This professional social and networking sites continues to grow its global use base, services, influence and reputation on a daily basis. The particulars provided within this report about the size ranges of users’ personal networks, the percentages of free versus paid account, the average time users spend on the site, awareness of available feature sets, the utility of special interest groups, and other data points illuminate a truly thriving and extensible services.

What is particularly impressive about format and content of this report is the infographic it contains entitled Portrait of a LinkedIn User 2013 Edition. This expertly limns the who’s who and what’s what of the user base. Moreover, it sets into perspective just how unique LinkedIn is among the other leading social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others.

Having viewed many other infographics online, imho, this one receives an A+ from me for its simple and engaging design which belie such a wealth of useful information. I believe that you will learn much about LinkedIn here while simultaneously viewing a clinic on how to create a highly effective visual representation of data.

The data and graphics presenting a distribution of percentages of the relative sizes of users’ networks immediately grabbed my attention. The largest percentage, 25.2% of the entire user base, of first degree user connections falls between 500 to 999. Okay, I’m in there with my personal network, too. What I would further be interested in knowing is whether dividing the total number of second degree connections by the number of first degree connections, would produce an accurate average number of second degree connections among all of a user’s first degree connections. For example, if I have 100 first degree connections and, in turn, from them 2,000 second degree connections, does that mean that the average number of second degree connections among the first degree connections in my network is equal to 20? If this is a valid number, how can a user apply possibly this figure to advancing the size of his or her network, increase their presence and influence within their network, and assist in business and/or career development?

Another data point I am curious about is whether the degree to which one’s personal network on LinkedIn grows buy itself each day worth examining? That is, if you stop issuing or accepting new invitations to join other personal networks for a period of time, how much does a personal network continue to grow by virtue only of your own first degree connections continuing to send and accept invitations? If, for example, a network will increase its daily second degree connections in this manner by 0.005%, how can a user employ this factor in the same set of questions in the previous paragraph?

Finally, I would like to see some more granular data about networks involving particular professions and job titles. For instance, do attorneys as opposed to web designers have, on average, larger or smaller personal networks? As well, would this evidence direct causation or perhaps just correlation in the data?

Spotify Enhances Playlist Recommendations Processing with “Deep Learning” Technology

Music fans across the Web are now using music streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube for more than downloading sites according to a report in the July 3, 2014 edition of The New York Times entitled Downloads in Decline as Streamed Music Soars. Moreover, streaming is continuing to gain momentum for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is less expensive to access. Correspondingly, downloading sales are in decline. This article contains all of the details about this very significant shift in the online music marketplace, including the benefits to consumers and the concerns of musical artists.

A related follow up report entitled How Spotify is Working on Deep Learning to Improve Playlists was posted on Gigaom.com on August 5, 2014 that helps to explain how Spotify is trying to maintain its technical advantage. As reported here, Sander Dieleman, and intern at the company, has developed a method based upon deep learning (a branch of artificial intelligence), that parses large data sets in a new manner aimed at getting newer and lesser known recommendations into Spotify’s users’ playlist recommendations. Underlying this data processing is an examination of the acoustical properties of the user base’s song preferences.

The science behind the recommendation engines used so successfully by Spotify as well as Netflix and Amazon has come along many light years in it sophistication and accuracy since its earliest incarnations on the Web. For a comparative historical perspective, I also, well, recommend checking out an article from the December 1997 issue of WIRED magazine entitled Pattie about the work of Dr. Pattie Maes, a professor at MIT who founded (and later sold to Microsoft), a company called Firefly. Its technology was was one of the first efforts used to create software “agents” to scour the web for user-defined preferences for prices and products.

December 19, 2014 Update: 

Presenting an even stronger case that you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet in this field was an engaging analysis of some still largely unseen developments in deep learning posted on December 15, 2014, on Gigaom.com entitled What We Read About Deep Learning is Just the Tip of the Iceberg by Derrick Harris. These include experimental systems being tested by the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft. As well, there were a series of intriguing presentations and demos at the recent Neural Information Processing Systems conference held in Montreal. As detailed here with a wealth of supporting links, many of these advanced systems and methods are expected to gain more press and publicity in 2015.


Times Square’s Operating System

I am a native New Yorker. I have always loved my hometown and taken great pride in being from here. I have seen this place at its best and at its worst and everywhere in between during my life. No matter what, whenever I see the city’s skyline from further away and when I am in the city itself, my own [I] Heart [NY] beat a little bit faster.

