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Szymon Słupik on augmented humanity

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Good afternoon, everybody. My talk will definitely stand for the T in TED. It will be very technical. I'll try to make it as understandable as possible to other non-techies. OK, and the talk will be about the future. I will try to take you with me for a journey, for an imagined journey 10 years from now, trying to picture [what] mobile communications, especially mobile Internet, will be like in 2020. Or maybe earlier, a little earlier. OK, this is a little disclaimer. Every time when we talk about the future, obviously, we can be wrong. We can be wrong because predicting is very difficult. Especially predicting the future -- it's even more difficult. What [is happening] now is, we have this very fast progress of technology and this progress of technology accelerates, because the more we have, the more we know, the faster we invent newer things. So it goes not [linearly], but [exponentially]. Unfortunately, our brains tend to think linearly. We try to take what we have today, apply some linear thinking to it, and we picture the future. And, very often, the future surprises us. As you see, I am not standing in front of you in a silver suit, I don't have a jet pack on my back. Instead, our conference is being transmitted over the Internet, via Facebook. Imagine trying to explain to the first astronauts, 40 years ago, what Facebook is about. It was simply not possible, because nobody had this notion of the Internet, social networking, search, virtual collaboration. These things were [non-existent]. Today, our children take them for granted. Desktop Internet. We've had [it] for at least 10 years. It started even earlier, but in general, we had 10 years of full access to the Internet. We, very often today, take this for granted. We can answer any question anybody throws at us. The only question that we actually need to know the answer [to] is "How do I get connected to the Internet?" Then, everything else I can just type into this small search box, and the replies come out. So, I think we are still not -- valuing the technology we have. This is tremendous technology. It will have -- it already has, but it will have a profound impact on the accelerating progress of our civilization. And the mobile Internet will give us even more. And stay with me -- I will try to explain why. When we look at mobile devices -- We used to call them "phones," mobile phones. Actually, they are no longer phones. They are very powerful computers. They are teleputers. The term "teleputer" was initially coined by George Gilder, I think 20 years ago. He had this vision of everybody walking with a super-connected, super-powerful, super-fast supercomputer. That's what we do today. Our Androids, our iPhones, are super-machines. But somehow, when you think about it, we still feel more powerful sitting at our desks, with big screens, big keyboards, in comfortable chairs, than using these small devices. And the question is, "Why?" The pictures you see above come from the latest commercial of Windows Phone 7 that is currently running across the globe. [It's] by Microsoft, where Microsoft points out that, somehow, the way we use those devices is really -- It's really not the way we would like to use them. There's something wrong. There's something wrong in this picture. Go to YouTube and find this commercial, because it's really great, and it stimulates your thinking. So my point is that, despite having a very fast connection, a very fast processor, a very high-resolution screen, we still lack something. There's something wrong with the direction we've taken to solve the mobile Internet problem. There is a cage that keeps us inside. And this cage is the way we communicate with these machines. Simply scaling down the geometries of screens and keyboards doesn't work any longer. Small screen, small keyboard -- it's not the solution. We have to find something else. So, have a look at the evolution of these interfaces. Here are pictures from two US patents. [for] some human-machine interface devices. [Namely], this is about keyboards. For 150 years, we've been innovating this thing. One patent is 132 years old, the [other] one is Apple, 2010. Do they really differ? Well, not much. Have a look at the screens. Well, obviously, today they are thinner, more square, the keyboards are flat. But really, the paradigm is the same. And this paradigm of screen and keyboard simply does not work scaling down to a pocketable device. So what will happen, I think, looking towards the future. We have to get rid of these interfaces. They are simply blocking us. Blocking our brains, who want to have info-highways accessing the computers that are connected over the mobile info-highway into the world. So, in my opinion -- In my opinion, what will happen in the coming years will be the development of a direct interface between a computer and our brains. And I will show you that the technologies that allow to build a device like that exist already today. And you can even buy them, but they have not yet been combined into one device. So, I'm talking, basically, about three technologies. The first one is using some kind of devices to read the mind. The second is using some other techniques to let our mind directly control a machine. And the third method is getting feedback from the machine, which means projecting the image directly on the retina, on your eye. Touchless input, mind-reading. You will hear a lot about these technologies. There's big iron behind it, big companies, famous universities working on that. Actually, I don't believe the term, or the direction of mind-reading, is exactly what we are looking for. Why? Because, first of all, it's not easy to scale down, because these images were taken from MRI imaging scanners, which are very big machines and they work quite slow. And the second thing is that we, as consumers, would not necessarily accept devices that read our minds. If I have this phone, and [let's suppose] it can read your mind, I give it to you and I tell you, "It will read your mind, and it will post it on your Facebook Wall." (Laughter) Would you take it? (Laughter) Or even pay me for it? Probably not. So, the other technology for the direct mind-to-machine interface is, I would call it "direct control." It's like a third hand. [When] you use your hand, it's your mind telling the muscles here to do some work. Actually, the hand does not