Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Hello, I'm Quasi"

Quasi mimics the mood personality of a 12-year old boy. Quasi's five "moods" are conveyed by the color of it's LED eyes and antennae. Red signifies anger, yellow means confusion, purple-pink signals embarrassment, and green is happy. (Photos: Tom Altany)

Quasi's creators: Graduate Students @ Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center.

Quasi's "moods" depend on what's been happening in his environment, but rather than being driven by prepubescent biology, they are architected by an elaborately scripted software-based behavioral model that triggers his responses. Quasi lets you know how he's "feeling" through the changing colors of his LED eyes and his body language. If, for example, a passerby ignores Quasi, the robot's mood shifts to a sadder state: its eyes and antennae turn blue, its head hangs down, and it becomes stingy with its offers of candy.

Each mood, in turn, has a range of intensities. So if Quasi plays a game of tic-tac-toe with a visitor and the visitor keeps winning, the robot's state shifts to anger: the antennae lie back, the eyes glow red. Continued losses will trigger additional anger states and finally an ignore state, in which Quasi refuses to play or even acknowledge the visitor. But, as with most 12-year-old boys, the mood doesn't last long: after a few minutes, the state reverts to a less angry one, and Quasi begins interacting again.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Check your keypad. See how the letters are arranged. Do you see any logic or any pattern the alphabets are arranged in the keyboard. Just wonder a while and figure out if you can.

The keyboards on the laptop/desktop are copied from the typewriter keyboards. The first type writer was invented in 1860's.

Remember how a type writer looks. Each key on the type writer is associated with a bar. When you hit the letter on the type writer, the bar connected to that key will go and hit the paper, thus producing a print on the paper.

I still remember taking typing classes, but cudn't quite finish them. You got to hit the keys real hard, as the every time you hit the key the bars goes and hit the paper.

Now, the inventor C. L. Sholes, had a problem. There are some very common words in English like "the", "and". If he put those letters "T", "H" side by side and when you type fast you happen to press two keys simultaneously and the bars associated with those keys get jammed.

So, he put letters which commonly occur together far away from each other. Check your key pad for letters ("A", "N") ; ("F", "O", "R") etc. They are away frm each other.

check out the study on:

Also, given reason for the introducing the "shift" key;

Later on ppl tried to build keyboards which were more logical. But, in those days the type writers were very common and ppl who knew typing had gud jobs. So they didn't want to change it for the fear of losing jobs and thus it slowly got widely accepted.

Magic Number 7 +/- 2

There's a paper published around 1956 by George Miller ( He observed that a human, at a time can hold maximum 7 different, totally unrelated things (that's 2.5 bits of information, each bit corresponding to 2 alternatives).

Imagine some one has given u two choices to choose from (let's say an icecream, a shoe)..two unrelated's easy to choose. Now say, u r given 4 such choices completely unrelated, u can still manage to recall and give a choice. But 7 +/- 2 is the max no of choices tht u can put into ur memory at any instant.
(Assuming normal intelligence level)

His paper:

It has inspired the way bill boards are written, the number of bullets to put in a single slide of ppt, the way the advertisements are shown (max number of unrelated things tht can be shown in an ad)....and many other things.

It's fascinating...that people studied almost every little aspect of human life.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

First Message sent on Internet

The first message that was sent on the internet was from UCLA to Stanford. The proud owner of the first node on internet was Leonard Kleinrock. Kleinrock visited University of Trento and delivered a speech on the Internet History, Development and Future (pdf).

First an 'L' was sent; Then an 'O'; Then system crashed when trying to send 'G'. So, the message sent was 'LO'.

More on the history of internet is available on Kleinrock's wepage (url).

The conclusion of the talk was that, internet has now become a complex system which is going out of everyone's control. There is an urgent need to understand its behavior, its future.

Our Future:

Monday, April 03, 2006


There's lot to discover and wonder about nature. Every little thing in nature teaches us something if we carefully look into. So, what's grosshopper's specialty...

Have you ever been amazed and astounded at how well a grasshopper can jump?
Have you ever wondered how they do it?

Well, someone did wondered and carried research about it. The grasshoppers use a CATAPULT to jump. [..following are excerpts of the wonderful webpage maintained by a Prof. W. J. Heitler, University of St. Andrews, UK..]

When a grasshopper jumps, it first crouches down, there is then a short delay, and then off it goes! A grasshopper jumps by extending its back legs from a folded position, so that they thrust against the ground. A good jump means that the legs must push against the ground with high force, and high speed.

We humans have a limitation of muscle power. If you make a muscle contract so as to get maximum force out of it, then it only contracts very slowly. On the other hand, if you make it contract as quickly as possible, then you don't get much force.

For example..snapping your finger. The more force you put, the less quickly you can snap the finger.

A human throwing something is exactly same as grasshopper throwing itself (after all, that's what jumping is - throwing oneself using ones legs). A good throw needs a rapid and forceful arm movement, but as we have just said, muscles can produce high force or high speed, but not both.

Humans have solved this problem by using tools, such as the catapult, or bow-and-arrow. But, the grasshopper has this mechanism built in. It does it routinely without much thought.

Where does the grasshopper keep its catapult?

Enugh of me...Check out the following links for detailed description and cool videos of the grasshoppers motion..

Monday, March 27, 2006


Yet another search engine..but I think this is different. It's true that we are heading into an information age and unless we organise data properly...we will be lost. Kosmix offers searching for pages related to three categories "Medical", "Travel" and "Politics" as of now.

I haven't tested the precision of the search results, but it's a promising direction for search engines. If I am looking for travel/medical information, I would definitely prefer a search engine which only indexes pages in that category rather than breaking head in google thinking of the right keywords. But I don't think that anyone can beat the top 10 results of google. It's all the magic of eigen vectors.

More Thoughts

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Slick touch

[...Here's a cool demonstration of the potential of touchscreen technology, close to the level of the user interface in the movie Minority Report. The interaction techniques are not new, but taken together and combined with the New York University researchers' high-speed, high-resolution multiple-contact touchscreen the effect is impressive. Be sure to watch the video, and be sure to watch past the initial hyper-paint-program eye candy..]


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More for Indians

Well...Everyone wants a piece of Indian Talent. And, Italy seems to have recognised it too. Italy is offering a number of postgraduate programs in technology, management for Indian students. Scholarships are also available for all the programs. There will be a roadshow in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai this april, 2006.

For more details check the following links..

The universities participating are:

And, the scholarships

Buon Fortuna..