Posted by Sam Gliksman
Welcome to my new blog for the Jewish Journal. Technology reviews have become very commonplace and it isn’t my intent to add one more column to the already long list that report on the latest techno-gadgets. In debating whether to write a blog for the Journal I decided it would only be worthwhile if I could write it from a “different” perspective.
Personally, growing up in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s, the closest I came to technology was using one of those yo-yos that lit up at night. Years later I found myself owning a growing software development company at the center of the personal computer revolution in the 1980’s and 90’s. We marvelled at everything that could be done with our new devices and took tremendous satisfaction in developing new ideas into products. Technology became my passion. Much like the immigrant that comes to a new country, I could appreciate things that natives took for granted ... while also maintaining the perspective of what life was like before technology overtook every aspect of our daily existence.
Textbooks talk about groups of “technology natives” and “technology immigrants”. Natives grew up using technology at every turn whereas technology immigrants have had to adapt and integrate technology into their everyday lives. If you’re a digital immigrant you may be overwhelmed by the constant flow of new gadgets. You’re always yelling at your kids to get off their devices and go outside and play. There are times it feels like pushing water uphill. Technology is taking over everything in your life but you struggle with how and where to use it at work and play.
This column is for you - the digital immigrant.
How can you tell if you’re a “digital immigrant”? I’ve come up with a list of 10 simple signs that will let you know:
10. You use phrases such as “When I was a kid..”. If you’re already nodding in agreement then please do us both a favor and stop here. There’s really no point in wasting time reading the rest of this article. Life is too short ... especially in your case.
9. You think “Flash” is an obscene gesture.
8. You keep complaining that the keys on your cell phone were made for people with “smurf fingers”.
7. You’ll text on occasion but you simply can’t bring yourself to type abbreviated phrases such as “how r u” and “lol”.
6. You have at least one digital clock in your house that has been flashing “12:00am” for the past few months.
5. When encountering a technical problem you flee in panic searching for the nearest 10 year old.
4. You curse while trying to type simple text messages on your cell phone. Anyone looking over your shoulder would see phrases such as “whga5t ar3we 7yplo” on your screen ... clearly you don’t have smurf fingers.
3. When your friend tells you that he has a new Blackberry in his pocket you warn him that the stain will never come out.
2. When told that your computer needs new memory chips you request “barbecue flavored”.
1. You’re over 25 years old.
If you’re over 50 years old - which I am - then technically speaking you’re an “Illegal Digital Immigrant”. Apparently nobody checked your digital citizenship status when you bought that computer or cell phone. You managed to gain entrance into the digital world but let’s be honest - you’re likely to hurt yourself and really shouldn’t be there.
So come back often and join in our discussion. We’ll try and navigate through the many ways that technology might improve your life and warn you about the ways that it might potentially intrude and cause harm. Used appropriately, technology can be your best friend ... but with the perspective and wisdom that comes with being a digital immigrant we’ll see that technology isn’t always the solution. There will still be those days when you want to dust off that old yo-yo and give it another spin.
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March 25, 2009 | 5:55 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Amir Shapiro, 37, has a youthful attitude that makes his job seem like child’s play. For fun, this father of four designs navigation algorithms for multi-limbed robots and locomotion methods for snake-like robots at Ben-Gurion University, where he’s a lecturer with the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
His latest project indulges his interest in locomotion of mechanisms in unstructured complex environments. In other words, he’s building a robot that will map tunnels for the Israeli army.
“[The IDF] can find the entrance, but they want to track the entire tunnel,” Shapiro said. “Underground there is no GPS and no orientation system.”
It’s difficult to map smuggling tunnels (see “Best (and bizarre) in tunnel sniffing”). So it would be up to a robot like the one Shapiro’s developing – which looks like two remote-controlled tanks linked by a metal bar (see photo) – to traverse the length of the tunnel and report back with details on slope, depth, angle, etc., which could help the IDF determine where to strike so it can’t be rebuilt (the tunnel, not the robot).
Another piece of homeland-security technology Shapiro is working on is based on a suggestion from two students who served in the Israeli navy.
“When something hits a ship, they want to see if there’s damage. They can’t necessarily put a diver in the middle of the ocean, since it’s too dangerous,” he said.
Hull inspection robots exist, but most are expensive swimming ROV systems. Shapiro’s idea is to have a camera mounted a 10-inch wide robot, which could be sealed in a watertight case and sent off to roll along the hull with its magnetic wheels looking for damage. But the system wouldn’t just be limited to ships. Shapiro also sees potential in using it for bridge inspection.
Shapiro is one of about 60 researchers at BGU’s Robot Lab, which was established in 1988. Current projects include military, medical, agricultural and search-and-rescue systems.
The robot snakes Shapiro designs, like his Big Ben, are not so unusual – these search-and-rescue systems are segmented, featuring different motors that can produce their own independent motion. The snake can slowly move through small pockets in a collapsed building to find trapped survivors. This technology is several years old, but Shapiro’s twist is to create the first autonomous snake, which could operate independently of humans.
In fact, Shapiro believes the evolutionary stage in robot development will be the ability of these systems to act on their own—to repair themselves and to build other robots without human involvement. And right after that Skynet will become self-aware and before you know it—Judgement Day.