read your mind. It just obeys your orders. And this is the idea that's been exploited, that's been researched in several parts of the world now. The two images at the top come from the University of Reading in the UK. And what they did is, they built a small robot that could navigate, turn around, and ride across a maze. And the robot had just a couple of motors and a couple of sensors. And then, they took a plate of glass with some conductive parts on it, and they grew an artificial neuron network on top of it. And these neurons, 300,000 of them, somehow self-organized. This process of learning -- They figured out, by themselves, these neurons, which inputs lead to the sensors, and which outputs can control the motors. And this little robot can navigate the maze automatically, being controlled by this neural network, which comes, by the way, from the brain of a rat. You can watch this video on YouTube. This thing works, today. The lower pictures come from the University of Tokyo. They just released them last week. And they are showing the so-called "rat-car." It's a small robot, again, with a rat on it who has implants in his head. And the rat learned to drive this car. They took a very clever process of teaching this rat [to drive it]. But in the end, what they got is the rat driving this car only using its mind. Not touching anything. So, what I'm saying is, if a rat can drive a car, then a human can drive a mouse cursor on a screen, with his mind. These are devices that are on the market today. Obviously, a rat with an implant is something that somehow frightens us. So commercial devices will have to use some form of -- non-invasive coupling with the brain signals, because not everybody would like to have a permanent, wired implant in [their] head -- like this one. (Laughter) So, the fourth one, this Japanese lad with eye-controlled earphones. This is a real device that's been shown recently [at the] 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. They showed a little music player. The earphones were used as electrodes, picking up signals from the brain. And the guy could control, fast-forward, [go] back, pause, play, volume up, volume down, using only his mind. It took, again, some kind of learning process. So, this was the input, now the output. The output is quite easier, because, as I mentioned before, we cannot directly "write" to a brain. So what we will be doing [is], we will be projecting images [onto] the retina, [onto] your eyes. And this technology, again, is working already. It's been used by the military across the world. It's expensive, but it's getting cheaper. And it works by tiny lasers that shine on a very little mirror that moves very fast -- it paints a picture using lines, like in the old CRT tube. And this laser light is then reflected off the glasses, and it creates a virtual image in front of you. What's important [about] this image is that this image is transparent, so it does not block your vision. It just overlays on what you see. And it's then a matter of the user interface if it's organized with small icons at the top, bottom, left or right, or if it pops [up] some block objects in front of you. This is the mirror. The previous picture was for monochromic objects. It was using a red laser. This one is using three colors, a beam combiner, and obviously, it's generating full-color image, a virtual image, private image, in front of you. A big one. You can obviously have two of them, and have stereoscopic objects being projected in front of you. This is another screenshot of how this interface can work like. And this way, we are coming to the model of the final product that will be your mobile phone 10 years from now, or even before. The evolution of the mobile phone. This is how it looked back in 1973, this is how it looked in 2007 -- quite different. This is how it will look a couple of years from now. Let me get into the details. Electrodes picking up your brain's signals, imagers throwing light, throwing lasers onto the glasses. Microphone arrays that selectively pick up your voice, GPS, anything you can imagine, inside. So, this is your iPhone, generation 10. Hope Apple is watching us. (Laughter) A couple of scenarios [of] how we will be using this. Probably you already use, or some of you use, this application. This is Google Goggles. This is a visual search. This works like, I take my phone, I take a picture of any object, and then it returns [to] me search results based on that picture. So if it finds text, it will translate the text. If it finds a known object, it will tell me what it is. What will differ is that in the future, we will be transmitting. We will have tiny cameras in here, we will be transmitting a live stream of what we see to the cloud, Google or any other service, and they will be returning [to] us the results, somehow augmenting what we see, what we can do. The other scenario -- this is, again, a very nice toy. This is called the "AR.Drone." Manufactured by Parrot, the guys who make Bluetooth headsets. It can even be bought in Poland -- $500, more or less. This is a drone that can be flown using your iPhone. You can control it using your iPhone, and it streams -- it has a camera, it streams image through your iPhone. So you can obviously imagine flying a drone like that on the other half of the planet. And projecting the image [onto] your glasses. So you'll be flying these drones. You will be connecting to somebody else's glasses to see what their cameras see, and you will be seeing that in 3D virtual images, for your own privacy. So this will be your teleputer 10 years from now. One thing I would like to point [out] [is] that this is extremely powerful technology. It also can be dangerous. This is a screenshot from another iPhone app. You point it at the sky, and it shows... Details of any plane that flies above you. And this app, it's been made in the UK, a couple of months ago -- you can buy it on iTunes for 5 bucks. And it's suddenly considered a danger. Because the [Department of Homeland Security] is somehow afraid that some bad guys can use it. So, my last point is -- (Laughter) Let us use this powerful technology wisely, let's not fall into a scenario like that. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 19 minutes and 23 seconds
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 743
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Dec 15, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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