It was with great interest that I read a terrific article posted on July 31, 2014 on Gizmodo.com entitled How Times Square Works by Adam Clarke Estes. He reports in great detail how all of the massive LCD signage works. As any visitor to Times Square has seen, you are surrounded by a very sophisticated and extensive array of brilliantly colored and often animated displays for a multitude of products, places and entertainments. The author has done a masterful job of explaining how the underlying technologies operate and integrate, some of the tech and advertisers involved, the principals of their design and placement, and the massive coordination needed to keep everything in sync on a 24/7 basis. He also provides some very colorful history, facts and photos about the area and its modern symphony LCD displays. This piece is quite, well, enlightening for any tourists as well as NYC residents.

In any telling of the history of Times Square, what always emerges is the total transformation of the area since the early 1990’s. For many years prior to that, the area’s reputation was more for its crime, dirty streets and overall seediness. I had a first-hand view of this when, for several summers, I had a job in a music store (remember those?) right in the heart of this place. I had a great deal of fun working in the store but was always somewhat afraid venturing out on the streets whenever I arrived, had lunch or left.

Fortunately, through better planning and policies as well as the NYC’s rapid economic growth, this urban blight was excised and replaced with something much better in every possible way. It now lives up its global reputation as truly being the Crossroad of the World.

The Spirit of Rock and Roll Lives on Little Steven’s Underground Garage

“Little Steven” Van Zandt has some of the best jobs in the world: He has been a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band for nearly 40 years; played the role of Sylvio on The Sopranos on HBO and currently stars in Lilyhammer on Netflix; and hosts of the widely syndicated weekly radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Really not a bad bunch of gigs. In every one of these roles he always seems to be sincerely and thoroughly enjoying himself.

No matter what I am doing on Sunday nights, I am glued to my radio (tuned to WAXQ in New York) for those two hours of pure rock and roll joy. (Podcasts of the latest shows are posted soon afterwards on the LSUG site.) Little Steven takes his audience on a trip to the musical realms of garage music. A sampling of the classic garage luminaries played and discussed include such greater lights as The Beatles, Stones, The Who, Ramones, MC5, Iggy & The Stooges, NY Dolls, Joan Jett, The Kinks, Paul Revere & the Raiders*, The Count 5, and The Sonics. A cross-section of the contemporary garage leaders recently spotlighted on LSUG include The White Stripes, The Black Keys, The Cocktail Slippers, The Dollyrots and The Jellybricks.  He also plays many great rarities including, just to pick three examples: Doin’ All Right by Big Midnight, What is the Reason by The Rascals, and Bye Bye Baby by Mary Wells.

It’s difficult to precisely define “garage rock“, but you know it when you hear it – – and you’ll hear plenty of it booming out while Little Steven is holding musical court on The Underground Garage. This is guitar-driven, loud and rebellious music-to-break-your-lease-by. All of those slashing power chords, pounding drums and thumping bass-lines make it impossible to play this music quietly. It is rock music in its truest spirit and rawest forms.

Web radio and MP3 players notwithstanding, commercial rock radio is largely just a memory now here in NYC. What makes that so sad is that this city had a long and proud history of rock stations led by the gold standard of WNEW-FM. They led the way in this market and format.**

Fortunately, when Little Steven first went on the air in 2002, I immediately sense that the spirit of that station and those times had, albeit for just 2 hours a week***, had returned. His enthusiasm for this sound, the bands, and the musical history of this genre is incredibly infectious. He understands how and why these recordings were made and he cheerfully shares his encyclopedic knowledge with his listeners. Indeed, as someone who has lived the life and times of a rock and roller, there is a remarkable sincerity and authenticity to what he says.

His radio host affectations and shtick are also undeniably charming. Never have you heard anyone use the conjectures “cool” and “baby” so often and get away with it. What would be so pretentious from anyone else sounds so very right coming from him. As well, for every show he selects and expounds upon his picks for that week’s “Coolest Song in the World” and the “Freak of the Week” to honor a musician or some other figure in pop culture. These riffs are priceless!

Check out The Underground Garage’s web site for the numerous radio affiliates now carrying the show, play-lists, an up-to-date archive of playable streams, band calendars, historical essays, and a ton of other great material. More importantly, next Sunday night give it a try. It’s a welcome reaffirmation that the truest – – and coolest, baby! – – spirit of classic and contemporary garage rock and roll lives on.


* The band’s Just Like Me is considered by many of the garage faithful to be somewhat of an anthem. I could not possibly agree more.

** For an excellent history of the station and rock radio during its heyday I highly recommend FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio, by Richard Neer (2002). The author was a DJ on WNEW-FM during most of the station’s history. For many years since then has has been a sports radio talk show host on WFAN in New York.

*** Little Steven also currently produces an Underground Garage Channel for the Sirius satellite radio network.

Compressing 2,600 Years of Historial Migrations into a 5.5 Minute Video

Nearly redefining the whole notion of, well, compression technology, a groups of scientists in the US and Europe have created and uploaded onto YouTube a 5 minute and 36 second video of the advance of western civilization. Really, it does. They have accomplished this by virtue of a fascinating animation that displays and connects the birthplaces (in blue) and the corresponding death sites (in red) of 100,000 leading figures in history. It begins with Leonardo DiVinci’s birth in 1452 and continues to modern times. The narrator describes the resulting migration patterns of these people across Europe, then to the US, and then onto the other continents. The video and a brief summary of it appeared on TheVerge.com on July 31, 2014 in a post entitled Watch 2,600 Years of Culture Spread Across the World in 5 Minutes.

Highly recommend if you have some time to view it and consider its implications. As well, the comments posted on this page pose a series of very interesting questions about the inclusion or exclusion of certain civilizations, the overall effects of what the video intended to show, and the visualization techniques that were used. As to the latter of these, imho, this represents a highly original way to depict human and cultural migration patterns. As well, I hope that it inspires other historians to create other new types of visualizations and animations to represent other developmental patterns across time.

New Visualization Service for US Patent and Trademark Data

A new startup call Trea has just launched a new visualization tool that establishes a dynamic user interface to all of the patent data available on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) massive public database. The full details of this appeared in a July 30, 2014 report on Gigaom.com entitled Powerful New Patent Service Shows Every US Invention, and a New View of R&D Relationships.

Trea’s UI not only illustrates whom is patenting what, but also types of fields (for example, data processing, telecom, chips, and so on). It is expected to be useful to inventors, corporate competitors, investors, journalists, academics, and I would also venture to say lawyers specializing in intellectual property practice.

The features described in this article along with accompanying screen captures include:

  • A “unified knowledge graph”, a networking representation of relationships between and among inventors.
  • A means to further zoom in on a single inventor and his or her collaborators.
  • A “notary feature” that permits inventors to encrypt and submit “diagrams and ideas” and receive a time-stamped receipt.

I suggest a full read of this story for the details of Trea’s business plans and the sampling of three highly informative graphics their product generates.

The visualization of government data sets continues to draw the interest of such entrepreneurs. Just to provide an initial sense of the breadth of governmental data available for these efforts, have a look at the categories and the data sets made publicly available by the US government can be viewed and downloaded at Data.gov. Similar data sets are available elsewhere online on the state and local levels across the U.S.

Furthermore, I once again recommend reading Smart Cities by Anthony Townsend as I wrote about in my April 9, 2014 post about the developers involved in transforming the availability and analytics of civic data.

Discussion re: Faster Web Service, Media Mergers and Net Neutrality

A far-ranging and highly informative discussion of some critical issues concerning the broadband industry in the US was presented on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC (the local NPR radio affiliate in New York City). The show’s host, Brian Lehrer, interviewed David Sirota, who is a columnist for The International Business Times. The topics they covered included:

  • The pending merger of Comcast and Time Warner
  • The service call to Comcast that went viral two weeks ago when someone tried to disconnect broadband service the company
  • The current developments and regulation affecting faster and cheaper web access in Tennessee and how this might affect potentially similar offerings in New York
  • Key issues concerning net neutrality

I highly recommend listening to this 23 minute podcast of this segment of the show entitled Will Fast, Cheap Internet Ever Come to New York? to help put these issues into a very timely and well-informed perspective.

On a multitude of many other topics, I also strongly recommend listening to The Brian Lehrer Show either on the air on WNYC in the New York metro area or online each weekday from 10 am to 12 noon EST. Each of the the show’s half dozen or so segments are quickly posted following the daily broadcasts and are available on the link to the show’s web page above. He is a truly remarkable interviewer with a deep and wide understanding of today’s issues, who has his guests and the audience members (live by phone and likewise participating via the show’s message board, Twitter and Facebook), discussing a range of local, national and global social and political issues, and topics concerning such areas as the media, work, health, the economy and so on.